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About Us

RIFSoCal Board Members


Michael Chavez, MBV — Board President


In his 23-year professional career, Michael developed a wide range of skills including marketing, business development, technical writing, information technology, graphic design, finance, accounting, and database management. He has over 16 years of civilian supervisory experience and three years of military leadership experience.

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He launched the YouTube channel

"Uncle Mike Reads" to focus on reading and

reviewing children’s books to foster literacy

and critical thinking, all while having fun and boosting

kids' self-esteem.


Michael is a board member for Los Olivos HOA, primarily focused on financial analysis to reduce costs to improve the community.


He volunteers at a local library reading to kids, is a semi-proficient snowboarder, and is at best an amateur bass guitar player.


Michael holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a Management Concentration/Legal Emphasis and is a graduate of USC's Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) within the Gordon S. Marshall School of Business. Michael and his wife Candelaria live in La Mirada, California and have three sons.

Brian Allman — Secretary 


For nearly 30 years, Brian has worked extensively in the field of Arts Education. The belief that arts-based education programs support literacy and character development has kept him continually employed with local theaters and schools, in local summer camps and colleges, and as the former Artistic Director of Defiance Theater Company.

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He has worked with pupils of various socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, ages, and skill levels, including LAUSD, ESL learners, veterans, LGBT, Deaf & hard of hearing, and students with differing cognitive learning styles. He comes with a Transpersonal Approach to student instruction, whereby he follows a discipline of patience and respect for each individual, making use of unique and creative lesson plans to challenge students. He is currently the Director of Education & Community Engagement at Geffen Playhouse. 

Jen Gresenz — Treasurer   

Jen is currently the Manager of Finance and Accounting at dick clark productions, inc., 

and previously worked at Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLC where she obtained her CPA License. She earned her Bachelor's in Business Administration and Masters in 

Accountancy from the University of Georgia, and has attended public school her entire life.  




While she has participated in various volunteer

 organizations over the years, teaching Financial

Literacy at the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations throughout Los Angeles has been one of her most rewarding experiences. Her love for reading began at a young age, and helped her progress in all aspects of her education. She wishes that every child had the same opportunities and resources available as she did as a child, and wants to do everything she can to bring those resources to children in need. She hopes to combine her financial background with her passion for volunteering and helping children by fulfilling the Treasurer role on the RIFSoCal Board.

Angie Flores — Board Member


Born and raised in Hollywood, Angie was surrounded by California Dreamers. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was also a writer and illustrator during Germany's wartime,  Angie was influenced to follow her dream through the concepts and questions her 3 young boys would present.

After obtaining her degree in Child Psychology,

Angie worked in various capacities, from teaching

children with special needs, to mainstream corporate Human Resources.  Angie is currently on the board of the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles as Marketing Director and assists members in honing their craft and fine-tuning their skills. 


Through the CBWLA, Angie has been published in 3 anthologies and one

middle-grade novel.  Angie's first solo project, Cub's Wish, is a multiple award-winning book, was a best-seller with Amazon selling out of her book within the first 12 hours of release, #1 New Release, earning the #2767 spot of over 11+million books, and #1 best selling e-book in 3 categories on Amazon.  Cub's Wish has been read in schools during Author Visits and on festival stages with a message that transcends to all generations. 


On Angie's down time she loves wearing purple, having fun and silly time with her growing boys,  roller skating at the beach, and watching the sunset with her loving and patient husband.

George Kossan — Board Member


George Kossan is a seasoned commercial banker with over 10 years of experience, currently serving as a valuable member of the PNC Bank team. Throughout his career, George has made significant contributions to the banking sector, having previously worked at other major financial institutions.


A distinguished alumnus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), George holds an undergraduate degree in biology. Recognizing the importance of a well-rounded education in the financial industry, he pursued his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Southern California (USC). Further enhancing his expertise, George obtained certifications in accounting and finance from UCLA, demonstrating his commitment to continuous learning and professional development.

George's dedication to expanding his skill set led him to earn a certification in commercial real estate from Cornell University. Additionally, he holds the esteemed title of Certified Treasury Professional, showcasing his proficiency in the intricacies of treasury management.

Beyond his career in banking, George is deeply passionate about education. Believing in the transformative power of reading, he recently joined as a board member for Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) So Cal, a non-profit organization emphasizing the importance of literacy. George is driven by the belief that fostering a love for reading among children is essential for their educational development.

Embodying the principle of lifelong learning, George finds joy in continuously acquiring knowledge. In his leisure time, he enjoys playing basketball, engaging in outdoor activities, and advocating for animal welfare. His dedication to animals extends beyond advocacy, as George spent several years conducting research on birds, demonstrating his commitment to both education and the environment. For George, igniting excitement for reading among children is crucial. By combining his professional acumen with his passion for education and community service, he strives to make a positive impact on the lives of young learners.


Andrew Meneses-- Board Member

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Andrew grew up as a “RIF Kid.” “Growing up, there wasn’t any extra money to go shopping for books, so from the first time my little sister Veronica and I visited the RIF Bookmobile, it ignited a life-long passion for reading and learning. We both credit RIF for beginning and impacting our journey to be the first generation of our family to become college graduates! I am honored to be a RIF board member and have an opportunity to give back and help grow RIF for the next generation of kids.”


Andrew obtained his BS in Business Administration from the University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business, as well as his BA in English at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. As a Marketing and Brand Manager, Andrew has held roles with companies including, Nature’ Bounty Co, Aegon/Transamerica, Claremont Snack Foods and FSM Food Products. Andrew obtained his MBA from the University of California, Irvine in 2015, and his post-MBA experience has included roles with Niagara Bottling, LLC and Nature’s Wild Organic, where he currently works as a Marketing Manager.
Andrew is honored and proud to be a Magician Member of The Academy of Magical Arts | The Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA, where he serves on the Heritage Committee. Andrew has had the opportunity to perform internationally in Mexico, Vietnam, Hong Kong and most recently Havana, Cuba. He is honored to share the Art of Magic whenever he has the opportunity, and currently serves on the board of The Society of American Magicians, Hall of Fame and Magic Museum, Inc., whose mission is to preserve and provide education on the History of the Magical Arts. Andrew’s interest in Magic began after watching Muhammad Ali perform an impromptu

Close-Up Magic Show for him at Hollywood Magic in 1981. “He was a great Magician and great man, I feel fortunate to have met him and enjoyed his Magic!”
In his free time, Andrew enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and reading!

Alva Sachs — Board Member

Alva hails from Chicago, The Windy City!


She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana. Alva also holds a Master of Education degree from Northern Illinois University in Education.

Her previous teaching experience for more than sixteen years and a life-long passion for writing for kids is her motivation.

She has been an avid volunteer, fund-raiser, and supporter of the arts in many organizations and her philosophy of “giving back” to others is her mantra.


Alva served as President on the Board of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California, (RIFSoCal).  She expanded efforts to support literacy by helping to build home libraries in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County areas for underserved children while fostering literacy through the efforts of RIFSoCal’s Motivational Reading Program. 


She is the founder/ author of Three Wishes Publishing Company. Alva has seven

award-winning children’s picture books. Alva pursues her writing and passion for children and encourages them to develop a love of reading,


Teresa Verduzco—Board Member


Teresa was born in Michoacán, Mexico in a small town where some of the most basic necessities were considered luxuries. She immigrated to the United States at the age of ten where South Central Los Angeles became her new home. Her love for reading was fueled by her local library where she could check out fifteen books at a time!

Teresa was the first of nine children to graduate

from college. She has been an elementary school

teacher for 26 years in the Lennox School District.

She is currently serving the most needy student

population, who suffered reading loss during the

pandemic, as a Reading Intervention Teacher.


Teresa’s love of reading, writing, and storytelling led her to publish her own childhood picture memoir to instill hope and cultural pride and inspire students to share their own stories and go after their dreams.


Carol K. Henault — Executive Director

Carol Henault, RIFSoCal’s Executive Director since October 2004, has been dedicated to the advancement of literacy throughout her 33 years in the nonprofit world.  Carol ardently supports RIFSoCal’s work to ensure that underserved children can continue to choose books to call their own and discover the magic of reading for fun. 

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“Inspiring children’s passion for reading

is the greatest gift we can give them on their

personal road to success.”

“You could say that children without books provide the wind beneath my sails – as well as my passion.”

Oscar Cux — Program Services Manager


Oscar is Reading Is Fundamental’s Program Services Manager.  Oscar considers himself a student of the arts.  In the past, he has colorized the winning Bookmarks for our program and looks forward to colorizing them again.  Currently, he is pursuing a career as an artist and attending classes to obtain a business administration degree.  He joined RIFSoCal in November 2018 and is looking forward to contributing to RIFSoCal's success.  


Oscar brings a passion for literacy and deep

gratitude for the opportunity to deliver literacy

programs to underserved children. When Oscar is not at Reading Is Fundamental, you can find him at his personal office painting, drawing, or reading anything he can get his hands on.

Raymond Gonis — Book Program Manager

Raymond became acquainted with RIFSoCal as a volunteer in 2010.  He was hired as the Warehouse Manager soon thereafter and enjoys being able to order and distribute books to the children in our program.  He continues to volunteer his time whenever possible and encourages others to also volunteer. 

Each time he attends a Motivational Reading Event

at a participating school he is amazed at the impact

the RIFSoCal program has on the children.  He looks forward to unpacking boxes and putting books on shelves for many years to come.  

To promote literacy and motivate children to read by providing new books to create home libraries for underserved children in Southern California.

"I want to read with my family so they

could be better readers like me."

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Contact Information

Carol Henault

Executive Director

Oscar Cux

Program Service Manager

Raymond Gonis

Warehouse Manager

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