Paul Riordan, President Emeritus/Founder
Retired SAUSD Administrator & Educator
Paul graduated with an Economics degree from Yale and has been a pillar for education in the Santa Ana community. He is currently a Kiwanis Santa Ana and Elks Lodge member. He taught at Santa Ana High School for 39 years, crafting several programs including SAUSD's Regional Occupation Program. He founded AISS in 1997 and then launched it in 2001.
Meet the Team
Debbie Wells, Executive Director
Debbie obtained her master's degrees in Information Technology Management and Business Administration from Webster University. She earned her bachelor's degree from Chapman University in Computer Information Systems and received her project management certification from UC Irvine. Debbie’s professional background includes over 25 years in management with 16 of those years at the international technology distribution giant, Ingram Micro, Inc., where she managed and supervised people in several locations, including Buffalo, New York, Miami, Florida, Mexico, and the Philippines.
Debbie has over 17 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Since high school, she’s been in a leadership role, where she was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army JROTC. She is currently on the Kiwanis Santa Ana Board and Chairs the Community Services Committee. Debbie volunteers her free time as a mentor and board member for the Career Beginnings Mentoring Program (CBMP), which mentors first-year college students. Debbie is also a graduate of OCTANE’s Nonprofit Accelerator Program. She has a passion for guiding the educational, personal, and professional development of young people. Debbie has been working for the Achievement Institute for over 11 years.
Jonathan Arellanes, Program Manager/Lead Instructor
Program Management, Oversee Scholars' Performance and Development
Jonathan graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2019 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. He is planning to go back to receive his Master’s in Educational Leadership. Born and raised in the city of Santa Ana, and he graduated from Saddleback High School in 2015. His dream job is to become a principal within the Santa Unified School District.
Salvador Rojas, Program Student Advisor/Instructor
Coaching, Mentoring, Instruction, Workshop & Activities for Scholars
Salvador graduated from The University of Redlands in 2008 with a BA in History. He developed leadership and problem-solving through Eagle Scout training, and communication and interpersonal skills through Disneyland customer service. By posing a Question of the Day prior to each class session, scholars say, “he helps us learn about each other outside of the program and think about events that shaped us into the people we are today.” A dual citizen of the United States and Chile, Salvador enjoys speaking Spanish and visiting his father’s homeland biennially.
Nicholas Richards, BA
Chairman of the Board
COO/CFO, Intellivision Entertainment
Nick has over twenty-five years of entrepreneurial-driven innovation and execution leadership. As a co-founder of Intellivision, he is passionate about the video game company's focus on family and multi-generational dynamics that cater to different levels of sophistication in knowledge according to age. Nick was referred to AISS through our participation in the OCTANe Non-Profit Accelerator Program as a prospective board member. He comes to AISS at the ideal time to guide our board development as we transition from Founding to Governing/Managing to Fundraising Stages.
Jacqueline Rojas, PhD
STEM and Science Education Consultant and Evaluator
Dr. Rojas is a retired educator with extensive expertise and experience in teaching and learning science from Pre-K through doctoral levels. As a Board Member of the ARCS Foundation, she arranges for Achievement Institute Scholars to attend STEM research presentations by ARCS Scholars, Ph.D. Candidates at UCI. She is also serving as the Writing Instructor and supporting scholars as they complete their college application essays. A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Dr. Rojas speaks Spanish fluently and enjoys engaging the parents of Achievement Institute Scholars.
Lisette Martinez-Acebo, MSW
Secretary/Communications & AISS Alumna '11
Family and Community Engagement Specialist, Santa Ana Unified School District
Lisette graduated from Saddleback High School and the AISS Program in 2011. As a first-generation college student, she obtained a Bachelor’s in Psychology at Chapman University, with minors in Sociology and Latin American Studies. After achieving a Master’s in Social Work from USC, Lisette joined Chapman University as a Student Affairs Case Manager through the Dean of Students office. While facilitating a partnership between Chapman and AISS, Lisette worked as an AISS Writing Instructor and coordinated our Alumni Association. Lisette now works as a Family and Community Engagement Specialist for the Santa Ana Unified School District, where she supports many of the students who participate in our program.
Doug Tobe, CPA
Executive, Officer, Investor, Advisor, Consultant, Enterprise Value Creation Group
Doug is a senior business advisor and financial leader. He works with startup and emerging-growth companies to dramatically increase realizable enterprise values by creating greater social good through innovative products, services, and processes. He serves as an educator of college-level undergraduate and graduate courses in Accounting, Finance, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Real Estate, and Strategy. Doug’s leadership manner is about influencing people to get the right things done in the right ways. Doug’s management manner is about making strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.
Karla Ramirez, BSME
Marketing Chair & AISS Alumna '09
CO-Founder, Tera Engineering
Karla Perez graduated from Century High School and the AISS Program in 2009. After earning three AA degrees from Santa Ana College, she obtained a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from California State University Long Beach in 2015. While completing her education, she served as the AISS Program Math Instructor. Karla married engineer Sean Ramirez and they became entrepreneurs, co-founding their own company Tera Engineering. Karla serves as the Vice President of Operations with 30 employees in the city of Santa Ana. She now serves as an Achievement Institute Board Member and the Marketing Chair. She is a generous donor and offers factory tours and internships to our scholars.
Efi (Efraim) Roe Kozorovitsky
Vice President Clinical Affairs - TMTT, Edwards Lifesciences
Efi is the VP of Clinical Affairs for the Transcatheter Mitral and Tricuspid Therapies at Edwards Lifesciences. In over 20 years of working in Clinical Research, he has held several Leadership positions in companies in the USA and Europe. Efi has a long history of volunteering in the community from a young age: Volunteer Paramedic and EMT for 15 years in Israel, Board member in Andover Youth Hockey program, volunteer ice hockey coach and team manager for over a decade, and most recently a board member for the Achievement Institute.
Marco Eduardo Ortega, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, CSU Fullerton
Professor Ortega, an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry, studies double-stranded DNA viruses utilizing the bacteriophages as a model system to understand viral replication and assembly in this family of viruses. He received his bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College and his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He completed postdoctoral work at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Deeply committed to equity and opportunity for all, Dr. Ortega serves on the AISS Program Committee, bringing speakers from CSUF on The Growth Mindset and connecting scholars to organizations such as SACNAS, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
Alix Portillo, CRCM
Compliance Specialist at Commerical Bank of California
Alix graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in 2015 and is currently a candidate there for her MBA. Alix is an alumna of The Wooden Floor, a nonprofit creative youth development program that aims to transform the lives of children and teens in low-income communities by preparing them for successful college careers. She has volunteered for two years as an instructor at the Achievement Institute. Alix says hearing each scholar’s education and career goals have been an experience beyond words. She continues to help mentor our AISS scholars while serving on the board and taking an active role on the Marketing Committee.
Nidia Garcia, BA, LSSGB, TPC
Senior Technical Writer, Boston Scientific Neuromodulation Corporation
Nidia develops instructions for use and implant instructions for Spinal Cord and Deep Brain Stimulation Systems. Nidia graduated from CSU Long Beach with a BA in English Rhetoric & Composition. She earned a Six Sigma Green Belt certification and a Technical and Professional Communication Certificate. She has been volunteering with AISS since 2014. Education has been a gift of opportunity and a passion for Nidia since she could remember. She values and supports the AISS mission of giving students from an economically disadvantaged community, a background similar to her own, a greater opportunity to succeed by helping them make educated choices for their future.
Irene Celeste Lee, BSBME
Member & AISS Alumna '13
Design Engineer I, Glidewell Dental, R&D Implants
Irene graduated with a 4.6 GPA from Segerstrom High School and the AISS Program in 2013. She earned a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California Irvine in 2017. She served as the AISS Writing Instructor for several years and created a special COVID 19 Emergency Response Team project for Spring Semester 2020. Irene is now an Achievement Institute Board Member who says, “I was first introduced to Biomedical Engineering in a couple of study trips organized by AISS. During my first summer of the program, we went to biotech companies like Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic in Irvine. We toured the manufacturing floor, office spaces, and had a chance to meet different engineering teams. At the time, it was small steps towards a dream that the Achievement Institute was helping me achieve. While at UCI, I made long-lasting relationships and utilized soft skills that I had learned through the Achievement Institute.”
Ambassadors & Advisors
For 20 years, Judy has served as President and founder of NPI Services- an electronics manufacturing services company in Costa Mesa. Judy serves as an AISS Ambassador.
Cynthia is a Research Scientist at Edwards Lifesciences. She facilitates their HOLA Program.
Dr. Ron Raya
With years of experience in education and unified school districts across Orange County, Dr. Raya serves as an Ambassador for AISS.
Taylor is the Financial Advisor at Thompson/Katzaroff Financial Group. Now serves as an ambassador for AISS.
Cerebrum Consulting a leader in Information Services, Technology, and Education. Serves as an Ambassador for AISS and volunteers as an Instructor.
Danielle C. Lara
a Leadership Coach and Team Development Consultant helping individuals and organizations recognize and leverage their strengths, in order to be better leaders and build more cohesive, collaborative work cultures. Serves as an Ambassador for AISS.
Carlos is the Vice President for the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Active in the community always willing to help out our youth. Carlos Muniz serves on AISS' Advisory Board.
Nino is an AISS program facilitator and volunteer on the AISS Advisory Committee. He is a part of Rocket Science Tutors and teaches a Science and Engineering class during the scholars' summer program.
Gloria Strayer is President at Design & Print Resources. Gloria serves as an AISS Ambassador and sponsors one of our alumni, as they continue their college degrees.
The Creator of OC Biz and Cohost of FTP
For the People. He served our board for two years and now serves as an Ambassador for AISS.
Modern Woodmen serves members in
the county of Orange, with a special emphasis on the city of Santa Ana. Serves as an Ambassador for AISS.
Dr. Luis Ortiz-Franco
Dr. Ortiz-Franco has also taught at Orange Coast College. He has served the Achievement Institute for nearly 10 years, including as Math Instructor, Formal board committee participant, and Chair.
Carmen graduated with an Associate degree in Communications at Orange Coast College. She Graduated with 8 different honor societies under her belt and transferred to Chapman University with Scholarships. Today she is studying to get her BA in Strategic Corporate Communications at Chapman University and a minor in Leadership.