Our Team

Alex Volpe

Program Director

Alex has been working with underserved youth and families for over 15 years.  Upon completing her Masters in Social Work at the University of Chicago in 2005, Alex worked as a therapist at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a residential treatment facility in Chicago.  After moving to the East Bay with her family in 2008, Alex began working at Bay Area Youth Center/Sunny Hills Services (now “Side by Side”), a nonprofit serving foster and probation youth.  Alex led Bay Area Youth Center as the Executive Director from 2013-2017.  Under Alex’s leadership, Bay Area Youth Center significantly expanded mental health and housing services to youth in Alameda County, and earned a reputation as an agency who would provide shelter and services to the highest need youth who were often terminated from other services due to their acute mental health symptoms.  Alex is committed to the principles of trauma-informed care and providing culturally relevant services to young people and their families.  

Following her tenure at Bay Area Youth Center, Alex has held a number of contract and interim positions, including serving as the interim chief operating officer at Unity Care Group, as well as the Executive Director at the Ann Martin Center.  Prior to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Alex received her JD from the University of Texas in Austin and worked as a corporate and securities attorney in San Francisco and Austin.  She currently lives in Oakland with her family.

Email Alex at avolpe@catalyst-center.org

Alina Sanchez

Project Coordinator/Executive Assistant

Alina joins the Catalyst Center as a project coordinator and executive assistant after several years of working directly with youth in a nonprofit setting. She graduated from Sacramento State with a Bachelors in Psychology and Counseling. As a first-generation student, educational equity and mental health are two of Alina’s passions.

Previously, Alina worked on several school sites and districts within the Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto regions to help young men of color get to and through college. She has a long history of event planning for nonprofits and the community. Alina prides herself on being a mentor to youth in the community. She also volunteers with domestic violence survivors and has a certificate in Trauma-Informed Care.

Alina is very excited to be a part of the team and looks forward to making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Email Alina at asanchez@catalyst-center.org.

Christine Stoner-Mertz, LCSW

Chief Executive Officer

Christine Stoner-Mertz presides over all Alliance advocacy, accreditation, member services and executive support activities and staffs the Executive and Nominating Committees.

Chris came to the Alliance in 2019 after being President and CEO of Lincoln Child Center in Oakland, a California Alliance member agency delivering behavioral health and family strengthening services in the San Francisco Bay area. Since 2005, she led the organization through a transformational period, moving from a residentially-based services focus to designing an array of culturally responsive community and school-based services for children and youth ages 0-21. Her deep commitment to equity is reflected in the transformation of services at Lincoln.

A licensed clinical social worker in California, Chris received her MSW from the University of Michigan and began her career in California in 1985, as co-founder of Seneca Center, now the Seneca Family of Agencies, where she was instrumental in the development of programs and oversight of operations for 15 years.

In 1999, she founded inFocus Consulting and Development, LLC providing consultation to over 50 private behavioral healthcare providers as well as the California State Department of Mental Health, various county departments of mental health and social services, and to school districts. As a sought after expert on MediCal EPSDT program design and implementation, Chris developed the Medi-Cal Specialty Mental Health Services Manual.

She has served on the boards of directors of the California Alliance, the California Council of Behavioral Health Agencies, the National Council of Behavioral Health Organizations, and has been the recipient of numerous service and leadership awards during her career, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service.

Email Chris at chris@cacfs.org.

Cornelle Jenkins

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Cornelle Jenkins, the director of strategic initiatives for the Catalyst Center, is dedicated to making a positive impact in the community by advocating for those who historically have been rendered voiceless. Cornelle earned his Bachelor's at Saint Mary's College of California where he created his own major of Advocacy, Reform, and Social Change. He then went on to earn his law degree at McGeorge School of Law before returning to St. Mary's to obtain his MBA. For the past 9 years, Cornelle has worked primarily in civil litigation but has also gained experience in criminal and family law. In his free time, Cornelle has worked and continues to works on various community-centered projects such as co-founding a non-profit to provide professional experiences and mentoring for foster and at-risk youth, organizing holiday gift and clothing drives, and serving on the board of directors for the Diversity Board at McGeorge School of Law. Cornelle is very excited to join the Catalyst Center and California Alliance team and to commit all of his time to serving the community.

Email Cornelle at cjenkins@cacfs.org.

Dr. Kelsie Tatum Martinez

Senior Clinical Advisor

Dr. Kelsie Tatum Martinez is a licensed psychologist with over 15 years of experience serving youth and families with experiences of complex, intergenerational trauma and significant unmet needs. She has delivered direct care and clinical services as well as provided clinical, training, and special projects leadership to programs serving young people in California’s public systems of care.

Kelsie earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education from Occidental College and her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Baylor University. She completed her doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families where she worked as an adolescent residential treatment therapist on their 25-acre campus in Ventura County.

After several years of direct service, Kelsie moved into program leadership, including serving as Director of Clinical Services for Casa Pacifica’s STRTP and later as the agency’s Director of Training. Kelsie has experience providing clinical supervision and training to unlicensed and newly licensed clinical staff and training adult learners, including parents/caregivers, paraprofessionals, and educators in trauma-informed care and intervention strategies.

After working in residential treatment programs for over 10 years, Kelsie is excited to be joining the Catalyst Center team to support and advocate for systems change and more equitable, integrated care for youth and families.

Elveena Fareedi

Director of Research & Evaluation

Elveena Fareedi brings her blended clinical psychology and research expertise to the Alliance and the Catalyst Center serving in the role of Director of Research and Evaluation.

As a clinician, Elveena has worked with culturally diverse populations across the United States and Pakistan. Through her clinical practice, she quickly recognized the role of systemic inequity that taints the field of mental health treatment and prevention. Her curiosity to understand the development of psychopathology in early childhood and her passion to appropriately deliver equitable and accessible prevention services to the most vulnerable populations, led her into the world of research.

Prior to joining the Alliance, Elveena worked with various reputable R1 universities in the U.S, developing a rich perspective on how sociocultural and familial determinants shape mental health pathways for vulnerable children. Elveena believes that utilizing research to understand the detection of early signs and determinants of psychopathology can inform providers to effectively deploy evidence-based interventions that can prevent the development of pathology, promote wellbeing, and improve quality of life in children and communities.

Elveena hopes to develop accessible scientific framework that is rooted in ethical, trauma informed, and culturally appropriate evidence-based innovations to support the Alliance’s mission in furthering child, youth, and family voices. She believes that any evidence-based methodology should be fundamentally imbedded in lived expertise and defined through the lens of social justice.

Elveena holds a Masters in Applied Clinical Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University

Email Elveena at efareedi@catalyst-center.org.

Paige Clark

Program Analyst

Paige comes to the Catalyst Center with a background in program management and direct service in a K-12 educational setting. Her previous work includes serving as a program manager at Children’s Council of San Francisco, where she led a team of case managers to connect families impacted by the child welfare system to high-quality, affordable childcare. Before that, she oversaw the implementation of during and after school programming at a high-needs school in San Jose as an impact manager for City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley. She is passionate about supporting community-based programs to best serve children and families.

Paige holds a master's degree in education policy and management.

Email Paige at pclark@catalyst-center.org.

Rhonda Okonkwo

Program Analyst

Rhonda Okonkwo currently resides in the Sacramento Region. For the past twelve years, Rhonda has dedicated her life work to children and families working in child welfare services, the medical field and the nonprofit sector as a social worker and activist. She believes in positive social change in our community and the empowerment of the most vulnerable populations. Rhonda is very excited to be a part of the California Provide Helpline team.

Email Rhonda at rokonkwo@catalyst-center.org

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