Our Team

Alex Volpe

Program Manager

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

Bernice Rosas Belmonte

Project Coordinator

Bernice Rosas Belmonte has dedicated her time and efforts in working for the common good. She has a background working in immigration law, the non-profit sector, and campaigns. Her passions center around her values of human rights, equity, and social justice. She joined the Catalyst Center team in July of 2020 as Project Coordinator and continues her passion of amplifying the voices of those who are working with children and families.

A graduate from the University of California, Riverside and the University of San Francisco, she strives to be the bridge between policy and the community to ensure everyone has an equal and equitable opportunity at a healthy, wholesome life.

Email Bernice at bbelmonte@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.

Deborah Son, MSW

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Deborah Son oversees organizational efforts that provide members and others in children and family serving organizations with supports, research, learning communities and other initiatives that further the fields of child welfare, behavioral health and education. Deborah has over 10 years of experience as an activist and leader in the fields of systems change, advocacy, and community engagement. Her work spans across various fields including trauma-informed care, anti-violence, children and family services, and public and behavioral health. She has dedicated much of her career to bringing various service platforms together in collaboration toward meaningful achievements in social justice.

In previous work, she helped lead the domestic violence homicide initiative for Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay area, spearheaded the growth and integration of medical-legal partnerships throughout the Alameda County public health care system, and has facilitated leadership development opportunities for individuals across the state of California raising the capacity of individuals and networks who represent the communities they serve.

She is an active leader with the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, was a County Commissioner with the Contra Costa Commission for Women, and a national trainer and technical assistance provider in gender-based violence issues as they pertain to communities of color and historically marginalized groups.

Deborah received her Masters in Social Work from California State University, East Bay and her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Email Deborah at dson@catalyst-center.org.

Deme Hill

Program Analyst

Deme Hill is long-term advocate to the government and social service system and has served our American communities for more than 20+ years; with expertise in juvenile justice, homelessness and child welfare. Completing more than 14 years of education, she holds an AS in Healthcare, BS in Business Management, MA in Public Relations and currently attending California Baptist University pursuing a Doctorate in Public Administration.

Deme is an experienced supervisor and manager, overseeing governmental programs, finance, accounting, budgets, contracts & sub-contractors in multiple cities and states.

Deme has managed and/or facilitated government programs funded by The US Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, Department of Mental Health, Department of Education, Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Defense.

Over the years Deme has developed and maintained partnerships with over 300 agencies throughout California and Nevada. Her programs have received local awards, national awards and international recognition; she is duly known as a dedicated, charismatic and reputable community leader.

Email Deme at dhill@catalyst-center.org

Garbralle Conroe

Program Analyst

Garbralle Conroe has a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling from California State University, Fresno. For the past seven years, she has been teaching graduate courses at California State University, Fresno and providing professional development, cultural competence and diversity trainings through her consulting business. In 2012, Garbralle received the Business of the Year Award from Resources for Independence Central Valley. She was recognized for her outstanding work in her community by helping individuals with disabilities obtain jobs.

In 2015, she was awarded the community service award from Fresno City College for her exceptional contributions with Fresno City College students. Garbralle was awarded the 2017 40 under 40 award which recognizes individuals under the age of 40 for their contributions and achievements.

Garbralle was the keynote speaker for the 2018 Girls World Expo and the 2018 Fresno Housing authority all staff event. Garbralle has facilitated several professional development sessions at Fresno City College Institutional, Development, for Equity, Access and Success Summit titled “Bridging the Gap between Privileged & Adversity.

In 2019, Garbralle was featured on Valley PBS Young, Gifted and Black where she shared her motivational journey of how she overcame barriers, and stigmas growing up in South West Fresno. Garbralle was also one of the keynote presenters at the 2019 National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns where she focused on Cultural Competence in Counseling.

Email Garbralle at gconroe@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.

Raquel Chandler

Program Analyst

Raquel Chandler is a bilingual English and Spanish speaking family mediator and consultant. She has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master’s degree in Human Resources. Raquel is a former social worker and administrative manager for over 30 years with Orange County California Children and Family Social Services and Juvenile Court Systems. Raquel has also partnered with the Casey Foundation to bring cultural competency in working with immigrant families and creating best practices in bringing impactful support and services to families with various and differing cultural backgrounds.

Raquel specializes in problem solving by identifying family strengths, improving communication between family members and government entities, providing parent education and community and agency-based consultation. Her passion is representing the underrepresented and seeking equity in government education, mental health and court systems.

Email Paige at rchandler@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

Stacy Shwartz Olagundoye

Program Manager

Stacy Shwartz Olagundoye exemplifies a commitment to community well-being, systems change, and transformative justice for children, youth, and families. She contributes over fifteen years of combined experience in project management, culturally responsive research and evaluation, training and technical assistance, and nonprofit leadership. Stacy specializes in complex, equity-focused, cross-sectional projects in the areas of educational disparities, trauma, health equity, and community and youth development to help leverage collective partnership into community action and change.

In her previous work, Stacy conducted research and evaluation—including strategic planning, systems change, needs assessments, formative assessments, and outcomes evaluations—for partners including First 5 organizations of Sacramento, Siskiyou, and Solano Counties; Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission; Sacramento’s Reduction of African American Child Deaths; Solano County Board of Supervisor’s Health Services Needs Assessment; and Birth & Beyond, as Senior Research Analyst and Project Manager at Applied Survey Research. Stacy has also worked as a consultant and research analyst with the UC Davis Center for Regional Change on projects including a 3-year evaluative study on chronic absenteeism in the Sacramento City Unified School District, and a state-wide study with a national youth organization on Latino youth engagement.

Prior to UC Davis, Stacy served as a youth development consultant, trainer, and program director by partnering with young adults and youth practitioners to strengthen the field of out-of-school-time programming, and deliver unique, youth-relevant programs. Stacy has also been a trainer with the California School-Age Consortium, facilitating trainings for clients such as Sacramento START, the Yolo County Child Care Resource and Referral Conference, and the Department of Public Health.

Stacy received her master’s degree in community development at the University of California, Davis. Her work has been published by Applied Survey Research, the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, and the 4-H Center for Youth Development, and her original curriculum has been implemented across youth-serving organizations throughout Northern California.  

Email Stacy at solagundoye@catalyst-center.org

Taylor Davis

Catalyst Center Intern

Taylor Davis is a senior at the University of California, Davis. Double majoring in Political Science and History, she is passionate about social justice and equity, and hopes to turn these passions into a career of helping others and working to break down systems of oppression. Although unsure of her exact path, she is hoping to pursue either an MSW or JD in the future. She is excited to be a part of the Catalyst team, and to learn from the passionate and powerful people around her.

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