⸻ President and CEO
Mari was born in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico. Immigrated to Porterville, California at the age of 13. She enrolled at Porterville High School where she attended 9th to 11th grade then did her senior year at Mt. Miguel High School in Spring Valley, Ca. Mari was accepted at San Diego State University, and became the first member of her family to ever attend a 4-year university. She graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Language & Literature and was accepted into the Master’s program where she was able to teach beginning Spanish classes. She got her first job in education at Shafter High School and that changed her life. She then got married with a professor from her own university and had two beautiful babies – Monica and Sebastian. She then decided to go for her Master’s degree in Bilingual Education and traveled to Mexico to complete her program.
At this time a position was offered at the local Telemundo TV station for a community affairs show and her media career began. She worked as a television broadcaster for two years and then took a full time teaching job at Wasco High school. After 4 years of teaching she’s offered a position as Executive Producer and Radio Host at the Radio Campesina Network where she covered three western states in NPR – public radio in Spanish. This job brought her great opportunities to grow professionally such as covering the Democratic Convention in 2008 in Denver, CO; and interviewing first lady Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, First lady Michelle Obama and attending 2008 Obama’s Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC. She then took a new adventure in radio news production and was selected as one of 4 journalists to represent the United States in Peru. Mari worked and covered news from a natural disaster area in the north of Peru and broadcasted daily her radio show “Punto de Vista” live for two weeks. After this experience, she participated in an Environmental Journalism fellowship at Stanford university.
Later, she took a new role in the nonprofit world and developed programs in ESL and Civics for Spanish speakers and farm laborers. A year later, Bright House Networks, a nationwide cable company hired her as their Multicultural Communication Manager representing the Western Region where she was also in charge of her own radio show “Nuestras Voces”. Univision Communication Inc, then offered a position as Director of Community Affairs and Marketing for three local stations; and as host of her own show called “Kern Contigo” and national morning segments of “Despierta Bakersfield”.
She joined the United Way of Kern County family in 2017 as Director of Marketing and Development. She was then promoted to Interim President & CEO in April of 2018, and in November 20, 2018 she became the permanent President and CEO of the organization.
As President and CEO of UWKC, Mari has served as Co-Chair of the Public Policy Committee for United Ways of California for 2 years (2018-2020), leading local UW’s to the state Capitol to advocate for bills and issues that benefit local communities.
At the 2018 New CEO Forum at the United Way Headquarters in Virginia, Mari was selected among 81 new U.S. CEO’s to serve as Spokesperson for the National Magazine, Chronicle of Philanthropy.
During her last three years at UW, Mari has transformed her team and greatly impacted the community in the areas of education, health and financial stability. Mari has been very active in the areas of education, from pre-k to higher education. She has presented at several conferences advocating for literacy and quality education for our children and youth.
Mari has been nominated twice for the city’s prestigious Beautiful Bakersfield Humanitarian Award, due to her dedication to advocate for education and bring the best to her community.
In March 15, 2021 Mari was honored by California State Assembly Member Rudy Salas for District 32 with the “Woman Of The Year Award”, due to her long positive influential trajectory in this community and for being the first Latina to hold a CEO position for a local United Way chapter.
Mari is a woman of faith. She believes God has a path and a plan for her, she follows the signs and works with passion, dedication and discipline to help others and make this world a better place for everyone, especially for our children.
⸻ Vice President of D.E.I. and Program Development
Eric Arias proudly serves as the Vice President of Program Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for United Way of Kern County. Since 2020, Eric has also served the hard-working families in Southeast Bakersfield on the Bakersfield City Council. Ward 1 includes the culturally diverse communities of Greenfield, Casa Loma, Southgate and amenities like the Valley Plaza. After college, Eric put his education and experience to work by serving the community. Since 2014, Eric has served our community through the offices of County Supervisor Leticia Perez and State Assemblyman Rudy Salas as a field staffer. As a Councilman, Eric has prioritized fighting for the challenges facing hard-working families in Ward 1. Most importantly, Councilmember Arias is proud of serving as an Advisor for Leaders in Life, an organization that he has participated in since he was a sophomore in High School.
⸻ IT Manager
Don joined United Way of Kern County in 1986. As Director of IT his responsibilities include installing, programming and maintaining our internal network of servers and computers. He is also responsible for programming and maintaining our campaign and financial databases insuring data integrity, provides leadership with internal processes and reporting of pledge and payment information.
⸻ Financial Stability Initiatives Manager
Annelisa Perez joined the United way team in 2018. Since then she has worked under the financial stability department as several positions. She started her time as the CalEITC outreach Specialist and VITA Volunteer as part time and was then promoted to full-time as the VITA Sites Coordinator. However, shortly after, an unexpected career opportunity crossed her path and moved cities. But that did not last long. Annelisa returned shortly after her leave, but this time as the Financial Stability Manager. Since then she has shown a passion for the department and seeks to develop new programs and services to enhance the lives of those in need.
⸻ VITA Program Coordinator
SOFIA CALERO MEJIA
Sofia recently joined United Way of Kern County in August 2022. She was born and raised in El Salvador. Sofia graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in International Relations and Chicanx Studies and a minor in Human Rights. During her college years, she interned in different professional fields such as health and education, where she found herself wanting to help her community, especially those in need, through the nonprofit world. Sofia also had an opportunity to intern in non-profit organizations while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. As our VITA program coordinator, she is excited to work with the community in order to meet their needs.
⸻ VITA Program Specialist
Abigail Rivera joined United Way of Kern County in September of 2022. Abigail has a degree in Business Administration from CSUB. She was born and raised amongst struggling communities in Bakersfield. Before obtaining this position, she volunteered for college financial events, education outreach events, and family nights. She started off as a VITA volunteer for United Way of Kern County and found her passion in helping and reaching out to those in need. She hopes to help communities like the communities during her childhood.