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AZHSA - The Arizona Head Start Association
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Executive Director

Jessica Rivera-García Jessica Rivera-García

Jessica Rivera-García is the Executive Director for AZHSA. Jessica has dedicated her career to early childhood development and has over 10 years of experience in the early childhood sector including with Head Start as a former ERSEA and Family Engagement Manager. She served as the chair for the Parent, Family and Community Engagement AZHSA Subcommittee prior to becoming the Director. Jessica has devoted her career to creating early childhood policies and systems and advocating for quality family engagement in the Head Start field. Jessica has a master's degree in Public Administration from Arizona State University with a certificate of Participatory Governance.

Executive Committee

Eve DelReal President

Eve Del Real

Maricopa County Head Start

Eve Del Real serves as the AZHSA President and the Assistant Director of the Early Education Division with Maricopa County. She possesses over 20 years of experience working with underserved populations and in early childhood education in various capacities. She holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Administration and is pursing her Doctoral studies in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management.

Eve has been recognized numerous times by elected officials for the work she has done to improve the lives of children and communities, which included acknowledgment by the California State Assembly as Woman of Action for 2010. In 2014, Eve led the implementation of the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership for Maricopa County which garnered national recognition. She is an advocate for early education and social programs that support high quality services for all children and families.

Patricia Kirkland Vice President

Patricia Kirkland

City of Phoenix

Patricia Kirkland is the Deputy Human Services Director for the Education Division, where she oversees the Head Start Birth to Five Program. In her role, she is responsible for providing programmatic and budgetary oversight for an annual $40 million budget, 150 City of Phoenix staff, and ten educational providers who offer educational services for 3,451 children. Patricia has 25 years of experience in early childhood, including a teacher for Head Start and Special Education Preschool, an Early Childhood Administrator for a local school district, a college professor, and eight years with the Head Start Birth to Five Program. Patricia has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida, a Master's degree in Education Leadership from the Northern Arizona University, and holds a current Principal's certification with the Arizona Department of Education. Currently, Patricia was seated as the Vice President of the Arizona Head Start Association in August 2021 and seated on the Region 9 Head Start Association Governing Board in October 2021. Through participation on these boards, Patricia hopes to learn more about Head Start through a state and regional lens and help impact positive change for state and regional grantees. Patricia is married with two grown children and four grandchildren.

Janell Stringfellow Secretary

Janell Stringfellow

City of Phoenix Birth to Five

Janell Stringfellow is the Early Head Start Education Specialist with the City of Phoenix Birth to Five Program. In her role, she supports the Child Care Partnership and Home-Based options. Her duties include oversight of curriculum implementation, ongoing assessment, coaching, and serving as the School Readiness and Education Self-Assessment Committee chair. She is responsible for analyzing and aggregating the program's child outcomes data three times a year, determining program needs, and additional supports for home visitors and teachers.

She has served children and families for over 20 years in various roles. Janell earned her bachelor's degree in Child and Adolescent Development from California State University, Northridge, in 2003 and her Master's degree in Human Relations from Northern Arizona University in 2014. As an advocate in the field of Early Childhood, she works to ensure that children and families are school ready. Janell believes in lifelong learning, supporting educators to see their full potential, and providing high-quality education services to all children and families. She aims to widen her lens and sharpen her interpersonal skills while serving as the AZHSA secretary.

Shandeen Gomez Treasurer

Shandeen Gomez

Urban Strategies

Hello! My name is Shandeen Gomez and I am the Director at Urban Strategies Early Head Start. I currently serve as the AZHSA Treasurer in my first year and prior to this role for AZHSA I served as the Chair/Vice Chair for the Early Childhood Subcommittee. I have over 20 years of experience working in the field of early childhood and working with the community's most vulnerable. I received my degree from Illinois State University in Human Development and Family Relationships with an emphasis on Child Development.

I feel my purpose as AZHSA Treasurer is to support the integrity of our fiscal appropriations and to work closely with our executive committee. I believe when our state program's come together, great things happen. I'm thankful for the opportunity and to work with amazing individuals.


Disabilities & Mental Health Committee

Ana Herron-Valenzuela Chair

Ana Herron-Valenzuela

City of Phoenix Head Start

Ana is the Chair of the Disabilities & Mental Health Committee and represents the City of Phoenix Head Start Birth to Five Program; she is the preschool Inclusion Specialist. Her duties include ensuring programming meets the 10 percent enrollment requirement, providing education on the Child Find process, developmental delays, and disabilities to staff and parents, as well as supporting staff with individualization and additional supports in the classroom. Before this position, Ana was an Elementary Special Education Teacher in central Phoenix for five years, an AzEIP Service Coordinator and Program Supervisor, and a Program Director for an early childhood home visitation program. Ana's career is centered around empowering parents to see themselves as their child's first teacher and strongest advocate.

Ana's purpose with the AZHSA Disabilities & Mental Health Committee is to unify specialists across the state, promote awareness of Head Start for all children, including those with identified delays and disabilities, and to promote effective and appropriate inclusionary practices, to close the learning gap between typically developing children and children with identified special needs

Rosemary Sigala Vice-Chair

Rosemary Sigala

City of Phoenix Head Start

Rosemary Sigala is a Behavior Support Supervisor with the City of Phoenix Birth to Five Program. Rosemary earned her Master's Degree in Social Work from ASU in 2006 and is a licensed social worker through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Rosemary began her career with the City of Phoenix in 2001 with the Head Start program as a CW I. She has been in various positions throughout her career, serving children and families. In 2010, Rosemary returned to the Birth to Five program, and this was when she developed a passion for meeting the social and emotional needs of children. Rosemary was promoted to Behavior Support Supervisor in July 2021 and is excited about the work she is doing with her team to support children, families, and instructional staff.


Early Childhood Development Committee

Gretchen Bonkoske Chair

Gretchen Bonkoske

My name is Gretchen Bonkoske. I have worked in Early Childhood Education, in various roles, for the over 17 years. I am a Professional Development Coach with Maricopa County's Early Education Division. In my position I support teaching staff with the implementation of quality curriculum and quality teacher-child interactions. I also provide tailored professional development to the needs of our program, the teachers and the children we serve. I posses a Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education and am actively pursuing a Masters degree in Social Emotional Learning. Over the last 17 years, I have continued to pursue education within Early Childhood Education and Child Development. I have become fascinated with Social Emotional Learning and the brain science behind how we learn to communicate, express and manage emotions; and the impacts adverse socioeconomic and trauma experienced in early childhood can have on one's executive functioning. As we learn more about child development, social emotional learning and the science behind it, we in Early Childhood Education must adapt and shift to support the children in our care. I strive to learn more every day to ensure I am provide the best support possible to the teachers, children and families we support.” Gretchen has been the chair of the committee since 2022.




Integrated Health & Safety Committee

Marcela Zepeda Chair

Marcela Zepeda

Chicanos Por La Causa

Marcela Zepeda has been the Nutrition Coordinator for Chicanos Por La Causa at Early Childhood Development for the past 8 and half years. Her passion for nutrition has benefitted many families over the years. She is an enthusiast for developing healthy nutrition recipes with the cooks for the enrolled children and focuses on gardening as a tool to decrease food insecurity. Marcela works closely with Health Coordinators to ensure children are healthy and up-to-date with their screenings for successful school readiness. She has developed a climate of motivation, participation and opportunities. She makes maximum use of the diverse talents of team members and promotes a strong vision of the organization's future in Nutrition. Marcela is very versatile - she shows competence in many content areas, demonstrating that she can handle multiple projects at the same time.

Her passion for Nutrition and meeting the needs of children and families inspires support and builds employee confidence. Her ability to work effectively with others, especially with community partners has opened the opportunity for families to receive food and health care supplies in a timely and safe manner.

Marcela's goal is to support families as first educators and create a home learning environment; she has done a great job getting families and children involved with Nutrition and Gardening activities. Staff and parents have showcased videos and other educational takeaways during management meetings and have demonstrated the connection parents and children are experiencing at home. Marcela continues to advocate for more home learning material for parents, especially during the times children are at home due to COVID-19 and receiving services virtually. Marcela has been part of the Integrated Health and Safety Committee for 8 years and has been elected to be chair of this committee in July of 2022.

Marcia Archer Vice-Chair

Marcia Archer

Northern AZ Council of Governments (NACOG) Head Start

Parent, Family and Community Engagement Committee


Sonya Montoya

Northern AZ Council of Governments (NACOG) Head Start