Backside Learning Center, BLC, Louisville ky, horseracing,

2024 BOARD MEMBERS

caton bredar, backside learning center, louisville

Caton Bredar

Development & Communications Committee

TV Horse Racing Analyst, Writer, Handicapper
Dave Burianek, Louisville, Backside Learning Center

Dave Burianek

Board Member

President, nFuzion Healthcare
Pam Conway, Backside Learning Center, Churchill Downs, Louisville

Pam Conway

President

Achievement Center Director, Assumption High School
Annie Jessee, Backside Learning Center, Churchill Downs, Louisville

Annie Jessee

Secretary

Retired Middle School Teacher

Jeff Kennedy

Vice President, Kentucky Derby Museum Seat

Kentucky Derby Museum, Senior Director of Technology
glenn kosse, louisville, backside learning center

Glenn Kosse

Development & Communications Committee Member

Vice President, H2R Consulting LLC

Stephen Lin

Board Member

UnboundEd, Deputy Chief Impact, Research and Evaluation
Paola Morante, Backside Learning Center, Louisville

Paola Morante

Board Member

Real Estate and Financial Strategist.
Cory Stauble, Backside Learning Center, Churchill Downs, Louisville

Cory Stauble

Development and Communications Committee Chair

Realtor, Lenihan & Sotheby's International Realty

Xiamara Torres Jimenez

Churchill Downs Advisory Member

Marketing Manager - Churchill Downs Racetrack

Amy Zink

Board Member

Indiana University Southeast, Professor of Spanish since 2001

CURRENT STAFF MEMBERS

alma aldana, backside learning center, blc

Alma Aldana

Adult Programs Manager

Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Alma knows what it is like to leave her home and family to start again in a new place with a different culture and language. Soon after arriving, a friend who works for an immigration lawyer suggested she become an interpreter. Although she had never done it professionally, Alma had been interpreting and stepping up to advocate for people’s rights for years. Since then, Alma has been interpreting at a law office and clinic for children with special needs.

At the BLC, Alma is the programs assistant and is currently recruiting for two programs— Padres Lideres (Parent Leaders) and LENA (Language Environment Analysis). Padres Lideres is intended to encourage parents to form their own groups and work together to prevent violence against children. LENA teaches parents how to communicate with their children between 2 and 34 months to promote brain development and help them reach milestones in speaking.
Alma is glad that through her work at the BLC she can continue to go above and beyond to help people. For fun Alma enjoys making pizza with her daughter Itzel—a creative and spunky eight-year-old who excels in performing arts—and their dog Jackie. We are so grateful and excited to have Alma on our team and are looking forward to getting to know her more.

dalia, backside learning center, blc

Tony Barajas

Office Administrative Assistant (PT)

Tony moved from Mexico to the U.S. with his mother and sister in November 2018 to join his father, Jesus, who had been working in horse racing for 25 years.

“At first, it was really hard moving here because I didn’t know English,” Toni said. “I also didn’t really want to move to begin with.”

Backside Learning Center worked with his family as they were settling in, and helped him begin his journey at Newcomer Academy. He also began participating in the Backside Learning Center’s Front Runner’s program.
Tony graduated from Iroquois High School in 2021. Now, he gets to work with us where roots were laid years ago.

We are so excited to have Tony on our team! He offers unparalleled perspective with our families, and is an invaluable member of our community.

louisville, backside learning center, merlin cano

Merlin Cano

Community Wellness & Services Coordinator (PT)

Merlin immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala when she was 11 years old. She graduated from Iroquois High School in Louisville, Ky in 2019. Merlin is a published author with Louisville Story Program. She works with thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs as well as her family. She has also worked with the Backside Learning Center with the youth programming team since March 2019. Merlin is really dedicated and happy to work with her community at the backside. She enjoys spending time with her loved ones and working with horses.
Andrew Crum, Backside Learning Center, Churchill Downs

Andrew Crum

Development Coordinator

Andrew Crum is our development and communications associate here at the Backside Learning Center. Born in Louisville, Andrew attended the University of Kentucky with a media arts & studies degree that gave him ample experience in communications and content creation. Additionally, Andrew just obtained his Master's of Arts in Teaching, and he spends his time substitute teaching throughout the city when he is away from the BLC. He was introduced to the Backside Learning Center through volunteering in the Front Runners program as a tutor at our Learning Hub during COVID, and he was eager to get back to working with the BLC in any way possible. He can’t wait to get started with the Backside Learning Center and to play his role in fulfilling its mission! In his free time, Andrew enjoys running, listening to music, and watching the Louisville Cardinals
louisville, backside learning center, lauren degeorge

Lauren DeGeorge

Director of Programs

Lauren oversees the Backside Learning Center’s adult and youth educational programs ensuring that quality instruction, organization, program development, and training opportunities are available for the backside community and the volunteers of the BLC. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Lauren graduated from Mercy Academy and in 2010 earned a BA in Elementary Education at the University of Kentucky. She completed her studies overseas, teaching first grade at the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin, Germany. Following her return from abroad, she worked as a permanent long-term elementary substitute for JCPS until she was hired to teach 3rd grade in Quito, Ecuador at El Colegio Americano de Quito. In November 2014, she began working at the Backside Learning Center where she has grown professionally and personally alongside the organization’s growth. She is currently studying to gain a graduate teaching endorsement from the University of Indiana Southeast to teach K – 12 English Language Learners. Outside of work, Lauren enjoys many other activities, including listening to live music, practicing yoga, gardening, traveling, doing various outdoor sports, spending time with her family, and always enjoys learning something new.
jennifer martinez dutton, backside learning center, louisville

Jennifer Dutton

Social Services Manager

Jennifer is originally from southern California, but now resides in Indiana with her husband and her dogs, Bear and Birdie. She is currently completing her Master of Social Work at IUPUI and expects to graduate in May 2022. Her goal is to have her PhD in Social Work to conduct research in the social work field. Jennifer has 7 years of experience working in the social services field, most recently, working as a Family Case Manager with the Department of Child Services in Indiana. Jennifer is a child of Mexican immigrants and was drawn to the work at the Backside Learning Center through her passion of working with the Latino community and helping others. Jennifer is the Social Services Manager at the Backside Learning Center. When she is not working or at school, she enjoys painting, drawing, and sewing. Jennifer is an avid reader, enjoys playing video games, and cooking.
louisville, backside learning center, mariah levine garcia

Mariah Levine Garcia

Youth Education & Enrichment Manager (PT)

Working in conjunction with the Youth Programs Team, Mariah’s work is focused on offering high-quality opportunities for backside youth to learn, grow, and thrive. Mariah attended the University of Louisville where she completed her undergraduate degree in French and Spanish with a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies. During her time at UofL, she completed an internship doing volunteer medical interpretation at the Kentucky Racing Health Services Center (a clinic which serves the backside population) and it was there that she first learned about the Backside Learning Center. Mariah is grateful for the opportunity to cultivate long-term relationships with backside community members and to offer engaging programming and opportunities for academic, social, and cultural enrichment. When she’s not working, Mariah is likely to be found reading with her son, spending time with friends and family, and hiking.
Beth Hartivgsen, BLC, Backside Learning Center

Beth Hartvigsen

Accountant (Independent Consultant)

louisville, backside learning center, peyton hobson

Peyton Hobson

Communications & Marketing Manager

Peyton taught English classes as a volunteer at Backside Learning Center for almost two years until she became the communications coordinator at the beginning of 2020. Prior to joining the BLC as a staff member, she graduated from WKU in 2014 as a photojournalism and advertising design major. She has several years of experience in marketing, graphic design and social media working at a variety of organizations and businesses in Louisville. Peyton also spent a year teaching English abroad in Sevilla, Spain with her husband, Chris Butz (former Americorps Vista for BLC.) She enjoys using creativity and visual communication daily to tell the story of the heart of BLC’s mission. On the side, Peyton does some freelance graphic design work, plays tennis, and takes her corgi, Macarena, everywhere.

Leila Jordan

Youth Services Coordinator (PT)

Currently a freshman at IU Southeast studying Psychology with a minor in Spanish, Michelle aspires to become a counselor and earn her master's degree. She discovered our mission while her brother translated for the Mind Matters program held a few months ago.

Michelle shares, "Working at the Backside Learning Center has been a joy. I'm thrilled to be part of this community and am passionate about the activities we do with the kids. Seeing them succeed with their homework while having fun is incredibly rewarding."

In her spare time, Michelle enjoys reading young-adult romance, sci-fi, and dystopian novels

Michelle Lopez

Youth Programs Assistant (PT)

Currently a freshman at IU Southeast studying Psychology with a minor in Spanish, Michelle aspires to become a counselor and earn her master's degree. She discovered our mission while her brother translated for the Mind Matters program held a few months ago.

Michelle shares, "Working at the Backside Learning Center has been a joy. I'm thrilled to be part of this community and am passionate about the activities we do with the kids. Seeing them succeed with their homework while having fun is incredibly rewarding."

In her spare time, Michelle enjoys reading young-adult romance, sci-fi, and dystopian novels

Taylor Ohlmann, Backside Learning Center

Taylor Ohlmann

Youth Programs Manager

Welcome Taylor Ohlmann, our new Youth Programs Manager!
Taylor was born and raised in a neighborhood not far from Churchill Downs! From the moment Taylor was 5 years old, she wanted to be a teacher. To accomplish this lifelong goal, Taylor graduated from Campbellsville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Spanish Education. She then got her Master’s degree from the University of Louisville in Spanish.
Attending study abroad trips to Costa Rica and Spain, Taylor fell in love with with the language and culture. She was most excited to work in a similar capacity, so began her career teaching 3rd grade at Cold Creek Elementary in Shelby County. There, a majority of the students at Clear Creek Elementary are Spanish-speaking.
Taylor volunteered with us seven years ago being at the Front Runners summer program. She was enthused to discover the BLC was looking for a Youth Programs Manager, as it would combine many passions of hers—working with children, teaching and the Spanish language!
In terms of working here, she most looks forward to creating and fostering long-term relationships with kids and families.
“One thing that was tough about teaching, you get to know the child and family. You get close to them, then they leave and go to the next grade,” said Taylor. “Here, there is an even flow, but there are some families that you can know for many years. I’m most excited about building relationships with people!”
We are so excited for Taylor to begin meeting our families here at the BLC!
Veronica_Pavon

Veronica Pavon

Case Worker

A native of Ecuador, Veronica moved to the US when she was 10 years old. She lived in New York City and Chicago before making her way to Louisville in 1999 where earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate.

For seven years, she worked as a CNA at different nursing homes and hosptals around town. She is also a certified medical interpreter.

In short, Veronica loves helping people, and is looking forward to be part of the BLC team.

“It is an honor to work for a community that I relate to. I know how hard the change is to move from another country, including language and other barriers," said Veronica.

Veronica is a loving mother of three sons, two of whom attend the University of Louisville Speed School! Her youngest is 5 years old. She also has experience volunteering as a Sunday School teacher.

louisville, backside learning center, sherry stanley

Sherry Stanley

Executive Director

Sherry has served in her position at the BLC since 2013 when it was a staff of two under the Kentucky Derby Museum. She is proud and honored to have been part of the team that has grown the BLC to an independent 501c3 organization with a staff of 12, and most importantly to have expanded the organization’s mission beyond just serving equine workers but to a more holistic and impactful model to include children and families. She spent close to 10 years living and working in El Salvador, first with the U.S. Peace Corps then with local NGO’s in the area of rural development. Prior to joining the BLC in 2013, Sherry spent six years at the Kentucky Office for Refugees, administering Federal funding for refugee resettlement programs throughout the state of Kentucky. Earlier in her career, she worked as a paralegal in Chicago assisting immigrant victims of domestic violence and as a Congressional Hunger Center policy fellow with the National Family Farm Coalition in Washington, DC. Sherry holds a BA in journalism and an MA in sustainable development from the School for International Training. She is thrilled to have the honor of working in the unique world of horseracing and the fulfillment that comes from daily interaction with the inspiring people on the backside. She is the mother of two daughters who are JCPS students at Atherton High School and Highland Middle. In her spare time she loves cooking and doing anything in the outdoors!
Luz Elena, Backside Learning Center, Louisville Kentucky

Luz Elena Valdespino

Youth & Family Case Coordinator

Luz Valdespino is originally from Nombre de Dios Durango, Mexico. She moved here when she was two, and raised by parents who worked on horse farms. She had also worked with them during her teenage years.

Although Luz didn’t have a clear path for what her future would look like, she had help from her parents’ employers --who are now part of her family-- to find her educational route.

From there she worked hard on bettering her grades in high school and later attended Eastern Kentucky University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in Spanish.

Luz recently worked for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and is now working for the Backside Learning Center as she wants to serve families with a similar background to which she grew up in.

“I’m passionate about helping families that remind me of my own,” Luz said. “I know what it’s like to always be on survivor mode and to not have support to learn another language or have that safe place for the unknown. This is why I fell in awe of the Backside Learning Center because they provide that and more for racetrack families.”

We are so unbelievably to have Luz Elena on our team, as she offers an invaluable perspective with our community members.

Backside Learning Center, BLC, Micaela Vizcarrondo

Micaela Vizcarrondo

Youth Engagement & Academic Success Coordinator

Please welcome our new Youth Engagement & Academic Success Coordinator, Micaela Vizcarrondo!

Micaela was born in Veracruz State, Mexico. She and her family have lived in Louisville for the past 20 years with her husband and three children.

When Micaela first lived in Louisville, her first job was a hot walker on the Backside. Her English level was very limited. “It was difficult to find places to learn, or people that would help with reading documents and filling out paperwork.”

Then, Micaela met her husband at the backside, and he was an inspiration to her to keep studying. He was a student at Backside Learning Center, and found out The BLC could help her kids with homework after school. In 2017, Micaela studied very hard to get her GED. After three years, she finally passed!

We are so happy that Micaela has decided to join our “familia” as the Youth Engagement & Academic Success Coordinator. “I feel capable of helping the community on the Backside,” Micaela said. “I can identify with all of those people; I want to offer my sincere help.”

We are so honored that Micaela has chosen to work with us and the families of the back stretch!

louisville, backside learning center, alexina wilson

Alexina Wilson

Operations and Volunteer Coordinator (PT)

A Louisville native, Alexina studied Spanish and International Studies (with an emphasis on Latin America) at Indian University Southeast. Following her passion for other cultures, she has had the opportunity to travel across Latin America and Europe. She also spent a year and a half teaching English in Quito, Ecuador where she fell even more in love with Spanish and the Latinx population. ⠀

Her desire to serve the diverse community of Louisville led her to volunteer with Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Doors to Hope, and Change Today Change Tomorrow where she taught English, tutored for citizenship classes, and helped provide opportunities for the homeless. She worked for many years with youth facing hardship at the Clark County Youth Shelter of Jeffersonville, IN, and spent the last 3 years teaching Spanish at Portland Christian School. All of this has led her to the Backside Learning Center where she is so excited to be a part of the team. Alexina works as a volunteer coordinator as well as supporting operations.