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Program Facilitators

 
 
 

DeNita Johnson

Director of Family Services

Education:

B.A. in Psychology, California State University, Northridge

Job Title/Workplace:

Lead High School Counselor of California Innovative Career Academy

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA

Background:

DeNita is married and the mother of three children that she homeschooled until high school. As a facilitator and Director of Family Services with Sisters of Nia, DeNita “feels blessed to impart the importance of education, encouragement, and guidance for the development of young people. Exposing young girls to the principle of ‘living life with purpose’ is extraordinary.”

Synthia Smith

 Founder/ Executive Director

Education:

B.A. in Liberal Studies w/Option in Early Childhood Studies, California State University, Hayward; California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, Patten College; Master’s Degree in Human Services w/Concentration in Counseling Studies, Capella University

Job Title/Workplace:

Lead High School Counselor for Highlands Community Charter School

Hometown:

Fremont, CA, now resides in Elk Grove, CA

Background:

Synthia is a proud wife and mother of two daughters. Synthia has over 20 years of experience as a K-12 teacher and has worked as a high school counselor the last 5 years. Synthia founded Sisters of Nia in 2009. When asked why she started the program, Synthia’s response is “I had many challenges as an adolescent that led to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a rebellious nature. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a program like Sisters of Nia to help guide me during those times. It is my intent and hope that Sisters of Nia can provide the support needed to be a catalyst for change in the lives of the girls we serve. It’s my goal to inspire, empower, and encourage all our girls to live their life with a purpose. I found my purpose in Sisters of Nia.”

Dr. Malika Hollinside

 Creative Director 

Education:

B.A. in Ethnic/Pan African Studies from California State University,  Northridge; M.A. in Bilingual/Multicultural Education from Sacramento State University; PhD in Educational Leadership from Sacramento State University

Job Title/Workplace:

Professor at Sacramento State University in Teacher Credentialing Dept. and Sacramento City College Ethnic Studies Professor

Lead High School Counselor for Highlands Community Charter School

Hometown:

New York City and Bay Area

Background:

Malika is a mother and stepmother of six fantastic people. After teaching high school for 17 years, Malika recently made the transition to teaching full-time at the college level. Malika has been the Creative Director of Sisters of Nia since our humble beginning and feels that she has “benefitted incredibly from every Nia girl. Their growth in confidence, knowledge, motivation, intelligence, happiness, and spirit are a testament to the power of our profound program!”

Board of Directors

 

Donna Berry P.E

Board President

Education:

 B.S.  in Civil Engineering, University of California, Davis; Licensed Professional Civil Engineer

Job Title/Workplace:

Chief, Project Management, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA by way of many Air Force bases during her childhood

Background:

Mrs. Berry, proud mother of two sons, became involved in community service during her undergraduate studies at UC Davis in their chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Donna has traveled the country to give motivational speeches to the general membership and at student conventions. She has also organized and worked with various mentoring programs and rites of passage programs for young women. Professionally, Mrs. Berry has served the State of California as a Designer, Design Branch Chief, Project Manager and a Program Manager delivering $100 million dollars in projects, and a multi-billion dollar program. While engineering has been the springboard for Mrs. Berry to sharpen her technical, management and organizational skills. The latest path on her journey has taken her to the center of her joy, Sisters of Nia. It defines her mission – “You Must Show Up Prepared.”

 
 

Jamie Knight

Board Treasurer

Education:

B.A. in Marketing, Howard University; Master’s Degree in Accounting, Southern New Hampshire University

Job Title/Workplace:

Accountant

Hometown:

Oakland, CA

Background:

Jamie brings a background in event planning and floral design to the board and has been at the forefront of planning for several signature Sisters of Nia events. When asked what she enjoys most about being on the board, Jamie’s response is “I enjoy the watching the girls bond and have a good time. I know that this bond will go with them the rest of their lives.”

 

Tezeta Stewartz

 Board Secretary

Education:

B.A. in African American & African Studies and English, University of California at Davis; M.A. in Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Job Title/Workplace:

Educator currently serving as an Independent Consultant for the CA Community Colleges Chancellor's Office

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA

Background:

Tezeta  has over 15 years of experience in educational administration, program and policy development, management, and facilitation. She is passionate about empowering young Black women and other women of color by creating opportunities for their growth, introspection, and self expression.

D’Karla Davis

 Community Liaison

Education:

B.S. in Applied Behavioral Science, University of California, Davis; Master’s Degree in Public Administration, University of Southern California (USC); Certificate in Change Leadership, Cornell University; Doctorate in Progress in Educational Leadership, UC Davis; Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Job Title/Workplace:

Consultant, Self-employed

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA

Background:

D’Karla is a proud mother with over 18 years of public sector experience in student services and management consulting. Her focus has been on youth and education. D’Karla’s career extends policy, project management, program development, community outreach, and financial administration. D’Karla believes “Serving on the Board for the beautiful young ladies is an honor, especially doing it alongside women who are deeply committed to the mission and goals of Sisters of Nia.”

 

Jennifer Houston

 PR & Social Media Chair

Education:

B.A.  in Accounting, University of Phoenix

Job Title/Workplace:

Auditor/Financial Analyst for the California Department of Social Services

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA

Background:

Jennifer’s passion for helping others has led her to being a part of the Our Promise (United Way) Campaign, the Sacramento Food Bank Food Drive, hosting an annual Holiday Toy Drive for local Foster Agency, and many other events to further help those that are less fortunate in the community. In her free time, Jennifer is an avid crafter, couponer, and serial entrepreneur. Jennifer is also a proud wife and mother to one daughter who is an alumnae to the Sisters of Nia program.

Emily McDougall

 Fundraising Chair

Education:

B.A. in Psychology, University of California, Davis; M.A. in Counseling, University of San Francisco

Job Title/Workplace:

Wellness Counselor at a local private high school; Licensed psychotherapist, maintaining a small private practice in Midtown Sacramento – specializing in child and adolescent mental health

Hometown:

California native that has lived throughout the state – from Sacramento to Los Angeles

Background:

Emily has always been an advocate and champion for the wellbeing of our youth. She is proud to bring her experience and expertise to the Sisters of Nia board. 

 
 

Maya Hill

 Nia Alumnae

Education:

 Current student at California State University, Sacramento pursuing a B.S.  in Computer Engineering with a minor in Mathematics

Job Title/Workplace:

Interns as a Technical Marketing Engineer, Intel

Hometown:

Sacramento, CA

Background:

Maya is in her final year of school in pursuit of her B.S. For the past three years, Maya has served on the board of Sacramento State’s NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) chapter and has held several offices. During her final year of school, Maya joined Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honors society, serving as their treasurer. As a Sisters of Nia alumnae, Maya is able to attest to the sense of purpose and determination that has been instilled in her by the Sisters of Nia program.