Thought Leaders

To further its mission to influence results-oriented innovation in a collaborative setting, First 5 Orange County engages renowned local and national experts in lectures and discussions. These speakers help guide investments, impact policy and keep advocates and educators as well as business and government leaders apprised of the latest research and trends in early childhood health and education.

Linda Christopher
Executive Director, OC STEM Initiative
Linda Christopher presented an update on the Initiative and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs in Orange County. With a membership of 15 organizations, there is progress towards the goal of preparing students for STEM careers and college. Beginning at an early age, the programs supported by the OC STEM Initiative are contributing to the effort to educate a skilled workforce to meet the scientific and technological needs of the employer base in Orange County. Read more
Sharon Boles, PhD & Rebecca Hernandez, MSEd
Former Evaluation Manager, First 5 Orange County
Program Manager, Help Me Grow Orange County

Dr. Boles presented an overview of First 5 Orange County’s investments as well as an analysis of 13 years of trend data on special education services in Orange County. Ms. Hernandez provided a brief overview of the pivotal role of Help Me Grow Orange County as system coordinator in the referral process. Read more
Jasjit Singh, M.D.
Associate Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Medical Director
Infection Prevention and Control Associate Clinical Professor, Pediatrics
CHOC Children’s
Dr. Singh presented to First 5 Orange County’s Pediatric Health Services Committee on the current status of vaccine coverage or Orange County’s young children, relevant to the recent disease outbreaks. Read more
Ria Berger & Konita Wilks, D.D.S
Chief Executive Officer, Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County
Dental Director, Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County
Berger and Dr. Wilks spoke to First 5 Orange County about the changes and strategies needed to ensure that all children have access to oral health services and the critical work Healthy Smiles is launching to support its long-term sustainability.
Read more
Jessica LaBarbera
Director of Strategic Innovation for Nonprofit Finance Fund
LaBarbera spoke to First 5 Orange County about the changes in philanthropy and the emergence of outcomes-base funding.Read more
Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Southern California
Putnam-Hornstein is an expert in child maltreatment and public child welfare systems. She maintains an appointment as a research associate for the Child Welfare Performance Indicators Project at UC Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research, a longstanding child welfare data and research collaboration with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).Read more
Greg Duncan, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Southern California, Irvine
Duncan published a seminal research paper showing that pre-kindergarten mathematical knowledge is the highest predictor of later academic success.Read more
Dowell Myers, Ph.D.
Demographer and professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California
Myers presented “Preparing for California’s New Generational Future: How New Trends Are Reversing Old Assumptions Based on the Past,” which highlighted the most pressing challenges looming on the horizon for the local business community.Read more
Paul Tough
Education reform expert and best-selling author
Tough lectures on various topics including education, poverty, parenting and politics. First 5 Orange County, THINK (Teaching, Helping, Inspiring and Nurturing Kids) Together and Orange County United Way invited Tough to discuss proven methods for closing the educational and achievement gap experienced by many at-risk children.Read more