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The STEP Team

Chairman: Rory Bruer

President, Worldwide Theatrical Distribution, Sony Pictures Releasing

Rory Bio

Rory Bruer, President, Worldwide Theatrical Distribution for Sony Pictures Releasing, is the consummate Sony employee. He has spent his entire career in the motion picture industry there, beginning as a studio mail boy at Columbia Pictures in 1977 and culminating with his elevation in 2008 to his current role. Bruer has orchestrated the distribution of some of the studio’s biggest hits, including Spider-Man 1, 2 & 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black 2 & 3, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, 2012, The Social Network, The Smurfs, The Karate Kid, District 9, Hancock, Hitch, and countless others.

He actively supports many charities, including STEP, for which he serves as Chairman, as well as Variety The Children’s Charity, Habitat for Humanity, and the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation.

“I became involved with STEP,” explains Rory, “several years ago when my cousin Ron Crimins asked me to come down to a K-8 school he was supporting that was getting amazing results for at-risk kids in South Central LA with very little resources.”

Ron wanted to make sure these kids, when they graduated middle school, could go on to private high schools where the graduation rate is 95% to 100%. That’s an amazing track record! Considering that less than 67% of kids who attend public high schools in that same area graduate and as few as 10% of those students go to college. Same community with a vastly different outcome.

“I immediately pledged my support,” says Rory, “and encouraged many friends and colleagues to do so as well. I’m proud to say that STEP has awarded more than 150 private high school scholarships, with our scholars going on to colleges such as USC, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, Berkeley, Georgia Tech and even law school.”

Rory believes if we all put forth effort to bring opportunities and education to those folks that need a helping hand to succeed, we all win!

Founder: Ron Crimins

Ron Bio

I began my 40+ year career in insurance in 1970. The company, Connecticut General, required that new agents have a college degree. I was a proud graduate of Cal State and consequently got the job. However, had it not been for the education I received at Holy Name of Jesus, Nativity and Mount Carmel all located in South-Central… only God knows where I would be today. And that is the story of STEP: giving the kids of South-Central a leg-up on life.

Vice President: Michael Alvarez, CEO, Vision Media Management

Michael Alvarez Photo

“Never Give Up!” Michael A. Alvarez, Jr.’s lifelong motto personifies his unwavering commitment to his business, valued clients, loyal employees and charitable causes.

Michael Alvarez, CEO/President of Vision Media, a leading global physical and digital asset management company providing fulfillment and logistics services to the world’s largest media conglomerates, film studios, television networks and consumer products clientele for over 31 years.

In 1986, while playing professional baseball, Alvarez carried the same passion and dedication he displayed on the field into the business sector and launched Vision Entertainment, a small fulfillment services company initially typesetting scripts for television shows. Vision quickly expanded into full-scale warehousing facilities providing secure storage, fulfillment, distribution and installation of marketing and theatrical materials to the entertainment industry.

Vision Entertainment was acquired by Deluxe Video Services in 2002 and Alvarez was appointed President of Deluxe Media Management, based in Valencia, CA. Under Alvarez’ leadership, Deluxe Media accelerated its growth into digital fulfillment, software services and industry-leading online asset management systems. In 2003 Deluxe Media developed a proprietary, watermarked DVD system enabling millions of awards screeners to be securely associated, fulfilled, shipped and tracked worldwide.

Through the acquisition of P3 Consumer Products Fulfillment Company in 2010, Deluxe Media expanded into high volume consumer products services including direct to consumer distribution, catalog fulfillment and custom e-commerce solutions.

The entrepreneurial beginnings of Vision came full circle in 2014 with Alvarez and his partners purchasing the business from Deluxe and relaunching the company as Vision Media Management. Following a highly successful initial year under Alvarez’ ownership, Vision was awarded the Latin Business Association “LBA Business-of-the-Year Award 2015” for a company with over $25 Million in gross annual revenue and CBS Corporation 2015 “Diversity Supplier of the Year.” Michael was also nominated by NBCU for the Supplier of the Year Award given by the Southern California Minority Business Enterprise.

In 2015 the Motion Picture Association of America member studios selected Vision to develop and host a secure digital awards screener pilot program to stream film and television awards content to all guilds, critics and academy voting members.

2016 ushered in an exciting new era for Vision with an affiliate of CenterGate Capital, an Austin-based private equity investment firm, making an investment in Vision. This investment put Michael in a position to acquire CinemaScene Marketing, further expanding Vision’s presence in the theatre lobby space. Late in 2016, Alvarez added a proven digital media services platform by acquiring Fordela Corporation. Fordela’s advanced technology and protected software platform complement Vision’s digital products by adding enterprise-grade media asset management, screeners, and transactional video storefronts for studios, advertisers and retailers. Today, Michael’s vision to expand the depth and reach of the Vision Media brand has led to further strategic investments in multi-media platforms and technology leaders.

A devoted father of three, Alvarez is faithfully committed to his family. Michael established the Lori-strong Foundation to honor his first wife who he lost to cancer in 2014. Michael renders a responsibility to children’s causes. He serves as President of Variety, The Children’s Charity of Southern California and as an Executive Board Member of STEP – Success Through Education Program. As a championship youth football and baseball coach for over 20 years, Alvarez has guided many athletes to success with former team members playing in the NFL and other major leagues.

Michael’s “Never Give Up” attitude resonates greater than ever throughout the halls of Vision Media and his legacy will continue to drive the company well into the future.

Treasurer: Michael Mclaughlin

michaelmclaughlin1

An accomplished financial executive, Michael McLaughlin runs his own business consulting company.

He began his career in 1998 at Ernst & Young as Senior Accountant, Michael received invaluable technical training working with this prestigious firm. In 2000, he joined Panavision Inc, the highly regarded global motion picture equipment company, known for designing, engineering, manufacturing and renting state-of-the-art equipment to major motion picture studios. In 2003, Michael joined EFILM, a Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Inc. company as Controller. Staying within the company as a Controller, in 2011 Michael moved over to the Deluxe Entertainment Services Group until his move to Vision in April 2014. At Vision, Michael was instrumental in establishing the corporate structure necessary for the operations of Vision. Having worked with many entities in the entertainment industry in high level finance and accounting roles, Michael provided a thorough knowledge for Vision that is unique to this industry.
Michael earned a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Business Administration, Management and Accounting from California State University-Northridge in 1997.

Executive Director: Susan Armendariz

Susan Armendariz

Meet Nativity School’s Director of Marketing and Development Susan Armendariz. In this role, Susan is responsible for fundraising campaigns, grant writing, special events marketing, major donor solicitation and more.

Susan’s Catholic upbringing set the stage for her lifelong commitment to Catholic education. It was in 1991 at Franciscan Sister of the Immaculate Conception for Poverello Assisi School that Susan became acquainted with Sister Fatima Guevara, who quickly became a mentor and an inspiration to Susan. As a young mother at the time, it became apparent that it would be difficult for Susan to afford the preschool for her own children, but something happened. “I realized the families around me needed more help than I needed for myself,” she recalls of her start in fundraising. “It became important to help others who have the same beliefs as I do about Catholic education. That’s what pushed me in this direction.”

From Poverello, Susan moved on to De La Salle School as an Administrative Assistant, followed by the position of Major Events Manager at Notre Dame High School. When it comes to joining Nativity School, Susan says, “I feel confident I can really make a difference and honor Sister Fatima in what she was obviously grooming me for. I didn’t know that then, but I know that now.”

For Susan, joining Nativity really brings two-fold benefits. “Personally for me, it’s fulfilling a need, and with my background, I know that my contributions and hard work will be not just appreciated but will make a difference for our faculty and staff,” she notes. “For the students themselves, they have someone who is fighting for them, someone who wants what’s best for them and knows that, with the right programs and education, that they can shoot for those stars and catch them.”

When asked what she would tell her 23-year-old self at the start of her career, she says, “Be confident and go for it. When you’re confident, you can do anything. I want the students here to be confident. I want them to always feel supported and know they have loving, caring faculty and staff behind them.”

Susan served as President of the Holy Cross Mothers’ guild from 2007 to 2010 and continues to support the Holy Cross Mothers Guild Scholarship Fund for current students who need financial aid to continue their Notre Dame High School education after the death of a parent. In 2010 Susan was awarded the Christy Hamilton Outstanding Service Award in recognition of her dedication and service to Notre Dame High School and the community. Susan also serves on the Los Angeles Orphanage Guild (LAOG) Executive Board supporting the children of Maryvale. Susan believes every child deserves a safe place—a place where they’ll be loved, nurtured, secured, educated and prepared to not only survive, but also thrive. LAOG’s work exclusively supports Maryvale—the only residential treatment center of its kind in Greater Los Angeles—to ensure it can continue to provide this “home” for the orphaned, abused and neglected children in the foster care system under its care.

Married for over 31 years to Saul, Susan has been blessed with the support and encouragement that her husband provides to her on a daily basis. Together they have created a loving, faith driven family. As a mother of two, Susan enjoys watching movies and going to concerts with her oldest son Antonio and watching her son, David, play baseball for the Cleveland Indians. She finds joy in making a difference in the lives of children. It is an honor to be a part of the STEP Organization and together, we will help students reach for the stars.

Secretary: Patsy Rodriguez-Maes

patsy-r-maesI retired with 35 years working for the Government, my last job was working with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, and supporting over 265 attorneys’. Regis University graduated with a BS in Computer Science.

I moved back to California after 37 years living in beautiful Colorado, I have a daughter Yvette and 2 beautiful granddaughter Jayleen and Cassandra. After retirement I found myself bored so I needed to keep myself busy, I started my business PLMVirtual Notary Support Services as a Certified Signing Agent, Certified Tax Professional and a Certified Virtual Assistant.

I offered to volunteer my time to STEP, when I found out what their goal was in helping out the children. I was then elected to be on the Board and then elected as Secretary on the Board of Directors which is an honor to me. As a grandmother I feel it’s very important to help the children out and this organization is right where I need to be.

Antonio Felix, LMU School of Education, Director of Place Corp.

Antonio bio

Loyola Marymount University School of Education today named Antonio Felix, M.A. ’07 ’10, as Director of PLACE Corps (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education), a nationally recognized Catholic teacher service corps, housed within LMU’s Center for Catholic Education. Felix will oversee the program’s mission to serve under-resourced schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Diocese of Orange and Diocese of San Bernardino through the program’s three pillars – professional development, community living and spiritual growth. Felix will begin work at PLACE Corps in July 2017, as the program welcomes its 17th cohort.

“Antonio is a proven leader in Catholic education who has a track record for developing strong faith-filled communities that encourage academic excellence through the education of the whole person,” said Shane P. Martin, dean of the School of Education. “We are honored and delighted to welcome Antonio as the next leader of the PLACE Corps, as the program continues to strengthen and enhance its mission to transform Catholic schools.”

Felix is a South Central Los Angeles native who has served as the Principal for Nativity School, a PLACE partner Transitional Kindergarten through eighth grade Catholic elementary school located in the Vermont-Slauson community of South Los Angeles. Prior to becoming Nativity School’s principal, a role in which he has served for the last five years, Felix served as the Nativity School’s junior high math and science teacher, and then as the school’s Director of Marketing and Development.

Felix obtained two master’s degrees from the Loyola Marymount University School of Education. His first Master’s Degree was in Elementary Education along with a California Teaching Credential. Upon graduation, Felix was awarded the LMU School of Education Bilingual Educator of the Year Award. Felix returned to LMU and received a Master’s Degree in Catholic School Administration and a California Administrative Services Credential.

“I am excited to join the School of Education at LMU as we support Catholic school educators in community through their academic and spiritual development, ” said Felix. “I look forward to serving PLACE Corps at LMU and across Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino.”

Felix currently serves on the Elementary School Leadership Council within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as the Deanery 16 Chairperson. An advocate for Catholic education, he serves as a Western Catholic Educational Association (WCEA) Visiting Committee member. Felix comes from a family of nine children and is one of five educators in the family. He credits his love for learning and teaching to his parents, his first teachers, who have always stressed the importance of an education.

Michael Swanson, Producer and Studio Production Executive at NBC Universal

Michael Swanson Bio

Michael Swanson is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Christine, and a very proud dad to their four children. Michael is also an Emmy Award-winning producer and the studio production executive for Universal Television’s Parks and Recreation, Community, Maury Povich and the Golden Globe-winning comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Prior to joining the studio, Michael produced movies to critical and audience acclaim, including the multiple award-winning features, All About Us and All About You; Andraé Crouch: Making of The Journey; Two Seasons andThe Wayman Tisdale Story.

Before launching his producing career, Michael was a part of the NBC primetime sales team in New York and co-managed advertising accounts reaching $30 million each. This “Must See TV” sales team was the first in network television history to book over $2 billion in advertising revenue during an upfront selling period. Michael did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Television from the University of Notre Dame.

Michael understands the importance of how educational opportunities can place a child on a life-altering trajectory. Michael is humbled and honored to be a part of STEP because of their consistent and unwavering commitment to helping students reach their full potential. Michael has a passion to ensure that children and young adults, especially from underserved communities, are afforded the opportunity to reach their full potential through quality education and concerted outreach.

Elizabeth O’Neil Executive Director, Variety of Southern CA

Elizabeth O’Neil joined the Board of Directors of STEP in 2014 because she believes that education is the key that unlocks endless opportunities for every child to be great – and every child deserves a quality education.

Ms. O’Neil began her career on the East Coast in 1986 as an Advertising Manager with the Sony Theatre Corporation (now AMC Theatres), moving up the ranks to the position of Director of In-Theatre Marketing before relocating to Los Angeles in 1997 to join Theatrical Entertainment Services (TES), a Los Angeles based company specializing in market research for the motion picture industry. As the Senior Vice President of Sales and Client Relations for At TES, Ms. O’Neil helped oversee the European expansion of the company when it was purchased by TNS Media Intelligence, a worldwide market research firm. She moved to Technicolor Cinema Distribution and held the position of Vice President of Client Relations for a year and a half before returning to TES where she became involved with Variety the Children’s Charity of Southern California. Ms. O’Neil was a member of the Board of Directors of Variety of Southern California for 3 years before assuming the role of Executive Director in 2008. While at Variety of Southern CA, Ms. O’Neil has overseen the organization’s growth from a 2 star to a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator and a Silver-Level GuideStar Exchange participant.

Ms. O’Neil was graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1984 and received her Master of Arts Degree from Emerson College in Boston in 1986. She lives in Hawthorne, CA with her German Shepherd “Rubie” and her Rottweiler “Alina-Bean”.

Samantha Stepleton Director of Programs and Services, Will Rogers Motion Picture Foundation

samantha-stepleton

Samantha E. Stepleton is the Director of Programs and Services at the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation in Los Angeles. With a career in social work spanning almost 20 years, Samantha has a Masters of Social Work and is currently working to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Samantha is dedicated to working with marginalized groups while assisting individuals to reach their higher potential. Through self-empowerment and access to beneficial resources, she believes there is much opportunity to find solutions for many of today’s social problems.

Samantha is an advisor for Connect Our Kids, a non-profit dedicated to bringing 21st century technology to the foster care system. In addition to STEP, she also sits on the board for Options for Life. A believer in the power of education, she is honored to be a part of the STEP organization

Carolina A. Alvarez Vision Media Management

Moniquea Curtis Vision Media Management

Paula Parker EVP, Worldwide Operations, Marketing & Distribution