Board of Directors

Moctesuma Esparza

The dream and vision for the Academy comes from our founder, Moctesuma Esparza, an award-winning filmmaker. He has produced many movies including: “Selena”, The “Milagro Beanfield War”, “Gettysburg”, “Dorothy Dandridge”, “Price of Glory”, and “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez”. He has received over 100 honors, including an Academy Award nomination. Mr. Esparza says of the Academy, “My dream is that in 20 years, our graduates will be the arts and business leaders of Los Angeles.” A lifelong entrepreneur and businessman, Mr. Esparza served as Chairman of the Board of the New America Alliance Institute and served on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County High School for the Performing Arts and was recently appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on the California State University Board of Trustees.  Mr. Esparza is CEO of Maya Cinemas and Maya Entertainment Group, Inc.


Dr. Paul F. Cummins

Dr. Cummins is a co-founder and Vice Chairman of the Board of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. He is also the President of Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California where he was a founder and Headmaster for 25 years. In addition, he is Executive Director of the New Visions Foundation and Crossroads Community Foundation/P.S. Arts, a program that brings arts programs to low-income elementary schools. A graduate of Stanford, Harvard, and USC, he has published a booklet on Richard Wilbur, a biography, Dachau Song: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper, For Mortal Stakes: Solutions for Schools and Society, as well as numerous poems in various magazines.


Tonantzin Esparza

As an alumna of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Ms. Esparza brings to LAAAE the perspective of a graduate of a public, performing arts high school. She graduated from UCLA summa cum laude. In 2003, Ms. Esparza co-founded the Latino Theater Company's Laboratory, a group of young actors, writers and directors led by artistic director Jose Luis Valenzuela at the Los Angeles Theater Center.


Doreen Nelson

Recognized by the New York Times as one of the thirty most innovative educators in the USA, Doreen Nelson is an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and winner of the 2006 prestigious California State University Wang Award for Excellence in Education. She pioneered Design-Based Learning over 35 years ago with a method that produces dramatic improvements in K-12 student achievement. It reverses the emphasis from traditional rote learning to engaging students in thinking at the highest level by building physical artifacts that represent concepts in the curriculum. Creator of the nation’s first MA degree in Design-Based Learning, Nelson is a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA in the College of Education and Integrative Studies and the College of Environmental Design and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Nelson’s method of Design-Based Learning - first researched during her ten years of teaching in elementary and secondary schools and first known as City Building Education (CBE) - is used by teachers worldwide. She is an author and contributor to the award winning SimCity. The website showcases her methods.


Hector and Norma Orci

In 1986, Mr. and Mrs. Orcí founded La Agencia de Orcí & Asociados—a 100% independent, Latino-owned and managed communications agency. Mr. Orcí is highly respected and has been recognized as a leader by members of the industry, clients and the community. He serves on the boards of the American Advertising Federation, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and the New America Alliance. Mrs. Orcí is a frequent speaker at colleges and universities around the country and serves on the boards of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, New America Alliance, and other community organizations.


Berta Saavedra

Ms. Saavedra is Director and Co-Founder of the Pico Union Westlake Cluster Network. She has served the Greater Pico Union/Westlake area for over twelve years as a committed community advocate with organizations including Community Partners (School Violence Reduction Project) and the Los Angeles Alliance for a Drug Free Community. Currently, she is on the board of the Pico Union Family Resource Center and the Korean Health Education Information & Referral group. She is also an advisory member of numerous community-based organizations, including the Pico Union Neighborhood Council.


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