Melissa Stafford Jones, Executive Director 

Melissa Stafford Jones is the Executive Director for the First 5 Association of California, where she leads the strategy and direction of the Association, which represents the 58 county First 5 commissions, as well as its complementary Foundation, and the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy. Prior to joining the Association, Melissa was the Executive Director of the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, where she developed strategic initiatives for systems change to address the root causes of poverty and inequitable access to opportunity for low-income children and families in Contra Costa County. Previously, Melissa was a Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and President & CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. She received her Master of Public Health degree from U.C. Berkeley and her Bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s College in Moraga.


Margot Grant Gould, Policy Director 

Margot Grant Gould is the Policy Director for the First 5 Association of California, an organization charged with representing all 58 local First 5s across the state and uniting them around a common policy agenda. Prior to joining the First 5 Association, Margot was the Communications Director for a member of the California State Assembly, where she also staffed the office on K-12 and early education policy. During graduate school, Margot was an Education Pioneer Fellow and worked on the policy team at Margot previously served on the San Mateo County Child Care Planning Council and on the board of Health Connected, a non-profit charged with delivering sexual health education to youth. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Washington and a BA from Bucknell University.


Heather Little, Systems Director

Heather Little is the Systems Director for First 5 Association, overseeing the organization’s comprehensive health and development policy work and is a leading voice in statewide conversations about improving California’s early identification and intervention system.  Heather participates in key advisory groups such as the Interagency Coordinating Council and the California Statewide Screening Collaborative, championing First 5’s role in the early childhood systems landscape. Heather is also the lead for First 5’s Help Me Grow California, the successful early identification and intervention system that ensures the timely identification of delay and linkage to resources so that children may achieve their greatest potential. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and has a deep understanding of the interplay between early learning and health systems for young children.


Jess Berthold, Communications Director 

Jessica Berthold is the Communications Director of First 5 Association, where she develops and implements communications strategies to advance the policy goals of First 5. As part of this work, she collaborates with the communications staff of county commissions on messaging, advocacy and information campaigns, media outreach, written materials, social media, and event planning. Prior to working at First 5, she led the communications team at Prevention Institute, a national public health nonprofit. A journalist for 15 years, Jessica was a syndicated columnist and had her work published in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, U.S. News and World Report, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others. She has a Master’s in Communications, a Master’s in Public Health, and a Bachelor’s in English and Psychology.


Kendra Rogers, Census Project Director

Kendra (Rogers) Devejian is the Census Director of First 5 Association.  Shas an extensive background in successful systems-change and network-building efforts. With proud roots in the Central Valley, she has spent the majority of her twenty-year career working on behalf of young children and their families, especially those furthest from opportunity. Prior to joining the Association she held a variety of leadership roles including the Executive Director of First 5 Fresno County, Managing Director of Early Childhood Policy with Children Now, and Education Program Officer with the Heising-Simons Foundation.  She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from California State University, Dominquez Hills and a Bachelors in Law & Society from University of California, Santa Barbara.


Caitlyn Schaap, Communications Associate

Caitlyn Schaap works with Communications Director Jess Berthold on projects including information campaigns, written materials, social media and more. Prior to working for the First 5 Association, Caitlyn worked for several years in journalism. She served as the Editor of the Ledger Dispatch, a community newspaper in rural Amador County, CA, where she previously served as Lifestyles Editor. Caitlyn holds a BA in English from High Point University in North Carolina.


Shelby Hill,  Operations Coordinator

Shelby is the Operations Coordinator of First 5 Association.  Her solution-oriented approach and skillful handling of communications, schedules, and details keep Association projects on track and executed seamlessly.  Prior to working at First 5, she was a full-time mom to her now 5-year-old son, and assisted entrepreneurs with their start-up office management needs.  Her background is in accounting, including 7 years of providing concierge service to high-net worth clients.  Shelby graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.


Mercedes Carmona, Census Project Coordinator

Mercedes Carmona is the Project Coordinator for First 5 Association’s Census 2020 efforts. She reports to the Census Project Director, and is responsible for coordinating the project timeline, administrative tasks, and logistics.  Prior to joining the Association team, Mercedes was a Project Manager at First 5 Fresno County where she served the Commission for 11 years with initiative and projects including the Birth to Third Grade Initiative and The Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  Her background is in Early Childhood Education with a Family Development Credential from University of Connecticut.  On her spare time, she facilitates parent -child Zumbini classes and volunteers at a mission church in Pinedale, California, where she provides free parent-education classes.  She is from Fresno, California and has two daughters Belen (13) and Micaela (2).


Guadalupe R. Ramos, Census Regional Coordinator, Central Valley

Guadalupe Ramos is the Regional Coordinator of the Census efforts for the Central Valley. Lupe, as family and friends call him, was born and raised in Southeast Fresno. He is also an Alumni of Fresno High School and has years of experience volunteering and working in the community. One of the ways he gives back to his community is by mentoring young men of color from diverse backgrounds who are growing up with the same challenging social health determents as he did. Lupe is a proud father, husband, and a great supporter of the National Compadres Network (NCN). He has had the pleasure of co-facilitating “El Joven Noble” for young men incarcerated in both Fresno and Merced Juvenile Justice Campuses. Lupe received his Bachelor of Science in Criminology from California State University, Fresno. He hopes that with his combined life experiences and education he can positively continue to contribute more of his time and efforts to Fresno, Ca. and its surrounding communities.