Meet the Staff

Avo Makdessian

Executive Director

Avo Makdessian is the Executive Director for the First 5 Association of California, where he 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. In his prior role, Avo was Vice President of Silicon Valley Community Foundation where he led a team focused on connecting philanthropists to community investment opportunities, funding actionable research, impact investing, and multi-sector collective impact initiatives. Avo is the founding director of the foundation’s Center for Early Learning – a comprehensive center of grantmaking, research, and state/local advocacy for young children and families. He also led the foundation’s regional grantmaking for COVID-19 response providing millions of dollars to support families with affordable housing, food, and financial assistance. Prior to joining the foundation, Avo was Policy Director of First 5 Santa Clara County where he implemented First 5’s research agenda, public policy advocacy, and community outreach efforts. Earlier in his career Avo served as the Director of Education and Neighborhood Services for the San Jose Mayor’s Office focusing on early childhood development, neighborhood revitalization, gang prevention, K-12 education, and public health. Avo serves on the Ad Council’s Advisory Committee on Public Issues and volunteers for several local causes in the Bay Area. Avo attended San Jose State University where he majored in political science.

Courtney Armstrong

Director of Government Affairs

Courtney Armstrong is the Director of Government Affairs for First 5 Association. Prior to joining the Association, Courtney worked in HIV, hepatitis C and STD policy and advocacy, serving as the Senior Policy Officer at the LA County Department of Public Health's Division of HIV and STD Programs and before that as the Vice President of Policy at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. In those roles, she was responsible for directing local and statewide legislative, budget and administrative advocacy work, and aligning the organization with partnership opportunities. She also provided leadership and coordination of the California End the Epidemics Coalition, a coalition of organizations and health departments from across the state calling on the Governor and Legislature to end the HIV, viral hepatitis, STD and overdose epidemics. She received her Master of Public Health degree with an emphasis on Health Policy from the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley.

Kristine Dobson

Director of Finance and Operations

Kristine Dobson is the Director of Finance and Operations for the First 5 Association of California. Kristine oversees budget and fiscal processes for the organization and projects. Kristine will play an integral role in the organization’s REDI (Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) initiative and other operational goals. Kristine brings expertise, experience and energy across a range of areas including nonprofit operational management, fiscal and grants management, IT, marketing, HR and contracts management. She is a collaborative, proactive systems builder and a creative problem solver with a continuous improvement mindset and skillset. Kristine has a background in operations executive leadership in technology startup companies and recently completed her law degree and passed the California State Bar Examination.

Melanie Flood

Director of Communications

Melanie Flood is the Director of Communications for the First 5 Association of California, as well as its complementary Foundation, and the First 5 Center for Children's Policy. Prior to joining the Association, Melanie was the Director of Development & Communications for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). During her time at SFBFS, she developed strategic communications, fundraising, and public awareness campaigns to address food insecurity in Sacramento County. Previously, Melanie was the Director of Communications for two trade associations in the United Kingdom - Social Enterprise UK (a strategic partner of the Cabinet Office) and the UK Fashion & Textile Association (a trade challenge partner of the Department for International Trade). Melanie is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and the American Conservatory Theater’s Master of Fine Arts program in San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) and a member of the Greater Sacramento Hate Crimes Task Force, coordinated by the Department of Justice.

A headshot of Shelby Hill

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.