STAFF

Led by Executive Director & CEO, Jorge Valencia, Point is staffed by a passionate team of professionals who specialize in raising funds, administering programs, public relations and providing financial oversight. Staff members are based in our headquarter offices in Los Angeles and New York.

Get the know the amazing team that brings Point’s mission to life each and every day.

Scott Arneson

Chief Financial Officer

Scott came to Point Foundation with over 20 years of not-for-profit accounting experience. Beginning his accounting career at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Scott gained…

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Scott Arneson

Chief Financial Officer

Scott came to Point Foundation with over 20 years of not-for-profit accounting experience. Beginning his accounting career at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Scott gained hands-on skills performing and/or supervising every position within the finance department as the Center’s budget grew from $5 million to over $25 million. Besides managing the day-to-day financial activities of the center, the finance department managed the financial reporting and compliance for 50+ government grants, the annual audit and audits by our funding sources. Most recently Scott was the Director of Finance at Liberty Hill Foundation, where as a member of the management team he worked closely with the Executive Team and the Treasurer of the Board developing financial budgets and reports that tied the numbers to the organization’s mission.

Graduating from Eastern Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration, emphasis on professional accounting, Scott went on to receive his Juris Doctorate from Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary.

Scott moved to Los Angeles in 1985 where he resides with his partner, Robert, and their dog.

Elizabeth Bedortha

Program Manager, Scholar Success & Education Access

Elizabeth Bedortha came to Point Foundation from the Bay Area where she was engaged in nonprofit, youth leadership development work with the YMCA for two…

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Elizabeth Bedortha

Program Manager, Scholar Success & Education Access

Elizabeth Bedortha came to Point Foundation from the Bay Area where she was engaged in nonprofit, youth leadership development work with the YMCA for two years. Prior to her work with the Y, Elizabeth received her Master of Education focused on Community Engagement from Merrimack College. While obtaining her Masters, Elizabeth authored her thesis on how humans’ unexamined, innate fear of the unknown can lead to bias, particularly toward the Transgender community.

Prior to obtaining her masters, Elizabeth participated in two years of AmeriCorps, first in Milwaukee, WI working in classrooms and later in San Jose, CA supporting programming at a local YMCA. She is a graduate of Providence College with a degree in Public and Community Service with a focus on education. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth enjoys camping, reading, sewing, and will always have a pen and notebook close by.

Margaux Cowden

Chief Program Officer

As Point’s Chief Program Officer, Margaux is responsible for delivering scholarship experiences that support the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students and develop promising scholars into…

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Margaux Cowden

Chief Program Officer

As Point’s Chief Program Officer, Margaux is responsible for delivering scholarship experiences that support the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students and develop promising scholars into confident community leaders. Margaux brings more than a decade of experience working in higher education as a teacher, administrator, and advocate for LGBTQ+ students. Prior to joining Point, she directed the premier merit scholarship programs at Emory University and Ohio University, where she also led the launch of a university-wide honors program. In these roles, Margaux introduced changes that strengthened the intersection of merit and access in scholarship frameworks and increased socioeconomic, racial, and gender equity in university honors and scholars programs.

Margaux holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from U.C. Irvine and began her career as a faculty member in the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies programs at Williams College and Temple University. She also has a personal history as a student activist in campus spaces ranging from queer direct action groups like Swarm of Dykes to the feminist affairs commission of university student senate. Thanks to these early lessons in interpreting institutional sites of power, as well as her experience as a teacher, Margaux has a passion for helping students think creatively about how to leverage their platforms and resources to strategize change.

Outside of the office, you can find Margaux weaving, knitting, spinning, or learning yet another textile craft; convincing her special human Beck Bailey to play board games; and helping their Labrador, Ziggy, overcome her fear of their cats, Pablo, Gertie, and Bird.

Samantha Evelyn Eisenberg

Development Manager, Individual Giving

Samantha Evelyn Eisenberg (she/her) joined the Point Foundation in 2021 after five years with the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. At the Museums,…

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Samantha Evelyn Eisenberg

Development Manager, Individual Giving

Samantha Evelyn Eisenberg (she/her) joined the Point Foundation in 2021 after five years with the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. At the Museums, she supported Development projects such as capital campaigns, fundraising events, and donor programs, first as a Membership Associate, and then as the Major Gifts Coordinator.
Samantha Evelyn also supported inclusion, diversity, access, and equity initiatives across the Museums, serving on the LGBTQ+ History and Heritage Task Force and the LGBTQ+ Staff Affinity Group. She continues to support LGBTQ+ communities in cultural institutions as the co-chair of the Trans Inclusion Committee for the American Alliance of Museums.
Samantha holds an MA in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine and a BS in Anthropology from Tulane University. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, with her Felis catus companion, Sycamore. In her personal time, she enjoys playing piano, swing dancing, and writing music.

Susan Linn Ferris

Human Resources & Finance Director

Susan Linn Ferris joins the Point Foundation after having been an advocate for the arts and cultural economy in Los Angeles for over 20 years….

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Susan Ferris black and white photo.

Susan Linn Ferris

Human Resources & Finance Director

Susan Linn Ferris joins the Point Foundation after having been an advocate for the arts and cultural economy in Los Angeles for over 20 years. She most recently served as Senior Director of Internal Affairs for Outfest where, for over 17 years, she oversaw the financial, human resource, and internal operations management for this pre-eminent non-profit arts organization. Prior to Outfest Susan came from a career in the literary community, having managed the acclaimed bookstore A Different Light in Los Angeles.

Eager to engage and encourage the next generation, Susan has volunteered her time mentoring young adults and undergraduate students. She has used her myriad knowledge and administrative skills to teach young people the professionalism and know-how they’ll need to succeed in the business world with programs like the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Arts Internship and LifeWorks Youth Mentoring at the LA Center. Susan currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Chatsworth Hills Academy – an International Baccalaureate World School.

Susan is a graduate of U.C. Davis with a degree in Sociology and minors in English and Minority Studies. In her free time, she enjoys musical theatre, hand-crafted whiskey tastings, and hiking & camping with her family. Susan lives in the San Fernando Valley with her fiancé Lara, their daughter Cydney, four rescue cats, and a precocious Shiba Inu.

Jennifer Gutierrez

Associate Program Director, Scholar Enrichment

For the past eight years, Jennifer has dedicated her time and career to serving her community by supporting the development and success of underserved LGBTQ+…

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Jennifer Gutierrez

Associate Program Director, Scholar Enrichment

For the past eight years, Jennifer has dedicated her time and career to serving her community by supporting the development and success of underserved LGBTQ+ youth ages 12-25. Most recently, Jennifer served as the Youth Development Supervisor at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, where her time was dedicated to developing programming and creating new opportunities through strategic partnerships to support the youth members of the Center. She served as a committee member for Models of Pride, the world’s largest free LGBTQ+ youth conference, where she spearheaded the Resource, College, and Career Fair and the youth-focused workshops.

Prior to working at the Center, Jennifer came from a career in finance where she assisted clients with financial literacy and debt management. She believes the key components to a person’s success are a strong support system, access to a higher education, and the financial means to see it through. Jennifer also had the opportunity to oversee the Center’s Scholarship Program, where she had the privilege of awarding over 100 college scholarships to deserving students.

A native of the City of Angels, Jennifer is a proud graduate of California State University, Long Beach earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications with an emphasis on interpersonal and organizational communications. Her passion and purpose lie with helping others see their potential and achieve the successes they never thought possible. Jennifer enjoys relaxing on the beach, paddle boarding, traveling somewhere new whenever possible, and cuddles with her chihuahua, Hollywood.

Hope Harris

Marketing and Communications Manager

Hope Harris is a proud AmeriCorps alum who has worked in the LGBTQ communications space her entire professional life at GLSEN, Montefiore Health System, and…

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Hope Harris

Marketing and Communications Manager

Hope Harris is a proud AmeriCorps alum who has worked in the LGBTQ communications space her entire professional life at GLSEN, Montefiore Health System, and now at Point. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Chapman University.

In her spare time, she loves to embroider, read, and write poetry. She and her wife are the proud parents of a 12-year-old chihuahua named Good Girl.

Sarah Mason

Director of Marketing and Communications

Sarah Mason has worked in higher education for more than a decade at Arizona State University. She has worked with LGBTQIA+ youth and adults as…

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Sarah Mason

Director of Marketing and Communications

Sarah Mason has worked in higher education for more than a decade at Arizona State University. She has worked with LGBTQIA+ youth and adults as a nonprofit board leader the Queer Resource Collective and as a volunteer for organizations such as one-n-ten and events such as Queering Arizona. Sarah is passionate about leveraging her place to uplift the voices of marginalized communities in order to inspire equity.

Biking, hiking, backpacking and nearly all outdoor activities are Sarah’s favorite pastimes outside of work. Sarah is originally from Washington state; she earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Western Washington University and a Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from ASU. Sarah lives in New York City with her partner.

Jane Miller Rennert

Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations

Prior to joining the Point Foundation Jane Rennert (she/her) served as the Director of Development for the Gender & Family Project for the Ackerman Institute…

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Jane Miller Rennert

Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations

Prior to joining the Point Foundation Jane Rennert (she/her) served as the Director of Development for the Gender & Family Project for the Ackerman Institute for the Family (GFP). There, Jane oversaw all aspects of fundraising and development while also working closely with the program team to develop initiatives to meet the needs of TGNCNB young people and their families.

Jane came to this work through her experience as a parent to a transgender child and through her connection the GFP, particularly Jean Malpas GFP’s visionary founder. Prior to assuming her role at GFP Jane served on the advisory council and helped launch the successful annual gala A Night of A Thousand Genders. Jane has also launched several small businesses in Brooklyn, worked as a special events planner and consultant, been a full-time parent, and served as an editor at the James Beard Foundation. All of these experiences give Jane a broad worldview and a wide range of skills and insight that inform her work to help empower LGBTQ+ young people to be their best and most authentic selves. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her amazing family.

Jamie Montoya

Database Manager

Jamie joins Point Foundation as the Database Manager with over a decade of donor database management in various non-profit organizations along the west coast. While…

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Point staff member Jamie Montoya.

Jamie Montoya

Database Manager

Jamie joins Point Foundation as the Database Manager with over a decade of donor database management in various non-profit organizations along the west coast. While living in Portland, Oregon she worked for the Oregon Food Bank and Legacy Health Foundation honing her development and donor stewardship skills. In her spare time, she co-founded the Not Enough! Queer Music and Arts Festival, a community-based event showcasing new and collaborative projects annually. After five years of success, the Not Enough! Festival went on to be adopted in other cities, including New Orleans in the US, Winnipeg and Edmonton in Canada.

Jamie is a California native but this will be her first time living in Los Angeles. She looks forward to exploring all the city offers and getting to know L.A.’s rich queer community.

Zorra Ortega

Program Coordinator

Zorra (They/She) is a trans-feminine person of Mexican-Indigenous descent, born and raised in LA, who comes from a background working in the public education system…

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Zorra Ortega

Program Coordinator

Zorra (They/She) is a trans-feminine person of Mexican-Indigenous descent, born and raised in LA, who comes from a background working in the public education system in California K-12 school. As a classroom educator, they found a passion for counseling and supporting queer youth. Zorra went on to work as an HIV-Testing Counselor and Case Worker for queer youth in the Downtown LA area. Zorra is excited to bring their knowledge and experience of direct service and have their passion for supporting and uplifting LGBTQ scholars.

Eddie Pelto

Chief Development Officer

Prior to joining the staff at Point Foundation, Eddie served as Chief Advancement Officer at Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services agency, overseeing all…

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Eddie Pelto

Chief Development Officer

Prior to joining the staff at Point Foundation, Eddie served as Chief Advancement Officer at Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services agency, overseeing all revenue generation as well as specific marketing and advocacy efforts. He previously held the position of Vice President for Development at the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the National Hemophilia Foundation. Eddie has held progressive leadership roles in development at Barnard College, the NYC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, and Physicians for Reproductive Health. Eddie received a BA in Fine Arts from Hofstra University.

Nicole Rizzuto

Development Manager, Engagement and Advancement

Nicole Rizzuto (she/her) comes to the Point Foundation after serving in non-profit and higher education roles throughout New Jersey. Most recently, Nicole served as Program…

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Nicole Rizzuto

Development Manager, Engagement and Advancement

Nicole Rizzuto (she/her) comes to the Point Foundation after serving in non-profit and higher education roles throughout New Jersey. Most recently, Nicole served as Program Manager at the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education, where she managed annual membership, planned and executed fundraising and educational events, and oversaw the transition to virtual learning and fundraising in 2020. She has also worked as a museum curator, community college professor, and Assistant Director of Residence Life.

Nicole has dedicated her career to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ students.  She developed Professional Development workshops on LGBTQ+ history for educators and co-organized the first Hudson County Community College LGBTQIA Conference. Nicole also led virtual workshops on gender creative role models for elementary students at the 2020 Gender Conference and advised LGBTQ+ college students on scholarships, transfer applications, and community building.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Nicole currently lives in Mercer County. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Saint Elizabeth University and is now writing her dissertation on Dead Lesbian Syndrome at Drew University. Nicole spends her free time writing about gender and sexuality, playing with her rescue pets, and watching hockey.

Alejandro Ruiz

Associate Program Manager, Recruitment & Selection

Alejandro has recently graduated from the University of California, Merced with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. During his time as an undergraduate, his studies focused…

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Alejandro at the capitol.

Alejandro Ruiz

Associate Program Manager, Recruitment & Selection

Alejandro has recently graduated from the University of California, Merced with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. During his time as an undergraduate, his studies focused on congressional politics and social activism. While spending a semester studying in Washington D.C. as part of the UCDC program, he interned with the non-profit Justice Policy Institute. There, he worked on developing research-based policy proposals aimed at the promotion of justice reform within the Maryland-D.C. area. In his final year at UC Merced, Alejandro wrote a thesis that examined the factors behind the passage of legislation regarding LGBTQ+ equality within state legislatures. Through this project, he was able to see firsthand the cultural and procedural roadblocks that threaten the safety and livelihoods of LGBTQ+ people across the country. He hopes to contribute to the removal of those roadblocks by working with the Point Foundation to ensure LGBTQ+ students are provided the support needed to succeed. In his free time, Alejandro enjoys walking his three dogs, studying American history, and collecting comic books.

Rachel Smith

Administrative Coordinator

Rachel Smith arrives to Point Foundation by way of Chicago, where she developed a background in comedy, production and LGBTQ+ activism. It was in Chicago…

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Rachel Smith

Administrative Coordinator

Rachel Smith arrives to Point Foundation by way of Chicago, where she developed a background in comedy, production and LGBTQ+ activism. It was in Chicago where she co-founded and co-produced Dreamboat, the first and only LGBTQ+ show at one of Chicago’s most renowned comedy theaters. Through her work with this show, along with performing at all of the Chicago comedic mainstays, she honed her passion in advocating for gay rights and creating safe spaces and communities for impacted individuals. Originally from Houston, Texas she graduated from Baylor University with degrees in Finance and Economics along with a minor in Biology. In her free time, she loves to travel, attend concerts, comedy shows and sporting events as well as spend time in nature with her partner, family and friends.

Melissa de Szendeffy

Development Associate

Melissa de Szendeffy comes to the Point Foundation after serving in the Americorp VISTA Program both in Portland Oregon and Los Angeles, most recently serving…

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Melissa de Szendeffy

Development Associate

Melissa de Szendeffy comes to the Point Foundation after serving in the Americorp VISTA Program both in Portland Oregon and Los Angeles, most recently serving as a National Development Coordinator VISTA with a non-profit called Reading Partners, a group dedicated to literacy intervention and literacy justice. Melissa managed their Story Bank archive of testimonies from other Americorp service members, teachers, and students on top of other document retrieval projects to boost accessibility for Reading Partner employees.
Melissa has dedicated a part of their early career to education advocacy, serving as a student advocate at Central Washington University during their undergrad they would coach and educate incoming students on university financial literacy and college counseling. This work continued into their first VISTA contract with the East Metro STEAM Partnership in Portland Oregon, where the mission was to make STEAM education accessible to the most diverse neighborhood in the city. Melissa aided in this mission by establishing the blueprint for a student conference that would create scholarship opportunities and helped plan paid training programs for educators on the disparity in STEAM education.
Born and raised in Southwest Washington, Melissa currently lives in Los Angeles. They’ve earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Museum Studies Anthropology from Central Washington University and is currently pursuing their Masters in Public History from the University of North Alabama. Melissa spends her free time exploring LA’s food culture with their partner, studying and writing, and traveling to new places.

Jorge Valencia

Executive Director & CEO

Jorge Valencia began his tenure as the Point Foundation’s Executive Director in January 2007. He brings to Point a wealth of experience in managing and…

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Jorge Valencia

Executive Director & CEO

Jorge Valencia began his tenure as the Point Foundation’s Executive Director in January 2007. He brings to Point a wealth of experience in managing and growing nonprofit organizations, a proven ability to design and manage the infrastructure of expanding organizations and extensive experience with, and sensitivity to, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth issues.

Jorge served as President and Executive Director of The Trevor Project from 2001 — 2006. The Trevor Project is a nationwide non-profit organization established to promote acceptance of gay and questioning teenagers and to aid in suicide prevention by operating the nation’s first round-the-clock toll-free suicide prevention helpline aimed at LGBT youth. Under Jorge’s guidance, The Trevor Project increased its operational budget by 800% and its foundation-based grant funds by 900%. He created and managed its major donor program and expanded its volunteer pool to more than 500. Jorge’s leadership contributed to Trevor’s growth as a nationally recognized youth service organization, and he continues to serve on the Trevor Project’s Leadership Council.

Jorge gained his operational, administrative and management experience at a range of non-profit, corporate and governmental enterprises. Before working at The Trevor Project, Jorge directed the Corporate Communications division at Pueblo Corporation, a marketing firm located in Los Angeles. Some of his clients included Ford Motor Company, DirecTV, Food 4 Less and Sprint PCS. From 1996 – 1999, Jorge was Director of Communications at Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), an organization that conducts leadership seminars for promising youth. At HOBY, Jorge directed all public relations activities, as well as the production and implementation of organizational public relations for the non-profit organization comprised of four regions, 5,000 volunteers and over 14,000 annual participants. From 1993–1996, Jorge served as the Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a political appointment in the Clinton Administration. While at the SBA, Jorge represented the Administration and SBA interests at numerous speaking engagements, conferences and media interviews conducted in English, Spanish and Portuguese. He also worked in the Office of Public Liaison for the Presidential Inaugural Committee from 1992–1993 for the incoming Clinton Administration. Prior to that Jorge served as Director of Public Relations and Marketing at Power Productions International, where he was responsible for creating and negotiating contracts with LA Gear, Reebok International and City of Hope.

Jorge earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University in 1989. As an openly gay man who grew up in a Mormon Latino family in Texas, Jorge brings with him a keen personal awareness of many of the issues of rejection and marginalization faced by many LGBT youth, including Point Scholars. As a past board member of Affirmation, Jorge has helped other LGBTQ Mormons and their families live productive lives consistent with their faith and heritage. Jorge’s diversity of life experience includes extensive travel abroad and within the United States. Jorge is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese and is a talented and accomplished public speaker. He has served as a member of the Clear Channel Local Advisory Board, as well as The Palette Fund Advisory Board. Jorge has a passion for helping LGBT youth and an ability to communicate that interest and passion effectively to both the LGBT community and the general public.

Qarlos Villagran

Executive Assistant & Board Relations Manager

Qarlos Villagran is a native Los Angeleno, who comes to Point after almost 10 years at SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television…

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Qarlos Villagran smiling in front of a tree.

Qarlos Villagran

Executive Assistant & Board Relations Manager

Qarlos Villagran is a native Los Angeleno, who comes to Point after almost 10 years at SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) where he was the Executive Assistant to the Los Angeles Executive Director. He has a rich and varied background that includes working at Newsweek Magazine, UCLA Medical Center, Hostelling International’s Santa Monica Hostel, and for the game show Street Smarts.

When not hanging out with his seven nieces and nephews, he likes to go to the theater, see live music, and visit his friends around the world.

He is also a proud graduate of UCLA with a BA in Theater Arts.

Darrin Wilstead

Senior Program Director, Alumni Engagement

Before joining the team at Point Foundation, Darrin Wilstead served as Director of Development at Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), an organization that was established…

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Darrin Wilstead

Senior Program Director, Alumni Engagement

Before joining the team at Point Foundation, Darrin Wilstead served as Director of Development at Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), an organization that was established in 1958 to provide leadership development programs to highly motivated high school sophomores in the United States and around the world. In addition to managing HOBY’s headquarters in Los Angeles, Darrin was responsible for overseeing two annual fundraising dinners; one in New York and one in Los Angeles, managing new donor acquisitions, upgrades and renewals, and writing grant proposals to secure increased funding from foundations, corporations and the private sector.

Prior to leading the development department at HOBY, Darrin served as Director of International Programs. In this capacity, Darrin was responsible for HOBY’s World Leadership Congress (WLC), an eight-day intensive leadership forum in Washington, D.C. that brings together 100 adult volunteers and 400 student leaders from 20 countries to celebrate diversity, debate ideologies and form friendships based on mutual respect and understanding. Additionally, Darrin provided year-round oversight and administrative support to HOBY’s partners in Canada, England, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, The Philippines, Sierra Leone and Mexico; and with the help of his constituents, he established new programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Iraq, Korea and Taiwan.

Darrin also worked as an Instructor at America West Airlines at LAX for nine years, where his responsibilities included training an average of 130 employees per month.

Darrin was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. He moved to Los Angeles after serving a two year mission for the LDS Church in Seoul, Korea and he currently resides in Hollywood.