Valerie Blake, Chair
Growing up I hated to read. Plodding my way through the California public school system, education was not a thrilling enterprise, just a necessary intrusion forced upon my youth. I did enjoy the social scene and participated on every athletic team and in every musical production available, but encouraged in academics by inspiring teachers? Hmm…not so much. Fortunately, I wasn’t scarred for life and found college to be much more thought-provoking and enjoyable.
After living in many cities throughout the country, my husband and I finally settled in Henderson, Nevada 18 years ago. With children in fourth grade, second grade, kindergarten, and a new baby in tow, we took a giant leap out of the public system and began homeschooling. What a tremendous experience that has been! Besides the fun of being and learning together, it has opened the door to many fabulous opportunities to serve in the community. Over the years I have founded and directed several educational organizations for children and youth, served in women’s groups, directed Cub Scout Day Camps, trained leaders for the Boy Scouts of America, and mentored youth of all ages.
I am passionate about education and have found that my mission in life is to awaken in youth a love of learning. Unlike my experience at their age, they need to have opportunities to engage in positive peer interaction while dialoguing with great mentors who encourage and stimulate their minds. When these synergistic elements come together, youth are willing to pay the demanding price of developing the skills and talents necessary for academic excellence and personal achievement. That’s why I wanted to create Leadership Academy of Nevada. This state is filled with exceptional youth who are ready and eager to be inspired.
Cathy Dobrusky, Member
My teaching experience began over twenty years ago when my husband and I homeschooled our four children. During that time we traveled across the United States in a motor home. After returning home to Henderson, Nevada, I founded American Heritage Academy, in Las Vegas. As administrator of American Heritage Academy I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of personalities, to listen to their concerns and needs, and communicate to them care and understanding. Directing the Academy for ten years was both a challenging and rewarding experience. During this time I also wrote for Desert Saints, a local magazine serving Southern Nevada. Our family moved to Saint George in 2005. I spent a short term as Principal of a private school in St. George before returning to school myself. I graduated from Dixie State University in 2011 with a B.S. in English and English Education Emphasis. The following academic year I taught 10th grade English at Tuacahn High School, which is a performing arts school in Ivins, Utah. In 2013, my husband and I moved to Salem, Oregon, and I worked as a substitute teacher for the Salem-Keizer School District. Currently, I am in the process of publishing a reading program for parents to teach their children to read, write, and spell as well as writing several children’s books.
Eric Farnsworth, Member
I am a native of Las Vegas. I attended and graduated from Clark High School. After graduation, I served a proselyting mission for my church. I have worked in a variety of fields, including construction and real estate. From 2009-2013 I attended George Wythe University completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Statesmanship. I am currently Regional Director for Neuromonitoring Associates, an intraoperative neurodiagnostic company servicing hospitals and surgeons throughout the United States.
I have been married to my wife, Sara, for 20 years and have 4 darling children. In my free time, I enjoy bargain hunting on Craigslist, hiking the trails in Mt. Charleston, traveling and sampling local cuisine.
Ray Jones, Vice Chair
Nevada has been home for me and my beautiful family for the past 11 years. Prior to moving here, I attended school in Utah and graduated with degrees from three great universities. I am a licensed attorney and focus my practice on real estate, finance, and international business transactions.
I am the Immediate Past President and member of the Board of Trustees for the Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, a member of the International Trade Committee of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, a member of the UNLV International Business Executive Advisory Board, and I perform pro bono legal work for the Boys & Girls Club of Nevada, Habitat for Humanity and various other non-profit organizations and low-income or indigent individuals in Nevada.
My wife and I have homeschooled our four children over the past nine years and view education as a lifelong process—a process that should be challenging, interesting, and fulfilling. Learning never stops and should empower us to give back to our communities in positive, meaningful ways. I am honored to have been asked to support Leadership Academy of Nevada and serve on its Governing Board.
Kelly Parker, Treasurer
Being raised in a small town in south central Idaho, I received my K-12 education from the local public school. I attended a private college and received both bachelors and masters degrees in accounting. As a certified public accountant, I continue my education annually as well as explore other topics, hobbies and interests. Learning has always been a part of my life. As parents, my wife and I have been searching for relevant educational opportunities for our children. Our search has led us to classical leadership education based in the Liberal Arts. We have been working to make this type of education available for our children and others in Nevada by creating Leadership Academy of Nevada.
Sione Pulotu, Member
I was born, raised, and educated in Hawaii. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education. After college, I taught for two years in Hawaii’s public school system. I am a licensed teacher of mathematics at Rancho High School, where I have taught for 11 years. I also coach football.
There are many barriers that prevent us from helping students succeed in their studies and in life. The ideals of LANV provide an opportunity for students to gain an education in a different and self-motivating way. I am hoping to make a difference, not only with my children but with many others too. That is why I teach and coach.
My wife and I have homeschooled our children for five years. We have discussed many pros and cons of homeschooling versus public education, and I have been enlightened to many new perspectives on education. I want LANV students to have an educational drive to succeed in their studies and be capable of standing up and leading others in positive ways. Leadership education is more a way of life than a curriculum. When students begin to think critically about things, and their ideas and opinions are respected and discussed, they are excited about learning. They are willing to study longer and in more depth because they feel a sense of accomplishment and begin to understand that what they think really matters and can make a difference in the world.
Heidi Wixom, Secretary
I attended elementary school in a small coastal town in central Oregon, junior high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and high school in Boise, Idaho. Those varied settings allowed me to participate, first hand, in educational experiences that included very different educational philosophies and curriculums. For the most part, my teachers were dedicated and cared for their students. However, in some ways, my education was incomplete, both because of a lack of commitment on the part of some of those who were responsible for me, and also due to a lack of consistent philosophy or curriculum. With that said, I did develop a deep love of learning, and an enthusiasm for new experiences and information.
That love of learning is the center of my life. I have come to understand, through my experiences and those of my family, that we all have a limited window of opportunity within which to learn, and that we must seize that opportunity for ourselves and those we love. Traditional educational methodologies typically, in my opinion, do not instill either a love of learning or a sense of urgency about learning. That is the reason I am so very pleased to be part of Leadership Academy of Nevada.
I have taught at a private school for seven years and also had the challenging opportunity of homeschooling three of my six daughters. My husband and I have done our best to create in our family a love of learning and a real sense of urgency about educational opportunities, and to share that commitment with others in our neighborhood and community.
My family and I, including my husband, Michael, and our six daughters, who are mostly all now grown, have made our home in Southern Nevada for the past twenty-seven years.
Bryon Richardson, Executive Director
I must have had great teachers throughout my schooling because I have always wanted to work with youth as a career.
I grew up and graduated from high school in Brigham City, Utah. After high school, I lived in Germany for two years, then returned to my studies and graduated from the University of Utah in 1996 with a B.S. in Sociology and a Certificate in Criminology and Corrections. After a few years working with incarcerated youth, I realized the importance of education and the effect it can have on their lives and moved my young family to attend the University of Northern Colorado, where I graduated with my M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in 1999. Soon after graduation, I moved to Las Vegas to work at UNLV with economically disadvantaged high school students to get them ready for postsecondary education. Most recently, I have been a principal of a small charter school on the Northern Ute Indian Reservation in Northeast Utah.
Now, my family and I are back “home” in Las Vegas. After studying about and working in various educational settings, I am excited to be the Executive Director of the Leadership Academy of Nevada. LANV is what I envision the ideal educational setting to be: motivated students working with top mentors to increase both academic knowledge and leadership skills. I can’t wait to see the growth of our students and the men and women they will become!
Angie Kleven, Director of Operations
There are three things you need to know about me: 1) I have three incredibly fabulous children; 2) I have a passion for education, specifically quality alternative education; and 3) I am willing to work hard and do what it takes to provide this type of education for my children… and yours! This is why I have spent the past ten years homeschooling my kids; the past five years building and running RISE Education Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making sure parents know they have educational options and that they have help; and the past year creating Leadership Academy of Nevada, a new online charter high school. When I’m not busy with this, that, or the other, I enjoy watching reruns of “I Love Lucy,” devouring books as if they were chocolate (dark, that is), and laughing with my friends and family.