Vielka McFarlane – Board Member
Vielka McFarlane is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Orion International Academy. Vielka grew up in poverty. Her family struggled to make ends meet, however, what they lacked monetarily, they made up for in values. Vielka’s parents instilled in her the principal that education was the key to success. They worked long and exhausting hours in order to provide her with a private education. Their work was not in vain; Vielka excelled in her studies and graduated with honors. She was accepted to a college in Panama where she majored in International Relations. Vielka moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at California State University, of Los Angeles and later received her Master’s degree from National University, all while honing her English by taking English language classes in the evenings. She completed the Doctoral Organizational Leadership Program and Pepperdine University in 2004, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the Universidad Instituto Americano Cultural, SC in Mexico City. Vielka is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Business Administration at the International School of Management in Paris, France.
Upon arriving to Los Angeles, Vielka saw severe educational disparities that directly correlated with socioeconomic status, and decided to focus on serving underserved communities in the inner city of Los Angeles. She worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District for 14 years, introducing her students to extra-curricular activities such as tennis, chess and yoga, broadening their perspective and motivating them to stay in school. She instilled in her students a sense of ownership, encouraging them to take control of their own destiny. As an educator, Vielka not only gave her students the desire to be successful, she gave them the tools to help them follow through and reach their goals.
Vielka’s impact did not go unnoticed; she went from teaching one classroom, to becoming the principal and eventually became a coordinator at Los Angeles Unified School District’s office. While appreciating all the knowledge she gained from those experiences, she felt like opening her own school would give her the true freedom to provide high risk students with the programs and guidance needed for success. In 2005, Vielka took this opportunity to begin her highly successful schools. Now with eight schools in Los Angeles county, each school offers an exceptional, high quality college preparatory curriculum that has proven to be both challenging and successful. Academic results have placed each school within the top 10 to 20 percent of the state’s ranking, easily surpassing their local surrounding schools.
Vielka has found the right formula for creating a much needed alternative education from the current public schools that, due to state budget cuts, have been failing for years. Vielka has transformed her original creation into a network of schools that spans two continents. In the fall of 2013, Vielka opened her first high school in Los Angeles and expanded into Ohio, Louisiana and Florida. Vielka has partnered with several schools in China and began a foreign exchange program where hundreds of students from both countries gain cultural, language and academic proficiency and travel abroad experience. Her expertise in education management is well known amongst her colleagues and her advice is often sought after by many who are trying to repeat her success story.
Fortunately for all of us, Vielka McFarlane’s story doesn’t end here. In the summer of 2013 Vielka was appointed Executive Director of the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization, an organization that seeks to promote the urgent transition to sustainable development and renewable energy sources. IREO does this by partnering with organizations in the private and public sector to bring about sustainable energy initiatives locally and globally. Vielka believes education and environmental sustainability go hand in hand, insisting that the quality of lives she desires for her students depend on the quality of the environment we leave for them. Her goal of touching the lives of as many as possible is becoming a reality.“From humble beginnings come great things”
Mildred Espinoza – Board Member
Mildred Espinoza is the Ambassador of Tourism for Guatemala. Prior to being named Ambassador, Mildred was a two time Emmy-Award Winning Television Executive and the General Manager/Correspondent at South-South News. She is the recipient of a Silver Medal from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation presented to her by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Correspondent’s Association Ceremony. This award recognized her coverage on Climate Change – “Sustainable Tourism” in Roatán, Honduras.
Her journalistic career spanned more than a decade of working in print, radio, television and digital platforms in New York and abroad. She has conducted numerous interviews with high level government officials from various parts of the world on Millennium Development Goals initiatives addressing education, gender equality, climate change, economic and sustainable development among other topics geared toward raising awareness about the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations. She was recently invited by the International Federation of Business and Professional Women to be the Master of Ceremonies and speaker on “Reshaping Views of Women in Work, in Life and the Media,” at the 27th BPW International Congress, Helsinki, Finland under the Patronage of the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen.
Espinoza is the Founder of Mildred Communications a public relations and media company. In the past, she worked as Executive Producer for NBC/Telemundo, overseeing the Special Projects & Investigative Units. Her department was responsible for the production of special-coverage events such as hurricanes, presidential elections, inaugurations, September 11th anniversaries, half-hour entertainment specials and community outreach campaigns.
Espinoza has worked in a multitude of media outlets. Prior to working for NBC/Telemundo, she was a producer for the Pat Buchanan & Bill Press show at MSNBC and Ron Insana of CNBC. In print, she worked for Crain Communications; there Espinoza was involved with two of our nation’s top publications in the pension fund industry. In radio, she produced, wrote and was a contributing reporter for the morning news show for Spanish Broadcasting Systems in New York. She has also worked as a reporter for Mega TV and as a correspondent for Guatevision.
An advocate for education and women empowerment, she is the recipient of a humanitarian award presented by Mission International Rescue. Espinoza has participated in numerous programs mentoring high school students and spends a substantial amount of her time sharing her professional experience as a motivational speaker at colleges. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from New York University.“Atrévete y Supérate.” (“Dare and Overcome.”)