THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Emily Tolsma

Chief Communications Officer & President of the Board
Founding Member of the Board
tolsmae@mercedyouthconnect.com

Emily Tolsma is currently serving as the Chief Communications Officer of Merced Youth Connect and interim President of the Board. Her vision to develop an accessible, web-based platform where youth and families could easily access information about local events is largely the inspiration for the founding of Merced Youth Connect.
 
Emily's vision has grown beyond the single online tool to include the development of a dedicated, creative group of people creating new opportunities in our community impacted by her core values of teamwork, accountability and perseverance. Emily’s notable tenacity and commitment to community make her the ideal leader on this exciting journey. 

Delray Shelton

Chief Communications Officer & Secretary of the Board

Founding Member of the Board

Born and raised in Merced County, Sergeant Delray Shelton attended Golden Valley High School before earning his undergraduate degree from UI&U and his graduate degree from C.S.U. Stanislaus. He is currently the Operations Sergeant for the Merced County Sheriff’s Office and also serves as the Merced City Councilmember for District 6.

Delray’s friendly smile, casual nature and professional communication style make him ideal for working diplomatically with our community partners and public agencies.  Sgt. Shelton wants to especially concentrate on helping the underprivileged and minority youth populations in Merced County and hopes to connect them with the proper programs and resources. He would like to help improve the quality of life for the youth in our community.

Matt Serratto

Executive Director

Founding Member of the Board

Merced’s current esteemed Mayor, elected after serving four years as City Council Member for District 5, Matt Serratto is on a mission to remind us all what’s great about Merced. He’s approachable, unpretentious, generous with his time and boundless energy, and he genuinely loves Merced. This guy is the real deal.

As a founding Member of the Board, Matt has served since 2016 providing sound legal guidance and support as we’ve navigated our way through ups and downs.

Matt studied History as an undergraduate at UC Davis before earning his J.D. from UCLA. He became a resident of Merced in 2007 and is currently serving as Deputy District Attorney for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

Pao Saechao

Executive Director

Founding Member of the Board

Pao Saechao was born in a Thai refugee camp before his family immigrated to the United States in late 1979. They moved to Merced in 1985, and he graduated from Golden Valley High School before earning his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgetown University.  Pao has experience working in a variety of industries in various capacities and currently trains automotive dealership personnel.

 

Pao’s straightforward nature is refreshing and efficient, and his opinions are typically offered with generosity and humor.  He hopes to provide better resources and programs to the impoverished youth in the county.  Pao enjoys creative writing in his free time and is currently working to develop an anthology of Mien Literature. Pao’s personal goals include visiting all fifty states in a calendar year.

Greg Culot

Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer of the Board

Founding Member of the Board

gculot@mercedyouthconnect.com

Greg Culot is the Founding and current Chief Financial Officer of Merced Youth Connect and appointed Treasurer of the Board.  Greg’s eye for accuracy and genuine passion for fiscal responsibility make him an invaluable member of our Board.  Greg contributes his invaluable experience from both the private and public sectors to our efforts.

Greg was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, where he earned his B.A. in Communications with a major in Public Relations. Greg became a permanent transplant here to Merced County in 2009. Greg is the proud father of two, a son and a daughter. His commitment to his family and to our community beautifully reflects the mission of Merced Youth Connect.

Julie Kellum

Executive Director

Founding Member of the Board

A true daughter of Merced, Julie Kellum (Wheeler) was born and raised in Merced County where she currently works for the Merced County Human Services Agency.

Julie has passion for working with the youth population, and in particular exposing them to healthy ways to deal with issues through the arts.  “As a young person I was very shy and had a difficult time speaking in public. Theater gave me the confidence to overcome that. I was also dealing with heavy issues at home, theater gave me a healthy and creative outlet to deal with my trauma."

Julie’s passion for the dramatic has only grown since. Her generous and open spirit and willingness to engage with anyone make her great for outreach and engagement.

Shavon Roach

Executive Director

Founding Member of the Board

Shavon's inspiring story is a perfect reflection of the difficult circumstances children in our county face, but also of the resiliency of the human spirit and enduring power of service through love.

“I was born in a drug infested, impoverished, rural area of Merced County. My parents were addicts and I experienced an abusive childhood and homelessness at a young age. By the sixth grade, I dropped out of school, was a ward of the court and on probation. I was emancipated and became a teen parent by age fourteen. I am a poster child for the welfare system in Merced County.”

Shavon credits her connection to resources, supportive relationships with professional, encouraging adults and sheer personal determination for her ability to graduate from high school, start college and purchase her own home by the age of eighteen.

Shavon is currently working hard to support young families as a Home Visitor through the Merced County Office Education.  She hopes to utilize her skills as an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Facilitator, a Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) Certified Mediator and a career Educator to develop direct service through MYC. 

Shavon’s passion for service is infectious. Her ability to open her heart and share her story with others will serve as a catalyst for transformation in the lives of Merced County Youth.