Gina Gianzero, Ed.D., Director


Dr. Gianzero is deeply committed to improving educational outcomes for inner-city youth. Since 2012, Dr. Gianzero has led DEEP by bringing partner organizations together in a variety of research-guided collaborative efforts focused on ensuring that children in southeast San Diego public schools are successful as they move along the education pipeline from cradle to college and career. Her deep commitment to early literacy led to her appointment to the board of directors for the San Diego Council on Literacy. Dr. Gianzero also worked for ten years with the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) based at San Diego State University.  She led many of NCUST’s evaluation teams in identifying high-performing urban schools across the nation. In her capacity as an Executive Coach, she guided networks of principals in reflecting upon their work and provided individual coaching for principals interested in replicating best practices in their own schools.

Lorena Santana, Family Engagement Coordinator


A bi-lingual parent, teacher, and artist, Ms. Santana has worked in the educational sector for over 15 years with entities such as Early Academic Outreach/UCSD, Old Globe/Teatro Meta, Malashock/Emotion in Motion, and Arts- A Reason to Survive. She is currently a teaching artist with Arts for Learning San Diego and has taught with SDUSD’s “Learning Through the Arts” program, which implements rigorous arts integration strategies in partnership with classroom teachers to improve student academic achievement, student engagement, school climate, and parental involvement.  As a performer, she has appeared in numerous stage productions, television, and educational videos. Ms. Santana is also Creative Director of Barefoot Village Arts which works to ensure that young people, communities, and educators have meaningful connections with authentic arts experiences. Ms. Santana is the recipient of a CCI California Arts Leaders Grant (2016).

Kai Mathews, Ph.D., Evaluation Researcher

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Kai Mathews is an 8th grade humanities teacher at High Tech Middle Chula Vista. Prior to starting at HTH, she worked as a researcher for the Mobile Technology Learning Center at the University of San Diego. As a researcher, she explored the effects and uses of technology in K-12 education.  She also served for over four years as a GEAR UP Grant Coordinator, first for CSU San Bernardino and then for UC San Diego. As a coordinator, she developed educational programs to support students and parents in underrepresented communities. Ms. Mathews has a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies with a specialization in K-12 education from the University of San Diego, an M.A. in Communication from Ellis University, and a B.A. in English with a minor in Creative Writing from Spelman College.

Cristian King, Program Administrator

A San Diego native, Cristian King is passionate about educational equity and social change. He has worked in a variety of roles across the cradle to career pipeline: as a site coordinator for literacy intervention at a Title I elementary school, a peer mentor to 7th grade students at a Title I school, a tutor and mentor to high school students through Reality Changers in City Heights, and as a Resident Assistant to first-year college students. Mr. King holds a B.A. in English Literature from San Francisco State University.