Yvonne McLaren - Cofounder & President of the EPIC Foundation
Distinguished educator Yvonne McLaren was elected by the EPIC Foundation's Board of Directors as President. One of the most committed, dedicated, motivated and innovative educators we have on our team, Ms. McLaren has been teaching for over forty years after acquiring both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education with a focus on the Sciences. She has taught students from kindergarten to adults in classroom settings, groups as well as individually.
She has extensive experience as a supervising, managing and administrating member for several small to large organizations throughout South Florida. Ms. McLaren is the founder and owner of a long established educationally based small business which continues to impact several communities today.
Andrew J. Donaldson - Cofounder, Vice President & STEM Program Director
South Florida native and University of Miami alumnus AJ Donaldson has nearly two decades of teaching and academic mentoring experience. In his career, he has successfully serviced more than 500 students in a variety of subjects, crafting a unique and comprehensive methodology that guarantees student cooperation and success. Per his academic mentoring methodology, each student is guaranteed to increase at least one grade-level or more. Raised in Miami by a single mother, AJ often leaned on mentors throughout his youth to help guide him and fill the void left by an absent father. The positive encouragement and guidance from his own mentors sparked a desire to provide the same for students in his community. Donaldson's passion to help those in need culminated into the establishment of the E.P.I.C. Foundation.
Donaldson, as known by several of his mentees, earned a Dual Audio-Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Miami in 2003. He was also a recognized student-athlete, playing the fullback position for the Miami Hurricanes' Division-I football team from 1998 to 2000. Prior to graduating from the University of Miami, AJ volunteered his mentoring services to various private school parents, which eventually yielded the establishment of Donaldson Scholar Mentors, LLC in 2005. The organization was eventually rebranded as United Mentors, LLC in 2012.
For more information about United Mentors, call 1(800) 861-8238 or click below.
Visit United Mentors
Marlon Bryan – Board of Trustees Director
Marlon Bryan is the founder of Bryan Law, forming a litigation team of more than 50 years of combined experience in the areas of Business Litigation, Condominium and Homeowner Association Representation and more.
Mr. Bryan recalls a meeting with AJ Donaldson where he shared his passion for providing mentorship to young adults after spending several years frustrated from the lack of information and direction provided to intercity students. He remembered being a product of intentional diversion when in high school, his guidance counselor tried to convince him to sign up for the military without providing the choice for enrolling in college, although he had the required grades to apply. Mr. Bryan was elated to learn that Mr. Donaldson possessed the same compassion for impacting the lives of students trapped in the middle of their academic and career conundrum.
Mr. Bryan volunteers his time as a board member of the E.P.I.C. Foundation and his firm has had the pleasure of providing pro bono services, whenever necessary, for the families requiring assistance through the E.P.I.C. Foundation. Bryan Law also assists the foundation financially and provides internship opportunities to students, offering them a glimpse of the legal field in planning their career choice.
For more information about Bryan Law, call 954-383-0303 or click below:
Visit Bryan Law
Jade Donaldson – Cofounder & Board of Trustees Director
Jade Donaldson’s advocacy for mentorship comes from the impact that several mentors had on her own life as a young woman growing up in South Florida. These mentors guided her in areas important in all children’s lives such as academics, decision making for the future and in her case, finding sponsorships for athletics since her mother was a single mom who could not afford the cost of college on her own. It’s because of the guidance Jade received that she was awarded a full scholarship to a Division-I university for volleyball and was then able to complete her undergraduate education and receive a bachelor’s degree in Varying Exceptionalities for grades K-12.
As a special education teacher of 15 years for students ranging from kindergarten to high school, Jade has witnessed the impact that not having a quality education and proper mentorship can have on allowing students to realize their full potential. As a board member of the E.P.I.C. Foundation, she’s had the honor and opportunity to grant scholarships, raise funds, mentor students within the community and advocate for families of special needs students.
Yazmin Gonzalez - Board of Trustees Secretary
Yazmin Gonzalez, M.S. CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology), is Board of Trustees Secretary of the E.P.I.C. Foundation and contributes her time, effort and strong communication skill set to better assist youth across Miami Dade. Yazmin has been a speech-language pathologist for 3 years and is also the School Engagement Chair for Autism Speaks Miami.
As a South Florida native, Yazmin graduated from primary, secondary and college education from the Miami Dade school system. After experiencing how demanding academics can be for students, Yazmin found that mentorship is crucial for academics, sports, personal growth and the celebration of everyday milestones. Yazmin believes that students are positively impacted by having a mentor and leader involved in their lives and she dedicates her efforts to ensuring students are well equipped with the tools and resources needed to succeed.
Heather Mari – Event Coordinator & Fundraiser Volunteer
As the Event Designer & Coordinator for the EPIC Foundation, Heather Mari sets the stage for each of our E.P.I.C. events and helps connect volunteers who want to help with students in need. Growing up in South Florida, Heather always had a passion for art and design. After graduating from Florida International University with a master’s degree, she spent 6 years as an Interior Designer, working in commercial spaces, boutique hotels and high-end residential locations. After becoming a mother to two boys, Heather branched out on her own and started Heather Mari Designs, LLC.
For the past three years, she’s dedicated her time and expertise to designing and coordinating the annual E.P.I.C. Gala. When she learned about the E.P.I.C. Foundation through close friends, AJ & Jade Donaldson, she immediately knew she wanted to help impact students positively by granting them a night of recognition for their hard work and an opportunity to help share their unique stories. Heather is an Experienced Professional Impacting Communities as she plans events that assist in fundraising and recognition for our fabulous scholarship students at the E.P.I.C. Foundation.
Debbie Gonzalez – Charity Manager & STEM Advisor
Debbie, now retired, worked as an Executive Business Manager for Mead Johnson Nutrition for 35 years. She earned her Nutrition and Dietetics degree from Florida State University and a M.Sc. in Administrative Dietetics from Florida International University. Debbie began volunteering with the E.P.I.C. Foundation just two years ago after good friends told her about this fabulous organization. Debbie’s specialization in Dietetics provides valuable insight for students interested in the field of health science and compliments the future Allied Health Science Program of the E.P.I.C. Foundation. Additionally, she utilizes her extensive sales expertise and networking skills to raise scholarship funds for the E.P.I.C. Foundation
Debbie enjoys collaborating with other volunteers and board members to plan and execute the annual Gala event as well as other fundraising efforts. Debbie feels the money raised through this one of a kind organization truly helps each student identify their strengths, set goals for the future and achieve their academic potential through guidance, mentorship and support on behalf of the E.P.I.C. Foundation.
Adam Mari – Fundraiser Volunteer & STEM Advisor
By day, Adam provides project & product management for digital websites and apps. By night, he brings his love for technology, process and business to the E.P.I.C. foundation by integrating new technologies and ideating on ways to improve processes that allow us to further the E.P.I.C. mission. His unique background provides invaluable experience when servicing S.T.E.M. students. Adam also assists his talented wife, Heather Mari, in bringing awareness to the community through the annual E.P.I.C. Gala.
John Bunyan, a famous writer, once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Adam volunteers and chooses to impact the South Florida community through the E.P.I.C. Foundation because it brings him true joy to help bring awareness to students in need and allows him to share his valuable insight and professional expertise in Business and Marketing.
Kayla Gonzalez – Fundraiser Volunteer & Content Developer
As a recent graduate from Florida State University, Kayla quickly realized the important role that guidance and mentorship played in her own success as a student. She, too, was a student that needed a helping hand in making critical decisions for her future. Kayla’s mentors were experienced professionals who helped shine a light on her capabilities, strengths and weaknesses so that she could enter into the workforce confidently. Now, she serves students in the South Florida community through the E.P.I.C. Foundation in an effort to make a significant impact on students in the very same way.
Kayla creates content for the E.P.I.C. Foundation and shares knowledge in the non-profit education sector that brings forth awareness of the E.P.I.C. Foundation, our mission and our goals so that our impact has the potential to spread even further than the local community. Additionally, Kayla assists in hosting and raising funds for the annual E.P.I.C. Gala to ensure South Florida students receive the recognition and mentorship that changes the trajectory of their path positively.