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Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee consists of community leaders and organizations who have a passion for public media, cinema, storytelling, the military, and veterans. Committee members provide meaningful support during the planning of the festival, including promotions, speaker recommendations, media relations, discussion participation and film selection. We appreciate their support.

The 2024 Advisory Committee Members (as of 11/29/23)

Derek Abbey, Ph.D.
, President & CEO of Project Recover; Major, USMC (Ret.)

Derek Abbey HeadshotDr. Derek Abbey is the President and CEO, Project Recover. Project Recover is a collaborative effort to enlist twenty-first-century science and technology in a quest to find and repatriate Americans missing in action since World War II, to provide recognition and closure for families and the nation. Dr. Abbey served 23 years in the Marine Corps and extensively in higher education prior to his current position.


Douglas Alberto Alvarado, MSW, Lead Veteran Peer Navigator of Courage to Call; US Army OEF Veteran

Douglas is passionate about serving those who have served by giving back through trauma-informed care and providing strengths-based social services at Courage to Call. Courage to Call is a veteran led program dedicated to improving lives of Veterans, Active Duty, Reservists, National Guardsmen, and their families through peer support, resource navigation, and comprehensive case management. Douglas served as an Army combat medic in southeast Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2011-2012. His personal lived experience through trauma recovery from combat readjustment and military separation led to his career in social work.


photo of Lisa Avila OgdenLisa Avila Ogden, Director of Development, PsychArmor; Military Spouse

Lisa is the director of development for PsychArmor, a national nonprofit based in San Diego that serves the military-affiliated community and is married to an active-duty Marine. Lisa began her career working in politics in Texas and Washington, D.C. She also served as a key volunteer, serving alongside and for military spouses and families. In her free time, she can be found attending Marine Corps ceremonies, keeping up with friends, and generally enjoying San Diego weather.


Gloria Baker, Commander, National Association for Black Veterans, San Diego Chapter; USAF Veteran

photo of Gloria BakerGloria Baker, an Air Force veteran, serves as commander of the National Association for Black Veterans, San Diego Chapter.  She is also a member of American Legion Lakiba N. Palmer Post 310, and the California Women Veterans Leadership Council.  As founder of Veterans Preference Inc., her focus is working with women veterans to prevent factors contributing to homelessness.  She is president/CEO of Parkwood Capital Inc., a real estate brokerage dedicated to making a positive impact in affordable accessible housing.  Gloria is passionate about financially empowering veterans, guiding them to understand and leverage the benefits and services they deserve.


Linda Ball, Grants & Engagement Manager, KPBS

Linda Ball is the grants and engagement manager at KPBS. She oversees grants that support a wide-range of projects, from news to podcasts to community engagement. Since coming to KPBS in 2015, she has assisted in the implementation of the station’s longest-running engagement program, One Book, One San Diego, and also managed Community Conversations, a program designed to explore issues important to the region.


Jodi Cilley, Founder & President, Film Consortium San Diego

Jodi Cilley lowres

Jodi Cilley is an Emmy nominated producer and long time filmmaker, entrepreneur and educator. She has been teaching video production since 2004 and has taught video and editing at UC San Diego Extension Digital Arts Center, Platt College and the Media Arts Center San Diego. She has produced over a hundred projects including web series’, short films, TV specials, documentaries and commercial projects and produced Film Indiego, a 6-Part TV Series for KPBS. She has a BS in Sociology from Boston College and an MBA with specializations in entrepreneurship and management from San Diego State University. As the founder and current president of the Film Consortium San Diego and the founder and producer of the annual San Diego Film Awards and San Diego Film Week, she is working to build a strong local film industry and to increase exhibition, distribution, funding and employment opportunities for local up and coming film talent. She is an adjunct professor at San Diego City College in the Radio, Television and Film department and recently produced, co-wrote/directed/edited the three-time Emmy nominated San Diego Film Awards.

Amber Cournoyer, Photojournalist and Writer; US Army Veteran

photo of Amber RobinsonAmber Robinson is an Army veteran who served for a decade with the US Army as a photojournalist and public affairs leader, earning a coveted Bronze Star during her three combat tours to Operation Enduring Freedom. She is a writer, artist and public relations professional and has spent her time in San Diego post-service as co-founder and the Vice President of a small nonprofit that champions veterans and social issues. She is a contributing writer for San Diego Veterans Magazine and holds a BA in Multimedia Journalism from Point Loma Nazarene University.


photo of Rik DeskinRik Deskin, Actor & SAG-AFTRA National Board; USAF Veteran

Rik Deskin is an actor and sits on the SAG-AFTRA National Board. He is a proud SAG-AFTRA and equity member, and a longtime advocate for the film industry. Rik is a member of the SAG-AFTRA Military Personnel and Families Support Committee. Rik has a BFA in acting from Cornish College of the Arts and is a U.S. Air Force veteran. His most recent work can be seen in Blood Belongs Inside, The Devil is in the Details, and The Scottish Play.


Elisa East, Int. Director, Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, SDSU; US Army Veteran
Elisa serves as the Interim Director of San Diego State University’ s Military and Veterans Program (MVP). MVP is committed to supporting active duty, reservist, guard, veterans, military spouses and children in the areas of higher education. MVP provides assistance and support with VA education benefits, CalVet, outreach, military installations and world-wide.



Louie Estrada, Outreach Specialist Wounded Warrior Project; US Navy Veteran

Louie Estrada has been an advocate for service members and their families for the better part of the last decade. In his current role, Louie provides connections and resources to ill, injured or wounded service members embarking in life after their military service. By creating collaboration and impactful programing with organizations at the local and national level, Louie has been able to assist military families as they begin their journey of transition and a new chapter in their lives post military. Louie served as an Electronics Technician in the US Navy, and currently volunteers in various military service organizations at the local and regional level.

Alison Faith, Clinical Nurse Specialist; Commander, USN (Ret.)

Alison Faith is a Medical-Surgical Clinical Nurse Specialist and combat veteran of the US Navy. Her 20 year career as a Navy Nurse Corps Officer included assignments throughout the United States and Italy. Additionally, she deployed on the USNS Comfort for a humanitarian mission and to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Recently she transitioned from a successful career in the military to the role of Adjunct Nursing Professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. Alison is active with the Navy Nurse Corps Association Southern California and enjoys volunteering at her children’s school, Tri City Christian.


Bradley Garner, MBA, President, Top Level Talent,  MSgt, USAF (Ret.)

Bradley Garner is an accomplished talent acquisition leader with a 22-year track record across five diverse industries: DOD, Healthcare, Gov Contracting, Advanced Manufacturing, and Global Technology. With a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), Bradley’s strategic vision has driven the success of numerous organizations. As President of the recruiting firm Top Level Talent Group and a retired Master Sergeant from the US Air Force, his exceptional leadership skills and dedication have revolutionized the talent acquisition landscape, making him a true catalyst for organizational growth and prosperity.


Keshia Javis-Jones, Director of Community Partnerships, Foundation for Women Warriors; USMC Veteran
Keshia is the Director of Community Partnerships at the Foundation for Women Warriors  a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring and empowering women veterans. Throughout her career, Keshia has been a volunteer, advocate, and fundraiser for veteran and military causes, including efforts to award the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-Black Women’s Army Corps, with the Congressional Gold Medal. Keshia served in the United States Marine Corps as an administrator and reserve career planner. In addition to her formal specialties, Keshia worked as Funeral Honors Coordinator, Toys for Tots Coordinator, and Female Search Team Advisor. Keshia is a 2020 alumni of LEAD San Diego and currently serves on the City of San Diego Veterans, Military, and Families Council.


Bob Lawrence, Former Broadcast Military Reporter; Staff Sergeant, Air Force Reserves (Ret.)

Bob Lawrence lowres

Bob Lawrence aimed to fulfill his goal of trying to make a difference in someone’s life in his more than 30 years of experience at Channel 10. Now retired as of June 2015, that is still his goal. Having served in the military as a staff sergeant in the Air Force Reserves, Bob found his calling as the military reporter at Channel 10 exposing the work and commitment of our young men and women in uniform. Currently, Bob still hopes to make a difference in his position on the board of directors for the USS Midway Museum, a member of KPBS’s GI Film Festival Advisory Committee, and as an emcee for other veteran and military events.


Sheldon Margolis, Former Executive Director, The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park; Captain, USN (Ret.)

Sheldon Margolis is a combat veteran of the US Navy. His 30 year Navy career included serving as an executive officer in Vietnam and as a commanding officer of the USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8). He holds an MSEE from the Naval Postgraduate School and an MBA from Mary Washington University. Throughout his military career, and continuing still, he is active with the Boy Scouts, Jewish War Veterans, Military Order of the World Wars, and on the board serving as treasurer of the San Diego Chapter of the United States Navy League. He is the immediate past president and CEO of the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.


Lisa Marcolongo, Media Relations and Veterans Specialist, Elizabeth Hospice

Lisa Marcolongo lowres

Lisa Marcolongo is the media relations and veterans specialist at The Elizabeth Hospice. She is an active member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition, San Diego Military Family Collaborative, North San Diego Business Chamber Military Advisory Council and is a co-chair of the San Diego County Hospice-Veteran Partnership. The Marcolongo family was featured as one of four families in Sesame Street’s prime time show, “Coming Home: Military Families Coping with Change.” The TV segment and support materials help children and their families cope with injuries, visible and invisible.


Nico Marcolongo, Senior Manager, Operation Rebound, Challenged Athletes Foundation; Officer, USMC Veteran

Nico Marcolongo lowresNico Marcolongo is a veteran of the Iraq conflict who served 14 years as a marine officer. He leads the CAF Operation Rebound program for injured veterans and first responders and is also the founder of the Buddy Bowl Charity Flag Football Tournament Series. Nico is an original member of the GI Film Festival San Diego Advisory Committee.



Maggie Meza, Chapter Director, Blue Star Families San Diego

Maggie has over twenty five years of experience volunteering, advising, holding numerous executive board member positions, and fundraising for numerous organizations that advocate for military families. As a Military spouse, Maggie understands the needs and concerns that affect military families. She recognizes how important it is for military families to be connected not only within their installation but also the outside communities. Maggie has served as an Advisor to the Exceptional Family Member Program and Navy Marine Corps Relief Society facilitating positive changes and experiences for families stationed at Camp Pendleton. Prior to working for BSF, Maggie was the President of a nonprofit raising money for scholarships for military dependents and grants for local nonprofits that aid military families.


Sam Neuhauser,  Regional Manager, Travis Manion Foundation; USMC Combat Veteran

Photo of Sam Neuhauser, white mail with a blue polo shirtSam Neuhauser a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, former firefighter, and entrepreneur. As the regional manager for the West region for Travis Manion Foundation, he oversees programmatic efforts and operations across five states, supporting both veteran and youth impact. Passionate about a variety of social causes, he has served in multiple roles within the non-profit sector in San Diego for over 12 years. He holds a degree in organizational leadership from Arizona State University and has extensive experience within the military, education, and public safety industries. 


Ann Marie Price, Senior Account Manager, Scatena Daniels Communications; Military Ally

Ann Marie joined the Scatena Daniels Communications team in 2015. Her organizational prowess, perseverance, and knack for writing helps her achieve top-tier media results locally, regionally and nationally. Ann Marie has nearly a decade of public relations experience, working with education, arts, science, nonprofit, hospitality, transportation, public affairs and lifestyle brands. She is passionate about working with active duty military and veterans, and sharing their untold stories and talent with the world.


Martha Rañón, Executive Vice President, Southern Caregiver Resource Center

Martha Rañón is the Executive Vice President at Southern Caregiver Resource Center. As the leading provider in San Diego County for caregiver services including programs for military and veteran families, Martha is proud to lead the education and outreach team at SCRC. Her first-hand knowledge of being a caregiver coupled with her passion to connect under-represented communities with vital health care services is what has motivated her to be an advocate for family caregivers. She can be seen at public speaking events conducting presentations, workshops, conferences, including recording podcasts, videos, and live stream classes with the hopes of empowering family caregivers everywhere.


Patricia Reily, EdD, Commander, USN (ret.)

Patricia Reily is a retired navy commander, as well as a retired college administrator, college professor and published author. She started several highly successful programs to assist veterans transition from the military into sustainable civilian careers. Patricia Reily’s Navy career encompassed a wide array of jobs in command, operations, program management, education and training. She conducted the first study of Sexual Harassment in the Navy and created the Navy’s first workshops to prevent sexual harassment. Patricia Reily wrote “So there we were…” Leadership Stories from the Men and Women Who Make the Navy Work, (Emergent Publications, 2011) about the use of story in the Navy to train and inspire emerging leaders.



Jennifer Santis, Veteran Center Manager, National University

Jennifer is the Veteran Center Manager at National University and a former military spouse. Over the last eight years she has dedicated her time to supporting military families and veterans throughout San Diego County. She currently serves as a co-chair for San Diego Military Family Collaborative (SDMFC).



Denise Scatena, Founding Partner and Public Relations Professional, Scatena Daniels Communications

As founding partner of Scatena Daniels Communications, Denise Scatena has nearly 25 of strategic communications experience. She has the ear of the top media powerhouses and community influencers in San Diego County and beyond. Denise has won multiple awards from the San Diego Press Club, and is the PRSA SD/IC 2020 Deborah Baker PR Professional of the Year.



Sheila Traister, Actor, Director, Writer, Educator; SAG-AFTRA National Committees, Colorado AFL-CIO Executive Board; USAF Veteran

Sheila is a USAF veteran and an award winning actor, director and writer for stage and screen. She created the acting department at the Colorado Film School and has a private coaching practice with global reach.  She serves on the national SAG-AFTRA Military Personnel and Families Support Committee and has served as an elected leader in SAG-AFTRA for the past 2consecutive years.  Sheila starred in the short film REWIND which screened at GIFF San Diego 2021.


Nancy Worlie, Chief Content & Communications Officer, KPBS

Nancy Worlie lowresNancy Worlie is the chief content and communications officer for KPBS, San Diego’s public media organization. Before joining KPBS in 2003, Nancy was the managing editor of Las Vegas ONE, where she helped renovate its hour-long evening newscast and launched a new morning show as well as a political interview program. Nancy has also served as broadcast director for the late U.S. Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in Washington, D.C., where she worked with the national, state and local media.


Jaime Yslas, Chapter Captain, Team RWB – San Diego Chapter; Commander, USN Veteran

photo of Jaime Ysalas

Jaime is a U.S. Navy veteran and does volunteer work with San Diego area veteran service organizations. Jaime spent 32 years with the US Navy in the field of electronic warfare and intelligence. His service record includes deployments with surface, subsurface and aviation forces as well as numerous headquarters assignments. He is a member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition which fosters collaboration among veteran advocates.