Now Recruiting: Green Plate Special Board Members

Hello, Green Plate Special community! We are seeking committed and energetic candidates to join our Board of Directors. We promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our recruitment efforts and consider all interested candidates. Experience in any of the following fields is particularly beneficial: Development/Non-profit Fundraising, Human Resources, Finance, Technology, Social Media/Marketing, Education, Nonprofit Leadership, and/or Community Networking. You can find profiles for our current board members in the board section at the bottom of this page. If you would like more information, contact Amy Theobald (, our GPS Board President.


Laura Dewell (she/her/hers)

Founder and Executive Director

Laura has been an active member of the culinary world since 1983. With a BA in Child Psychology from the University of Oregon, Laura went on instead to culinary school at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She has worked in and owned multiple restaurants in Seattle and San Francisco, including Pirosmani Restaurant in Seattle.

Eventually Laura’s passion for cooking and sharing food with others expanded beyond restaurants, and lead her to teach cooking to adults and children, publically and privately. Through her time as a culinary consultant, private chef placement coordinator and five years of work with the Wood Stone Corporation (manufacturers of wood and gas fired stone hearth ovens), Laura began to envision her true calling; to establish a nonprofit for middle school youth…..

In 2011, Laura founded Green Plate Special with its mission to inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through growing, cooking and eating together. Her vision of equity and social justice around food and health, was leveraged by her joy of cooking, teaching young people, and an interest (but no real skill) in growing food. Laura had the audacious belief that healthy food for everyone was absolutely necessary for all people in our communities and our country to flourish (not a NEW concept). This would be carried out by youth of middle school age (9-14), whose interest and enthusiasm for these basic life skills would be peaked by their love of eating, and the opportunity to stretch their boundaries with elastic and open minds. Green Plate Special was born from this vision.





Maia Bernstein (she/her/hers)

Education Director

Originally from New York, Maia graduated from Oberlin College in 2009 with a BA in East Asian Studies and Religion. She lived in China and Taiwan for two years, first playing music in an indie-folk band, and then on a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English. Since returning to the States, Maia has taught environmental and garden education in Vermont at Shelburne Farms and Green Mountain Farm-to-School, where she cultivated her passion for inquiry-based, outdoor education. Maia has a Masters of Education, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington. She completed the first year of her program as a graduate student and instructor at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, where she earned a certificate in Education for Environment and Community. When Maia’s not cooking, gardening, or tending to her kombucha scoby, you will find her bicycling and backpacking through the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


Alex Virata (he/she/they – it’s all good)

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Alex obtained her degree in business from Western Washington University and previously worked as a marketing and business insight analyst at a major food brokering corporation. His goal with Green Plate Special is to take both the creative and data-driven skills at her disposal to share the organization’s amazing message with as large and varied an audience as possible. Her heart belongs to the Pacific Northwest and the diverse people, landscapes, flora, and fauna that comprise it. They’re a person of many hobbies and on any given day can be found doing everything from hiking to playing elaborate board games. Alex is looking forward to making a difference in the world one youth at a time. Her favorite food is her lola’s beef afritada, served in the family’s scuffed 70’s bowls.


Alex Moni-Sauri (she/her/hers)

Garden Coordinator

Alex is an educator, artist, and organizer local to Seattle and its surrounding mountains. From an early age she has been drawn to and inspired by working with youth, and spent her highschool summers assisting teachers at Gage Academy of Art. While pursuing her BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art, Alex found her passion for food justice by working with youth in the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School’s cooking and gardening program.

Alex moved home to Seattle to pursue an MFA in Poetry from the University of Washington, teaching undergraduate courses in composition and poetry, and got involved with the graduate student union and with Socialist Alternative in Seattle. While organizing for affordable housing in the city, she worked as an Environmental Educator at Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center in Carnation, and began a long journey of learning about growing and caring for plants.

Now, at Green Plate Special, Alex is able to use her experience in environmental education to the benefit of her local community. When not at Green Plate, you can find Alex strolling with her pup in Seward park, or scribbling in a notebook somewhere.



Claudia Williams (she/her/hers)

Operations & Volunteer Coordinator

Claudia loves to take care of people, learn something new every day and instill her passion for learning in others. Originally from Germany, she has lived in Florida and Georgia and has moved to Seattle two years ago with her husband and three teenage children. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology Claudia is passionate about all aspects of food in our society – how we grow it, buy it, prepare it, and eat it. She loves to explore the beautiful diversity of the Pacific Northwest and looks to bring excitement to the mundane and everyday chores in our lives.



Em Draayer (they/them/theirs)

Full-Time Program Educator

Originally from Northern Utah, Em has always been happiest outside surrounded by people they care for. Em began their degree in music education at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, but family led them to Seattle in 2013. They completed their Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Education and Communication and a minor in French language in 2017 at Seattle University, where their interest in food justice and community building grew. Em’s passion for exploring outdoors, cooking vegetables, and being around young people led them to Green Plate Special, where they completed a summer internship in 2017. When they aren’t harvesting carrots with middle-schoolers, you can find Em at local music shows, reading poetry, swimming in Lake Washington, eating copious amounts of kale, or galloping through parks with their friends and dog.


Mónica Mesquita (she/her/hers)

Part-Time Program Educator

Originally from Cascais, Portugal, Mónica grew up in a multicultural home where she developed a deep appreciation for multiple ways of knowing and being. Mónica graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland with a Bachelors of Education in 2014. For the next two years, she was a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher in one of Edinburgh’s most diverse primary schools. As a classroom teacher, Mónica looked for opportunities to incorporate community and outdoor education into her teaching- this passion led her to travel across the world to complete a Masters of Education at the University of Washington. During Mónica’s first year of the program, she earned a certificate in Education for Environment and Community from IslandWood, where she found and cultivated her passion for garden and food education. When Mónica isn’t learning with and from youth outside, you can find her lying in sunny patches, staring at the moon and stars with her friends, and always wondering about the world around her.


Emily Palena (she/her/hers)

Part-Time Program Educator

Hailing from New Mexico and Boston, Emily is now in love with the salt of the Puget Sound. After studying Environmental Analysis and Dance at Pitzer College in Claremont, California she taught farm-based education on Martha’s Vineyard and adventured widely. As an educator, Emily looks for the movement, joy, and connection in every lesson and strives for sustained inclusion and inquiry. If she were a vegetable, Emily would be a lemon cucumber. Emily is a life long learner. Having completed the Islandwood residency certificate program in Education for Environment and Community, she’s now pursuing a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Washington. When not teaching or studying, you can catch Emily roller blading, singing sweet harmonies, growing her own meat, or perfecting her mother’s tortilla recipe.


Meredith Rivlin (she/her/hers)

Part-Time Program Educator

Meredith grew up in the northeast, primarily in New York and New Hampshire, and graduated from the University of Vermont in 2008 where she majored in English with minors in Film Studies and French. Her real nature connection came a few years after graduating when this one time she felt pure joy watching a lil bunny eating grass in a field. She decided to do more of that and she began working and volunteering on a few farms and gardens in Burlington, VT, then decided to move across the country to Seattle. She started her environmental education journey working as an educator for (Seattle) Tilth, Camp Orkila, Common Threads Farm, Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, and then finally landed at IslandWood/University of Washington where she is completing a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Meredith loves asking questions and learning from people of any age. When she’s not talking to her houseplants, she’s talking to plants in their natural habitats, FaceTiming with her 5-year-old niece, learning about herbal medicine, riding her bike, or finding a dog to pet.


Noé Quezada (he/him/his)

Part-Time Program Educator

Noé grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico in an urban oasis of avocado, citrus, and pomegranate trees planted by his grandfather. In his tweens, his family traded the urban noise and smog for the quiet, fertile foothills of the Blue Mountains. In Walla Walla, he planted his first watermelon seed at the age of twelve and later on forged a deeper connection to the land by working as farm hand during the summers servicing wheat combines. tending cattle, and planting trees.

In 2010 big-city-life called again, so he moved to western Washington to finish his AA degree and soon after graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Medical Anthropology and Global Health and a minor in Nutrition. He has spent the last four years helping families across the state access food benefits and health insurance with the Seattle non-profit WithinReach. Noé brings to the classroom his love for working with people and growing food, and his inherent belief in social justice.
When he’s not a Green Plate or growing food in Interbay, you can find Noé enjoying live music throughout the city, starting impromptu jam sessions wherever there are instruments(or anything to bang on), or getting into random urban adventures on his trusty road bike, Roco.



Board of Directors

Green Plate Special, a nonprofit organization that inspires and empowers youth through garden and kitchen education, is seeking committed and energetic candidates to join its Board of Directors. Board Members in the following fields are preferred: Finance, Technology, Social Media/Marketing, Education, Nonprofit Leadership, and Community Organizing. Green Plate Special has made diversity a key priority; however, all candidates will be considered. For more information, contact the Green Plate Special Board President at


Amy Theobald

Amy Theobald

Board President

Amy Theobald joined the Green Plate Special Board of Directors as Treasurer in April 2014. Amy has worked as an IT Project Manager since 1999. She founded her own consulting business, Theo’s Logic LLC, in 2010 and now focuses on software development and third-party software implementation projects for Seattle-based companies. Prior to joining the board, Amy volunteered with Green Plate Special for a year and a half in the garden and with a number of after-school programs. She was introduced to fresh garden vegetables in her family’s backyard in Oklahoma, and has tended her own garden in Seattle since 1995.

Claire Mitchell

Claire Mitchell

Board Secretary

Claire Mitchell joined the Green Plate Special board in April 2015. Although Claire was born and raised in Queens, New York, she has been living and working in Seattle since 2011. Claire is a business transactional and regulatory attorney at Stoel Rives LLP where she focuses her practice on the food, beverage and agricultural industries. Prior to moving to Seattle, she spent several months attending a Master of Laws program at the University of Arkansas in Food and Agricultural Law where she studied the laws and regulations governing the food system from farm to fork. Despite growing up in an urban center, Claire fondly remembers the small backyard where her family grew tomatoes, corn and herbs during the summer. Her love of gardening and food has endured. In her spare time, Claire enjoys mountaineering, volunteering with Washington Trails Association and sharing a meal with friends.


AJ Aquino

Board Treasurer

AJ Aquino, CFP ® joined the Green Plate Special board in April 2018, and has been volunteering at Green Plate Special for 5 years. AJ has been a Portfolio Management Director and Financial Advisor for the Aquino Group at Morgan Stanley for 11 years. As a Financial advisor, AJ works with individuals, families, and nonprofits to lead healthy financial lives. Prior to joining the Green Plate Special board, AJ organized a series of fundraising events for Youthcare, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Gilda’s Club and the Wing Luke Asian Museum. AJ’s mother and grandparents grew up just blocks away from the Green Plate Special garden, and his passion for gardening started with his grandfather who would let him pick zucchini, Asian pear, and pumpkins, among other things, when he’d go over as a child. When AJ isn’t working, he can be found Instagramming his dinners, seeking out local food all around the world, hosting friends for Husky sporting events, or wishing he worked out more.


Erin Burchfield

Erin Burchfield joined the Green Plate Special Board of Directors in March 2018. A native Seattleite, Erin’s career journey has taken her from nonprofit to corporate to founding her own tech company, and finally to her self-professed ‘dream job’ within Microsoft Philanthropies working to help nonprofits scale impact through technology. She has a BA from Wesleyan University and an MBA from UW Foster School of Business, and is also the co-founder of CEO Wattage – CEO Women At The Top, Achieving Gender Equality, which is dedicated to changing the ratio of women leaders in the C-suite. Along the way, her passion for food, cooking and education has remained a primary focus of her out-of-office time. Erin was a food and healthy lifestyles writer for Actively Northwest, and has fed her passion for cooking by attending cooking schools in various parts of the world. When not experimenting in the kitchen, digging in her garden, or traveling the world, you can find her outside running, hiking or training for her first triathlon.


Sandra Cavanaugh

Sandy Cavanaugh joined the Green Plate Special Board in January 2018. Recently retired from Russell Investments as CEO of their Private Client Group, she is now focused on community engagement, volunteering and consulting. Sandy spent 6 years serving on the board of the United Way of King County where she led the task force developing their Reconnecting Youth strategic initiative and continues to serve on their advisory board. Despite a demanding career, Sandy has always had a passion for gardening, cooking and connecting people through food. Her interest in building awareness with young people of the importance of a healthy diet and the pure joy of growing vegetables and cooking led her to Green Plate Special where she is happy to put on an apron in the kitchen, dig in the garden and help foster a healthy perspective of food with the youth in our community. Sandy has two adult children, lives in Madison Park and when she’s not in the kitchen or garden, loves to be outdoors enjoying the beautiful Northwest.


Dan Crookston

Dan Crookston joined the Green Plate Special Board of Directors in February of 2017. Dan grew up working soil and tending plants alongside his grandparents as they managed nearly 400 acres of farm and grazing land in southeastern Ohio. His work with at-risk youth began as a regular youth counselor at the Akron Urban League under the influential civil rights leader Vernon Odom. During college, Dan worked with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his mother, Sue, at her celebrated after school program on the southside of Chicago where a real disconnect between soil, seed and the food we eat became evident. In the time since, Dan has worked in IT and with restaurants, enjoying roles at Microsoft, Hornall Anderson Design and most recently restaurants. Dan completed an organic farming apprenticeship with M.O.F.G.A in 2005 and received his permaculture one certificate in 2012 from Seven-Ravens Permaculture Academy. Dan lives in Seattle with his wife Renee Erickson and their dog, Mr. Arlo.


Sara Dickerman

Sara Dickerman joined the Green Plate Special Board of Directors in June 2017 and is the Author of Bon Appétit: The Food Lover’s Cleanse and Dried and True: The Magic of Your Dehydrator in 80 Delicious recipes. Sara cooked in restaurants for many years as she developed as a food writer. She has contributed food and travel writing to Bon Appétit, Saveur, The New York Times, Food and Wine, Seattle Magazine, Sunset, and Slate for which she won a James Beard Award. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two young children, and when she can get outdoors, she dives in to open-water swim competitions, Nordic skiing, hiking, running, and kayaking.



Gloria Fortune

Gloria Fortune joined the Green Plate Special Board in January 2018. She is a Seattle native and is the mother of two Green Plate Special program participants. Gloria has a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry and brings 10 years experience of advocacy for children’s education with a primary focus on legislation at State and Federal levels. She was elected and served 2 terms as board president for the Sound to Harbor ESD Policy Council. Her other experience includes The United Negro College Fund, Girl Scouts of Western Washington, Washington State Association as a Parent Ambassador, and Gryphon Engineering and Technology as the Technical Marketing Lead and Research and Development. She loves spending time with her children and traveling.



Maggie Hooks

Maggie Hooks joined the Green Plate Special board in March of 2016. She is a retired physician and community volunteer, with a long history of interest in cooking, food, food justice, health impacts of diet, and the environmental impact of food production. She previously served on the boards of On the Boards and Sightline Institute, and has been a member of the Washington Women’s Foundation for many years. Maggie lives in Madrona with her two children and cooks, plays music, and gets outside as much as she can.




Shelley McIntyre

Shelley McIntyre joined the board of Green Plate Special in spring of 2014, and is an active volunteer in youth programming. A Seattle native, Shelley has an M.S. in nutrition education from the University of Washington, and worked as a nutritionist in community health clinics for 20 years. Her personal commitment is to teach young people how to eat for their health, and to build community awareness of our need to eat real, whole food for optimal health. Since 1997, she has owned and managed commercial real estate. Shelley is married with two adult children. She loves to ride bikes with friends, practice yoga, cross country ski, and work in her garden.


Tiffany Clark

Tiffany Clark joined the Green Plate Special Board of Directors in April 2018. As an educational researcher with the University of Colorado Boulder, Tiffany works to promote partnerships with schools districts, state departments, and other organizations in support of equitable P-12 science learning across settings. She also provides consulting services to education-focused organizations in the Seattle area. She received her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences from the University of Washington College of Education. Tiffany resides in Seattle and is a dedicated community volunteer – she is a member of the Junior League of Seattle and serves on advisory committees for the Woodland Park Zoo and the United Way of King County. On weekends, Tiffany enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and their golden retriever, visiting farmers markets, and hosting dinners with friends.


Advisory Board

Stephanie Beack
Mark Torrance
Brian Lawrence
Renee Willette