Meet our Board Members

Step Up Ventura Board members are dedicated to the belief that every homeless child in Ventura County benefit and deserves quality childcare and therapeutic services.

Our Board of Directors is comprised of community and national leaders with expertise in a range of areas. They bring a wealth of experiences and expertise to Step Up Ventura. United by their passion for our mission, it's our pleasure to introduce them to you.

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Jan Zatorski, MPA


Jan has 33 years of public service and executive level experience, as well as extensive involvement with a variety of volunteer organizations. She retired to Ventura County, where she became a Court Appointed Special Advocate. 

Why does she believe in Step Up Ventura?
“Step Up Ventura works to create healthy communities and care for our youngest and most vulnerable populations. I am honored to assist with its critical mission to help families affected by homelessness become self-sufficient. I truly believe we must address the early developmental and educational needs of our youngest members to maintain a productive society.”

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Cathi Nye, MA

Vice President

Cathi comes to Step Up Ventura with extensive experience and connections to the community regarding homelessness. She currently works as a Homeless Education Coordinator with the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office where she provides technical assistance and resources to school districts regarding the rights of students living in homelessness. Cathi also collaborates with local agencies that work with the homeless and is a Board Member of the Housing Trust Fund of Ventura County. She provides district support to the students enrolled in the VCOE school & programs that live in homelessness.

"I know the impact of homelessness can severely impact the cognitive development of children and the mission of Step Up Ventura has always been of interest to me.”

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Maryse Najar

Executive Director

Maryse is a 30+ year veteran in Marketing & PR with 10+ years of experience with nonprofits. Maryse started a statewide nonprofit from scratch called Not for Sale South Carolina, an anti-human trafficking arm of Not for Sale international. There, she created a nonprofit strategic plan including a marketing approach, a volunteer network, college student organizations across the state, grant initiatives, large-scale, multimedia presentations (800+ persons), all marketing materials, press relations, donor/sponsor outreach, and networking with ICE, the police, sheriffs, the FBI, community VIPs, religious institutions, and related NGOs. With her background working with trafficked minors and their mental health concerns, she became attracted to Step Up Ventura's mission to help those most in need, with little voice of their own.

"Homelessness is a serious community problem in Ventura County. What better way to impact the homeless population than by intervening with the most vulnerable, young children. We at Step Up Ventura aim to prevent homelessness in adulthood."


Corrine Thomas, MSW, LCSW

Fund Development Chair

Corrine comes to Step Up Ventura with extensive experience with families experiencing homelessness, as well as families experiencing SPMI (Severe and Persistent Mental Illness) and/or among its members. As part of her graduate education, she was part of a multi-disciplinary team serving undocumented immigrants, becoming more familiar with legal, social, and cultural challenges associated with immigration status and mixed status families. While living in Las Vegas, Corrine also volunteered with Parenting Project, an organization for families involved with Child Protective Services.

Corrine currently serves as the Founder of Principal Provider and the President of Ventura Toastmasters. She is a traveler, adventurer, firewalker, square peg and perpetual student.

“Children who've suffered trauma and damaged attachment become adults who are ill-prepared to thrive. If the cycle of instability is interrupted, it must start at the level of families.”

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Inger Smuts, BA

Communications & Events Committee 

Inger Smuts serves as the Community Engagement Specialist for Mercy House in Ventura County. In this role, she is the liaison between the agency and the public, coordinating volunteer donations and fundraising efforts for their three shelters in the county. Additionally, Inger is a member of Mercy House's Staff Culture committee and serves on the Faith Subcommittee of the Ventura Social Services Task Force.

Inger graduated from California Lutheran University and holds a B.A. in Sociology and German with a minor in Gender & Women's Studies. She is passionate about ending homelessness in Ventura County.

"Solving homelessness is one of our society's biggest tasks, and it starts right here with our littlest and most vulnerable citizens. It is our responsibility to do as much as we can to make sure that children are on a path towards success."