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Our Staff

Executive Management

Headshot of Syd Stwart

Syd Stewart 

Founding Member / CEO / Mentor

Syd Stewart is the founder and CEO of Better Youth, a social impact nonprofit based in South LA with a mission to build creative confidence, bridge resource gaps, and prepare foster and system-impacted youth for sustained success in the creative economy. Syd is a former educator for GirlUp, a teen girls empowerment initiative through The United Nations Foundation. Ms. Stewart was a former Director for Ushers New Look Foundation and LAUSD/Beyond the Bell Arts in Education program, where she managed grant programs for two high schools and five community satellite sites in Watts. Syd is also a television writer and filmmaker.

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Shawn Jackson

Director of Operations & Learning Innovation

Shawn Jackson values growing and supporting youth-serving nonprofit organizations. Jackson has spent years researching the growing practice of new media and web-based technology. His strengths rely on his ample time serving various youth organizations.

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Larry Hughes

Chief Financial Officer

A financial consultant working on Wall Street with many investment banks and individuals, Larry Huges has been active with Better Youth for over 5 years. His financial expertise is gained by years of experience with financial institutions such as Nathan and Lewis, Met Life, America Portfolios and Oppenheimer. 

Program Leadership

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Paul Calderon

Film + TV

Paul Calderon is a Writer/Director and educator. He holds a degree in Philosophy and an M.F.A. in film. He has over twenty years experience teaching film at the college level. 

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Grant Webster


Grant Webster is a lifelong creative with a history of producing his own animated sketches. His animations are always modeled after adult animated comedies such as The Simpsons and Bojack Horseman.


Through his cohort at Better Youth, he has been exposed to a plethora of animated styles such as anime, in which he aims to combine multiple genres in his work. He loves leading and cultivating an environment of positivity for all collaborators and feels with animation, the sky is the limit!

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Dr. Katryna Starks

Interactive Gaming

Dr. Katryna Starks is  a  game scholar and researcher specializing in curriculum development, training, narrative, and psychology.


She holds a Master’s degree in Psychology with a focus on how video games can foster health-promoting behaviors, and a PhD in Psychology which explores how female protagonist agency affects youth and young adult female player identity.


She co-developed a Bachelor of Serious Games degree and designed the Interactive Narrative minor within that program. Her most prominent research includes "Cognitive Behavioral Game Design: a framework for creating Serious Games", and "Using Twine as a Therapeutic Writing Tool for Creating Serious Games".

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Miguel Coleman


Miguel Coleman is a technology entrepreneur, director, and producer of community cultural events for youth and families. He is skilled at performing High Profile/Celebrity events and corporate sponsored non-profit ventures. Mr. Coleman has non-profit experience in program development, execution, and supervision of staff and teaching youth film and multimedia production throughout Inglewood and Los Angeles Unified School District. 


Johna Rivers

Real to Reel Global CO-Founder / Lead Producer

Johna is an eight-year program alum and TAY foster youth who produces community events. She is a writer, poet, and filmmaker who advocates for foster youth, working in her community with noted leaders, including Representative Karen Bass and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The UN Foundation recognized Ms. Rivers as a Youth Champion and she has traveled abroad as a cultural ambassador. She co-founded Real To Reel Global and works for Disney on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. 

Program Support

Headshot of Ivanna Jackson

Ivanna Jackson

Creative Administrator

Ivanna Jackson is a recent graduate from Grand Canyon University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film. She joined the Better Youth family as a high school student, where she was an intern who received media arts training and mentorship. She also was a youth producer for film festival Real to Reel Global for multiple years.


These many experiences led to the point of employment where Ivanna works as an executive assistant to Executive Director and Director of Operations, assists with coordination tasks of AIM-N-Inspire, Real to Reel Global, and new apprenticeship program, prepares correspondence for stakeholders and community partners, and creates media assets.

Headshot of Hannah Chan

Hannah Chan

Creative Coordinator

Hannah is a recent graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After interning with Better Youth for the past year as a grant writer, she now takes on a more active role as the mentor match coordinator in assisting with program tasks of AIM-N-INSPIRE including mentor match support, coordinating program events, assisting with targeted participant communications and preparing needed correspondence.

Headshot of Breyon Jackson

Breyon Jackson

Creative Assistant 

Breyon Johnson is a former foster youth currently attending Santa Monica College to study animation and is getting ready to attend Emile Cohl, a college specializing in animation. She now works at Better Youth as an executive assistant and helps with their social media. Her dream is to be a storyboard artist and hopefully create an animation studio that travels to different countries to produce people's stories. Better Youth has been able to help her get closer to obtaining her dreams by assisting in obtaining an internship with Skydance Studio where she was able to meet people and create future opportunities.

Junior Leadership

Tyree Shaw

IT + Gaming Lab TA + AIM Fellow 

Kyori Garcia

Animation Lab TA + AIM Fellow

Daija Smith

Film/TV Lab Project Producer + AIM Fellow

Chrisie Morris

Animation Lab Project Coordinator + AIM Fellow 

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