Our Mission

Through the Arts, We Transform the Lives of
Adults with Intellectual Disabilities.

Who We Are

HOPE Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization that is committed to serving disabled adult artists. Through art classes and other events, we serve adults with Intellectual Disabilities and train them in a wide variety of arts including visual and performing art.

We are a vendor of the Regional Center of Orange County. We also cater to private students upon request. Please contact us for more information regarding tuition/private pay options.

Vision

Through innovative arts programming, HOPE Center for the Arts empowers adults with intellectual disabilities to reach their highest potential; bringing their voice forward to be heard, seen, and appreciated by the community.

Belief Statements

HOPE is fostered when every person’s artistic voice is treated with respect.

Inclusive community culture supports the artist and cultivates HOPE.

A society designed for everyone’s needs eradicates differences and disabilities.

Art enables all people to express themselves and be seen.

Art widens perspective and has a transformative effect on appreciation for life.

Core Values

Freedom to create

Inclusion

Respect

Community

Acceptance

Six seated HOPE students laughing in classroom with stage lighting and costume racks in background.

History

Paul Kuehn’s voice was the spark that ignited HOPE University now called HOPE Center for the Arts. One day during his high school music class, special education music teacher, Doris Walker, was thinking out loud, trying to remember what key a particular song was in. The quiet, shy, blind young man with autism at the back of the classroom spoke up, “that would be the key of ‘G’ Mrs. Walker.” That made Mrs. Walker take notice of the young Paul Kuehn, and she wondered what else he was capable of. She asked him to sing, and the rest is history.

She formed a band called the Hi Hopes around Paul, and they developed a repertoire of songs. When faced with the fact that these talented band members would have nowhere to continue playing once they graduated from high school, she rallied around the families and asked for their support to create what we now know as HOPE Center for the Arts. The program began with 8 students, all Hi Hopes members, and met in two rooms in the rear of a strip mall shopping center in Anaheim, California, and in 1979, HOPE Center for the Arts became the first organization of its kind to provide arts programming to adults with Intellectual Disabilities.

Today, HOPE Center for the Arts offerings have expanded to include all art forms, and we serve 50 adults with Intellectual Disabilities. The Hi Hopes continue to perform, and just like any professional band, they have their own trailer with their name on it, and they have recorded countless albums. HOPE Center for the Arts students participate in art exhibitions, perform in the hand-bell choir or vocal choir, perform dances and dramas, and learn to play instruments, and more. There are many very talented artists and performers here at HOPE Center for the Arts, but opportunities are available to anyone who is interested in or motivated by the arts.

HOPE Staff

Kristina Rakosh

  -   Program Manager

Kristina joined the HOPE team in June 2022. She is a Long Beach native, and a California State University of Long Beach Alumna. Her background includes working in nonprofit organizations in Long Beach and surrounding areas. She worked for a decade in operations for the Long Beach Symphony. Kristina is a cellist and plays the piano.

Erica Melendez

  -   Student Services Coordinator

Erica went to California State University, Dominguez Hills where she obtained her B.A. in Sociology in May 2016. She plans on continuing her education towards a Masters of Social Work. After volunteering in many non-profit organizations, Erica has gained a passion for work in the helping profession. Her compassion towards adults with Intellectual Disabilities has given her the skills and commitment to improve and strengthen the abilities of the students of HOPE Center for the Arts.

Erica is familiar with HOPE Center for the Art’s mission, as her family member has grown up with Autism. Growing up with a family member who has Intellectual Disabilities allows Erica to understand the importance of her role of assisting students with their social development.

Koroush Mesbah

  -   Life Enrichments Instructor

Kourosh joined the HOPE team in November 2022. He is a musician with a degree in Music Business from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.  

Kourosh has a good mix of “artist and practicality,” a blend needed for the Life Enrichment Class he teaches. Kourosh uses his music to teach and sometimes uses Persian musical instruments to make his points. Life Enrichment is the part of arts training that includes how to manage your work and what to do with it.

Steven Noguera

  -   Performing Arts Facilitator

A professional musician since the age of 12, Steven Noguera has performed all across the United States; and composed and recorded over 60 pieces of music. For a significant portion of his life he was a successful entrepreneur and business owner. However, after being struck by personal tragedy when his only son lost his life to spinal meningitis, Steven was inspired to redirect the focus of his life and his career when in 1999 he joined the HOPE family. Along with his colleagues, Steven Noguera has dedicated himself to helping individuals with Intellectual Disabilities by sharing his musical talents to inspire and expand his students’ vision of the world.

Jasmine Taylor

  -   Visual Art Instructor

Jasmine is our new Visual Art Instructor, a surrealist portrait painter mentored by Cynthia Tom of the Bay Area. She works with rich colors using oils, acrylics, charcoal, and pencils. She’s taught paint night enthusiasts, autistic children, and group home youth transitioning from incarceration. An Oakland native and a graduate of Sacramento State, and she’s interested in art therapy.

Doyle Smiens

  -   Theater Instructor

Doyle has been involved in theater since high school. For over 25 years, he has taught drama classes, directed shows, and coached speech competitions. Currently, he is performing his one-man show at a variety of regional venues including Santa Monica Bing Festival, the Long Beach Collaborative, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival. He has a B.A. in Theater Performance from Dordt University.

HOPE Board

Headshot of a woman with purple shirt.

June McLaughlin

  -   Board President

June McLaughlin is tenured Professor and Chair of the ABA approved Paralegal Studies department at Irvine Valley College. Her son, Cail Cheng, is an alumni of HOPE. June is a Special Olympics coach of tennis and swimming. She had served on the Hope board understanding that recognition of all our artistic talents is critical. The mission of HOPE has inspired her to explore her own inner poet, writer, and painter. HOPE inspires!

Marguerite Adams

Marguerite Adams is no stranger to the significance that HOPE Center for the Arts brings to the community. Her sister, Patty Mount, was a long-time Artist at HOPE so Marguerite knows first-hand how the Center transforms the lives of intellectually disabled adults.

Professionally Mrs. Adams comes with experience as a seasoned Corporate Human Resources Manager with extensive experience in a leadership role. In 2014 she retired from the County of Orange, i.e., the third largest employer in Orange County. At the County, she demonstrated a track record for being strategic, results oriented, innovative, collaborative, and business improvement focused; and was especially known for her experience developing and implementing recruitment and marketing strategic plans. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of California Irvine, attended UCLA Anderson School of Management HR Executive Program, and Chapman University’s Leadership Academy. Marguerite currently serves as a Leadership Council Chair and as a Nonprofit Volunteer Executive Coach with Executive Coaches of Orange County.

Marguerite wants to ensure HOPE will be there for future students and their families so they will be able experience the joy, support and value that HOPE brings. She lives in Santa Ana with her husband, and they have two adult sons.

Dr. Steven Dziekonski Board Member

Dr. Steven Dziekonski

Dr. Dziekonski is Head of School at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester, PA. He has 36 years of experience as a music educator, 25 of which have included arts administrator roles in secondary schools. As an arts program developer at several independent and public schools, he has experience creating and fostering innovative arts programming that empowers young artists to lead purposeful lives. Dr. Dziekonski earned his B.M. in Music Education and Film Scoring from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, M.A. in Music Education from California State University, Northridge, and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Boston University.

Pepper Russell

  -   Board Secretary

Ms. Russell serves as Director of YES Workforce Solutions at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast. In this role she engages Orange County employers at all levels and across all major industry sectors to offer internships, externships, on-the-job-training, and entry level positions to workforce ready graduates of the YES Workforce Development program. Pepper has a deep love of all things creative, an irresistible pull on her once inside HOPE’s doors. She shares her joy of all the wonderful colors, flavors and experiences of working with fabrics, threads, textiles, foods and other artful media. Ms. Russell has a B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of Redlands and earned her U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management credentials in 2023. 

HOPE Advisors

Woman with a painting in the back

Patricia “Pat” Del Monico

  -   Board Advisor

Pat Del Monico has dedicated her life to serving the intellectual/developmental disabilities community (I/DD). She comes to HOPE with more than 40 years of senior management experience and nonprofit leadership. Currently Ms. Del Monico provides consulting services primarily for organizations offering services for people with I/DD while she leverages her expertise acquired in her former role as the Executive Director of Harbor Regional Center. In addition to her wealth of industry knowledge, Pat has both a master’s degree in Social Work and an MBA.  She also has a JD and is a member of the California BAR.

Per Pat “I have had the great privilege to dedicate virtually my entire career in the service of others, the vast majority of whom have been people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  Over the years I have come to know thousands of people with needs and abilities similar to those served by HOPE Center for the Arts as well as their remarkable family members.  It has been my professional passion to see these persons thrive as valued and valuable members of our communities.  Accordingly, I feel a strong connection to HOPE’s mission and am hopeful I might contribute to the organization’s successful achievement of its vision.”