Meet Our Staff 


Ryan Najimy, Program Director
and 5th Grade Group Leader

Over the past 5 years, I have worked as an ESL Kindergarten Teacher, YMCA Camp Unit Leader, and the Site Supervisor of Character Builders Before/After School Program at Silver Gate Elementary.  I have considered my most important job to be helping children with medical issues during my recent three year stay, working with a medical non-profit in Vietnam.  I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time with your children, getting to know their personalities, learning styles and interests.  I will celebrate their successes, small and large.  I will encourage them every day and let them know they are valued and have a special place in our program at BLAST.


David Hetherington,  Benefits Coordinator and 4th Grade Team Member

David retired in 2009 as Deputy Director of Ship Management after 37 years in the shipbuilding industry. He has enjoyed many years working with children.  For 25 years he coached recreational and competitive youth soccer.  He worked two years in the AWANA program at New Hope Church. He is also a dedicated Sunday School Teacher and leads a preschool class at MOPS. David has 5 children and 7 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter. He loves to golf and fish in his spare time.


Valerie Nelson, 4th Grade Team Member

Valerie has over 18 years of experience volunteering with all age groups of children.  She was working in accounting for many years and then able to be a stay-at-home mom where she had many volunteer leadership roles working with children.  Valerie and her husband, Bud, have 2 adult daughters.

Karen Anderson, 04th Grade Team Member

I have raised 3 wonderful children and have also provided afterschool and summer childcare in my home.  I volunteered with Girl Scouts and New Hope Church Youth Group for many years.  I love crafts of all kinds and have been collecting dolls for over 25 years.  I also have 4 grandchildren.  

My goal this year is to provide a comfortable, safe and loving environment for the children each morning when they arrive at school.


Elizabeth Szmaglinski, 3rd Grade Group Leader and & Morning Support 

Elizabeth enjoys working with children, having worked in The Poway School District for 12 years. She is currently at Oak Valley Middle School and returned to BLAST after a brief interruption to care for her mother. Elizabeth was born and raised in Poland. She is married and has two teen-age children.