THINK Together, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit providing extended learning programs to local children since 1994, promoted its former student and current employee Nadia Flores to executive director of its Orange County region last week.

A Costa Mesa resident most of her life, Flores attended THINK Together's first facility — Shalimar Learning Center in Costa Mesa — as a child and said Thursday that the after-school tutoring helped her see a world outside the restrictions of her neighborhood.

"When I was part of the program, I was 13 years old, and I didn't really have a vision outside of the community I knew," she said. "But the visitors and volunteers at THINK gave me a sense that there's something bigger and better out there.

" … It was a door that was opened to me when I was a child and I want to continue to help keep that door open to as many children as possible."

As a Newport Harbor High School student, Flores coordinated volunteer activities for THINK Together. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara and pursuing a career in media relations, she came back to serve as manager of community outreach and, most recently, as the director of early literacy.

Flores' new role will focus on establishing partnerships and acting as an ambassador to potential donors and business prospects. She will also be the main liaison between the organization and the community.

THINK Together Chief Development Officer Rick Ventura spoke highly of Flores, commending her dedication and motivation.

"We are extremely pleased to bring Nadia into this new position for many reasons," he said Thursday. "For her skills, personality, ability to articulate the mission and vision of THINK Together and draw from a unique experience growing up in the Shalimar neighborhood, an experience shared by many children in our programs. She brings a broad perspective to this."

In the early 1990s, the organization — short for "Teaching, Helping, Inspiring and Nurturing Kids" Together — found its roots in Costa Mesa's Shalimar neighborhood, which at the time was shaken by gang violence.

For more information, visit http://www.thinktogether.org.

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