Maria Elena Fernandez is the Corps Excellence Regional Manager for Region 7 (Alaska, California, Guam, Hawaii and Oregon). She is an award-winning journalist and children’s book author who grew up in Miami and has made Los Angeles her home. An entertainment journalist for 15 years, Fernandez has covered Hollywood for New York magazine, Vulture, Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and NBC. Before moving to the West Coast, Maria Elena spent many years on the crime beat at The Washington Post and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and covered the AIDS epidemic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Her children’s book, The Secret of Fern Island, was published in 1996 under a pseudonym so that she wouldn’t be stalked by screaming children. She is currently working on a nonfiction book for Grand Central Publishing that will be released in 2023. A longtime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Maria Elena is a mentor for Mentorship Program and has mentored at Write Girl in Los Angeles. In her spare time, Maria Elena obsesses over her dogs, husband, food, wine, and precious beach time. Her most favorite thing in the world is traveling.