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Meet Our Staff

Our Staff

Miguel Magaña

Clinical Director

Miguel A. Magaña began his career as a behavior therapist proving ABA therapy to kids with autism. He has worked for large nonprofit organizations providing mental health services to emotionally disturbed children in clinical and school settings. Miguel understands the importance of parental involvement being a key component to children’s success, and has provided parent trainings to improve families with co-parenting experience. His experience providing mental health services has been assisting clients gain insight into personal problems by defining goals and objectives of therapy while treating depression, anxiety, ADHD, oppositional defiant behavior, panic disorders and other relational problems in the community and in school settings. Furthermore, Miguel is a big believer in early interventions and has gained extensive experience utilizing the HELP assessment to detect early developmental delays in children 0-3 years old. Miguel also provides consultation services for early start programs and parent trainings. Miguel has been a Professional Crisis Management Instructor since 2013. Recently, Miguel has been trained by Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, and he currently is in the process to becoming a Brain Health Coach at Dr. Daniel Amen’s Clinic. Miguel holds an associate of science in Human Biology, a Bachelor of Arts Psychology, and Master of Science in Counseling Psychology. He is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and an Associate and Marriage Family Therapist.

Ana Laura Magaña

Managing Director

Ana “Laura” Magana received her Masters of Science degree in Counseling Psychology at California State University, Bakersfield, and completed her coursework to become a Behavior Analyst at the Florida Institute of Technology. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and an Associate Marriage Family Therapist. She has over 20 years of experience in Applied Behavior Analysis working with infants, toddlers, and individuals with Autism with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms. Her focus has been teaching in a natural environment and centering on functional and socially significant skills. Laura’s extensive knowledge and experience includes school consultation trainings for school districts and providing Educationally Related Mental Health Services to children with trauma as well as special needs. In addition, Laura has been formally trained by Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and currently provides trainings on the implementation of Emotional Intelligence in preschools. Her expertise also includes providing professional counseling services to children, individuals, couples, and families. Her approach to counseling is to provide a gentle and safe environment while working collaboratively with her clients to meet their established goals.

Sarah Thomas

MS, Program Director
LMFT NV#2814-R CA#91094

Sarah received her education through California State University, Bakersfield.  She graduated with her BA in psychology with a minor in acting in 2008, and during 2011, she received her Master of Science in clinical counseling. Her areas of expertise include relationship counseling, Applied Behavioral Analysis, and grief and trauma counseling.

In 2012, she began working with Ascension Center, first providing direct services as a behavioral interventionist to the amazing kids and families who have partnered with the company.  As Ascension has grown over the years, Sarah has become a program manager and the resident marriage and family therapist, where she has had the honor and pleasure to provide support and counseling not just to the families of who work with Ascension Center, but with the community at large.

During 2020, Sarah obtained her counseling license in the state of Nevada and moved with her family to the Reno/Sparks area where she is now the Program Director. Not only is Sarah excited and eager to discover all the hiking trails and fun community events held in area, but she is also looking forward to getting to know the wonderful families who call this place home.

Anna M. Lynch

SLP, CA#6445

Anna received a bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.  She earned a master’s degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

Anna has over 34 years of experience as a speech/language pathologist.  She has worked in the public school system in Kern County for 32 years.  She taught a severe disorders of language special day class for 14 years and has also worked in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, SEAL Center, Pre-k Learning Handicapped program and with pre-k to high school age students.    Anna also worked with the elderly population in a skilled nursing facility.

Anna believes that the most valuable experience she has had is that of being a mother.  Her three children have given her the opportunity of parenting children with widely different learning styles and challenges.  Having a child with special needs gives a perspective and empathy for other parents which is never taught in any university program.

Anna’s favorite areas of interest are in bilingual language development and the communication challenges for children with autism spectrum disorder.

The Early Start program offers an opportunity to help families obtain early intervention services for their children during a time of rapid growth in an infant and toddler’s life.  Anna loves being able to work with a dedicated team of professionals who bring a wide range of knowledge and talent to help and encourage families with the most difficult job in the world-parenting!  This age group allows her to see the wonders of life through the eyes of a child.

Paloma Lule


Paloma is a graduate from California State University of Bakersfield with a bachelor’s degree in Child, Adolescent and Family Studies and a minor in Sociology.

Paloma is the Lead Program Specialist, and after studying child development, Paloma found her passion working with children. She spent 4 years working as a tutor with CSUB and Foster Children Safe Haven before starting at Ascension Center.

Paloma oversees the day-to-day work of ABA Services at Ascension Center. From the initial client interactions to the development of client individualized programs through assessments, to schedule planning. Paloma is also responsible for ensuring our clients continue to receive the essential services they need. She sets out to learn as much as she can with the goal of creating positive client experiences.

Ascension Center offers applied behavior analysis services to children with ASD or intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is fulfilling to work with our amazing staff to help the clients we serve reach new milestones.

Luz Muñoz

BA, Early Start Specialist

Coming Soon

Katherine Pacheco

BA Program Specialist

Coming Soon

Gloria Diaz

BA Program Specialist

Coming Soon

Otilia Perez


Coming Soon

Elmer Guzman


Coming Soon

Celia Steward

Program Manager

Coming Soon

Princess Taylor

Program Manager

Coming Soon

Melissa Lopez

BA Speech Language Assistant

Melissa is a California State University of Bakersfield graduate. She received her bachelor’s in English Language and a minor in Children Adolescent and Family Studies. Melissa was originally going to teach English as a second language abroad, but was then introduced to the world of speech-language pathology. She is currently attending California State University of San Marcos completing her last prerequisites before attending graduate school where she will earn a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. 

As a previous Behavior Technician, Melissa gained experience working with children with Autism and adults with special needs. Additionally, she spent four years working in Special Education classes at different school districts before starting at Ascension Center. Melissa enjoys working with children and being able to make a positive impact in their lives. She hopes to be able to provide a space where children can happily develop and grow.

Vanessa Kurfess


Vanessa is a graduate from California State University, Bakersfield. She got her Bachelor’s of Science (BSN) degree in physical education and Kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science in 2016.  In 2019,  she got accepted to South College’s accelerated BSN program in Nashville, TN. In 2020, she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree. 

After obtaining her BSN degree she started working as a school nurse part-time at Christian Elementary School in El Cajon, CA. In 2021 she went on to work as an RN in the emergency department at Kern Medical Hospital in Bakersfield, CA. 

Vanessa is one of our registered nurses working as an early start clinician at Ascension Center. She performs early start assessments for our infants and toddlers. She conducts the health summaries, hearing and vision screenings, and self-help portions of the early start assessments.

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