About Us

PALS Leadership Team

Otieno Okatch, M.A.

President and Executive Director
Mr. Otieno Jafri Okatch serves as the President and Executive Director of PALS, Inc. and has over 30 years of experience within the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mr. Okatch received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and holds Master's degrees from UCLA and Pepperdine University, including an Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Psychology. Mr. Okatch is currently a Dean’s Cabinet Member for the Division of Social Sciences, UC Santa Barbara and meets twice yearly with the Chancellor, the Division Dean and other key stakeholders in an advisory capacity, on improvements to the social science education.

Mr. Okatch began his career working for Work Training Program, Inc. (now PathPoint) in Santa Barbara and went on to work as a behavioral therapist under supervision, as well as a therapist for foster family agency, the Institute for Black Parenting. Over the past 20 years, he has operated residential homes and adult day care programs as the founder of the PALS agency. Otieno is an Ambassador and a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and has been named by Forbes Magazine in 2022 as one the “Next 1000” business entrepreneurs bringing vision and change to their fields. Mr. Okatch is fond of saying that he is a "professional caregiver" and takes tremendous pride in caring for others.

Christina Buth-Okatch, B.A.

V.P. & Director of Operations
Christina Buth-Okatch serves as Vice-President and Director of Operations for PALS, Inc. She has provided 16 years of service for people with intellectual developmental disabilities in residential, school, and day program settings. Previously, she attended and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching from the California State University of Long Beach. During Christina's association with teaching, she has been given opportunities to teach students with low academic performance. In addition, she supported and connected families with community resources (Section 8, Cal Fresh, free childcare/afterschool, WIC, and parent training classes) in underserved communities.  

Ms. Buth-Okatch has extensive knowledge in curriculum development, cultural recognition, and needs assessment for at-risk students. She uses her teaching experience along with Person-Centered practices to oversee program development at PALS, Inc. She is a certified Instructor for Crisis Prevention Intervention, Specialized Trauma Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (CPI), and First Aid/CPR for Children /Adults.

Currently, Christina Buth-Okatch is completing her coursework on becoming a Person-Centered Trainer, Facilitator, and Planner. She is bilingual in English and Khmer languages.

Gloria Gallegos

Program Director
Ms. Gloria Gallegos is an experienced Program Director with 20 years of working experience in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. She started as a Direct Care Support in residential and day services setting (WAP, SLS, ILS, TDS, and BMP). She was promoted from Direct Care Staff Support to Program Manager and is now Program Director for PALS EL Monte Behavior Management Day Program.

Ms. Gloria Gallegos has extensive knowledge and insight into day program services. She is a skilled, certified trainer in both emergency intervention techniques through the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and First Aid/CPR. She is fluently bilingual in English and Spanish..

Aaron Vindel

Program Director
Mr. Aaron Vindel serves as the Program Director of PALS Behavior Management Day Program in Downey, California. He has over 17 years of experience in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Mr. Vindel started working in this field as an Instruction Assistant for Autism services in a school setting to a Behavior Specialist for adults with psychiatric support at College Hospital and currently directing PALS Downey Program. He has had great success in collaborating with agencies to transition adults from treatment centers to community life.

Arnold Hernandez, M.A.

Program Director
Mr. Arnold Hernandez serves as the Program Director of PALS Santa Barbara Autism Center. He has over 18 years of experience in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the California State University of Northridge. Once completing his undergraduate, Arnold was Acting Director of Behavior Services, where he supervised the implementation of Applied Behavioral Analyst, Adaptive Adapt Skill Training, and social skills training in residential treatment centers. He worked closely with agencies to transition people from the residential treatment center and/or the Development Centers to community living. Furthering his education, Mr. Hernandez attended the National University, where he received a Master of Art in Teaching with an emphasis on Applied Behavior Analysis. 

Currently, he is completing his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Capella University. He has extensive experience in conducting functional assessments, formulating behavioral support plans/protocols, and providing behavior modification training for people (individuals and families) in a variety of work settings. 

Mr. Hernandez is fluent in English and Spanish languages. 

Crystal Ngai

Program Director
Crystal Ngai is a seasoned professional and has a broad set of skills working with adults with both mild and serious behavioral challenges.

Ashmini "Ash" Galardi, MA

Program Director
Ashmini Galardi is an accomplished professional who holds a Master of Arts degree from Pepperdine University and has nearly two decades of experience working with adults and children in various demanding settings.