60.9 F
Laguna Hills
Saturday, Jun 15, 2024

Guita Sharifi Learned From Challenges Faced in Iran

Guita Sharifi fled from Iran shortly before the 1979 revolution, eventually receiving a doctorate in Chicago and now managing finances for a public charter school network.

She has held various professional positions, including chief financial officer at the Alzheimer’s Family Services Center in Huntington Beach, director of finance-national at Saratech in Lake Forest and CFO at Western Youth Services in Laguna Hills.

Sharifi joined Lifelong Learning Administration, a Lancaster-based nonprofit that manages charter schools across the U.S., in October 2019 after serving in the healthcare field, including the CFO spot at Radiant Health Centers in Irvine.

Radiant Health was formerly known as the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County when she joined the organization as CFO in 2016.

The Trabuco Canyon resident was honored at the Business Journal’s CFO Lifetime Achievement Award on May 9 at the Irvine Marriott before a crowd of about 600.
Sharifi handles a half-billion-dollar budget for Lifelong Learning Administration.

“We help set them up and run them,” she told the Business Journal the day after winning the award.

The schools are independently operated with their own board of directors.

Lifelong Learning Administration provides educational and administrative services to the Learn4Life network of public charter schools, and has a consolidated portfolio of 3,000 employees. Sharifi said her organization manages over 110 schools.

“I report to 28 board of director meetings eight times a year,” she said, adding that the schools are independently run.

Irvine Finances

“The majority of my finance people are in Irvine,” Sharifi said.

She added that the majority of the schools are in California, though the company has been branching out to other states.

“California is not a very charter-friendly state,” according to Sharifi.

Lifelong Learning has added schools in Ohio, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Texas. It added a new private school shortly before the pandemic.

Sharifi has a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. from The Chicago School. She also holds an Internal Revenue Service Enrolled Agent license, which gives her unlimited practice rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

Sharifi won the nonprofit award at the Business Journal’s 12th annual CFO of the Year event in 2019.

Lifelong Learning is the second-largest nonprofit educational services organization in the nation, the company says on its website. The organization says it “offers a comprehensive suite of administrative services so that educators can focus on their students.”

Iranian Unrest

Sharifi’s long journey took her from Iran to schooling in Switzerland, a stay in the U.K. and then Orange County, along with other stops along the way.

“I left Iran with my family a week before the 1979 revolution, due to unrest in Iran at the time, lived in London and attended American Community School in Wimbledon,” she said.

After the Shah of Iran fell, an Islamic theocracy took over the government, spurring millions to leave the country.

Sharifi later returned to Iran but after finishing high school there, she was initially banned from exiting again.

She later made her way out through Turkey and Switzerland to reach the U.S., with the help of a student visa. Her father insisted on her going to the U.S.

“Given I lived through the unrest in Iran, during the Iran and Iraq war (of the 1980s) studying under no electricity, constant sirens, I learned from the challenges, and became stronger to accept change and use the situation as opportunities to be a better individual,” she told the Business Journal.

Iran, Women

Sharifi has taken part in various actions and movements seeking regime change in Iran.
Some of them have rallied around the name of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman who died in 2022, presumably at the hands of the regime. Her death sparked worldwide protests.

Sharifi credited the grassroots work with the U.S. Congress’ passage of various bills upping the pressure on Iran, including the Mahsa Amini Human Rights and Security Accountability Act.

“I also lecture on educational awareness for the international community on Iran’s future foreign investment opportunities and its economy potential,” she told the Business Journal.

For the past two years, she’s been meeting with senators and congressmen, going to protests and working to bring awareness to pass the measures into law.

“I have been advocating for the past two years with other grassroot activists under the name of ‘Mahsa Army’ for the first female-led revolution for freedom and democracy in Iran, where I am originally from,” according to the award-winning Lifelong Learning CFO.

Sharifi said the aim is “maximum pressure” on the regime and “maximum support” for the Iranian people.

Want more from the best local business newspaper in the country?

Sign-up for our FREE Daily eNews update to get the latest Orange County news delivered right to your inbox!

Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

Featured Articles


Related Articles