Talented, hard-working, dedicated, caring — these are just a few of the rock-solid qualities the people of 826 possess.
Raúl J. Alcantar, Programs Coordinator, is a Bay Area transplant originally from Los Angeles. He began working with 826 in the fall of 2010 through the BAYAC AmeriCorps program. Raúl earned his degree in American Studies with a concentration on education and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has years of hands-on experience working with youth development and social justice programs. He enjoys cooking and being active in his community.
Emilie Coulson, Director of Education, was an 826 volunteer for two years before joining our staff in the fall of 2008. She has worked with English language learners of all ages and in many locations, including the Wisconsin Migrant Education Project, the Farnham Writers’ Center, and the Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education Center. She graduated from Colby College with a BA in English, and has published poetry and co-written a musical, Victory Farm, that takes place in her hometown in Wisconsin.
Jorge Eduardo Garcia, Programs Director, commutes from Oakland by swimming the cold waters of the bay with a swimmer’s satchel full of oranges. Besides addressing scurvy in the pirate community of the Oakland/San Francisco maritime channel, he has spent fourteen years working as an organizer, educator, teacher, case manager, advocate and mentor to Oakland youth of all ages. His BA in Sociology was earned at Claremont McKenna College, and his DJ title in backyards, ballrooms, and cafes from LA to the Bay. He tinkers, laughs, and volunteers at the EastSide Arts Alliance, an Oakland cultural arts center and performance space of which he is a founding member.
Olivia White Lopez, Pirate Store Manager, hails from central Florida, a land of oppressive heat, mangrove trees, and manatees. Following an illustrious career as the sometimes-anchorwoman, sometimes-weatherwoman and sometimes-camerawoman for her elementary school’s morning show, WHAM! (What’s Happening at Miles), Olivia pursued the all-at-onceness of her multiple identities as an undergraduate student of Studio Art and Anthropology/Sociology at Agnes Scott College. Prior to her current role managing the sales of wholesome pirate wares, she volunteered and interned with 826. She has also previously served as a Dalton Gallery Fellow and the student chair of the metro-Atlanta undergraduate arts symposium, Collage. Also (this one time) she lived in a nunnery.
María Inés Montes, Design Director, has a BFA in graphic design from California College of the Arts and nearly ten years of experience working for various advertising and design firms. Before coming to 826, she was the Art Director at Carol H. Williams Advertising in Oakland, where she directed mail campaigns, promotional materials, signage, and web sites.
Molly Parent, Programs Assistant, has been involved with 826 since 2009, as an intern and as a volunteer before joining the staff in 2012. She graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Literature/Writing. Previously, Molly has co-owned a food co-op, spent summers devising elaborate twists on capture-the-flag in the forests of New Hampshire, and taught babies how to swim. When not at 826, she can usually be found organizing literary events, dreaming up and executing the perfect day-trip, or gesturing wildly about books over tacos.
Miranda Tsang, Communications Manager, is a San Francisco native who earned her BA in English and Sociology/Anthropology with a focus in creative writing at Middlebury College. If you’re wondering where she went to high school, it was St. Ignatius College Preparatory. Miranda has helped out at a marketing company in Madrid, attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for poetry, and archived oral histories for the Vermont Folklife Center. She plays (non-gambling) mahjong and makes weird food in her spare time. Miranda started at 826 Valencia as an intern in 2008.
Board of Directors
Michael Beckwith, Treasurer, is a principal at Maverick Capital, a global investment firm founded in 1993, where he is the Sector Head overseeing the firm’s global industrial and energy investments. Michael rejoined Maverick in 2009 after serving as General Partner of Sequoia Capital, LLP. Michael originally joined Maverick in 2004 after serving as a Senior Vice President at Andor Capital Management and having worked at Robertson Stephens in equity research. Prior to working in the investment world, Michael was the associate director of the Summerbridge AmeriCorps Teaching Program – a federally-funded program that was part of Summerbridge National (re-named Breakthrough Collaborative). Michael received a B.A. from Middlebury College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Michael is currently a Board Member at Central Montana Resources, a privately-held natural resources company.
Barb Bersche is a partner and former president of McSweeney’s Publishing. She’s also a founding board member of both 826 Valencia and the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation. On her own time, Barb is a designer (with a Grammy-nominated box set called Alan Lomax in Haiti), a New York Times best-selling children’s book author, as well as a consultant to other creative agencies and nonprofits. She’s also a member of the Marin County Search and Rescue/Mountain Rescue team.
Thomas Mike, President, co-founded TriSpan Partners in 2006 after spending two years at WR Hambrecht + Co where he was a Senior Vice President in the Technology Banking Group. Prior to joining WR Hambrecht + Co in 2004, Thomas was a Vice President in the Systems Banking Group at SoundView Technology Group, a technology focused investment bank that was acquired by Charles Schwab & Co. Prior to SoundView, Thomas was an Associate at Wit Capital, an investment bank that went public in 1999 and ultimately merged with SoundView Technology Group. Before joining Wit Capital, Thomas was a Corporate Finance Analyst at Salomon Smith Barney focused on the Educational Services sector. Thomas holds an AB degree in Economics from Harvard University.
Olive Mitra came to the United States from Calcutta, India and grew up in western New York where he began to develop a love for music, art, theater and literature. After attending Oberlin College and then receiving a MA in Poetry from the University of Rochester, Olive came out to San Francisco to be a musician. Olive plays extensively throughout the Bay Area with several bands and has composed scores for short films, silent films, and an original musical, along with music directing for Killing My Lobster and playing with the Shotgun Players. In 2004, he received his teaching credential and a Masters in Teaching from the New College of California. He currently works at the June Jordan School for Equity, a revolutionary public school in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood teaching English literature, economics, and creative writing. In 2006, responding to a lack of arts instruction at the school, Olive cofounded the June Jordan School for Equity arts program. In the spring of 2011, Olive was the collaborating teacher with 826 Valencia’s Young Authors’ Book Project and is currently piloting a creative writing course in conjunction with 826 Valencia.
Abner Morales, Interim Executive Director, was born in Antigua, Guatemala and grew up in Los Angeles. After graduating from Portland State University with an English BA, Abner worked as an assistant to the Migrant Education Program of Oregon. He has served as a Spanish-English interpreter for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and in legal clinics provided by the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the San Francisco Bar Association. Since signing up in 2002, Abner has played every possible volunteer role, including translator, tutor, and events team member. Abner has also been a long-time volunteer orientation leader helping hundreds of volunteers feel welcome in the 826 community. He has been at the heart of the Straight-Up News, our student newspaper at Everett Middle School, since 2007 and offers Spanish and English editorial assistance to the students.
Andrew Strickman, Secretary, a volunteer at 826 since the beginning in 2002, has worn nearly every hat at the organization as a deck-swabber in the early days when the roof would leak, as a teacher of workshops on critical writing and persuasion, as a fundraiser and founding member of the 826 development committee, and as a point person for the Sunday drop-in tutoring program for eight years. When he’s not at 826, Andrew leads brand, creative and editorial for Move, Inc, home to Realtor.com. Previously, he led Yahoo!’s award-winning global experiential marketing team, after spending eight years as a partner at Ammo Marketing. Pre-marketing career, Andrew was an award-winning entertainment and pop culture journalist for such publications as Rolling Stone, Details, The Village Voice, and many others.
Vendela Vida is a workshop teacher at 826 Valencia. She received her MFA in writing from Columbia University, and she is the author of The Lovers, Girls on the Verge, And Now You Can Go, and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Vendela founded the award-winning Believer magazine, and she co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film Away We Go.
826 Valencia Co-Founders
Nínive Calegari is a veteran public school teacher and served as the Executive Director of 826 Valencia until 2007 and the CEO of 826 National until 2010. Before teaching in her family’s hometown in Mexico, Nínive worked at Leadership High School, San Francisco’s first charter school, where she also served on the Board of Directors. She holds a Masters of Education in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Nínive, along with two co-authors, published Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers. In 2007, Nínive was awarded the ‘Daring Dozen’ award from the George Lucas Foundation, recognizing her for effective work in education. Nínive also founded and serves as president of The Teacher Salary Project, a nonprofit designed to build the political will necessary to transform how US society values effective teachers.
Dave Eggers is the author of seven books including A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and most recently A Hologram for the King. He is the editor of McSweeney’s and the Voice of Witness series, which is designed to illuminate contemporary human rights crises through oral history. He has co-written two screenplays: 2009′s Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go. He was named one of TIME Magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People in 2005, and received the 2007 Heinz Award and the 2008 TED prize. His book Zeitoun received the 2010 American Book Award, and A Hologram for the King was named one of the ten best books of 2012 by The New York Times.
The staff at 826 Valencia is small compared to the output. There’s absolutely no way we could create hundreds of publications and serve thousands of students annually without a legion of volunteers. This group of superstars works in all realms, from tutoring to fundraising and beyond. They range in age, background, and expertise but all have a shared passion for our work with young people. Here is a sampling of profiles from some of our true-blue regulars.
Jon Adams is a freelance illustrator, designer, and writer who prefers making stuff to sleeping. He’s the creator of Truth Serum – the Eisner-nominated series of graphic novels and a weekly comic which you can read at citycyclops.com. He’s also done work for clients like Wired, McSweeney’s, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out his portfolio at hisportfolio.com
Candace Chen began volunteering at 826 Valencia during the summer of 2005 and has been an after-school tutor on Tuesdays for several years. Her favorite subject to tutor is math and she loves rereading her favorite books from childhood with the kids. She is finishing a PhD in history at University of California, Berkeley, and she enjoys baking, crafts, and music.
Burt Meyer is an after-school and summer program volunteer, and was wondering what he would do when he retired from a career as an attorney. Since his mother always wanted him to be a teacher and he had helped two daughters with their homework, he jumped at the opportunity to join 826 as a volunteer in 2004. It was a wise choice and has been a wonderful experience. However, since the last math class Burt took was in 1957, he has some difficulty tutoring fifth grade and above in math. On the brighter side this deficiency has enabled him to meet and converse with the many talented younger tutors who do understand math. Together with the students, Burt is developing a knowledge of math and other contemporary school subjects.
Risa Nye is a Bay Area native. Risa has a Master’s in counseling from the University of California at Berkeley, which she managed to get while raising two small children and producing a third. She is the proud co-editor of Writin’ on Empty: Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything in Between When Children Leave the Nest, which, for one brief, shining week, made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bay Area Best Sellers list. Her granddaughter, Madeleine, is the best grandchild ever.
Amie E. Nenninger loves reading, writing, and problem solving, and she puts these skills to use daily as an educational and developmental tutor and 826 volunteer. Amie graduated from the University of Illinois, spent a year volunteering in schools with AmeriCorps, and studied Australian literature as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has been at 826 Valencia since the days when Karl was king, and she enjoys training junior detectives and spreading the good work of 826 to far-flung states across the nation.
Soraya Okuda first got involved with 826 when she was graduating high school, as an intern in the summer of 2009. 826′s unique model of helping kids with literacy/writing/general creativity somehow appealed to a great majority of her interests. She is a full-time student and part-time pirate store representative, and she will cheerfully sell you sand. She loves long walks on the beach, lemons, learning, helping children and senior citizens, and all things 826. Her goal in life is to be a happy, motorcycle-riding, adorable old lady (preferably with teeth).
Tim Ratanapreukskul was born in Los Angeles but has led a multi-regional lifestyle since high school. When Tim was a teenager, he lived and studied in Japan, and went on to live in various parts of the East Coast. The promise of higher education brought him to the Rhode Island School of Design where he studied apparel and graphic design in his undergrad and architecture for his master’s degree. Although Tim is artistically inclined, he has admittedly terrible taste in music. About a year ago, Tim came to San Francisco’s Mission district for the sunshine, but since then has discovered so much more to love about the neighborhood: free yoga, homemade bikes, mandated composting and recycling, cheap Mexican food, the Muni’s J-line, and 826 Valencia.
Karen Wagstaffe is a big fan of 826 Valencia and of all the amazing people who work and volunteer here. Recently semi-retired from her days as the stay-at-home mom of Michael, Emily, Matthew, and Megan, and happily adjusting to an empty nest, she also has a faint recollection of having been a lawyer a couple of decades ago. She has served a stint or two as Mrs. Blue, and since 2005 has come in on Mondays to help Leigh and the other folks in the back office with just about anything.