Talented, hard-working, dedicated, caring — these are just a few of the rock-solid qualities the people of 826 possess.
Bita Nazarian, Executive Director, earned both her B.A. in English literature and her M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley. She has been an educator in the San Francisco Unified School District for eighteen years, serving as a Peer Resources Coordinator, English teacher and department head, instructional coach, assistant principal, and principal. She currently supports new school administrators by facilitating a class for UC Berkeley’s Leadership Support Program. Bita fell in love with 826 when the organization established its first Writers’ Room at Everett Middle School in 2003. As a teacher committed to meeting the needs of the 150 eighth graders who walked into her room every day, she was blown away by the kind and skilled volunteers who nudged, wooed, enchanted, and challenged her students to be better writers. Knowing that every teacher deserves this bounty of support, she rallied to establish a second Writers’ Room at James Lick Middle School, a school that made significant gains during her leadership. Along with her work with 826 at nearby middle schools, Bita joined 826 Valencia’s Board of Directors in 2006 and served on the board for five years, three of them as Board President. Inspired by all of our student publications, she has begun to craft a mental novel with the snippets of conversations she hears on her walk to work. She is honored to be a part of such a creative and impactful organization.
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.
Lauren Hall, Grants and Evaluations Director, began working at 826 in 2005 and she’s held positions in both student programming and development, at both the flagship center on Valencia Street and at the National office during its founding in 2008. She feels lucky to have grown up in the south, where she earned a B.A. in American Studies from Hendrix College in Arkansas. Before moving to San Francisco, she worked with a nonprofit in Little Rock called The Women’s Project where she coordinated a program for young women focusing on self-sufficiency and creative expression and began cultivating her affinity for grant writing and fundraising. Her writing about community organizing has been published in the Journal of Social Policy and Lessons from the Field: Organizing in Rural Communities. Lauren is the editor of 826’s I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live and she is an avid San Francisco Bay sailor.
Allyson Halpern, Development Director, a native New Englander, is wicked psyched to be 826 Valencia’s new Development Director (as of summer 2014). A career fundraiser, most recently she held that post at Children’s Council of San Francisco, where she was responsible for jump-starting its new development program. Allyson has an undergrad degree in writing and a graduate degree in nonprofit management, both from Carnegie Mellon, where she also taught business writing to actors, artists and musicians. When not at 826, you can find her hanging with her husband, two daughters and black Lab Angus, serving on the Board of the After School Enrichment Program, strolling the city or playing Scrabble on her phone. A philanthropy geek, she is passionate about making a difference, and is thrilled to be part of a team that sets the standard for wit, style and impact in our community.
Caroline Kangas, Pirate Store Manager, was drawn to 826 Valencia and San Francisco from a different kind of gray in her hometown of Seattle. Here she still spends a lot of time in coffee shops, wears a lot of layers, and talks about the weather more than is really necessary. The University of San Francisco built upon her foundation of life experiences to create a well-educated person who loves to chat about community gardens, Borges, summer camp, thrifting for the color pink, travel, french bulldogs, Sarah Ruhl, leftovers, and fierce lady pirates. Or anything, really.
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 Manager, 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.
Emma Peoples, Programs Assistant, is an East Bay native. She left the Bay Area briefly to go to college and do a bit of traveling, but could not stay away for long. After receiving a degree in Theoretical Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz in 2013 she returned to teach math at a high school in Richmond and intern at 826 Valencia, where she is thrilled to stay on for another year. When she isn’t working with students, she can often be found taking pictures or brushing up on her (now rusty) Italian.
Christina Villaseñor Perry, Programs Director, hails from the sunny South Bay. She ventured east for college, where she studied Social Anthropology at Harvard University. Seeking a more agreeable clime, Christina began her career as a Special Educator in Los Angeles and earned her M.A. in Special Education. She then taught at Everett Middle School in San Francisco for five years. Christina recently enjoyed a trip to the Caribbean shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, where she swam alongside whale sharks, witnessed nesting sea turtles in the moonlight, and mingled with iguanas amidst Mayan ruins. She is thrilled to be aboard 826 Valencia, while continuing her involvement in local public schools.
Amy Popovich, Production Coordinator, was raised in Northern California and studied at UC Santa Barbara before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. Before joining the design staff at 826, Amy volunteered as a writing tutor beginning in 2009, and as a designer in 2013. She has worked for a variety of publishing ventures, most recently running the production department at Night Shade Books, where she faithfully delivered Science Fiction and Fantasy to the masses on a monthly basis. When she’s not making books, you can usually find her at Mission Yoga, where she manages The Sun Room and trains at Quantum Martial Arts.
Claudia Sanchez, Programs Coordinator, is completely in love with San Francisco, hills and all. She grew up in the city’s Tenderloin district and wanders around on foot in practically every neighborhood with a camera in hand — just in case she finds a stellar view. In 2012 she earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley in Media Studies and Sociology and has been working in various Bay Area schools ever since. Though her life is not yet fully planned out, she hopes to pursue a Masters in Business or Public Administration in the (somewhat) distant future. Claudia started her voyage with 826 as an intern in the fall of 2013 and will now be serving as a Programs Coordinator, focusing on 826 Valencia’s Field Trip Program and corporate volunteer engagement.
Ashley Varady, Program Manager, was lucky enough to have born in the Bay Area, where she grew up searching for lost pirate treasure. She left to explore life back east, graduating from Middlebury College, and then earning her Masters of Science of Teaching in New York City. After two years, she returned to San Francisco, home of the luckiest pirates of them all. She spent six years teaching reading and writing at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy, where she also developed curriculum, coached teachers, and invented a robot to grade student essays. Since returning to the city by the Bay, she has enjoyed tasting her way through the delicious culinary options San Francisco has to offer, and going on expeditions to explore the land and sea. She is thrilled to be coming aboard the 826 Valencia pirate ship, where she hopes to continue helping young writers find their voice.
Olivia White Lopez, Volunteer and Intern Engagement 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, she managed the sales of wholesome pirate wares at our very own Pirate Supply Store, and 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.
Americorps support staff through summer 2015
Alyssa Aninag, Volunteer Engagement Associate, AmeriCorps VISTA , grew up in the Asparagus Capital of the World, Stockton, California. She traded the Central Valley heat for San Diego’s surf and sun where she attended the University of San Diego and graduated with degrees in English Literature and Communication Studies. She is currently an MFA graduate student at the University of San Francisco working on a collection of short stories. Prior to her current role, she worked as a volunteer at 826. When not at 826 Valencia, Alyssa can be found writing, reading, or running to prepare for her next marathon. She is so excited to be part of the 826 Valencia family where she hopes to share her love of the literary arts with young writers who write to find their voice and are motivated by the uniquely empowering knowledge that they are heard.
Pablo Baeza, Programs Assistant, AmeriCorps, was born approximately 130 kilometers too far from the Pacific Ocean, in Santiago, Chile. Over the course of a young lifetime, his family set sail on a maiden voyage to Maryland, where, as a young scout, he learned to love rivers and bays. After a year of studying poetry in Brooklyn, Pablo went on to pursue a BA in Urban Studies at Pitzer College and many years of neighborhood and community organizing in various parts of North America, working with community gardens, transportation advocacy organizations, and environmental justice groups. He joins the staff as a one-year AmeriCorps Member.
Desta Lissanu, Programs Assistant, AmeriCorps, grew up in the tiny
town village of Somerset, Kentucky. She ventured up north to attend school at Harvard University, where she graduated with a degree in African and African-American Studies. Before joining the staff for a one-year term as an AmeriCorps Member, Desta taught English to a bunch of hyper/energetic/enthusiastic 9th graders in the Bronx in New York City. When she’s away from the office, you’ll probably find her running, baking, Netflix-ing, or attempting overly complicated DIY projects.
Amanda Loo, Development Associate, AmeriCorps VISTA, is proud to be Bay Area born and bred. Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2012 with a degree in American Studies, she has moonlighted in a variety of roles, including (but not limited to), gourmet ice cream scooper, corporate legal assistant, graduate student, and creative writing tutor. She joined 826 in the Spring of 2014 as a Volunteer Coordination Intern and is incredibly excited to be staying on to support the Development team with fundraising and grant writing for a one-year AmeriCorps VISTA term.
Board of Directors
Eric Abrams is Diversity Director at University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Born in Berkeley, Abrams spent his childhood in the Bay Area and Chicago before matriculating at Stanford, where he majored in political science and drama and served on the student senate as well as acting in and directing a number of student theatrical productions. As a graduate student at UCLA, Abrams studied political science, as well as being elected Secretary of the Black Graduate Student Association. He has served as Director of Admissions at Pitzer College, Berkeley Law, and the Stanford MBA Admission Office, where he worked to increase diversity and enrollment of traditionally underrepresented groups. Abrams has led workshops on topics such as public speaking for admissions professionals, outreach to students from underrepresented communities, and working with student groups, and he is member of the Finalist Selection Committee for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Program. Eric lives in Oakland with his wife and two teenage sons. He is a huge sports fan, a beginning motorcyclist, and an avid barbecue pitmaster.
Joya Banerjee is a Program Officer at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, a private family foundation based in San Francisco, where she oversees a grant portfolio that advances the sustainable management of California’s water resources. Prior to joining the foundation, Joya was an attorney at Latham & Watkins and worked for the New York City Mayor’s Office. Joya graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and she received a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School. She lives in San Francisco.
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 JD 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 the former president of McSweeney’s Publishing, as well as a founding board member of 826 Valencia and the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation. On her own time, Barb has been a designer (with a Grammy-nominated box set called Alan Lomax in Haiti), and a New York Times best-selling children’s book author, as well as a consultant to other creative agencies and nonprofits. She is also a member of the Marin County Search and Rescue/Mountain Rescue team.
Jim Lesser is one of the few Executive Creative Directors in the advertising industry who is the President and CEO of a major agency network office. In the fourteen years he’s been at BBDO San Francisco the office has gone from five people to winning gold at Cannes and the Effies in the same year. He has worked with some of the world’s best brands from Target to Chrysler to Bank of America. He began his career as the receptionist in a New York agency before being promoted to copywriter. As a result he always believes that a great idea can and often will come from anywhere. Especially the new receptionist. Jim has served on the Boards of BBDO New York and Dwell Magazine. He spends as much time as possible in the mountains hiking with his wife and two sons.
Matt Middlebrook, President, is Senior Vice President for Development with the Los Angeles-based retail developer Caruso Affiliated. In his role, Matt oversees all new development projects for the company from acquisition to the start of construction. Matt joined Caruso Affiliated in 2004 overseeing government relation and communications strategies in seeking approvals for new development projects before taking over as head of development earlier this year. Previously Matt served as a political and communications strategist, working closely with elected and corporate leaders including United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, whom he served for many years both as a campaign and Senate aide, including as her Deputy State Director. Following his tenure with Feinstein, Matt became a campaign consultant and among other campaigns, he managed Jim Hahn’s successful election as Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001. Matt served as a Deputy Mayor in Los Angeles from 2001-2003 before returning to San Francisco. Upon returning to the Bay Area, Matt became a Senior Vice President with the international public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, leading the Bay Area’s public affairs group. Matt graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Science.
Dave Pell spends the first half of each day writing the NextDraft newsletter and iOS app where he covers the day’s most fascinating news. The newsletter is syndicated by Time. During the second half of his day, he is the managing partner of Arba Group, a family-owned company that invests in early stage Internet startups. Dave has deep experience in education, having taught high school in Brooklyn and Boston. He has degrees from UC Berkeley and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dave lives in Marin with his wife and two young children, Herschel and Octavia.
Han Phung is an educator, collaborator, and equity-focused advocate for our public school system. As a second-language-learner and refugee from Vietnam, she viewed her own schooling as both a safe haven and an opportunity pathway. That is the essence of why she does this work: to provide a safe and productive climate so that we can increase equitable learning opportunities for students. During fifteen years of working in urban school districts, her experience has spanned multiple levels from middle school students to adult learners, including two years as a leadership coach and facilitator, seven years as a high- and middle-school administrator, and six years teaching grades 6–12. Han received a B.A. In English Literature from Bowdoin College and M.A. In Education from UC Berkeley.
Meg Ray is the owner of Miette Patisserie and a tutor in the 826 after-school program. She grew up on Whidbey Island where her childhood was spent baking and reading books. She founded Miette in 2001 to pursue her love of pastry and her devotion to the literary arts led her to 826 Valencia. She is the author of the best-selling cookbook named after her bakery. She also a member of the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary, a fundraising group that nets over one million dollars a year to the ballet. She lives in Oakland.
Andrew Strickman, Secretary, leads Brand and Creative Services at Move, Inc., home to Realtor.com, one of the top real estate sites on the Web. Prior to Move, Andrew headed Yahoo!’s award-winning global experiential marketing team, creating rich opportunities for consumers to experience the Yahoo! brand in the offline world. Andrew spent eight years as a partner at Ammo Marketing (acquired in 2006 by London-based Aegis Media). At Ammo—The Original Influencer Marketing Agency—Andrew led the development of creative word-of-mouth program strategy for clients like Brown-Forman, Volvo, Philips, AT&T, Blurb, Method Home and Miller Brewing. Pre-marketing career, Andrew spent more than fifteen years as an award-winning entertainment and pop culture journalist for such publications as Rolling Stone, Details, The Village Voice and many others. During ten years of volunteering at 826 Valencia, Andrew has worn nearly every hat at the writing center—he was a deck-swabber in the early days when the roof would leak, he taught workshops on critical writing and persuasion, he was a fundraiser and founding member of the 826 development committee, and most importantly, Andrew co-led the drop-in tutoring program on Sundays for eight years.
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 novels The Lovers, 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, directed by Sam Mendes.
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, 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 members of 826 Valencia’s Shipmates Society are some of our most committed sponsors. We’d like to extend a gigantic, heartfelt thank you to those of you who have donated funds to support 826 Valencia’s programs. Your support will help us make a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of young San Franciscans this year.
We strive for accuracy in our listings. Please email us at email@example.com if your information is incorrect. This list reflects gifts of $100 or more, from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
For more information on joining the Shipmates Society, check out our membership page.
Louise P. Atcheson Trust
Michael & Kirsten Beckwith
Art Berliner & Marian Lever
Warren Breslau & Frances Hellman
Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida
Lee & Russ Flynn
George & Pamela Hamel
Daniel Handler & Lisa Brown
Michael Moritz & Harriet Heyman
Dave & Gina Pell
Michael & Shauna Stark
Jeff & Laurie Ubben
Karen & Jim Wagstaffe
Martha Conway & Richard Frankel
Gina Falsetto & Warren Brown
Gail & Ian Jardine
Jeffrey & Jeri Lynn Johnson
Shalini & Kamini Malhotra
Matt Middlebrook & Lisa Presta
Sunil Paul & Mera Granberg
Lee & Perry Smith
Andrew Strickman & Michal Ettinger
Joya Banerjee & Harris Cohen
Meryl & James Bennan
Michael Bien & Jane Kahn
Miguel De Avila & Maria Jesus Morga
Carol Francis & Steve Chapman
Ajay & Nita Godhwani
Jennie & Vincent Golde
Joe & Barbara Gurkoff
Paul Haahr & Susan Karp
John & Marsha Hall in Memory of Brian Hall
Shepard & Melissa Harris
N & K Hawley
John Herschend & Marleen Schroder Herschend
Derek & Pamela Howard
Liz Hume & Jay Jacobs
Melind Joseph John/Josuma Coffee Co.
Jim & Patricia Lesser
Anne & Jorge Lopez
Ivan & Maris Meyerson
Isabel Duffy Pinner
Merle & Leslie Rabine
Matthew Rivitz & Blythe Lang
Marjorie & Barry Traub
Ellen Laguerta Uy
Tim Wirth & Anne Stuhldreher
Rick & Nicole Wolfgram
Deborah Yeh & Mark Risher
Jason & Emily Cheng
Ronald Elving in Honor of Dillon Babington
Irving & Florence Hochman Memorial
Campbell Judge & Kimberly Ellis
Mina & Seth Kenvin
Michael S. Kwun & Sigrid Anderson Kwun
Helaine & Rudy Melnitzer
Katrina & Tim Morshead
Bruce & Risa Nye
Ike & Zohreh Okuda
Alexandra Quinn & Mark Spolyar
Marcia Rodgers & Garrett Loube
Jacqueline Stark & Scott Botterman
Alyson Van Hardenberg
Peter & Lisa Westley
Gerald Ambinder & Audrey Ferbe
Barb Bersche & David Katznelson
Carl & Susannah Bettag
Kelly & Jim Bitzer
Peter & Jessica Blair
Dorsetta Hale Cagle
Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman
Amy Cohen & David Williams
Rachel Dodson & Michael Gast
William Donahoe & Kristin Klein
Arline Epstein & the Quadra Foundation
Stuart & Karen Gansky
Ana Marino Ghosh
Dixie & Richard Grossman
David & Jane Hartley
Linda & Kit Hinrichs
Medea Isphording & Bruce Bern
Joseph & Urmila John
Trecia Knapp Tapolsky
Michelle Long & Calista Nicholson
Kathleen J. Mateas-Hall in Memory of Brian Hall
Jeanette & Kevin Moore
Josef Muskatel in Memory of Bronislawa Bardach
Davia Nelson in Memory of Les Blank
Jonathan Van Nguyen
Heather Pastorius & Scott Jacobs
Mark Perry & Adele Mouzon
Martin & Maria Quinn
Matthew & Ellen Reagan
Earl & Christine Siems
Phil & Vanessa Siino Haack
Robert Stein & Jessica Pers
Mary Taugher & F. Martin Booth
Mike & Ellen Turbow
Olivia White Lopez
CORPORATE & ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT
Adams Nye Becht
Allstate Insurance Company
BBDO San Francisco
Benevity Community Impact Fund
City Arts & Lectures
Cornerstone Research, Inc.
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP
Craftsman and Wolves
Esurance Insurance Service, Inc.
Google Matching Gifts Program
Green Apple Books
Green Bicycle Fund
Gundlach Bundschu Winery and Vineyards
Maverick Capital Charities
Microsoft Matching Gifts Program
Mission: Comics & Art
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Move Sales, Inc.
O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Rivendell Bicycle Works, Inc.
The Umlaut Staff, Ruth Asawa School of the Arts
Velos Mobile LLC
Saul Zaentz Company
The Isabel Allende Foundation
Anonymous Charitable Trust
The Blackketter/Wydler Family Fund
Kelly Ann Brown Foundation
Caerus Foundation, Inc.
Caruso Family Foundation
The Donald & Carole Chaiken Foundation
The Christensen Fund
The Clorox Company Foundation
George J. & Theresa L. Cotsirilos Family Foundation
Cramblit Family Fund
David & Carla Crane Philanthropic Fund
Nathan & Violet David Foundation
Rose & David Dortort Foundation
The Gelfand Family Foundation
The Carl Gellert & Celia Berta Gellert Foundation
Fred Gellert Family Foundation
Bill Graham Memorial Foundation
Walter & Elise Haas Fund
Maryann E. Kirchner Family Foundation
Lampert/Byrd Family Fund
Alexander M. & June L. Maisin of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund
Marin Community Foundation
The Joseph R. McMicking Foundation
Morehouse Family Fund
The Odell/Kemp Fund
Panta Rhea Foundation
Mary K. Robertson Family Fund
Scandling Family Foundation
Severns Family Foundation
The Stephen S. Smith & Paula K. Smith Family Foundation, & Kendall Wilson
Stern Family Fund
Tulsa & Simone Fund
David Foster Wallace Literary Trust
The Walther Foundation
Sara & Evan Williams Foundation
The Brin Wojcicki Foundation
Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff Foundation
Woodward Family Foundation Endowment Fund
San Francisco Department of Children,
Youth & Their Families
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 the folks in the back office with just about anything.