About Us


Talented, hard-working, dedicated, caring — these are just a few of the rock-solid qualities the people of 826 possess.


Bita NazarianExecutive 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 Director, was raised in the south and studied Social Justice and American Studies at Hendrix College in Arkansas. Before moving to the Bay Area, she worked with a  nonprofit in Arkansas called The Women’s Project where she coordinated a summer program for young women focusing on self-sufficiency and creative expression and learned the art of grant writing. Her writing about community organizing was published in the Journal of Social Policy and Lessons from the Field: Organizing in Rural Communities. She’s worked with 826 off and on since 2005, serving first as an intern, later as Development Director, then as Programs Director. Lauren is the editor of 826′s I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live, and is a board member for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. 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.

Olivia White Lopez, Volunteer and Intern 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.

María Inés MontesDesign 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.

Christina Villaseñor Perry, Programs Director, grew up in 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.  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.

Emma PeoplesPrograms 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.

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. Despite the thriving literary scene and superior culinary opportunities, this California girl fled the London fog for the more familiar fog of San Francisco, which she now calls home. 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 SanchezPrograms 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.

Americorps support staff through summer 2015

Pablo BaezaPrograms 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 AssistantAmeriCorps, 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 LooDevelopment Assistant, 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

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.

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 KingWhere 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 since December 1, 2013. Your support will help us make a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of young San Franciscans this year.

For more information on joining the Shipmates’ Society, check out our membership page.

Ship’s Captain | $10,000+

• Lisa Brown and Daniel Handler
• Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
• Lee and Russ Flynn
• Pamela and George Hamel, Jr.
• Frances Hellman and Warren Breslau
• Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman
• Dave and Gina Pell
• Michael and Shauna Stark
• Jeff and Laurie Ubben
• James M. and Karen Wagstaffe

Ship’s Master | $5,000+

• Martha Conway and Richard Frankel
• Drusie Davis
• Warren and Gina Falsetto
• Jill Grossman
• Gail and Ian Jardine
• Jeffrey and Jeri Lynn Johnson
• Shalini and Kamini Malhotra
• Sunil Paul and Mera Granberg
• Matt Middlebrook and Lisa Presta
• Colleen Quinn and John Amster
• Andrew Strickman and Michal Ettinger
• Mike Wilkins
• Sara Williams
• Briana Zelaya

Boatswain | $1,000+

• Enrique Allen
• Tami Anderson
• Joya Banerjee and Harris Cohen
• Michael and Kirsten Beckwith
• Meryl and James Bennan
• Josephine Berler
• Arthur Berliner and Marian Lever
• Anthony Bertuca
• Michael Bien and Jane Kahn
• Dominique Bischoff-Brown in honor of Different Fur Studios
• Tracy Chapman
• Kimberly Connor
• Miguel De Avila and Maria Jesus Morga
• Fredrica Drotos
• Michael Duckworth
• John Eidinger
• Carol Francis and Steve Chapman
• Ajay Godwhani
• Jennie and Vincent Golde
• Rob Goldman
• Barbara Gurkoff
• Paul Haahr and Susan Karp
• John and Marsha Hall
• Shepard and Melissa Harris
• Leo Havilan
• N and K Hawley
• John Herschend and Marleen Schroder Herschend
• Derek Howard
• Liz Hume and Jay Jacobs
• Philip Jackson
• Katrina Jankowski
• Diana Kapp
• Jordan Kurland
• Sharky Laguana
• Gloria Lenhart
• James A. Lesser
• Anne and Jorge Lopez
• Kavitha Lotun
• Joshua J. Mahoney
• Chris McClean
• Geoff McHugh
• Ivan and Maris Meyerson
• Sarah Morrison
• William Morrison
• Dan Newman
• Thao Nguyen
• Barbara Parkyn
• Isabel Pinner
• Merle and Leslie Rabine
• Mark Risher
• Matthew Rivitz and Blythe Lang
• Celia Sack
• Will Scullin
• Susan Sueiro
• Chase Tingley
• Marjorie and Barry Traub
• Ellen Laguerta Uy
• Jeffery Veen
• Taylor Wakefield
• Tim Wirth and Anne Stuhldreher
• Alea Woodlee
• Deborah Yeh

Helmsperson | $826+

• Leslie Adler
• Mahea Campbell
• Barbara Spicer

Sailor | $500+

• Kevin Arnold
• Meryl Brod
• Phil Bronstein
• Thomas Byrne
• Jason and Emily Cheng
• David and Carla Crane
• Tiffanie DeBartolo
• Naomi Duckworth
• Ron Elving
• Arline Epstein and the Quadra Foundation
• Elizabeth Ferguson
• Darryl Forman
• Joel Fruchtman
• Kristin Gillis
• Shane Ginsberg
• Rob Hallman
• Carol Hazenfield
• Eric Heiman
• Matt Herrmann
• Sarah Hoagland
• Florence Hochman
• Laura Jessup
• Campbell Judge and Kimberly Ellis
• Mina and Seth Kenvin in honor of Curtis Smolar and Rebecca Eisenberg
• Todd Krieger
• Michael S. and Sigrid Anderson Kwun
• Yee Lee
• Angus MacLane
• Thomas Magnani
• Mark McCormick
• Karen McGee
• Helaine and Rudy Melnitzer
• Bob Mullen
• Lisa Nahmanson
• Bruce and Risa Nye
• Kasra Omid-Zohoor
• Ike and Zohreh Okuda
• Amber Park
• Toby Paterson
• Melissa Powar
• Alexandra Quinn and Mark Spolyar
• Marsha Robertson
• Marcia Rodgers and Garrett Loube
• Ellen Schatz
• Matthew Sonefeldt
• Jacqueline Stark and Scott Botterman
• Susan Stern and the Stern Family Fund
• Frances Stroh
• Allison Turner
• Kimberly Walker
• Charles Ward
• Peter and Lisa Westley

Rigger | $100+

• David Aaronson
• Gerald Ambinder and Audrey Ferber
• Debra Armstrong
• David Arrick
• Blakely Atherton
• Marie Barrett
• George Beckwith
• Natalie Beckwith
• Judy Behrendt
• Cassandra Benjamin
• Barbara Bersche
• Jessica Berta
• Carl and Susannah Bettag
• Bear Betzler
• Kelly and Jim Bitzer
• Jessica Blair
• Robert Blair
• Tom Bochenek
• Alden Bourne
• Erin Bright
• Emily Brodman
• Gregg Bryon
• Joe Bunik
• Jamieson Bunn
• Avery Burdette
• Jeanne Burns
• Enrico Casarosa
• Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
• Brandon Chalk
• Anne Chiramberro
• Christopher Chow
• April Ciaccio
• Judy Clayton
• Amy Cohen and David Williams
• Ed Cohen
• Norma Cole
• William Collins
• Bryce Corkins
• Russell Corrigan and Pamela McGuire
• David Covell
• Alexis Crist
• Joe Doctor
• Rachel Dodson and Michael Gast
• William Donahoe and Kristin Klein
• David Donahue
• Julie Down
• Joel Dubin
• Alan Duncan
• Lisa Dungan
• Kenneth Eddings
• Marc Engel
• Matthew Ephraim
• Lenore Estrada
• Alice Evans
• Ian Evans
• Ali Faiz
• Bianca Fargnoli
• Kathy Fell
• Brett Fenzel
• Peter Finch
• Jody Fox
• Stuart and Karen Gansky
• Maureen Gates
• Kayvaan Ghassemieh
• Ana Marino Ghosh
• Guy Gilbert
• Michael Ginther
• David Glasser
• Benjamin Goorin
• Shirley Gordon
• Janis Greenspan
• Dixie and Richard Grossman
• Aileen Hagerman
• Dorsetta Hale Cagle
• Stephanie Hall
• Morgan Hankins
• Howard Harband
• David and Jane Hartley
• Ashley Heath
• Audrey Heller
• Linda and Kit Hinrichs
• Jenn Hirsch
• Jilanne Hoffman
• James Hsu
• Jessica Huppi
• Florie Hutchinson
• Amy Hwa
• Natalie Inouye
• Medea Isphording and Bruce Bern
• Benjamin Jacobs
• Daniel James
• Joseph and Urmila John
• Kelly Johnson
• Katherine Joiner
• Elaine Kane
• Matthew Kelemen
• Jesse Kellerman
• David Kinsbourne
• Adam Klein
• Trecia Knapp Tapolsky
• David Kobe
• Barbara Konecky
• Alex Kriney
• Robyn Kruse
• Brian Larson
• Kimberly Lau
• Mark Lawton
• Brenda Leff
• Samuel Leshnick
• Ellen Levin
• Feralee Levine
• Glenys Loewen-Thomas
• Myla Long
• Tyler Magnusson
• Charlene Maltzman
• Erika Malzberg in memory of Mark McAuliffe
• Joseph Mandragona
• Jonathan Manzo
• Brian Marsh
• Kathleen Mateas-Hall in memory of Brian Hall
• Chris Matthews
• Kathryn McCarthy
• Margaret McCarthy
• Barry McGee
• Alicia McKean
• Whitney Miller
• Peggy Mitchell
• Olive Mitra
• Jeanette and Kevin Moore
• Carole Morrell and Anton Kast
• Katrina and Tim Morshead
• Marjorie Murstein
• Josef Muskatel in memory of Bronislawa Bardach
• Mike Napolitano
• Davia Nelson
• Sara Owens
• Yasar Ozberkmen
• Jennifer Padget
• Kathleen Paniagua
• Heather Pastorius and Scott Jacobs
• John Pellegrini
• Ellen Perelman
• Andrea Perry
• Christina Perry
• Mark Perry and Adele Mouzon
• David Pescovitz
• Mark Plakias
• Elizabeth Popovich
• Tara Prescott as a gift for Alexandra Dove and Rick Ballard
• Mike Psinakis in honor of Yuri Psinakis
• Martin and Maria Quinn
• Ramya Raghavan
• Sally Randel
• Julie Rappaport
• Matthew and Ellen Reagan
• Devon Reed
• Kaye Reeves
• Patrick Reeves
• Karima Ridgley
• Michael Risher
• Joshua Robison
• Thomas Rogers
• Karen Rowan
• Brett Ruff
• Christina Ruiz-Esparza
• Laurel Schaffer
• Johanna Schlereth-Lehmann
• Jan Schreiber
• Alexandra Sharabianlou
• Carola Shepard
• Vaughn Shields
• William Jon Shipley
• Allene Sieling
• Earl and Christine Siems
• Phil and Vanessa Siino Haack
• Michael Silverman
• Carole Sirulnick
• Shelley Smith
• Lizabeth Soares
• Terri Sonoda in memory of Robin Williams
• Robert Stein and Jessica Pers
• Tania Stepanian
• Marla Steuer
• Daniel Streng
• Danielle Strickman
• Christy Susman
• Mary Taugher and F. Martin Booth
• Alex Tievy
• Mike and Ellen Turbow
• Kim Wade
• Kate Wadsworth
• Olivia White Lopez
• Christina Wolf
• Rick Wolfgram
• Maggie Wooll
• Patricia Wyrod
• Cathy Yih
• Alice Yu
• Joyce Zavattero


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.