A warm welcome to our new staff

Our community is growing! We just welcomed 11 new talented, dedicated people to our team, including eight who will serve a one-year term with us through BAYAC AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA. This wonderful crew will be supporting our organization in many different ways to help advance our mission: engaging with community members to find caring volunteers, recording cool podcasts with our students, transforming inter-disciplinary content into fun classroom activities, and deepening connections with our supporters to keep fueling our educational work. Oh, and exploring, course-charting, and deck-swabbing, of course. Dive in to get to know them better, and learn what motivates this group to dedicate their time to our young writers.

Precediha Dangerfield, Programs Coordinator, believes her experience as an 826 Valencia intern in 2009 inspired her to pursue a career in education. She is a proud Oakland native with a love of music that works harmoniously with her love of education. A graduate of California State University, Precediha believes that every child deserves the tools to meet their learning goals, because she has experienced firsthand how it feels to receive nurturing educational support. Precediha was an Intervention Specialist with the Oakland Unified School District for four years. She now sings the praises of coming full circle and is thrilled to support the amazing programs that 826 Valencia provides its students. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Megan Waring, Intern Coordinator, is a wayfarer who found herself in California four years ago through an AmeriCorps program. There she fell in love with the gentle weather and the joys of working with youth and volunteers. She continued working as staff with AmeriCorps, where she partnered with 826 Valencia and became captivated with the overflowing wonder and passion she found there. She is thankful to have landed here to work with 826’s talented interns. When the fog rolls in, she fondly dreams of autumn at Virginia Tech, where she received her BA in Creative Writing years ago. Her free time is spent weaving, hiking, and getting too competitive at board games. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Virdell Hickman, Operations Manager, is a native of the Bay Area, who earned her BA in studio art from Mills College and her MA in transformative art from John F. Kennedy University. While in college, she worked as a youth art program director developing material for people of all ages. She also volunteered for three years as a facilitator for weekly support groups for women in recovery. Virdell has over 20+ years of experience in both corporate and nonprofit sectors in operations, business and program management, and art education. In her spare time, she enjoys discovering themes of identity and transformation through the creative process of painting.

AmeriCorps Staff, 2017-2018

Lila Cutter, Volunteer Engagement Associate, AmeriCorps VISTA, is a recent transplant from Iowa’s Midwestern prairie to Oakland’s city streets. As a former 826 program intern, Lila has a deep appreciation for the care, dedication, and enthusiasm volunteers bring. Lila’s dedication to learning and teaching led her to be a Head Start teacher’s aide, college writing tutor, an educator with Compass Green—a mobile greenhouse project—and Distance Learning fellow with the International Writing Program. For her BA, she sailed between Bennington College in Vermont to the University of Iowa, studying creative writing and public action. When not buried in nonfiction and poetry books, she can be found hiking, bowling, or working on her dance moves. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Paloma Mariz, Communications Associate, AmeriCorps VISTA, is a Rio de Janeiro native with a background in media and film studies. Seeking new adventures, she moved to Boston to pursue a career in Communications. Tired of wearing many layers in the harsh winters, she moved to the Bay Area where she fell in love with the nonprofit world. Her passion for grassroots advocacy and sustainability landed her an internship at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition where she developed her communications—and bike riding—skills. When not working, you can find her reading a book at a coffee shop or catching a flick downtown. She loves biking to work and is thrilled to be part of an organization that foster students’ creativity. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Olivia OrtizDevelopment and Evaluations Associate, AmeriCorps VISTA, set sail from Los Angeles to Berkeley, where she studied English and social welfare, grew a small succulent garden and taught swing dancing to people of all ages—from six to eighty-two! When exploring San Francisco one day, she discovered 826 Valencia and soon hopped aboard as a Summer Programs Intern for Exploring Words and the Young Authors’ Workshop. A year later she is on board again as an AmeriCorps VISTA member because, though she seeks to continue her travels at sea, her heart has anchored at 826. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Stephanie Yun, Tenderloin Programs Associate, AmeriCorps BAYAC, was born and raised on a hilly cul-de-sac in Oakland. Fostering a lifelong love of writing, their adolescence revolved around open mics, writing workshops, poetry slams, and youth advisory board meetings at Youth Speaks. In 2012, they were named Oakland’s first Youth Poet Laureate, and have since taught creative writing in various capacities. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2016, they sought to enter the nonprofit realm of youth development and education, landing them here at 826 Valencia. On weekends, you might find them shelving books at the Oakland Public Library, but in their free time Stephanie likes to bake, play video games, watch anime/read manga, and go on fishing trips with their dad. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Katie Cugno, In-Schools Programs Associate, AmeriCorps BAYAC, was born on the East Coast and landed in San Francisco this January, after stints across the States and abroad. She is outrageously excited about joining 826 Valencia this year and being back on the best coast. A linguistic voyager and pedagogical enthusiast, when she’s not at 826, you might find her seeking out the sun or pirate dancing on public transport throughout this beautiful Bay.


Angelina Brand, Field Trips and After-School Tutoring Associate, AmeriCorps BAYAC is a recent UC Santa Cruz graduate with a degree in psychology and a minor in education. Born and raised in the Mission, Angelina loves going for walks and exploring the quirks of her community. She worked as a program assistant at the Boys & Girls Club and as a camp counselor for Camp Kesem. Angelina loves working with youth and is delighted to return to 826 Valencia after her first internship in the Exploring Words program in 2014. In her free time, you can find Angelina dancing to her soul sister Beyonce while covered in glitter. Photo by Katherine Yao.


Melissa Anguiano, Buena Vista Horace Mann Programs Associate, AmeriCorps BAYAC, was born and raised in foggy  San Francisco. She was involved in ScholarMatch Programs and studied anthropology and Chicano studies at UC Berkeley. In her free time, she enjoys dancing to Salsa music, eating ice cream, and taking in the sun (when San Francisco weather allows it). Her passion for dance and working with youth led her to participate in two Bay Area folkloric dance groups. When she feels adventurous, she likes packing up and taking road trips to unknown destinations. She loved working with youth when in Berkeley and is excited to serve as an AmeriCorps member at 826 Valencia! Photo by Katherine Yao.


Izel Jimenez, After-School Programs Associate, AmeriCorps BAYAC, grew up in the central part of Mexico, in the city of Atlixco de las Flores. She studied at the Benemerita University of Puebla, but her love of the English language inspired her to move north to the Golden State. Before joining the staff at 826, Izel tutored San Francisco students through a partnership between San Francisco State University and 826 Valencia. She also worked as teaching assistant at Skyline College. Photo by Katherine Yao.