Meet our new staff and AmeriCorps members!
There have been a lot of changes this year, both internally and in the larger world, but our work is no less vital. It’s more important than ever that we amplify our students’ voices and help them thrive in school and after it. This work takes many hands, and we are delighted to welcome a new AmeriCorps cohort, as well as four permanent additions to our staff. Take a look at the amazing people who are joining us this year.
Caroline Woods Mejia is one of two new programs coordinators. She was born and bred in the Bay, and majored in creative writing at UC Santa Cruz. She was a former 826 intern before moving to Galicia, Spain on a Fulbright Teaching Grant. In her free time you can find her baking treats, grooving to Anderson Paak, and walking her blind poodle, Kiki.
Our new Publications Manager, Vivian Sming, was born and raised in the Bay Area. She studied art at UCLA and CalArts, and worked in galleries, museums, and nonprofits before finding her way to publishing. When not making books at 826 Valencia, Vivian is making books through her small press Sming Sming Books.
Diana Garcia is the second of our new programs coordinators. She’s a Mexican-American California native from the mountainous Eastern Sierra. After studying History and Economics at UC Davis, Diana came to 826 to further her passion for empowering and educating youth. Outside of 826, you can find her running, hiking, making playlists, skiing, or dancing to Maggie Rogers.
Daniel Mata, our new volunteer coordinator, is a Dominican-American Californian, a helper, and a fan of life. After stints as a radio journalist, Cal Poly History major, summer camp administrator, and emergency manager, he’s ecstatic to be working at 826. Additionally, he’s a twin, a San Jose Sharks and US soccer fan, an occasional climber and biker, and a good DM.
AmeriCorps BAYAC associate Juan Avila is a San Francisco native with an avid interest in Romance languages, foreign films, and outdoor recreation. Prior to 826, he was involved with different youth-focused nonprofits in the Bay Area.
Madeline Schroeder hitched a ride from an orca whale on her way from San Juan Island, Washington to SF. With her trusty yellow journal and collection of poetry books in hand, Mady bid adieu to the rainy Evergreen State and is thrilled to be starting her Americorps year as a BAYAC associate with 826!
AmeriCorps BAYAC associate Michelle Espinoza, a California native, has a passion for working with youth, which led her to earn a degree in Liberal Studies from CSU Stanislaus and discovering 826 Valencia. In her free time, Michelle enjoys rooting for the Lakers, listening to music, traveling, and being with friends and family.
Rajitmeet (Raj) Singh (AmeriCorps BAYAC associate) recently graduated from the University of California Davis, studying Political Science and Education. He loves exploring Los Angeles, his hometown, for coffee shops and bookstores. He loves reading, watching Netflix, and pretending to be a food critic. First at 826LA now at 826V, they hope to make a big impact by helping students believe in themselves and learn anything.
AmeriCorps BAYAC associate Kendra Lappin is a Bay Area transplant, bibliophile, and budding plant mom. After earning a BA in Education from SFSU, she completed a MA in Literature in Northern Ireland. If she’s not reading, you can find her enjoying nature, baking cookies, or binging podcasts.
Joshua Chan, a lifelong Bay Area resident and brand new AmeriCorps BAYAC associate, first started his 826 journey as a volunteer while studying Journalism and Political Science at San Francisco State University. When he’s not working with 826, he loves cooking, listening to new music, and being indecisive about a third thing to list in his staff bio.
Olivia Cunningham is originally from Seattle. She was an intern for 826 Valencia in 2013, and now returns as an AmeriCorps BAYAC associate! In her free time she enjoys cooking, eating, true crime podcasts, making jewelry, and taking road trips in her car, Blanche.
Back with us for a second year as an AmeriCorps BAYAC associate, Diego Hernandez is the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in all of 826! He is also a published writer who enjoys genre literature, anime, contemplating the darkness that lives in the hearts of all men, and platypuses.
Cléo Charpantier is a tried and true Californian: after having grown up in foggy San Francisco, blocks from the Pirate Supply Shop, she went to college in sunny Los Angeles, where she studied Philosophy. As a former student and volunteer at 826 Valencia, she is excited to join the crew on deck as an AmeriCorps BAYAC associate! After work, she can often be found at Ocean Beach with her toes in the water.
Arel Wiederholt Kassar is an SF native just returned from studying literature down the road at UC Santa Cruz. He loves to read and write fiction, eat and cook the smackinest food, watch and play soccer, and run around with his puppy, Mala.
Look at all these excellent humans! We are so lucky to work with them. If you volunteer in our programs, you can be that lucky too!