Get to know the amazing people who keep 826 Valencia running!
Bita has been an educator in SFUSD for 20 years as a teacher and a school leader. She served on 826 Valencia’s Board for five years, three of them as President. She’s our fearless leader!
Bita Nazarian
Executive Director
Melissa Anguiano is a San Francisco native who studied at UC Berkeley, where she discovered her passion for education and working with youth. When not with students, she enjoys road trips and traveling.
Melissa Anguiano
Programs Coordinator
Yareli Arreola is a passionate youth educator and community builder. She studied Sociology and Education at UC Santa Cruz. She loves all things mango flavored, writing, dancing and hiking through the redwoods.
Yareli Arreola
Programs Coordinator
Paolo Bicchieri is a Washingtonian with a love of writing and service. After googling "stuff for writers in SF," he found 826 Valencia and has been thankful every day to be in such a wonderful community. He spends each day loving coffee, the beach, and his family.
Paolo Bicchieri
Volunteer Coordinator
Nana is originally from Kentucky by way of Ghana. She is passionate about enhancing others’ social and cultural awareness through storytelling. In her spare time, she enjoys watching ASMR videos, listening to advice podcasts, and cooking new things.
Nana Boateng
Programs Coordinator
Angelina Brand, a San Francisco native, studied psychology and education at UC Santa Cruz. In her free time, you can find Angelina dancing to her soul sister Beyonce while covered in glitter.
Angelina Brand
Programs Manager
Nicole spent nearly 20 years working in advertising and publishing, including five years at The New Yorker, before cutting her development chops at GLIDE. She is a self-proclaimed “Warrior for Equity” and likes to send “good mail.”
Nicole C. Brown
Director of Individual Philanthropy
Sarah is a former 826 intern who is overjoyed to return as Development & Annual Fund Coordinator. She has a BA in creative writing from San Francisco State University and her interests include circus arts, Star Trek, and cooking.
Sarah Bruhns
Development Coordinator
Karla Brundage has experience teaching high school English in Hawaii, West Africa, and the Bay Area for over 20 years. She grew up between Ka’a’awa, Hawaii and Oakland, California, where she developed a love of long vowels and glottal stops. She is a poet, activist, mother, and a beach lover.
Karla Brundage
Programs Manager
Ricardo was raised in Tijuana and studied media arts at SF State. When not at 826, he spends his time chasing his childhood dreams of either playing soccer in Europe or playing drums in the corner of a restaurant.
Ricardo Cruz-Chong
Programs Coordinator
Lila Cutter is a transplant from Iowa, closet poet, and former 826 intern. She studied creative writing and public action at Bennington College and University of Iowa, and loves discovering ways that those two areas intersect.
Lila Cutter
Volunteer Manager
Precediha 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 and a belief in our students.
Precediha Dangerfield
Programs Coordinator
Allyson hails from Massachusetts and can still drop her r's on request. A career fundraiser, she is most inspired by organizations with a local focus on arts, education, and community.
Allyson Halpern
Advancement Director
Virdell is a native of the Bay Area, an artist, and brings decades of experience to 826, in both corporate and nonprofit sectors in operations, business and program management, and art education.
Virdell Hickman
Operations Manager
Kavitha Lotun is a proudly Canadian, Sri Lankan at heart, and British by birth resulting in a love of tea, cricket, and hockey. She taught primary school in London, UK, before moving to San Francisco where she began volunteering at 826 to join the staff later.
Kavitha Lotun
Volunteer Director
Montana Manalo is a Pinay illustrator based in Oakland. Her illustrations often incorporate found materials, movement, mystery, and a sense of humor.
Montana Manalo
Design Associate
Molly has been involved with 826 since 2009 as an intern and as a volunteer before joining the staff in 2012. Outside of 826, she is also the co-owner of Point Reyes Books, uniting her loves of books and whales.
Molly Parent
Communications Manager
Nick Parker is a California native with a passion for helping small businesses and nonprofits thrive. His two favorite toys are his surfboard and bass guitar. He is an avid reader of alt weeklies and would love to talk with you about exciting things happening in the city.
Nick Parker
Finance Director
Lucie Pereira began her 826 journey as a student and came right back after studying writing and publishing at Emerson College. She has a penchant for fun animal facts and all things chocolate.
Lucie Pereira
Programs Coordinator
Stina Perkins first called herself a writer while a student at 826michigan. After studying Women’s Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan, she’s thrilled to return to an organization she adores. Speaking of adoration, Stina also loves humming while hiking, reading on riverbanks, and sharing dinosaur facts.
Stina Perkins
Programs Coordinator
Christina holds an MA in special education and taught for seven years in LA and SF before joining the staff of 826 in 2013. She remains deeply committed to public education, and has a soft spot for cats, puns, and wildflowers.
Christina Villaseñor Perry
Director of Education
Ginnie Redmond hails from the Midwest where she studied Creative Writing at Loyola University Chicago. Before joining 826, she was a grant writer for non-profit theatre companies, including Lookingglass, TheatreWorks, and SF Playhouse. When not at 826, she enjoys dancing at concerts and sharing hilarious stories.
Ginnie Redmond
Grants and Development Coordinator
Nesley Rojo came to San Francisco from Wisconsin, and has since become the first person in her family to graduate from college with a sociology degree. Nesley is committed to social justice and empowering urban youth. In her spare time she is a doting plant mom, skincare advocate, baker, artist, and distance runner.
Nesley Rojo
Programs Coordinator
Sendy Santamaria is an Oakland-based Mexican-American illustrator from the US/Mexico border region. Her work celebrates hard work, family traditions, and observational narratives.
Sendy Santamaria
Design Associate
Ashley Smith, a Bay Area native, taught reading and writing to middle school students in San Francisco and New York, where she earned her master's degree. When not at 826, she enjoys eating her way through San Francisco's many culinary offerings.
Ashley Smith
Programs Manager
Leah Tarlen is a Bay Area native with a career that spans art education and fundraising. Prior to joining 826, she held leadership development positions at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Students Rising Above.
Leah Tarlen
Director of Institutional Gifts
Benita Tsao grew up in the Bay Area and still sends postcards home whenever she ventures far from Oakland. Before 826, Benita worked in public health, supporting local coalitions across the U.S. develop policies and plans that prevent violence.
Benita Tsao
Human Resources Manager
Shelby Urbina was born and raised in SF, and graduated from SFSU with a BA in creative writing. Shelby has a passion for writing, art, and working with youth. In her free time you’ll find her drawing, pointing out cute dogs, or re-reading Harry Potter.
Shelby Urbina
Programs Coordinator
Jillian was an AmeriCorps volunteer in New Mexico, a founding teacher at a middle school in Watsonville, California, and earned her master's degree in Brooklyn before she set her anchor in the bay and began teaching writing at KIPP SF Bay Academy.
Jillian Wasick
Programs Director
Byron began at 826 with a fun part-time job peddling pirate wares in 2013. He now manages the stores and oversees various forms of community outreach, from pop-ups and events to the stores' online presence.
Byron Weiss
Stores Director
Ryan taught fifth and sixth grades, founded a school newspaper, and started a guitar program, all while earning his MA in special education. When not at 826, he likes to navigate the trails of the Presidio and play the bass.
Ryan Young
Programs Manager

AmeriCorps Staff 2019-20

Kanya grew up in Bali, Indonesia, and studied art in Vermont and Rhode Island. After honing her skills at the Pirate Supply Store she climbed aboard to join the 826 team in student programming. She loves baking, journaling, complimentary colors, and feasting with a friend.
Kanya Abe
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Ryan studied philosophy and creative writing in upstate New York before moving to the Bay Area. She’s elated to join the 826 team as a Programs Associate! Ryan is an avid writer and crossworder, and plays volleyball in her free time.
Ryan Bloom
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Kyle is a cat-lover and amateur baseball historian. Before 826, he worked with Bay Area families experiencing homelessness. When he’s not in the office, he can often be found scribbling songs in a notepad with his trusted guitar by his side!
Kyle Breschini
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Sophie is a born and raised Chicagoan and Bay Area transplant via UC Berkeley, where she studied Political Science and English. When she isn’t playing soccer or hiking in her free time, Sophie is trying to conquer the NYT Crossword or going to concerts with her friends!
Sophie Goethals
Communications - VISTA
Diego was born when a host of seraphim collided into a supernova during the Siege of Gradia. Forsaking his fate as the Harbinger of Ragnarok, he has instead chosen to become a writer and eventually teacher on Earth. He enjoys reading, ruthlessly slaying vampires, and naps.
Diego Hernandez
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Hannah hails from the warm nights and oven days of LA. After studying Creative Writing at UC Santa Cruz, she found her way to 826 Valencia, and now spends each morning in awe of the way fog dances over the Bay.
Hannah Johnson
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Natalie is a Bay Area native who holds a history degree from Gonzaga University. Natalie joined 826 Valencia because she enjoys volunteering and helping others grow emotionally and academically. In her free time, she enjoys trying new things and taking in beautiful sceneries.
Natalie Louie
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Daniel Mata 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, and an occasional climber and biker.
Daniel Mata
Volunteer Engagement - VISTA
Monika is a poetry and prose writer from Silicon Valley. She likes to hike, swim and photograph people and abstractions. She studied Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is passionate about mental and physical health, spirituality and the social sciences. Monika joined 826 to mentor youth and unleash their creativity.
Monika Mednick
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Fiona is a San Francisco native with her Masters in Teaching and a passion for working with local students. When not at 826, she loves playing with her cat, baking, and crafting.
Fiona Murphy
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Peter has a passion for encouraging creativity and finding the magic in everyday life. A SoCal native, he came to San Francisco to study Philosophy and Anthropology at SFSU. When not at 826, he’s soaking in the sun at Golden Gate Park, playing music, and jetting down steep hills on his trusty bike.
Peter O'Meara
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Martin moved from a small farm near the Olympic National Park in Washington to California, and is new to cities and bustle. He’s passionate about writing and creative expression, and is excited to witness the positive effects of writing & publication. Additionally, Martin is excited to learn the inner workings of such a unique organization.
Martin Quarto
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Alex likes to laugh and make others laugh with him. He graduated from Dominican University with a degree in creative writing and will show everyone who joked about him becoming a fry cook to look at him now. By helping others write, he hopes to improve his own writing skills as well.
Alex Turnage
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps
Sydney graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where she developed a love for writing and the redwoods. When she's not at 826, she's probably scribbling in a coffeeshop or in class, studying to get her MFA in Poetry. While originally from Los Angeles, Sydney has also lived in Australia, Denmark and, Switzerland.
Sydney Vogl
Programs Associate - BAYAC AmeriCorps

StoreThe Staff

Devin Angel goes by she/her. Outside of working at 826 Valencia, Devin enjoys drawing, baseball games, volunteering at House Rabbit Society, and spending time with her bunnies!
Devin Angel
Store Coordinator
Jonathan Kendall and Jackalope the dog are proud members of the 826 family. Jonathan is non-binary, uses pronouns xe/xem/xyrs, and when not at Woodland Creature Outfitters enjoys making art, stop motion animation, and playing guitar.
Jonathan Kendall
Store Associate
Brandon Pipersky is an adult who loves to play with mud. He recently graduated from SFSU with a BFA in Ceramics. He likes new experiences, surprises, and challenges that create adventure in his life. He is always open to movie suggestions.
Brandon Pipersky
Store Associate
Tim R. is a Designer(!). At 826 Valencia, he's been a tutor, the “snack lady,” a Salesforce-er, a pirate supplier, and an all-purpose volunteer — all since 2010. He speaks a bunch of languages and has flung globally far. He designs as He writes e-mails and cracks unwise.
Tim R.
Store Coordinator
Kai Stewart reads Bedtime Stories for Nobody and lies to glass in Oakland. Once they earned two months’ rent cutting holes in a piano, and once they made vegans hunt dinosaurs through a public park.
Kai Stewart
Store Coordinator

Boardof directors

Eric Abrams
Chief Inclusion Officer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education
Chief Inclusion Officer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education

Eric Abrams is the Chief Inclusion Officer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and formerly served as 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.

Colleen Quinn Amster
Writer and Editor
Writer and Editor

Colleen Quinn Amster is a writer and editor from Boca Raton, Florida who earned degrees in English literature and Spanish from Middlebury College and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Colleen worked as a reporter and assistant editor at New York Magazine and moved to San Francisco to work as an associate editor at Mother Jones. Colleen now lives in San Francisco with her husband, John, and their three children, Finn, Aidan, and Curran. She has served on the boards of several San Francisco philanthropic organizations, including Children of Shelters and the National Charity League.

Joya Banerjee
Vice Chair
Vice Chair

Joya Banerjee, Vice Chair, 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.

Jasmine Berjikly
Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP
Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP

Jasmine Berjikly is a Tax Partner at Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP, a locally owned public accounting firm founded in 1949 with offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, and St. Helena. With over 16 years of experience, she serves executives and officers of public and pre-IPO companies, and sophisticated investors to optimize tax efficiency with stock equity/option and financial planning, charitable giving strategies, and family wealth transfers.  She is a San Francisco native and went to Lowell High School. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Armen, and their three children. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Chapter for California Society of CPAs and has served on the Board of Directors for the Silicon Valley Chapter from 2009 to 2012.

Ambar Bhattacharyya

Ambar Bhattacharyya is a Managing Director at Maverick Ventures, a $400m venture capital fund based in San Francisco.  Prior to joining Maverick, he was a Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners.  Ambar began his career at Bain & Company. He also served as assistant to the CEO at MinuteClinic, where helped the company grow its national footprint prior to its acquisition by CVS.  Ambar holds an M.B.A. with distinction from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in economics and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Ambar previously served as a board member for the Bay Area Board of Generation Citizen and UP Academy in Boston and Dorchester. Ambar has been selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper and as one of the top 50 individuals in digital health by Rock Health in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, he was also selected to be an advisor to the California Healthcare Foundation Innovation Fund.

Lisa Brown
Illustrator, author, designer, and cartoonist
Illustrator, author, designer, and cartoonist

Lisa Brown is an illustrator, author, designer, and cartoonist. Her award-winning picture books for children include The Airport Book, Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert, Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, and The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket. Her writing and illustration has been published in a variety of publications, including NPR, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Lucky Peach, and The New York Times. She has been joyfully involved in 826 Valencia since its founding; as a donor, field trip illustrator and leader, workshop instructor, and publication contributor. Lisa teaches in the Illustration Department of the California College of the Arts. She received a BA in Humanities from Wesleyan University and an MS in Communications Design from Pratt Institute in New York City.

Carolyn Feinstein Edwards

A creative pioneer, Carolyn has over 20 years of experience leading marketing teams and building creative and effective marketing strategies for high-profile companies. Most recently, she was Dropbox’s Chief Marketing Officer. She led Dropbox’s global marketing organization, driving initiatives to develop the company’s iconic and enduring brand, engaging and acquiring customers, and building lasting relationships that help Dropbox users around the world unleash their creative energy. Before joining Dropbox, Carolyn spent time advising emerging brands from tech to beauty—including Pure Storage, where she was responsible for building the company’s digital marketing strategy and developing their brand and messaging architecture. For over a decade, Carolyn ran Global Consumer Marketing at Electronic Arts, helping to define the strength and personality of EA SPORTS and developing high impact campaigns for franchises from Madden Football to FIFA to Battlefield. She also led the company’s digital transformation across its marketing effort.

Alex Lerner

Alex Lerner, Treasurer, is a partner of Indaba Capital, an investment firm based in San Francisco. Alex originally joined Indaba at the time of the fund’s launch in 2011 and rejoined in 2014 after earning his MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He began his career in the Mergers & Acquisitions group at Lazard Ltd following forays in journalism and publishing at Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Alex also received a B.A. in English from Stanford University.

Jim Lesser
Board Chair
Board Chair

Jim Lesser, Board Chair, is one of the few Executive Creative Directors in the advertising industry to become the President and CEO of a major agency network office. In the eighteen years he’s been at BBDO San Francisco, the office has gone from five employees to more than 100 and helped BBDO win the 2015 U.S. Agency of the Year Award. Jim began his career as the receptionist at a New York agency before being promoted to copywriter. As a result, he believes a great idea can and often will come from anywhere. Jim has served on the Boards of BBDO New York and Dwell Magazine and is currently serving as Board Chair at 826 Valencia. Jim is a passionate outdoorsman who spends as much time as possible hiking with his wife and two sons.

Osvaldo Marquez
Fintech Payment Advisor, Silicon Valley Bank
Fintech Payment Advisor, Silicon Valley Bank

Osvaldo Marquez has been part of the 826 Valencia community for over 15 years. He started as a student tutee but soon thereafter joined other programs at 826 Valencia. He received a scholarship in 2010 from 826 Valencia to attend Pitzer College, where he majored in Sociology and Spanish. In 2014, he became the first in his family to graduate from college. He now works in the financial industry and lives in San Francisco. He believes that organizations like 826 Valencia make a significant and impactful difference in student’s educational goals and accomplishments.

Julia Matsudaira
Vice President, Impact Advisory at Jordan Park
Vice President, Impact Advisory at Jordan Park

Julia leads the Impact Advisory practice at Jordan Park, a multi-family office based in San Francisco, whose mission is to help clients enhance their lives and legacies. Prior to joining Jordan Park, Julia was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, where she worked from 2014 to 2017. Previously, Julia spent a decade in the nonprofit sector where she developed expertise in strategic planning, program evaluation, human capital management, and fundraising through her work at several leading organizations, including Summer Search and Citizen Schools. Julia currently serves on the board of 826 Valencia because she believes in the power of mentoring and self-expression as ways to cultivate young leaders. She also volunteers on advisory councils for several community foundations in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a mentor at Rewriting the Code. Julia received her BA with High Honors from Wesleyan University and her MBA from Cornell University, where she was a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow and an Environmental Finance and Impact Investing Fellow.

Enikia Ford Morthel
Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, SFUSD
Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, SFUSD

Enikia Ford Morthel is an urban educator with over 15 years of experience serving the Bay Area’s most historically underserved communities. She is currently the Asst. Superintendent for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Bayview/Potrero Hill communities, as part of a collaborative team created to transform San Francisco’s lowest-performing schools. Prior to this appointment, she facilitated the turnaround of underperforming schools and incubation of new schools in some of the Bay Area’s highest-need neighborhoods. Enikia sees education as an act of social justice and is committed to the transformation of our educational system to be more responsive, relevant, and revolutionary in the lives of the children who need it most. Outside of her day job, Enikia continues to engage and empower communities of color. She advances these efforts in her role as professor/Senior Lecturer of Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. She has consulted for companies like ETS, LeapFrog, and a number of Bay Area CBOs, and partnered with Seneca Family of Agencies as a lead developer of the All-In Partnership, which has transformed Special Education and Response to Intervention in many schools serving communities of increased trauma. She serves on a number of boards and is excited to share her passion and experience in support of the vision of 826 Valencia. Originally from Los Angeles, Enikia is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a Master’s degree in Education. Although she enjoys the ‘heart work’ that consumes much of her days, her most rewarding role has been that of mother and wife. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, William, and two children—Jayvyn (14) and Samaiya (5).

Dave Pell
Writer at NextDraft, Managing partner of Arba Group
Writer at NextDraft, Managing partner of Arba Group

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.

Liza Ramrayka
Social justice and solutions journalist
Social justice and solutions journalist

Liza Ramrayka is a social justice journalist with over 25 years of experience working for online and print media. A freelance features writer, columnist and commissioning editor for outlets including The Guardian, HuffPost and NewsDeeply, much of her work explores aspects of social exclusion, and aims to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. An early pioneer of solutions journalism – which uncovers effective responses to social problems – Liza writes about refugees and migration, equality, and diversity. She is also a journalism mentor, media skills trainer and editorial consultant. A board member at Children’s Day School, she is passionate about how education, and writing in particular, can connect students to their wider environment. Liza holds a BA in English and French literature and language, and a post-graduate diploma in journalism. Originally from the UK, she now lives in San Francisco with her partner, children Ella and Jake, and their beach-loving rescue pup, Biscuit.

Joe Vasquez
Manager of Partnerships & Strategy at Runway
Manager of Partnerships & Strategy at Runway

Joe Vasquez is the Manager of Partnerships & Strategy at Runway. Joe is an iOS developer and early co-founder of StartX, an accelerator for Stanford entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Runway, Joe taught at the Kauffman Fellows Academy and was a Data Analyst Fellow at LocoMotive Labs. Joe started his career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and spent two years teaching bilingual math with Teach For America. Joe holds a BS in Atmosphere & Energy Engineering from Stanford University.

Rachel Swain Yeaman
Writer, communications consultant, social justice advocate
Writer, communications consultant, social justice advocate

Rachel Swain Yeaman is a writer, communications consultant, and long-time advocate for social justice and civil rights. Over the course of many years, Rachel conceived and directed winning media and communications campaigns for many national and regional advocacy organizations, including the ACLU. She has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Breast Cancer Fund and Children’s Day School, where she chaired the capital campaign that enabled the purchase and construction of a new independent, progressive middle school in the heart of San Francisco. Rachel holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is thrilled to bring her passion for social justice and children’s writing to the board of 826.


Tahira Ali

Tahira Ali is a Special Events Sales Manager with Live Nation, a global entertainment company, representing the newly opened venue, August Hall, in Union Square. Before Live Nation, Tahira most recently worked for Chef Michael Mina and the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, contributing to major events such as Super Bowl 50. Prior to that, she spent 9+ years as a hotelier for Rosewood and Four Seasons starting in Dallas, and moving to Silicon Valley in 2006. She has a BS in Hotel/Restaurant Management from Texas Tech University. A true Texan at heart, at 13 years old she began working concessions at local ballfields, and participating in peer and youth assistance leadership programs, kickstarting her passion for hospitality and supporting community youth events. After attending a recent 826 Bookeaters’ Bash, she was inspired to get involved with the organization, and is excited to serve on the Associate Board!

Kiersten Bautista

Kiersten is a Bay Area native and a Forensic Engineer at Dolby Laboratories, Inc. Her interest in working with diverse and underserved communities sparked when she interned as a crisis intervention worker at the Family Violence Law Center in Alameda County while attending the University of San Francisco. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, she went on to manage a small, private law firm and eventually received her Master of Business Administration from California State University, Monterey Bay. During Dolby’s corporate volunteer day, Kiersten volunteered at 826 Valencia’s Podcasting Field Trip where she felt immediately drawn to become more involved with the organization. She looks forward to serving on 826’s Associate Board for another year.

Jess Blackshaw
Vice Chair
Vice Chair

Jess wrote her first poem on a rainy Saturday when she was six and has delighted in playing with words ever since. Today, she is the Executive Director at YCore, a fellowship program that partners young professionals with local nonprofits for strategic volunteer projects. Previously, she designed impact programming at Net Impact and taught as a Fulbright ETA in Vitória, Brazil. Jess received a BA in philosophy and literature and an MA in Iberian and Latin American Cultures from Stanford University. When she’s not indulging her inner language and ethics nerd, you can find her running the San Francisco hills or singing in her women’s barbershop chorus.

Matt Carney

Matt was born in San Francisco and moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at a very young age, where he developed a love of reading and stories but never really got used to the heat. He is currently a Member Support Lead at Credit Karma and previously ran a branch of a small bookstore in New Orleans before moving back to San Francisco to work at Green Apple Books. In New Orleans, he was involved with Big Class, now 826 New Orleans, and looks forward to continuing the support of such necessary work through 826 Valencia.

Michelle Favin

Michelle is an artist, educator, and visual storyteller living in San Francisco. With a firm commitment to the intersection of equity, art, and community, she is passionate about creating more spaces and opportunities for creative expression. She received her BA in the Sociology of Education from New York University and her MA from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she studied creativity and maker-centered learning. Currently, Michelle is the co-founder of herCreative and Content Design and Strategy Manager at Twilio. Michelle loves all bodies of water, avocados, and discovering cities by foot.

Kalani Hicks

Kalani Hicks grew up in Palos Verdes, California where her close proximity to the local library and quest to finish all the books on the summer list sparked her love of reading. She received her BFA in Dance from UC Santa Barbara; during this time she was also a member and captain of the UCSB Dance Team. Currently, Kalani works as the Office Manager at DocuSign where she is co-chair for the SF IMPACT Foundation. Through IMPACT she has been able to connect with local nonprofits and continue her love of philanthropic work. She also dances professionally with ka·nei·see | collective and various contemporary dance companies around the Bay Area. Kalani has always had a passion for the arts and story-telling and is excited for her first year with the 826 Valencia Associate Board.

Kirby Hutton

Kirby is a Customer Solutions Engineer at Periscope Data. Her passion for languages and the written word stems from her interest in cross-cultural communication. Kirby taught English in China and she also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso. Kirby graduated from Jacksonville University with her BBA in International Business and she earned her MA in Asia Pacific Studies from the University of San Francisco. Always on the search for her next educational adventure, she recently completed Hackbright Academy’s full-stack engineering bootcamp. Kirby connected with 826 Valencia through a YCore fellowship and is thrilled to continue working with such an amazing organization.

Kenzie Kilb

Kenzie graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts and Letters in American Studies and Public Policy, and she received a Master of Arts in Education Policy and Leadership degree from Marquette University in her hometown of Milwaukee, WI. She lives in San Francisco and has volunteered for 826 Valencia’s After-School Tutoring programs, in-school programs, and the Young Authors Book Project.

Reza Lotun

Reza is a Director of Engineering at Twitter, leading a group of teams building the home timeline, conversations, and core product platform. Previously, Reza was the Head of Infrastructure and Analytics at TweetDeck, a small company based in London, UK, which was subsequently acquired by Twitter in 2011. Reza originally hails from Canada. He was born in the frozen wheat fields of Saskatchewan and raised in the environmental extremities of southern Ontario, thriving in the ‘just right’ of west coast Vancouver. He also spent over four years in London, UK, before moving to San Francisco. Reza has a graduate degree from the University of British Columbia and an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto. He’s father to two young boys, ages one and five, and husband to an 826 staffer.

Faraz Milani

Faraz is a Bay Area native and a Product Manager at DocuSign. Raised in Mountain View, California, entrepreneurship and technology surrounded him from an early age. He studied electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine and was part of multiple early-stage startups during and after university. More recently, he was involved in a fellowship at YCore where he learned about 826 Valencia’s inspiring program and worked with the team on some key challenges. Faraz has a passion for helping those who are in need, and hopes to one day have a career where work and social impact are one and the same. For now, he’s excited to help accelerate 826 Valencia’s wonderful mission to his fullest capacity.

Talia Moyal

Talia works in Product at a startup called LightStep, an application and infrastructure monitoring software solution. Talia has previously served on both the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation’s and Kiva Foundation’s inaugural Young Professional Advisory Councils. Talia was connected to 826 Valencia through her work as a Project Lead during a YCore fellowship. Talia is excited to take on leading this group through the second year of being the 826 Valencia Inaugural Associate Board.

Maddie Oatman

Maddie Oatman is an editor and writer at Mother Jones and a producer and host of its food politics podcast, Bite. She previously managed the magazine’s research department and fellowship program, working on National Magazine Award-winning investigations and training more than 60 journalists at the start of their careers. And once upon a time, after majoring in literature at Middlebury College, she interned at 826 Valencia. Her award-winning stories have also appeared in Outside, the Rumpus, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing, among others. On the weekends, she inhales fiction, dances at ODC, and hikes up mountains in the snow.

Owen Somerfeld

Owen feels as if he may have been made to work with 826 Valencia – at UC Davis, he was a creative writing major who volunteered extensively with organizations serving kids. This primed him for a serendipitous encounter on the streets of San Francisco, where, after seeing an 826 Valencia button on a stranger’s backpack, he promptly looked up the organization and applied to be a volunteer. After serving as a volunteer, Owen became further involved with 826 Valencia as a project lead through YCore. Owen now uses his creativity in his day job as a People Operations Manager at Big Health, but plans to one day write a children’s book too. He hopes to continue to stress the importance of buttons to the stores team while serving on the 826 Valencia Advisory Board.

Faryl Ury

Since Faryl Ury got her hands on her Dad’s camcorder as a child, she’s loved to tell stories. Currently, she is the Director  of Communications at Aurora, a self-driving car company. She also works as a PR consultant and media trainer. Previously, Faryl handled external communications for Square and Uber. While in Washington, DC,  she served as the Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and worked as a journalist at The Associated Press and NPR. Faryl received her Master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and graduated from Harvard. She’s volunteered with 826 Valencia over the last 5 years and always looks forward to Personal Statement Weekend!

Andrea Vallone

Andrea grew up as the only girl sandwiched between three brothers and quickly latched onto the art of storytelling to lobby for her parent’s support and attention throughout childhood (and still today). Andrea works in communications at Facebook where she covers News Feed and Stories. Born in Palo Alto and raised in Hong Kong, Andrea has straddled the divide between Eastern and Western culture her entire life and is passionate about the power of art and writing in uniting disparate perspectives. She also serves as the Director of Communications for the U.N. Women Silicon Valley Chapter, having previously been the PR Coordinator for U.N. Women San Francisco, helping to launch their flagship Global Voices Film Festival celebrating women in film. Andrea served on the editorial board of her college newspaper as chief copy editor; she has two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara in English and psychology.

Ali Vivinetto

Ali is a Product Marketing Manager at Google, where she helps small businesses get online and grow. Before Google, Ali worked at Strive and Udemy and is especially interested in the intersection between technology and access to education. When she’s not working, you can find her taking dance classes, running around Fort Funston, and reading too many books at a time. She is a total word nerd and received her BA in English from Yale University. Ali fell in love with 826 Valencia through a YCore fellowship and is honored to be a founding member of the Associate Board.

Alumni Board

Josselyn Bonilla

Josselyn was born and raised in El Salvador. Her family gradually migrated to the Bay Area and brought her along at the age of 17. While at Mission High School, she found out about 826 Valencia’s work with children and youth and decided to seek their help. She became one of many scholarship recipients as she started her path towards UC Berkeley where she graduated with a BA in Political Science. One of her goals is to continue to give back to her community. As of now she is working on getting an MA degree in Public Administration.

Bianca Catalan

Bianca is a San Francisco native, theater artist, and educator. She currently works at San Francisco University High School in the Community Engagement program. She is an actor with San Francisco Youth Theater. Her favorite thing about San Francisco is the ocean breeze.

Daisy Guzman

A San Francisco native, Daisy Guzman has been a member of the 826 Valencia community for over 14 years. She’s been involved with the organization in various capacities, first as a student and later as a volunteer, education program intern, and scholarship committee member. She holds a BS in Business Administration from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and is a practicing CPA at a Big 4 accounting firm. During her free time Daisy enjoys horseback riding, rock climbing, and traveling.

Osvaldo Marquez

Osvaldo is a San Francisco native. While growing up in the Bayview District, Osvaldo came in for After-School Tutoring, later joined the 826 Youth Advisory Board, and is now on the 826 Alumni Board. He is currently working at Silicon Valley Bank, advising financial technology companies on how to optimize their treasury operations.

Lucie Pereira

Lucie Pereira began her 826 journey as a student and came right back as Program Coordinator after studying writing and publishing at Emerson College. She has a penchant for fun animal facts and all things chocolate.

Jewelea Rivas

Jewelea Rivas was born and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco. Growing up, Jewelea participated in many programs within 826 Valencia. After being the first in her family to attend and graduate from college, she returned to San Francisco to give back to her community. She began working in the non-profit sector in order to support other first-generation, low income youth in their pursuit of higher education. Jewelea is currently the Director of College and Career Readiness at Seven Tepees Youth Program, and frequently makes it a point to refer her youth to 826 Valencia because she knows firsthand that they will be supported the same way that she was.

Giorgia Sage

Giorgia was born and raised in San Francisco, and returned here after receiving a BA in Studio Art & Design from Wesleyan University. They began taking workshops at 826 in third grade and remained involved with 826 programs through middle and high school, eventually receiving a Young Authors scholarship in 2014. A graphic designer by trade, Giorgia now moonlights as a peddler of pirate supplies and outfits for woodland creatures at 826’s stores. They see design and storytelling as powerful forces for advancing justice and solving contemporary problems of inequality and access. When not working, Giorgia can be found getting lost on their bike, writing poems, or playing capoeira.

V.E.S.T.volunteer engagement support team

Susan Birnbaum

Susan has been volunteering with us since 2015, dedicating over 150 hours to our students, primarily at our Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trips at the Mission Center. She brings her enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to our programs on a daily basis. A dedicated volunteer, Susan goes above and beyond for our community, supporting our students and volunteers. She seeks out organizations that focus on youth, creativity, and education, and is involved in several nonprofits that support projects created by students, nurturing their ideas and imaginations in the process.

Ed Cavagnaro

Ed Cavagnaro started out as a regular tutor in our summer programs in 2015 and went on to dedicate himself to projects such as The Straight-Up News, Mission Magazine, and the Young Authors’ Book Project. He is also a staple tutor in several of our Tenderloin programs and used his expertise as a radio producer to help us shape and launch our Podcasting Field Trip Program. On top of all that, Ed has also helped plan and lead several podcasting workshops for high school students at our Mission Center, and taken it upon himself to edit the final products. Needless to say, when he was brought up as a nominee for the Volunteer of the Month, staff lined up to sing his praises.

Gloria Lenhart

Gloria Lenhart loves San Francisco the way only an East Coast transplant can. She arrived in San Francisco just in time for the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. When she’s not helping with field trips at 826, you can find her leading walking tours around the city for San Francisco City Guides. In 2014, she launched the City Explorer San Francisco app offering downloadable tours of SF neighborhoods, where you can find sunken ships routes in the financial district, hidden gardens downtown, and more. And proceeds from the app benefit 826 Valencia.

Kate Marsh

Originally from Tennessee, Kate studied art in Los Angeles before trekking north to San Francisco, where she now works as an artist and freelance web designer. She came to 826 because of her interest in creative writing but “stayed for the community of volunteers and the unique programs,” such as the Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trips. When not illustrating a book at 826, Kate can be found trying out new recipes in the kitchen or watching movies.

Tim R.

Tim R. studied architecture, apparel, and graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has been involved with 826 as a tutor, volunteer designer, and “snack lady” since 2010. He speaks a bunch of languages and has lived, traveled, and studied in colder, far-flung climates. The sunny Mission is now his home, where he loves the Muni J-line, free-ish yoga, and mandated composting. His design alter-ego is, through which he has also produced retail goods, focusing on the informational, the anecdotal, and the PBS in all of us. Some of those “Objects” have found their way into the Pirate Supply Store, where he now also works part-time.


Nínive Calegari
Nínive Calegari is a veteran public school teacher who served as the Executive Director of 826 Valencia until 2007 and the CEO of 826 National until 2010. Nínive received her undergraduate degrees from Middlebury College, a graduate degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, and an Honorary Degree from the USF School of Education in 2019. Her 826 pedagogy has been replicated by 40 organizations internationally. She also founded and led The Teacher Salary Project, working to improve conditions for teachers, and is currently the CEO of Enterprise for Youth.
Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers is the author of many books, including The Circle, The Monk of Mokha, What is the What, A Hologram for the King, and The Lifters. His awards include the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the TED Prize, and he has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In addition to co-founding 826 Valencia and 826 National, he is the founder of McSweeney's, an independent publishing company, ScholarMatch, a nonprofit dedicated to college access, and The International Congress of Youth Voices, an annual gathering of 100 extraordinary young writers and activists.