Get to know the amazing people who keep 826 Valencia running!
Bita has been an educator in SFUSD for 20 years as a teacher administrator. She served on 826 Valencia’s Board for five years, three of them as President. She’s our fearless leader!
Bita Nazarian
Executive Director
Brad Amorosino is an illustrator and designer with a love of color and type. His design background centers on publishing and nonprofit work. His design foreground centers on the students of 826.
Brad Amorosino
Design 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
Dana, a Jersey native, studied creative writing and religious studies at Oberlin College in Ohio before continuing her trek out west to California. If not at 826, she is likely running up hills, posting up in a bookstore, or on a road trip.
Dana Belott
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 Coordinator
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 Brown
Individual Philanthropy Director
Elaina believes almost everything can/should be a little more efficient, organized, and accurate. When she’s not fretting over missorted excel sheets, she plays volleyball, rides her bike, and samples ice cream.
Elaina Bruna
Development Coordinator
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
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 can overlap.
Lila Cutter
Volunteer Coordinator
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
Tenderloin Programs Coordinator
Shelby spent her early years in rural Kentucky before voyaging to California to study writing. She taught writing in Los Angeles and Germany and interned at 826LA and 826 Valencia before joining the staff in 2016.
Shelby DeWeese
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 to 826 decades of experience in both corporate and nonprofit sectors in operations, business and program management, and art education.
Virdell Hickman
Operations Manager
Caroline has managed the flagship Pirate Supply Store since 2013. She’s done whatever needs doing since leading storefront design and community outreach during expansion to the Tenderloin (2016) and Mission Bay (2019).
Caroline Kangas
Stores Director
Kona grew up between Taiwan and Southern California. When she’s not dreaming up new ways to educate and connect with students, she’s folding origami, reading fanfiction, and petting cats at the SFSPCA.
Kona Lai
Tenderloin Programs Coordinator
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 Manager
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
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 Perry
Director of Education
Kathleen Rodríguez taught middle school in San Diego before she set sail on a voyage to Colombia to work in education and youth development. When not at 826, she can be found perusing a bookstore or enjoying the outdoors.
Kathleen Rodríguez
Programs Manager
Meghan Ryan has spent her career working in design and production in the education and nonprofit sectors. When not publishing the next generation of literary geniuses, you’ll likely find her catching some music, running in the park, or on a road trip in her tiny car.
Meghan Ryan
Publications 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
Anton loves connecting people to community needs. He has designed volunteer programs for different community groups including youth development, housing, and people with functional needs. Before 826, he led volunteerism at a HandsOn Network affiliate with the Boys & Girls Club.
Anton Timms
Volunteer Engagement Director
Ashley Smith, a Bay Area native, taught reading and writing to middle school students in San Francisco and New York, where she earned her Masters. When not at 826, she enjoys eating her way through San Francisco's many culinary offerings.
Ashley Smith
Programs Manager
Jillian was an AmeriCorps volunteer in New Mexico, a founding teacher at a middle school in Watsonville, California, and earned her Masters 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 Manager
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
In-Schools Programs Manager

AmeriCorps Staff 2018-19

Paloma Mariz is a Rio de Janeiro native with a background in film. Seeking new adventures, she moved to the Bay Area where she fell in love with King Carl and the nonprofit world. When not at 826, you'll find her biking around Oakland and exploring coffee shops.
Paloma Mariz
Communications VISTA

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.

Barb Bersche
Partner and the former president of McSweeney’s Publishing
Partner and the former president of McSweeney’s Publishing

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.

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.

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.

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
Educator and Assistant Superintendent for SFUSD's Bayview/Potrero Hill communities
Educator and Assistant Superintendent for SFUSD's Bayview/Potrero Hill communities

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.

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, and long-time advocate for social justice and civil rights
Writer, communications consultant, and long-time advocate for social justice and civil rights

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.


Nínive Calegari
A veteran public school teacher who 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.
Dave Eggers
The author of seven books including A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and most recently A Hologram for the King, Where the Wild Things Are, and Away We Go. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2005 and received the 2007 Heinz Award and the 2008 TED prize. His book Zeitoun received the 2010 American Book Award, and A Hologram for the King was named one of the ten best books of 2012 by The New York Times.