AmeriCorps Staff 2020-21
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 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, 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 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 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 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.
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, 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, 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 has been part of the 826 Valencia community for over 15 years. He started as a student tutee but soon 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
Anna Luna is an Associate Director – Program with Hirsch Philanthropy Partners, where she strategizes with philanthropists to implement impactful grantmaking portfolios in the fields of Education and Youth Development. Before joining Hirsch Philanthropy Partners, Luna worked as a Program Associate at the S.H. Cowell Foundation, where she developed a keen understanding of best practices that empower children and their families to thrive. She also worked across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to amplify the Family Resource Centers network’s impact. Luna serves as a Board member for 826 Valencia and West Contra Costa Public Education Fund and is an active member of the Latino Community Foundation Giving Circles in San Francisco and Contra Costa County. She holds a B.A. in Chicano/a Studies with a Public Policy emphasis from the University of California, Davis.
Talia is the Head of Product Marketing at a startup called Lightstep, a software observability platform. Talia has previously served and helped found 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 be leading this group through its second year of being the 826 Valencia Inaugural Associate Board.
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.
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 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.
Olivia is a Midwesterner at heart but has fully embraced life on the West Coast. Her favorite place she has lived is Yosemite, where she worked as a backcountry EMT on the park’s search and rescue team. She now works in cancer research at UCSF, exploring molecular pathways of brain tumor cells to identify potential therapeutic targets. While getting a BS in cell and molecular biology at Tulane, Olivia loved serving on the Associate Board of College Writing Buddies to foster strong writing mentorships between middle school students and college students in New Orleans. She has found similar satisfaction and joy in working with students at 826’s after-school and summer programs. Olivia loves long runs, cooking, and being outside, especially near the water!
Rajiv is a Product Manager at Unity Technologies, a platform that helps creators tell stories through interactive experiences like video games and more. He has always loved storytelling, working in his spare time as a filmmaker and musician. In addition to his work with 826, Rajiv serves on the Associate Board of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, a nonprofit focused on housing and community development in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. He received a BS in Science, Technology, and International Affairs from Georgetown University. Outside of his interests in film and music, Rajiv loves basketball, golfing, and surfing.
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 has remained connected ever since as a volunteer, a project lead with YCore, and now as the Special Projects Lead on VAB! Owen now stays creative through his day job in People Operations 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.
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 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). 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. Andrea works in communications at Facebook where she covers Misinformation. She 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 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.
Shannon spent her childhood bouncing between California and Kentucky, developing a deep curiosity about what makes people tick in different parts of the world. She studied political science at UCSD, traveling to Malawi, Africa for research and falling even more in love with the interconnectedness of humanity. She began her tech career at a financial literacy company called NerdWallet. Upon observing just how magical the Internet is for amplifying connectivity, learning, and freedom, she made a transition into the Internet infrastructure space, now working at Cloudflare. Outside of work, she runs, bikes, and writes a monthly newsletter with themes of personal sovereignty, equity, and empowerment. She feels deeply honored to help students at 826 Valencia tap into the creative potential that’s already encoded in their very DNA — sometimes all they need is a mirror to help them find it!
Kevin grew up in Fairfax County, Virginia with little interest in reading until an English teacher hooked him into the meaningful conversations embedded in each book. This shifted his interest to the liberal arts, leading him to attend and graduate from Brown University with a degree in History and Economics. Before moving to San Francisco, Kevin heard about 826 Valencia through Dave Eggers’ work. After several years, he finally had the opportunity to work with 826 Valencia through the YCore fellowship. As a board member, Kevin is excited to support 826 Valencia and further delight kids with the wonders of reading and writing.
Taylor is a native Northern Californian who only this year has learned to embrace the Best Coast. She decided she wanted to be a children’s book editor when she was 13, working at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, and from then on she never looked back, except for a few years at the University of California, Berkeley where she majored in English and minored in French but seriously considered throwing it all away to stay a house manager at the Greek Theatre, the nation’s best music venue, forever. Some other nouns she’s held are copyeditor at the Daily Cal, barista at Philz, and waitress at Tomatina, evangelist of Hipline, and music obsessive. She’s been a children’s book editor at Chronicle Books since 2011, working on picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels.
Ana migrated to the US from Guatemala at age 8 and spent most of her life in San Bernardino, CA. Programs like 826 made a huge difference in Ana’s life so being part of this board is a dream come true. Ana received a Bachelors in Economics from Wellesley College and after a short stint in consulting began a career in People Analytics. Now, Ana is a software engineer at Sendoso. Ana’s birthday is 8.26 – talk about signs!
Linda is a Bay Area native who spent her childhood either competing in the pool or with her nose buried in a book. She took a hiatus from the West Coast to attend Amherst College where she was able to continue her love of reading and writing as an English and Political Science major. She spent the rest of her time as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as competing on the varsity swim team. She discovered 826 Valencia soon after returning to San Francisco and has never looked back!
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
Juan grew up in the Mission District and currently serves at 826 Valencia as a Programs Associate. As a participant and intern at different Bay Area nonprofits, he has developed a great admiration for the nonprofit sector and is thrilled to contribute to the whimsical, yet impactful work being done by 826. Outside of work, you can normally spot him grabbing a burrito in the Mission, looking for a new read at the library, or browsing his local farmers’ market.
Cléo is a tried and true Californian: she grew up in foggy San Francisco, and went to college in sunny Los Angeles, where she studied philosophy and economics. While in high school, Cléo participated in 826 Valencia’s Young Author Workshop. Then, she described herself as a “creative spirit” in her bio, which still mostly holds true. During her free time, Cléo can often be found at Ocean Beach reading a book or watching the waves.
V.E.S.T.volunteer engagement support team
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 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 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.
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. 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 Subject-Object.net, 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.