"We are in this period of time where what predicts kids' experiences is zip code. Across zip codes there is great disparity. There needs to be a way to address those disparities. We need to change or transform the system in a way where more kids will succeed."
Brandon is the founding executive director of The Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland-based nonprofit that supports young African-American males in technology, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The Hidden Genius Project has served close to 1,000 kids.
Why public education?
I went to Oakland public schools from K-8, and then I had the opportunity to participate in the Better Chance Program. I attended a private high school for free. I felt I was prepared for the school thanks to my experience at Claremont, but what struck me was ‘Why was I able to afford this as opposed to someone else?’ Not everyone has the opportunity and support at school and home that I did.
I was born and raised here. As I was able to see more of the world in high school and college, I realized how diverse Oakland is and how important of a place it is politically and culturally. I know it has its challenges– school achievement, violence, and poverty– but it also has a certain level of swag, cultural intelligence, and a great deal of pride.
What are your vices?
I definitely try too much, in a good way. I try to do as much as possible in a given day and sit on various boards. I don’t have a problem saying no. I just want to do things and make things happen.
"I am hopeful that as more and more parents realize the great power they hold as leaders we will be able to organize ourselves and build a parent-student minded coalition that fights for the rights of our children. All children, regardless of socio-economic status, race, or background deserve a high-quality education."
Carmen has been a part of the Fresno Unified School District for the last 15 years as a mother to a 20-year-old, a 17-year-old, and a 5-year-old who just started his educational path. She is committed to advocacy work surrounding public education to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality instruction that will lead them on a path to success and provide them with the skills necessary to thrive in the labor force of the 21st century.
Most importantly, she believes the love of learning can be restored in the hearts of all Fresno’s children.
I GO because I believe that truly equitable educational outcomes will only be achieved when all stakeholders have a seat and a say at the table. First as student, then a teacher, and now a family member I have seen what is possible when inequitable systems are intentionally interrupted to empower students, their families, and champions-- and I've seen and experienced what happens when this is not the case. I'm in this work to support the movement of our system to the possible and to ensure that as many people as possible acquire the skills and resources to hold our leaders accountable.
Darcel joined our growing organization from Teach For America, where she spent three years working on the California Capital Valley team, most recently as the Interim Executive Director, and on the California team as Vice President, California Government Affairs. Prior to joining TFA, Darcel worked in the California State Senate departing as Legislative Director to Senator Carol Liu (SD, 25), then Chair of the Senate Education Committee. Darcel began her policy career as an intern in Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Washington D.C. office. She also taught at Frick Middle School in Oakland and was Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Mills College.
A Central Valley native, Darcel is inspired by our work in Fresno, Oakland, and West Contra Costa. She is excited to bring her classroom experience and public policy knowledge to our team, especially as we look to expand our reach and impact.
What is your favorite quote?
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain; make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change then change the way you’ve been thinking; you may find a new solution. Never whine, whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood. Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.” -Dr. Maya Angelou
Para que todos los niños tengan acceso a las mismas oportunidades puedan soñar sin limites.
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Erika is a current Caliber parent and a WCCUSD and Metas Alumni. Raised in the San Pablo/Richmond area, she is now proud to be able to raise her two boys there. In her previous work with non-profit organizations, Erika worked with several schools in our district and the School Based Health Centers. Erika is proud and excited to be the newest member of GO!
In today's time, success in the public school system depends on the amount of resources students have access to receive. We need to find solutions to eliminate the disconnect as to why education inequality exists. Children are the future and we have a great opportunity to make positive impacts.
While finishing my undergrad I was presented the opportunity to work with children with autism and an special projects intern. The most rewarding part working with the kiddos was seeing their social skills blossom as they passed major milestones. While in my internship, I learned logistics and project planning. After these two experiences, I knew I wanted a happy medium of having a positive impact on children while working on the operations parts of things. GO gives me that opportunity to do just that.
Why public education?
I am a product of public education through my undergrad. Living in the Central Valley I was lucky enough to be in a school system that went above and beyond for their students in resources needed to be successful. I understand that advocating for those resources were essential to my growth, and now it is my turn to advocate for the next generation to receive the education they deserve.
Favorite quote and why?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
"Our communities' urgent need to address persistent opportunity gaps for our children of color and the evolving skills necessary for the 21st century economy demand that we commit ourselves to a fundamental transformation of public education. GO is about developing innovative leaders with the vision, care, skills and information to make the changes to our public schools that our kids deserve."
Jonathan is passionate about improving public schools in low-income communities. Since his first job after college teaching in Compton, CA, he has been a fundraiser, community organizer and political advocate. Jonathan began working with parents, educators, and community members in 2008 to develop GO’s Oakland network, and became Executive Director in 2012. Based on GO’s work in Oakland, Jonathan was one of three finalists for the Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership, presented annually to one of the 30,000 Teach For America alumni for work that has led to far-reaching systemic change. New Schools Venture Fund also named Jonathan Change Agent of the Year in 2013. In 2003, he co-founded what is now the Oakland Public Education Fund, a non-profit organization that has helped hard-pressed schools raise $20 million for special programs and extra teachers. He was also the Bay Area Director of Teach for America, Chief Program Officer at the Rogers Family Foundation, and Special Assistant to the State Administrator in the Oakland Unified School District as a Broad Resident. Jonathan received an MBA from the Haas School of Business in 2008, and was a Lecturer there on nonprofit leadership and management. He also helped found Revolution Foods. Jonathan is a fully credentialed California teacher and received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University. Jonathan lives with his wife and two children in Oakland’s Dimond neighborhood.
The pandemic has underscored the need for many changes within the public school system. Families are an underserved and underutilized lever for creating that change, especially in the most marginalized communities where GO is committed to working.
Prior to GO, Eden was the Director of Research at A+ Colorado, a school-based Program Manager at a social service organization, and spent some time in the classroom. Eden also worked at an orphanage in Central America and loves to travel there (and anywhere else) and bring her camera. The rest of Eden’s time and energy is spent being the cool aunt™️ to her nieces and nephew.
"My hope is that other parents like myself raise their voices and concerns and receive the tools they need to unite together for quality schools and equity for all our children."
Juana Iris Mesa is a mother of 4 children. She is someone who is active in her own community and her passion is to help others around her and she also enjoys learning new knowledge so that she can share this back to her community.
Juana graduated from GO Fresno’s 2nd Family Leadership Program in May 2018 so that she could gain the tools she needed to advocate for quality education. Since then, she has joined the Family Leadership Action Group (FLAG), participated in one on one meetings with board members, has taken her advocacy to the state level in Sacramento about issues of financial aid and has actively spoken at board meetings on issues that matter to her.
During her free time, she enjoyed spending quality time around her family. One of her most favorite things to do together as a family is camping. Juana also enjoys learning and participating at events that her community provides.
I partner with GO because I believe that advocacy and organizing are critical to achieving an equitable, high quality education for all West Contra Costa students.
Kathleen is an El Cerrito parent and passionate education advocate who is both personally and professionally dedicated to improving outcomes in West Contra Costa County schools. She has worked for the Irene S. Scully Family Foundation since 2007, having served as the Foundation’s Program Officer and Director of Programs before taking on her current role as Executive Director.
"I firmly believe that change is possible and we must start by educating ourselves so that we can take our knowledge to our communities. GO Fresno is a great place to start with this journey."
Lorena Moreno is a LatinX mother who was born in Mexico. She has 3 children, Romeo who is 8 years old, Fabricio who is 6 years old and Yamila who is 3 years old. All her children are currently attending schools in the Fresno Unified School District.
Her passion is to learn new things every day so that she can take all her knowledge and experiences in her community. Lorena knows that it is very important to help other marginalized communities. She has been actively involved as a volunteer with GO Fresno over the past year and a half. Lorena was a graduate of GO Fresno’s 2nd Family Leadership Program on May 2018. During her time with GO, she has also advocated at the State Level in Sacramento on issues of financial aid, spoken at board meetings, has engaged and led conversations with board members, and supported the 4th cohort of Family Leaders. Lorena is also involved in different programs such as ELAC, attending PTA meetings at her children’s schools, and advocacy and volunteer time in Head-Start.
Lorena’s hopes and dreams are that one day all schools are given high-quality opportunities and especially low-income neighborhoods like hers.
Ensuring all kids have access to a quality public education goes a long way towards ensuring equal opportunity for all.
Louis is SVP of Legal & Head of Corporate Development at if(we). He oversees all legal matters, including intellectual property, corporate governance, securities compliance, litigation and government affairs. He also leads teams for finance and accounting, people operations and facilities, including employee recruitment and retention, and is responsible for driving corporate development and strategic transactions. Louis has significant experience with online media, privacy and technology law and has been closely involved with the evolution of the industry for the past 10 years. Prior to working with if(we), Louis served as General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of Ennovate Media, a media technology company based in New York, where he was responsible for key client relations. He also served as Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs with The Deal, L.L.C., a financial news publishing company also based in New York. Louis began his legal career as a corporate associate with Dewey Ballantine LLP working on mergers and acquisitions and securities offerings. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University (B.A.) and Columbia Law School (J.D.), where he served as an Editor of the Columbia Law Review.
The outcomes for students can and must change. I am committed to this work to ensure we do right by our kids.
A West Contra Costa native, parent, and former WCCUSD educator, Maribel has established a strong commitment and profile as an education leader in West Contra Costa. Maribel brings valuable context to this work as a Richmond-San Pablo native, graduate of Richmond High School, and former bilingual teacher in San Pablo. Her urgency is fueled by her experience as a mother of two daughters in East Richmond Heights.
Education is the key to providing our students with the opportunities that they deserve. As a former Title I student and educator, I strongly believe that the voices and perspectives of students, families, and communities hold power and should be heard.
Mariko is entering her 7th year of working in education. Born and raised in Northern California, Mariko attended California public schools and eventually graduated from Portland State University where she played for their NCAA volleyball team. After graduating from college, Mariko joined Teach For America where she taught middle school science in Jacksonville, Florida. Prior to joining GO, Mariko served as the Manager of External Affairs for the Teach For America-California Capital Valley Team in Sacramento.
Together, I believe we can create an inclusive space where all come to the table with honest stories and curious ears; to share worries, successes, and solutions; and to draw energy, urgency, and inspiration from a shared commitment to doing what’s best for our babies.
Natalie is a Richmond local and founding principal of Caliber Schools Beta Academy. She was raised in Richmond and now is proud to raise her children there. Over the past 10 years, she has been a school leader at parochial and public schools in West Contra Costa and Alameda counties serving students in grades Pre K-12. Most recently, Natalie was the principal of Glenview Elementary in Oakland where, under her leadership, the school experienced double-digit growth in both Math and ELA on the California Standards Test (CST). In 2011, Glenview achieved the most growth in the district for African American students in Math. In her final year in Oakland, Natalie received the Excellence in Educational Leadership Award with an unprecedented number of nominations.
"I GO because raising 3 black males in the education system was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. It is imperative that the voices of the parents and our children be heard. Together we can shift the system to ensure all children receive an equitable education in every school."
Natosha’s passion in life is empowering youth to reach their full potential. She has spent the last 15 years developing youth as a youth pastor and empowerment educator in underserved schools in Bakersfield and Sacramento community. She is committed to ensuring children receive equitable education and access to opportunities. Natosha has organized the Walk4Literacy and managed the Black Child Legacy Campaign office in Oak Park. In addition, she has used her motivational speaking platform to encourage youth to pursue higher education relentlessly!
Why public education?
Natosha has been married 25 years and raised three sons, who have all graduated from high school and are in various stages of their college journeys. She understands the state of our educational system and the importance of our work. Her core values align with our mission to ensure all children experience a quality education.
Favorite quote and why?
“An educated mind will set you FREE” is Natosha’s personal mantra, used to encourage youth to pursue the life they deserve.
I believe our public school system should provide every child with quality education. We need to transform the system to better serve the needs of all students.
Why public education?
I’m passionate about public education because it’s the system I grew up in. While I experienced the divide in equitable education that exists in the Bay Area, I was fortunate to be guided by family throughout my educational career. I believe that change is possible in creating an equitable high-quality education for all students. At GO, I have the honor of sharing family’s stories and creating a platform for their voices to be heard.
How I GO
Radhika is a communications professional with experience in grassroots campaigns, journalism and storytelling to lift up the voices of marginalized communities.
What are your vices?
I’ve been known to be enjoying a delicious meal, and already be thinking about the next.
All children deserve a sound educational foundation from which they can pursue their dreams.
At my very core, I believe every single child should have access to opportunity and a quality education. I know if we work together as a community, we can end cycles of generational inequities that have obstructed opportunities for far too long. Now is the time to inform, to empower, and to act.
Before joining the GO West Contra Costa team, Sara worked as the Communications & Special Projects Manager for East Bay College Fund, an organization providing scholarships and college success support for under-resourced youth in Oakland, and a key player for the citywide Oakland Promise Initiative. Sara’s post-secondary knowledge comes from time she spent working as a Project Manager for both Berkeley City College and Merritt College. Sara served as the project lead for several career pathway projects that helped youth earn industry credentials and gain valuable work experience, largely in the STEM fields. Sara also spent some time in Mt. Diablo, Oakland, and Berkeley schools as an enrichment instructor, teaching Lego robotics in after-school programs. Sara is a graduate of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, and UC Berkeley with a degree in English. She also earned two certificates in Bioscience from Merritt College.
I GO because every child in our community -- especially low-income students and students of color -- deserves justice and equal opportunity. We must work together until this is a reality for all of our students.
A West Contra Costa grandparent and community-based organization leader, Scottie has been an education advocate for over 35 years. She began working in Montgomery County, Maryland as a parent volunteer in the local schools and was elected the first Special Needs Chair for the Montgomery County Public School system. As Chair, she advocated for the educational rights of Exceptional Students, and the establishment of a parent center that provided resources and advocacy services to parents, teachers, and students. Scottie also co-founded The March 4 Education, a grassroots organization that advocates for equity in educational funding at the state and national levels. She has served many parents and students in Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and San Francisco. She provides personal advocacy and training sessions for parents/students, social service agencies and others on 504, IDEA, and regular education issues.
Schools should truly serve all students and school systems should be responsive to the communities that they serve. Our work tips the balance of power in favor of students and families allowing them to claim their rightful place at the policymaker’s table.
I got my start in education as a high school teacher in a largely immigrant community in Miami. Through the lens of my students, I saw the deeply personal impact of policy decisions made at every level of a system that stacks the odds against them. Since leaving the classroom, I have continued to fight against those odds leading school improvement efforts – as a social worker, district leader, and policy director.
Why public education?
Both of my parents were lifelong public school teachers. They taught me that education is not just how an individual student can get ahead in life, but it’s also how families can break generational poverty and how communities unite people across their differences and expand opportunity for all.
Favorite quote and why?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – The simplicity and urgency of this question posed by Mary Oliver pushes me to examine whether my daily decisions truly align to what I value most in life.
The world is changing faster than ever, and an equitable and effective education is the key to all of our futures.
Working at GO marks a full circle movement for me. Back to reforming an education system that has been historically cruel to low income communities. Back to using our political voice to shape the type of school district we deserve. Back to building a grassroots movement of families and educators that are concerned with one goal – the success of Oakland students.
I’ve always been led to roles where I’m able to play a part in helping communities realize their collective power. I’m inspired by the way community organizing can reform broken systems, create movements and disrupt the status quo. This informs my work as Political Director. As a former union organizer, I represented teachers and classified employees in the country’s second largest school district – Los Angeles Unified. Mainly working in the underserved communities of South Los Angeles, I witnessed what lack of educational resources does to a community. I also learned the power of using politics for social change. My work as Organizing Director at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights focused on the broken criminal justice system. Working with community to shift resources away from systems of oppression and into programs, services and job opportunities that build our community.
"GO creates space for honest, well-informed and respectful public dialogue; listens with deep curiosity; and helps move conversations toward constructive, inclusive solutions that can enable Oakland families, faculty, administrators and other key players to build and sustain great public schools that welcome all Oakland kids."
Zabrae has been working to engage policy makers and the public in conversations to strengthen civic literacy and public policy for over 25 years, and currently provides strategic advising to initiatives in these areas. Since 2016, she has convened and facilitated the Economic Mobility Collaborative, an intentionally multi-partisan group of policy and political leaders who believe current barriers to economic security in CA present a critical threat to the state’s future both economically and socially, and who want to accelerate change that enables all Californians to be secure, feel valued, and thrive.
Why public education?
A great education for every single child is one of the most important investments we can make in our hyper interdependent society: It prepares each individual to access their best future (which every human deserves to do), and it seeds a secure, vibrant, resilient economy, and happy communities primed to meet and best challenges as they come—and they will come. It’s as important to each individual, and to every community, as the air we breathe. And that means it’s gotta be a public good.
You must do the things you think you cannot do –Eleanor Roosevelt; The truth will set you free – but first it will piss you off –Gloria Steinem