Staff

Jim Wambach

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Jim is responsible for guiding the overall growth and strategic development of Children Rising’s contributions to closing the achievement gap in urban public schools. He draws on his 25 years of corporate and nonprofit executive leadership experience, and a passion for helping to change the trajectory of young lives through improved education and enhanced community support.

Jim, like everyone at Children Rising, begins every day knowing there are so many of our children and youth at a personal crossroad of promise and risk – trying desperately to escape the cycle of poverty and violence surrounding them.  He is grateful for the opportunity to combine his passion for helping underserved children and youth with his years of successful business experience so Children Rising might empower as many of these children as possible.

Jim is from Ohio and remains a big fan of Ohio State football. He moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest in 2001 and is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren he can’t believe he is old enough to have…

Chelsea Boniak

Director of Development and Finance

As Director of Development and Finance, Chelsea works to ensure the Children Rising programs are fully funded to provide as many children as possible with life changing support from the community. Chelsea has been with Children Rising since its early years and has truly been part of the fabric of the organization. In 2003 she contributed as an administrative assistant, which evolved over time to include event planning, fundraising, grant writing, donor cultivation, finance and human resources. Chelsea earned her sociology degree from UCLA, and is passionate about supporting the community by providing opportunities to invest in children and youth. She was raised, educated and still lives in Oakland with her husband and two young children.

Gleoria Bradley-Sapp

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As a Succeeding by Reading Associate Program Coordinator, Gleoria Bradley-Sapp helps children increase their reading skills by matching them with reading tutors, while also ensuring that reading tutors are trained and supported. Gleoria holds a Master’s Degree in Health Science from San Francisco State University and brings more than thirty years’ experience in higher education administration to her role at Children Rising. Gleoria wants all children to learn to read, not just as a necessary skill to succeed in life, but for the joy it brings. Prior to Children Rising, she volunteered with the Oakland Public Library as a story time reader to help preschool children learn to love words and to discover the magic found in books, earned an Associate Teacher Child Development permit, and worked with infants through elementary school children. Gleoria has two married adult daughters and four grandchildren. She is a member of a local book club and participates in adult summer reading programs.

Jeannette Brantley

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As a Reading Clinic Coordinator in the Succeeding by Reading program, Jeannette is responsible for coordinating and hosting four weekly reading clinics at school sites with the OUSD. Jeannette draws on the skills gained from 25 plus years of a career in social service work and 15 years in secondary education, both of which serve her well in her current position a Reading Clinic Coordinator with SbR. With a social work major with a minor in education, Jeannette's working life has been in the non-profit sector, working primarily with marginalized communities before transitioning into education. When not working at one of her school sites as a SbR coordinator, Jeannette is an elder in her church and enjoys spending time with her church family and hiking some of the beautiful Bay Area hiking trails with friends, and spending time with her two beautiful granddaughters.

Rebecca Buckley

Succeeding by Reading

Program Director

As director of Succeeding by Reading, Rebecca shares the wonder of reading with struggling children in East Bay public schools most impacted by poverty and violence. Rebecca earned a bachelor of art in linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in English/TESL from San Francisco State University. With a heart for serving others, she spent 20 years teaching English to international students at California State University East Bay and St. Mary's College of California, in addition to staff positions at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. Discerning a call to pastoral ministry, Rebecca completed her master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2008 and is currently part-time pastor at Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco.    Rebecca knows that one-to-one relationships are the key to helping students who are substantially below grade level. Drawing on her teaching experience and her ability to galvanize volunteers from all walks of life, she has elevated the Succeeding by Reading program and helped change the academic trajectory for thousands of children.   Rebecca grew up in Mountain View and has two adult daughters, Melissa and Christina. In her spare time, she enjoys puns, poetry, puzzles, and waltzing with newborns.

Mayotis Cephas

Path2Math

Clinic Coodinator

As Path2Math Clinic Coordinator, Mayotis is part of the team that oversees the tutor-friendly (presently) online curriculum that guides students to proficiency in the six strands of mathematics. Though she has retired from the classroom after 30 + years of instruction, teaching remains her passion. It is a privilege that she does not take lightly. Mayotis received her bachelor’s degree from Alderson-Broaddus College, then went on to earn a master’s in education from the University of Pittsburgh. Her great joy is seeing the a-ha moment for students. For 27 years, she taught at primary and intermediate levels with the Oakland Catholic Diocese. Even as she was planning her retirement, she knew she wanted to stay connected to educating youth. Children Rising provides that link between her love of teaching and the opportunity to point students toward success in math.

Kim Farnham-Flom

Library Services

Director

As Director of library services, Kim leads and supports a qualified team of dedicated volunteers in opening and maintaining libraries in under-resourced schools. Having spent over 30 years as a human resources professional, she has a heart for service and a passion for books. Kim served on the Board of the East Bay Chapter of United Way, co-managed an independent Berkeley bookstore and, since joining Children Rising, has opened 10 school libraries since 2011. After leaving the corporate world in 2011, Kim immediately started tutoring through our Succeeding By Reading program. She quickly realized the correlation between a school’s literacy rates, poverty level and whether the school library was open and serving students with a quality program. She is passionate about working with teachers and volunteers in providing the resources for reading and research. She truly loves introducing students to history, diverse literature, and stories and cultures of the world while reinforcing the values of responsibility and trust. An East Bay native, Kim also serves as fellowship advisor for University of California Berkeley students and as co-facilitator for Newbigin House, San Francisco Fellowship Program. She is married, has two adult sons and, fortunately for us, discovered the occupational hazard of working with Oakland students is falling in love with them. She also believes when students and books are matched, something magical occurs.

Bronwyn Harris

Community Engagement Manager

As Community Engagement Manager, Bronwyn develops partnerships between Children Rising and the wider community, ensuring that we all work as a team to empower the wonderful children we are privileged to serve.

Bronwyn has had a long history with Children Rising in many different ways. She was a teacher in East Oakland when Children Rising began, and saw her students greatly benefit from the (at the time) new organization. Later, as Director of Education at Harbor House, she oversaw a reading clinic on site, again seeing firsthand the dramatic improvement in reading levels as well as the precious relationships built between mentors and students. In 2019, she officially joined the Children Rising team!

Bronwyn taught in East Oakland from 2000-2007, and wrote a book about her experiences and those of her students. She is originally from Petaluma, earned a bachelor’s of science in psychology from UC Davis, and a teaching credential from CSU Sacramento. She is a proud auntie and spends as much time as possible at the ocean.

Michelle Hutcherson

Path2Math

Program Manager

As the Program Director for the Path2Math program, Michelle’s infectious enthusiasm is perfectly suited for helping children become excited about math. In addition to making one on one connections with students and delivering high-quality, student centered programing, she supports and trains the many volunteer tutors and mentors. Prior to joining Children Rising, Michelle worked for Padilla & Associates, Inc. as a public/private industry business support services consultant, and before that the San Diego School Unified School District and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Project as a consultant to Caltrans. Michelle is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family, watching movies and playing games. Michelle does this work because she has always enjoyed working with kids and would like nothing more than to see them become empowered through learning.

Charlotte Martinez

Health4kids

Director

As Director of Health4Kids, Charlotte is responsible for overseeing Children Rising’s collaboration with the Alameda County Community Food Bank in providing grocery bags of healthy food to over a thousand families. Supplementing their weekend food, Charlotte takes immense satisfaction in knowing that many more children receive nourishment and come to school on Monday mornings ready to learn. She draws on her many years of corporate and nonprofit managerial experience, organizing and working with volunteers who share her desire to make a difference in the lives of children vulnerable to the effects of poverty.

Throughout her life, Charlotte has had a sense of urgency around the issues of justice and equality. Working with Children Rising is an opportunity to address the crisis of urban food deserts and lack of family funds for food as we partner with people who recognize that access to healthy food is an important aspect of equity in our communities. She is thankful for the blessing of working in an environment that shares her values.

Charlotte lives in Oakland and is a serious Golden State Warriors fan. She enjoys singing and touring with choirs and loves her garden. She has three amazing daughters and ten wonderful grandchildren who keep her on her toes.

Brenda Paulin

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As an Associate Program Coordinator for Succeeding by Reading Program, Brenda is committed to closing the academic achievement gap by assisting tutors in providing one-on-one personal reading instruction to individual students.

Brenda joined Children Rising in 2010 as a volunteer reading tutor before joining the staff. She had enjoyed a successful federal career as a Human Resources Director, and was drawn to Children Rising because of its mission to give hope to at-promise students in East Bay schools, and her desire to give back for the many blessings she has received. She studied English and Business Administration at Howard University and the University of Maryland’s University College.

Brenda lives in San Leandro with her husband, is the mother of 2 and the grandmother of 5.

Eric Steckel

Communications Manager

As Communications Manager, Eric is passionate about helping to increase community awareness for the children who are at the crossroad of promise and risk, and inspiring action to close the academic achievement gap in our urban public schools. With a wealth of experience in both traditional and digital communications, he was appointed communications manager after a long period of volunteering and mentoring youth at Children Rising .

Keenly aware of the power of one-on-one relationships, Eric enjoys serving in an organization where relationships make profound differences in the lives of struggling children and families. By getting off of the sideline and taking part, he is able to share stories of progress and hope.

Eric is a graduate of Bucknell University and holds a Master’s Degree in Communication from the American University in Washington, DC. He is married with two children and when he’s not handling communications duties, you will likely find Eric running his favorite East Bay trails or coaching youth soccer.

Gwen Stephens

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As an Associate Program Coordinator, Gwen ensures that Succeeding by Reading clinics run effectively, tutors are trained and supported and, most of all, that students learn to read. She draws on nearly five decades of experience as a classroom teacher, reading intervention teacher and as a mentor to new teachers.

Helping struggling children read is her joy and passion. Every morning brings fresh enthusiasm as she looks forward to being a part of an effort to bring hope and confidence to the students she serves. Gwen lives for the days when a student’s face lights up with enjoyment of a book, or celebrates small and large reading accomplishments.

Gwen and her husband Paul love living in Oakland and lavish their attention on 8 grandchildren. She also loves performing musically with her sister at church and cooking for friends.

Ashley Verinsky

Succeeding By Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As an Associate Program Coordinator, Ashley manages and supports tutors at Succeeding by Reading clinics at multiple elementary school sites and assists with database management for the program. She earned a credential and Master's Degree in Mild/Moderate Special Education from USF in 2005 and started volunteering with Children Rising in 2011 after teaching students with diverse needs for over 10 years.  Ashley is passionate about teaching kids to read and enjoys watching them make consistent progress in their carefully designed, one-on-one tutoring sessions. In her spare time, Ashley likes spending time with her family, supporting children in foster care, and getting outdoors as much as possible.

Margena Wade-Green

CareerBridge and Path2Math

Director

As the CareerBridge and Path2Math Program Director, Margena spends much of her time in program and curriculum development, as well as supporting her students and volunteers. With a passion for serving children and youth in her community, Margena started with Children Rising as a volunteer, and brings over 25 years of community outreach and service to students in various capacities.

Margena’s ability to make connections and solve problems with compassion has served her well during her 14-years as community and educational outreach manager at CalTrans. Looking for ways to help kids excel and gain meaningful academic and career opportunities, she coordinated early CareerBridge internship opportunities at CalTrans and BART that continue to this day.

Margena is an Oakland native, and is married to Donovan Green, has 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 2 granddogs.

Pearl Wang

Operations Manager

As the Operations Manager at Children Rising, Pearl oversees daily office operations, manages volunteer registration, develops our Salesforce database, and does the layout of our quarterly newsletter. In short, she handles the back end while our program directors, unencumbered by office logistics or finding volunteers, help our students. Pearl brings a wealth of skills to her role, including customer service experience, an aptitude for systems and tech support, and graphic design, all of which she uses to further Children Rising’s vision of surrounding underserved children in the East Bay with a caring community. Pearl has a passion for helping small children and, after college, spent 5 months working in a Taiwanese orphanage called The Home of God’s Love. She takes professional fulfillment in knowing that she can support struggling children indirectly from her administrative position. Pearl grew up in North Potomac, Maryland and graduated from the University of Virginia. While she loves being in the Bay Area, she misses the East Coast’s glory of autumn leaves and the chill smell of winter. She still gets confused every year when summer sidles into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Board

Jonathan Becker

Chair

Jonathan joined the Children Rising board in 2019, driven by his passion and belief that all children should be given a fair chance of success - and it starts with equal education. He is frustrated by how society continues to under-invest in our children’s education and recently served as precinct captain for a ballot measure to renew his town’s parcel tax, and as treasurer for another measure to issue bonds for school renovations (both won). Jonathan earned a BA, Political Science from Yale University and an MBA, Organizational Behavior from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business. He is founder and Principle at This Team Works, a management-consulting firm.

Amber Childress

Vice Chair

Amber grew up in Oakland and has spent the majority of her life in the East Bay, attending Oakland public schools and Mills College. From her school-age years through adulthood, she has benefited from programs like Upward Bound, A Better Chance, the Oakland Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program, and Emerge CA, which fueled her desire to fight for quality education for all students. The support she received in school and from her extended family taught her to embrace the idea that “It takes a village to raise a child”. In 2016, Amber was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Powerful Women of the Bay Innovator Award and elected to serve as Trustee, Area 2 on the Alameda County Board of Education. She is also a long time volunteer with many local programs for youth, including Girls Inc. of Alameda County.

Henrietta Fabio

Member

Henrietta is a native Oaklander and a graduate of Castlemont High School. After serving 4 years in the Air Force National Guard, she worked for 30 years in the insurance industry before transitioning to financial planning with Mass Mutual Financial Services. Now retired, Henrietta has devoted her time and energy volunteering to improve Oakland neighborhoods. She served as President of MacArthur Heights Home Owners Association, Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, Youth Minister at St. Louis Bertrand Church, and a member of Oakland Community Organization. Henrietta joined the Children Rising board of directors in 2021 with a shared belief that we are indeed a community called by God to work for the health, welfare, and prosperity of Oakland.

Kerry Gough

Member

Kerry received his Juris Doctorate degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley, in 1966. After retiring as a civil rights attorney in 2008, he joined forces with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention to establish legal clinics staffed by third year Congolese law students supervised by Congolese attorneys.  His community service background includes Global Strategies Board of Directors; President of the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County; President of Allied Fellowship Service, a half-way house for ex-offenders; and as Advisory Board Member, Project Sentinel, a non-profit that investigates, mediates and litigates housing discrimination cases.

Roma Groves-Waters

Member

Roma joined the Children Rising board in July 2020 after nearly a decade of working alongside our team. As a dedicated educator since 1996, she has been committed to improving the lives of the children of Oakland. In 2009, she was appointed principal of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. She has been an outspoken proponent for our neighborhood schools, rallying the community to partner in support of the children. In Children Rising she recognized a community partner that could support her goals for the school with its literacy, library and STEAM programs. In 2018, she helped lead the development of Path2Math, Children Rising’s numeracy program, which is the first of its kind in the Oakland Unified School District. Roma earned her Bachelor of Science, English Language and Literature Letters from Grambling State University, and her MA, Education from University of California (Berkeley). Married with two adult step kids and two  grandsons, she is a true southerner at heart. Roma is known for her cooking and entertaining "Louisiana style," and her gumbo is excellent. You can frequently catch Roma and her husband Keith sitting on a dock or pier fishing.

Daniel Livsey

Treasurer

Daniel joined the Board in 2017 after volunteering as a reading tutor several years ago.  He currently works at AmTrust Financial in Construction Surety.  He and his wife Mary are raising two young sons who attend Oakland Public Schools and they have also opened their home to several young foster children.  Daniel is committed to serving youth by helping to improve the East Bay’s public schools.

Chris Nichols

Member

Chris joined the Children Rising board in 2020 after being a financial supporter for two years and learning about the organization’s mission and plans to support substantially larger numbers of vulnerable East Bay children. Chris brings to Children Rising his more than 30 years of business experience including sales, executive management and management consulting. Chris earned his M.A from University of California, Los Angeles and is currently Information Management Practice Director at Unify Consulting.

Steve Rowell

Secretary

Steve is an attorney who lives in Oakland with his wife, Phyllis. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He currently specializes in public sector labor and employment law at the law firm of Sloan, Sakai, Yeung & Wong, LLP in Berkeley. Steve is a strong supporter of public education and is proud that both of his adult children are products of Oakland public schools. He is a member of several legal and charitable organizations and, in his free time, is an avid bicyclist, runner and hiker.

Gary Sanders

Member

Gary has had a passion for supporting children and youth in the East Bay for many years. He has coached youth sports teams, served as an advisor to Eagle Scout candidates with Boy Scouts of America and is a member of Junior Achievement of Northern California. Gary’s greatest joy is working with youth and supporting programs that support youth. He brings his love of children and 30 years of professional business development experience to the Children Rising board as Children Rising expands its ability to serve a greater number of vulnerable children in the area. Gary has a law degree from Washburn University and is a certified court mediator. He and his wife Janet have 3 sons and have been active members of the East Bay community for 30 years.

Dave Sweet

Member

Dave joined the Children Rising board in July 2020, believing that every child deserves access to an excellent education and the support he or she needs to pursue that education. He first became acquainted with Children Rising when he volunteered to be a Math tutor at Emerson Elementary School and continued tutoring the amazing children of Oakland for 3 years. He saw first-hand the impact a caring adult can have on a young child’s confidence and desire to learn, and how a solid foundation for learning during the primary years gave a child a fairer chance of obtaining an excellent education overall.   Dave recently retired from his position as CFO/Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures. He earned his Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering from Stanford University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.  

Jim Wambach

Member

As Executive Director, Jim is responsible for guiding the overall growth and strategic development of Children Rising’s contributions to closing the achievement gap in urban public schools. He draws on his 25 years of corporate and nonprofit executive leadership experience, and a passion for helping to change the trajectory of young lives through improved education and enhanced community support. Jim, like everyone at Children Rising, begins every day knowing there are so many of our children and youth at a personal crossroad of promise and risk – trying desperately to escape the cycle of poverty and violence surrounding them.  He is grateful for the opportunity to combine his passion for helping underserved children and youth with his years of successful business experience so Children Rising might empower as many of these children as possible. Jim is from Ohio and remains a big fan of Ohio State football. He moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest in 2001 and is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren he can’t believe he is old enough to have…

Meca Wagner

Member

Meca was introduced to Children Rising in 2017 when she hosted CareerBridge interns at Caltrans. She believes in the power of community and has a strong desire to make the world around her a better place. Seeking an opportunity to be more involved, she joined the Children Rising board in 2021. Meca studied Communications at California State University Sacramento. She is the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for Caltrans Bay Area, where she has served since 1996, and a group fitness instructor at Bladium Sports and Fitness Club. When she can find some leisure time, she enjoys golfing and wine tasting.