Sanam Jorjani
Coalition Network & Initiatives

Sanam weaves together her passion for education and building community to see a future where learning is at the center of the human experience.  A skilled facilitator, she connects people and ideas to break down silos and help people and organizations work better together. In her role as Co-Director, Sanam is responsible for strategic development, direction, and management of the coalition network and various initiatives.  Sanam started her role as Co-Director in 2016 after four years of supporting the coalition and leading the Oakland Reads campaign, while a part of the Rogers Family Foundation.  Prior to her work with the coalition, Sanam coordinated international projects for Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed her Masters in International Educational Development in 2011.  Growing up bilingual she was a cultural translator between herself, her family, and her American surroundings.  Fortunate enough to grow up learning her home language surrounded by a strong Iranian community led her to becoming an advocate for learning and language as a tool for empowering identity and social change.  She currently serves as Board Treasurer for BANANAS Inc. and stays active in youth development by continuing her 10th year as a volunteer for the Albany YMCA Youth & Government Program. Sanam is a current Oakland Surge Institute Fellow.

Sanam grew up in the East Bay and lives in Oakland where she’s still close enough to her family to regularly enjoy mouth-watering home cooked Persian meals and even take a few Tupperware to go.

Favorite Book Growing Up:  Swimmy by Leo Leoni and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein



Cassie Perham
Operations, Development, & Strategic Partnerships

A lifelong bookworm, Cassie is a wholehearted believer in the transformational power of literacy. In her role as Co-Director, Cassie is responsible for the strategic growth and development of the coalition as an anchor organization for Oakland’s literacy efforts. Cassie manages the organization’s operations, fund development, and partnerships.

Cassie previously managed the coalition’s programs and operations out of the Rogers Family Foundation, where she served for six years leading the Foundation’s early literacy grantmaking and initiatives aimed at increasing third grade reading achievement for Oakland students. Cassie moved to Oakland in 2008 as an AmeriCorps VISTA, running service learning programs in elementary schools. Cassie holds a BA in International Relations from the University of California, Davis and a Professional Certificate in Nonprofit Management from San Francisco State University. Cassie lives in East Oakland with her family of book-lovers.

Favorite Book Growing Up: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf was a bedtime family favorite but it was The Giver by Lois Lowry that made me fall in love with the magic of stories.



Rebecca Schmidt
Program Manager

As an avid reader and longtime advocate for youth, Rebecca believes literacy is fundamental to identity development, empowerment, social justice, and fun .  She joins the team from Washington, DC where she was most recently program director for Reading Partners, a literacy nonprofit serving students, schools, and communities throughout DC.  Prior to her work with Reading Partners she taught for eight years in DC Public Schools and a charter school. Rebecca has a BA from Grinnell College, Iowa and a MEd with a focus in literacy and urban education from George Washington University, DC.  She lives in San Francisco with her partner and enjoys improv comedy, running, and hiking when she’s not reading.

Favorite Book Growing Up:  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, My Place in Space by Robin and Sally Hirst, and everything by Mem Fox



Yareli Arreola
Development & Outreach Coordinator
AmeriCorps VISTA

A long time book enthusiast, Yareli is a spirited advocate for literacy and social justice. Yareli was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of six. Learning English as a second language was challenging but she soon found solace in books. Yareli is passionate about community building and the art of storytelling. Her role as the Development & Outreach Coordinator will highlight fundraising and outreach measures to serve the Oakland community. Yareli holds a BA in Sociology with a Minor in Education from UC Santa Cruz. She is a lover of all things flavored mango, poetry and hiking in the redwoods. Formerly living in Santa Cruz Yareli now resides in the always sunny Fruitvale.

Favorite Book Growing Up: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros


Board of Directors

D. Lacy Asbill
Board President

Lacy is the Founding Director of Moving Forward Education. Lacy holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology & Women’s Studies from Mills College, and an Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree from San Francisco State University. She is the recipient of the Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur Award, and her organization has won the “Best for the World” Award from B Lab three years in a row. She has been an Oakland resident for seventeen years, and is deeply committed to inspiring positive community transformation through her work. She currently serves as a Commissioner for Oakland Unified School District’s high school re-design commission.

Lacy believes deeply in the power and potential of collective impact.  Oakland literacy partners do amazing work individually — she knows we can make a difference for all children in our community when we align our efforts and work together as one Oakland team!

Bennie Patterson
Board Treasurer

Bennie Patterson continues to be highly regarded as an expert within youth related organizing & development efforts on a local and national level. With a commitment to provide a skill-set as diverse and dynamic as the needs of the communities around the nation, he strives to stay relevant and effective in his fight for better lives, families, and communities. Through his current capacity as the Owner & Chief Strategist of Patterson Consulting, LLC, a cause-based consultant agency that provides organizational development and branding services, he’s focused on bringing together a dedicated, holistic development outlook to every individual, every community, and every company aligned with his values. It is this experience, dedication, and over 15 years of specialized knowledge that is geared towards positioning Patterson Consulting, LLC as an emerging force in cause-based branding, consulting, & strategic initiative development.


Paula Ambrose
Board Secretary 

Paula serves as the Education Program Officer for the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, where she manages the grantmaking for early literacy initiatives. Her nonprofit experience includes serving as Director of National Partnerships at Playworks where she led the identification, development and launch of strategic partnerships and programs to help advance the mission of the organization. Paula’s for-profit experience includes supporting the global philanthropy efforts of a fortune 500 company. In this role she managed the company’s education and economic development grantmaking through planning, execution, evaluation and dissemination of results. She also served as an adjunct instructor with the Coro Center for Civic Leadership Development. Paula received an MS in Human Resource Management and Organization Development from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and holds BS degrees in Psychology and Organization Behavior from Pitzer College.

Paula grew up in Oakland, and recalls the important role her family, teachers and community of supporters played in helping her succeed in and out of school. Like the coalition, she believes the success of our children will depend on meaningful collaboration with parents/caregivers, teachers, and community providers. She is excited to work alongside the Oakland Literacy Coalition to support the adults who love and teach children, and help them be successful in school and in life.


Chris Angotti

Chris Angotti​ is the Chief Operating Officer for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an internationally recognized arts nonprofit that supports student literacy through creative writing challenges. He began his career as a middle and high school teacher in New York City—an experience that defines his efforts in making learning and creativity accessible to all.

Chris admires the OLC’s impactful role as a hub for conversation and connection, and is proud to support the network’s vital effort to empower every single Oakland student as a reader.


Ryana Barbosa

Ry is the Literacy Program Officer for the Rogers Family Foundation. In this role, she supports the many organizations and other stakeholders working towards reaching shared literacy goals through effective partnership building and collaboration. Additionally, she is an adjunct lecturer on Business and Society, a course for graduating business majors, at San Francisco State University. Prior to this role, Ry worked in the Community Partnerships office at Oakland Unified School District for three years, beginning in 2013 as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Having originally been involved in youth development as a corporate volunteer working in banking and sales in her native New England, Ry moved out to the Bay Area looking to start a new life chapter— exploring the role of cross-sector partnerships in education and social change. She earned her M.B.A. with an emphasis in Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Leadership from San Francisco State University, and her B.S. in Management, Global Business, and International Studies at Manhattan College in the Bronx, NY.

Ry deeply believes that a quality education is a basic universal human right, and that literacy is the foundational lever through which we learn, imagine, grow, and thrive. Oakland is fortunate to have so many dedicated and passionate adults committed to improving literacy and educational outcomes for students, and even more so to have the Coalition to create space and community for our network of providers to learn, collaborate, and champion literacy.


Jeremy Largman

Jeremy is a product manager at Atlassian, where he helps build strategies for software products and services. Jeremy has been involved in the Atlassian Foundation since its inception, helping to build a model for corporate social responsibility in the tech sector. His foundation experience includes mobilizing volunteering efforts and serving as a non-profit partner coordinator, as well as running grant-making processes both small and large grants. Jeremy is an East Bay native and has been an Oakland resident since 2010.

Through his philanthropic efforts, Jeremy has recognized the need for many of the organizations working on literacy in Oakland to coordinate, and found a like-minded approach in the Oakland Literacy Coalition’s strategy. He is excited to work alongside the team to make a deeper impact.


Alex Madsen

Alex works as the Project Manager for the Contra Costa County Human Trafficking Coalition and the County’s Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Project. Prior to her work in human trafficking Alex worked as an Assessment and Evaluation Consultant for Citizen Schools, an education non-profit working to expand the learning day, and learning opportunities, for students. Alex holds a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights from the University of Denver. Her research, and much of her past work, has focused on collaborative models for creating comprehensive, cross-agency, support for victims of human trafficking in the Bay Area. Prior to receiving her graduate degree, Alex spent over two years as an early childhood educator in San Francisco.

Alex is thrilled to be a part of a dedicated team of individuals who are committed to systemic change, collaboration and coordination to promote literacy.

Back to Top