Staff and Board
Sanam’s career in education is all about keeping language, learning and community at the heart of our shared 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 the strategic development and direction of the coalition network, initiatives, and partnerships.
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 at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed her Masters. 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, Sanam is a lifelong advocate for learning and language to power identity and social change.
She has served as a volunteer Delegation Advisor for YMCA Youth & Government for 10 years, supporting high school youth leaders. She has served on the board of BANANAS Inc. since 2016 and is a 2019 Surge Institute Fellow. Sanam lives in Oakland, and grew up in the East Bay by way of Iran and is on a continuous journey to improve her Farsi and Persian Cooking.
Favorite Book Growing Up: Swimmy by Leo Leoni and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
A lifelong bookworm, Cassie is a wholehearted believer in the transformative power of literacy. In her role as Co-Director, Cassie is responsible for the growth and development of the OLC as an anchor organization for Oakland’s literacy efforts. Cassie leads the organization’s operations, fund development, and strategic 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. Cassie moved to Oakland in 2008 as an AmeriCorps VISTA, supporting 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 Oakland with her family of book-lovers.
Favorite Book Growing Up: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Julia Nihar Sen
Julia is a mixed race (Bengali and white), disabled educator, activist, community builder, mama, and Bay Area native who has been working with youth and families for the past 20 years. An avid reader and self proclaimed book nerd since a young age, she loves nothing more than sharing the love of reading with community. Julia worked in K-8 schools as an educator and classroom teacher, as well as at family resource centers building and supervising family support programs, all with under-resourced BIPOC communities around the Bay Area. These experiences taught her the power and importance of building relationships and working as an ally, of listening to and learning from families, and that marginalized people are the best ones to find solutions to their problems. Julia lives in Berkeley with her partner and two children, and the best part of her day is reading with them before bed. You can find her in the garden or drumming in the streets.
Favorite book growing up: It’s a tie between the Ramona Quimby series and Bridge to Terabithia
Exequiel "Rex" Ganding
Associate Director of Community Engagement
Prior to joining the Coalition, Rex worked for over 10 years in several community colleges and universities in the Bay Area as an English Instructor, administrator, and researcher, serving a diverse student population. Through his work as an educator, Rex has developed a deep understanding of the changing nature of literacy and the important role that literacy plays in developing critical consciousness and agency. Rex will serve as the Associate Director of Community Engagement for the OLC. Rex holds a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and MA in English Composition from San Francisco State University. Rex also earned his PhD in Education with a focus on Language, Literacy, and Culture from UC Berkeley, where he was recognized as an American Cultures Community Engaged Scholar.
Rex has lived in Oakland for over 20 years and is excited to serve and work with the community in this role.
Favorite Book Growing Up: As a young child, Rex enjoyed the interactive Choose Your Own Adventure series. However, his true portal to the power of literacy was The Autobiography of Malcolm X which he read in his late teens.
Program Manager, Coalition Learning
Alia Gabres is a lover of all things programs, engagement and storytelling.
She has worked with creative and diverse communities globally over the span of 10 years in various roles such as Program Director, Lead Producer for Industry and Creative Initiatives and Independent Artist. She has worked in program and strategic development in various institutions and organizations including non-profits, local governments and start-ups. She is most passionate about programs that are designed and sustained by communities for communities.
Alia has a Masters in Community and Cultural Development from the University of Melbourne. She is the Author of the recently published children’s book Haboba’s House; as well as the Intersectionality in the Arts chapter in the 2019 published text The Relationship Is the Project. She is also a member of the Oakland based Black Literary Collective.
As a first generation Migrant she now calls Oakland home by way of Melbourne, Australia and Keren, Eritrea.
Favorite Book Growing Up: Window by Jeannie Baker was my favorite picture book in Elementary School
Associate Director of Development
Jasmine’s professional and volunteer background focuses on uplifting everyone’s story, expressed via nonprofit management and fundraising work in diverse areas of the nonprofit sector including education, arts, social services, and healthcare, for 25 years. Thrilled to bring her skills and ideas to support literacy in Oakland as OLC’s Associate Director of Development, she loves the collaborative nature of fundraising and the collaborative synergy of OLC’s mission and metaphor of literacy as liberation; building blocks for a healthy, resilient, and just society.
Jasmine has loved sharing the joy and open doors of reading since she came home from kindergarten and taught her younger sister to read. She has taught English as a second language in the U.S. and Viet Nam, edited a national newspaper, studied linguistics, volunteered in schools, and discovered many a hidden treasure on used bookstore shelves. Jasmine lives, works, plays, bikes, volunteers, and reads in the sparkling East Bay community. She and her family are avid library patrons, and have more books at home than space for them.
Favorite book growing up: Then There Were Five, and the whole Melendy Quartet, by Elizabeth Enright; The Once and Future King by T. H. White; biographies of Helen Keller; The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis; and Chinese Children’s Rhymes by my grandmother, Ruth Hsu.
Senior Communications Manager
Shani Ealey is a writer, visual artist, educator, and content creator living on sacred Ohlone Land, specifically, East Oakland by way of Stockton, CA. Shani often feels called to work that centers communities of color and is rooted in equity, transparency, collective agency, and the advocacy of expression and narrative reclamation. Shani has over 7 years of experience providing communications support to social and racial justice organizations throughout the Bay Area. Her responsibilities included developing and publishing regular eNewsletters, creating social media strategies that engaged members, managing external communications requests, and creating graphics and other visual materials needed by staff and members. As a zinester and visual artist, Shani is the creator of the Name_Your_Self Zine, inspired by Misha Green’s “I AM” episode from Lovecraft Country which serves as a series of affirmations and visuals for BIPOC folks seeking healing, self transformation, and new possibilities outside of restrictive and limiting spaces.
Shani holds a B.A in Journalism from San Francisco State University and a M.A in African American Studies from Columbia University.
Favorite Books Growing Up: For Shani, reading was the portal for unpacking systems of oppression and imagining creative possibilities for new worlds and ways of being. Some of Shani’s favorite books growing up were 1984, Things Fall Apart, and 100 Years of Solitude.
Intern, UC Berkeley Public Service Internship
My name is Ana Navidad, I was born in Guerrero, Mexico and immigrated to Oakland, California at the age of three. I identify as an undocumented immigrant, Latinx, 1st-gen, and low-income student. I’m currently a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Sociology and minoring in Education. My career goals are to become an academic counselor and work in administration to support the needs of marginalized students in higher education. I am passionate about contributing to the efforts of advocating for accessible and quality education for marginalized students. I have already built leadership skills in education through my mentorship experience at UC Berkeley. I am motivated to help marginalized students on their path towards higher education because we are underrepresented and under-resourced. I want to impact students’ lives and make sure they have the necessary tools/resources to have a valuable learning experience. I first started mentoring at the Starting Point Mentorship Program where I supported community college students in their transition into the UC system. I helped them in their PIQ’s, I shared opportunities, and I gave them transfer advice. I am currently a mentor for non-traditional Cal students in the Navigating Cal Internship. We foster a community that believes in a “togetherness” approach where students support each other. We also believe in not reinventing the wheel. Instead, we encourage marginalized students to utilize the campus’s number one resources and occupy spaces.
Favorite Book Growing Up: Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez
Board of Directors
Dulce Torres-Petty is a native from Mexico City who migrated to the United States in 2006 and has dedicated her professional career to work in the education non-profit world ever since. Dulce currently works as the Brilliant Baby Senior Program Manager for the Oakland Promise where she’s committed to support families to pursue their dreams and aspirations for their babies with early investments in their education. Dulce holds a deep commitment to support and empower families through the powerful practice of sharing books and stories, and is honored to support the Oakland Literacy Coalition in their efforts to increase literacy levels in this city that she loves deeply. Dulce is also a big sister, a daughter, a wife, and a proud parent of an Oakland native toddler.
Tiffany Furrell has over a decade of experience in analyzing and reporting data, including work in public policy and the tech sector. She holds an Economics undergraduate degree from University of California, Los Angeles with a minor in Education Studies. For the last 8 years she worked in Oakland at Pandora Media, a leading music and podcast streaming platform. Tiffany is a co-founder of the Pandora Mixtape Community, an employee resource group focused on helping Pandora be the best it can be by supporting its racially and ethnically underrepresented employees as well as its surrounding communities.
Wanting to better connect with the community of Oakland and utilize her passion for childhood literacy and education, Tiffany is excited to work alongside the team with the Oakland Literacy Coalition.
Matt serves as Chief Operating Officer at The Christensen Fund, a SF-based private foundation focused on protecting biocultural diversity. Prior to joining Christensen, Matt spent 13 years at several educational nonprofits, including CollegeSpring and Reading Partners, where he played a number of roles including Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Staff and Chief Regional Operations Officer. Matt lives in Oakland with his wife and two children and is passionate about education, literacy, equity, and his community.
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.
Angela Barth is an Education Consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. Angela has her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education. She is passionate about early childhood literacy development. Her Master’s thesis evaluated successful literacy instructional strategies for students with diverse needs in Pre-K – 3rd grades. She supported students as a classroom teacher and served as a Manager and Director for Super Stars Literacy, an Oakland based literacy non-profit serving at-risk youth in K-2nd grades. Most recently, she has worked in education technology supporting Bay Area schools for the last 5 years. Angela is looking forward to supporting the Oakland community, promoting literacy development for all students!
Chris Angotti is an equity-driven operations leader, currently working as Director of Operational Systems and Special Projects at Envision Education. 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 literacy accessible to all.
As an educator and OUSD parent, 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.
D. Lacy Asbill
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!
Kyra is a passionate education advocate, committed to changing systems to improve outcomes across Oakland, particularly for students who are traditionally marginalized. She is an energetic, metric-driven team player with strong organizational skills and experience in leveraging available resources. As a former Oakland public school teacher, Kyra saw firsthand how under-resourced and underserved communities – most often communities of color – are treated. Those disparities are what drove her to take a more systems-level approach as an Deputy Director of Education in the Office of Oakland Mayor Schaaf, where she leads early childhood education, collective impact, and teacher recruitment/retention efforts. Kyra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Brown University and a Master’s Degree in Urban Education with a focus on Policy and Administration from Loyola Marymount University. She has a passion for kids, their wellbeing, and their educational opportunities. Kyra always gives 100%, except when donating blood. She enjoys mastering crossword puzzles with a cup of tea, exploring the Bay Area’s beautiful trails, and running into friends at Lake Merritt.
As a classroom teacher, Kyra has seen the power literacy has in shaping education and life outcomes for students, and she’s excited to be part of a collective impact team working to support a whole city of children & youth so that they learn and love to read.
Rachel Aoanan has worked in nonprofit finance for over seven years, and is an SVP in Risk Management & Compliance at the community development financial institution, Main Street Launch, which deploys business loans throughout the Bay Area.
She additionally comes with over ten years of experience in family services, operating a licensed daycare, serving as founder of an Oakland nonprofit child development program, and has worked for San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) Head Start program as an early childhood/parent educator.
She lives in Oakland with her husband, young daughter, and German Shepherd dog. She has a BA in Child & Adolescent Development and MA in Public Administration from SFSU. Rachel is excited to support the network’s efforts to drive strong literacy outcomes for long-term success.
Allison Lopez is an employment specialist at East Oakland Community Project and works with families and veterans to secure employment and increase their income. She has her M.A. in Linguistics and has supported students in many different classrooms and is passionate about adult literacy. She spent six years teaching for and coordinating the college prep program at Prison University Project, a college program in San Quentin, and learned from students how the lack of support for students, teachers, and families leaves a lasting impact. Allison is excited about joining the board and supporting inclusive literacy efforts in Oakland!