CEO and Founder Jill Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, focusing her entrepreneurial skills on creating and developing two successful nonprofit organizations.
Playworks for every kid
Playworks has a national office in Oakland, CA, with program offices in each of the cities it serves throughout the US. To see who is leading our efforts in the cities, see the Community Pages.
Lovely graduated at 19 with a Bachelor's Degree in Financial Management and Systems Development. After graduation, she then worked for Maersk Global Service Centre in the Finance and Accounting Department providing Accounts Receivable reports and Account Reconciliations for stakeholders from Israel, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt while supporting special projects to improve the business process. Baking and cooking are the hobbies she enjoys the most aside from painting and taking long walks at some park with a good ocean view.
Lindsey Adams comes to Playworks with an extensive background in nonprofit youth development and education. She is the solutions associate for Playworks national and regional offices. Most recently, she served as the administrative associate at Youth Speaks in San Francisco, where she honed her Salesforce administration skills and developed a keen interest in using the powerful CRM platform to manage day-to-day operations and finance processes and to effectively organize and track the impact of youth programming and participation in meaningful ways. Lindsey is excited to bring her passion for Salesforce to Playworks and is thrilled to contribute to the mission as a member of the team in the heart of her home community.
Lindsey is a recent Cultural Equity and Regenerative Practices Fellow with Emerging Arts Professionals San Francisco Bay Area, where she has led discussions on strategies to advance conversations on cultural equity and individual sustainability. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys writing and zine-making, cooking, rock climbing, and visiting the beach as often as possible.
"Knee-2" Agrawal is a proud native of Maryland and graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park - GO TERPS! After graduating college, she spent a year providing experiential learning opportunities to students in Costa Rica and France. Wanting to empower students from her hometown to have the same experiences, Neetu served a year of AmeriCorps in Baltimore City, mentoring adjudicated youth with The Choice Program. Wanting to provide that same transformative experience for others,Neetu joined Playworks Maryland in 2009 as their Program Associate, working alongside AmeriCorps members to serve the students and their community. Neetu moved to Chicago in October 2014 to join the Training Department as the Midwest National Trainer to bring the power of play to every kid across America.
Tonya Antonucci, chief marketing officer, brings over 15 years of professional sports league and new media leadership experience to Playworks. Prior to joining Playworks, Tonya led the effort to create the U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league and served as its first Commissioner. Prior to joining WPS, Tonya spent more than seven years with Yahoo, Inc. where she launched Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, and served as Director of those properties. Subsequently, she was named General Manager of Yahoo’s partnership with FIFA and oversaw the commercialization of the official, global websites for the 2002 FIFA Men’s and 2003 Women’s World Cups. A native of Everett, WA, Tonya is a graduate of Stanford University, where she played collegiate soccer and was named to the All-Far West team.
David began his professional career as a New York City Public Schools teacher in Queens, NY. After almost 3 years of teaching, he began to pursue business development and now brings over 8 years of sales and marketing experience to Playworks. David has always remained passionate about impacting students. Before coming on board to Playworks, David served the role as School Marketing Director and Center Director for the Sylvan Learning Franchise in New York City. One of his favorite childhood memories was playing a game of stoop ball in the streets of his hometown in Brooklyn. Above all, David loves spending time with his wife and playing games with their 4 children.
Alan Baker, payroll associate, brings to Playworks over fifteen years of experience in various administrative roles with nonprofits. Having moved from Arizona many years ago, Alan appreciates the great weather in the Bay Area. Along with his spouse, Alan has four dogs and three cats which keep him busy. He also collects historical documents and stamps when not outside bike riding.
Jamie joins Playworks with 25 years of professional sales and management experience. Jamie earned his degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University graduating Summa Cum Laude. Jamie is married to his wife Kelly, an elementary school reading specialist and has two children, Caitlin, a High School freshman and Carter, a fourth grader. He spends most of his time as a volunteer coach for travel softball, basketball and football. Jamie enjoys spending time with his family, playing softball and basketball, and watching Chicago sports. His favorite playground game is kickball.
Ebony joined Playworks in June 2015 and comes with a deep passion for helping children improve their lives and is thrilled to be a part of the Playworks HR team. She has over 10 years of experience in the human resource field including valuable experience in high volume, high demand positions at the City of Oakland, and University of California. In her spare time she enjoys cooking and spending time with her 2 kids.
Darcy Brown-Martin comes to Playworks with 18 years of experience in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. She has worked variously as a journalist, publications specialist, and nonprofit development manager, securing funding to support a notable Bay Area arts institution. As Playworks' Corporate Strategy Director, Darcy forges and nurtures collaborative partnerships between Playworks and a variety of national corporate supporters, and also advises and supports Playworks' city-specific development staff in creating strong corporate partnerships in their regional markets. Darcy is a graduate of Brown University, loves to dance, and is delighted to have access through Playworks to rich opportunities to hone her novice-level Four-Square skills.
Carolyn comes to Playworks with more than 17 years of experience in business, web production, and product and project management. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics and Bay Area native. Carolyn is an active parent volunteer at her children's school, where she serves as the PTO board member. Carolyn enjoys traveling, playing piano, dancing, videography and photography. She is thrilled to join Playworks and share her passion for children's enrichment, the power of play, and making a difference in the community.
Originally from the Palm Springs area, Deborah graduated with a business degree Phi Kappa Phi with honors from Cal State San Bernardino. She had tenure in the banking and nonprofit housing development industries before spending almost five years working for an engineering firm in Liberia and Guinea, West Africa. She is passionate about the work of nonprofits and is thrilled to be with Playworks. Deborah loves her kids, the outdoors, walking, hiking, and backpacking.
Jennette comes to Playworks with more than twelve years of work experience with social service agencies, both domestically and internationally. Her roles have included direct service provider to children and youth, advisor in the organizational development of a small non-profit, planning administrator, and data administrator. Her significant data management and analysis experience comes from her recent work with First Five Contra Costa County, as well as experience gained while working on her Master of Social Welfare degree (MSW). Her favorite playground game is Knockout.
Director of Grants Sarah Clark has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years and managed campaigns to raise millions of dollars, primarily for social justice organizations. Her experience includes raising funds to support opposition groups and U.S. solidarity with El Salvador during the civil war, citizenship and economic development for immigrants in the U.S., and women’s health. In her faith-based community she teaches “Godly Play”, helping children learn ethical skills in a safe, healthy setting. Sarah is delighted to be part of the Playworks team to raise lots of money for safe, meaningful play!
Lisa joined the Playworks team back in 2009, where she was a program coordinator at Fairmont Elementary School in El Cerrito for three years. Lisa has now taken a step off the playground and into the office where she is a program manager for the East Bay. When she's not at work, you will find Lisa baking some yummy treats, hiking or taking a day trips down to beach for some much needed fun in the sun.
Perry comes to Playworks with 6 years of event planning experience. Coming from event planning with the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company she is thrilled to create events that will have a positive impact on the lives of so many children! Perry brings an enthusiastic passion for planning events with a purpose. Perry is a graduate from John F Kennedy University with a degree in Liberal Studies. Outside of event planning, Perry enjoys cooking, crafting, attending any live music shows, exploring and hiking. Perry is ecstatic to be on the Playworks team!
Andrea comes to Playworks with five years of experience in education. She started in the classroom teaching sixth grade social studies, has worked in higher education, and most recently managed educational programs in the Bay Area. Andrea has experience in recruitment and hiring as well as training and instructional support for schools and teachers. She is excited to be working with the training team to impact the lives of students. In her free time, Andrea enjoys trying out new restaurants, experimenting in the kitchen and spending time with family and friends.
Elizabeth Cushing, president and COO, has been with Playworks for ten years and has taken on ever-increasing responsibility in strategic growth planning, development, foundation relations, communications, and spearheading Playworks’ partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to achieve scale. Elizabeth has more than 20 years of nonprofit management experience with youth development and children-serving organizations. As president, Elizabeth leads the senior management team and is responsible for ensuring that all strategic targets are met across the organization.
Jessica comes to the Playworks team with over a decade of people- and education-focused experience in the private sector and is very excited to help bring Playworks’ professional learning and development vision to life. She is passionate about enabling others to realize their career (and personal) ambitions, especially her new colleagues who work so hard to bring safe, healthy, and meaningful play to children across the country.
Originally from Canada, Jessica enjoys exploring her new home in the United States with her husband and her pets. You can also catch her road tripping, hiking, cooking, and geeking out over science fiction.
Jolee David comes to Playworks with over 10 years of experience in sales and development, in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Jolee started her professional career in the hospitality industry and later transitioned to the information technology field before taking a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom. Prior to rejoining the workforce, Jolee began volunteering with an education-based nonprofit as a mentor offering one-on-one support to local college students. She went on to join their development team and helped launch an online community offering advising services to low-income, first generation college students. Born and raised in San Francisco, Jolee has lived in the Bay Area most of her life, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business at San Francisco State University and her MBA from Santa Clara University. In her free-time Jolee enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her daughters.
Kyle DeRoos spent five exciting years as a program coordinator and program manager in Oakland and the Silicon Valley before trading in his whistle and kickball for a mouse and keyboard in the national office. Since moving indoors, Kyle spent two years on the development team before transitioning to focus on administering our technology systems and hardware. After nearly 15 years with the organization, Kyle is still amazed at the impact Playworks can have on students who often slip between the cracks of traditional school programming. And he's super good at traveling baseball.
David came to Playworks in 2012 as an IT Intern while completing his AS Degree at Heald College in Network Security. David made his career change in 2011 going back to school at Heald College of Hayward, after working for 13 years in the manufacturing industry as a Welder / Fabricator. After completing his degree, David moved into the permanent roll as IT Support & Network Security Specialist for Playworks. David brings a great deal of technical expertise to Playworks & the Solutions Team. Many of his fellow colleagues call him the “IT-Ninja” as he continues to amaze them with his abilities to fix and solve issues for them. When not at Playworks David enjoys Trout and Bass Fishing, and spending time with his daughter, son and his wife Sarah.
Jackie comes to Playworks with over ten years of nonprofit HR experience. She's passionate about making employees' work lives fulfilling and rewarding. She's excited to work with the East Coast and support teams in their commitment to play! Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Jackie has called the Bay Area home for the past fifteen years. In her spare time, Jackie enjoys cooking, being outdoors in the beautiful Bay Area, and spending time with her husband, two young children, and dog.
Tara Doherty graduated with a degree in finance, but found that the non-profit world and her long history of working with youth were what really inspired her. She began her career with Playworks in 2004 as an AmeriCorps Coach at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, California, and she helped launch and expand the Pacific Northwest regional team from 2009 to 2016. Tara currently serves on the National Impact Team as the Manager of Service Leadership, supporting Playworks programming across all regions. She is continually impressed by the power of play and has experienced its impact with folks across the country and beyond: from her home state of New York to the 'Great Land' of Alaska, and even in Ireland! Tara enjoys live music, cooking yummy vegan meals, running and yoga, and she'll challenge you to a game of Knockout any day of the week!
Jo Doyle is thrilled to be back at Playworks as a national trainer after working as a manager and director of youth programs with a couple of nonprofits in San Francisco since 2008. Jo's passion for youth development continues to grow as does her love of facilitating programs, delivering presentations, and public speaking. She is proud of her work with community based organizations that serve disadvantaged youth and positively impact the children of San Francisco and the Bay Area. She continues to be inspired and driven by the adult learners she meets and works with.
Jo truly believes in teaching life lessons through sports and play. Her love for travel, her ability to connect with adult learners, and her ongoing efforts to make a positive difference in a youth's life make her an outstanding trainer. When she's not leading an awesome Playworks workshop, Jo loves to snowboard, eat pizza at her home in New York, and experience new cultures and new people in her travels around the world. Play on!
Meg comes to Playworks with four years experience leading Marketing & Communications and Salesforce adoption for CollegeSpring, a quickly growing college-access nonprofit. Her strong belief in the power of play to inspire learning builds on extensive experience supporting youth at organizations like Breakthrough Collaborative and Boys and Girls Club. Meg holds a BA in Human Development and Social Relations from Earlham College in Indiana and is thrilled to currently live within walking distance of Playworks' Oakland office. In her free time, Meg enjoys singing with friends, getting lost on urban hikes, and plotting office pranks. Her favorite childhood game was make believe.
Chief People Officer Eunice Dunham began her Playworks career as a coach at a school in Berkeley, then quickly advanced into management roles. She was the first executive director of Playworks Boston in 2006 and then led the expansion team during the fastest three years of growth for the organization. Prior to becoming Chief People Officer, Eunice spent four years supporting executive directors in running their regional operations. As chief people officer, Eunice will use her vast experience at Playworks to ensure our people strategy reflects our organizational priorities.
After 15 years of professional experience in the IT sector, Gene read a copy of "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles. This book caused Gene to have an epiphany, and changed the course of his career forever. With a newly found fervor, and a new direction plotted for his life, Gene began a career in Education Sales. He has served in the roles of account executive, regional sales manager and regional sales director for such notable companies as Scholastic, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill Education. Gene is passionate about children having all the resources they need to get a quality education, including safe and healthy recess! He loves spending quality time at home with his wife, young adult children, and his Australian Miniature Labradoodle. His favorite game as a child: dodgeball, without a doubt!
Katie Edwards comes to Playworks with a background in youth development and operations management. She began her career as an AmeriCorps volunteer serving as an intervention teacher in Oakland’s low-performing schools. Since then, Katie has transitioned into the world of management and operations while maintaining her passion for youth development. She is very excited to be supporting the operational needs of our nationwide offices and to be contributing to an organization that is positively impacting the lives of youth through the power of play. Outside of work, Katie loves to explore new restaurants, bake, and craft gifts for family and friends.
Beth Eisen comes to Playworks with diverse communications experience, having worked for foreign governments, in the technology sector, and at a sport for development foundation. As Playworks’ senior communications manager, Beth creates and manages media opportunities, advises and supports regional Playworks leadership in the creation of impactful communications strategies for their markets, and works closely with her colleagues on the development team to conceptualize and execute meaningful fundraising campaigns. Beth is a vivacious Jersey Girl who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University and enjoys traveling, watching sports, reading, and exploring alleyways to find beautiful street art. She loves youth development . . . and will jump in on any opportunity to play kickball or foursquare with Junior Coaches!
Gihani comes to Playworks with over a decade of experience in the nonprofit and corporate sectors and is excited to cultivate strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations that are committed to bringing safe and healthy play to many more kids. She most recently worked at The Bridgespan Group where she provided strategic guidance and advisory support to mission-driven leaders and organizations with a primary focus on education and youth development. Her clients included several large youth-serving networks and Social Innovation Fund grantees. Prior to that, she was an analyst in Citigroup’s Public Finance investment banking division where she supported the execution of complex bond issues for a variety of entities including school districts, nonprofits, transportation systems, and redevelopment agencies. Her publications include two articles featured in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “High Stakes Donor Collaboration” and “Rethinking How Students Succeed”. She received her BA in Economics from Stanford University and completed her MBA at UC Berkeley. Gihani is an Oakland resident and enjoys tennis, yoga, and cheering for the Warriors along with her husband and son.
Chief Program Officer David Gallagher began his career with Playworks as a coach in an Oakland elementary school. After years of managing school programs in the Bay Area, he moved onto spearheading Playworks Training, and later transitioned into the role of national program director. As CPO, David and the national program team are responsible for managing our cities and programs, ensuring that quality standards and program operations are consistent and supported across the country. In his spare time, David enjoys coaching a high school soccer team and loves a fierce game of curbside 4-square.
Simone Gonder comes to Playworks with an extensive background in finance/accounts payable, which includes 11 years in the nonprofit industry. She loves working with numbers and feels that working in Finance is an easy fit for her. She is a native of Oakland, an avid Oakland Raiders fan, and she enjoys participating in competitive games/selective sports activities such as bowling and billiards. Some of her favorite childhood games in school were volleyball, softball, dodgeball, kickball and soccer. One of her favorite things to do is 'laugh' and she enjoys having a natural sense of humor and being around others that spread the cheer.
Samet Gray comes to Playworks with nearly a decade of experience in the education sector leading engagement and advocacy efforts, researching national and local education policy, and monitoring market trends. She has developed campaigns and cultivated projects with diverse stakeholders in the government, nonprofit, and corporate sectors to help students succeed and to improve schools across the country. As national corporate relations specialist, Samet collaborates with the national directors of corporate relations and corporate partnerships to develop robust corporate partnerships serving the full breadth of Playworks. Born in North Carolina, Samet relocated to Oakland after living in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore for ten years. She is a beekeeper, a novice potter, and hiker who is thrilled to now live in the beautiful Bay Area and work to promote healthy, inclusive play.
Melissa comes to Playworks with over 20 years of business development experience. She has a distinguished career as a leader, executive, and consultant for professional services firms, helping with business development strategies and sales implementation. Prior to joining Playworks, she founded a business development consulting firm Active Advisors and was the western region business development director for BDO USA, LLP, the world’s fifth largest CPA firm. Melissa was a board member of the Association for Corporate Growth from 2006-2014 and was chair of the Emerging Companies Growth Award for several years. She is a member of the Financial Women’s Association, Women in Business, Watermark, and Women in the Boardroom. In addition, she was recognized in 2009 and 2010 by the Professional Businesswomen’s Association as an outstanding professional. In 2004 she founded the networking group Bay Area Middle Market Prospectors, which successfully connects high profile professionals. When she is not working, Melissa is a competitive athlete and adventure racer. She loves to spend time in the outdoors doing any kind of physical activity. She is also mom to two young boys, whose endless energy serves as good training for any competitive event.
Lindsey comes to Playworks with a diverse set of experiences working in education and youth development and has a passion for safe, fun and healthy play. Prior to joining Playworks, Lindsey honed her project management skills while working at Year Up Bay Area on the local policy and government affairs team. Her educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from Linfield College and a Master's degree in Physical Activity and Health Promotion from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremburg. Lindsey is thrilled to be joining the team as a Strategic Partnerships Manager and looks forward to supporting Playworks in achieving its AIM. When doesn't have her head stuck in a spreadsheet or project plan, Lindsey enjoys hiking trails throughout the Bay Area, exploring new coffee shops and restaurants, and experimenting with new recipes.
Tobie brings over 20+ years of inside/outside sales experience, relationship and consultative sales skills, and the ability to network with C-level executives, channel partners, and internal teams. Earning a degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona led her to pursue a Master of Science degree in Counseling from California State University Long Beach. Just shy of completing that degree she returned to Arizona, completed her K-12 teaching credentials, and taught middle school. Tobie is mom to two elementary children and is both a PTO member and board member of her son's gymnastics team. Her passion for children’s health and wellness fits well with the Playworks southern region. Tobie resides in Houston, TX and can be seen and heard on the soccer field sidelines cheering for her daughter or encouraging her son on the boys gymnastics team. She enjoys sailing, tennis, basketball, and walking her dog. Her favorite games are Red Rover Red Rover, Heads Up Seven Up and Duck Duck Goose.
Kafi comes to Playworks with 10 years of marketing experience in the profit and non-profit world. Most recently, she brought to life the tenets of positive youth development, healthy living and social responsibility as Marketing lead for YMCA locations along the California Central Coast. Although born in New Jersey, Kafi spent her childhood in the Caribbean where she first learned the value of learning to play. Kafi obtained her undergraduate degree Rutgers University in New Jersey and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. In her spare time, Kafi loves to play (and watch) tennis, hike and write and is thrilled to join Playworks where play is a passion.
Jason is excited to rejoin Playworks as the director of national corporate partnerships after spending two years as the executive director of Playworks Illinois. Seeing first hand the ability of Playworks to build community and make schools engaging and fun again for kids, he could not walk away from the movement after relocating to Boston with his husband. Jason will be leading the effort to establish new nationwide partnerships with corporations that want to have meaningful impact on our communities, schools, families, and kids. He has a long history of working with communities and advocating for fair and equitable treatment of marginalized people. He graduated from American University with a degree in international studies and political science, and a law degree from Temple University Beasley School of Law. Jason loves to run, cycle, and teach Chinese jump rope. He is enjoying getting to know his new home of Boston and hopes one day he will follow-through on his desire to learn to swim.
Patrice Jackson-Roduner began her career at Playworks in April 2016 as Senior Accountant. She is a Certified Public Accountant with almost a decade of public accounting experience. Before joining the Playworks team, Patrice provided a variety of services including audits of financial statements, single audits, tax preparation, and internal control consulting engagements with Bowman & Company, LLP, a Stockton, California public accounting firm. She served a variety of clients in agriculture, manufacturing, affordable housing, and the nonprofit sector. Prior to Bowman & Company, Patrice served clients in various industries at Moss Adams, LLP. She found her true passion is working with nonprofit organizations to help families and heal lives.
Patrice is a graduate of California State University Stanislaus in Turlock, California with a BA in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting. She became a charter member of the Beta Alpha Psi and an active member of the Accounting Society.
Patrice is a dedicated wife and mother of two children. In her spare time she enjoys camping, kayaking, and hiking adventures.
Beth Jersey is responsible for payroll at Playworks. She has the distinct pleasure of making the entire staff happy at least twice a month. She brings more than 20 years of payroll and accounting experience, and is happy to work with an organization that makes a difference in children's lives. When she's not working, you can find her in her garden, taking long walks, reading mysteries or crossword puzzling.
Erica Kalingking comes to Playworks with a diverse background in the nonprofit field. She began her career in nonprofit theater and transitioned into talent acquisition for a major East Coast nonprofit hospital before eventually finding her passion in supporting youth development. Before joining Playworks, Erica was the director of development for Responsible Athletes Program. There, she was fortunate to have the opportunity to build her skills and strategically explore revenue diversification for a small nonprofit organization. She was also recognized as an Emerging Leader of Color by California School Age Consortium (CalSAC) and was a fellow in their 2016 Leadership Development Institute. Erica holds her B.A. from the University of California, Davis and is completing a Master of Nonprofit Administration with University of San Francisco, graduating in 2017. Erica currently resides in San Francisco and enjoys weightlifting, running, playing the trumpet with the San Francisco Civic Center Symphony, and taking long naps.
Bora joined Playworks as the Sr. Financial/Business Analyst in Feb 2016 after taking a break from corporate life and travelling the world for about 8 months. He brings 10 years of Finance and Operations experience with a strong analytical background. Most recently he was the Marketing Operations Manager at Gap (NY) where he started as a financial analyst at Old Navy 5 years ago. Born and raised in Istanbul, Bora then moved to Bay Area to play collegiate basketball at Holy Names University in 2001. Bora also holds an MBA degree from Santa Clara University. He is very passionate about healthy & active living which fits very well with Playworks' mission. Bora loves travelling ,eating olives, and the smell of sandalwood.
Audrey comes to Playworks with a deep passion for improving the lives of all children, and giving them the tools they need to be healthy and successful. After graduating with a degree in Sociology from Saint Mary's College (Go Gaels!), Audrey gained nonprofit experience working in HR for a group home organization for foster youth, as well as experience working in social services as a Victim/Witness Advocate for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office. Audrey is currently working on her Master's in Organizational Leadership from Saint Mary's and is so excited to apply this knowledge to the Playworks Learning & Development team. Audrey loves staying active and believes strongly in the power of play and the impact it has on physical and emotional health, so she is thrilled to contribute to the incredible mission at Playworks. In her free time, Audrey enjoys cooking (& eating), running, yoga, and playing with her son, Colin.
Sean Keelan began with Playworks in 2011 as a mid-year hire program coordinator in Baltimore; in 2012 he served as a Program Manager in Baltimore, and is now the Trainer for the Greater Baltimore Region. Sean is thrilled to bring his commitment to Youth Development, love for the game, and knowledge of Playworks to everyone he meets. Throughout his eight years in the field of Youth Development Sean has developed a love for collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas.
Melissa joined Playworks in the summer of 2014 as an account manager. She began her career as a special educator before transferring over to the supplemental education sector. Melissa most recently served as district manager for Sylvan Learning Center's Mid Atlantic Region. Melissa’s dedication to each student’s success and her understanding of the impact of individual experience on academic success motivate her to create and develop school and organizational partnerships so every child has an opportunity to play and grow every day! Melissa and her husband have a son, Carter, and two dogs, Zoe and Oscar. In her spare time she can be found in her garden, hiking with her dogs, playing with Carter, and routing for the Ravens and Orioles! Melissa’s favorite childhood games are hopscotch and soccer.
Beth Kimberly has worked in child development for more than fifteen years. Beth began her Playworks career as a coach on the playground—later becoming a program manager overseeing programs at nine schools. Serving for more than five years as social media manager then head of digital marketing, Beth built a significant online presence for Playworks.
Beth has now taken on the role of email producer—planning, creating, and executing Playworks email marketing from end-to-end. A wife and mother, Beth enjoys advocating for and enjoying play in all facets of her life.
Grace comes to Playworks with a diverse background in health promotion research, practice, and communications. After a game-changing year of AmeriCorps as a community organizer in Baltimore city schools, Grace completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) to specialize in conducting needs assessments, designing rigorous interventions, and evaluating programs. Prior to Playworks, Grace coordinated the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Columbia University, where she oversaw the execution of educational events, service programs, and research studies. She has an extensive portfolio in media communications, having serviced a wide array of domestic and global clients as a freelance consultant and graphic designer. Raised in Irvine and graduate of UCLA, Grace is excited to return to California to be closer to family and enjoy plenty of sunshine. Grace loves exploring by foot, experiencing new cultures, biking in nice weather, and curling up to a good book.
Randi Lee, strategic initiatives officer, brings over 20 years of strategy, operations and project management experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Prior to joining Playworks, Randi led corporate strategy and product management for Research Now, a leader in the market research industry. Randi’s prior experience also includes management consulting with Booz & Co., startups and 6+ years as a board member at Black Pine Circle School, a Berkeley, CA K-8 attended by her kids. Randi grew up in the suburbs of NYC and in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she was a pitcher on the PR national softball team. Randi is a graduate of Duke University and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School. Randi lives in Oakland with her husband, two kids and black lab, Ben.
Regional Executive Officer Drew Lisac is an award-winning educator, philanthropist, business leader, and government official. He has served as a dean at Stanford University and as a growth consultant for technology start-ups in the Silicon Valley. Working with school districts and governments, he has developed strategic civic initiatives for cities, states, and governments worldwide. He has led significant fundraising campaigns for nonprofits and innovative public-private partnerships. As a grantmaker, Drew has invested in trail-blazing projects globally. He has focused on diversity and inclusion progress in all of his work. In his free time he spends time in nature and the outdoors and credits excellent playtime in grade school for his work as an adult in collaborations for the common good.
Tom joined Playworks in September 2015. Prior, he was the managing director of Pivot Consulting, a San Francisco Bay Area based global consulting firm that provides international development, operations, finance, and other services to non-profit and for-profit enterprises.
From 2011 to 2015, Tom served as COO/CFO of Thrive Networks, following a five-year term on the Board of Directors. Tom was instrumental in transforming the organization, formerly known as East Meets West, from a single country focused humanitarian organization to a global innovation platform based on collaboration, partnerships, and mergers. Before coming on the EMW staff, Tom was a partner with Bridges SF LLC, an executive search firm specializing in the placement of senior executives.
Tom is a venture capital-backed start-up veteran who raised over $100 million in capital. He was the founding chief financial officer of Restoration Hardware, where he was a member of a three-person executive team that expanded the company from four stores to 100 stores with a direct mail and e-commerce business. The business grew to over $300 million in revenue.
Tom graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. degree in renewable natural resources and holds an M.B.A. in finance from the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, where he won the Arthur Andersen & Co. Entrepreneur of the Year award. Tom is a Portfolio Advisor for Inner City Advisors, a former Board Member and Treasurer of St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, and a founding Board Member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Ascend.
He is a seasoned international traveler who has run operations across the USA and Canada, plus ten Asian and African countries. Tom is also a dedicated father and husband, raising three kids as global citizens. In his free time, he is a foodie extraordinaire, A’s and Warriors fan, and an outdoor adventurer.
Sarah comes to Playworks with more than six years of experience working for a variety of nonprofits in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Sarah began her career as an AmeriCorps member serving at a community health center. She has continued to focus her efforts on programs that build healthier communities recognizing the importance of both physical and emotional health. Sarah honed her program evaluation skills while earning a Master of Science in social administration from Case Western Reserve University. Sarah will provide support to regions around data collection training as well as overall support for Playworks data analysis and reporting. When she’s not reviewing program data, Sarah enjoys being outdoors and logging miles on her bicycle.
Evelyn was born in Ireland and moved to the Bay Area in 1994 to get away from the rain and gray skies. She has over 20 years’ experience in accounts receivable. In her spare time, she likes to hike and go Salsa dancing. She has an interest in ancestry research and discovered that her grandfather and great-grandparents were born and raised in New York!
Originally from rural Virginia, Faren comes to Playworks with a professional focus on talent acquisition. She loves matching the right person with the right job for them! A die-hard Hokie fan, Faren graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Business from Virginia Tech before moving to California to explore the majestic west coast. Faren likes to play outdoors by hiking, finding beautiful beaches, and walking the hidden Berkeley hills staircases. She is thrilled to be a part of the Playworks team and excited to contribute to the meaningful mission.
Rachel is a national trainer based out of the Playworks Pennsylvania office. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in international politics from Penn State, she worked in corporate law in Washington, DC and then moved to California to serve as an AmeriCorps member. Now, Rachel is grateful for the opportunity to be back in her home state to bring the power of play to every child and adult. With years of experience working and volunteering in community and youth organizations, Rachel is excited to serve communities across the Mid-Atlantic as play becomes a principal foundation for learning and growth in kids and adults alike. She is passionate about equipping educators and community members as positive role models in order to support every child through play. Rachel’s favorite things include volunteering, traveling, working with kids, being outdoors, and running.
Mwapagha Mkonu is excited to be a part of the Playworks family. Previously, he worked as an Academic & Behavior Administrator at a middle school in San Francisco. Mkonu has been working in the nonprofit arena for more than 13 years in both direct service and management capacities.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Mkonu moved to Albany, NY at the age of 19 and later to Oakland, CA where he has lived since. Mkonu started his undergraduate studies at University at Albany in New York and finished at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Mkonu went on to complete a Master's in nonprofit administration at the University of San Francisco.
When not working, Mkonu loves to spend time with his family traveling and enjoying the outdoors. Mkonu is also a music collector, DJ, and loves to watch and play soccer.
Sahar joined Playworks in November 2015. Sahar is an AmeriCorps alum of the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, where she spent two years coordinating college access and college mentoring programs at Girls Inc. of Lynn, MA. She also was an Education Pioneers Fellow in Los Angeles, CA, where she helped the California Charter School Association plan for supporting network schools in tracking students post high school graduation and better engaging alumni in their work.
Vivian is a San Diego native who moved up to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley to study sociology and education. Her experience includes managing projects in educational nonprofits and supporting customers at multiple tech start-ups. She’s passionate about empowering students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, and is delighted to join the Playworks team to support the partner experience team. In her free time, Vivian enjoys discovering new restaurants/cafes, books, baking recipes, and hiking trails throughout the Bay Area.
Jessica is a Salesforce and Google Administrator for Playworks national and regional offices. She began her career in the nonprofit sector over a decade ago, during which she developed a fascination for systems and all things tech. Her past experiences include AmeriCorps, Jumpstart, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. She originally hails from the Southern California, where she was fortunate to work with a passionate group of staff and educators in the Southern California office. She is now thrilled to support Playworks staff across the nation, and continues to draw inspiration from the stories from our schools and communities. When she's not behind a computer screen or a camera, she enjoys snowboarding, finding great restaurants, and exploring Bay Area trails.
Deb Parsons has more than 16 years in the non-profit and impact investing sector. Over the last three years, she has worked as a start-up adviser at two crowdfunding platforms focused on minority entrepreneurs and investors. She also led a team at IDEO addressing the Ebola crisis.
She has worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors and led the global fundraising efforts at WomanCare Global, a UK based charity that provides women access to safe affordable reproductive healthcare products. Prior to WomanCare Global, she served as director for Investors’ Circle (IC), a national angel network focused on social mission start ups. Ms. Parsons was vice president at Good Capital, a seed stage venture fund, launching and managing the fund’s operational aspects, investor relations, and deployment of capital. While attending graduate school, Ms. Parsons was an associate at SJF Ventures, a growth stage venture fund focused on clean technologies and the consumer sector.
Prior to attending graduate school, she spent six years in business development, marketing, and partner management at WGBH, Intuit, the North Face, and Bain. Ms. Parsons received her MBA from Kenan Flagler Business School, UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Carolina Venture Fellow with a focus on sustainable enterprise and entrepreneurship. Ms. Parsons plays on a role on several Boards in governance and advisory capacities including Trellis Education, Emerge California, Launcht, and Mentor Capital Network.
These days she keeps active chasing her kids and riding her bike.
Eileen brings more than 15 years of experience in education. Prior to joining Playworks, she's served as executive director of the Yaxche School; program director at Citizen Schools; independent education program design consultant school board director and classroom teacher. As director of program quality, Eileen designs and implements systems and tools to support Playworks' program teams in managing and measuring program quality and impact across the country. When she's not on the road supporting city teams, Eileen enjoys running, hiking, photography as well as hanging out with her 3-legged dog and amigo, Jack. She's a big fan of kickball!
Maya Posey is a real live Southern Belle from Birmingham, Alabama. Shortly after graduating from The University of Alabama and moving to New York in 2014, she began her adventure with Playworks as an AmeriCorps program coordinator (coach) for New York/New Jersey. During her two years as a coach she brought safe and healthy play to students in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Newark, NJ. Maya is thrilled to be joining the impact team as an associate trainer for New York/New Jersey, and grateful to be equipping other adults to spread the power of play. Prior to Playworks she spent majority of her efforts with youth development in the academic realm implementing college readiness programs. Fun facts: Maya has a degree in Criminal Justice and Theatre and she loves the Alabama Crimson Tide football team (Roll Tide!).
Gus comes to Playworks with ten years of experience in human resources, employee benefits, and teaching. He has a Bachelor’s in management and human resources from The Ohio State University and a Master’s in cultural anthropology from Kent State University. He understands the importance of benefits and enjoys using his teaching skills to help employees get the most out of their benefits. Gus spends his free time chasing his young daughter around the East Bay, riding his bike, and reading.
Cathy Ramer brings over 20 years of human resources and operations experience in private and not-for-profit education-related organizations in the Bay Area. Over 10 years ago her daughters benefited from Sports4Kids (now Playworks) at their school in west Berkeley. She is thrilled to meet up again with Coach Eunice, to join the entire Playworks team and support our amazing and inspired talent that work hard everyday to create positive, healthy and playful school experiences for kids across the country. During her free time, Cathy enjoys spending her playtime with her family and heading outdoors to swim, hike, run, explore or just relax.
Considered key adviser and subject matter expert on account management, policies, and operations, Hector supports a national team of Account Managers and Regional Partnership Directors in building new relationships with potential school partners. In his 10+ years with Playworks, Hector has served as a Americorps volunteer, Program Coordinator, Program Manager and Account Manager.
He received both his bachelor's and master's degree in education from Oakland's Holy Names University. During his time at HNU, he served as a point guard and head assistant coach on the men's basketball team while working as director for the Youth Summer Hoop camp. A native of Sacramento, CA, Hector spends his downtime playing with his four children and laughing through life with his beautiful wife Anna.
Finance/Grant Director Marco Santos is responsible for monthly financial and grant reporting, countless hours of spreadsheets and distributing financial news throughout the national and city Playworks' offices. Marco has been with Playworks since March, 2008, joining the team from a landscape design company. In his spare time, Marco coaches baseball, football, basketball and soccer, which he has enjoyed for more than 16 years.
As the Director of National Grants, Kate works to cultivate and grow national foundation support for Playworks.
Kate has a decade of diverse grant writing and foundation relations experience. Prior to joining Playworks, Kate worked as the director of fund development at the California Family Health Council. Before moving to the Bay Area in 2015, Kate worked in foundation relations at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Kate previously spent seven years working in foundation relations at Pathfinder International in Boston.
Kate loves living in Oakland, but as a native of Chicago, she will always be a midwestern girl at heart. She is thrilled to be part of the Playworks team working to bring safe, fun, and healthy play to every kid, every day.
Grants Manager Sean Schmeits has over a decade of experience in non-profit management, fundraising, and working to improve public policies that affect kids. Prior to joining Playworks, he worked as the grants and outreach coordinator for the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance in Baltimore and as executive director of the Nebraska Youth Theatre program. Sean has also served as the assistant inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare. When not supporting development efforts in Playworks regional offices, Sean, a recent Oakland transplant, spends as much time as possible outdoors.
Robert joined the Playworks team in 2013 as the Executive Director of the San Francisco office. Prior to becoming part of Playworks, he served as district vice president with the YMCA of San Francisco, where he worked for many years. Robert holds a master's degree in Nonprofit Administration and is an avid runner. In his role as Regional Executive Officer, he enjoys partnering with Playworks regions around the country to help make sure every kid gets to play. His current favorite game is Ninja.
Susannah joined Playworks as director of service design in 2016 so she could play a role in making room for play every day—for every kid. Prior, she spent the past four years at KIPP Foundation where she led and developed leadership support programs for executive leaders across the national KIPP Network of high-performing public charter schools. Before moving back to the Bay Area in 2012, her East Coast roles included service design and customer experience at American Express, partner and program development at Clarifi, and change management at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Susannah is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz (go slugs!) and has an MA in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. She lives in Berkeley with her husband (Ben), two kids (Ian and Ezra), and two cats (Persnickety and Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate). She believes firmly in ro-sham-bo as a best-practice parenting technique. Her current favorite games are Beyond Balderdash and, on the playground, wolves and bunnies.
Cierra started her Playworks career in 2006 as an AmeriCorps program coordinator. After two years on the playground, she transitioned into the Playworks national office as the national office manager. In this role, she supported a number of departments while maintaining her connection to play. Before joining the Playworks team, Cierra worked for the East Oakland Youth Development Center in various roles, such as the homework center coordinator and assistant director for their summer enrichment program. Playworks is an amazing organization, and Cierra is delighted to be a part of such a wonderful organization.
Jessica began her career working as a high school health teacher and coordinator in Sacramento, CA. She has more than ten years of experience working in direct service delivery and program evaluation for community and school based health programs serving young adults. She honed her skills in program evaluation while earning a Master in Public Health degree and working with the New York City Department of Health on a project related to incarceration and adolescents. She most recently worked as a high school counselor and as an evaluation consultant for a statewide nonprofit providing vision care services to Hawaii’s rural regions. Jessica is excited to return to Northern California and to take advantage of the incredible hiking trails and coastal surf areas.
Deb Sugerman comes with 20 years of experience teaching in higher education, where she trained educators to design youth programs and lead activities with elementary and middle school students. She also ran a consulting business where she trained adults in group facilitation skills. She has a background in program evaluation, most recently evaluating the impact of activity-based programs on youth participants.
Deb believes that youth workers who value the power of play have the ability to positively impact children and organizations. Deb is an avid outdoors person and spends her free time hiking and kayaking.
Sylvia comes to Playworks with a diverse background in nonprofits, both in direct service and mission support. Most recently, she served as communications manager for the global development nonprofit Thrive Networks (fka East Meets West), promoting its work in clean water, education, and newborn health in Southeast Asia and Africa. Prior to that, she managed immigration and resettlement services at the International Rescue Committee's Oakland office assisting newly arrived refugees from Bosnia, Myanmar, Liberia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Russia. Her first job was editing computer books. Sylvia earned her BA and MA in Slavic Languages at UC Berkeley, where she studied Russian, Czech, and Hungarian. She is married with two daughters and enjoys reading, running, singing, learning languages, traveling, practicing yoga, and eating sweets.
Michael Tran got introduced to Playworks back in 2008 as a FLEX coordinator. He continued as a full time program coordinator at an East San Jose school from 2008-2010 and recently served as a program manager. Throughout his time with Playworks he has developed a great passion for play and what it can do to bring people together, as well as a pretty mean pirate accent. He is looking forward to sharing this passion for play and all that he has learned with everyone who is as passionate about bringing play into their lives. When he is not playing, he loves to do his other passion which is belting out songs as he sings along on the radio in the privacy of his car.
Kristina Walden joined the Playworks Training Department in 2012 with a decade of experience working in youth development, both as a human/social service provider and as an educational trainer. She also has a wealth of experience facilitating interactive diversity workshops, as a peer educator and independent training consultant. Kristina is an advocate for under-served communities and is inspired by the opportunity to expand minds and support educators and youth workers, through playful professional development. Two fun facts about Kristina are that as a youth her sport of choice in PE was badminton, and she admits that anytime someone mentions the word "icebreaker", she lights up a little inside.
Passionate about enriching the quality of education in American schools, Allison made her way to Playworks after working for a college success nonprofit supporting its development and communications initiatives. Allison was fortunate to have grow up playing in the Northern California wilderness and is thrilled to help expand safe and healthy play throughout the nation as Playworks’ Marketing Specialist. Before earning her B.A. in American Studies from UC Berkeley, Allison considered becoming a professional skier, gymnast, and academic.
Kim is passionate about leadership, organizational growth and management, and leading change in the education sector. She has over 12 years of nonprofit leadership and urban education experience in Boston, New York, and the Bay Area. She began her career in youth development in a New York City public high school. Motivated to find new ways to build engagement in urban schools, Kim joined Playworks Massachusetts in 2006 where she helped launch the program in that region. She left Playworks after six years to get her master’s in school leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She then led a charter school in San Francisco for two years, where she focused on change management, increasing engagement, and staff development. Kim believes that having strong leaders in education and nonprofits is a critical way to improve schools for the most important people: the kids. She has also seen play transform many, many schools. That's why she is super excited to return to Playworks to provide coaching and support for Playworks’ many amazing program leaders around the country. When she is not at work, Kim spends her time hiking and camping with her dog, exploring Oakland on her bike, and perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Kelsey Wicklund joined Playworks in April 2016 as controller. She is a Certified Public Accountant with nearly 10 years of experience in for-profit and nonprofit accounting. She earned her auditor stripes with McGladrey LLP in Minneapolis. Kelsey has also worked for a Minnesota-based global nonprofit and as an analyst for a large conglomerate. Kelsey is a graduate of The University of North Dakota where she earned a Bachelor's of Accountancy. She moved to California to join Playworks and is proud to say that she doesn't need a winter coat. Her free time is spent traveling and exploring her new West Coast surroundings.
Director of Government Programs Tracy Williamson began working with children in a therapeutic program for infants and toddlers. After receiving her JD at Northeastern University, she went on to work on public policy research studies, and most recently spent six years as a contracts attorney in the private sector. Tracy is very excited to return to working for a non-profit focused on improving the lives of children.
Tim comes to Playworks with ten plus years in education and technology globally. He has worked developing, implementing, and evaluating fully- and partially-online degree programs at universities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. Prior to that, he worked for nonprofit initiatives focusing on the use of ICT to further education in several middle- and low-income countries. Tim came to Playworks in 2017 from UC Berkeley, where he was an instructional designer. In other past lives, Tim was an experiential and outdoor educator, a bicycle courier, and an agent of open educational resources. When he is not staring at glowing computer screens, Tim spends time gardening, brewing beer, and fishing.
For the last several years, Marc has designed print and web collateral for nonprofit higher education organizations. Prior to joining Playworks, he lead the visual tone of the Cal Alumni Association at UC Berkeley as the print and online designer. During his time at UC Berkeley, he helped usher in a newly designed website that better represented Cal’s growing alumni by utilizing and leveraging the mobile platform and connecting it with emerging social media outlets. Marc has been a Bay Area local since graduating with a bachelor's degree in graphic design from Dominican University in San Rafael. He loves superhero movies, tapioca, and dressing up his cat, Biscuit.