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.
National Leadership Team
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.
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 Dial, regional executive officer, has over 20 years of leadership experience with nonprofits including a successful track record as an executive director for a start-up youth serving organization and for a major performing arts organization in the San Francisco Bay Area. David is responsible for directly supporting and managing executive directors in Playworks cities. In addition to providing day-to-day supervision, David is building national systems for ensuring that financial and programmatic standards are met.
Eunice Dunham, regional executive officer, began her Playworks career as a coach at a school in Berkeley, then quickly advanced into management roles. Eunice was the first executive director of Playworks Boston in 2006, and led the expansion team during the fastest three years of growth for the organization. Eunice now manages executive directors, guiding them toward developing innovative solutions to address the daily challenges of communication and best practice sharing across multiple sites.
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.
Margaret joined Playworks as the Business Development Officer in June 2014 and leads the national Training department. The training department generates earned income for Playworks by selling and delivering training programs for adults in elementary schools and youth organizations that relieve chaos at recess, improve playtime, and develop a positive school climate.
Margaret is an international executive with broad business experience in executing strategies within Fortune 500 and multinational corporations such as GE and Jardine Matheson. She has held prior roles in strategic marketing, portfolio management, joint venture general management and regional development. She has worked in a wide range of industries in the for-profit sector that include financial services, security, and trading. She has a masters degee in international business from UC San Diego’s IR/PS graduate school and received her BA from Swarthmore College. She is fluent in Mandarin and is also a certified PMP project manager.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lee joined the Playworks team as an AmeriCorps program coordinator (coach) in Texas for the 2010-2011 school year. He brought safe, healthy, and inclusive play to the students at Ripley House Charter School and a serving spirit to the Houston community. For the next four years, Lee served as Playworks Texas program manager, helping grow and develop the Playworks program in the Bayou City. Lee is joining the Training department and is excited to continue spreading the mission and vision of Playworks across the country, after seeing and experiencing the incredible impact it has made on a local level in Houston. In his spare time, Lee enjoys mountain biking, hiking with his dogs Hank and Pipsqueak, enjoying live music, and spending time with his wife.
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!
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.
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.
Director of Cloud Solutions 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 data management system, Salesforce.com. After ten 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.
Tara Doherty graduated with a degree in finance, but found that the non-profit world and her long history of working with youth was really what inspired her. With her Playworks roots planted strongly in the Bay Area where she began as a program coordinator at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, Tara has been a proud member of the Playworks team in Portland since it's inception in 2009. She is continually impressed by the power of play and has experienced its impact with folks across the country; from her home state of New York to the 'Great Land' of Alaska. Tara also digs live music and will challenge you to a game of Knockout any day of the week!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tina comes to Playworks with more than a decade of development experience and several more years of experience in information management. She has worked as an analyst and research manager, and was most recently at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, where she developed a comprehensive advancement services program in support of the largest campaign in its history. As the Director of Prospect Research and Management, Tina supports prospect development for the regional and national teams. When not at work, she enjoys hiking, reading, music, and having fun with her family. Tina is delighted to be a member of a team which puts children front and center!
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.
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 a very active person and believes strongly in the power of play and the impact it has on physical and emotional health, so she is thrilled to be a part of the Playworks team and contribute to its incredible mission. 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.
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.
Jessica joins the Playworks team with 10+ years of experience in afterschool program management, and has worked with a number of nonprofits across the Bay Area. Most recently she served as the Director of Program Services with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County. Jessica has her Bachelors in Liberal Studies and her Master’s degree in Public Administration, with a nonprofit concentration, from the University of Southern California. She recently moved to Berkeley to join the team and is so excited to jump into play with both feet.
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.
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.
As director of learning, Mariah Oakley leads and organizes trainings and learning activities to ensure all Playworks cities are equipped to bring the best programs to children. She had a PE teacher in the Oakland Public Schools, Ms. Himes, who changed her life by making physical activity accessible to her despite having asthma, and she believes Playworks has the power to ensure all children have a Ms. Himes in their lives. Mariah has a Master of Public Health, and has developed and implemented physical activity-based training/learning programs for multiple organizations, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the California Department of Education. She enjoys a good headstand, and thinks recess rocks.
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.
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!
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.
Account manager for Playworks Training, Hector Ramon Salazar, is in his ninth year with the organization. Providing direct service as an AmeriCorps member, program coordinator and program manager in Oakland, Richmond and San Jose for the previous seven years, Hector has now shifted his focus to the national expansion of Playworks Training. 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. In his spare time, Hector enjoys playing catch with his son Xavier, coloring with his daughter Nina and participating in some sort of food activity with his 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nicole started her career with Peace Corps where she served as a Community Health and Youth Volunteer on the banana producing island of Saint Vincent in the West Indies…where?! She said the same thing when got her assignment and is happy to show you on a map… It’s tiny. After her return, Nicole spent five years as a Regional Recruiter and Recruitment Coordinator with the San Francisco Peace Corps Office. She then returned overseas where she lived, worked and explored Santiago, Chile.
Nicole comes to Playworks with a BA in Education and MA in Organization Development. She has a passion for connecting service minded talent and loves building a solid and playful Playworks family. Nicole is a native of Portland, Oregon and can often be found riding her bicycle, cheering on the Oregon Ducks or hiking with her family.
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.
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.
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.
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.