Our Team

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The Spark Team

We are a passionate, innovative and collaborative team focused on celebrating students and promoting possibility.

Michaela Perez
Vida Amanat
Scarlett Ferman
Thaddeus Brown

Michaela Perez
Public Ally

Michaela is a proud native of Oxnard, CA, a well-known area for strawberry fields and agricultural industries. At an early age, she was submerged into advocacy and human rights campaigns through exposure from her aunt, civil rights activist Carmen Perez. Michaela’s commitment to strive for an equitable society stemmed from experiencing firsthand how low socioeconomic status affects mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Michaela acknowledges the significance of obtaining a higher education and brings a strong commitment to enhancing diversity through providing educational resources. Michaela received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at San Francisco State University, where she was accepted into a prestigious NIH fellowship, SF Build. The fellowship provided opportunities to investigate factors contributing to inequities within communities. Her experience in providing direct services for low-income and undocumented students, as well as working in clinical research settings, has shaped her goals and ambitions. As a Public Ally and AmeriCorps member, Michaela hopes to continue a career that entails research, equity, cultural inclusiveness, travel, exploration, and discovery.

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Vida Amanat
Program Coordinator

Vida comes to Spark with a passion for social change and a background in empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their intellectual and moral development. As a regional coordinator for the Ruhi Training Institute, she expanded and strengthened educational programs for children, youth, and adults throughout Northern California. In this role, she administered systems to support volunteers that ranged from coordinating outreach programs to offering distance education to training and managing new team members. Vida is excited to continue her work in community and youth development with Spark. If you don't find her supporting youth to be active leaders in their communities, you'll probably find her dancing on the salsa floor.

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Scarlett Ferman
Program Fellow

Scarlett is a New Jersey native who is passionate about educational equity and social justice.  She is a recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she concentrated in Sociology, Psychology, and Geography.  She spent her college career researching systemic inequality and the pathways towards a more fair and just education system. Scarlett arrives at Spark bringing experience in youth development and education for empowerment from her work with Free Arts NYC, an arts mentorship-based organization, as well as Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization centered on environmental education and food justice. As a Program Fellow, Scarlett hopes to continue to foster meaningful relationships and positive student outcomes with Spark.

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Thaddeus Brown
Public Ally

Thaddeus is passionate about equity and inclusion in education with his breadth of experience in education access and policy. As a San Franciscan Native, and now as an AmeriCorp’s Public Ally, he came to the Spark Program with a drive to see students succeed by using the insight he has gained into inequities in education to help propel our mission. Thaddeus earned a BA with Honors from UCLA, where he did work as a student leader and advocate for underrepresented student populations. He was the chief-of-staff of the Undergraduate Student Association Council’s Transfer Student Representative’s office and held various leadership positions with other equity based organizations on campus. His other interests center on the criminal justice system where he sees a connection to educational inequities. He is also currently a neighborhood “adjudicator” for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Neighborhood Courts Program.
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Hannah Strauss
Samantha Scheetz
Jennifer Rider
Ben Stewart

Hannah Strauss
Program Fellow

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Hannah is excited to be a part of the Spark team as one of this year’s Spark Fellows and give back to the Bay Area community. Hannah is passionate about youth education and was drawn to Spark’s mission to foster a successful generation of young people by providing them with a whole range of professional and personal development opportunities. Hannah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Upon graduating, she moved to Thailand to spend some time teaching English to elementary schoolers and currently works part-time at a local homeless & transitional housing shelter. Hannah is thrilled to be a part of the Spark team and learn more about the world of youth development nonprofits. 

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Samantha Scheetz
Program Coordinator

Sam is an East Coast native, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and began her career as an AmeriCorps Urban Education fellow in New York City. Then she packed her bags and shipped off to the Bay Area where she worked as an Account Coordinator at a PR agency, honing her skills as a communicator, problem-solver and corporate partner liaison. Her experience with youth spans tutoring, after school program instruction and teaching yoga. She’s passionate about the power of education and relationship-building to bridge communities. She’s eager to spread her zest for social equity to the West Coast and to Spark stakeholders.

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Jennifer Rider
Executive Director

Jennifer is a transformational leader with expertise across multiple disciplines including financial management, program and fund development, impact measurement and operations. With more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and in full-time leadership roles at Junior Achievement of Northern California, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida and more, Jennifer is committed to student success and organizational growth.  Jennifer has an MBA from Rollins College, a Master of Science degree in Education & Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science degree from Alfred University.

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Ben Stewart
Manager of Corporate Partnerships

Ben is excited to work with the passionate team at Spark to help create a dynamic Career Exploration and Self-Discovery Program that not only provides opportunities for our students to create their own future, but to create a positive and rewarding experience for mentors. Ben's background is in community economic development with the Peace Corps and, most recently, as the manager of mentor program at BUILD Boston. Ben is thrilled to be working with Spark as the organization continues to grow and make a lasting impact on hundreds of lives in the Bay Area.

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Alex Jeong
Kevin Gardner
Angela Chen

Alex Jeong
Program Specialist

As a California native, Alex is dedicated to ensuring strong implementation of Spark Bay Area partner schools and companies. Alex holds a BA from the University of Chicago. Living in the South Side of Chicago, he was struck by the socioeconomic disparities of surrounding neighborhoods and made it his mission to empower youth from underserved communities with access to educational and professional opportunities. Previously, Alex worked in the State Senate office of Illinois’ 13th District, where President Obama began his political career; as well as with MetroSquash, a nonprofit that engages underserved Chicago youth using squash and academics as tools to foster college-readiness. Alex has also worked at Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit that promotes youth civics and political engagement, and taught high school math in Chicago Public Schools, with a Fellowship from Match Education.

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Kevin Gardner
Grants Manager for California Regions

Kevin made his way to Spark after honing his communications and project management skills at two startups: Mission Asset Fund, an economic development nonprofit with a fin-tech twist, and Cribspot, a Y Combinator company that helps renters find housing. His experience ranges from independently spearheading a full overhaul of Cribspot’s web content to managing a team of seven to develop MAF’s 2015 annual report. He recently completed the New Sector RISE Fellowship, an AmeriCorps program designed to cultivate a new generation of nonprofit leaders. With his command of language and knack for storytelling, Kevin lends a fresh voice to Spark’s development team during this exciting time of growth.

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Angela Chen
Development and Operations Coordinator

A San Francisco native, Angela brings a diverse breadth of experience in the areas of sales development, client relationship building, program management and business operations. Prior to joining Spark, Angela was an Assistant Director at C2 Education, where she individualized strategic roadmaps for K-12 students to help them reach their academic goals, cultivated long-term relationships with families and tutors, and established high-impact partnerships with local schools. As an advocate for youth development and learning, Angela was previously also a grant writer for a nonprofit called City Youth Now, and volunteered as a GED tutor for teens who were in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. She is excited to be part of the Spark team. Angela holds BAs in Politics and Legal Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Bay Area Board Members

Executive Board
Adnan Rizvi, Vice President, Strategic Sourcing & Procurement at Realtor.com Alan Braverman, Founder & CEO, Textline Anjai “AJ” Gandhi, Vice President, Sales Strategy & Operations at RingCentral Caitlin Roberson, Founder & CEO, CLEAR Worldwide Carolyn Frey, Chief People Officer, Philz Coffee Gabe Cortes, Chief Financial Officer, Grand Rounds, Inc. Jeff Markowitz, Partner, Greylock Kristin Torres Mowat, Senior Vice President Corporate Development, Castlight Health Michael Levinson, Product Management Director, Facebook MR Macgill, President, MRM Consulting Susan Salop, Director, APAC and Japan Advertising Cloud, Adobe Tracey Parry, Leader in Corporate Communications and Public Relations
Advisory Board
Alexandra Davis, Financial Advisor, Portfolio Manager & Financial Planning Specialist Morgan Stanley Anthony Overstreet, Product Specialist, Facebook Ashley Quintana, Community Outreach Coordinator, Facebook, Spark Alumna Brendan Chan, Program Manager, Google Garen Corbett, Board Chair; Director, California Health Benefits Review Program, University of California Kalpana Chandrasekhar, VP of Customer Experience, HotelTonight Kelley Birch, Research Analyst, Franklin Templeton Investments Manisha Taparia, Product and Engagement Manager, Bloomreach Michael Davis, Healthcare Risk Advisory Manager, Wipfli LLP Odette Go, VP and Treasurer, Lam Research Ronil Prasad, Director, Regional Marketing and Product Strategy North America, Aviat Networks Shireen Javandel, Research Coordinator, UCSF Spencer Anderson, Business Operations, Atrium LTS Tom Yankowski, President, Center for Career Evaluation

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