Jim Wambach

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Jim is responsible for guiding the overall growth and strategic development of Children Rising’s contributions to closing the achievement gap in urban public schools. He draws on his 25 years of corporate and nonprofit executive leadership experience, and a passion for helping to change the trajectory of young lives through improved education and enhanced community support.

Jim, like everyone at Children Rising, begins every day knowing there are so many of our children and youth at a personal crossroad of promise and risk – trying desperately to escape the cycle of poverty and violence surrounding them.  He is grateful for the opportunity to combine his passion for helping underserved children and youth with his years of successful business experience so Children Rising might empower as many of these children as possible.

Jim is from Ohio and remains a big fan of Ohio State football. He moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest in 2001 and is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren he can’t believe he is old enough to have…

Chelsea Boniak

Director of Development and Finance

As Director of Development and Finance, Chelsea works to ensure the Children Rising programs are fully funded to provide as many children as possible with life changing support from the community. Chelsea has been with Children Rising since its early years and has truly been part of the fabric of the organization. In 2003 she contributed as an administrative assistant, which evolved over time to include event planning, fundraising, grant writing, donor cultivation, finance and human resources. Chelsea earned her sociology degree from UCLA, and is passionate about supporting the community by providing opportunities to invest in children and youth. She was raised, educated and still lives in Oakland with her husband and two young children.

Jeannette Brantley

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As a Reading Clinic Coordinator in the Succeeding by Reading program, Jeannette is responsible for coordinating and hosting four weekly reading clinics at school sites with the OUSD. Jeannette draws on the skills gained from 25 plus years of a career in social service work and 15 years in secondary education, both of which serve her well in her current position a Reading Clinic Coordinator with SbR. With a social work major with a minor in education, Jeannette's working life has been in the non-profit sector, working primarily with marginalized communities before transitioning into education. When not working at one of her school sites as a SbR coordinator, Jeannette is an elder in her church and enjoys spending time with her church family and hiking some of the beautiful Bay Area hiking trails with friends, and spending time with her two beautiful granddaughters.

Rebecca Buckley

Succeeding by Reading

Program Director

As Program Director of Succeeding by Reading, Rebecca shares the wonder of reading with struggling children in East Bay public schools most impacted by poverty and violence. Rebecca earned a bachelor of art in linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a master in English/TESL from San Francisco State University. With a heart for serving others, she spent 20 years teaching English to international students at California State University East Bay and St. Mary's College of California, in addition to staff positions at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. Discerning a call to pastoral ministry, Rebecca completed her master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2008 and is currently part-time pastor at Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco.

Rebecca knows that one-to-one relationships are the key to helping students who are substantially below grade level. Drawing on her teaching experience and her ability to galvanize volunteers from all walks of life, she has elevated the Succeeding by Reading program and helped change the academic trajectory for thousands of children.

Rebecca grew up in Mountain View and has two college-aged daughters, Melissa and Christina. In her spare time, she enjoys puns, poetry, puzzles, and waltzing with newborns.

Kim Farnham-Flom

Library Services


As Director of library services, Kim leads and supports a qualified team of dedicated volunteers in opening and maintaining libraries in under-resourced schools. Having spent over 30 years as a human resources professional, she has a heart for service and a passion for books. Kim served on the Board of the East Bay Chapter of United Way, co-managed an independent Berkeley bookstore and, since joining Children Rising, has opened 10 school libraries since 2011. After leaving the corporate world in 2011, Kim immediately started tutoring through our Succeeding By Reading program. She quickly realized the correlation between a school’s literacy rates, poverty level and whether the school library was open and serving students with a quality program. She is passionate about working with teachers and volunteers in providing the resources for reading and research. She truly loves introducing students to history, diverse literature, and stories and cultures of the world while reinforcing the values of responsibility and trust. An East Bay native, Kim also serves as fellowship advisor for University of California Berkeley students and as co-facilitator for Newbigin House, San Francisco Fellowship Program. She is married, has two adult sons and, fortunately for us, discovered the occupational hazard of working with Oakland students is falling in love with them. She also believes when students and books are matched, something magical occurs.

Michelle Hutcherson


Program Manager

As the Program Director for the Path2Math program, Michelle’s infectious enthusiasm is perfectly suited for helping children become excited about math. In addition to making one on one connections with students and delivering high-quality, student centered programing, she supports and trains the many volunteer tutors and mentors. Prior to joining Children Rising, Michelle worked for Padilla & Associates, Inc. as a public/private industry business support services consultant, and before that the San Diego School Unified School District and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Project as a consultant to Caltrans. Michelle is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family, watching movies and playing games. Michelle does this work because she has always enjoyed working with kids and would like nothing more than to see them become empowered through learning.

Charlotte Martinez



As Director of Health4Kids, Charlotte is responsible for overseeing Children Rising’s collaboration with the Alameda County Community Food Bank in providing grocery bags of healthy food to over a thousand families. Supplementing their weekend food, Charlotte takes immense satisfaction in knowing that many more children receive nourishment and come to school on Monday mornings ready to learn. She draws on her many years of corporate and nonprofit managerial experience, organizing and working with volunteers who share her desire to make a difference in the lives of children vulnerable to the effects of poverty.

Throughout her life, Charlotte has had a sense of urgency around the issues of justice and equality. Working with Children Rising is an opportunity to address the crisis of urban food deserts and lack of family funds for food as we partner with people who recognize that access to healthy food is an important aspect of equity in our communities. She is thankful for the blessing of working in an environment that shares her values.

Charlotte lives in Oakland and is a serious Golden State Warriors fan. She enjoys singing and touring with choirs and loves her garden. She has three amazing daughters and ten wonderful grandchildren who keep her on her toes.

Brenda Paulin

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As an Associate Program Coordinator for Succeeding by Reading Program, Brenda is committed to closing the academic achievement gap by assisting tutors in providing one-on-one personal reading instruction to individual students.

Brenda joined Children Rising in 2010 as a volunteer reading tutor before joining the staff. She had enjoyed a successful federal career as a Human Resources Director, and was drawn to Children Rising because of its mission to give hope to at-promise students in East Bay schools, and her desire to give back for the many blessings she has received. She studied English and Business Administration at Howard University and the University of Maryland’s University College.

Brenda lives in San Leandro with her husband, is the mother of 2 and the grandmother of 5.

Eric Steckel

Communications Manager

As Communications Manager, Eric is passionate about helping to increase community awareness for the children who are at the crossroad of promise and risk, and inspiring action to close the academic achievement gap in our urban public schools. With a wealth of experience in both traditional and digital communications, he was appointed communications manager after a long period of volunteering and mentoring youth at Children Rising .

Keenly aware of the power of one-on-one relationships, Eric enjoys serving in an organization where relationships make profound differences in the lives of struggling children and families. By getting off of the sideline and taking part, he is able to share stories of progress and hope.

Eric is a graduate of Bucknell University and holds a Master’s Degree in Communication from the American University in Washington, DC. He is married with two children and when he’s not handling communications duties, you will likely find Eric running his favorite East Bay trails or coaching youth soccer.

Gwen Stephens

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As an Associate Program Coordinator, Gwen ensures that Succeeding by Reading clinics run effectively, tutors are trained and supported and, most of all, that students learn to read. She draws on nearly five decades of experience as a classroom teacher, reading intervention teacher and as a mentor to new teachers.

Helping struggling children read is her joy and passion. Every morning brings fresh enthusiasm as she looks forward to being a part of an effort to bring hope and confidence to the students she serves. Gwen lives for the days when a student’s face lights up with enjoyment of a book, or celebrates small and large reading accomplishments.

Gwen and her husband Paul love living in Oakland and lavish their attention on 8 grandchildren. She also loves performing musically with her sister at church and cooking for friends.

Margena Wade-Green

CareerBridge and Path2Math


As the CareerBridge and Path2Math Program Director, Margena spends much of her time in program and curriculum development, as well as supporting her students and volunteers. With a passion for serving children and youth in her community, Margena started with Children Rising as a volunteer, and brings over 25 years of community outreach and service to students in various capacities.

Margena’s ability to make connections and solve problems with compassion has served her well during her 14-years as community and educational outreach manager at CalTrans. Looking for ways to help kids excel and gain meaningful academic and career opportunities, she coordinated early CareerBridge internship opportunities at CalTrans and BART that continue to this day.

Margena is an Oakland native, and is married to Donovan Green, has 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 2 granddogs.

Pearl Wang

Operations Manager

As the Operations Manager at Children Rising, Pearl oversees daily office operations, manages volunteer registration, develops our Salesforce database, and does the layout of our quarterly newsletter. In short, she handles the back end while our program directors, unencumbered by office logistics or finding volunteers, help our students. Pearl brings a wealth of skills to her role, including customer service experience, an aptitude for systems and tech support, and graphic design, all of which she uses to further Children Rising’s vision of surrounding underserved children in the East Bay with a caring community. Pearl has a passion for helping small children and, after college, spent 5 months working in a Taiwanese orphanage called The Home of God’s Love. She takes professional fulfillment in knowing that she can support struggling children indirectly from her administrative position. Pearl grew up in North Potomac, Maryland and graduated from the University of Virginia. While she loves being in the Bay Area, she misses the East Coast’s glory of autumn leaves and the chill smell of winter. She still gets confused every year when summer sidles into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Rebekah Wilson

Succeeding by Reading

Associate Program Coordinator

As a Succeeding by Reading Associate Program Coordinator, Rebekah has a vital role of ensuring that Children Rising reading clinics help struggling students reach grade level. In addition to working alongside dedicated volunteers and students in several different schools, she provides administrative support so that clinics are staffed and teaching resources are available.

Rebekah brings a wealth of experience and passion for addressing educational inequity and providing support to students in need. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz where she majored in Language Studies with a concentration in Spanish and a minor in Education. During her time at UCSC, she also volunteered with first and second grade students in the Santa Cruz City Schools and worked as an Evaluation Analyst within the Social Sciences Department.

In her free time, Rebekah loves to spend time outdoors, read novels, or practice yoga at her favorite local studio.

Bronwyn Harris

Community Engagement Manager

As Community Engagement Manager, Bronwyn develops partnerships between Children Rising and the wider community, ensuring that we all work as a team to empower the wonderful children we are privileged to serve.

Bronwyn has had a long history with Children Rising in many different ways. She was a teacher in East Oakland when Children Rising began, and saw her students greatly benefit from the (at the time) new organization. Later, as Director of Education at Harbor House, she oversaw a reading clinic on site, again seeing firsthand the dramatic improvement in reading levels as well as the precious relationships built between mentors and students. In 2019, she officially joined the Children Rising team!

Bronwyn taught in East Oakland from 2000-2007, and wrote a book about her experiences and those of her students. She is originally from Petaluma, earned a bachelor’s of science in psychology from UC Davis, and a teaching credential from CSU Sacramento. She is a proud auntie and spends as much time as possible at the ocean.


Jonathan Becker


Jonathan joined the Children Rising board in 2019, driven by his passion and belief that all children should be given a fair chance of success - and it starts with equal education. He is frustrated by how society continues to under-invest in our children’s education and recently served as precinct captain for a ballot measure to renew his town’s parcel tax, and as treasurer for another measure to issue bonds for school renovations (both won). Jonathan earned a BA, Political Science from Yale University and an MBA, Organizational Behavior from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business. He is founder and Principle at This Team Works, a management-consulting firm.

Amber Childress

Vice Chair

Amber grew up in Oakland and has spent the majority of her life in the East Bay, attending Oakland public schools and Mills College. From her school-age years through adulthood, she has benefited from programs like Upward Bound, A Better Chance, the Oakland Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program, and Emerge CA, which fueled her desire to fight for quality education for all students. The support she received in school and from her extended family taught her to embrace the idea that “It takes a village to raise a child”. In 2016, Amber was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Powerful Women of the Bay Innovator Award and elected to serve as Trustee, Area 2 on the Alameda County Board of Education. She is also a long time volunteer with many local programs for youth, including Girls Inc. of Alameda County.

Kerry Gough


Kerry received his Juris Doctorate degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley, in 1966. After retiring as a civil rights attorney in 2008, he joined forces with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention to establish legal clinics staffed by third year Congolese law students supervised by Congolese attorneys.  His community service background includes Global Strategies Board of Directors; President of the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County; President of Allied Fellowship Service, a half-way house for ex-offenders; and as Advisory Board Member, Project Sentinel, a non-profit that investigates, mediates and litigates housing discrimination cases.

Daniel Livsey


Daniel joined the Board in 2017 after volunteering as a reading tutor several years ago.  He currently works at AmTrust Financial in Construction Surety.  He and his wife Mary are raising two young sons who attend Oakland Public Schools and they have also opened their home to several young foster children.  Daniel is committed to serving youth by helping to improve the East Bay’s public schools.

Jonathan Mayes


Currently Jonathan serves as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Government Relations, Philanthropy & Corporate Social Responsibility for Albertsons Companies, Inc. Jonathan received his Juris Doctorate degree from Willamette University College of Law, where he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award. Jonathan has been honored by the Bay Area Minority Bar Coalition and the Charles Houston Bar Association for his exemplary service to the legal community. He also has been honored as Warner Pacific College.

Chris Nichols


Chris joined the Children Rising board in 2020 after being a financial supporter for two years and learning about the organization’s mission and plans to support substantially larger numbers of vulnerable East Bay children. Chris brings to Children Rising his more than 30 years of business experience including sales, executive management and management consulting. Chris earned his M.A from University of California, Los Angeles and is currently Information Management Practice Director at Unify Consulting.

Marti Pozzi


Marti received a double BA in Communication Studies and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and brings to Children Rising her many years of executive leadership and experience in sales, strategic alliances and partnerships. She is a highly motivated leader with a long history of success in organizational and market growth/expansion for both early stage and multi-billion dollar companies. Marti is passionate about now leveraging her years of experience, business skill set and extensive network in order to make the most impact on helping people and communities improve lives.  

Steve Rowell


Steve is an attorney who lives in Oakland with his wife, Phyllis. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He currently specializes in public sector labor and employment law at the law firm of Sloan, Sakai, Yeung & Wong, LLP in Berkeley. Steve is a strong supporter of public education and is proud that both of his adult children are products of Oakland public schools. He is a member of several legal and charitable organizations and, in his free time, is an avid bicyclist, runner and hiker.

Gary Sanders


Gary has had a passion for supporting children and youth in the East Bay for many years. He has coached youth sports teams, served as an advisor to Eagle Scout candidates with Boy Scouts of America and is a member of Junior Achievement of Northern California. Gary’s greatest joy is working with youth and supporting programs that support youth. He brings his love of children and 30 years of professional business development experience to the Children Rising board as Children Rising expands its ability to serve a greater number of vulnerable children in the area. Gary has a law degree from Washburn University and is a certified court mediator. He and his wife Janet have 3 sons and have been active members of the East Bay community for 30 years.

Dave Sweet


Dave joined the Children Rising board in July 2020, believing that every child deserves access to an excellent education and the support he or she needs to pursue that education. He first became acquainted with Children Rising when he volunteered to be a Math tutor at Emerson Elementary School and continued tutoring the amazing children of Oakland for 3 years. He saw first-hand the impact a caring adult can have on a young child’s confidence and desire to learn, and how a solid foundation for learning during the primary years gave a child a fairer chance of obtaining an excellent education overall.   Dave recently retired from his position as CFO/Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures. He earned his Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering from Stanford University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.  

Jim Wambach


As Executive Director, Jim is responsible for guiding the overall growth and strategic development of Children Rising’s contributions to closing the achievement gap in urban public schools. He draws on his 25 years of corporate and nonprofit executive leadership experience, and a passion for helping to change the trajectory of young lives through improved education and enhanced community support. Jim, like everyone at Children Rising, begins every day knowing there are so many of our children and youth at a personal crossroad of promise and risk – trying desperately to escape the cycle of poverty and violence surrounding them.  He is grateful for the opportunity to combine his passion for helping underserved children and youth with his years of successful business experience so Children Rising might empower as many of these children as possible. Jim is from Ohio and remains a big fan of Ohio State football. He moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest in 2001 and is married with 4 children and 5 grandchildren he can’t believe he is old enough to have…