Zach and ron
Zach and Ron are Co-Directors of Camp Common Ground. They met at Camp Galileo Oakland, where Ron was the Assistant Director and Zach was a Lead Outdoor Instructor, and have been close ever since. Ron has been a teacher for 10 years, and is currently a 6th grade math and science teacher for Gateway Public Schools in San Francisco. Zach is a 6th grade math teacher at Oakland SOL (School of Language), a new dual language district school in Oakland.
Towns (his first name is Ron, but he goes by his last name,Towns) has a B.A. in Statistics and Secondary Education from Columbia University, and a Masters of Education and Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College. Ron has been a teacher for nine years, as a Fulbright Bilingual Program Instructor in Spain, as the Mathematics Department Chair at Christian Fenger Academy High School in Chicago, the Mathematics Department Chair at Envision Academy in Oakland, an Academic Dean and 9th grade Math Teacher at Leadership Public Schools in Oakland, and now as a 6th grade Math and Science Teacher at Gateway Public Schools in San Francisco. While in Chicago, Ron co-founded and acted as COO for the UPlift Project, which aided ex-juvenile offenders in transitioning to higher education and employment. Last summer, Ron served as the Assistant Camp Director of Camp Galileo Oakland, a day camp that served 200 campers weekly. Ron was awarded a Truman Scholarship for his leadership at Columbia University and a Golden Apple Scholar Finalist award for excellence in teaching in Illinois. He lives by Lake Merritt and loves to try new restaurants and cafes in his neighborhood.
Zach is a 6th grade math teacher at Oakland SOL, a dual language middle school in Oakland Unified School District. Last year, he completed the BATTI Program to earn his M.A. in Education and multiple subjects credential. He previously was the 6th and 7th grade assistant math teacher at Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland and a 7th grade humanities resident teacher at Lazear Charter Academy in East Oakland. Zach has a B.A. in Urban Studies, minor in Environmental Studies, from the University of Pennsylvania, with his thesis work on game-based learning for moral development. Zach became interested in using summer camps to bridge the urban-suburban divide in college, and has since worked in business and education to gain the skills to realize that dream. Zach worked as a freelance journalist, covering student debt movements in New York City and Quebec and the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He co-founded Youngist.org, an online magazine for young artists and activists. Zach joined Bain & Co. as an associate consultant, working on cases in grocery, healthcare, and education. Zach moved to Oakland as an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow and worked in business development at Kidaptive, an education tech start-up that builds digital games to cultivate social and emotional skills. Zach grew up attending, working, and loving Camp Ramah New England (and has helped out with the new Camp Ramah NorCal), and has since visited, volunteered, and been inspired by a number of social justice camps, including Bridge Builders, YEA Camp, Camp Imagineerz, Camp Hawkeye, Camp Phoenix, and Seeds of Peace.
Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors is made up of seven people: Amy, Anina, Kyle, Rachel, and Tiffany (bios below), and Ron and Zach (bios above). We are proud to have such an amazing and dedicated group of individuals serving as a Board members!
Amy has a B.A. in Sociology, a B.S. in Business Administration, and an M.B.A., all from the University of California - Berkeley. During the MBA program, she co-created a full-time MBA course on Large-Scale Social Change, was a Berkeley Board Fellow at 826 Valencia, and was a founding member of the Race Inclusion Initiative. She was an Education Pioneers Graduate Student Fellow at Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She currently works at Clever, an EdTech startup that aims to make it easier to bring technology into K-12 classrooms. Amy is a NYC native and currently resides in Oakland, where she can be found checking out books from the public library or throwing a Frisbee on a grassy field.
Anina is a social sector advocate with a diverse career spanning gender equality, educational opportunity, affordable housing, and community health. She is currently a Business Development Manager at Living Goods—a social enterprise working to improve child and maternal health in East Africa. Previously, Anina served as Development and Communications Officer at the Low Income Investment Fund, working to channel increased investment into low-income communities throughout the United States. Anina is passionate about working with children and youth and has served as an educator at a women’s university in Bangladesh, a summer camp counselor, and a mentor to high school students in Oakland. In her free time, Anina volunteers with Full Circle Fund – an engaged philanthropy network focused on strengthening non-profits throughout the Bay Area. She can be found dancing the night away at live music venues, hiking the many trails the Bay Area has to offer, and eating her way through Oakland’s food scene.
Kyle Freeman is a program manager at the Jobs for the Future west coast office in Oakland, California. Mr. Freeman is currently working with the Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence initiative providing operational and strategic support. Previously, Mr. Freeman was a program manager at Summer Search, a national youth development and college access nonprofit with a program site in the Bay Area. At Summer Search, he managed the delivery of quality mentoring, summer experiential education opportunities, and college counseling to hundreds of youth from low-income communities. Mr. Freeman has also worked as an expedition instructor at Colorado Outward Bound School, providing transformative experiences to youth and adults through multiweek trips in urban and wilderness settings. Mr. Freeman is a graduate of Youth Outside’s Rising Leaders Fellowship and is active in several racial and social justice organizations in the Bay Area. He has a master’s degree in linguistics and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and Spanish from the University of Florida, where he researched applications of critical linguistic analysis to education policy and discourse. Mr. Freeman lives in Oakland with his wife and cat.
Rachel's career has been focused around social impact, with a particular emphasis on education for equity. She has spent the last two decades loving camp -- as a participant and as a counselor -- as well as learning about and taking action around racial justice. She is thrilled to be of service to both of these efforts at once as a Camp Common Ground board member. Rachel lives in Oakland with her wife Jessica and dog Miri -- together they pass lots of time exploring the ocean and redwoods of Northern California.
Tiffany is an educator, dedicated to equity. She defines herself as a community engagement specialist whose mission is to drive education towards fair, equal access and support for all students. Before joining Camp Common Ground, Tiffany worked in the policy research and public charter school sectors in Washington, DC, serving elementary students through adult learners. She also served as a college access specialist in the Philadelphia Metro area and is excited to continue collaborative work in challenging and changing inequitable systems for youth. Tiffany is passionate about creating learning communities, like Camp Common Ground, that are accessible and key partners in the thriving of young people.
Donovan Hall has worked with students in positive youth development over the past seven years. He specializes in personal growth and character education for middle and high school students. He loves storytelling in lots of capacities; screenplay writing, children's books, public speaking and more. Donovan is excited about helping students connect with one another and creating an inclusive community at Camp Common Ground this summer.
Saniya Ibrahim just completed her first year teaching 2nd Grade at New Horizon School Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development from California State University, Northridge. For the last four years, Saniya has been the Youth Outreach Coordinator at New Vision Partners, a nonprofit that focuses on interfaith leadership development for high school students in Los Angeles and Orange County. Saniya has helped plan interfaith boot camps for high school students by coordinating visits to different houses of worship and facilitating interactive workshops on topics such as privilege, prejudice and discrimination, and how to mobilize as young leaders. Her activism and her passion for social justice work was inspired by her mentor, Lori, and her 2015 summer trip to Washington D.C. Saniya currently lives in Burbank with her hamster, Cream Puff, and enjoys cooking, sketching, photography, playing with small humans, and smashing the patriarchy.
Melvin Tamoro was born in the Philippines and raised in the Bay Area, and now resides in Richmond California with his fiancee and two year old toddler. In 2014 he began his journey as an aspiring educator, gaining experience as an extended day program art instructor at Sankofa Academy in Oakland, California. In 2015 he moved forward as a transitional kindergarten reader tutor and currently works as a noon supervisor, ensuring the safety of the youth ranging from kindergarteners to junior high students. In April of 2017 the Seeds program in conjunction with the Rainin Foundation gave him the oppurtunity to star in a short breakthrough film highlighting his work with the youth. Focused and family-oriented at the age of 27 his goals consist of attending college to earn a degree in Business. He continues his passion to work with the youth as a camp counselor and wishes to inspire others to spread Unity through education and empathy.
Tanishq Rajan is an East Bay native raised in Concord, California. After high school, she traded out the hills and sunshine of the Bay Area for the snowy plains of the Midwest where she earned a BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology from the Ohio State University. Tanishq fell in love with youth work in college and now works as a counselor at Huckleberry House, a youth crisis shelter in San Francisco. Tanishq continues to be inspired by the awesome youth she encounters daily and is eagerly awaiting meeting this year’s Commoners!
Nicholas (Nicky) True is a 6th grade Social Studies and Language Arts teacher at Walter Colton Middle School in Seaside California. Nicky has a B.A. in liberal studies with a focus in American History that he received from California State Monterey Bay. He has also taught English internationally in Vietnam and has worked at Camp Opportunity in the Santa Cruz mountains for two years as well as at Camp Kennolyn in the Soquel hills for 4 years., and has been on the staff of Camp Common Ground for the past two years. He lives in a little town outside of Monterey called Pacific Grove with his rotund cat Charlie, and enjoys cooking and eating delicious foods!
Haley Mack is a first year college student at Laney College and Berkeley City College, majoring in Psychology and Administration of Justice. She is currently a youth organizer at the California Charter Schools Association, empowering high school students to become civically engaged and fighting for an equitable education. Haley has also been a youth leader at The Mosaic Project for the past 3 years, an outdoor school teaching kids conflict resolution and peacemaking skills. Her next adventure is to travel to Nicaragua to teach English and study Spanish. She loves to meditate, journal, and spend time in nature!