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 is a the academic dean for the math department at Leadership Public Schools in Oakland. Zach works at Lazear Charter Academy, in East Oakland as a co-teacher in a 7th grade humanities class while earning his M.A. in Education and teaching credential through BATTI.
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 eight 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, and now as an Academic Dean and 9th grade Math Teacher at Leadership Public Schools in Oakland. 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 7th grade humanities resident teacher at Lazear Charter Academy in Oakland and is in the BATTI program earning his M.A. in Education and multiple subjects credential. Next year, he will be finishing the BATTI program and working as a 6th and 7th grade math teaching assistant at Julia Morgan School for Girls in 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.
Laura Yakas is currently finishing her PhD in anthropology and social work at the University of Michigan. In the last six years, her time has been divided between social justice activism (such as dialogue facilitation with the University of Michigan’s office of Intergroup Relations, volunteering in Flint, Michigan, as well as many marches and anti-oppression meeting groups), teaching undergraduate anthropology classes, graduate school hoops (both fun and unfun), community theater, and writing/playing/singing music. She also earned her MSW specializing in non-clinical psychiatric rehabilitation, had her heart-space eviscerated twice, and is almost able to do an unassisted headstand.
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 26 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.
Joyce Kim has a B.A. in Political Science and Education, and minors in Korean Studies and Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, she went to South Korea as a Fulbright fellow to conduct research on North Korean defector youths' political resocialization and worked with an NGO, Liberty in North Korea, to develop education programs for young North Korean defectors. Last summer, she was a camp counselor at GAKKO, an international summer camp for high school students. She is currently a New Sector Fellow serving at Year Up, a nonprofit whose mission is to close the opportunity divide between socioeconomically disadvantaged young adults and professional careers. She currently lives in Berkeley. where she enjoys running, exploring, and taking photos.
Nicholas (Nicky) True is a 6th grade teacher at Marshall Elementary 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. He lives in a little town outside of Monterey called Marina with his rotund cat Charlie, and enjoys cooking and eating delicious foods.
Michala Coates is a rising senior at Envision Academy of Arts and Technology in Oakland. She has worked for Girls Inc. as a mentor and tutor for 1st-5th graders, and collaborator on a curriculum to prepare girls in grades 8-12 for the work force. In addition to her childcare experience, she has volunteered with the SF Bay Area Food Bank, done trail work in Yosemite National Park, and is an actress with the Envision Academy High School Theater Troupe, performing in "Twilight: Los Angeles" and "Antigone." She recently hiked El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.