About Us

Get to Know the Junior Center


The Junior Center’s mission is to cultivate curiosity and creative exploration through the arts and sciences. Located in the heart of Oakland on the shores of Lake Merritt, we aim to serve all youth throughout Oakland and beyond.


We value the necessity of equity and representation in the fields of art and science and invest in the future of these fields by providing equitable access to our programs.

We value creativity and imagination – two cornerstones in art and science exploration. We design our programs to support innovation and creative inquiry.



Zaynab Alrashid
Animal Caretaker

Zaynab is a Mills college student, majoring in biology, with aspirations to veterinary medicine. She grew up in Oakland, and is currently still living there. As a lifelong writer, who only recently rekindled her interest in science, she has a specific interest in the intersection between fact-based, and creative pursuits.

William Bocheff
JCAS Faculty

Bill is a builder and currently a teacher at Town School for Boys in San Francisco. Bill also teaches at the Junior Center. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was both a pre-med and a major in Anthropology. Bill has been associated with the Junior Center for 28 years.

Vincent de Jesus
JCAS Faculty

Vince De Jesus is a native of San Antonio, Texas with roots in Mexico and Puerto Rico. He has over 10 years of classroom experience in a variety of disciplines, including math, science, design thinking, creative technology, and music. As Lead Instructor at the Junior Center of Arts and Science, Vince is passionate about serving the community as a teaching artist. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theological Studies from Southwestern University and is pursuing a second degree in Music Composition. Vince is also a multi-percussionist and bandleader and has been playing music all of his life!

Laura Garcia
JCAS Faculty

Laura was born and raised in Los Angeles, growing up her love for art and inspiration came from the diverse culture of LA. Laura moved to San Francisco 15 years ago and has been an active member of her community volunteering with youth and working as a teaching artist in schools ever since. Laura has a BFA in Community Arts with an emphasis on arts education and studio practice in painting and drawing. She believes education is a key component to better communities. As an educator, she is committed to giving students the opportunity to explore the world through art. Her educational approach is to support students as they explore art and design skills, to develop creative expression and critical thinking skills to support personal growth and academic success. 

Cybele Gerachis
Program Director

Cybele has been an arts administrator, educator, and artist in the Bay Area for over 20 years. She is an Oakland based mixed media artist whose work blends abstraction and storytelling. Her creative inspiration comes from deep observation of her environment, ephemera, and nature. She is committed to supporting arts initiatives for youth and adults that engage a range of senses, emotions, and inspire dialogue and curiosity. Cybele has worked in numerous art centers, community programs, and elementary schools promoting and teaching interdisciplinary arts classes. She holds a MA in Art Education from Boston University and a BA in Humanities from New College of California.

Rachel Holmstrom

Rachel is a community organizer and program coordinator, specializing in making her colleagues’ lives easier. She grew up in the Central Valley and graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Political Science & Feminist Studies. In Santa Cruz, she found community in local progressive politics. She then moved to Sacramento where she worked at a nonprofit serving the houseless community. Now she is in Oakland where she hopes to finally put down roots. In her free time, you can find Rachel at the ceramics studio or curled up with a good book.

Julia Marchand
JCAS Faculty

Using references from wildlife dioramas, public gardens and sometimes her children, Julia Marchand explores themes of nature and identity in her paintings and works on paper. Marchand has exhibited in galleries in London, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin and Mexico City. Her work can be found locally through the SFMOMA Artist’s Gallery at Fort Mason. Marchand holds a BA in Art History from American University and an MA in Art Education from Boston University. Currently, she lives with her partner and two children in Alameda CA.

Tammy Mercer
JCAS Faculty

Since 2013, Tammy has been a vital member of our staff, working in various positions including Assistant Teacher, Long-Term Substitute Teacher, and Extended Day Program Enrichment Coordinator. She returns this year to bring new energy to our Integrated Arts Program. Tammy earned her BA in English Literature from Santa Clara University in 2001 and has previously taught and directed arts-integrated summer programs for Galileo. She lives in Oakland with her spouse, three children, and a dog. Her interests include writing, art and performing and recording music. Her favorite quote? “Dreams can become reality — as long as you don’t sleep through them.”

Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh
JCAS Faculty

Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh is an Oakland, CA based visual artist whose current work is focused primarily on the shifting urban landscape. An avid observer and prolific photographer, she employs a vast catalog of visual notes and memories to create her work. A lover of materials and process, Dawline-Jane uses a range of media including relief print making, pen and ink, photo transfer and encaustic.

Ngozi Oparah
JCAS Faculty

Ngozi Oparah is a writer, teacher, and mental health advocate. She received her B.S. from Duke University in Neuroscience and Philosophy and is currently completing her MFA in Writing at California College of the Arts. Her work is grounded in narrative psychology, writing as healing, and personal identity theories and exploration.

no.e Parker
JCAS Faculty

no.e is a new media artist, composer, electronic musician/Dj, and educator with a PhD in Digital Music Composition (UCRiverside, an MFA in Digital Art/New Media (UC Santa Cruz, and a B.S. in Textiles & Apparel Design (Cornell University). Teaches media arts and the science of sound at the Junior Center, Oakland’s Studio One Art Center and Thingamakids, she is also a founding member of the SF Bay area’s SPaZ Collective. no.e’s art addresses pollution and environmental sustainability from a local viewpoint. Exploring intersections between sound &science, data, technology, music, and visual art she creates multi-modal experiences of compost and other recycled materials that encourage the public to affect a positive difference on our quickly changing climate and ecosystem. She has exhibited her art in China, Brazil, Denmark, Indonesia and California; articles appear in Leonardo Journal (51-5), Acoustic Space Journal (16); and conference proceedings include IRCAM’s Music & Hacking (2017) and the International Community of Audio Display (2015).

Lanna Togami
JCAS Faculty

Equity in education has been a lifelong passion for Lanna. She studied Biology and has been working over the last seven years as an science educator in the Bay Area. She’s had the opportunity to teach in Thailand and enjoys working with animals and being outdoors. Above all, Lanna is committed to shifting the opportunity gap in science with historically marginalized youth. She focuses on the inter-sectionality of how identity and science shapes the way youth experience science education in their everyday lives. She is currently finishing her Master’s in Teaching focused on Urban Education and Social Justice and excited to be teaching science both indoor and out!

Board of Trustees

Heidi Quan
President, Trustee

After being born and raised in Oakland, Heidi sought out sunny San Diego to obtain her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice with a minor in minority relations. She is a litigation partner for a law firm in San Francisco. She has served as an active volunteer and board member for the Junior League of San Francisco as well as serving as a board trustee for St. Paul’s Episcopal School. Heidi continues to make her home in Oakland and can be found on the weekends at the local farmers markets and rooting for/yelling at the A’s, Raiders and Warriors.

Brian Dickerson
Vice President, Trustee

Brian was born and raised in Oakland, CA. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his BS degree from the Haas School of Business. Brian has been employed by PG&E for over 13 years and currently holds the position of Customer Relationship Manager. He is married with two children. Brian is passionate and committed to working with children. He enjoys working with children and finds joy in helping them develop new skills and being part of their development.

Karli Maeda
Secretary, Trustee

Karli was born in Fresno, CA and raised in the Bay Area. She earned her Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. Karli has worked in the natural gas industry for 16 years, of which, the last 6 years have been with Pacific Gas and Electric. She is a licensed Mechanical Engineer in the State of California and is currently the manager of a transmission gas engineering department at PG&E. She enjoys running, playing slow pitch softball, and volunteering.

Kevin Davenport
Treasurer, Trustee

Kevin was born and raised in Richmond, CA. As a kid, Kevin’s fascination with Lincoln Logs, Legos and Erector sets created a passion to pursue a career in engineering. He graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from San Jose State University, and has been fortunate to carve out a 20+ year-career learning and working with leading technology companies like Pacific Gas and Electric, Applied Materials, Cisco and Intel where he has received numerous leadership and technology awards.

Kevin is humbled and privileged to pay forward to the Bay Area community that has so richly deposited in him.

John Howell

John, an Oakland native, currently lives in Oakland and is a construction manager with Harris and Associates. John has provided project management expertise to a number of projects in Oakland, including the Elmhurst Community Prep Elementary School, Oakland Community Land Trust affordable Housing, Kaiser Permanente Phase 2, and La Escuelita Downtown Education Center, Phase 2. He has also worked as a securities and bond trader. He holds a degree in Finance from Fisk University, and has completed programs in real estate development and construction small business strategic partnership.

Tamara Rasberry

Tamara Rasberry is a 16-year veteran of the Capitol Community. She recently joined the staff of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.  As the Assistant Deputy for Strategic Business Partnerships and Outreach, Ms. Rasberry is responsible for building public and private partnerships in the Bay Area and Northern California. Ms. Rasberry was most recently the manager of State Agency Governmental Affairs for Sempra Energy, is responsible for maintaining Sempra’s interests in all state regulatory agencies and legislative advocacy. Ms. Rasberry lives with her husband, Kirby Harris, and their two daughters in Oakland, California.

Sha Coleman

A long time resident of Oakland, Sha moved here in the 1980s. She attended Oakland public schools and went to undergrad in San Diego. After which she moved to Japan for a few years.  She then obtained a Masters of Science in Molecular Biology from California State East Bay while working at Lawrence Livermore National Labs on the Human Genome Project. Sha is currently working at a Biotech startup in Alameda and can be found walking her dog on the weekends in Jack London Square, around the Lake or one of the parks off Skyline. Sha believes in fostering creativity in the sciences and developing unique programs where youth can explore and learn.

Kathrine Long

Kathrine is a proud resident of Oakland, CA. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. Kathrine has 15 years of diverse work experience in various industries including Supply Chain Logistics, Customer Success Management, Higher Education, Government & Community Relations, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Kathrine has worked at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) since 2014, and currently manages the company’s charitable workplace giving program. In addition to being a board trustee at JCAS, she also serves as a board member for the Carl B. Metoyer Center for Family Counseling (CBMCFFC) in East Oakland, and PG&E’s Black Employee Resource Group. In her personal time, Kathrine enjoys writing, traveling, staying physically active.

Board Members Emeriti

Joel Hart
Former Board President

Joel is a Bay Area native. Joel studied Philosophy at the University of California. He has worked for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for 14 years, and is currently a Supervisor in Gas Operations, supervising PG&E work in the East Bay area. He now lives in Berkeley with his wife and 3 children. In 2014, for his work with the JCAS, Joel received PG&E’s prestigious Mielke Award honoring PG&E employees who have made outstanding contributions to their communities.

Susan Spiller Acquistapace
FORMER Treasurer

Susan was born in New Orleans, LA, but was raised in the Bay Area. Although Susan’s undergraduate program at University of California, Berkeley, included a Pi Beta Phi and an English major, her career pathway led elsewhere. After several years at Bank of America, Susan developed a passion for biology. Susan received a second Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Berkeley. Marriage, three post-doctoral positions in Plant Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry of chlorophyll biosynthesis paralleled the birth of three daughters. Susan spent 25 years as Professor of Biology at Mills College. She retired in 2014, and is presently Professor of Biology Emerita at Mills.

Caroline Purves
Former Vice-President

Caroline was born in Canada but has lived in Berkeley for over 20 years. She received a Ph.D. in Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. Caroline worked over 30 years in private clinical psychology practice in 3 countries: United States, Canada, and England. For several years, she ran a Head Start program in Rodeo, focusing on low-income families of diverse backgrounds. At the end of her working career, Caroline had a private practice in Berkeley and Pleasant Hill, and was a Supervisor at the West Coast Children’s Clinic in the Fruitvale district in Oakland. Her work always included children and adolescents, along with adults. She retired from active practice in 2012. Caroline was drawn to the JCAS through her involvement with one of the JCAS’s supporting neighborhood associations, the Aesop Auxiliary, and elected to stay on the board.