Board, Staff & Faculty

Board, Staff & Faculty

Get to Know the Junior Center Team


Cybele Gerachis
Executive 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.

Julia Marchand
Program director

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.

Rachel Holmstrom
Operations manager

Rachel 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.

Elisa Oceguera
Program Coordinator & teaching artist

Elisa is a researcher and educator focused on generating spaces for community self-determination through the Zapatista practice of “preguntando caminamos” — “walking we ask questions.” Her commitments encompass supporting farmworker-led organizing campaigns; documenting Indigenous land defense movements via the Radio Autonomia collective media project; and hosting Queer Qumbia, a queer and trans grassroots benefit for social justice organizations. Elisa attended Cal Poly Humboldt, San Francisco State University, and UC Davis.


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.

Lena Costales-Downey
JCAS Faculty

Lena grew up in South Hayward and graduated from Oakland School for the arts in 2018. Lena is the oldest sibling of three in their family and has been working with youth in arts programs and schools since 2019. They are a practicing and perpetually learning teaching artist and assistant for JCAS. Lena graduated from Boston University through becoming a Posse scholar where they obtained a BFA in Art Education. Lena is passionate about accessibility, diversity and representation in art education and has worked in numerous public schools in the Boston area and the Bay Area. Lena is interested in mental health in the arts and is pursuing the long term goal of becoming an art therapist in the future.

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. 

Marco Garcia
JCAS Faculty

Marco Garcia is an Oakland-based visual artist with a multidisciplinary practice that consists of performance, garment construction, illustration, soft sculpture, and installation. He was born and raised in the small town of Agua Dulce, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville and received his BFA in 2012. Garcia attended California College of the Arts & Crafts and obtained his MFA in 2015. Marco is an art educator and is a manager of Real Time & Space (RTS), an art studio space located in the downtown Oakland area.

Yael Levy
JCAS Faculty

Yael is a mixed media artist, storyteller, printmaker and art teacher based in Berkeley, CA. She believes the creative process to be its own reward and the act of making an incredible tool for healing and growing. Yael was born and raised in Israel, and first moved to New York City in 2002 to attend the Art Students League of New York, later she completed a BFA of Illustration from Parsons the New School for Design (2011). After four years doing design and illustrations for The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, she moved to California to pursue an MFA in Comics at CCA (2017). In recent years she’s been a Teaching Artist with Kala Art Institute, Richmond Art Center and JCC of the East Bay and most recently JCAS. Her work has been published by The Nib (2018), Birdy Magazine (2019), Forward Comix (2017 & 2020) and The Baylies (2021).

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.”

Judit Navratil
JCAS Faculty

Judit Navratil is a transdisciplinary artist working with social VR and extended reality in balance with her embodied practices like somersaulting and tent flying. As an immigrant in various cultures, she explores the potential of phygital care and belonging in compossible spaces.

Navratil earned an MFA in Painting at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2008 and an MFA at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2019. She has been exhibiting in Hungary, Canada, France, Korea and the Bay Area. Her work has been recognized through awards including the Cadogan Art Award, a residency at Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris) and the Parent Award of Kala Art Institute. She is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and an Alternative Exposure grantee as the founder-mother of VR Art Camp.

Rachel-Anne Palacios
JCAS Faculty

Rachel-Anne Palacios has made a name for herself in the Bay Area art world. A self-taught, multicultural artist, her pieces reflect the respect she has for culture, religion, traditional values, elders, and the cycle of life and death. Palacios grew up amongst Oakland’s cultural diversity in a household headed by her mother and grandmother who was a mentor, teacher, coach, and friend.

“I hope to continue creating a positive focal point for our community by heightening respect for cultural awareness and our elders by providing an alternative learning environment. I believe that we can learn about each other’s culture and reconnect with our own to re-establish family values, create unity and come together in harmony.”

Joseph Rose
JCAS Faculty

Pulling inspiration from queer navigation, transformation, and community as a collective; Joseph Rose is a Mexican American artist stationed in the San Francisco Bay Area that has curated a catalogue of work immortalizing personal narrative and familial histories. Unpacking broader conversation on themes such as trauma and vulnerability, he aims to promote a space as a form of catharsis; in hopes of healing those who connect with his subjects. “A fairy cathedral is in sight as its rose windows rotate counterclockwise.”

Ellena Ruiz-Lindsey
JCAS Faculty

Ellena Ruiz-Lindsey is a painter amongst other things. She received her bachelor’s of fine arts at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with a certificate in Women’s Studies. Their work interprets the body as a landscape that remembers what has happened on it generations before mainly through the color pink. When they are not creating, they are readying poetry by queer femmes of color and making niche Spotify playists.

Luka Vergoz
JCAS Faculty

Luka Vergoz (they/he) is an Oakland-based installation artist who finds, alters, and arranges scraps of material to create installations that incorporate sculpture, painting, drawing, and sound. The arrangements address themes in physics, language, environmental concerns, and the trans experience. They grew up in Indianapolis, received a BA in studio art from Vassar College in 2019, and graduated from UC Davis in 2023 with an MFA in art studio. Luka is a member of the Imaginaries of the Future Collective and is currently a Graduate Fellow at Headlands Center for the Arts.

Mandisa Wood
JCAS Faculty

Mandisa Wood, M.A, M.F.A., is a versatile individual whose passion spans the realms of art, education, and regenerative agriculture. Hailing from the vibrant California Bay Area, Mandisa is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Sustainability Education program at Prescott College. Her research delves into women’s healing modalities within Indigenous dance forms, exploring the intersection of women’s embodiment of sustainability. Beyond academia, Mandisa brings a wealth of experience as an urban farmer, beekeeper, and food justice activist. She managed a weekly farmer’s market in West Oakland, holds a permaculture certificate from Oregon State University, and is well-versed in organic gardening practices. As an artist, Mandisa is a seasoned dancer with over three decades of experience in African Diasporic Dances. Her training includes performances with renowned troupes such as Fogo Na Roupa, Afia Walkingtree’s Spirit Drumz, Samba do Coração, and the Caribbean dance troupe Sistas Wit Style. Her unique blend of academic expertise, painting, and commitment to social causes positions her as a valuable asset in envisioning and co-creating a future where all beings can thrive.

Board of Trustees

Heidi Quan
President, Trustee

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 an employment attorney conducting workplace investigations throughout California.  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 proudly continues to make her home in Oakland and can be found on the weekends shopping at local farmers markets, looking for random things to photograph, and rooting for her sports teams.

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.

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.

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.

Altaf Kassam

Altaf holds dual degrees in Molecular Biology and Anthropology from UC Berkeley, and currently serves as Senior Bioinformatics Software Engineer at Genentech, Inc. Over three decades, he’s applied his expertise in bioinformatics and data science to constructing software tools and systems that assist researchers in understanding diseases through the analysis of genetic and molecular data, ultimately to improve patient lives. Dedicated to propelling scientific understanding and technological progress, Altaf leads initiatives designed to elevate the computational proficiencies of research scientists. He is also active in cultivating the upcoming cohort of trailblazers by guiding high school students from underrepresented backgrounds within the realm of science. His aspiration is to ignite their passion for learning, prepare them for higher education and motivate them to pursue careers in STEM fields. Beyond his professional pursuits, Altaf is an art-tech maven, incorporating techniques like 3D printing, electronics, robotics and computing into his creative endeavors.

Darbi Howard

Darbi is a resident of West Oakland. She is currently Chief of Staff at East Oakland Collective (EOC), with decades of experience in senior leadership in the SF Bay Area nonprofit sector, including work at Rubicon and Bay Area Community Services. She has primarily worked with adults and families experiencing behavioral health crises, and contending with social and environmental injustices such as food and housing insecurity and unemployment. Darbi has served as a board member for a variety of community organizations, including Oakland Youth Choir, Oakland Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Alameda County IHSS Registry and Peers Envisioning & Engaging. She has a B.S. in Social Work from Georgia State University. 

Darbi and her family have been faithful volunteers of EOC’s Feed the Hood program, and brings her lifelong commitment to community activism to raising her two adopted children as social justice leaders.  In their free time, her family loves hiking and being on the river with their dog Mars, and traveling to tropical beaches for ocean adventures.

Luis Argueta

Luis was raised in southern California but moved to the Bay Area 20 years ago to pursue a career in education. He received his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Masters Degree in Teaching from New College of California. He then taught in Berkeley Unified School District for 10 years as a Dual Language Spanish Immersion elementary teacher. He returned to school at UC Berkeley for his Administrative Credential and Masters in Education. He was a Charter School administrator for 5 years before moving onto educational consulting. He now works with 9 school district teams across California to increase access for students to achieve College Readiness at California Education Partners. He’s excited to be part of the Junior Center for Art and Science board of trustees to continue providing opportunities for students in these important areas.

Rachel Gonzales-Levine

Rachel serves as Grant Manager at Alameda Health System Foundation. She has wide-ranging professional experience in mission-driven settings including youth development, civic leadership, public health and affordable housing, where she has worked to build community partnerships and strengthen outreach, fundraising and strategic planning. A longtime resident of Oakland, she earned her BA in Latin American Studies, and an MPA (public policy focus) at Cal State East Bay. Bicultural and bilingual, in her spare time Rachel enjoys having adventures with family and friends, visiting museums, yoga, and hiking among the redwood groves in the East Bay Regional parks. She is excited about the opportunity to support JCAS, which she believes is a true gem of Oakland!

Rebecca Rothman

Rebecca is a Managing Consultant at VEIC, working on energy programs that aim to fight climate change and benefit underserved communities. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering, and an MBA and MPA in Sustainable Solutions. Rebecca has successfully led the development and implementation of new/renewed programs, teams, processes and services.  She has practice with stakeholder engagement, change management, policy and process documentation, and targeting communication to maximize impact for a variety of audiences.  When she is not working she enjoys traveling, spending time at home in Alameda with her husband and dogs, reducing her environmental impact and mentoring women in STEM, along with music, theater and wine.

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.