Meet Our Team
Drew Sokol, Executive Director
Drew is the co-founder of the Lafayette Preparatory Academy schools in St. Louis. A former math teacher himself, Drew earned a BSM in Legal Studies in Business from Tulane University, a Masters in Teaching from Pace University, and a Masters in Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary. Drew came to Aspire because he believes deeply that every student deserves a champion. In fact, Drew’s life journey is so rooted in education...he was even born in a dorm room!
Artavia Berry, Director of Community Reading Buddies
Artavia is an accomplished servant-leader who inspires young people, from the U.S. and developing countries, to excel in education, leadership and service. She is co-founder of the Seriboujoubougou Learning Center in Mali, West Africa, volunteers on the board of several non-profit organizations and she serves as a Commissioner in Hayward, CA. Artavia earned a B.A. in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago, a B.A. in Theology and a Masters in Divinity from Grace Christian Seminary.
Alex Ford, Director of Learning and Partnerships
Alex graduated from Harding University with a degree in English (Teacher Licensure). She was a 10th and 11th grade English teacher for four years before coming to work at Aspire. She has lived all over the United States, even moving 8 times in 18 years!
Jennifer An, Tutor Mentor
Jennifer received her BS degree in Pure Chemistry at UC Riverside, specializing in organic synthetic chemistry. She has empowered students to reach their goals since 2013 primarily in STEM subjects and test prep. Her love for chemistry was first stirred by her passion for baking.
Mario Maldonado, Tutor Mentor
Mario graduated from UC Berkeley with a BS in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in Biotechnology. He has over 25 years of experience empowering his students to oustanding growth in STEM and Spanish. Mario enjoys spending time with friends and family, seeing the spark of understanding in student's eyes after comprehending a challenging concept, and contemplating the laws of physics while skiing.
Venkates “Swami” Swaminathan, Tutor Mentor
Swami has been tutoring students in math, science, and computer science courses, as well as in SAT & ACT preparation, since 2016. He holds an MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor’s of Technology in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He is also the founder of LifeLaunchr, which provides expert, personalized coaching for college admissions, and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Zoe Abrahamson, San Francisco Site Lead
Zoe earned her BS from the University of San Francisco and is currently working to obtain a certificate from the Pre-Heath Professions Formal Post-Baccalaureate Program at San Francisco State University. She has been empowering students in STEM for various San Francisco programs the last two years before becoming an Aspire site lead. She has traveled to 39 of the 50 United States, and she can name every state capital!
Andy Imm, Math Specialist
Andy has dual Master’s degrees, a MEd in Mathematics from Georgia State University and a MS in Applied Mathematics from the University of Missouri. With over 23 years of teaching professionally in the classroom, facilitating both online and face-to-face, he prepares students for the rigor and success of lifelong learning. He is passionate about incorporating art into STEM education by integrating games and web/mobile apps that offer experiential and collaborative cross-curricular learning.
Anton Mates, STEM / Test Prep Specialist
Anton received a PhD in psychology from the University of Washington, an MS in mathematics from Ohio State University, and BAs in mathematics and physics from UC Berkeley. He has over 15 years of tutoring and classroom teaching experience at the college and K-12 levels. Anton typically tutors mathematics, statistics, physics, and biological sciences, and is pursuing a career researching inequity in education and health care. He also enjoys cycling, MMORPGs, and midnight hikes with his dog.
Biniam Ambachew, STEM Specialist
Biniam graduated from University of California San Diego with a BS in Biochemistry and a minor in Health Care Social Issues in 2017. Now a Pre-Health Post-baccalaureate Program Student at San Francisco State University (2019- present), Biniam has served as a STEM tutor for Reality Changers, Elementary Institute of Science, UCSD's Preuss High School, and now Aspire; helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds with academic support and college preparatory workshops.
Chase Kamp, English / History / Test Prep Specialist
Chase received a BS in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. After working as a reporter and freelance writer, he moved to the Bay Area and has been tutoring students in test prep and academic success for seven years, with a focus on study skills that will last students a lifetime. In his previous life as a reporter, he interviewed Senator John McCain and country singer Darius Rucker.
Chidozie Onuegbe, Math Specialist
Chidozie earned his Bachelor’s in Biology from Santa Clara University. After working as a drug manufacturer for biotech companies along the peninsula, he became a 7th grade math teacher in Oakland. “Mr. O” is deeply involved in the learning experience of students by integrating, real work projects, and field trips to help students understand the value of mathematics. He has also successfully tutored students in US Government and Physics.
Colwin Yee, STEM Specialist
Colwin Yee has a BS in Biology from University of the Pacific. With over 4 years of experience in tutoring across age ranges, Colwin aims to provide a nurturing environment that empowers students to critically think for themselves. Colwin is working towards becoming a dentist, which has not only allowed him opportunities to create a platform connecting high school students with local dentists, but also drives him towards an education-focused methodology when working with students and patients. When he is not working with students, Colwin enjoys powerlifting!
Diana Ta, Math / English Specialist
Diana has a Bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development from California State University, Northridge and is currently in the process of obtaining her Master’s in Social Work from the UC Berkeley. With over six years of teaching and tutoring experience in Math and English, she is passionate about helping others excel academically. Growing up as an English language learner was not easy, however having the space with a tutor to make mistakes, learn from them, and improve every day after helped her to get to where she is now.
Drake Shafer, Math Specialist
Drake Shafer is a senior at UC Berkeley, set to graduate with a BA in May 2020 with Honors in his Double Major of Molecular Cell Biology and Public Health. Drake has three years of tutoring experience ranging from literacy development in elementary school students to Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Math in High School students.
Hannah Adams, Math Specialist
Hannah is currently pursuing a degree in Molecular Environmental Biology at UC Berkeley, with plans to become a holistic psychiatrist. She has been helping students tackle math for two years and in her free time enjoys running, taking care of her plants, yoga, photography, and writing.
Jack Fang, STEM Specialist
Jack studied Biology and Business Management at UC Santa Cruz. He has tutored a wide variety of students and subjects: from 1st graders with basic arithmetic to college students with biochemistry and is committed to tailoring his approach to fit every student’s unique learning style. He will be studying at the UCLA School of Dentistry in September to become (ironically) Dr. Fang.
Lorenzo Giamartino, English / History Specialist
Lorenzo is a recent graduate of UCLA, now studying Political Economy. He has been coaching and mentoring students in various sports all his life and began tutoring in college. During college, he completed coursework on 3 different continents.
Nick Reddy, Executive Functioning Specialist
Nick earned his BA in English Education from Chico State and his MA in Education and teaching credential from UC Berkeley. Nick spent his summers as an undergraduate working as a director for a nonprofit youth sports camp which donated proceeds back to his alma mater's athletic department.
Jake Wu, Science Specialist
Jake graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a double major in Integrative Biology and Molecular Cell Biology. During his undergrad at Cal, he was deeply involved in a student organization called “Eggster,” which promoted higher education by bringing in families from underserved communities around the Bay Area to a college campus for an annual learning festival and egg hunt. As someone who once struggled in school, he is a passionate tutor who seeks to make academics more fun and applicable for students of all ages.
Jennifer Vu, STEM Specialist
Jennifer graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology with an emphasis in Genetics, Genomics, and Development. Her interest in education began in college, where she coordinated high school mentorship programs for high school students. After graduating, Jennifer continued her involvement in education volunteering as an AVID tutor at a local middle school and as an adult literacy tutor with the San Mateo County Libraries. As a tutor with the Aspire Education Project, Jennifer hopes to continue working with underserved communities and promote access to educational resources to students from underrepresented communities.
Jonai Butler, STEM Specialist
Jonai is currently pursuing a psychology degree, specifically focused on child development. She has been tutoring for three years in AP Calculus, Biology, and English. She prides herself in her tutoring style of incorporating analogies that make it easier for students to understand.
Ronald Gee, STEM Specialist
A born-and-raised San Franciscan, Ronald attended San Francisco State University where he majored in microbiology and minored in chemistry. Since 2015, he has been empowering students to reach their goals in everything from biology, chemistry, and physics to English, history, algebra, calculus, and test prep. In addition to his academic endeavors, he is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and spends the remainder of his time volunteering at the San Francisco Free Clinic and working at the Kaiser Permanente Emergency Department as an Emergency Department Technician. In his free time, he enjoys expanding his culinary repertoire, finding new places to hike and keeping up with his favorite local sports teams.
Tyler Pereira, STEM Specialist
Tyler has a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. With the goal of one day practicing pediatric medicine, he has prioritized many youth learning experiences with his education. He has served as a tutored at all educational levels for the last 8 years. Prior to coming to Aspire, he taught high school math and science courses at a private school in the Bay Area. Tyler’s philosophy is that learning involves trust and building a supportive relationship between student and teacher. He is passionate about making learning fun, providing tools to help keep students motivated, and having fun every step of the way.
Teshera York, Literacy / Math Specialist
Teshera is current pursuing her Sociology degree, with a minor in Child and Youth Studies. She not only tutors in Math, but Japanese as well! In fact, she has lived in three touristy hot spots: Japan, Hawaii, and now San Francisco!
August Braddock, English/Executive Functioning Specialist
August received her MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University, where she also completed her BA in English Education. As a highly organized book worm, August specializes in tutoring English, long-term projects, and test preparation. She has over two years of tutoring experience and has worked with students of all ages. When she’s not reading, August enjoys listening to 70s and 80s punk and post-punk, binging podcasts, taking care of her many plants, and spending quality time with her friends.
Melanie Prieto, STEM Specialist
Melanie earned a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Davis. An avid mathematics student for as long as she can remember, she is committed to making every subject accessible for all students. When not preparing graduate applications, you can find her drawing, writing, or learning how to play the piano for the third time.
Cary Lenci, STEM Specialist
Cary is a chemical engineer who turned to education and tutoring as her career. She graduated from the University of Waterloo, Canada and then worked in industry for 7 years before becoming an educator. She offers personalized educational opportunities based on the goals of her students and finds great pleasure in seeing her students confidently solving problems that caused anxiety and frustration before.
Caelan Huff English/Math Specialist
Caelan has three years' experience tutoring high school students in a wide variety of subjects. They tutor Math, English, History, and Spanish. They received a B.A. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, and a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. Their teaching philosophy involves centering students’ goals and the methods that work best for them. In their spare time, Caelan volunteers for a local music collective and reads voraciously.
Gabriel Salazar, STEM Specialist
Gabe received his BS in Psychology from Santa Clara University and recently completed a post-baccalaureate program for pre-health professions at CSU East Bay. He’s spent a good chunk of time working with young folks through organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Summerfuel, and the YMCA. More recently he’s spent volunteered with the Berkeley Free Clinic and Crisis Support Services of Alameda County. In his spare time he curates playlists, lifts weights, plays guitar, reads, and hangs out with his cat.
Russ Whismore Math/Test Prep/French
Russ graduated from the University of Southern California with a BS in Accounting. He then spent 20 years travelling throughout the United States and Europe with an itinerant theatre company, performing on a daily basis in English and French. He has been teaching mathematics in the Bay Area for the past nine years. He enjoys swimming, cycling, cooking and games - especially backgammon.
Divyaa Venkatachalam, STEM Specialist
Divyaa is currently studying biology and environmental studies at UC Santa Barbara. She also spends her time volunteering in an oceanography research lab. Divyaa also has multiple years of tutoring experience and has worked with students of all ages. She enjoys teaching and is passionate about helping students learn.
Jack Woodruff, Board Chair
Jack is an Oakland native who finds underinvestment in youth to be maddening. He also believes that connecting with others to learn may be the peak of human possibility. He has served as an educator, leader, and policy person in classroom, international development, nonprofit, and corporate contexts. Holding a BA in Historical Studies from Bard College, Jack was also formerly the Executive Director of Aspire Education from 2014 - 2018.
Nancy Glasenk, Board Treasurer
Nancy has an accounting and finance background. She worked at Price Waterhouse (briefly) and at Levi Strauss & Co. (20+years), including a stint as Finance Director in the UK. She joined the Board in 2019 because she believes strongly in the opportunities afforded by education and the need for more students to access higher education. An avid basketball fan (starting with the Knicks but graduated to the Warriors), she has some sports knowledge that might surprise you!!
Emmanuel is a cofounder of Enye.tech. Founded to challenge the status quo of innovation in Nigeria, Enye has worked with partners to create new approaches to discovering innovators and developing technical talent locally. Emmanuel gets excited about the intersection of technology and psychology to improve communities. Emmanuel has a B.A. in Psychology from California State University, San Bernardino and an M.B.A. from California State University, East Bay.
Katrina is a marketing & commercial strategy leader in the biotechnology industry. She currently serves as Sr Director of Marketing & Market Planning at Dompé. Katrina holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado. Katrina is passionate about ensuring every underrepresented child has an opportunity to reach their potential through education. Katrina prides herself in her ability to turn anything into a spreadsheet and loves pivot tables.
Michaele is a certified business performance advisor in the human capital management industry. Michaele holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Florida International University in Mass Communications with a Minor in Hospitality. Michaele’s mother was a former teacher and tutor, so she firmly believes that all students should benefit from quality one-on-one tutoring.
Mona has been working at the intersection of environmental policy and social justice for over 15 years. She has a background in both academia and nonprofit management. As an adjunct faculty, she taught environmental justice and policy courses at The New School, Pace University, and New York University. She has also taught an ecology course at the New York Botanical Garden. Currently, Mona is the Director of the New Leaders Initiative, a youth environmental leadership program that is housed at Earth Island Institute. She is also a reading tutor at Boys and Girls club of West Oakland.
Rebecca Keller has been an educator for over a decade. Before coming to Oakland for her Masters degree at Mills College, she worked with children in a variety of settings and has taught environmental and garden education in Maryland, Brazil, and New Mexico. Rebecca grew up in the Washington, DC, area and is an avid traveler and SCUBA diver. She lives in Oakland with her husband Joe, dog Kasai, ball python, and two parakeets. Rebecca is passionate about social justice, representation, and equity in education- this is a large part of what brought her to Aspire.
Teja is learning & growing everyday on how to be a better HR Leader. She currently moonlights as Aspire's Secretary and daylights as a Human Resource Business Partner at DoorDash. Teja holds a BA in Interpersonal & Org Communication from UNC-Chapel Hill and a MS in Human Resource Management from Purdue's Krannert Business School. Her dad is her inspiration to believing in providing everyone with an equal opportunity to educate themselves which led her to our non-profit.
Join Our Team!
Any educational program is only as good as those who provide it, so we strive to attract, develop, and reward the best, most effective educators. Interested?