Staff

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nonokoNonoko Sato | Executive Director
email | 415-865-5400 x101

Nonoko has worked with SMART students and families since 2004 serving as both Education Coordinator and as Program Director before stepping into the Executive Director role in 2008. Under her leadership, SMART’s community reach has increased from 55 students to 270 students served annually. In this time, SMART added two new programs: the Academic Summer Enrichment Program, which has grown from serving 15 to 85 students, and the College Access and Success Program for 9th - 12th graders, developed out of an explicit community need.

In her various roles at SMART, Nonoko developed valuable partnerships with SMART families, independent and parochial schools, donors, sponsors, corporations, foundations, and community-based organizations to increase awareness of SMART within Bay Area educational communities. Her passion for serving SMART Scholars evolved from her own experience coming from a low-income household as first-generation college student, immigrant, and second-language learner. She was fortunate to have gained access to a great four-year college, and is now determined to ensure that all deserving students rely not on chance to succeed, but on their academic skills as well as hard work, leadership, self-advocacy and empowerment, and ability to access and utilize available resources. Nonoko is exceptionally proud to have recruited a dedicated and passionate staff who bring diverse expertise and perspectives to our Scholars, and of the rising number of Scholars each year who set and meet their goals of attending competitive four-year colleges (including three at her Alma Mater!).

In her spare time, Nonoko loves to read, travel the world, eat street food, watch tv shows and movies about high school life (Breakfast Club, Freaks and Geeks, Skins, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, to name a few), and play with her preschool-aged son, Odin. She grew up in Tokyo and Chicago and graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, MN with a B.A. in International Relations.

Ben Buis Portrait

Ben Buis | Chief Operations and Finance Officer
email | 415-865-5400 x102

Ben joined the SMART team in July of 2010. He had previously spent nine years as a teacher both in America and abroad. Ben became a teacher to help fight against the educational inequity that exists in our country. The majority of his time teaching was spent in New York City, where he began his teaching career in the Teach For America Program. This program allowed Ben to work towards the goal of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to attain an excellent education regardless of their socioeconomic background. As a teacher in urban schools, he tackled these problems as both a teacher of curriculum, and as an advisor and leader, helping to build the capacity of instructors and committees within schools. Being an educator has been a way for Ben to serve his community and work towards a more just society. He believes strongly that educators must focus on the whole child, and develop our student’s awareness of the many needs of our communities. He has taken these beliefs and strived to help nurture young women and men to become not only academically proficient, but also socially compassionate and inquisitive.

Outside of work, Ben is an avid reader, a total food snob, and a sports enthusiast. His favorite pastime is traveling, and he misses the thrill of living overseas in such fascinating countries as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Ben graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in History and Psychology, from Pace University with a Masters in Education and from Western Governer's University with a Masters in Educational Leadership. 

donnaDonna Estipona | After School Program Coordinator 
email | 415-865-5400 x110

Donna recently joined the SMART team in early ​September of 2015, though her involvement with the program began much earlier as a SMART student (class of 2005), then an administrative assistant, a Summer Teaching Assistant, and the occasional volunteer. Born and raised in the Philippines, Donna is a first generation college graduate who is passionate about the social-emotional well-being of youth in educational settings. As a former SMART student, Donna has directly experienced the importance of providing disadvantaged students with wraparound social and academic support. Prior to working at SMART, she worked as an Instructional Assistant and Job Coach for the SSFUSD. She hopes to continue learning and using her acquired skills to give back to her surrounding communities.

In her free time, Donna enjoys cleaning, playing with toddlers and being outdoors--going on hikes, walks or camping whenever possible. She likes tall trees, the sea breeze from the bay and sights from high places. Donna graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz.

Isabel Garcia | Program Associate
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Isabel (Izzy) joined the SMART team in September 2015. Izzy is a former SMART student (class of 2015) who has been very engaged in the program throughout her high school years. Her love for teaching and working with youth sparked when she volunteered as a teaching assistant her junior year, teaching the importance of Social Justice to CAP students. She then enthusiastically volunteered to teach at SMART’s summer school for MAP students where she taught her very own Identity elective. She spent her senior year as an administrative work assistant. Born and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, Izzy has a deep appreciation for murals, culture and diversity. Izzy’s passions lie in community service and social justice and currently envisions herself in the field of Social Work or Education. Understanding the struggles that low-income, minority students face first-hand, Izzy hopes to be a reliable friend and mentor that guides SMART students through the social, emotional and academic obstacles of middle school and high school years.

Outside of the SMART office, Izzy loves to be out and about and dislikes staying indoors all day. During her free time, Izzy loves exploring different parts of SF with friends, listening to all kinds of  music on SoundCloud and Spotify, online shopping, dancing, singing and reading Vice articles. Izzy graduated from The Urban School of San Francisco in 2015. She is currently attending City College of San Francisco as a declared Sociology major and will transfer to a 4-year university.

Karla Gonzalez | Strategic Planning Associate
email 415-865-5400 x113

Karla joined the SMART team in September of 2016 and is thrilled to bring her experience in education and her passion for increasing access to educational opportunities. She spent her two years before SMART as a high school teacher in Baltimore, as part of the Teach For America Program. Outside of the classroom, Karla served as a 10th grade advisor for Pa'Lante, a college and career readiness program designed for first gen Latino students. As a first generation college graduate, Karla understand the impact access to a quality education can have on students, families, and communities. She is eager to continue working to ensure every child has access to excellent educational opportunities at SMART.

Outside of work, Karla enjoys reading classics on her Kindle, going on hikes, and exploring new places. She is an avid traveler who has been to over twenty countries, and she can often be found planning her next adventure. Karla graduated with a B.A. in History from Stanford University and an M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University. She is eager to continue working to ensure every child has access to excellent educational opportunities at SMART.

 

 Erin Gevertz | Director of Placement Services & Student Support 
email | 415-865-5400 x104

Erin joined the SMART team in December of 2008 and brings with her national and international teaching experience as well as an understanding of education in both public and private sectors. Prior to beginning at SMART, she taught middle school literature and world geography for three years at a private school in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A Bay Area native, Erin is excited to be working in San Francisco. She strongly believes in SMART's mission and the program's potential to foster academic and social success for all participants. She has confidence in her ability to strengthen community by building bridges between SMART families and independent school partners. In addition, Erin’s professional experience in schools, camps, after school programs and theater have enabled her to actualize her potential with youth and she is enthusiastic to continue her learning here.

Outside of work, Erin is an avid reader, traveler and dancer (modern, African, salsa and hip-hop). She enjoys supporting all forms of the arts including music, museums, galleries and live performance. Erin graduated from University of Oregon with a Masters in Educational Leadership and a B.A. in Educational Studies.

Laura Medina | Curriculum and Workshops Coordinator 
email | 415-865-5400 x107

Laura joined the SMART team in August 2013. Many years before that, she was once a SMART student herself (class of 2003). Born in Mexico but raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, Laura was the first in her family to obtain a college degree. Laura is passionate about social justice and working with youth and education. Having gone through the SMART program herself, Laura knows firsthand the immense impact that better educational opportunities can have on financially disadvantaged students. Throughout her educational journey Laura remained committed to her goal of applying her education towards the betterment of her community. She has worked at both Buena Vista Elementary School and City College of San Francisco with the goal of improving the quality of educational opportunities available to students. As part of the SMART’s College Access Program, Laura hopes to continue empowering youth and support them in their journey to college.

Outside of the office, Laura enjoys trying new restaurants around the city and visiting local parks. Whenever possible, Laura likes to travel to new places and spend time with friends. She loves rooting for SF sports teams, attending music shows and exploring bookstores! She attended UC Berkeley where she graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. 

 Matt Nosco | Development and Communications Associate
email | 415-865-5400 x109

Matt joined the SMART team in September of 2016. He previously taught English as a Second Language in Zhengzhou, China and then worked as a journalist in rural Iowa before transitioning into the nonprofit field. He then served in development and fundraising as an AmeriCorps VISTA member before going on to help administer and run the Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps Program. A huge believer in empowerment through equal access to quality education, Matt is excited to be joining SMART where he can amplify the voices of Scholars and their families by sharing their stories with the community and supporters.

In his spare time, Matt can usually be found voraciously following the news, reading, and finding the diamonds in the rough on Netflix. He is also enjoying getting to all of the outdoor attractions around the Bay, particularly the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. He graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Catherine Okafor | College Access and Success Coordinator 
email | 415-865-5400 x105

Catherine joined the SMART team in July of 2016. She is from North Carolina and is excited to bring her college counseling experience to the Bay. Prior to coming to San Francisco, Catherine worked with first-generation students in college access programs in Texas and Massachusetts. Her favorite part of her job is building relationships with all of her students and making sure they achieve their goals and dreams of going to college. Catherine is passionate about youth leadership development, college access and promoting social, emotional and physical well-being of youth. 

In her spare time, Catherine can be found binge watching her favorite Netflix shows, cooking, facilitating storytelling workshops to teens, traveling, and exploring all that San Francisco has to offer. She graduated from Barton College (Go Bulldogs!) with a B.S in Mass Communications and a concentration in journalism and public relations. 

KellyKelly Shea | Director of Development and Communications
email | 415-865-5400 x103

Kelly joined the SMART team in November of 2015 and is thrilled to be able to combine his love of fundraising with his passion for helping young people and their families. The son of an elementary school teacher, Kelly is a lifelong learner and firmly believes in the power of education to create opportunities, improve the lives of individuals, and build stronger communities. Kelly has a decade of fundraising experience at non-profits. Most recently, he spent over six years working at the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, an organization dedicated to protecting kids and helping parents create stronger families.

When he's not building forts or epic matchbox car race tracks with his two young boys, Kelly enjoys playing hockey, reading, attempting to build wood furniture in his garage, and learning to ride the longboard skateboard he recently purchased on a whim. Kelly grew up in a small prairie town in Canada and graduated with B.A. in History from Yale University.

Meagan

Meagan Taylor | Volunteer and Corporate Engagement Coordinator 
email | 415-865-5400 x106

Meagan joined the SMART team in August 2016.  Prior to joining the team, she worked as a teacher in Virginia and in San Jose at both public and charter schools. Her commitment to education stems from the belief that great educational opportunities for every child are essential to thriving communities. She is passionate about getting others involved in SMART's work to create access to these opportunities for our students and families. She hopes to continue to build a strong network of community support for our SMART students, helping them achieve their dreams and become change agents in their communities.

In her free time, Meagan is constantly seeking her next outdoor adventure. She loves to hike, camp, kayak, and bike, exploring all of the wonders California has to offer. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia with a M.A. in Education and a B.A. in American Studies.   

carolineCaroline Tsoi | Community Partnerships Coordinator 
email | 415-865-5400 x108

Caroline became a part of the SMART team in September 2015. Although she graduated with a business degree, she has always been interested in social justice growing up. This compelled her to become a teacher as a part of Teach for America in the Las Vegas Valley. She has a strong interest in STEM activities from her time as a middle school science teacher. The role of reading in science ultimately motivated her to become a literacy teacher in San Jose, where she had many engaging conversations about dystopian novels with her students. She is excited to be back in the Bay Area (where she grew up) and is passionate about providing educational opportunities to the community around her.

In her free time, Caroline enjoys playing tennis, baking, trying new restaurants with friends, and reading on her Kindle. Caroline graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Finance and International Studies and from the University of Nevada with a Masters in Education.