Board of Directors


Robert Ellis, President

Robert Ellis headshot

Robert Ellis is a long-time educator and resident of Richmond, California. He has been an Elementary School teacher for 23 years in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. He is serving on the California Teachers Association’s Board of Directors and has served on the National Education Association’s Board of Directors. He is currently the Pacific Regional Director of the National Council of Urban Education Associations. He is a proud member of the United Teachers of Richmond, CTA/NEA. He is a long-time member of PTA and is currently serving as the Treasurer of the Bay Side Council of PTAs.

Robert believes fervently in service to his community and has been on the Board of the Bay Area Girls Club since 2019 and prior to the reorganization, he served as a Board Member and President of Girls Inc. of Contra Costa County.

Robert believes that the Bay Area Girls Club provides a pathway for young women and girls to attain skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Louis Schuster, Vice President

Lou Schuster headshot

Louis Schuster is an education marketing consultant who develops, manages, and executes marketing strategies for minority owned businesses in the education sector. Louis was an Education Specialist at the Xerox Corporation, where he held several management positions throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. He’s also held positions in a similar capacity at other Fortune 500 companies, co-founded a document management company and developed a course that has trained over 1,500 veterans how to interview for jobs in the private sector.

Louis has a B.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University and an M.B.A in International Business from Adelphi University. Louis continues to pursue his passion, being a catalyst for change in the achievement of educational equity. He wants to take the knowledge and experience he acquired in corporate America and use it to help families from underserved communities. “I believe education is the only true path to economic equality, but there must be a paradigm shift in the approach and processes used to attain it. I like to think of my involvement as part of that new paradigm and hope my contributions and efforts will have a positive and lasting impact.

Janine Benedict, Treasurer

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Janine Benedict is a Bay Area Girls Club board member who brings over 20 years of progressive financial and operational leadership across multiple industries; for organizations ranging from early startups, nonprofits, and investor groups to Fortune 50. Her professional projects are inspired by her belief in uniting innovative products and services to unlock often overlooked human potential. Similarly, her personal passion projects can be exemplified by her dedication to being in service to others. She has a long history of advocacy for adults and children with special needs, in addition to other marginalized populations experiencing shelter and food scarcity.

Her dedication can be most readily seen crossing the finish line of several of the World Marathon Majors and in her commitment to family. She is fueled by the pride she feels for her two empowered daughters, the support of her husband, and her insatiable curiosity and search for adventure.


Yenny Garcia

Yenny Garcia

Yenny Garcia is a warm-hearted, visionary, and joyful leader from Richmond, CA. She migrated from Guerrero, Mexico, to Richmond at six. She embraces her ancestral roots by weaving social justice issues to create balance and equity as an indigenous woman.

Ms. Garcia is known for building bridges between people with diverse opinions. She opens doors and positively influences people to advocate, share information, and discover their strengths and solutions.

Ms. Garcia is a proud Richmond resident and serves as the Executive Director Assistant at The Latina Center in Richmond, California. In other capacities, Ms. Garcia has served as the Young Latina Future Leaders program coordinator, serving youth 13-18 years old. She also worked in the hospitality industry as a General Manager for over ten years. Helping people has always been at the core of Ms. Garcia’s work.

Ms. Garcia uses her voice to advocate for issues she is passionate about and uplift unheard voices. As a young child, she began publicly speaking locally at her church. Most recently, Ms. Garcia was the 2019 Alumna speaker at the Women’s Health and Leadership Program for the 2018-2019 graduating class. She encouraged Latina leaders to get involved in the local civic affairs of their city or join boards and commissions.

Ms. Garcia continues to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Community Police Review Commission (CPRC) of Richmond (since 2013). She has been instrumental in investigating and hearing complaints of excessive or unnecessary force, discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment by Richmond Police Officers and has worked with fellow commissioners to submit valuable recommendations to the Chief of Police and city council. Ms. Garcia has worked eagerly in outreach strategies to promote positive police-community relations. Due to her leadership and passion for the community in this role, Ms. Garcia was appointed by two different Richmond city mayors to be a Commissioner for the CPRC.

Ms. Garcia ensures that resources are made available to residents across Richmond. She gets involved in issues that impact the most vulnerable populations, such as food insecurity and domestic violence. For that reason, she has committed time and energy to previously serving on the board of directors for Urban Tilth and The Latina Center. As well as being a key participant in the planning committee of the Sister’s in Solidarity-International Women’s Day celebration in the City of Richmond for over nine years.

Ms. Garcia graduated from West Contra Costa public schools and completed her High School diploma from Sylvester Greenwood Academy in 2001. She continues to work towards her bachelor’s degree in sociology, emphasizing behavioral health while also working on completing a Paraprofessional Certificate in Social Work and Human Services.

Aside from being a fierce advocate and bridging people, Ms. Garcia enjoys roller skating, dancing, road trips but her favorite thing to do is spending time cuddling with her two young daughters.

Cyrus Khojasteh

S. Cyrus Khojasteh, a Senior Director, and Distinguished Scientist at Genentech Inc. in South San Francisco, focuses his research on exploring the mechanisms of biotransformation in drug discovery and development. He has a particular interest in understanding how biotransformation impacts small molecules, as well as an emerging focus on macrocyclic peptides and drug payloads of antibody-drug conjugates.

Cyrus completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Washington, where he worked under the guidance of Dr. Sidney D. Nelson.

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Cyrus demonstrates a strong enthusiasm for developing future scientists and acknowledges their significant contributions to advancements in various disciplines. He consistently emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and diversity within the development science community, advocating for equal opportunities and representation. Furthermore, Cyrus actively engages in fostering collaboration among development scientists and strives to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the field.

Alestra Menendez

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Alestra Menendez was born and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA, and taught Spanish dual immersion there until she moved to Molokai, Hawaii to become a Literacy Instruction and Support Specialist for Kamehameha Schools. In 2013, Alestra was hired by Jaquey Barber to join UC Berkeley’s Learning Design Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science to develop elementary and middle school science units for Amplify Science. In 2017, Alestra taught college English at UC Berkeley and San Quentin prison and became a Professional Learning Manager for Amplify Science. Since then, Alestra has supported professional learning nationwide in science and English Language Arts and most recently in Spanish Language Arts Curriculum and Assessment. Alestra believes that literacy development across all curricular areas is a life-long endeavor and the most impactful way to change lives. 

Ruthie Abelson Olivas

Ruthie Abelson Olivas is a Realtor at Security Pacific Real Estate in Richmond. A native California Bay Area resident, Ruthie was born in Oakland and raised in West Contra Costa County. She completed her elementary through high school education at the formerly named “Richmond Unified School District.” Ruthie then attended UC Berkeley and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication (2001).

As the daughter of Janet and Howard Abelson, who both served the community and multiple organizations for decades in both elected positions and volunteer capacities, Ruthie has continued the Abelson legacy of community service, leadership, and advocacy.

Ruthie dedicates her time to many community organizations and serves on boards for a number of groups, including the League of Women Voters for West County, West County Forum, and Soroptimist International of El Cerrito. Ruthie also volunteers her time to the Rosie the Riveter Trust, WCCUSD Career Technical Education, Rotary Club International, Elks Club of Richmond, and the Galileo Club.

In addition to lending her time to community and civic organizations, Ruthie is deeply engaged in her profession and sits on numerous Realtor committees, which include Local Government Relations and Young Professionals Network. She is a Trustee for the Contra Costa Association of Realtors Scholarship Foundation, and the incoming Director for the California Association of Realtors.

Ruthie’s community involvement doesn’t stop there, her political activism is far-reaching and includes membership in the El Cerrito Democratic Party, West County Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party of Contra Costa.

Ruthie cares deeply for her community and many civic, professional, and nonprofit organizations are reaping the benefits of her commitment to carrying on the Abelson legacy of community service and working hard.

Andrea Page

Andrea Page was born and raised in Oakland, Ca. Growing up in organizations such as East Oakland Youth Development Center and Youth Employment Partnership not only provided her with important job skills but would later fuel her passion for assisting young girls who were just like her. Andrea recognizes the importance of organizations dedicated to the development of young women and is excited to support the mission of BAGC. Andrea brings 10 years of nonprofit experience from working at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She is also a founding member of Sis Circle, a nonprofit that supports women’s wellness, career development, and personal growth. In the past she has helped raise over $50,000 for foster children and at-risk youth in the Bay Area. She also assisted in creating career readiness events for high school students.

Andriah Payton

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Andriah Payton is the Administrative Assistant at the Multicultural Bookstore (MCB) located at the Bay Area Girls Club (BAGC) and the Administrative Assistant at Education for Change Public Schools in Oakland, CA. At MCB Andriah works closely with the owner and collaboratively with BAGC leadership. Andriah assists with the coordination of various activities, events, meetings, and workshops.

Andriah joined BAGC in 2013 and worked in multiple administrative capacities until 2016. Prior to her position at BAGC she served as a Teacher’s Assistant with Education for Change Public Schools in Oakland, CA, and Executive Assistant at Oakland Athletics League at Oakland Unified School District. Andriah serves on the Board of Directors for Got Goals, Inc. and is a lifetime member of the Gary Payton Foundation. Andriah returned to BAGC in 2020 to serve as the Administrative Assistant at the MCB.

A native of Berkeley, CA, Andriah attended California State University of East Bay, California State University of Long Beach, and the Fashion Institute in San Francisco, CA. Andriah is committed to serving the participants of Bay Area Girls Club to become tenacious, independent, and bold.

Jasmine Pournavab

Jasmine Pournavab headshot

Jasmine Pournavab is Bay Area Girls Club’s newest board member. She is a first generation Iranian American passionate about advancing equity in education. As an alum of an all girls high school, she has experienced first-hand the growth in confidence, leadership, and overall development of being in a safe and supportive all girls environment, and she deeply believes in the BAGC mission to support Bay Area girls.

As a former classroom teacher, Jasmine has seen the disparities in resources and their impact on student success, and is committed to ensuring that all students, particularly young girls and students of color, have access to opportunities to help them grow and reach their goals. In her current role working as an Educational Partnerships Manager for a curriculum publisher, Jasmine works with local school districts to implement curriculum and improve student outcomes. 

In the past, she has coached a Girls on the Run team, supported first year teachers through their fieldwork course at National University, completed a Public Policy Fellowship working full time for Oakland Mayor Schaaf on homelessness and housing security, and has consulted on a variety of policy research projects in education. Jasmine holds a B.S. in Health Sciences from Chapman University and a Masters degree in Urban Education with a concentration in Policy and Administration from Loyola Marymount University. Her passion for education and empowering young women shines through her work and she is excited and honored to be a part of the great work BAGC is doing to support the girls in our community.

Kimberlli Walker

Headshot of Kimberlli Walker

Kimberlli was raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and received her education in the classrooms of Boston’s Academe. Influenced by her altruistic family of entrepreneurs, teachers, artists, and “thought-leaders,”

Drawing from 35 years in the health and wellness industry and a commitment to institute change in health practice in marginalized communities, Kimberlli founded the Healthworks Foundation Fitness Center–a mind, body, and spirit wellness center specifically designed for homeless women and children. Her theory was that the head of the household was also the nucleus of the community and, therefore, could be the catalyst for change; she created a program focused on socializing health and wellness practices. Kimberlli and her team developed a comprehensive wellness center that engaged over 5,000 homeless women and girls in the Healthworks Foundation Fitness Centers, a fitness center dedicated to self-care, self-preservation, and self-actualization through the discipline of fitness.

The Healthworks Foundation Fitness Center was recognized for its unique curriculum and programming at the 2004 Building Essential Skills through Training (BEST) Initiative award ceremony. In 2005, the Massachusetts Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports awarded Kimberlli the Community Leadership Award for community organizing and business collaboration. A consummate student of life, Kimberlli moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to further develop her mission, imbuing health resources and practices to communities on the margins or off the grid.

Now the co-lead for HouseCalls/Medico a Domicilio, podcast-style health conversation between physicians of color and the Kaiser Permanent members and their communities.

Golddie Williams

Golddie Williams is a seasoned HR Leader, of 31 years and Certified DEI Practitioner. 

She is a trusted advisor and works in partnership with all levels of leadership within any organization.

As a sought after thought partner and Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) champion and pioneer, Golddie has dedicated over 15 years to diversity work. With a “Black Belt” in Conflict Resolution, she is not afraid to hold challenging discussions and go deeper into systems and practices that prevent the richness of diversity and inclusion of new talent.

Golddie is Certified in professional leadership development, honored by the Harvard Leadership Development Program and the STAR Leadership of Kaiser Permanente. Certified by the eCornell University, Diversity, and Inclusion program, Golddie looks forward to partnering with you to meet your Diversity and inclusion needs. 

Currently she is an active board member of the Bay Area Girls Club, Richmond, Ca, Co-Chair of AASAT (African American Site Advisory Team in West Contra Costa Unified School District) is a mother of 3, grandmother of 2 and is a community educator, motivational speaker and published author.

Board Advisors

Tamara Shiloh

Tamara Shiloh is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, entrepreneur, and owner of the Multicultural Bookstore and Gifts located at the Bay Area Girls Club in Richmond, CA. Tamara’s bookstore is filled with books of many cultures and genres including African American, Latino, Asian/South Asian, Native American, as well as Biracial, Disability, Diversity and LGBTQI, Social Justice, STEM Teen/Adult, Babies, Graphic Novels, and Black History books.

Actively involved in the education space, to help educators fortify their knowledge so they can incorporate Black History into their classroom curriculum, Tamara teaches “Black History Course for Educators” that provides educators the necessary resources, examples, and lesson plans to provide an impactful learning experience. She has a non-profit organization, Just Imagine KidZ, that provides an after school and summer Black History Literacy/STEM/Podcast programs.

A prolific writer, Tamara authors a weekly Black History column for the Post Newspaper; has written articles for the Richmond Pulse and recorded Black History vignettes for the gospel station KDYA. Tamara also writes a weekly blog on multicultural books and historical information. Tamara recently launched a podcast: Once Upon a Time in Black History.

Tamara Shiloh recently published the first two books in her historical fiction series, Just Imagine…What If There Were No Black People in the World and a picture book for Scholastic. Jaxon’s Magical Adventure with Black Inventors and Scientists, Jaxon and Kevin’s Black History Trip Downtown, and a children’s books for Scholastic Cameron Teaches Black History are now available.

Tamara Shiloh, is a native of Northern California, has two adult children, one grandson, and five great-grandchildren. She resides in Richmond with her husband, Ernest.

Previously in her early life she was the /Editor-in-Chief of Desert Diamonds Magazine, highlighting the accomplishments of minority women in Nevada; assisting with the creation, design and writing of a Los Angeles-based, herbal magazine entitled Herbal Essence; editorial contribution to Homes of Color; Editor-in-Chief of Black Insight Magazine, the first digital, interactive magazine for African Americans; profile creations for sports figures on the now defunct; newsletters for various businesses and organizations; and her own Las Vegas community newsletter, Tween Time News, a monthly publication highlighting music entertainment in the various venues of Las Vegas.

She is a member of:

  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
  • Richmond Chamber of Commerce
  • Point Richmond Business Association
  • National Association of Professional Women (NAPW)
  • Independent Book Publishers Association (IPBA)
  • California Writers Club-Berkeley & Marin
  • Richmond CA Kiwanis
  • Richmond CA Rotary
  • Bay Area Girls Club

Karen Thompson

Portrait of Karen

Karen Thompson has 20+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector in public health, and fundraising/development. She has worked in a variety of organizations ranging from small, grassroots’ nonprofits to large, nationally renowned organizations.

Karen previously served as the part-time Development Director for Bay Area Girls Club while also serving as part-time Program Analyst at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Prior to these roles, she worked for Wayfinder Family Services as Associate Director of Development for their Northern and Central California Region for six (6) years. Before her tenure at Wayfinder Family Services, Karen served as the Development Director for Bay Area Easter Seals for two (2) years, and before Easter Seals, Karen served as the Corporate & Foundation Relations Officer for Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland for two (2) years. Prior to Children’s Hospital, Karen served as Project Manager for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit-National Program Office where she managed a $400,000/year fund to support quality improvement and patient safety training for healthcare professionals and developed partnerships between Kaiser Permanente and public hospitals/community clinics around chronic care initiatives. During her time working at Kaiser, Karen also served as an internal consultant and project manager at Kaiser’s Institute for Culturally Competent Care.

Karen has served as both Board Co-Chair and Board Member of the Board of Directors for Berkeley Youth Alternatives and as a fundraising advisor with Dogs for Diabetics headquartered in Concord. With a passion for animals, Karen and her husband are volunteer dog foster parents for Northern California Beagle Rescue. Additionally, Karen volunteers for We Care Animal Rescue, a sanctuary for cats and dogs who have been surrendered or found.

Meseret Zeleke

Meseret Zeleke headshot

Meseret Zeleke is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and California Society of CPA’s. The accounting firm of Meseret Y. Zeleke, CPA was established in 2005 to provide efficient, quality, and affordable financial services to businesses and individuals. She has over 20 years of experience in public accounting. She continues to grow significantly due to staff’s commitment to maintaining high operating standards. She inspires girls in her community to become entrepreneurs and has been overseeing Bay Area Girls Club’s taxes for many years.

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