San Francisco Bay Area

Yoon S. Choi, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President California Regions

Yoon S. Choi is the Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of the California Regions for Spark. Choi joined Spark as the Executive Director of Spark LA in 2013, turning LA into a top-performing region in terms of fundraising, large-scale corporate partnerships, and fee-for-service contracts with local school districts. In 2015, Choi was promoted to oversee Spark's San Francisco Bay Area region as well, where she expanded the program into new districts and doubled the number of corporate partners. Today, as chief Strategy Office, Choi is leading the national growth and partnership development initiatives set out in Spark's recent ten-year strategic plan, while continuing to oversee the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Spark, Choi was Director of Foundation Relations at Para Los Ninos, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides educational, family support and mental health services. A sociocultural anthropologist by training, Yoon has worked for several international NGOs throughout East Asia. She transitioned out of academia so she could make a more direct impact on closing the achievement gap in underserved communities. 

Katherine Congleton, Program Coordinator

Katherine comes to Spark with a strong background in direct services for students from traditionally underserved communities, having served as a K-12 tutor in Durham, North Carolina, an English teacher in India, and, most recently, an ACT prep instructor and mentor for high school students at College Track in Oakland. As a Duke University alumna with a B.A. in Public Policy Studies, her passion for education policy and how it shapes educational equity continues to guide her personal and professional goals. Katherine is excited to come to Spark so that she can work on bridging the divide between our schools and the corporate world, helping facilitate a space for our community to come together to best support our children.

Nikki Egenolf, Development and Operations Coordinator

Nikki comes to the Bay Area team with a background in Communications and a passion for developing measurable impact. With a BA from Purdue University, Nikki went on to pursue direct-response advertising in Chicago where she honed her skills of creating measurable results for her clients. While at the agency, Nikki served as a mentor and fell in love with Spark’s mission. Soon after, she left behind her mid-western roots to join Spark Bay Area as Development and Operations Coordinator. In this role, Nikki is focused on growing Spark’s impact in the Bay through increased brand awareness, strong corporate and individual partnerships, and facilitating efficient processes for high-quality programs.

Kevin Gardner, Grants Manager for California Regions

Kevin made his way to Spark after honing his communications and project management skills at two startups: Mission Asset Fund, an economic development nonprofit with a fin-tech twist, and Cribspot, a Y Combinator company that helps renters find housing. His experience ranges from independently spearheading a full overhaul of Cribspot’s web content to managing a team of seven to develop MAF’s 2015 annual report. He recently completed the New Sector RISE Fellowship, an AmeriCorps program designed to cultivate a new generation of nonprofit leaders. With his command of language and knack for storytelling, Kevin lends a fresh voice to Spark’s development team during this exciting time of growth.

Alex Jeong, Senior Program Coordinator

As a California native, Alex is dedicated to ensuring strong implementation of Spark Bay Area partner schools and companies. Alex holds a BA from the University of Chicago. Living in the South Side of Chicago, he was struck by the socioeconomic disparities of surrounding neighborhoods and made it his mission to empower youth from underserved communities with access to educational and professional opportunities. Previously, Alex worked in the State Senate office of Illinois’ 13th District, where President Obama began his political career; as well as with MetroSquash, a nonprofit that engages underserved Chicago youth using squash and academics as tools to foster college-readiness. Alex has also worked at Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit that promotes youth civics and political engagement, and taught high school math in Chicago Public Schools, with a Fellowship from Match Education.

Francis Kevers, Managing Director of Program, San Francisco Bay Area, and Strategic Projects

Before joining Spark, Francis Kevers spent over six years at C2 Education, a nationwide tutoring and college prep program, where she focused on building strong program teams and driving growth through operational excellence and student results. As a certified college counselor, Francis loved helping hundreds of students expand their college admissions potential. Francis also guided students in career exploration by drawing from her experience in education management and finance. Francis holds a Bachelor of Science from MIT and a M.B.A. from INSEAD, and she has been on the MIT Educational Council since 2012.

David Marbain, Public Ally Program Associate

Prior to joining Public Allies, David attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where he received his B.A. in General Anthropology. While at Northern Arizona University, David worked as an Office Assistant for Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals. David joined Spark with a strong commitment to social justice in mind. His passion for continued education and social and environmental justice will fuel David's work on the Spark team.

Ben Stewart, Account Coordinator

Ben is excited to work with the passionate team at Spark to help create a dynamic mentoring program that not only provides opportunities for our students to create their own future, but to create a positive and rewarding experience for our mentors. Ben comes from a background in community economic development with the Peace Corps and, most recently, as the manager of mentor program at BUILD Boston. Ben is thrilled to be working with Spark as the organization continues to grow and make a lasting impact on hundreds of lives in the Bay Area.

Valentina M. Volk, Public Ally Program Associate

Valentina comes to the Bay Area team with a passion for social justice and a desire to serve and empower youth. She moved to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley, where she studied Psychology and graduated with honors in 2013. She has previously volunteered as a literacy mentor with Girls Inc.of Alameda County; working with underserved, minority youth in Oakland. After graduation Valentina completed her 200 hour yoga teacher certification, as well as a teen yoga certification, and started her own yoga and mindfulness business. Her passions for evidence-informed practices and closing the achievement gap, bring her to Spark.

Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in leading workplaces and supporting their academic journey with skill-building and resources. By engaging working professionals and connecting businesses with local communities, Spark empowers the next generation to perform better in school, graduate on time and lead fulfilling careers and lives.

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