Purpose

Coleman Advocates believes that all children and families deserve access to high quality education, living wage jobs, family-supporting benefits, affordable housing, and a voice in the decisions that affect us. Since 1975, Coleman Advocates has pioneered programs and policies to expand opportunity for San Francisco’s children, youth and families,  Many of these hard-won programs and policies have served as models adopted by communities all over the country.

Coleman currently focuses on building more effective, equitable, and supportive public schools in San Francisco and beyond. We believe the transformation of our educational system requires the involvement of the entire community—not just teachers, school administrators, and politicians. Our organizational model has evolved over the years and today combines the development of rigorous policy proposals and implementation plans with deep community engagement and leadership development involving youth and parents.

While we work to increase opportunity for all young people in San Francisco, our primary focus is fighting to advance rights, safety, and full inclusion of low-income people of color. We know that quality education is key to future economic security, individual well-being, and social participation. San Francisco is considered a liberal bastion, but the racial achievement gap and the racial opportunity gap indicate how far we still need to go to achieve true equity.

Our Core Values

At Coleman, we use 5 strategies to achieve systems change for equity, education justice, and racial justice:

Grassroots Community Leadership: We believe that the people most affected by a problem must be the ones who determine and fight for the solutions.

 

Education as a Human Right: The fight for quality education, as a fundamental human right and a strategy of upward mobility for low-income people and people of color, is central to our work to keep families in San Francisco.

 

Equity and Social Justice: We are actively committed to the fight for equity and social justice, as they relate to race, class, gender and other areas of disenfranchisement, in our schools and communities.

 

Unity and Solidarity: We are a multigenerational, multiracial, multicultural and multilingual organization and we prioritize creating spaces for people of different ages, languages, races, and ethnicities to learn about and from each other, build community, and develop a collective vision for change. Together, we are stronger.

 

Youth at the Center: Youth have been—and will always be—at the forefront of social change movements. At the same time that we centralize the leadership of young people, we understand that building community around an intergenerational model is essential to effective community organizing.

 

Movement building: We believe that we must form strategic alliances with other community organizations to build a movement capable of winning long-term systemic social change because we cannot achieve our vision alone.

 

Innovation: We are working to solve some of our community’s toughest challenges and this requires bold and innovative leadership. We must consistently challenge ourselves to leverage our strengths in new and creative ways… to think, dream, and act outside of the box.

Who We Are

Angie Arroyo

Angie Arroyo

CMAC Lead Organizer
Chris Aviles

Chris Aviles

Operations Coordinator
Chris Ballard, J.D., M.A.

Chris Ballard, J.D., M.A.

Co-Executive Director
Brandie Bowen-Bremond

Brandie Bowen-Bremond

Policy Director
Rebecca Browning

Rebecca Browning

Regional Organizer
Melissa Camacho

Melissa Camacho

SMAC Fellow
Yesenia Camacho

Yesenia Camacho

Development & Communications Coordinator
Christina (Pina) Cañaveral

Christina (Pina) Cañaveral

Co-Executive Director
Blanca Fabiola Catalan Salmeron

Blanca Fabiola Catalan Salmeron

Excelsior PMAC Organizer
Mateo Friedenbach Condon

Mateo Friedenbach Condon

Community Engagement Coordinator
Chris Diaz

Chris Diaz

YMAC Fellow
Gillian Garcia

Gillian Garcia

Policy Organizer
Kelvin Gilliam

Kelvin Gilliam

SMAC Fellow
Jayllyn Godfrey

Jayllyn Godfrey

SMAC Fellow
Alex Gudiel Reyes

Alex Gudiel Reyes

YMAC Fellow
Julian Hall

Julian Hall

CMAC Organizer
Lauren Harris, M.A.

Lauren Harris, M.A.

Education Policy Organizer
Sara Leaverton

Sara Leaverton

Development Director
Andrea Mejia

Andrea Mejia

Organizing Director
Vitto Mendez, M.A.

Vitto Mendez, M.A.

SMAC Lead Organizer
Alana Mendoza

Alana Mendoza

SMAC Organizer
RoShon Murray

RoShon Murray

Bayview PMAC Organzier
Ashley Pocasangre

Ashley Pocasangre

YMAC Lead Organizer
Maritza Sanchez

Maritza Sanchez

Operations Director
Anna Tai

Anna Tai

Finance Director
Roció Vargas

Roció Vargas

PMAC Fellow
Mirna Vasquez

Mirna Vasquez

PMAC Lead Organizer
Neva Walker

Neva Walker

Senior Advisor

Angie Arroyo

CMAC Lead Organizer

Angie (She/They) was born and raised in Costa Mesa, California, and comes from an immigrant single-parent household. She is of Mexican descent and a first-generation college graduate. As a child, she was part of a community-based organization in which she advocated for the rights of low-income POC; that is where her love for supporting her community began. Angie graduated from San Francisco State with a BA in Child Development and a minor in Criminal Justice in 2021. She recently worked as a Spanish Primary Teacher at a Montessori school and is excited to be part of the Coleman family.

Chris Aviles

Operations Coordinator

Chris (They/She) is a first-generation Salvadoran-American. They are passionate about supporting black & brown youth in their efforts in accessing and fighting for an equitable education. Chris comes with experience in non-profit development, stewardship, and education outreach. Previous to joining Coleman, she worked at various non-profit and education spaces, both as a paraeducator and high school college advisor. Their passion for racial and educational justice grew as they witnessed gaps in education during the pandemic that predominantly setback Black and brown students. In their free time, Chris likes to skateboard, hang out with their dogs, and embroider.

Chris Ballard, J.D., M.A.

Co-Executive Director

Chris first joined the Coleman family in 2012 as a PMAC Organizer under the leadership of Neva Walker. He served on the Board of Directors before becoming Co-Executive Director.Chris grew up in the Central Valley region of California. He was born into generational poverty, where he experienced welfare, food stamps, and mass disenfranchisement. Despite his father being a high school dropout, he holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Negotiation, and a law degree from UC Hastings Law. After undergrad, Chris joined PICO California (Faith in Action Kern County) as a Community Organizer and Coleman Advocates as a PMAC Organizer.Chris Chaired the City of Wasco’s Planning Commission before heading to UC Hastings. While there, he served as President of the Black Law Students Association, Summer Associate at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy and Bass, Extern for the 1st District Court of Appeals, and Extern for the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. After law school, Chris worked at the law firm Lang, Richert, and Patch and oversaw compliance at a university. Before becoming Co-Executive Director, Chris taught criminal law and criminal justice at Cal State.His life experiences have taught him that "if there is no struggle, there can be no progress."

Brandie Bowen-Bremond

Policy Director

Brandie was raised in the East Bay Area and currently serves as the Policy Director of Coleman Advocates. She believes that education is the way that we practice freedom and liberation, yet Black and Brown students continue to be pushed out of classrooms and into carceral systems. Her passion for systemic change, racial justice, and organizing led her to Coleman in 2015, where she found a political home. She is devoted to supporting Black and Brown families and students in their fight to have full access to their right to quality, liberating education.

Rebecca Browning

Regional Organizer

Rebecca is a long-time San Francisco resident with a child in an SFUSD high school. She brings her passion for making a difference to Coleman through her ten years of organizing experience. She got her start in the Tenderloin through AmeriCorps. She served two years with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, working to prevent gentrification of the neighborhood and the city, where Rebecca found her love for organizing and advocating. She plans to continue organizing and advocating as a Regional Organizer at Coleman.

Melissa Camacho

SMAC Fellow

Melissa is Mexican, and her greatest inspiration is her family. She immigrated to San Francisco in search of opportunities due to the difficult economic situation in her country.In Mexico, Melissa earned a Master of Science in biology. She is currently studying Business and Administration at City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Currently, she works for the City Dream program at CCSF, where she helps undocumented students get scholarships and resources to continue studying. Melissa is also the Home Support and Companionship manager of a cooperative that works with Dolores Street Community Services. It comprises Latino businessmen who care for the elderly in San Francisco. She is a SMAC fellow, helping community college students learn more about school services and opportunities. In 2023, she and other SMAC fellows formed the SMAC Club at the City College of San Francisco with the proposal of opening a space for expression for students and addressing specific topics such as the AB540 and AB705 programs. Melissa runs her own digital marketing business, Tok Tok Digital Marketing, where she creates websites and marketing campaigns for businesses. She is passionate about helping her community so that her children have a better education, regardless of their immigration status or race.Melissa is a woman with many dreams. Her greatest inspiration is her children, who motivate her to fight daily and give her best. She firmly believes that change begins with us, which is the best legacy she wants to leave for her children. She will continue to work for her community. She dreams of making San Francisco a community filled with love and tolerance.Melissa likes cars, especially fast ones! She loves to go out and feel the air because it feels free.

Yesenia Camacho

Development & Communications Coordinator

Yesenia (she/her) was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, in a small town that was proactively taking action to increase youth voice. While in high school, Yesenia helped form two Youth Commissioner positions and helped create a Youth Council providing youth opinions and youth voices to the town. Yesenia went on to serve as one of these Youth Commissioners for two years. Her passion for social justice continued when she attended UCSC, majoring in Community Studies and Legal Studies while serving on the Oakes Student Senate for three years. Yesenia started working at Coleman in 2018 on her field study, which led her to her current position at Coleman Advocates as a Children Making a Change (CMAC) Organizer. As someone given the opportunity to have her voice heard as a youth, Yesenia wants to help other youth have that same opportunity in their cities. In 2020, Yesenia’s role expanded to include being Coleman’s Digital Organizer.

Christina (Pina) Cañaveral

Co-Executive Director

Christina is a bilingual/bicultural Latinx woman, born and raised in the Portola and Excelsior Districts of San Francisco. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in the History of Latin America and received her MA in Political Science from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. She has over 20 years of experience in family engagement, youth development, and education policy work both in the US and abroad. She is a founding member of the New School of San Francisco and has worked in long-standing San Francisco organizations, such as Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. This will be her third time being on staff at Coleman – her first was from 2002-2003, and her second was from 2011-2015. She was also part of the Coleman Board of Directors from 2015-2022. In her spare time, Christina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, dancing, cooking, and challenging herself to find the best nachos in the city (Farolitos on 24th St).

Blanca Fabiola Catalan Salmeron

Excelsior PMAC Organizer

Blanca was born in Mexico and has lived in San Francisco since 2006. She has four children who she enjoys spending time with. She joined Coleman in 2020 while wanting to learn more about how the education system works in SFUSD and also wanting to find and create greater opportunities for her children’s education. Blanca has been working with Coleman since 2021 as a PMAC Fellow. She is very passionate about helping the community. “Together, we can make the change for better opportunities for our students!”

Mateo Friedenbach Condon

Community Engagement Coordinator

Mateo was born and raised in San Francisco, California. Mateo's first involvement was in fourth grade when he spoke during a Board of Education meeting to prevent the layoff of one of his teachers. Mateo graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a Master's in History, where he helped found the Disability Student Union to organize students on what issues the school needed to address concerning learning differences. As the Civic Engagement Coordinator for Coleman Advocates, he aims to ensure that all students have a voice in their school no matter their circumstances. My "why" for working at Coleman is...I used to work with political campaigns and would show up every election season, but not with the people who were struggling day in and day out. I am working here at Coleman, so I can change that and meet people where they are now. I know how transformational my teachers were at my schools and the resources I had to be able to succeed so I want to do all I can to make sure everyone has the same opportunities. I am excited to grow along with the Coleman community.

Chris Diaz

YMAC Fellow

Chris is a high school senior and attends YMAC's weekly lunch program. He joined in December of 2023 after participating in YMAC's Summer Program. After that, he continuously participated and got more involved because he felt that YMAC was a safe space for him. He likes learning about the community because he grew up in a small one, so he wants to be able to help and make communities like his better. He believes in youth voices and wants to ensure that young people are heard equally as adults.My "why" for working at Coleman is...I first heard about YMAC through their on-campus outreach. Jose Luis came up to me and explained that their summer program was going to happen. He told me that I was going to be heard at YMAC and there would be people like me there. I joined the program along with some friends. We all liked it, and I realized I needed to connect to the movement more so I can help other young people like me.

Gillian Garcia

Policy Organizer

Gillian was born and raised in San Francisco and has been a part of Coleman since she was three. Her mother was a PMAC Fellow, and now Gillian is one too! She began broadening her knowledge by working with organizations that provide families access to affordable housing, rent relief, and resource assistance. She was also a first-grade teaching assistant and tutor at an elementary school. That experience led her to continue working with children and get to know them better to give them the knowledge they need to thrive. She’s also been an ASL and Spanish instructor. In Gillian’s free time, she likes to explore art museums and create art herself. She also enjoys camping and hiking.

Kelvin Gilliam

SMAC Fellow

Kelvin is born and raised in San Francisco and grew up in the changing communities, but found a place of community. Since elementary school, he has emphasized the importance of building community. While in SMAC, he hopes to build a legacy for the future based on the foundation of respect and love.

Jayllyn Godfrey

SMAC Fellow

My "why" for working at Coleman is...I want to make a change for the betterment of the community I am taking part of, and this place is an excellent start. There are plenty of things I’m frustrated by that exist today that I can do very little to change on my own, but being able to sit down with like-minded people to dissect issues we are facing and find ways to tackle them while giving back to the community is very fulfilling to me.

Alex Gudiel Reyes

YMAC Fellow

Alex joined YMAC in March of 2023 after attending the Coleman Leadership Retreat. He has then helped lead the Love Group lunch club. He’s passionate about helping Black and Brown youth navigate through the SFUSD system and get the resources they need to be successful. Because, as a Brown kid, he has experienced the struggles of not having support so, he has made a promise to help others in need, especially those who are directly impacted by our society's unfairness.

Julian Hall

CMAC Organizer

Julian Hall is San Francisco born and raised and a product of its public school system. Growing up across neighborhoods in a rapidly changing city alongside six brothers and sisters, he and his family got by thanks to community support systems like those at Coleman.In high school, Julian discovered and honed his artistic and political voice as a member of empowered youth organizations like The DJ Project, United Playaz, and Youth Art Exchange (formerly Out of Site).Julian's experience with children and youth spans nearly ten years, including work at The Salvation Army Kroc Center and Lafayette Elementary School. Most recently, he worked at The New School of San Francisco, where he spent time both in and outside the classroom supporting K-8 students in their learning, with a keen focus on equity and empowerment for children of color and neurodivergence.Julian aims to blend his life and work experiences as a CMAC organizer to uplift and energize the youth in his hometown to find their voice.

Lauren Harris, M.A.

Education Policy Organizer

Lauren (she/they) was born and raised in the Bay Area. They are a first-generation graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Legal Studies from UC Berkeley and a Master of Arts in Urban and Public Affairs from the University of San Francisco. Their thesis explores the use of restorative justice in public education and its impact on school culture and safety. Lauren currently serves as an Education Policy Organizer and started with Coleman as an intern in March 2022. In their free time, Lauren can be found reading a book in Golden Gate Park, caring for their plants, or spending quality time with friends.

Sara Leaverton

Development Director

Sara hails from a working class family in rural Oregon. Finding a passion for economic and racial justice in her youth, Sara has worked with community-based organizations for years, assisting in various capacities. After originally interning at Coleman in college, and assisting with the Solutions Not Suspensions campaign and the re-approval of the Children’s Amendment, Sara joined the Coleman family permanently in 2015 as the Director of Administration. Utilizing her different skill sets, she has been able to support Coleman’s work in events and fundraising, now as the Development & Operations Director. When not hustling to raise money, Sara can be found wandering in the trees or cooking up random acts of deliciousness.

Andrea Mejia

Organizing Director

Andrea Mejia was born in the City and raised in the City and East Oakland, as the daughter of immigrant parents from Central America. As Coleman’s YMAC Lead Organizer, Andrea brings her personal experience of school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline, which helps her understand and further serve San Francisco’s most impacted youth. Raised by a grandmother who always taught her to stand up against injustices, and now as a mother herself, Andrea is teaching her son to advocate for himself and his community.

Vitto Mendez, M.A.

SMAC Lead Organizer

Vitto Mendez is a dedicated advocate for education justice. He has served as a Youth Justice Advocate & Cool 2 Be Kind Director for the National Association of People Against Bullying (NAPAB), advocating to support youth who are bullied and helping youth start and run their own grassroots anti-bullying chapters. He has worked with youth to start anti-bullying chapters across the U.S. as well as in Nicaragua, Honduras, Thailand, China, and Tanzania and has helped students develop their own advocacy skills in the process. Vitto recently earned his M.A. in Public Policy from Stanford University, where he worked on policy projects for the Stanford Provost, Yurok Tribe Health & Human Services, and NAACP of South Carolina. He also published an article in the Journal of Education & Social Policy on anti-bullying protections in state legislation.

Alana Mendoza

SMAC Organizer

Alana (they/she) is a Frisco native, born and raised. Ever since she was little, she's been observant of the injustices around her, leading her to ask questions and interrogate the root causes of social, political, and economic problems in the City (that have only continued to worsen.) She studied sociology and public policy in college, where her studies + general interests included everything concerning political education, cultural + community-oriented work, internationalism, and anti-imperialism. She is very optimistic that a better world is possible. During their free time, they are reading, watching movies, or traveling. Open to book + movie recs!

RoShon Murray

Bayview PMAC Organzier

RoShon, born and raised in San Francisco, is passionate about Community/Public Health and Education. She has over 10 years of experience serving and working in San Francisco, Bayview/Hunters’ Point as an Advocate, Educator, and Navigator. She obtained her Associate of Science in Public Health and Community Health Worker Certificate from City College of SF. RoShon has a genuine interest in building trusting relationships, inspiring individuals to achieve their goals, and serving the underserved. She enjoys self-care, visiting new places, meeting new people, and spending time with loved ones.RoShon’s goal at Coleman Advocates is to provide efficient community organizing to all parents, ensuring that barriers and needs have been assessed and addressed. She strives to empower and encourage individuals to create change through advocacy and education. With experience working in community-based organizations in San Francisco’s marginalized communities, RoShon truly appreciates the impact of non-profit organizations and is excited to be part of Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth!

Ashley Pocasangre

YMAC Lead Organizer

Ashley Pocasangre is a first-generation immigrant and SFUSD graduate currently studying Political Science and Criminal Justice at San Francisco State University. She has been doing community-based work for the past five years, focusing on helping the most impacted people in our community. She started organizing in high schools around high school-related issues and immigration, then moved to organize around housing-related issues in SF. She is passionate about working with the community and learning about the different struggles that the community in SF has. She is a stronger believer in "Those who are closer to the pain of the problem should be the ones closer to the power" and "Change starts within ourselves."

Maritza Sanchez

Operations Director

Maritza was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, and moved to the Bay Area in middle school. She feels blessed to have a large extended family that supports each other "pa' las q' sea" (whatever is needed). As a product of the public school system in San Mateo County, she has seen firsthand that accessing a good education is a privilege but needs to be accessible to all kids. Before Coleman, Maritza was the After-school Program Director at New School of San Francisco. Her role extended beyond academics, and she was deeply committed to fostering a nurturing environment through restorative practices. It was a rewarding experience that further reinforced her dedication to creating equitable educational opportunities for our most marginalized students. In her free time, Maritza rereads Harry Potter with her partner and their eight-year-old son. They love to explore new and old food spots from the East Bay to the South Bay and everything in between.

Anna Tai

Finance Director

Anna is a first-generation college graduate and she is currently studying for her masters degree in accounting. Before joining Coleman, Anna worked as a full-service bookkeeper for various non-profit organizations as well as for-profit organizations. When she's not juggling numbers and making spreadsheets, she likes to read light novels, make embroidery designs and care for her succulents.

Roció Vargas

PMAC Fellow

Roció llego a San Francisco en el 2021 con sus hijos. Ellos ya estaban estudiando en una de las escuelas en el Excelsior, el motivó que la trajo a Coleman en el 2023 fue para saber más información para poder ayudar a sus hijos y aprender más de sus derechos como padre y cómo involucrarse en su educación. Coleman ha ayudado Roció a saber cómo abogar por sus hijos y por todos los demás niños en la escuela de sus hijos.Roció arrived in San Francisco in 2021 with her children. They were already attending a school in the Excelsior. She joined Coleman in 2023 because she wanted to learn more about their rights in school and hers as a parent and how to get more involved in their education. Coleman has helped Roció know how to advocate for her children and all the other children at her children's school. 

Mirna Vasquez

PMAC Lead Organizer

Mirna became a PMAC Organizer in 2018 after five years as a Parent Leader. She has been the PMAC Lead Organizer since 2020. Mirna is a mother of three children in SF public schools. In addition to helping to lead Coleman district-level campaigns, including our Solutions Not Suspensions campaign to win transformative school discipline reforms, Mirna serves as a volunteer fundraiser at her children’s school as well as a member of the School Site Council and English Language Advisory Council. She is also an appointed member of the District Bilingual Community Council. In the past 3 years, fighting for education equity has been the focus of her work, supporting the leadership development of parents in the southeast and the Excelsior in particular.

Neva Walker

Senior Advisor

Neva Walker is a long-time community organizer and political leader. She has decades of experience building power with low-income Black and Brown youth and families for racial justice, education justice, and criminal justice. Neva was born into an activist family in Minneapolis – her mother founded and ran the social service programs at Sabathani Community Center, which was located across the street from their family’s home, and whose legacy was honored by having their street named after her: Clarissa Rogers Walker Way. At age 28, Neva was the first Black woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature in state history, and serving as a legislator for 8 years, she centered training and including young people of color as leaders in every area of her work. Since her start at Coleman Advocates in 2011, Neva’s work at Coleman reflects her lifelong commitment to systems change through the leadership of Black and Brown students and their families, through community organizing, advocacy, and civic engagement. Neva leads on regional, statewide, and national education justice coalitions, including the Dignity in Schools California coalition. Neva is also the Executive Director of Coleman Action Fund, the 501(c)(4) sister of Coleman Advocates.

Coleman Board

  • Steve Bingham (Treasurer) — Director Sylvia Bingham Fund, Staff Attorney Bay Area Legal Aid (1990-2013)
  • Rosario Cervantes (President) — Former Consumer Rights Advocate with the CA Public Utilities Commission, Volunteer with SF District 11
  • Curtis Chan, M.D. — Parent & Physician (Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine & Public Health)
  • Veronica Garcia — Program Officer for SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development, former Program Operations and Partnerships Manager for Students Making a Change (SMAC)
  • Maria Luz Torre (Vice President) — Director and Lead Organizer for SF Parent Voices
  • Ianthia Mack — Former PAY member, Community Organizer
  • Giuliana Milanese — Community and Political Organizer, Civil Rights activist

Job Opportunities

Contact Us

Address
Coleman Advocates
459 Vienna Street
San Francisco, CA 94112

Phone
415-239-0161

Email
info@colemanadvocates.org