After each ForWords session each student and each staff member talks about what they have “taken away” from the day’s efforts. Vicki said her take away was that “anybody has the potential to make change.”
Board of Directors
As a general contractor now retired, Jeff was energized by creating buildings and spaces and has transferred this creativity to ForWords and its students. He sees the opportunities ForWords provides its students – developing sense of self, sense of academic achievement, and sense of a better life.
It’s amazing once exposed to the nonprofit world to see the legions of people working without fanfare to help others make their way.
Lawrence Siegel, J.D.
VICE PRESIDENT & FORWORDS FOUNDER
Lawrence is a civil rights attorney, author, a Fulbright Scholar Specialist, has advised numerous organizations and universities in the United States and abroad, and was honored with an endowed chair at Gallaudet University. He is deeply grateful for the hard work and dedication of his fellow board members.
Since 2007 I have worked for ForWords and donated to ForWords to honor my daughter Catie and to give back to the students who are determined to have a productive life but often lack the educational resources to that end.
Marleen joined the board of ForWords in 2016, having worked in both the nonprofit and literary world.
I was inspired to get involved after attending a ForWords event where I heard students read their poetry. I believe whole-heartedly in the important work that ForWords is doing to support these young people.
BOARD CORRESPONDING SECRETARY
Brenda brings thirty-six years of experience teaching elementary school in Oakland Unified, including teacher-union leadership. Additionally she served on the Teacher Advisory Council for the Oakland Museum of California.
The mission of ForWords, providing students with the opportunity to excel academically and to become active, contributing members of their community, models the aspirations of all teachers in a democratic society.
Judy’s professional life focused on governance in the nonprofit sector, specifically at California Pacific Medical Center as Vice President for Medical Staff Affairs, and as Corporate Secretary of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
I have witnessed ForWords life-changing impact on its students, who have achieved personal confidence, academic strength, and a hopeful view of their future.
Cheryl Ruby PhD
Cheryl brings 35 years of experience in marketing and strategic development to ForWords. She has appeared before the FTC to present oral testimony on mergers, and has developed strategic plans and collateral materials for nonprofit organizations nationwide. In addition to her work on the ForWords board, she provides pro bono graphic design services.
I believe in equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their resources. So does ForWords.
Retired Attorney, President of Drawbridge – An Expressive Arts Program for Homeless and Underserved Children.
The work ForWords does is indispensable. The results from this work can be seen in the success of their students in school and will continue into their future endeavors.
Gail van Adelsberg
I enjoyed over forty years as a teacher, school psychologist and principal in California public schools and international private schools in South America. I come from a family of avid readers and writers, and I love kids.
I am firmly committed to ForWords mission. All students, and especially those who live in under-resourced communities, should develop a love for and skill in literacy, and be able to aspire to higher education.
Nancy S. Wasserman
Nancy has worked in the public school sector for over 45 years as a classroom teacher (elementary and middle school), an assistant principal, and principal. She has also provided math staff development for the Equals/Family Math Program at Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley. Nancy trains student teachers at Dominican College, San Rafael, and provides administrative coaching through the Sonoma County Office of Education.
My commitment to ForWords is an extension of my personal educational philosophy- to strive to provide the most engaging learning experiences for all students while promoting excellence in literacy skills.
Molly Beyer, now retired, devoted 20 years to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, as the Manager of the Museum Ambassador Program in the Education Department. This program develops leadership, teamwork, and communication skills in San Francisco public high school students, while introducing these young Ambassadors to visual arts as a way to explain and explore historical, cultural and social issues. The program received the high honor of The Coming Up Taller Award, given by the United States President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, under Molly's leadership. The quote from Michelle Obama regarding this program resonates with Molly today in her work with ForWords:
You affirm that their contributions are valued and that their success matters to all of us.
David has spent over thirty years at a Financial Institution in charge of international Real Estate. He was also a Professor of real estate at his alma mater, UC Berkeley.
I believe that ForWords changes students' lives in a direct, impactful, and positive way. It is an honor to be associated with such a noble endeavor.
VP FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS; FORWORDS FOUNDER
Gail started her career in education as an eleven year old running a neighborhood summer day camp in her Los Angeles backyard. She followed members of her family to UC Berkeley for undergraduate and graduate school. After teaching K-8th grades, Gail became a school administrator and Teacher Consultant for the renowned Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley, traveling throughout the US, South America and Europe teaching fellow teachers how to teach writing. She is married and has two daughters.
Working with the ForWords staff and board on behalf of our incredible students is a daily dose of hope and inspiration for the future of our community and our country. It is a gift to be able to see the growth and progress of our students.
Our founders, Larry, Gail and Elisabeth Siegel, continue to be actively involved in ForWords each and every day!
ARTS CONSULTANT, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROGRAMS FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO
Mary Jane Burke
MARIN COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
Rabbi Stacy Friedman
RABBI, RODEF SHOLOM CONGREGATION
MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
ATTORNEY AT LAW IN MARIN COUNTY SINCE 1975
CREATIVE DIRECTOR, OPERA PARALLELE
EDUCATION DIRECTOR, FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO
INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP, CORPORATE MANAGEMENT, AND STRATEGIC PLANNING CONSULTANT
CEO OF REDHORSE CONSTRUCTORS, CO- FOUNDED HUMAN NEEDS PROJECT
Dr. Kristina Woolsey
DISTINGUISHED SCIENTIST – APPLE COMPUTER, PROJECT DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO EXPLORATORIUM
EDITOR/WRITER – BACKROADS
Dan Sarna, Ph.D.
Our staff comes with a wide variety of experiences:
⇒ Many are ForWords alumni and attended the same schools our students do.
⇒ The majority of them are bi-lingual.
⇒ Having overcome obstacles of their own, they are relatable and empathetic teachers.
Melissa Sherman brings over 15 years of experience leading youth development programs for non-profit organizations. She founded Beyond Bullies to support youth who felt alienated and to empower students to become leaders in-school, online and in their communities.
She has created key partnerships to sustain nonprofit organizations and improve visibility. She has presented at the NAACP Teen Violence, Asian American Advancing Justice and Special Needs Network conferences.
David A. Calderon Varguez
DIRECTOR OF YOUTH EDUCATION
David A. Calderon Varguez is a Mexican immigrant scholar, uncle, community member, and descendant from the Yucatec Mayans. He truly loves knowledge, from the scientific, to the spiritual and to the artistic. He enjoys reading academic articles from all subjects that this wonderful world and universe can offer.
Mr. Calderon attended San Francisco State for two years, majoring in Gender and Women's studies. He then transferred to end his undergrad at Sarah Lawrence College concentrating in Education, Poetry, Playwriting, and Social Psychology. Mr. Calderon was raised in San Rafael, California, which means he is a Davidson Middle School and San Rafael High School alum.
Mr. Calderon brings to ForWords his knowledge and wisdom from the communities he had worked with in the past. In high school he began to develop his own pedagogies combining Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Indigenous Coyote teachings, as well as his Mayan Yucatec roots of how to guide people to a place of knowledge and undersanding. He is dedicated to supporting ForWords students to develop their critical thinking skills while learning about themselves and the world.
YOUTH EDUCATOR & FORWORDS FOUNDER
Elisabeth was raised in Marin County and attended local schools while studying and training in classical ballet. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco and attended Dominican University studying Psychology.
Elisabeth is inspired everyday by the opportunity to work with ForWords students and be part of continuing her sister Catie’s legacy. Working as a Youth Educator allows her to both teach and learn. She loves being able to contribute to her community and to this new generation of learners and leaders. Her goal is to see ForWords continue to grow and thrive.
Barbara Yupit Gomez
Born and raised in Marin County, Barbara graduated with a B.A. in American Studies from Wesleyan University in 2019. She merges her passions for social justice and education to create critical and meaningful discussions with her students. Empowering the voices of underserved youth is at the core of her work. A graduate of San Rafael High School, Barbara understands the importance of programs like ForWords Literacy Lab in addressing educational inequalities in the U.S. Barbara wants to bolster student’s intellectual growth and creativity —the voices and dreams of today’s youth—the same way her educators did for her.
Edwin Martinez is both a ForWords Youth Educator and a student. A graduate of Terra Linda High School, he currently attends College of Marin and is in the process of transferring to complete his education at a four year university. Edwin’s long-term goal is to become a teacher. Working at ForWords has helped him become a better teacher as he learns new strategies and skills. Edwin says that it is a joy to work with the community where he grew up. He says that ForWords is making a change in students’ lives and he loves being part of that change.
Melissa Oviedo was born and raised on Coast Miwok Land also known as Marin. She is a San Marin alumna and currently a Senior at Sonoma State. Melissa is majoring in Chicano and Latino Studies. Her interest in culture, education and social work have made her time at ForWords enjoyable. Melissa is pleased to be part of a team that offers support to a population of students that she wants to serve and represent in her future career.
SENIOR, SAN RAFAEL HIGH SCHOOL
CAL STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO
SOPHOMORE, SAN RAFAEL HIGH SCHOOL
JUNIOR, SAN RAFAEL HIGH SCHOOL
SENIOR, SAN RAFAEL HIGH SCHOOL
…In 2008 my Yucatec Mayan mom and I left our family members…..I finished middle school and high school and I am a proud Sarah Lawrence College Alum and the Director of Youth Education at ForWords…
DAVID, FORMER FORWORDS STUDENT