Meet the Excelsior Koshland Civic Unity Fellows

At The San Francisco Foundation, it’s all about impact in our community. The Koshland Civic Unity Program is a shining example of our place-based work focused on neighborhoods.

The Koshland Program seeks out and lifts up people who are unsung heroes, community leaders who demonstrate collective leadership qualities by helping others solve community problems, take risks, are innovative and bring people together, are committed to planning, teamwork, and are actively engaged in solving community problems.

Tonight we celebrate and launch a five-year, $300,000 partnership with the Excelsior neighborhood. Together over the next five years, we will help strengthen local leaders, stimulate personal and professional growth, increase cultural understanding, and nurture diversity as an essential element in solving neighborhood issues.

Meet the 2012 Excelsior Koshland Civic Unity Fellows:

Nicole Agbayani, Paulo Acosta Cabezas, Jacquie Chavez, Joni Tam Chu, Rachel Ebora, Carlton Eichelberger, Tiffani Johnson, Rene Luna, Beth Rubenstein, Charlie Sciammas, Alex Tom, and Terrence Valen



Nicole Agbayani brings enthusiasm and passion to her job as corridor manager at the Excelsior Action Group, a community and economic development organization that works to revitalize the commercial corridor of the Mission Street in the Excelsior. Nicole enjoys working hand-in-hand with individual merchants, as well as the community at large to foster a vibrant and active commercial corridor that is a cherished asset of the Excelsior.

Nicole is native to San Francisco and the Excelsior Neighborhood. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in International Development, minoring in Environmental Systems and Society. She has worked with multiple Bay Area small businesses on environmental business development, as well as construction contract management

Nicole has been an active member of the Ingleside Station Citizens Police Advisory Board since spring 2012, bringing the safety concerns of the commercial corridor to the forefront of community policing efforts in the district. Her dedication to the community where she grew up is at the heart of her work in the Excelsior.



Paulo Acosta Cabezas is a firm believer in the ability of the arts to connect people across cultures and its transformative power in the community.

In 2004, he opened Mamá Art Cafe, an arts venue and organic and fair trade coffee brand. Mamá Art Cafe has been dedicated to supporting local and international artists and to encouraging sustainable business practices. Sales of organic and fair trade coffee beans have supported a vibrant cultural program, as well as contributed to the fundraising efforts of local nonprofit organizations, specifically those focused on the enrichment of youth. The exhibitions and cultural programming have attracted hundreds of new visitors to the Excelsior District.

Paolo is committed to the beautification of the Excelsior. The most recent improvement was the creation of the Excelsior’s first parklet (an urban green space) in front of Mamá Art Cafe. Aligned with the venue’s commitment to enriching the lives of youth, the parklet was constructed by high school students participating in the Out of Site Center for Arts Education program.



Jacquie Chavez was born in San Francisco, the first generation in her Nicaraguan family to be born in the U.S. She was raised in the Excelsior District where she attended Cleveland Elementary School and graduated from Balboa High School.

Shortly after graduating she went to work for United Airlines, and after 24 years of loyal and faithful service, she changed her passion from customer service to community service. She became the traffic safety coordinator volunteer and PTA president at Longfellow Elementary School. She currently serves as vice president of Parent Involvement and as District 11 school liaison for the San Francisco Unified School District. Her son, Luis, just graduated from Balboa High School and her daughter, Consuelo, will be attending Monroe School in the fall were Jacquie plans to be an active volunteer parent.

Jacquie works tirelessly to make the Excelsior a thriving and prosperous neighborhood for her children, for families and to honor the memory of her mother.



 Born in China, Joni Tam Chu immigrated to the United States with her family when she was nine years old. Since then, Joni has dedicated her life to volunteering and working in the same organizations and communities that supported and nurtured her as a young child.

Presently, Joni is the director of the OMI/Excelsior Beacon Center, a program of Urban Services YMCA. Joni manages the operations of the Beacon Center, which provides comprehensive services to more than 1,500 youth and families annually. Services include academic support, arts and recreation, technology training, leadership and career development, substance abuse and mental health treatment, case management services, and parent /family programs.

Prior to the Beacon, Joni served as a senior level community organizer at the Chinatown Community Development Center, where she organized San Francisco residents to advocate for and preserve affordable housing, educated low-income tenants on tenant rights, in addition to developing youth leaders in the Adopt an Alleyway Youth Project, which is an intensive youth-run, youth-led community service and leadership program engaging youth to learn effective skills to become future leaders.



 Rachel Ebora is a Filipino immigrant who started her activism at age nine, making sandwiches for volunteers at the National Movement for Free Elections in the Philippines. Since immigrating to the United States, and over the past 19 years, Rachel has engaged in queer youth organizing, union and community organizing, economic and social justice organizing cultural and performing arts activism, bicycle advocacy, and nonprofit administration.

Currently, Rachel is the executive director of Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, a multi-service affordable housing organization providing linguistically and culturally appropriate programs and services in Bernal Heights and the surrounding areas. Bernal Heights Neighborhood center runs the Excelsior Community Center as a hub for senior, youth and employment programs, as well as public safety organizing and community engagement work.

Rachel was recently honored by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors “for being a passionate and articulate advocate on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized communities in San Francisco…” and is a 2012 awardee of the Windcall Residency Program for social change organizers and activists.



Carlton Eichelberger is a youth development professional who has worked to empower and support youth in character and leadership development, educational and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and recreation for most of his adult life.

Carlton has more than 14 years experience working with Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. He currently serves as the area director at the Excelsior, Sunnydale, and Bayview/Hunters Point Clubhouses. Carlton also has extensive experience establishing relationships with key community partners and collaborating with neighborhood organizations. Previously, Carlton worked at the Tenderloin Clubhouse where he created a teen program, established the first Keystone Club, and took youth to national Keystone conferences. Carleton received his B.S. in Kinesiology from San Francisco State University and has received the National Program Excellence Honor Award three times as well as Clubhouse Director of the Year in 2006 and 2010.

Carlton serves as an unofficial mentor to young people and staff at the Boys and Girls Clubs. One of his greatest joys is witnessing young people transform their lives and achieve success.



Growing up in Bayview Hunters Point, Tiffani Johnson was exposed to violence on a regular basis. When she lost a classmate her senior year of high school to gun violence, Tiffani made a decision to become an educator and advocate for high-quality education and safe environment for all young people.

Tiffani is an advisor at Leadership High School in the Excelsior, where she co-created a mentoring program focused on working with incoming freshman through their senior year and exposing them to sustainable communities, locally and internationally.

Tiffani is also the director of student life at KIPP Bayview, English literature instructor within the University of San Francisco Upward Bound Project, and the co-director of H2O Productions, a multi-faceted arts program for urban youth. Additionally, she is a volunteer with San Francisco Organizing Project, where she works organizing youth to advocate for violence prevention programs in the Excelsior and other San Francisco neighborhoods.

She pursued her undergraduate studies in education at the University of California, Berkeley, and continued her research within San Francisco State’s Equity and Social Justice graduate program. Tiffani’s interests span the areas of urban schooling and curriculum change, urban teacher development and retention, critical pedagogy, cultural and ethnic studies, and the arts.



As an immigrant from war-torn El Salvador, Rene Luna has seen first-hand the hardships faced by immigrants. As a young immigrant, he struggled through school due to lack of stability at home, language barriers, cultural differences, and constant change of addresses, which made assimilating quite a difficult process. Rene became a teenage dad and was not able to graduate from high school. Rene went back to adult school in the evenings to achieve his GED.

In 2005, Rene was volunteering as a coach on his son’s basketball team and discovered his passion for being an educator. Rene began volunteering at San Francisco Community School in the Excelsior district and eventually was hired to serve as the assistant site coordinator, creating a boys group primarily dealing with conflict resolution skills and service learning projects. He moved to Cleveland Elementary School in 2010 where he currently serves as the program leader of Bay Area Scores, a literacy and soccer program.

Rene’s life was transformed with the birth of his children, David and Rowan. He is a student at San Francisco Community College where he’s studying English and hopes to transfer to U.C. Berkeley.



 Beth Rubenstein is an architect and educator. She sees the world and her community through the lens of an architect; whether it is helping youth design a parklet or helping to build a healthy, safe, and culturally-rich community.

Beth is the co-founder and executive director of the Out of Site Youth Arts Center, based in the Excelsior/OMI neighborhoods. The work of Out of Site is founded on a two-fold aspiration: to nurture student voices, helping students develop what they care about and how to articulate it; and to challenge the broader communities’ view of teens by seeking real-world projects and professional venues where youth voices can be heard and seen.

Beth has taught art and architecture at the high school and college level, while maintaining a small architecture practice. Her practice has focused on design/build projects, and community development work in León, Nicaragua. She was a fellow at the Bay Area Teacher’s Development Collaborative and has been a curriculum consultant to Gateway High School, City Arts and Tech High School, and Envision Schools.



Charlie Sciammas comes from an immigrant family and is the youngest son of a Turkish mother and Egyptian father. Charlie brings his deep respect for his parents’ immigrant journey, history, and background to his life and work.

Charlie is a community organizer with ¡PODER!, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, a grassroots membership based, environmental, and economic justice organization based in San Francisco’s Excelsior and Mission Districts. ¡PODER! organizes together with Latino immigrant families for urban land reform, a sharing economy, immigrants’ rights, and youth empowerment.

In his free time, Charlie enjoys playing games and drawing about spending time with his three young children, Nicolo Baraka, Luca Habib, and Naelle Slade. Charlie is a member of the School Site Council at his children’s school, Fairmount Elementary, and just finished a term on San Francisco’s Citizens’ Committee on Community Development.



 Alex Tom’s family immigrated in the early 1960s to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where they worked to make ends meet before finally opening up a small business in that neighborhood. Now as executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, Alex is realizing a life long dream: to return to work in the community that had a significant impact on his young life.

The Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) has served the poor and working class Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco for nearly 40 years. With over half the population in the Excelsior Asian American, CPA also works deeply in the Excelsior community with new Chinese immigrants focusing on employment and healthcare access issues. From 2004 to 2007, Alex served as the campaign coordinator, building the CPA Worker Center and leading campaigns to organize workers in the garment and restaurant industries, winning over a million dollars in back wages.

He has more than a decade of experience fighting for social and economic justice. He previously worked with Sweatshop Watch in Oakland and the Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego. On a local level, Alex serves on the coordinating committee of the San Francisco Rising Alliance and the Executive Committee of Jobs with Justice in San Francisco.



 Terrence Valen’s upbringing in New Orleans, his college education in public health and urban planning, and his trips to the Philippines have all contributed to leading him to his current work as organizational director of the Filipino Community Center (FCC).

In publicly launching the FCC in 2004 in the Excelsior, Terry has fulfilled programmatic, resource development, strategic planning, evaluation, and various administrative roles at the center. FCC has launched innovative programs, empowered hundreds of individuals and their families, and built multi-sectoral and multi-racial alliances in San Francisco and beyond.

Terry has worked with Filipino and Asian Pacific Islander youth for more than 15 years in diverse locations – from a Youth Summer Camp in New Orleans, to student and community organizations at Duke University and UCLA, in Los Angeles’ Filipinotown, and in Santa Clara County.

He also served as the public health liaison for the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s Health and Environmental Justice Project for two years, and as a research associate for Communities for a Better Environment. Terry was also recently elected and serves as the national president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.