Excelsior


Community members celebrate the unveiling of a new parklet in front of Mama Arts Café.

The Excelsior Neighborhood is located in San Francisco’s southeast corner, south of Highway 280, situated between Mission Street, Geneva Avenue, and John McLaren Park. The Excelsior is an ethnically and socio-economically diverse community with many recent arrivals to the neighborhood such as young couples and families searching for their first home – alongside third and even fourth generation residents whose grandparents farmed the ground that is now Balboa High School, or who paddled around in Cayuga creek before it was moved underground.

One of The Excelsior’s major strengths is the organic upsurge and collaboration between community-based organizations headed by young, vibrant leaders from diverse backgrounds. These organizations all share a focus on neighborhood youth in the areas of arts, education and violence prevention. Leaders are identifying ways to bridge gaps in service to provide even more opportunities for neighborhood youth.

In 2013, the Koshland Committee selected 12 Excelsior leaders to join together in a collaborative effort to improve the quality of life for their neighbors and community. Highly involved government officials and advocates for the neighborhood are uniting in a cross-sector collaboration of government, community members, and nonprofit organizations, leading a promising charge to lift up the Excelsior’s public profile and gain equal investment in the community.

Over the course of the Koshland fellowship, discussions among the 12 fellows about how to address the neighborhood’s most critical need led to the common agenda of starting a one-of-a-kind, culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate workforce hub that provides program integration for multi-ethnic, low-income youth, adults, seniors, and immigrants.

To date the collaborative, with support from The San Francisco Foundation and Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, has accomplished the following:

  • Secured funding from the City of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
  • Advocated and won add-back funds from the city budget to create one adult employment program out of the Excelsior Community Center.
  • Hired a project coordinator with over fifteen years of organizational development experience, having worked for two nationally recognized nonprofits.
  • Participated in this year’s strategic planning retreat for the Excelsior Collaborative.
  • Formed a steering committee of diverse community leaders to shepherd the launch of the Excelsior Community Hub.
  • Engaged residents and nonprofits working on workforce development to gain their insight and vision for the Excelsior Community Hub.
  • Developed a social impact model to help guide our approach and hold us accountable to impact indicators.

By the end of April 2015, Koshland Fellows will have assisted in coordinating a District 11 community meeting with the Mayor of San Francisco, District 11 Supervisor, and City of San Francisco departments to secure funding for workforce development in the City’s 2015-2016 budget.

Excelsior Koshland Fellows

Nicole Agbayani

Corridor Manager, Excelsior Action Group

Nicole Agbayani grew up in the Excelsior Neighborhood, and brings deep passion and dedication to her work in the community. As corridor manager at the Excelsior Action Group, an organization working to revitalize the commercial corridor of Mission Street in the Excelsior, she works hand in hand with business owners and community members to foster a vibrant and active commercial corridor.

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. She has worked with multiple Bay Area small businesses on environmental business development, as well as construction contract management.

Paulo Acosta Cabezas

Owner, Mama Arts Café

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, fair trade coffee brand, dedicated to supporting local and international artists and to encouraging sustainable business practices. The cafe’s exhibitions and cultural programming have attracted hundreds of visitors to the Excelsior District.

Paolo is committed to the beautification of the Excelsior and collaborated to create the Excelsior’s first parklet in front of Mamá Art Cafe. Aligned with his 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

Vice President of Parent Involvement, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), San Francisco Unified School District

Jacquie Zapata Chavez was born in San Francisco and raised in the Excelsior district, the first generation in her Nicaraguan family to be born in the United States.

After 24 years building her career, Jacquie 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. In this role she has united teachers and parents to advocate to keep SFUSD secretaries in schools. Jacquie continues to work tirelessly to make the Excelsior a thriving and prosperous neighborhood for her children, for families, and to honor the memory of her mother.

Joni Tam Chu

Director, OMI/Excelsior Beacon Center

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.

Joni Chu 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 over 1,500 youth and families annually. Prior to her work at Beacon, Joni served as a senior level community organizer at the Chinatown Community Development Center where she organized San Francisco residents to advocate for affordable housing, provided education on tenant rights, and developed youth leaders through the Adopt An Alleyway Youth Project, which is an intensive youth-run community service and leadership program.

Rachel Ebora

Executive Director, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center

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, Rachel has engaged in queer youth organizing, union and community organizing, economic and social justice organizing, cultural and performing arts activism, bicycle advocacy and non-profit administration.

Rachel is the executive director of Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, a multi-service affordable housing organization that runs the Excelsior Community Center, a hub for seniors and youth with employment programs, public safety organizing, and community engagement work. Rachel was recently honored by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is a 2012 awardee of the Windcall Residency Program for social change organizers and activists.

Carlton Eichelberger

Area Director, Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco

One of Carlton Eichelberger’s greatest joys is witnessing young people transform their lives and achieve success. Carlton is a youth development professional who has worked to engage and empower youth for most of his adult life. He has worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco for more than 14 years, and currently serves as the area director at the Excelsior, Sunnydale, and Bayview/Hunters Point Clubhouses.

Previously, Carlton worked at the Tenderloin Clubhouse where he created a teen program and established the first Keystone Club, taking youth to national Keystone conferences. Carlton received the National Program Excellence Honor Award three times as well as Clubhouse Director of the Year in 2006 and 2010.

Tiffani Marie Johnson

Advisor, Leadership High School

Growing up in Bayview/Hunter’s 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 decided 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 that works with students from freshman year through their senior year, exposing them to sustainable communities. 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 volunteers with San Francisco Organizing Project, organizing youth to advocate for violence prevention programs in the Excelsior and other San Francisco neighborhoods.

Rene Luna

Bay Area SCORES Program Leader, Cleveland Elementary School

Growing up in Bayview/Hunter’s 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 decided 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 that works with students from freshman year through their senior year, exposing them to sustainable communities. 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 volunteers with San Francisco Organizing Project, organizing youth to advocate for violence prevention programs in the Excelsior and other San Francisco neighborhoods.

Beth Rubenstein

Executive Director, Out of Site Youth Arts Center

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, a program that nurtures student voices and challenges the broader community’s view of teens. 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. Beth has taught art and architecture at the high school and college level, while maintaining a small architecture practice focused on design/build projects, and community development work in León, Nicaragua.

Charlie Sciammas

Community Organizer, People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER)

Charlie 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 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.

Charlie is a member of the School Site Council at his children’s school, Fairmount Elementary, and recently finished a term on San Francisco’s Citizens’ Committee on Community Development.

Alex Tom

Executive Director, Chinese Progressive Association

Alex Tom’s family immigrated to San Francisco’s Chinatown in the early sixties where they struggled to make ends meet before opening a small business in Chinatown. Now as Executive Director of The Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), Alex has realized a lifelong dream to work in the community that had a significant impact on his young life.

The Chinese Progressive Association serves the poor and working class Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco, working in the Excelsior with new Chinese immigrants on employment and healthcare access. As the campaign coordinator he built the CPA Worker Center and organized workers in the garment and restaurant industries, winning over a million dollars in back wages. 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

Organizational Director, Filipino Community Center

Terrence “Terry” Valen’s upbringing in New Orleans, education in public health and urban planning, and travels to the Philippines, all contributed to his current work as organizational director of the Filipino Community Center (FCC) in the Excelsior Neighborhood. Since FCC’s doors opened in 2004, Terry has fulfilled many roles throughout the organization; all in service of the FCC’s innovative programs that empower hundreds of individuals and their families, and support multi-sector and cross-racial alliances in San Francisco and beyond.

Terry has worked with Filipino and Asian Pacific Islander youth for over 15 years in student and community organizations across the country. Terry was recently elected to serves as the national president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.