winter 2018 staff pic


Kelly ErnstFriedman
Executive Director

Kelly has 10+ years experience in the non-profit and education fields. Prior to joining CommunityGrows in April 2014 as the Director of Programs, she was the Program Director for Food Shift, were she developed and oversaw a food recovery and donation program within the Oakland Unified School District and managed a staff of 36 interns and volunteers. Kelly has also served as a consultant for Bay Area non-profits, providing program development, strategic planning, and grant management leadership. In 2010, she completed her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology with a concentration in Race, Gender, and Social Justice at American University.

141x179_IMG_1360Anna Luberoff
Garden Programs Manager

Anna has been working in farm and garden education since 2008, and is excited to share her love of growing and caring for living things with the students at Rosa Parks Elementary and Community Grows! Anna has worked as a production farmer and educator at many agriculture, garden, and food justice programs throughout New England and the Bay Area, including Hampshire College’s Farm Education Collaborative, The Food Project, and Urban Adamah. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Spanish from Smith College, and her favorite vegetable is delicata squash.

Yaya Persing
Garden and Nutrition Educator

Ya’ara brought her passion for environmental justice and self expression to the Bay six years ago, telling herself she would return to the East Coast when she was no longer inspired. She realizes now this may never happen. Through Urban Adamah, the Berkeley Farmers Market, the Oakland Jewish Community Center after school program and Berkeley REI her work has centered around education and play; city and nature: exploring how growing food in cities shapes our community. She is delighted to be part of the CommunityGrows Team and can’t wait to share her love of learning and food as the Seed to Mouth Garden Educator. She holds a B.A. in Geography with a concentration in City and Nature and M.A. in Community Development and Planning from Clark University.

Emily Dial photoEmily Dial
Garden and Nutrition Educator

Emily was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, with most of her life spent in the East Bay town of Alameda. She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she received a B.S. in Biology, with a field of study in Marine Biology, and a Environmental Communication. Her heart lies at the junction of environmental justice, food, coastal habitats, and art, and she is beyond stoked to engage the students of John Muir Elementary in stewardship. Her favorite vegetable is gai lan (Chinese broccoli).

 Debbie H picDebbie Harris
BEETS Program Manager

Debbie has been getting her hands dirty working with youth in soil for fifteen years. Debbie’s passion for farming has brought her all over the world, from Mongolia to Zanzibar studying community food systems and regenerative agriculture. She has spent her career managing educational farms for The University of Pennsylvania, The College of the Atlantic, The Healthy Hearts Institute, Pie Ranch and Echo Valley Farm. She is also a leader in the national youth food justice movement and has designed food justice internships for high school students throughout the country. When not on the farm, Debbie is in the wilderness.

AmeriCorps VISTA logo   AmeriCorps VISTAS

Karen Lally
Community Engagement Coordinator

Karen is a recent graduate of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, in Minnesota, with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in English. Since graduating, she has worked performing hands-on conservation efforts in Colorado, teaching at an outdoor science school in southern California, and is now happy to join the team at CommunityGrows. She enjoys theater, spontaneous storytelling, and exploring new places in her free time.

Angelique croppedAngelique  Niyonkuru
Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Hi, my name is Angelique Niyonkuru. I am originally from Rwanda and Congo. I moved to San Francisco, CA from North Carolina. I graduated from UNC Pembroke in chemistry. I am the oldest out of four girls. My favorite hobbies are traveling, trying new food, and babysitting.

Volunteer Team

Rachel SeamanRachel Seaman
Graphic Designer


Advisory Board:

Abigail Blodgett, Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice, Environmental Justice Bureau
Maricel Guinto, Associate Public Affairs Representative, Kaiser Permanente
Liz Holm, Store Manager, Starbucks
Jessica Jauw, Project Coordinator, JS Sullivan Development, LLC
Casey Johnson, Sr. Associate, RSF Social Finance
Christina Mathis, Assistant Vice President, CCS
Stuart Michler, Equity Research Analyst, Goldman Sachs
William Newsom, Associate, Cooley LLP
Sarah Penney, Case Team Leader, Bain & Co
Jaromy Schmidt, District Manager, Starbucks
Krysti Specht, Senior Community Development Specialist, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, City and County of San Francisco

CommunityGrows requires all new and current employees, volunteers and contractors who work with children and youth to have a complete criminal background check on file with Tides Human Resources. Read more about our Criminal Background Check Policy here.

We want to thank the countless volunteers that help make CommunityGrows a thriving asset to the youth in our community.

Help us raise funds to get 1,300 youth from low-income communities away from violence and into programs that make them healthy, smart, environmentally educated and create pathways to jobs.