Our Team

Meet our Team
Nolizwe Nondabula

Executive Director (they/them)


Born in California to South African immigrants, Nolizwe (they/them) brings over a decade of experience working at the intersection of racial justice, community engagement and financial accountability. They are passionate about transformative movement building practices that is rooted in reclaiming their connection to land, guided by moving at the speed of trust and centered in resilient community-based solutions. Prior to joining CommunityGrows in 2020, Nolizwe served as the Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships for the University of San Francisco’s Engage San Francisco initiative. Nolizwe currently sits on the advisory board of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) and holds a BA in Economics from Clark University as well as a MA in Urban Affairs from the University of San Francisco.

Anna Luberoff

Gardens Program Manager (she/her)


Anna has worked at the intersection of youth development and sustainable agriculture for over 10 years throughout New England and the Bay Area, at organizations including The Food Project, Urban Adamah, and Hampshire College’s Farm Education Collaborative. She believes that co-powering youth to grow their own food is key to creating a more just and sustainable food system. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Spanish from Smith College, and her favorite vegetable is delicata squash.

B Freas

BEETs Educator (they/them)


B is a gardener, teacher, and climate organizer who has lived in the Bay Area since 2017. Before joining the CG team, they taught kids about birds in Vermont, and worked as a bilingual garden teacher with Education Outside. They are passionate about dissolving the dichotomy between city and nature, and helping people find a reciprocal and meaningful relationship with the natural world. They hold a Bachelor of Science from the University of Vermont, and enjoy rock climbing, making art, and reading nonfiction books in their free time.

Cristina Vila Ruiz

Garden & Nutrition Educator (she/her)


Cristina has always been passionate about the environment, cities, sustainability, and food systems. She did her BS in Environmental Science in the University of Puerto Rico, where she is originally from. Then she moved to Raleigh, NC to pursue a M.S. in Natural Resources at NC State University. While she studied she was part of a research project related with the socio-ecological studies of San Juan, PR. Then she decided to give back to education in what she most likes – gardening and food. Cristina believes in facilitating classes so students can learn, enjoy themselves, and be more passionate for the natural world.

Karen Lally

Operations & Development Manager (she/her)


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.

Vanessa Williams

Garden & Nutrition Educator (she/her)


Vanessa is an educator, advocate, and lover of the outdoors. She is excited to continue working with and advocating for Youth of Color so that they may have access to the natural world which is often closed off to them. She is bringing over five years of experience in environmental education, trail work, and conservation, which she cultivated during her time at the Student Conservation Association and Education Outside. Hailing from Washington state, where she received her BS in Biology from Pacific Lutheran University, she is glad to be in a state where it rains a little bit less.

Yaya Persing

Garden & Nutrition Educator (she/her)


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.

Abigail Henriquez

Marketing & Communications Coordinator (she/her)


Abigail has always been a creatively driven person, expressing herself through art, food, and exploring ways of living an environmentally sustainable life. She grew up in the Bay Area and earned a BA in Art from San Francisco State University. Growing up in the city, she realized that environmental and nutritional education was important but not always readily available in communities like hers. Although she has loved living in a big city, she sees the value that being connected to nature brings. As a member of CommunityGrows, she hopes to bring her passion for serving the community and her skills as a creative as a way of bridging the gap between the city and the outdoors. In her free time, she enjoys sketching architecture and people around the city.

Mayer Fischbach Barria

Community Engagement Coordinator (she/her)


Mayer’s biggest passions are research, agriculture, sustainability, human rights, youth empowerment, and building community. She believes there are many intersections between these areas- and dedicates her time to uncovering them. In the past she has done plant science research, taught children about the environment, done wildlife rehab, and coordinated a community farm. These experiences have her exited to bring her skills and insights to CommuntiyGrows and to build on them during her year long appointment. When away from a computer she enjoys searching for aphids, identifying mushrooms, smelling plant volatiles, biking just a tad bit too far, and taking her time on hikes.

Advisory Board
Jessica Jauw

Jessica Jauw

Business Development Manager, JSI

Jaromy Schmidt

Jaromy Schmidt

District Manager, Starbucks

Christina Mathis

Christina Mathis

Corporate Vice President, CCS

Caitlin McLaughlin

Caitlin McLaughlin

Manager, Clearway Energy Group

Liz Holm

Liz Holm

Store Manager, Starbucks

William Newsom

William Newsom

Attorney, Cooley LLP

Sarah Penney

Sarah Penney

Senior Manager, Bain & Co

Evan Zhang

Evan Zhang

Associate, Norwest Venture Partners

If you are interested in joining our board, please reach out to info@communitygrows.org