Meet the Staff

Meet the Board

Executive Director

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Director of Clinical Programs

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Anne Mitchell, LCSW - Director of Community Programs

Anne was born and raised in Berkeley, starting her relationship with Pacific Center in the late 70’s when she dropped into the “Under 21 Lesbian Rap Group.” Over the years, she earned a BA in English at Smith College and an MSW from University of Kansas and worked with a wide range of populations. She felt like an undercover operative during a long stint working in rural community mental health centers while living on a Kansas cattle ranch. Anne is proud of being featured in the University of Kansas book, No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas, by C.J. Janovy. She landed back in Berkeley in 2012 and has been at Pacific Center in various capacities since, appreciating the daily opportunity to help create and support safe spaces for our community members. Outside of work, she is all about good food, and time outside with her sweetheart, family, friends and dogs.

River Gowan Stone - Director of Finance

River grew up on an apple farm in rural California and moved to Oakland for college in 1996. He first discovered the Pacific Center in the late 90s, as a queer / intersex / genderqueer youth and is elated to serve the LGBTQ+ community in his role as Bookkeeper/HR Assistant. River brings eight years of experience in accounting, finance, and human resources to this work, plus a passion for economic justice, community health, and holistic mental/somatic wellness. River has a BA in French and Francophone Studies -- his culminating thesis was an application of queer theory to 18th century French fiction -- and an MFA in English and Creative Writing, both from Mills College. He is studying sex and relationship coaching at Somatica Institute. He is also a librarian, a poet, an improviser, a mystic, a dancer, and the parent of a vibrant, sweet, and outgoing toddler who is the absolute light of his life.

eddie gesso - Operations Manager

eddie has lived in Oakland long enough to call it home and loves living here.  He joined the staff of Pacific Center in 2008 after completing his BFA at California College of the Arts.  eddie’s community service includes volunteerism for the Lambert House and the Seattle LGBT Community Center in Seattle, WA and the Queer Cultural Center, National Queer Arts Festival, and Fresh Meat in the Gallery here in the bay area.  When not at work eddie enjoys listening to music and painting, making his own creations in the kitchen, hanging out with his kitty cat, endless hours of video games, and seeing bands live.  He identifies as a unicorn.

DeAngela Cooks - HIV Program Clinician Manager

DeAngela is a passionate public speaker of 20+ years, professional master of ceremonies and an acclaimed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion workshop facilitator.  Hailing from Southern California, she embraces her intersectional identities.  As a Black, queer, woman, who is a parent, and has been a minister and stand-up comic, she brings a wealth of experiences to her work; infusing education with elocution, wit and a splash of sarcasm.  After knocking out her Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Religion, she decided to graduate with her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. 

I guess it's safe to say she’s a sap.  When not at work, you can find her devising a scheme to become unidentifiable by her student loan providers. 

elle black - DEI Training Program Manager

elle black (they/them/elle) is proud to be born and raised in Oakland, CA. elle is experienced in many professional roles including administrative and program management in tech/performing arts and academia, teaching at middle/high school and community college levels, peer advocacy and support, and academic tutoring and coaching. elle earned a MA in English from Mills College focused on the construction of race and gender in 19th century American Literature and is currently completing a MA in Counseling Psychology at Golden Gate University (GGU). They are a clinical trainee and the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Training Program Manager at Pacific Center. elle loves karaoke, road trips, and pontificating loudly about the liberation of Black and Indigenous LGBTQ+ folks while rocking fabulous eyebrows and eating ramen.

Jay Louie, MA - Quality Assurance Coordinator

Jay Louie is a transgender, transnational, and multilingual therapist who grew up in Hong Kong, Canada, US, and Mexico.  They specialize in supporting LGBTQ+ immigrants of color with complex trauma through a social justice lens.  They are trained in art therapy, sex therapy, and psychedelic integration therapy, and teach workshops on intersectionality through the use of expressive arts.  As QA Coordinator, Jay oversees clinical documentation and processes.  Past roles include first coach at Ginger.io (US), and lead designer at MANA! (HK) and Clean Air Network (HK). Qualifications include: MA Holistic Counseling Psychology (JFK), BA Psychology (The University of Hong Kong), and BFA Communication Design (Parsons).  An adventurer, Jay travels, dances in the desert, nurtures plants, and creates safer rock climbing spaces with Queer Crush. 

Vanessa Aczon - Community Programs Coordinator

Born and raised in the lovely and ever-changing Bay Area, Vanessa has worked in various settings, from hospitality, direct patient care, and trauma advocacy. Her path had led her to earning a BS in Health Sciences, minor in Biology, and a Master of Public Health.  After her graduate program, she searched for an organization that combined her interests in population health, mental health, and the LGBTQ+ community.  Luckily for her, she joined the Pacific Center in August 2019, where she happily works with amazing colleagues that share a similar vision in inclusivity, diversity, and equity.  Outside of work, Vanessa loves to dabble in drawing, dancing, and spending time with her loved ones, and best canine buddy.  

Stephanie Bain, Associate MFT - Intake Coordinator

In addition to her role as Intake Coordinator, Stephanie has served as a clinician at Pacific Center since 2019. With a non-profit background, Stephanie came to the field of mental health seeking a better way to serve her LGBTQ+ community. A true Sagittarius, Stephanie’s bow and arrow are always aimed as truth, justice, and freedom and those principles guide her life and inform her work seeking liberation and joy for all marginalized peoples. An East Bay native, Stephanie lives in Oakland and works alongside her trusty feline assistants, Zsa Zsa and Eva.

Vanessa Serratos - Volunteer Program Coordinator

On a search for volunteer opportunities, Vanessa came across Pacific Center and started off as a volunteer as of October 2018. As months went on she observed the position as the front desk volunteer every 4th Friday of the month and enjoyed it! When the opportunity to become the program assistant opened up- Vanessa was offered and accepted the position almost immediately. Vanessa has enjoyed serving as a proud LGBTQ+ ally and will always continue to do so. Vanessa is currently attending CSU East Bay to obtain her BA degree in Psychology in hopes of making her way up to become a MFT or LCSW. On Vanessa’s free time she enjoys attending concerts, watching anime, and most of all making memories with family and friends.

Maya Ram - Youth Program Coordinator

Maya is a youth worker, sex educator, and wellness coach. She approaches her work from a reproductive justice lens and works to build accessible and caring spaces for youth who are Black, Brown, Indigenous, or have other historically marginalized identities. As Youth Program Coordinator, Maya facilitates the LOUD & BOLD youth groups and supports all youth programming at Pacific Center.

She also facilitates workshops on sex education, identity, and social justice issues.  Maya is grateful for her past work experiences, which have guided how she approaches youth work, including her time at Sadie Nash Leadership Project (NY), the TORCH Program at NIRH (NY), and the GRIT Peer Coaching Program (LA). Maya is working towards a world that doesn’t criminalize or harm young folks, but instead creates spaces for them to self-identify and build loving, sustainable relationships.

Katie Tims - Clinical Administrative Assistant

Katie is a Berkeley native who connected with Pacific Center for her Women & Gender Studies’ internship senior year of college and has stayed on since. From the SFSU Queer Alliance secretary to the Queer Yo Mind! conference committee, she fortunately landed work with the LGBTQ+ community in a place that feels like home. She has worn many hats, having been involved in volunteer management, outreach, Peer Groups, Covered California education and Clinic Administration in her time here. She has a passion for cats, the spiritual and occult, open-world RPG video games, J-Pop and K-Pop.

Meet The Board

 

Chris Wyman - President

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Chris is a Senior Operations Manager at UberEats. He is also the Global Strategy & Planning lead for Pride at Uber (Uber's LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group), where works to build an equitable and inclusive work environment for 25,000+ employees globally. In his free time, Chris can be found experimenting in the kitchen or playing with dogs.

Email: board@pacificcenter.org

John Dio - Vice President

John is currently the Technical Recruiter/People Operations for Wonderschool, an early childhood education-technology startup in San Francisco. His experience centers around scaling early-stage startups, process building, and advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. He was born in the Philippines, raised in Los Angeles, and earned his B.A. from UC Berkeley. Outside work and the Pacific Center, he enjoys traveling, foodie-excursions, songwriting, and has about three EPs written/recorded.

Treasurer

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Sarah Gzesh, MSW - Secretary

Sarah is a therapist and educator originally from the East Coast, and has lived in Oakland since 2012. She currently works as a Behavioral Health Clinician at Larkin Street Youth Services in the Tenderloin. As a scholar-practitioner, Sarah is passionate about working with LGBTQ+ young people, who are disproportionately represented in multiple metrics of embodied oppression, including compounded traumatization, sexual exploitation, homelessness, and involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Sarah also spent six years as a high school English teacher in the Bay Area, and taught internationally as well. Outside of work, she loves photography, woodworking, reading, cooking with her chosen family, and hiking with her dog.

Jess Forster

Jess is currently the Head of People at a mission-driven startup focused on technology for philanthropy. She is an empathetic leader who loves a high-growth, fast-paced & equitable environment where she can help employees thrive. She came to the Pacific Center by way of the Grief Group which became an incredibly important part of her healing journey. In her free time, you’ll find her in a book or on a run with her wife and pup. 

Bensen Hayden

Bensen is Vice President and 30-year employee of CH2M, a Fortune 500 global engineering company that provides consulting, design and construction services for corporations and federal, state and local governments.  Bensen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Purdue University.  Bensen brings an analytical mind and business acumen to the Pacific Center Board of Directors as well as a sincere passion for the advancement of the LGBTQ community.

Anthony J. Perry, Ph.D. (he/him/él)

Anthony currently serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and a History teacher at the Lab School of Washington, a small independent school in DC for students with learning differences.  Before Lab, he spent three years living and working in the Bay Area, where in addition to teaching Spanish-language and literature courses, he served as the inaugural coordinator for THRIVE, a program that supports students and families who have been historically underrepresented in independent schools.  Anthony is a first-generation graduate of the College of William & Mary (B.A., History and Hispanic Studies) and Georgetown University (M.S., Ph.D., Spanish Literature & Cultural Studies).  In his free time, you can find him and his husband working to dismantle, in the words of bell hooks, “the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy,” and/or video chatting with their new niblings, Dallas and Gia, and godson, James. 

Sergio Ruiz Tello

Sergio is a Program Manager at Medallia, where he builds experience management solutions that empower clients to interpret linguistic data. Raised in Mexico City, Sergio has lived in the Bay Area since 2010. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he is a dedicated community builder who strives to create inclusive and transparent environments. Passionate about visual storytelling, Sergio can often be found watching movies or reading about them, as well as documenting life’s adventures through photography.

Ash Coleman

Ash focuses her efforts within technology on curating belonging and bringing awareness to inclusion strategies for Women, HE (historically excluded), and lbgtq+ communities. A former chef, Ash crafted her software approach through learnings in hospitality. After over a decade in the kitchen, she cashed in her apron when she began her career in software development, falling back on skills in engineering she acquired as a kid. An avid fan of matching business needs with technological solutions, you can find her doing her best work on whichever coast is the sunniest. Spending most of her time currently in Diversity in Engineering, Ash also has experience helping teams build out testing practices, formulate Agile processes, and redefine culture. Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Credit Karma, Ash continues testing and consulting based out of San Francisco.

Pacific Center for Human Growth

Founded in 1973, Pacific Center for Human Growth is the oldest LGBTQIA+ center in the Bay Area, the third oldest in the nation, and operates the only sliding scale mental health clinic for LGBTQ/IA+ and QTBIPOC people and their families in Alameda County.