Meet the Staff

Meet the Board

Taunya Black, M.A. [she/her]. Interim Consultant Executive Director. 

Taunya is a mixed race Black, queer, mama and East Coast transplant. She has over 20 years of experience working in non-profit settings in various roles, including Program Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director, Executive Director and Strategic Management Consultant. Taunya is the co-founder of The Mosaic Collaborative, LLC, a DEIA firm that centers racial equity at the intersections of gender expression, sexual orientation and ability in organizational change management, restorative mediation, leadership consultation, wellness, and youth empowerment. 


For Taunya, equitable access to culturally responsive, and responsible, mental health and wellness services is a social justice issue. She holds a BA in Urban Studies and Dance from Barnard College, a BA in Creative Writing from SUNY Empire State, and an MA in Counseling Psychology from The California Institute of Integral Studies. Taunya is also certified in NAAM and Kundalini yoga/meditation and Harmonyum healing, and was a regular contributor to Rootlight, Inc. Dr. Joseph Michael Levry, writing on spirituality, health and wellness.


When not working, Taunya can mostly be found acting as the lead educational and activities coordinator, and primary chauffeur, for her daughter.

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America Islas, LMFT [she/her/ella]. Clinical Director.

America is a lesbian, Latinx leader who believes everyone deserves to be their authetic self. America is an activist for the LGBTQI2-S+ community who is passionate about providing accessible and culturally appropriate mental health services through a social justice lens. 

America earned her BA in Psychology with a minor in LGBT Studies from San Diego State University. She also earned her MS in Counseling (MFT) from San Francisco State University. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who had the opportunity to work with a variety of folx and cultures, but her passion always brought her to give back to her own community. 

America loves to spend quality time out in nature with her wife and two daughters.


M. Anne Mitchell, LCSW [she/her]. 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. She worked with a wide range of folx 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 community members.


During the months of shelter-in-place, Anne has a new appreciation for the companionship of her two dogs and any time outside with her wife on a sunny day hiking the hills.  

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elle black, MA [they/them/elle]. DEI Training Program Manager.

elle black 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.

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Noah Gaiser, MPP [he/him, they/them]. Development & Operations Manager  

Noah is a queer and transgender nonprofit leader who approaches organizational development and fundraising through a social movement-building lens. He brings a dynamic background in advocacy, grant writing, public policy, and nonprofit program development with 20 years experience in North and East Bay communities.

Since coming out and joining a queer youth organization as a teenager, Noah has invested deeply in organizing among LGBTQIA+ communities with an intersectional approach to community mental health and economic, gender, and racial justice.

He believes  solutions for some of our community’s most urgent problems are found within the innate creativity and resilience of queer communities.

Noah enjoys bad puns, books, biking, cats, coffee, road trips, & playing live music.


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Vanessa Aczon, MPH [she/her]. 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.  


Amory Knut [Amory]. Intake & Quality Assurance Manager.

Amory identifies as a disabled transgender queer with personal experience of complex health needs. Amory is passionate about eliminating barriers to accessing comprehensive health care and treatment with peer-based community solutions.

Amory brings a wealth of experience in client engagement, case management, and developing, testing, and implementing an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system in a community mental health setting. 

When not at work, Amory is a staunch supporter of SF Bay Area queer nightlife and community organizing, helping out with events from fundraisers to drag shows.


DeAngela Cooks, MA [she/her]. 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. 


Katie Tims [she/her]. 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.


Youth Program - Position Vacant


Vanessa Serratos [she/her]. 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.


Meet The Board

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Adam Little. [he/him]. Board Treasurer.

Adam is a senior financial executive who has led finance functions across commercial, financial reporting, investor relations, tax, and budgeting for the past 15 years. He began his career in Australia where he became a Chartered Accountant before assuming global finance roles based out of the UK and US.

Adam identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and through friends and family has seen firsthand the need and benefits of skilled mental health being available to all. He is deeply committed to organizations increasing access and availability to marginalized communities.

In his spare time Adam loves travel, good food, and playing board games with friends.

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Amy Spade [she/her]. Board Member at Large.

Amy brings to Pacific Center expertise in nonprofit management and philanthropy, along with her love for, and commitment to, the LGBTQIA+ community. 


She heads up safety net grantmaking and advocacy at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund in San Francisco while also leading a shift in how the organization measures and communicates its impact.


Before moving back to the Bay Area in 2018, Amy worked to improve equitable education access and outcomes for students of color and poverty in Los Angeles County - and to ensure those students got to and through college and found meaningful careers. Before her nonprofit and philanthropic career, she taught and served in administrative roles at Houston, Detroit, New York, and Bay Area high schools. Amy holds a BA from University of Michigan and an MFA from University of Houston.


In her spare time, Amy enjoys restoring an Oakland bungalow, cooking, knitting, reading, and writing poetry.

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Brittany Braxton [she/her]. Board Member at Large.

Brittany brings to Pacific Center expertise in executive operations and project management along with her dedication to the health and wellness of others through her pre-licensed psychotherapy practice.


She is the Executive Business Partner to the CEO, Co-Founder/Leader of the Black & LatinX Employee Resource Group at Pantheon Systems, and she is a Pre-licensed Psychotherapist at The Liberation Institute working with adults and couples. Using a Black feminist, intersectional, and psychosocial framework her therapeutic practice centers the experiences of BIMPOC, LGBTQIA+, Poly, and Kink communities.


Brittany brings four years of clinical experience and 10+ years of administrative, project management and leadership experience to the board. She holds a BA from Northern Arizona University in Sociology and an MA from California Institute of Integral Studies in Integral Counseling Psychology.


In her spare time, Brittany enjoys spending time with her cat [Langston], traveling, seeing live shows, time with family and friends, and all things health and wellness. 


Christopher Stemborowski [he/him]. Board Member at Large.

Christopher is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community who lives in San Francisco with his partner Patrick. He is a global marketing leader who helps organizations craft and deliver marketing and advertising work. He brings deep expertise in strategy, applied practice and theory of a wide array of marketing practices to the board with degrees in communications at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has worked in organizations and for clients of all sizes. He routinely uses any platform available to advocate for inclusive practices and create spaces designed to foster belonging. 


Developing spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community and specifically creating more access for mental health services are causes that are passion areas for Christopher. He has previously served on non-profit boards that supported the LGBTQIA+ community in New York City and Boston and is honored to help advance and champion the mission of the Pacific Center for Human Growth. 


In his spare time Christopher enjoys trying many amazing restaurants in the Bay Area, hiking in the area and playing soccer with the San Francisco Spikes [an LGBTQIA+ community soccer organization].


DDS. MA, NLPt, Cert Ed. [they/them]. Board President.

DDS was assigned male at birth and is a genderqueer, non-disabled, white British immigrant and they have lived in the US with my husband, David, since 2014. They love the Californian sunshine, geek out about psychology, and like to lose themself by watching repeats of The Voice and X-Factor on YouTube.

They have notched up over 25 years of working in small, medium, and large corporations and have held a range of senior, executive, and C-Suite level roles across a host of sectors and companies. These roles have provided the opportunity for DDS to work across all continents and to develop the awareness, empathy, and humility required to work successfully with people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. They are certified as an Executive Coach by the Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring, credentialed with the International Coach Federation, and they are a coach-supervisor through the Coaching Supervision Academy. In 2018 DDS founded Soul Trained, an executive coaching and leadership growth consultancy.

Before moving to the US in 2014, DDS managed a small psychotherapy private practice as a registered Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapist and in 2021 they graduated from California Institute of Integral Studies with an MA in Integral Counseling Psychology. Having spent a year working as a clinician at Pacific Center, today they are a member of the Bay Area Gestalt Institute which is a unique and diverse community of psychotherapists and associates rooted in a lineage of Gestalt teachers and practitioners.


Sabrina Curtis, MA. [she/her]. Board Member at Large.

Sabrina is a dancer, licensed massage therapist, and Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, working in private practice out of San Francisco. Born and raised in SE Washington, DC, a hallmark of her experience as a child were the city funded youth programs that offered kids a creative, healthy outlet through music, art, dance and theatre. It was through these programs that Sabrina first experienced the type of cathartic expression and healing that movement offers to traumas lodged in the body; a healing that is not always accessible through words. 


This remains the foundation of her personhood and her work as a healer. Sabrina is in constant reverence of the body and psyche's ability to connect with, express and heal our deepest wounds. Her practice focuses on the intuition, resilience and expansiveness of the human spirit; a focus she brings to Pacific Center's Board. She is committed to working collaboratively with her fellow Board members to build an organization that is truly culturally responsive and empowers all members of the community. 


Sabrina has a BA in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts Philadelphia and an MA in Counseling Psychology from CIIS. When not working, her time is spent doing yoga, meditating, failing miserably at Afrobeats footwork, playing board games and karaoke with her three sons, and trying to convince her cats to stay off of the kitchen counter. 

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Sarah Gzesh, MSW. Board Vice President.

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.

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Vanessa Aczon. Board Secretary.

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.  

In August 2021, Pacific Center welcomed the following new Board Members. Photos and bios will be updated in due course.
Erin Mansur [she/her]
Farrah Pulce [he/she/they]
Taunya Black [she/her]