Meet the Staff

Meet the Board
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Noah Gaiser, MPP. [he/him or they/them]. Executive Director

Noah is a queer, transgender, and non-binary nonprofit leader who approaches organizational development 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 LGBTQ+ communities with an intersectional approach to community mental health and economic, gender, and racial justice.

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

Director of Clinical Programs

Pacific Center is seeking a new Director of Clinical Programs. If you are interested in applying, please send your resume and cover letter to hiring@pacififccenter.org. The deadline to apply is July 16, 2021.

 

Please contact noah@pacificcenter.org with any questions about the process. 

M. Anne Mitchell. LCSW. Acting Clinical Director.

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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River Gowan Stone. [he/him]. 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 Director of Finance.

 

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.

Operations Manager

This position is currently vacant.

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. [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.

Intake & Quality Assurance Manager

Stay tuned for updates. 

Vanessa Aczon. Interim Director of Community Programs.

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.  

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

Email: board@pacificcenter.org
 

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

DDS is a queer, non-binary, male-bodied, able-bodied, white British immigrant who has  lived in the US with their husband, David, since 2014. They love the Californian sunshine, geeking out about psychology, and believe there is no greater form of self-care that 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.

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.

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.  

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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 to travel, good food, and playing board games with friends.