CEN Leaders Institute Class XII

Meet the amazing nonprofit leaders of CEN's 12th Leaders Institute class! The group gathered for the first time in September 2018 for a kick-off overnight at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos and will continue to meet monthly until April 2019.




Milan Balinton | African American Community Service Agency

About the Organization: The African American Community Service Agency (AACSA) is one of the only African American cultural centers in the Silicon Valley. Our Vision - to provide quality educational, cultural, social and recreational programs, services and activities in order to perpetuate and strengthen African American identity, culture, values, traditions, knowledge and family life - is at the heart of all programs. Membership is  open to everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.

About Milan: Milan Ray Balinton epitomizes what the road to success often entails. Forcing himself past the hurdle of living with a learning disorder, traversing beyond his start in the impoverished Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, and lifting the barrier presented to him as an African-American young man, Mr. Balinton has ventured on to become a highly sought after asset within the African-American community. During his early years, Mr. Balinton was introduced to the NAACP organization by his grandmother who urged him to “give back to the community, for many have sacrificed so that we could be free, and you must do the same.” These words were often what he re-visited and used to overcome the obstacles set before him along his endeavor.


Amy Pizarro | Happy Hollow

About the Organization: Happy Hollow Foundation engages individuals and organizations in supporting and enhancing Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, a beloved San Jose institution since 1961. Together the zoo and foundation produce exhibits, events and programs that fuel ambitious conservation efforts, deliver life science education to local schools, and connect visitors of all ages to nature through play.

About Amy: Amy Pizarro was born in South Dakota, then spent her childhood hopping through hometowns in Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona and New Mexico until settling in California in 1999. A former sports editor at the San Jose Mercury News, Amy transitioned into the nonprofit sector as public relations director at Presentation High School and later joined The Tech Museum of Innovation, where she was senior director of media and community. Amy is the founder of the Pad Party, an annual event for Silicon Valley women to donate feminine hygiene products. Amy lives in downtown San Jose with her husband Sal and two children.


Nkia Richardson | CASA

About the Organization: CASA of San Mateo County pairs foster children with community volunteers who provide one-on-one support, mentoring and advocacy in the courtroom and beyond.  Our mission is to ensure that all abused and neglected children under the protection of the court have a consistent, caring adult to help them reach their full potential.  

About Nkia: Nkia Richardson is the Executive Director of CASA of San Mateo County ("CASA").  Before joining CASA, Nkia was a Sr. Deputy City Attorney with the San Jose City Attorney's Office, where she litigated civil cases including employment, civil rights and personal injury matters.  Prior to her time with the City of San Jose, she worked as an attorney representing children and parents in child abuse and neglect cases in Los Angeles County.  Nkia previously served as a board member for CASA and the Carey School in San Mateo.  She currently serves as a trustee for Menlo School in Atherton. Nkia has a BA in International Relations and English from Tufts University and a JD from the University of Southern California.


Meredith Smith | Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation

About the Organization: Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation (CEEF) contributes private philanthropy to bridge critical gaps in public education funding and enhance classroom education for Cupertino Union School District (CUSD). Thanks to the generosity of our donor community, CEEF has invested more than $18 million dollars since 1984 to maintain excellent Cupertino schools.

About Meredith: Meredith joins CEEF from JW House where she was the Development and Marketing Director. Prior to this, she was Director of Marketing for the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce where her responsibilities included managing the Sunnyvale Art & Wine Festival for four years. Meredith has also held positions at NBC Bay Area and Intel Corporation and has led fundraising events for other local non-profits and schools. She is an active volunteer serving on the Board of Directors at Stocklmeir Elementary School PTA, Pets in Need and currently Association of Fundraising Professionals Silicon Valley. Meredith received a Bachelor degree at Santa Clara University.


James McCaskill | Sunday Friends

About the Organization: Sunday Friends empowers families to break the cycle of poverty by fostering positive development in children while educating and guiding parents to support their children's life success.  Children and parents work together to learn, earn and serve the community at all-day programs on Sundays in San Jose.

About James: James McCaskill is the new Executive Director at Sunday Friends, a San Jose based organization empowering very low-income families to break the generational cycle of poverty.  His career has been dedicated to serving those on the margins of society through parish ministry and nonprofit service.  Growing up in Atlanta, GA, he headed north to Wheaton College near Chicago for a BA in Communications, and then across the ocean for an MA in Theology at Leeds University, England.  He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cuttington University in Liberia, West Africa in conjunction with spearheading a redevelopment project of an impoverished rural village.  He has the unique experience of featuring in a successful TV series on British television following his efforts of transforming a shrinking church into a thriving congregation located in a challenged community near Sheffield, England.  After leaving Brooklyn for Chicago a few years ago, James, and his wife, Lisa Flattery, and their toddler son, Warren, decided to thaw out in the California sun moving to San Jose in August 2017 for the better weather. 


Yiwei Wang | San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

About the Organization: The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach.

About Yiwei: Yiwei Wang, Ph.D., is Executive Director at SFBBO and manages the science and fundraising programs. Yiwei grew up in the South Bay and before attending Cornell University and double majoring in Biology and Psychology. She has worked for a variety of organizations that focused on birds and mammals, including an internship with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and a season as a field technician in SFBBO's Snowy Plover Program. ?She then attended UC Santa Cruz and received her PhD in Environmental Studies. After completing her Ph.D., she worked in northern Kenya to coordinate research efforts among four NGOs to study regional human development and wildlife movement as part of a project supported by the Nature Conservancy. Most recently she was a post-doctoral scholar in Santa Barbara, where she worked to increase and facilitate the management and sharing of ecological data.


Lisa Rock | Palo Alto Community Child Care

About the Organization: As a community leader in Palo Alto, PACCC partners with parents and regional agencies to provide quality, professional and accessible childhood care and education.

About Lisa: Lisa Rock is the Executive Director of Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) and is responsible for maintaining the organizations mission and vision throughout all aspects of the agency including Programs, Finance, Development and Outreach and works closely with the agency Board of Directors. Lisa has a B.S. in Human Development from University of California, Davis and a Program Director permit from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She has been working to support the needs of children and families for 30 years.


Jocelyn Lee | Foundation for a College Education (FCE)

About the Organization: The vision of FCE is to create a community where higher education is attainable. By engaging both students and parents in our work, we aim to create a community of learners who are armed with the right tools and information. Together, they play a pivotal role in sharing this information with other families about how best to take advantage of school resources and navigate the college admissions process, thus catalyzing larger community change.

About Jocelyn: Jocelyn Lee has been an educator for 24 years before joining FCE in July of 2018. A graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies and a Master’s degree in Education, she holds additional post-graduate teaching credentials. Jocelyn began her teaching career as a high school student teacher in the Stanford Teacher Education Program and has served as a school leader from the preschool level through high school for 20 years providing leadership, guidance, and support to a teaching staff and developing practices to help bring about educational equity. Jocelyn focused on educational improvements that were responsive to the unique needs of each school community including increasing access to technology, designing programs to give girls more access to STEM, and partnering with community organizations to provide enrichment opportunities. These interventions improved achievement for historically underserved students at each school. Jocelyn has a deep commitment to giving children a positive experience in their educational journeys with a focus on community engagement and family/school bonds.


Tony Ferrigno | Cashion Cultural Legacy

About the Organization: Our mission is to sustain the preservation, presentation, and education of Mexican folk culture through dance. We pursue this by 1) operating two professional Mexican folk dance companies, 2) offering public dance classes, 3) running an annual Artist Exchange of dancers, directors, and choreographers between California and México, and 4) research and documentation.

About Tony: Tony Ferrigno has been affiliated with the organization since 1979, serving in various roles (dancer, costumer, board member, instructor, musician, choreographer, & artistic director).  Ferrigno has studied under master instructors in México and was able to host many of them in San José. Simultaneously Ferrigno spent 32 years working as an Information Technology professional in Silicon Valley and has formally managed the organization’s operations since 2015.


Catherine Martineau | Canopy

About the Organization: Canopy's mission is to grow urban tree canopy in Midpeninsula communities for the benefit of all and achieve our vision of a day when every resident of the Midpeninsula can step outside to walk, play, and thrive under the shade of healthy trees.

About Catherine: Catherine Martineau has been a leader in the nonprofit urban forestry field for over a decade. She serves on the board of California Releaf, a statewide urban forestry organization and brings to her role extensive professional experience in both the financial and management consulting sectors. Leading Canopy, she draws on her professional experience as well as her personal interest in community service, education, and the environment. A native of France, Catherine started her career in Paris with the BNP Group and moved to the United States in 1986, joining BNP Venture Capital. Catherine holds a post-graduate degree (ABD) in economic theory, a master’s degree in mathematical economics, and a bachelor’s degree in international economics from the University of Paris.


Christina Mireles | Peninsula College Fund

About the Organization: Our mission is to empower low-income, first generation college students to graduate and obtain a job that aligns with their career goals.

About Christina: Christina Mireles holds a BA in Political Science with thesis honors from Tufts University, a Master in Public Policy from Georgetown University, and a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University.  Prior to joining PCF, Christina served as Deputy Director at Escuela Popular, a K-12 charter school in East San Jose that serves a predominantly Latino student population, many of whom are recent immigrants. For nearly nine years, she spearheaded Escuela Popular’s operations. Christina began her career nearly 20 years ago as an attorney with Crowell & Moring, a Washington, D.C. law firm. She is currently on the Board of Oxford Day Academy, a charter school in East Palo Alto. Given her personal story, Christina is passionate about serving minority and low-income students who need just a little extra support to realize their dreams.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling for pleasure and spending time with her three children and her husband.


Omar Butler | Peninsula College Track

About the Organization: Our mission is to empower students from underserved communities to graduate from college. By helping our students maximize the value of their college degree—minimize student loan debt, secure internships, and limit the need to work while in college—we prepare today’s youth to succeed in the 21st century economy.

About Omar: Omar Butler has dedicated over 15 years of service to youth development in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City communities. He currently serves as Regional Executive Director of College Track, leading programmatic, operational and fundraising efforts in four communities across Northern California – East Palo Alto, San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland, where over 1,000 high school students and 400 college students are served annually on their path to social and economic mobility. Omar is also an America Express Leadership Fellow at the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.  Prior to that he served as Chief of Programs for the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, a college completion program serving students in the New York communities of Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant.  As a first-generation college graduate, Omar is heavily influenced by his personal journey leading him to be passionate about both equipping youth with the tools and resources that they need to become agents-of-change within their communities, and disrupting structures and systems that foster and support inequality.  His work has earned him the KQED Local Hero and State Farm Good Neighbor Awards.


Keri Stokstad | Midpen Media Center

About the Organization: The mission of the Midpeninsula Community Media Center is to: inform, inspire, and empower people to speak and act on behalf of their communities; and to use television and the Internet to create and distribute programs that promote and celebrate individual expression, local achievements, education, cultural exchange, arts appreciation and civic engagement..

About Keri: Ms. Stokstad is a nationally recognized executive leader in community media television with more than 15 years of experience managing and building award-winning public and government cable access production centers across the country. Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Stokstad has been the executive in charge to build and operate numerous award-winning community cable access television studios serving the needs of the public and local governments in cities across the country, including Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and California. Ms. Stokstad has been a tireless advocate on the national and local levels for free speech, community media, open government and community access cable television programming. Stokstad is a native of Iowa and has a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications from the University of Iowa. She served as Board Chair from 2014-2016 for the Alliance for Community Media, a premier national organization that represents the interests of cable access organizations. In 2014, Business Life Magazine named her as one of the San Gabriel Valley’s top Women Achievers.