Board of Directors

We are a 100% volunteer-run organization with a dedicated and diverse board of directors. In partnership with our volunteers and community groups, we continually develop and enhance our program offerings to stay relevant to the youth we serve.

Milad Yazdanpanah     Executive Director




Milad Yazdanpanah is Oakland Youth Aspire’s Executive Director.  He started the non-profit with a conviction and passion to do something positive in his community and make a difference in Oakland. With no funds and no location, he started reaching out to donors and community members, researching what was most needed in West Oakland. As a result of that groundwork, Milad and a group of professionals created the successful Oakland Youth Aspire program that has kept its doors open every single Saturday since 2008.  Milad has developed a key position of trust with the youth and their families and made OYA a valued member of the Oakland community. Milad works as a field consultant and has over 15 years experience in the non-profit and retail world. Milad is the recipient of the 2012 Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and featured in May-June issue of Oakland Magazine as, "Energetic nonprofit founder works to help West Oakland youth." Milad has a B.A in Business/Neuroscience and a Masters in Demography from the University of California, Berkeley.



Dezirae PeBenito         Curriculum Director



 Dezirae PeBenito serves as Oakland Youth Aspire’s Curriculum Director. In this role, she provides OYA with guidance in producing curriculum that is in line with the social emotional learning model to take in consideration the culture, environment and needs of the youth who participate. Empowering Oakland’s youth is not only a pastime but a career. Dezirae is an enrichment Instructor for Oakland Leaf, leading and developing curriculum for afterschool programs in S.T.E.A.M and SEL. She has also been a tutor in math and science since 2010. Dezirae’s background includes 6 years in the biotech field for DuPont Pioneer as a Research Associate. She received her B.S. in Plant Biology at the University of California, Davis. 


 Gina Rapaport                Health & Wellness          Director


Gina Rapaport serves as Oakland Youth Aspire's Health & Wellness Director. Gina currently works as a Health Coach with Lantern, and is getting her Masters Degree in Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). She has a holistic approach to wellness and believes that optimal health encompasses mind, body, spirit and community. Gina has experience working with youth in a variety of settings, including Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall, San Ignacio High School in Argentina, and Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, a wilderness program in Utah. She is especially inspired by the passion and energy of the youth at OYA. Gina believes that by getting young people excited about their own health and wellness, they will become health ambassadors for their families, and communities.

Madilyne Harmston Community Partnerships & Outreach Director    


Madilyne Harmston serves as Oakland Youth Aspire's Community Partnerships and Outreach Director. In this role, she serves as a connection between the community and OYA by helping to create strong and lasting partnerships. Her background shows her passion and commitment to serving youth. After graduating from the University of WI- River Falls with a Social Work degree, Madilyne moved out to the Bay Area to work with at-risk youth. She is currently working at a school as a Mental Health Counselor for children. Madilyne believes that youth are our future and it's our job to help ensure that they can grow up to live the happiest, healthiest, and most successful life they can.






Mona Yazdanpanah
Co-Founder, Board Member Emeritus
Mona has long been a valuable asset to Oakland Youth Aspire, having co-founded the organization and transitioned into a steady volunteer over the years.  She now does outreach on behalf of OYA to various organizations for ongoing support.

Jeff Chou

Technology Consultant
Jeff Chou served as Oakland Youth Aspire's Technology Director from 2013 to 2015.  In that position, Jeff oversaw OYA's communication systems, website, as well as launched the initial round of data analysis with the Development Director to evaluate the organization’s success. He has since transitioned to a consultant role in a similar capacity with OYA.  He has been a volunteer with Oakland Youth Aspire since 2010, when he first led a monthly volunteer group from Convergence Church, which also meets in the DeFremery Recreation Center.  Jeff believes that the shalom and the wholeness of the city must be sought by its citizens, through intentional engagement, and the connecting of resources to those without them.  Jeff graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Economics.  He owns and runs an online retail business in West Oakland. 

 Leeann Alameda 


 Leeann Alameda serves as Oakland Youth Aspire’s Communications consultant. Leeann has volunteered with OYA since 2009 and previously was the Volunteer Coordinator and Community Outreach Director.  With a record of community involvement, Leeann believes that giving youth the resources they need to lead healthy and productive lives is crucial for a community’s well-being.  Her background nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, branding and communications. She is Principal at Alameda Marketing Solutions, a marketing strategy and branding consulting business. 

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