MEET OUR BOARD AND COMMITTEES
Board of Directors
Tom Attar – Board Member
Tom Attar is an Iranian American (Iranian father, American mother). He was born in Iran and moved to the Bay Area in 1979 when his family left the country. He spent his formative years in the Bay Area and moved to the East Coast where he started his career in business working in the wireless industry. He is now a partner in Highland Towers; a company which develops and constructs wireless communication towers. Prior to this, Mr. Attar was Vice President of Corporate Development for a regional cellular company.
Mr. Attar lives in Berkeley with his wife, Ghazaleh, and his expanding family. He looks forward to developing a closer connection with his Persian heritage through his experience with Golestan.
Sarah Capitelli – Board Member
Sarah Capitelli is an Assistant Professor at the University of San Francisco in their Teacher Education department. Dr.Capitelli also coordinates the Bilingual Authorization Program at USF. She works with pre-service and practicing teachers to support their developing pedagogical practices of teaching bilingual, English language learners, and immigrant students. Her research focuses on young English language learners and their teachers.
Dr. Capitelli was a kindergarten teacher in Anaco, Venezuela for two years and a first and second grade Spanish-bilingual teacher in East Oakland for six years. She has an M.A. in Early Childhood Development and a Bilingual Teacher’s Credential from Mills College and a Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from Stanford University.
Dr. Capitelli was born and raised in Berkeley and is the mother of two girls. Although she does not speak Persian, she is attracted to the mission and goals of both the school and the Colab that support bilingualism as an incredible and indispensable social, cultural, and linguistic asset to both our local and global communities.
Elham (Ellie) Han – Board Member
Ellie Han manages Golestan’s Parent Association and is also active in outreach, marketing, and collateral for the organization.
Ms. Han is an Iranian-American who lives in Kensington and works in San Francisco as the Chief Operating Officer of SFE Jewelers, a family owned wholesale jewelry manufacturing company.
Ellie left Iran in 1979 and studied in France before immigrating to Marin County in 1981. She earned a BS in architecture and design from the University of Arizona. After college, Ellie’s interest in marketing and design brought her back to the Bay Area where she began work at Media Industry producing commercials for a local advertising company. Her combined interest in marketing and design ultimately drew her to her family business where she currently works designing custom jewelry for private clients as well as large retail manufacturers. Having studied and traveled abroad, Ellie speaks fluent Farsi and some French.
Firuzeh Mahmoudi – Secretary
Firuzeh Mahmoudi is Secretary of Golestan’s Board of Directors. She is responsible for maintaining accurate records of all board meetings and correspondence. Ms. Mahmoudi also plays an active role in fundraising for the organization.
Ms. Mahmoudi is the founder and the International Coordinator of United4Iran (united4iran.org), a global network for human and civil rights in Iran. Firuzeh Mahmoudi is an Iranian-American mother, global coordinator, project manager, and environmental scientist. She earned masters degrees in Environmental Science and Public Affairs at the School of Public Affairs in Bloomington, Indiana and received her bachelor’s degree in Economics from UC Berkeley.
From 2002 to 2006, Ms. Mahmoudi served as the International Coordinator of the global coalition Health Care Without Harm, which has 350+ member groups in over 50 countries.
Ms. Mahmoudi acted as the main liaison to agencies such as the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Hesperian Foundation. Ms. Mahmoudi fostered the development and engagement of member groups through providing strategic and technical support and organizing and facilitating regional and international meetings.
Since 2005, Ms. Mahmoudi has been leading a $23 million United Nations project aimed at reducing the volume and toxicity of health care waste in eight low-income countries around the world. She is currently on the board of MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe), an environmental-health NGO with the mission of protecting the health of our babies by eliminating the growing threat of toxic chemicals and industrial pollutants in human breast milk. She is also an advisor for the nonprofit organization Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) which is a dedicated to the experience of equality, independence, and safety for girls and women in their everyday lives.
Yalda Modabber – Executive Director
Yalda Modabber is Golestan’s Executive Director. As such, she is currently responsible for all strategic and operational duties including program and curriculum development, organizational strategy, recruiting, and training. She also spends about 50% of her time working on Colab related projects related to helping other communities start new schools and producing teaching materials.
Yalda, is a former molecular immunologist, and later consultant to for-profit and non-profit organizations. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Yalda moved to Iran as a kindergartner and returned to the U.S. at the age of 9 years. As an undergraduate, she majored in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child and Developmental Psychology, finishing a dual degree in Experimental Psychology and Human Biology. Yalda went on to pursue a career in biomedical research and spent 8 years at Harvard Medical School, first as a research associate and later as a graduate student. In 2000, Yalda changed her career path and became a consultant for startups, Fortune 50+ corporations and non-profit organizations as a strategist and evaluator.
In 2005, Yalda posted an ad on a local listserve in Berkeley, in search of an Iranian daycare, preschool, or co-op program for her first-born son, then two years old. She received a response from another mother that led to a weekly playgroup and eventually became Golestan. Yalda was hired as Golestan’s full-time Executive Director in 2008. Both of her sons continue to attend the school.
Neda Nobari – Board Member
Neda Nobari is the founder and president of Neda Nobari Foundation, a private foundation with a vision to promote and support the silenced voices in our societies, and to provide second chances to less privileged individuals and organizations. The foundation’s work strives to foster creative, sustainable, and transformational change through the support of diverse projects that promote social justice and participate in the empowerment of the human potential.
In line with the organization’s vision, the foundation is proud to partner with Golestan Center for Language Immersion and Cultural Education because of the heartfelt intention of the many children, staff, and parents that embody the transformative potential of a full immersion curriculum and the progressive teachings of the school. Golestan Kids is celebrated for its mission to preserve the linguistic and cultural continuity of Farsi and Persian culture for generations to come, creating informed and conscious young children through the loving work of the school’s dedicated teachers and staff. NNF is also a strong advocate for Golestan’s Heritage Language Collaborative (The Colab) work with other diverse communities and schools around the world, which serves as an emerging, cross-cultural educational model in the spirit of cultural revitalization and holistically inspired pedagogy.
Neda Nobari currently serves on the Board of several nonprofit organizations throughout California, including The Iranian American Women’s Foundation (IAWF) and The International Society for Children with Cancer (ISCC). She also works in partnership with The David Brower Center, Amazon Watch, Human Rights Watch, Chapman University, SFSU and others, lending to nearly twenty five years of experience in both the public and private sector.
Hadi Taheri – Chief Financial Officer
Hadi Taheri is Golestan’s Chief Financial Officer. As such, he is responsible for maintaining the financial books and records of the organization, producing accurate and timely financial reports, and providing information and assistance to the Executive Director on such matters.
Mr. Taheri has 15 years of experience in the financial industry, having worked as a quantitative researcher in institutional global equity investment management. He completed his undergraduate and graduate education at Stanford University, earning a PhD in management science & engineering. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and co-founded the Persian Student Association (PSA) at Stanford University in 1993.
As a father of two, Mr. Taheri would like to see the next generation maintain an understanding of Persian language and culture. Attracted to Golestan by his profound love for Iran, Hadi believes that Golestan provides a uniquely nurturing environment for Iranian-American parents who wish to have their children speak Persian.
Katherine Whitney – Board President
Katherine Whitney is involved in grant writing for Golestan and facilitates community-related activities. In addition, Ms. Whitney serves as the liaison between the board of directors and the Golestan Community Association.
Katherine Whitney is a museum consultant and writer. She earned a BA in art history at Duke University and a Masters in Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University. In 1995 she founded Katherine Whitney & Associates, an independent museum exhibition consulting firm.
As the wife of an Iranian man and the mother of two Iranian-American children, Katherine strives to learn about and weave Iranian traditions into her family life. She has had the good fortune to travel to Iran three times to visit her in-laws. In 2005, she published an essay about her hybrid family in the anthology Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write about Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves. In 2009, Katherine responded to an internet post about Golestan, hoping to find a Persian language class for her 12-year-old daughter, Leyla. With incredible generosity and creative maneuvering, director Yalda Modabber designed for Leyla a custom summer language program. The child-centered, hands-on learning environment at Golestan was very similar to the elementary school Leyla had attended, and mother and daughter were instantly hooked.
Golestan Community Association:
- Alexandra Singer (Co-chair)
- Aliah Najmabadi
- Azi Rad
- Erinn Nahid (Co-chair)
- Ellie Han
- Forooza Baradar
- Negar Thomson
- Salomeh Keyhani
- Yasi Nouri Massih
- Zahra Mahloudji
Golestan Capital Campaign Committee:
- Alexandra Singer
- Debra Abbaszadeh
- Hadi Taheri
- Niloufar Nouri
- Puneh Sohrabpour
- Salomeh Keyhani
- Soraya Rofagha
- Yasi Massih
- Zahra Mahloudji (Chair)