MEET OUR BOARD AND COMMITTEES

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Board of Directors

Amir Kia – Board Member, Primary School Site Committee

Amir has been developing and operating senior living communities in the Bay Area for the last twenty years.  He is a founder of AgeSong and now a Principal of Spirit Living Group, a real estate development and management company.  His work has received the American Society on Aging’s National Award for Excellence in creating exemplary programs.

Amir is a graduate of Wharton and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley where he has also taught.  He served eight years as Trustee of the Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Berkeley.  He loves the outdoors and walked the Camino de Santiago along the northern cost of Spain, hiking 850km in 30 days just before turning 40.

Amir was born in Tehran, grew up in the Bay Area and lives in San Francisco with is wife and son.

Leila Makarechi- Board Member

Leila Makarechi is passionate about working across sectors and countries to make impact. She currently leads international government strategy and partnerships at Coursera–the world’s largest online education company. Previously, she helped start and scale up Microclinic International, a global health organization. She has also worked for the Latin America bureau of the United Nations Development Programme.

In her free time, she volunteers as a Practitioner in Residence and Big Ideas Judge/Mentor for UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies and serves as a Board Member for a grassroots youth-led NGO in the Dominican Republic. Leila has lived in seven countries across four continents. She and her husband couldn’t be more grateful that Golestan is teaching their son to be a kind global citizen.

Yalda Modabber – Executive Director

Yalda Modabber is Golestan’s co-founder and Executive Director.  As such, she is currently responsible for the organization’s strategic planning and operations. She spends about 50% of her time working on Colab related projects and programs.

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 career paths 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 Kian, 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, now nine and twelve, continue to attend the school.

Neda Nobari – Board Member

Ms. Neda Nobari has a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from San Francisco State University where she now serves on the University Foundation’s Board.  Ms. Nobari was the Co-Founder and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors at bebe stores inc. from 1984 until 2006.  After transitioning away from the corporate sector, Ms. Nobari founded her private foundation and went on to attend Dartmouth College to receive her MA in Liberal Studies, focusing on the intersection of diaspora and cultural identity of Iranian-American women.

Ms. Nobari serves on the Board of Trustees and Advisory Boards of several nonprofit organizations including the Redford Center, Iranian American Women Foundation (IAWF), International Society for Children with Cancer (ISCC), Mom’s Against Poverty (MAP) and Golestan Center for Language Immersion and Cultural Education in Berkeley. In addition to board level commitments, Ms. Nobari works in collaborative partnership with The David Brower Center, Amazon Watch, Human Rights Watch, Chapman University and Mother Jones.

Josh Oliver- Board Member, Primary School Site Committee

Josh H. Oliver is Executive Vice President of the award winning construction and development firm Oliver and Company, Inc. Oliver and Company is in its 70th year of business building commercial, educational, housing, faith based organizations, theaters, an over half its volume is for non-profits at a reduced fee.

Josh is currently a member of Berkeley Rotary and serves on the advisory boards of the Oliver Ranch Foundation, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley Art Center, and Museum of Craft and Design. He is a past board member of Escuela Bilingue International and The Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Josh is a fourth generation Californian who lives in Berkeley with his wife Azar Zavvar and their expanding family. He looks forward to learning more about Persian communities and culture.

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 – Secretary

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.

 

Advisory Board

Ari Kelman – Advisor

Ari is the Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University. His research focus is at the intersection of Education and Jewish Studies, with an emphasis on the myriad ways in which people cultivate ethnic and religious identities and practices.

He is the author of Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio (California, 2009), the editor of Is Diss a System?: A Milt Gross Comic Reader (NYU, 2010), and a co-author of Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary (Alban Institute, 2011). He is also the author of a number of articles about contemporary Jewish identity and culture, among other things.

Ari has a PhD in American Studies from New York University and BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz.

Laurie Capitelli – Primary School Site Committee

Laurie Capitelli is a Bay Area native and UC Berkeley graduate. Laurie is a three-term Berkeley City Council member and has served on the Berkeley Public Schools Fund Board since the 1980s when his own children were in the Berkeley schools. Laurie was a high school history teacher before becoming a real estate agent in the 1970s at Red Oak Realty; he is now retired. During his tenure, Laurie led the efforts on the Berkeley City Council for universal access to preschool and addressing substance abuse at Berkeley High School. Laurie’s civic life in Berkeley includes service on both the City’s Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board.  Before running for City Council, Laurie served as the chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Development and the Permit Process.

Matthew Stromberg – Primary School Site Committee

Matthew is a LEED AP licensed architect in California, and sole proprietor of the firm, Stromberg Architecture, based in Berkeley.  He received a graduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University in 1994.  For five years, Matthew performed internationally with the MacArthur Award recipient and daredevil choreographer Elizabeth Streb in her professional dance company Streb, Ringside, Inc. based out of New York City.  

Matthew returned to his native Berkeley for a Master’s in Architecture from the University of California, which he completed in 2003.  His practice includes residential, commercial, stage set, furniture and architectural hardware design. Before establishing his own practice, Matthew worked for five years with the award-winning firm Fernau & Hartman in Berkeley.

Golestan Community Association:

  • Alexandra Singer
  • Aliah Najmabadi
  • Azi Rad
  • Ellie Han
  • Erinn Nahid
  • Farigol Bineshpour
  • Lina Nazar
  • Maryam Shishineh
  • Minoo Akbarian
  • Naseem Badiey
  • Pegah Afkary (Communications Chair)
  • Shiva Niazi
  • Tiffany Charles (Chair)
  • Yasi Nouri Massih