The Executive Team
Alvin Lee (he/him) is the founder and Executive Director of GENup. In this capacity, he oversees day-to-day operations of the organization as well as strategic development and expansion of the organization as a whole. He began his foray into political activism after working for several campaigns as a younger child, and was deeply impressed by the sheer impact organizing can make on other people's lives. Alvin is deeply involved with political activism in his local community and beyond and found a spark for education policy and advocacy late freshman year. Since then, he's been extremely engaged in educational issues in both his local community and beyond and is excited to lead GENup in a new direction. Alvin believes that grassroots, community-oriented organizing is at the core of every successful movement. In his free time, Alvin enjoys music, hiking, and tennis.
Development and Fundraising
Gratia O'Rafferty (she/her) is the Director of Development and Fundraising at GENup. She got started working with GENup to organize the Oakland March for Education, advocating for Schools and Communities First. She is passionate about education reform because she has seen the inequity within the education system and believes that education is the foundation of all other activism and students' lives. As Director of Development and Fundraising, she facilitates communication with the fiscal sponsor, oversees fundraising operations, and manages GENup's budget. Gratia also leads and runs communication and relationship management between GENup's Executive Team and GENup's Board of Directors & Advisors. In addition to GENup, Gratia is a junior at Bishop O'Dowd High School where she is the captain of the Speech and Debate team, which has pushed her to seek out opportunities to make her voice heard and engage in student activism. She is a member of GENup's executive team because she believes that in order to see change, students have to help each other be heard and work together to confront issues.
Director of Outreach
Sam Blattner (he/him) is the Director of Outreach for GENup. Sam is a junior at Albany High School, and is also on the leadership team for his local Youth and Government chapter for the past two years where he has run statewide campaigns, planned and facilitated chapter meetings, and mentored young members. He is on the leadership team of SPEAK, a group of students from Albany High who educate elementary schoolers on issues such as intersectionality and racism. Sam is also a member of Peer Help, a passionate group of students who teach fellow highschoolers about mental health and provide sex education. Sam has been an elementary school classroom aide as well as an assistant at his temple’s religious school for the past four years. He is passionate about education and concerned about inequalities facing our school system. He is excited to be a part of GENup's executive team and looks forward to growing the movement to implement a positive vision for education across California.
Director of Communications
Josette Thornhill (she/her) is a senior at Aragon High School. As an editor-in-chief of her school newspaper as well as an intern at a local publication, she's very passionate about journalism and utilizing media platforms to spread awareness on political issues. She began involvement with GENup through a local organization called the San Mateo Activist Coalition, which encouraged student activism on a variety of issues including gun violence prevention, reproductive rights and environmental action. During her time with that organization, she worked on organizing several walk-outs and rallies, a hygiene products drive, and a documentary about lead poisoning as a result of structural racism in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. As the Director of Communications for GENup, she enjoys writing blogs, newsletters and press releases to bring GENup's mission to a wider audience. She's very passionate about education advocacy and promoting equity between California's students, and is grateful to be a part of GENup's historic work in the field.
Director of Innovation and Strategy
Cady Chen (she/her) is a junior at the Harker School. Having attended/experienced both public and private school systems, she understands the importance of educational equity and strongly believes that every student deserves an equal chance at success. She serves as the Director of Innovation and Strategy for GENup and is responsible for identifying, developing, and planning new initiatives for the organization as a whole. Cady leads an innovation team that focuses on identifying new areas of potential development and growth within GENup to better allow us as a whole to promote our educational values and amplify our work. Aside from being an education activist, she is also a student researcher as well as a musician. She is deeply involved in her local community and looks forward to sharing her love for community organizing and education advocacy/activism to students across California, and with the rest of the GENup Executive Team.
Director of Organizing and Marketing
Iris Zhou (she/her) is a junior from San Jose, California and goes to Leland High School. Through school programs like speech and debate, she became aware of social injustices and inequality surrounding our community today. Attending local marches and rallies such as March for our Lives and Women’s March helped inspire her to take a more active role in political activism, hence why she joined GENUp and helped organize our first ever March for Education in San Jose. She loves grassroots organizing and knows firsthand the importance of speaking up and persisting toward your values. As GENUp’s national Executive Director of Organizing, Iris oversees GENup's Board of Organizing and manages relationship between the Executive Team and GENup Chapter President. In addition, she oversees strategic expansion into new school districts and manages/facilitates State Council. She is excited to be a part of GENup's Executive Team and can't wait to lead GENup's strategic organizing efforts in various facets of education advocacy.
Josephine Cureton (she/her) is proud to be GENup’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. Her role entails building and maintain connections with our 25+ partner organizations, ranging from teacher unions to youth-led civic engagement non-profits. In addition to her education policy work at GENup, Josephine currently serves as Chair of the San Francisco Youth Commission, where she focuses on justice issues and community engagement, volunteers for progressive political campaigns, and is the Western Regional Director at the Empowerment Collective, the youth behind the California Youth Empowerment Act (AB 1858). Josephine was also the recipient for the prestigious Cameron Impact Scholar. ,At Lowell High School, she was involved in her school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program, serving as Battalion Commander and competing with the Lowell Exhibition Drill Team. She is a product of San Francisco’s public schools and will matriculate at Yale University in Fall 2020. She is excited to spread her love and passion for student activism, student voice, and education activism to all of CA's students through GENup's campaigns.
Governmental Affairs and
Benjamin Salop (he/him) is a junior at Oakland Technical High School. Benjamin is passionate about understanding the community at large and loves to walk the streets that he represents and connect with people. Benjamin serves on Oakland's All City Council where he serves as the LCAP director, helping manage LCAP funding formulas from a perspective of student voice. He also sits on the Board of Generation Citizen, a national organization committed to lowering voting ages in elections to 16. He has also been an intern for the City of Berkeley and was likewise selected for the prestigious Coro Fellowship as a Norcal Fellow. He is also the Co-Chairman of the Oakland Youth Commission and was a Persisten for the Warren Campaign. Benjamin enjoys organizing and political affairs in his free team, and is a school site representative at his higschool. He is a proud leader of his student union and a myriad of school clubs. In his free time, Benjamin likes to learn new languages, go on long hikes with his camera, and tackle challenging projects. He is excited to share his love of education policy and political affairs with GENup and leverage his unique experiences to make an impact on his community at large.
Director of Technology
Chief of Staff
Genavieve Koenigshofer (she/her) is a freshman at University of California: San Diego pursuing a major in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. As Chief of Staff, she oversees all Directors on the Executive Team and coordinates GENup’s operations. She is convinced she has the easiest job because everyone is so committed and passionate! She developed an interest in educational policy as the 2019-2020 Student Advisor to the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees, representing over 50,000 students. In this role, she prioritized diverse student voices by founding the first CUSD Student Advisory Council and becoming the first student representative on the CUSD Cultural Proficiency Task Force. Genavieve has also acted as the Operations Vice President to Congresswoman Katie Porter’s Youth Advisory Board, and the co-founder and co-president of Inspire To Be, through which she planned and executed a number of community service programs from a benefit concert to a virtual cooking show fundraiser. Genavieve became involved with GENup as a founding member of the California Student Board Member Association and now sits on their Board of Directors. She looks forward to continuing her involvement as the Director of College & University Relations for GENup San Diego County, and the founder and president of GENup Collegiate at UCSD.
Director of Technology
Associate Director of
Siddhartha Mishra (he/him) is a rising junior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino. Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, he has always been surrounded by technology and predictably has a strong passion for STEM, programming, and the tech industry as a whole. However, in recent years he has noticed that although there are various opportunities in technology, there is a large issue of diversity in the tech industry and he has realigned my focuses to using technology to create equal opportunities for all. Additionally, since he is a student in high school, he realized that the area in which he can have the biggest impact is in education and has worked with other friends to help bridge the problem of educational inequity in our district and ensure that everyone reaches the same education. That is why he believes GENup is the perfect organization for him and was aligned with my interests and passions. Since joining GENup, he has worked with the team and the community to address educational issues and start the conversation for education reform on a local level, something that he is very proud of.
Benjamin Tarver (he/him) is a senior at American High School in Fremont. He discovered his passion for educational advocacy through GENup, promoting the expansion of state education spending through Propositions 13 + 15 and youth civic engagement in his capacity as a Student Ambassador and, later, Director of Organizing for his local chapter. As Deputy Director of Communications, Benjamin performs outreach to the community through podcasts (check out the Blog/Podcast tab to listen to The Edgenda), blog posts, newsletters, and interactions with news media. He is highly appreciative of the opportunities GENup has afforded him to advance the cause of education equity and would like to give a special thanks to his friends in Student Council and Leadership for encouraging him with their congeniality to take his vision of serving his community to new heights. In his free time, Benjamin enjoys listening to current events podcasts, going on midnight strolls, and playing with his dog Cooper. He is ecstatic at the prospect of contributing to GENup’s initiatives on a nationwide level as a member of the Executive Board and looks forward to applying his experience as both a writer/communicator and an organizer to further impact educational policy in the state of California.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Sarah Cheung (she/her) is a senior at San Francisco University High School. As the GENup Director of Strategic Partnerships, she is responsible for building and maintaining connections with our 40+ partner organizations, from teacher unions to youth-led nonprofits. Her passion for education advocacy sparked from growing up in San Francisco’s public schools and after-school programs and seeing a stark contrast in resources and opportunities compared to private high schools. Sarah was inspired from her experience to become involved in activism through TeenTechSF, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to tech for all teens, where she served as the Communication Co-Chair and is currently the President. This work led her to become familiar with the San Francisco Youth Commission, a chartered body that gives recommendations to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor’s Office on youth-related legislation. On the Youth Commission, she currently serves as the District 1 Representative and Vice Chair, and has been a youth leader on Vote16, a charter amendment on November’s ballot to expand voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds in municipal elections. At school, she is the leader of their AAPI Club and an admissions ambassador. In her free time, she enjoys playing music, exploring new places, and eating good food. Sarah is excited to continue pushing for equitable education and demand change through GENup’s campaigns.
Associate Director of Outreach
Dana Agbede (she/her) is the Director of Outreach at GENUp. Passionate about educational accessibility, she utilizes her role to gather resources and design strategies to ensure the success of policy initiatives. Born and raised in Southern California, Dana’s experience with socioeconomically diverse communities has cemented her commitment to equitable access to education. She is passionate about hands-on involvement in creating a better educational experience for students from marginalized backgrounds. This has led her to volunteer with children on the autism spectrum and to designing a national tutoring infrastructure as a member of the executive board of Teens Tutor Teens, an entirely student-run 501c nonprofit. Her passion for political advocacy and fighting social injustice grew from her experience in policy debate. As she begins her second year as captain of her team, her eagerness to research the political process continues to inform her activism. She brings her devotion to research and her interest in education reform to her position at GENUp. She maintains a deep commitment to amplifying the voices of students at her school. As the founder of a multicultural coalition, Dana has become an advocate for racial justice through generating implicit bias curriculum for students and teachers. Her ongoing involvement in the education policy shapes her enthusiasm to collaborate with the rest of the executive board and create nationwide change.
Melissa Liu (she/her) is a rising junior at Irvington High School in California. She serves as the Artistic Director for GENup and is responsible to oversee the creation of all promotional and informational material for the team, especially on the website and on GENup's social media platforms. She has dabbled in art and design for several years, and has earned various regional, national, and international prizes for her work, from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards to being published in the World Journal to creating advertisements for other organizations. Overall, she is invested in sharing her worldview and spreading awareness about current issues through her art! Beyond being an artist and an activist, she loves to read, look at rabbits, and video call with her friends. She believes in education and supporting both students and educators throughout California.
Associate Director of Operations
Caitlynn Hauw (she/her) is a sophomore from San Diego, California. While working to combat the technological barriers that have arisen due to her cities transition to distance learning, Caitlynn has seen the effects inequitable resource distribution has deeply had on some of the students within her community. Realizing this issue stemmed from education inequality, her involvement in GENup began soon after in her freshman year of high school as she served as GENup San Diego’s Chief of Staff and became familiar with the logistics required to support an organization. As a strong advocate for youth civic engagement, she also began working with the San Diego Council of Education (SDCOE) to establish a county-wide student cabinet, ensuring diverse student perspectives are actively heard within San Diego’s education system. Through her school’s speech and debate program and other activities such as her school’s newspaper, she has gained greater political awareness and firms views of the world—now GENup has ignited a passion within her to speak up about the pervasive issues surrounding her community and the world.
Michelle Alas (she/her) is a senior at Northgate High School and the GENup Nationwide Policy Director. She is a proud Salvadoran-American living in the Bay Area. She strives to ensure representation of Latinx/Hispanic folks in local government as well as mobilize the next generation of leaders. Michelle is Chairperson of the Walnut Creek Youth Leadership Commission, where she has facilitated voter registration drives and undertaken a virtual Cultural Awareness series. Formerly the President of the GENup Mt. Diablo-Acalanes Chapter, Michelle moderated webinars with prominent local leaders in education, so that all student constituents had the opportunity to ask the questions that needed to be asked. As a Democratic Party Fellow, the President of Region 4 California Association of Student Councils, and co-founder of Empowered Contra Costa, a youth-led initiative giving students the resources to effectively phone bank on a variety of issues, Michelle demonstrates her beliefs in the power of democracy and the will of the people. As a Presidential Gold Service Award recipient, Michelle has shown immense dedication to serving people in her community. She is currently one of three finalists to serve as the next Student Member on the California State Board of Education. Michelle is a strong advocate for education equity and reform in the state of California, so that every child has the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment.
Associate Director of Fundraising
Jessica Yu (she/her) is the Associative Director of Fundraising at GENup. She is currently a junior at Mission San Jose in California. With a passion for business, Jessica hopes to impact GENup through her business knowledge. As Associative Director of Fundraising, she assists in grassroots fundraising and introducing new ways to generate income. She also serves as the Director of Accounting at her school's DECA chapter and is also Chief Finance Officer at Tri-City Band Corps, a student run non-profit. As a staff writer at her school's newspaper The Smoke Signal and as a Features Intern at local newspaper The Tri-City Voice, she enjoys writing about worldwide issues and expressing her thoughts through writing. In her spare time, she enjoyed playing with her corgi, hanging out with friends, and producing music. Although GENup is one of her first ventures into activism, she is excited to gain more experience in grassroots fundraising and towards becoming an advocate for change.
Grant Application Team
Manasi Gajjalapurna (she/her) is a sophomore at Los Gatos High School. As part of the grant application team, she helps research and apply to grants for GENup’s projects and expenses as well as help build and maintain relationships with donors. As a first generation student, she understands the importance of prioritizing student education and providing all students with the resources and education they need regardless of their background. Growing up in a town that struggled with diversity and cultural awareness allowed Manasi to realize the importance of educating her peers and community members on these topics. Through being involved in Leadership and various campaigns to raise funds and
technology for students, she saw the power she had as a student in her school and community in regards to the issues she saw. She began to raise her voice to advocate
for educational disparities and lack of resources. Manasi is proud to be part of an organization that has an impact on a large scale by improving the education system in
California as a whole, but also focuses on the needs of individual communities which is just as important. She is excited to continue her impact through GENup by using her
passions for campaigning and outreach to advocate for educational equity across classrooms and work to improve the access to resources, education, and rights for students of all backgrounds.
Associate Director of
Rylee Vizvary (she/her) is a junior at Calabasas High School. Her love for her community began with a nonprofit organization called National Charity League (NCL) with which she has volunteered over four hundred hours to organizations within her local community. Since joining GENup, Rylee has become fascinated by the work being done to improve education as she is disgusted by the current injustices present within the system. As a very inclusive person, Rylee believes every opinion is valuable and real change cannot occur if these opinions are not spoken. Rylee believes the key to a successful organization is an atmosphere willing to embrace any opinion offered. In addition, Rylee is a member of her school’s Link Crew, which is a program created to provide a welcoming environment for the incoming freshmen class. In her free time, Rylee enjoys painting, reading, and playing golf.
Bella Jiang (she/her) is a senior at American High School in Fremont, California. Heavily involved in her school’s student government, she has always been interested in youth leadership. She has interned for numerous election campaigns in the Bay Area, consistently interested in furthering her civic involvement. She began her GENup journey in her hometown’s chapter by assisting in the organization of a voter registration drive, attending voting rallies, and helping launch a district-wide campaign focused on student mental health and school safety. Now serving on the Executive Team as Content Creator, she is excited to expand GENup’s social media presence and spread the word about education advocacy! In Bella’s free time, you can catch her writing, telling bad jokes, and playing board games with her family!
Rick Mandal (he/him) is a freshmxn at UCSD’s Eleanor Roosevelt College from Fremont, California and is currently pursuing a Clinical Psychology degree. As someone who is looking to become a child psychiatrist to assist underserved and underfunded youth communities in the future, he recognizes the multiple hurdles many of those community members have to overcome in order receive a quality, holistic education and access higher education institutions. Although he is relatively new to the advocacy scene, Rick wishes to be of service to these communities as soon as he can and turned to GENup to do so. He is presently the Social Media Co-Manager for GENup and the Media Co-Director of GENup Collegiate at UCSD. In his free time, Rick enjoys listening to music while tending to his numerous houseplants and working on his portrait photography business.