Meet the LeaderSpring Staff


dr. Sonia Bassheva mañjon,
Executive director,
Class of 2006 Alumni

Sonia’s experience ranges higher education, nonprofit, and government administration. She served as the inaugural director of the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise at The Ohio State University (OSU). Before joining OSU, Sonia was Vice President for Institutional Partnerships, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), and Visiting Associate Professor of Theatre at Wesleyan University. She was appointed by Connecticut Speaker of the House to the State Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. In California, she was a member of the Alameda County Education Reform Policy Board for secondary and postsecondary education. Sonia is also the former executive director of the Center for Art and Public Life at California College of the Arts. She’s always up for yoga, swimming, and spending time with her sons Zyan and Ezra.


Rachel Farahbakhsh joined the LeaderSpring team in November 2014. She brings many years of experience working in non-profit operations and resource development and is looking forward to continuing to build LeaderSpring’s infrastructure. Prior to joining LeaderSpring Rachel worked as the Operations Manager at Citizen Schools California where she was the “go-to” person for human resources, finance and operations for a regional team of close to 100 staff members working at 5 different school sites. A native Bostonian, Rachel spent three years in Guatemala with Safe Passage/Camino Seguro before making the move to California. She is LeaderSpring’s wisdom trust and keeps the office running, answering any and all questions that may come up! Rachel likes ice cream and studies Afro-Brazilian percussion and dance.


Deputy director

Safi brings more than 25 years of experience in the public and nonprofit sectors as a leader, grantmaker, consultant and certified integral. She worked with the city of Oakland's art and cultural division for over 13 years, and was a funder of non-profit art organizations and individual artists. Her leadership positions have included: Executive Director of the Marcus Foster Ed Fund; Community Faculty Fellow with the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts; and Grants and Nonprofit Management Analyst for the City of Oakland’s Cultural Arts Department. Safi is an alumna of the LeaderSpring Class of 2008! She is LeaderSpring’s seer and spiritual anchor. Safi is an avid reader usually reading 3 books at a time. If she’s reading novels, all the characters get mixed into each other’s stories, making for one grand novel.

Carri Katonah,
Program Coordinator

Carri has managed programs in youth leadership development and environmental education for over 8 years, specifically with the Student Conservation Association, as well as other non-profits in the Bay Area and Denver, Colorado. While she has called the Bay Area home for almost 10 years, she is originally from the Chicagoland area. In the past she has volunteered with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), was a Program Chair for Bay Area Wilderness Training, and a mentor with the I Have a Dream Foundation. Carri is interested in working at the root of social justice issues in order to create systemic change. She is currently taking a viticulture course educating the office on vines and wines. Carri loves to spend time exploring outdoors, adventuring with her family, and will one day have a small community-based farm.


Molly Linares,
Program Assistant, Fellowship services

Molly is a San Diego native, and a recent graduate from San Francisco State University with a degree in Latina/Latino Culture and a minor in Race and Resistance Studies. She also graduated from the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) with the Center of Third World Organizing, where she helped organize around worker rights and immigrant rights in the Greater Boston Area. Before joining LeaderSpring Molly worked as a Legislative Intern for a California Senator. She looks forward to supporting the work of the fellows throughout their fellowship at LeaderSpring. Molly is our foodie, cooking delicious soups that she brings for lunch and recommending the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Oakland.

eric medrano,
Program assistant, consulting services

Born and raised in Oakland, Eric joins LeaderSpring as a recent San Jose State graduate where he earned a BA in Political Science with a Minor in Business. Eric served in student government as Vice President and was involved in the California State University policy-making process advocating for student issues. His passion for working to improve the social sector comes from working as a student organizer, through which he led campaigns to oppose tuition increases, advocate for higher faculty salary, and support Proposition 13, among other local initiatives affecting students across the CSU system. Eric will one day work in legislature to increase access to higher education. His favorite podcasts include: Latino USA, TED Radio Hour, TED Politics. Eric holds it down as the only man in the office.

Mara Perez 2016 Portrait.jpg


Dr. Mara Perez has been working in collaboration with non-profit and business leaders for 20 years. To date, she has served nearly one hundred organizations, most of which concentrating on low-income populations of color, including Blacks and Latinos. Her expertise is in philanthropy, social justice, equity, leadership development, and education. In 1998, Dr. Perez earned a PhD. in Sociology from The University of Chicago. She has also received the Marin Award as Latino Business Person of the Year. Dr. Perez was a fellow of the Coro Community Leadership Program, and last year participated in an executive leadership program at Stanford University about the science of decision-making. She’s helping LeaderSpring thrive through this time of transition and transformation to come out stronger in 2018.

Outreach and engagement associate

Lea studied Philosophy at Portland State University and the University College London before moving to China to teach English. Prior to joining LeaderSpring, Lea worked at the Center for Women’s Leadership and participated in politics, cultivating her leadership skills and affecting political change through her work in a congressional office and on a political campaign. In June 2015, she volunteered as a Witness for Peace Delegate in Cuba. Lea is interested in community development and in finding innovative, cross-sector solutions to social issues. She began at LeaderSpring in January 2017 supporting the development and operations departments. She enjoys singing along to Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, and makes sure the staff gets cookies on a regular basis.


Our Leadership Council

HOLLY GOLD, CLASS 5 (VICE CHAIR) Rockridge Little Schools


Rockridge Little Schools





CPA, Marcum LLC