Board of Directors

Joanne M. BrownJoanne M. Brown, President

MSW, JD, Faculty Member Center for Human Services, UC Davis

Ms. Brown combined legal and community organization skills throughout her career. Her legal practice primarily focused on criminal law and civil rights litigation. Joanne was appointed to the bench in Alameda County as a Superior Court Commissioner assigned to Juvenile Court and Criminal Court. During two periods, Joanne worked in state government in New Mexico. She served as Division Director for Adult Institutions in the Corrections Department and later, as General Counsel for the Department for Children Youth and Families (CYFD), responsible for statewide child and family services and juvenile corrections.  Joanne consulted for a decade for the National Resource Center for Legal and Judicial Issues (Center on Children and the Law, American Bar Association) where she worked with state courts and child welfare agencies in over forty states to implement the system of national child welfare outcomes.  During the past 6 years, Joanne has been a member of the faculty at the Center for Human Services, University of California, Davis. The Center, through the Northern Training Academy, provides training for social workers throughout California and management support for county social services leadership. Joanne is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley where she received her BA, MSW and JD.

Denise Coleman, Secretary

MSW, Director of Huckleberry Youth Program’s Juvenile Justice Programs

Ms. Coleman, born and raised in San Francisco, has led Huckleberry’s Community Assessment & Resource Center since 1999. The center has become one of the foremost juvenile justice programs in San Francisco. It provides youth arrested for less serious violent crimes with a rehabilitative, supportive alternative to incarceration. Under Ms. Coleman’s leadership, CARC has supported over 12,000 at-risk youth and is a national model of excellence for community-based juvenile justice diversion programs.  Ms. Coleman has extensive experience working with diverse populations in both residential, Delancey Street Foundation, and community-based organizations. Ms. Coleman has been engaged with and supervised case management and substance abuse transition for over 25 years. She has a Masters in Social Work from San Francisco State University and is an expert in the juvenile justice community.  She serves as the co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Providers Association of San Francisco, and has served as a Youth Justice Project Associate for The Vera Institute of Justice in New York.  She received the 2010 Local Hero of the Year award from KQED for outstanding work in the community at large.

Sheetal Bhaskarabhatla, Member

Sheetal Bhaskarabhatla has spent the last 8 years of her career focused on Marketing & Strategy for the Healthcare sector. She is currently a Product Manager at Abbott in the East Bay and resides in San Francisco. Through the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago, Sheetal has completed coursework and hands-on consulting projects in the topics of Governance, Strategy, and Scaling for Social Enterprises. Sheetal also served as a Board Fellow for One Hope United, a nonprofit in Illinois providing child and family services. Sheetal earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a B.S.E. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Sheetal is deeply passionate about social justice, education, and policy and brings to Life Learning Academy expertise in strategic planning and general management.

Nate Farris, Member

Nate has over 15 years of accounting experience, providing audit and consulting services to Bay Area companies and organizations. He worked with BPM LLP, offering audit, review, attestation, and consulting services to a wide variety of private companies and nonprofit organizations. Nate holds a degree in Accounting from Azusa Pacific University and has been a Certified Public Accountant for 13 years. Currently, he is Chief Financial Officer of PTLA Real Estate Group and he oversees the administrative, financial, and risk management operations of the company. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and of the California Society of CPAs (CalCPA) and is a Board Member of Catalight Foundation and Life Learning Academy Charter School.

Amy Kao, Member

Ms. Kao has long been passionate about furthering education for young people, working at USC’s Center for Urban Education to advocate for equity in higher education, and volunteering at Northwest Neighbors and 32nd St. School in Los Angeles. She spent a number of years as a management consultant in Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations group, eventually specializing in healthcare and life sciences. She is now part of the Growth Strategy team at a digital health startup called Honor, which strives to use technology and a novel network model to enable quality in-home care for older adults.


Allan Pickens, Member

LLA Graduate, July 2018

Mr. Pickens has been associated with the Life Learning Academy for 13 years. After graduating in 2008, Allan went on a transition period. After two years of City College, he went on to manage his own book of business in two different industries over the 5 years. He dived in the worlds of Direct Sales and Insurance Sales. After a life saving weight loss procedure in 2012, Allan went on to become a Lead Sales Specialist for the Bose Corporation. His time there was most successful by winning internal company awards for performance, receiving the highest customer service reviews in his district two fiscal years in a row. He currently works for TechSoup as an Account Management Specialist, working with nonprofit organizations to supply them with technological products and services to strengthen their mission and goals. He looks forward to one day capturing a college degree and having a bigger role in the non-profit sector.

Sue Shalvey, Member

A resident of Linden, California, Sue’s work as an education consultant grew out of her successful career as a teacher, principal and leader in San Joaquin County, the Bay Area and Silicon Valley district and charter systems, where her expertise in serving students with disabilities and advancing their success was established. As Aspire Public Schools’ Director of Special Education, she established cooperative programs with states, districts and non-profit organizations, as well as launched Aspire’s special education teacher residency program with University of Pacific. Sue was a member of California’s State Task Force for Special Education and established California’s statewide charter schools organization. She served on the Board of Charles Armstrong School and currently serves as Chair of the Community Foundation of San Joaquin and as a member of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation Board.