aryn-bowmanAryn E. Salazar-Bowman, Principal

  • Smith College, BA in International Political Economy/South Asian Studies
  • UC Berkeley, Principal Leadership Institute, M.Ed in Urban Education and Principal Leadership

Aryn Salazar-Bowman has been part of the small schools movement in OUSD for over a decade, teaching High School history as well as serving as principal at the East Oakland School of the Arts where she was awarded both Teacher of the Year award (2008) as well the School Leader of the Year award (2012).  When not at school, she loves gardening in her backyard in Oakland, baking for her colleagues and her students, reading good books and hiking in Redwood Regional Park. Aryn is deeply committed to ensuring that all students are given the educational opportunities needed to have choice filled lives.

aman-watsonAman Watson, Assistant Principal

  • UC Davis, BA in Psychology and History
  • UC Berkeley, Principal Leadership Institute, M.Ed in Urban Education and Principal Leadership

Aman started her journey in education in 2001 serving as a middle school history teacher in San Pablo, as an after school coordinator for Helms Community Project, then teaching art at Richmond High School before she made the big move to Berkeley as an Academic Dean at Realm Charter School.  In 2016, she decided to fully invest in herself as a social justice leader through the Principal Leadership Institute and transitioned into the role of an assistant principal at Life Academy soon thereafter.  Aman is dedicated to preparing all young people to be able to participate in their lives as fully as possible, both as learners and as empathetic and relational beings in their communities.  Outside of school, you can find Aman rock climbing, swimming, trail running or biking in Tilden, spending time with her nephew, making jewelry, and building out her Sprinter van with Aran, her husband.

emily-rigottiEmily Rigotti, Assistant Principal

  • UC Berkeley, BA in Integrative Biology and Public Health, Minor in Education
  • Alliant International University, M.Ed. in Secondary Science
  • CSU East Bay, Administrative Services Credential

Emily Rigotti has been working at Life Academy since 2005.  She taught high school Biology, Physiology, Biotechnology, and Psychology for seven years before becoming Assistant Principal in 2013 when Life Academy opened a Middle School.  Ms. Rigotti was also a founding teacher for Life Academy’s extensive internship program, as she was the former Academy Director and Internship Coordinator.  She firmly believes that students truly can have transformative learning experiences if their classroom learning is linked to real-world applications in both internships and beyond.  Ms. Rigotti’s heart will always be in the classroom and she has continued to teach her Advisory, who she now shares with Ms. Issa.  Her Advisee’s are like her second family and she feels that this personal link to her students has helped ensure their academic successes.  In her free time, Ms. Rigotti loves hiking, skiing, and traveling with her husband, Jackee, and her daughter, Zoe.

rodrigo-sandoval-perezRodrigo Sandoval-Perez (aka Roro), School Counselor

  • UC Berkeley, BA in Ethnic Studies/Chicano Studies
  • Columbia University, M.Ed in School Counseling, MA in Counseling Psychology

Roro graduated from Life Academy in 2007 and with the support the Gates Millennium scholarship went on to graduate from both Cal and Teachers College at Columbia University in order to work in his home community of East Oakland. When he is not supporting young people at Life, he can at found attending Raiders, Warriors and A’s games and taking photographs.

alicia-garibaldiAlicia Garibaldi, Administrative Assistant

Oakland native, proud parent and employed with OUSD since 1993. Awarded expect success secretary of the year high school network (2007.)  Proud to have grown as a student and now employee with OUSD. Was one of the founding students to attend OUSD’s first bilingual schools “La Escuelita” and “Centro Infantil CDC.” She is committed to supporting staff, students and families in her school community. Alicia strongly supports making quality education equitable and accessible for ALL OUSD students. She enjoys life by staying active, exploring new places, cooking and spending quality time with her family and friends.

nicole-trujilloNicole Trujillo, Dean of Students

  • University of Arizona, BA in Psychology/Mexican American Studies

Nicole Trujillo born in Arizona, raised in Colorado. Worked in education for over 15 years both nationally and internationally. She is committed to empowering young people to improve the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well being by becoming socially conscious, knowledgeable and active.  Free time is spent weaving, making traditional native beaded earrings, watching sports and attending anything music related.

venusVenus Mesui, Front Office and Case Manager

Venus loves, lives and breathes “DaToWn,” and the beautiful diverse community that makes Oakland a very unique and special place. She is a founding member of Life Academy High School and has served our families youth and community since 2001. Venus was fortunate to work with 5-amazing Principals and it is an honor to work with our current Principal Aryn Bowman. Several of her family members have graduated from Life Academy including her Son Lama, her Daughter Kisha, and many nieces and nephews.

She loves working with the youth as she pushes them to see their ultimate potential and encourages them to always bring their best selves to every situation they face in life. Venus is a well rounded and a respected Life Academy staff member. She currently holds the position of Case Manager, serves on the Restorative Justice Team, and works the front office. Venus was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii stays true to her spiritual and cultural identity native Hawaiian, and has been living in the East Bay for a whopping 32 years, who said your heart can’t be in 2-places at 1-time 50/31, Hawaii/Cali for Life.

On her downtime she loves kicking back watching our local teams the Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors, the Oakland A’s and also loves Rugby, New Zealand All Blacks is her favorite team. Venus enjoys hiking with her Huskie Balto and Bolo, being outdoors loves reggae music going to concerts, and spending time with friends and her precious family. “I welcomed my first Grandchild Baby Lacie who is now 2-years old and is my second heartbeat and the love of my life.”

eric-waters-2Eric Waters, Coordinator, FACES Behavioral Health Pathways

  • Hampshire College, BA in Social Theory and Art
  • San Francisco State University, Master of Social Work (MSW)

Eric L. Waters, LCSW is a social worker and an activist. He is a licensed mental health clinician and has been providing educational experiences and trainings for 10+ years. Eric was originally trained as a movement organizer and workshop facilitator. He also enjoys playing soccer, drums and figuring out how to be the best step-parent he can be.

sarah-b-wrightSarah Bunch, Clinical Supervisor and Coordinator

  • University of San Francisco, BA in Psychology
  • California School of Professional Psychology, Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD)

Dr. Sarah Bunch is a licensed clinical psychologist whose clinical work and training has focused primarily on complex trauma in children and adolescents. Since 2003 Dr. Bunch has sought to provide culturally sensitive mental health services to children, parents, and teenagers as they seek to cope with life’s challenges. She has been teaching, training, and supervising counselors at Life Academy since 2013 through the Wright Institute’s School-Based Collaboration Program. Sarah also spends her time reading, cooking, eating, and parenting 2 young girls in the beautiful Bay Area.

dscf1375Meghan Vaughan, Speech Language Pathologist

  • Elon University, B.S. in Business Administration
  • Rush University, M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology

Originally from Kansas City, Meghan moved to Chicago after college to work in commercial development. In 2012, Meghan decided to change careers completely and went back to school for Speech Language Pathology. Meghan has been working in OUSD since January 2016. Prior to working at Life Academy, Meghan received clinical experience working in Chicago Public Schools, in private practice, and in the medical setting. She is excited to continue to grow as a therapist with her students in Oakland. When not in the classroom, she is traveling, exploring the Bay Area, walking her dog or hanging with friends and family.

Yelitza Lua, Bilingual Attendance Specialist 

  • University of California, Los Angeles, BA Chicana/o Studies and Spanish

Yelitza Lua was born in Mexico and lived there until the age of six. She was raised in Berkeley and attended UCLA were she discovered a passion for learning about the history of her people on both sides of the border (United States and Mexico). She is driven by simplicity, hard work and humility in her personal life and in serving our parents and students. On her time off, she enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, decorating, and watching her son and siblings learn and grow.