Jake Schoneker - Executive Director

Jake has worked with Youth Beat since its inception in 2010-- building YB's education programs and curriculum, creating community partnerships and helping produce 100+ youth-led media projects. He has led the organization as Executive Director since 2016, when founder Jeff Key retired. Jake has over 10 years experience working with inner-city youth, and his documentary film work has appeared on the PBS NewsHour, the AFP, MSNBC and other outlets. He holds a master’s degree in Journalism from UC Berkeley, where his work concentrated on youth media and multimedia journalism.

Ramasses Head - Production Coordinator

Ram is an accomplished filmmaker and Oakland native. He began making videos as a student at Fremont High School’s Media Academy over 20 years ago, and he has worked as Lead Director and Production Manager at KDOL-TV, directing over 2,000 live air productions over the course of 17 years. Ram is Founder and CEO of History in the Making Entertainment, which has produced a successful reality DVD series, five independent feature films, over 40 music videos, and many corporate productions. He regularly produces entertainment, health, and community-based television programming in Oakland and other parts of the SF Bay Area.

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Sagesse Graham - Program Manager

Sagesse has dedicated her life and career to youth empowerment through the arts with a focus on video and audio production. Skilled in interdisciplinary learning, creative facilitation, and curriculum design she has great passion for developing and crafting programs. Emphasizing emotional and multiple intelligence as well as teaching to all learning styles, her programs speak to young people and engage them on many levels. She has worked with world renown organizations such as The Power of Hope, Partners for Youth Empowerment and The Riekes Center. She holds a BA from the Evergreen State College.

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Miguel Astudillo - Teaching Artist

Miguel is an Oakland-based video producer, cinematographer, and educator. His film “We’re meant to be Reinas” won Best Documentary at the Providencia International Film Festival, and was an official selection at the San Francisco Latino Film Fest. Miguel is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz’s Social Documentation Film Program. His work has appeared in AJ Plus, Fusion TV, National Geographic, Wired, and the United Nations. His passion to use video as a tool for change brought him back to the classroom, where he now teaches multimedia production. Miguel is a native Spanish speaker.

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Sarah Givens – Development Director

Sarah began working at Youth Beat in Fall 2016. She brings over 10 years of nonprofit development and marketing experience. Sarah sees fundraising as a means of connecting generous people to opportunities for improving the lives of others, thereby making their communities better, safer, and more equitable. She has a master’s degree from Columbia University.

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Claire Weissbluth – Teaching Artist, MetWest High School

Claire is a documentary filmmaker and editor. She is the assistant editor of the PBS web series The F Word and edited web content for the PBS show Food Forward. Before coming to Youth Beat, she taught for a youth video production program at the Bay Area Video Coalition. Claire graduated from Hampshire College with a BA in Film and Latin American & Latino Studies, and she holds a master’s degree in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz, where she made a short documentary about taco trucks called Lonche. She has also edited two short films that were finalists in the International Documentary Challenge. Claire is fluent in Spanish.

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Melhik Hailu – Youth Producer / Teaching Assistant

Melhik, an immigrant from Ethiopia, is a graduate of Oakland International High School and recently completed a BA in Cinema at San Francisco State University. Melhik has been a part of Youth Beat since 2012 and has produced several award-winning films during his time in the program. He has worked as a teaching assistant and youth producer for Youth Beat since graduating high school and now works as a professional filmmaker.


Ariel Flight – Teaching Artist, Madison Park & La Escuelita

Ariel is an Oakland-based multimedia producer. She graduated from Fordham University in New York City (where she was a Division 1 student athlete!), and she continued her education at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.  In her pursuit of a career in live production, she’s worked alongside various successful producers of shows on Youth Radio, Amoeba, and iHeart Radio. She is deeply committed to developing young leaders in our community.


Emily Harger – Teaching Artist, KDOL-TV & La Escuelita

Emily Harger is a documentary filmmaker and photographer from southwest Pennsylvania who lives and works in Oakland as a Teaching Artist at Youth Beat. Her roots in Appalachia inspire her to tell stories that explore the American identity through a social justice lens. Emily originally moved to the Bay Area for a filmmaking residency at The Center for Investigative Reporting. She has produced videos for the San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, 100 Days in Appalachia, The Bitter Southerner, and Narratively, among others. Emily holds a BS in Visual Communication from Ohio University with a specialization in anthropology and world religion.

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Ademir Murillo – Youth Producer / Teaching Assistant

Ademir is an immigrant from El Salvador who recently graduated from Oakland International High School. After gaining media skills through Youth Beat’s program at OIHS, Ademir interned with Youth Beat in 2017 and recently joined our staff as a youth producer and teaching assistant at Oakland International.


Eric Wise – Teaching Artist, Fremont High School

Eric brings over 15 years of video editing experience to Youth Beat. He loves creating music driven videos and infuses his work with motion graphic design whenever possible. He often acts as a post-producer and sometimes as a full-producer, shaping projects from conception to completion. Eric is proud to work at Youth Beat where he can help train the next generation of content creators of color. He is passionate about the need for increased diversity and power-sharing in the media industry.

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Ja’Lenn Polar – Youth Producer / Teaching Assistant

Ja’Lenn was born in San Francisco but has lived in Oakland for most of his life. He graduated from MetWest High School, and is currently a media communications student at Laney College, working toward a major in Video Production. He has interned at Youth Beat since his Senior year of high school, and after graduating, joined Youth Beat’s staff as a youth producer and teaching assistant. He has earned numerous student awards for his student films and documentaries, and he enjoys working with a new generation of student filmmakers.

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George Ison – Teaching Assistant, KDOL - TV

George Ison was born and raised in the Bay Area, a graduate from Oakland Technical High School and received his Associates of Arts in general business from Merritt College.  In 2002, he moved to Burbank, California and took a position with Baskin-Robbins/Togo's/Dunkin Donuts Training Center.  George applied his business skills as their training coordinator and within 3 years created a design department for in-house promotions and advertisement which began his interest in product photography. George began acting full time in 2013. In 2015, he moved back to the Bay Area and continued to act and started training in film/studio production at Laney College, in Oakland, CA. Today, George’s main goal is to continue his work in the entertainment industry and give back to the youth that are looking to pursue a career in show business!

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Danielle Thompson – Youth Producer / Teaching Assistant

Danielle is a graduate of Metwest High School and currently a student at CSU East Bay. After graduating from Youth Beat’s filmmaking program as a high school student, Danielle joined Youth Beat’s staff as a youth producer and teaching assistant. Danielle has produced numerous videos and media projects through Youth Beat, including We Will Persist, a feminist short film which won recognition from the White House Film Festival.

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Ijah Valenzuela Garfield – Teaching Artist, Animation

Ijah has broad experience teaching videography and animation to high school and college students, including teaching at the Academy of Art University. As a freelance video producer, editor, and 3D animator, he has completed projects for Yoshi’s Jazz Club, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the BottleRock Music Festival, and the Episcopal Impact Fund, among others. Ijah holds a BA in Cinema from San Francisco State University, where he was President of the SFSU Animation Society.

Heather Charles – Senior Teaching Consultant

Heather is a multimedia journalist who has worked on staff at the Indianapolis Star, The Chicago Tribune, and The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY. In addition, she was an Adjunct Professor at Columbia College in Chicago. She has been a member of the National Association of Black Journalists since 2006 and has served as its Communications Chair. In 2011, she was a Best of Illinois Multimedia Award winner and in 2013 she won a Best of Photojournalism Award from the National Press Photographers Association. Heather graduated from Ohio University with a BS in Visual Communications and a minor in Telecommunications.


Ben Gilbarg – Lead Facilitator, Community Day School

Ben Gilbarg is a creative catalyst and communications visionary with a passion for social change. In 1998, he co-founded 3rd EyE Unlimited and for 13 years pioneered a movement that engaged young people through hip hop events such as the 3rd EyE Open Festival, media productions, and mentoring. His rich experience in youth development and media outreach led to him to co-founding Big Picture Anthems in 2016, where he produces youth awareness campaigns that involve, inform and inspire youth. This includes #STEAMtheStreets, an dynamic outreach initiative inspiring underrepresented youth to pursue STEAM career pathways. Ben also owns Visionary Communications Consultants, LLC, where he specializes in video production. Ben has taught media, public speaking and communications at the community college and high school level and has a Master's Degree in Media Ventures from Boston University. He is happily married, a father of three and a grandfather!