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Jake Schoneker - Executive Director

Jake has worked with Youth Beat since its inception in 2010-- building YB's eduction 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.

Heather Charles – Senior Teaching Artist

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.

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Miguel Astudillo - Teaching Artist, Oakland International

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 is now a college student at SF State’s School of Cinema. 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 aspires to be a professional filmmaker.

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Zarah Hansen – Teaching Artist, Community Day School

Prior to coming to Youth Beat, Zarah taught media arts to at-risk youth in Boston, and developed a Media Production & Job Readiness Program for underserved youth in Gilroy, CA. Zarah has worked as a freelance Production Assistant and Videographer for shows such as America’s Got Talent, American Masters, and Hoarders, and she has worked as a Producer at Stanford University, which involved hiring and training students to complete video projects. Zarah holds a Master of Science in Television Production and Management from Boston University.

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Hanna Miller – Teaching Artist, Fremont HS and KDOL-TV

Hanna has served as an Associate TV Producer at Mississippi Public Broadcasting and has completed freelance work for well-known news outlets such as U.S. News and World Report, PBS NewsHour, and The Atlantic. Her news and short documentary films have won numerous awards. Most recently, she was awarded a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Grant at the Tribeca Film Festival. Prior to launching her career in journalism, Hanna participated in the Fulbright Program in Tartarstan, Russia. She holds a BA from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and a master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism.

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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.

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Marc-Éddy Loriston – Teaching Artist, Oakland International

Marc-Éddy brings over 7 years of teaching experience to Youth Beat. At NYU, he served as a film instructor for summer youth programs as well as a Teaching Assistant for the University’s film editing classes. He has also taught filmmaking at Stony Brook University and was the Summer Program Director at Gritty City Repertory in Oakland. Marc has written, directed, and edited numerous films and promotional videos, and he is now working on his first feature-length documentary. He holds a BA in Cinema Studies from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Film & Television Production from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

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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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Ben Robbins – Youth Producer

Ben is a senior at Oakland Technical High School. Having recently completed two years of advanced media skills training, Ben joined Youth Beat’s staff as a youth producer on professional projects. Upon graduating, Ben plans to attend film school and continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional filmmaker.

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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.