Meet the Team
Leslie Acoca, Director of Development & Operations
Jenni Doherty, Founder
Janelle Lamb, Director of Communications
Board of Directors
Sara Howard, Co-Chair
Sara holds an MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. She has served on numerous Boards, including: La Casa de las Madres, Marin Ballet, Marin Academy and Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. Professionally, Sara has worked for several international development, non-profit and governmental organizations in NYC, Washington, DC and SF. Most recently, she worked as a philanthropic consultant for a family foundation in the Bay Area. She and her husband have three daughters.
Diane Ziesing, Co-Chair
Diane is currently the Controller with Litman Gregory Asset Management in Larkspur, CA. Prior to joining Litman Gregory, she managed the accounting and human resources at Paradise Foods in Corte Madera, and served as the Controller for Terrace Consulting in San Francisco and an Accountant for Arthur Andersen & Co. in the audit and tax divisions in San Francisco. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and graduated with a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from the University of California, Berkeley. Diane volunteers as a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay. She lives in Marin with her husband and two sons, and enjoys hiking and biking in her free time. Diane joined the Daraja Eduction Fund in 2012 as the Board Treasurer.
Talia Pierluissi, Treasurer
Talia is currently a Wealth Advisor with Stanford Investment Group (SIG) in Mountain View, CA. Prior to joining SIG, Talia co-founded SearchFox and worked for Stanford University as a fundraiser. She is a Certified Financial Planner and a graduate of University of Chicago (BA) and UCLA (MBA). She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters. She volunteers with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and the Financial Planning Association. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, and traveling. Talia joined the Daraja Education Fund in 2015 as a director.
Steve Disenhof, Secretary
Steve recently retired as a Partner and Director of Human Resources with Litman Gregory Asset Management in Larkspur, CA. He was an at-home dad for much of the 1990’s, which followed almost 20 years as a social worker and manager with children’s and teen programs. He has worked with children’s programs professionally, as a parent, and as a volunteer for over 40 years. Steve’s family has been engaged with Daraja since 2009: In 2011, he and his son, Jono, co-led the first Marin Academy Service Learning trip to Daraja. Steve also taught computer technology, photography and business skills on campus in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Steve holds an MSW from Boston University and an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.
Mo Virani, Director
Mo currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Northgate Capital, LLC in Danville, CA. Mo has an extensive background and over 30 years of experience in senior management positions in the high tech and private equity sectors. Prior to Northgate, Mo worked for organizations including Mohr, Davidow Ventures, Softbank Corp/Ziff Davis, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard. He holds an M.B.A. from Stanford University. Mo and his wife Vivienne have two children. While he now calls San Francisco his home, Mo was born in Kenya and lived there throughout his high-school years. In his free time, he enjoys playing squash, traveling, and supporting girls education.
Jason Doherty, Director
Jason grew up in northern California, and received his BA in International Relations from the University of San Diego in 1998. He then moved to Tanzania to teach at a secondary school for six months, where he discovered his passion for teaching. Upon returning home, he earned his teaching credential at Dominican University in 2004 and taught in the public school system for six years as a mentor teacher. He was selected as Solano County’s Teacher of the Year in 2007. In 2008, he moved with his wife, Jenni, to Kenya to start Daraja Academy.
Helen Dietz, Director
Helen is the Director of Wealth Management at Aspiriant, and the President and CEO of Stanford Investment Group, a boutique wealth management and financial planning firm in Northern California. She earned a B.A. in Business and English with a discipline in Economics from Rutgers University, and was awarded ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the 2014 Wall Street Women: A Celebration of Excellence event by Trader Magazine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, running, long bike rides, and coming up with new projects. Helen is very dedicated to women’s education and leadership.
Phil Jonckheer, Director
Phil graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in General Studies (cum laude) and earned a MBA in Finance and a Masters in Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University. He is a chartered financial analyst (CFA), and has been a student of finance since 1978. He began his journey on the investment advisory track as a financial analyst with Brown-Forman in Louisville, Kentucky, after which he worked as a portfolio manager for Kingsley, Jennison, McNulty and Morse, an investment advisor in San Francisco. Today, Phil is the Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer at Equius Partners. Phil is blessed with three children. He is a master swimmer. Unlike his Dutch ancestors, he has learned to limit his involvement in tulipomania to growing bulbs, not trading them.
Helen Cooke Pyne, Director
Helen is a freelance editor and writer, and a creative writing teacher. She’s worked as an editor for Doubleday and in PR for Seventeen Magazine in New York City. Her published works include two mystery novels in a series for young teens. She currently writes for Appleseeds, a children’s social studies magazine, and the SCBWI Bulletin. Helen has published books and magazine articles for kids, mentored students for the past three years for an annual anthology published by the Society of Young Inklings, and taught writing workshops at the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Novel Workshop and Retreat. Helen earned her M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a B.A. from Middlebury College. She is married with four children, and loves to discover new ways to make a difference in the lives of Daraja’s inspirational students.