In 2014 a group of volunteers got together and became mentors to the students at Hamilton School. While mentoring they realized that these students needed more! This group of people grew daily to over 130 and is the most incredible group of generous, talented, wise, compassionate people we know.
We are ALL volunteers and this allows us to spend almost 100% of our funds raised directly on the programs that benefit the students.
This board was created to run our newly registered non-profit, RISE Scholars. We are a working, volunteer board that is thrilled to be able to coordinate the efforts of this amazing group. There are many more people that lead efforts in addition to the board and without them these programs would not thrive.
Michele Huff, Board President
Michele began her career as a CPA with KPMG in San Francisco. Always interested in teaching, she spent a few years as an adjunct accounting professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Her most fulfilling years were spent raising her four daughters with her husband, George. Their education was a primary focus.
Having a soft spot for single moms, she was a founding member and board chair of Gilead House in Novato. This program inspires and empowers homeless single moms and their children toward financial stability and independence.
When her girls were old enough, she began taking them to an orphanage in Mexico. As a family, over several years, they worked at the orphanage, created relationships in the community, and built two homes for families they became involved with.
Looking to bring this energy to something local, Michele became involved with Hamilton School through Marin Covenant Church. In 2014, along with her sister-in-law, she was asked to help start a mentor program. Prior to COVID-19, the mentor program was thriving with over 120 mentors meeting once a week with their students. Soon after, it became apparent that the students at Hamilton School lacked the same opportunities as their peers in Marin County and together with others, began to address the issue and put together the framework of what would become RISE Scholars, Inc.
Michele is thrilled to be a part of this incredible board and the generous community that volunteer and support the work at Hamilton School. She is looking forward to being back on campus and working with the students!
A native to Marin County, growing up in a single parent home I learned early on how hard that can be for a family. My mom was an extremely hard worker and struggled daily to provide for her 3 kids. As a result of watching how difficult this was for my mom, I have always had a desire to serve in my own community in a way that is meaningful.
I graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Nutrition and worked in the food service industry up until I had my second child. It was during this time home that I was able to become a founding board member of Gilead House in Novato. Gilead House empowers homeless single moms and their children toward financial stability and independence.
After my children left home, I wanted to find a place in my community to continue to make a difference. I found this at Hamilton School. Initially I started with tutoring and then quickly saw a much greater need for these students. So with my sister-in-law, Steve Hospodar , and school staff the mentoring program at Hamilton was born. I continue to serve as the mentor coordinator, and mentor 2 students as well.
Today I am proud to be a board member of RISE Scholars, these programs will allow our students to explore other opportunities in which they will be able to fulfill their potential.
When I am not volunteering I enjoy spending time with my husband of 33 years and my two adult children and their significant others. I love hiking, biking and just being outdoors. I love to read most anything I can get my hands on, but favorites include historical novels and mysteries. I love to cook and find ways to make tasty and healthy foods, although my family will say I sometimes take the healthy too far.
Mike Thomas retired in 2015 from St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco where he was a counselor, teacher, and coach for 39 years. Mike is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist.
After retiring, Mike committed himself to community service and volunteer activities. Inspired by Pope Francis’ second encyclical letter, Laudato Si, Care for Our Common Home, he is an active member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project whose mission is to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every sector of society. Mike is also a facilitator for Braid, a team-based mentoring program for foster youth in the SF Bay Area. Additionally, he volunteers his time as a coach in Hamilton Middle School’s cross country and basketball programs.
Mike lives with his wife of 33 years, has three sons and spends some of his time helping to care for his four grandchildren. He is an avid runner, mountain biker, still plays basketball once/week and tennis whenever any one of his sons asks to play.
Mike is excited about bringing a full and thriving athletic program to Hamilton School as part of the RISE program.
Jay Ferguson, Board Treasurer
Learning new skills each step of the way, Jay has had a multi-faceted career... 25 years a financial advisor, 10 years co-founding and managing a healthcare company, 11 years as a Trustee for a K-8 school serving many roles including Board Chair, Treasurer, and Endowment Committee Chair and now, 4 years into it, enjoying the more direct relationship with Hamilton students.
Serving as a mentor first, then spending time with Hamilton kids in after school enrichment it was only a short stride to starting a chess program that, to this day, offers challenge and fun to scores of Hamilton students and Jay alike. Guiding a program for kids is important work, but it is the day-to-day interaction and mentoring that makes time spent at Hamilton so fulfilling. “You only need to spend time with these kids to see their potential, to see the possibilities!”.
Away from Hamilton, Jay enjoys retirement and time riding, swimming, skiing, and heavy-duty gardening, but most appreciates his family, two adult children, Lizzie and Jack, and his wife Judy...and Labrador Destiny
Steve is the Principal of Hamilton K-8 School in Novato, California, where he has been part of the administration team since 2006. Prior to coming to Hamilton School, Steve was an elementary school teacher. Steve was also a Research Analyst for Oregon Health Science University and was co-owner of a cafe in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Kim.
In addition to his role as Principal, Steve has done extensive work around equity and educational access within the public school system. He has worked to identify and remove the hidden obstacles that can limit sub-groups of students, including students of color, gender, English language learners and socio-economic disadvantaged students from accessing their learning.
Additionally, Steve believes that service, opportunity and academic rigor are the keys to a student's success.
When not working to disrupt the status quo within the public school system, Steve can often be found surfing, mountain biking and running with his daughters, Sophie and Anna, or working on his ranch in Petaluma.
Amy Wilcox, Board Secretary
Ever since creating and running a home-based adventure/activities program for teenage girls during her years at Stanford University, Amy has had a passion for direct empowerment of young people through teaching, tutoring and mentoring.
After eight years on Wall Street and the birth of her first daughter, she returned to education. She taught science and developed science curricula at an elementary school in Piedmont; served on the Piedmont Education Foundation Board; developed the third literacy tutoring clinic for Children Rising in Oakland, and tutored at Title One schools in Oakland for five years before moving to Marin. All the while, Amy has mentored high school and college-aged young women through Stevens Ministry, Oakland Promise, and most recently Mentor Hamilton. In the fall 2019, Amy, and her husband Kirby, instituted an after-school GARDEN CLUB for Hamilton Middle School students, which continued online through May 2020.
Amy is an avid hiker and adventurer. A voracious reader and fantasy writer for kids age 8-100. A dedicated and proud mother of two daughters and besotted grandmother. She is beyond excited to serve on the Board of RISE Scholars and to instigate interventional reading and math tutoring programs for the students at Hamilton School.