The 826 National Team

Laura Brief

Chief Executive Officer

Prior to 826 National, Laura held leadership positions at high achieving youth organizations including Build, First Graduate, Juma Ventures, and The Posse Foundation, where she developed the organization’s first national career, corporate engagement, and alumni programs. She holds a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University, and is the Chair of the Board of Directors at Youth Speaks.

Email: laura@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Cynthia Chiong

Director of Research

Cynthia brings expertise in data storytelling and in conducting research to help develop and measure impact of educational programs. She’s worked with the Exploratorium, Apple Education, Sesame Workshop and other organizations to bring research-based content across learning platforms to diverse communities. Her background is in developmental psychology, conducting research on the design of educational media. Cynthia holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Northwestern University and a PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Virginia.

Email: cynthia@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Anna Griffin

Director of Content & Partnerships, 826 Digital

Anna first joined 826 National as Program Development and Support Coordinator and helped build 826 Digital’s library of curricular resources prior to its launch. Before 826, Anna served as a high school English teacher for eight years in New Orleans and in her home city of Chicago. Now a fanatic El Cerritan, Anna loves jumping through East Bay creeks with her daughter.

Email: annagriff@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Abbey Hayward

Director of Finance & Operations

Abbey joins 826 by way of the private sector, having spent the last 15 years building businesses in technology, start-ups, art, and hospitality. Charged with developing scalable systems and processes designed to help 826 flourish, Abbey hopes to bring her passion for the arts and analytical skills to bear. When not working, Abbey can be found cooking on a yoga mat while reading a novel after a bike ride.

Email: abbey@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Smiling woman with long dark hair wearing a red shirt

Zaneta Jung

Communications Manager

A proud New Jersey native, Zaneta is a storyteller and editor with a passion for community building and fostering creativity. Prior to joining 826, she worked in book publishing as a children’s book editor and food & lifestyle editor, and in the tech industry as a content strategist. The quickest way to her heart is a personalized playlist, endless snacks, and a fuzzy animal.

Email: zaneta@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Kona Lai

Network Support Manager

Kona began her 826 journey as a volunteer with the 826 Valencia Tenderloin Center, then later led its Podcasting Field Trip program. She attended Wellesley College and NYU, and has taught English in France, China, and Ghana. She adores travel and dreams of visiting Antarctica someday.

Email: kona@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Smiling woman in glasses with long hair

Kai Lokken

Development Manager

Kai is excited to be part of the 826 team. She partnered with 826CHI when she worked at Communities in Schools of Chicago (CISC) and fell in love with the 826 programs. Her background is in teaching and non-profit education. Besides teaching for six years, Kai worked for CISC and Technovation before joining 826 National. Kai enjoys reading, writing, movies, and eating popcorn and M&Ms.

Email: kailokken@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Meghan Dove McAfee

826 Digital Curriculum Designer

Meghan is a youth worker at heart and is deeply passionate about 826’s approach to teaching writing. Meghan holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University and an M.Ed in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota. She loves cooking Korean food, while chasing her cats out of the kitchen, in a sweater she knit herself.

Email: meghan@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Smiling woman with curly dark hair and a black shirt.

Areesah Mobley

Director of Development

Areesah joins 826 National after nearly seven years as the Director of Advancement at 826DC. She brings a total of 17 years fundraising experience in youth development, human services, and civil rights at DC nonprofit institutions including Martha’s Table, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Kid Power. A Communication graduate from George Mason University, Areesah holds an equal passion for relationship building and organizational strategy.

Email: areesah@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Gabi Oliveira

Research Manager

Gabriela graduated from University of California Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Sociology and Literature. Writing has always been one of her passions, and she is excited to help spread a love for writing to students all across the country. Science fiction novels, long road trips, and the California coast are just a few of her favorite things.

Email: gabi@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Kait Steele

Director of Field Operations

A founding member of 826CHI, Kait played a key role in program/curriculum development, serving as the organization’s first Programs Coordinator and later as its Director of Education. Prior to joining 826, Kait taught creative writing in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Northwestern University.

Email: kait@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

NaBeela Washington

826 Digital Content Engagement Manager

After 7+ years of supporting non-profits and community-focused marketing, NaBeela is thrilled to join 826 National. A former 826CHI staff member, she has a B.A. in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham and M.A. in English & Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When not counting characters, you can find her managing Lucky Jefferson, sewing, or polishing her green thumb.

Email: nabeela@826national.org 
Pronouns: she/her

Brianca Wright

Research Fellow

Brianca Wright is a Masters student at George Washington University. A native of Pensacola, Florida, Brianca Wright is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelors in Psychology and Criminology. She served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Jacksonville and worked with Sons of Sophistication, Inc., a mentoring program for young men of color. She’s excited to spend her time at 826 National researching the therapeutic influences of writing and how this can impact student literacy.

Email: brianca@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

Shida Zamani

Salesforce Administrator

Shida earned her B.S. in Psychology at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and believes in the importance of investing in youth and education. As a certified Salesforce administrator, Shida values clean organized data. She also loves traveling, Giants baseball, and searching for the best east coast style pizza in the Bay Area.

Email: shida@826national.org
Pronouns: she/her

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