Board of Directors

Miguel Alvarez

Promise Innovation Project Coordinator, Contra Costa College

Miguel Alvarez is the Promise Innovation Project Coordinator at Contra Costa College and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the higher education system and instituting programs that drive the work of college access and attainment for the students in Richmond. Miguel received his BA in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies from UCLA. By serving on the Board of Directors, Miguel hopes to drive a positive impact in Richmond by impacting lives of students facing adversity. As a former leader at KIPP LA Schools, and as the UC Irvine Liaison for the El Monte and Santa Anna Promise, Miguel brings knowledge of starting-up Promise programs and effective non-profit organizations. Miguel is a first-generation Latino who has navigated the same trajectory of many Promise students. This experience instilled a passion and commitment to pursue a career in advancing access and inclusion for under resourced students in higher education. Before Contra Costa College, Miguel was the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Berkeley.

Patricia Canessa

Public Affairs Manager, Chevron Richmond Refinery

Patricia Canessa is the Public Affairs Manager for the Chevron Richmond Refinery. Patty received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Mobile and her master’s degree in International Relations at Troy University in Alabama. Prior to joining Chevron in 2004, Patty worked for media relations firms based in Miami and later with the El Salvador Ministry of Economy. A native of El Salvador, she began her Chevron career as Public Affairs Manager for Central America and in 2012 moved to Houston to manage the Public Affairs department for our US East and Latin America organization. Bi-lingual in English and Spanish, Patty has lived in several cities throughout six countries in Latin America and in the US, thus bringing a different perspective to the Chevron team and to Richmond’s multicultural community. Advancing education is not only a personal priority but one of the pillars of Chevron’s Social Investment strategy.

Matt Duffy

Superintendent, West Contra Costa Unified School District

Superintendent Matt Duffy is the ninth permanent superintendent in West Contra Costa Unified School District History. He came to the District with great leadership experience in urban schools and districts. Most recently, Matt served as the Assistant Superintendent in Milpitas Unified. There he was in charge of teaching and learning, leadership, enrollment, technology, Special Education and LCAP development. Matt’s recent accomplishments include starting a new Dual Immersion school in Milpitas, significantly expanding professional learning opportunities for all staff and growing the music program each year.
Prior to Milpitas, Matt spent nine years in Oakland Unified serving as a principal and an area superintendent. In Oakland, Matt led Elmhurst Middle School as well as founding and designing his own district school, Elmhurst Community Prep. Matt is most proud of his work at raising the API over 200 points, having the highest African American API in the district and redesigning a school program in order to thoroughly engage parents. As an area superintendent, Matt oversaw a portfolio of 15 schools including middle and high schools throughout the city. Matt originally hails from New York City where he spent 4 years teaching middle school in the South Bronx and 3 years as a Vice Principal in Harlem.

Bill Lindsay

City Manager of Richmond, CA

Bill Lindsay has over 30 years of local government experience through his service in four Contra Costa County cities in the San Francisco Bay area, and has served as the City Manager of Richmond, California since February 2005.
Bill received a BA in Economics from Yale University and a MBA in General Management from the University of California, Berkeley. Following graduate school, he began his professional career as a management consultant working primarily with local government and public transit clients. Prior to joining the City of Richmond, Bill served for nearly ten years as the City Manager of Orinda, eight years as the Administrative Services Director for the City of San Ramon, and four years as the Finance Director/Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Hercules.

Mojdeh Mehdizadeh

President of Contra Costa College

Mojdeh Mehdizadeh began her tenure as President of Contra Costa College in July of 2016 having formerly served as Interim President since January, 2015. Previous to that, Ms. Mehdizadeh’s served as Executive Vice Chancellor of Education and Technology at the Contra Costa Community College District where her responsibilities included support of the colleges’ educational programs, student services, workforce and economic development, information technology, international education, research and planning, and grants. She has also served as adjunct faculty in Speech Communications and has been very actively engaged in state and national associations.

Ms. Mehdizadeh holds an M.A. in Organizational and Intercultural Communications from Cal State University East Bay and a B.S. in Computer Information Systems from San Francisco State University. Mojdeh completed her undergraduate general education requirements at Diablo Valley College and is proud of her roots in the community college system.

Ree’shemah Thornton

Director of Student Outreach Services, San Francisco State University

Ree’shemah Thornton is the Director of Student Outreach Services at San Francisco State University where she oversees the recruitment efforts for the university. Ree’shemah is professionally and personally committed to providing students with authentic access to higher education. She has over 23 years of professional experience in higher education with extensive experience administering programs providing educational and support services to first generation student populations. Her educational background includes an earned Master of Arts in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Human Development, from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in both Law and Society and Black Studies, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Ree’shemah has extensive knowledge of the higher education landscape in California while working in all three systems including, the California Community College, the California State University, and the University of California. Ree’shemah’s commitment and dedication to first generation students and families, her ability to nurture innovation and a willingness to “role up her sleeves” to get the job done is what led her to the Richmond Promise.

Allen Uzzell

Allen Uzzell brings a wealth of professional experience and a passion for educational equity to the Richmond Promise. Allen retired as Vice President and General Counsel for Chevron Energy Solutions in 2013. During his career with Chevron, Allen served in a variety of roles including Managing Human Resources Counsel, Chief Patent Counsel, and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Chevron Corporation, Associate General Counsel for Chevron Chemical Company and General Counsel for Chevron Energy Solutions. Since retiring from Chevron, Allen has dedicated himself to helping various nonprofits support promising students from poor families achieve their potential to graduate from college and have successful careers. He is a volunteer advisor for Gifted Support Center, Inc. and College is Real Inc. Through College is Real, Allen has mentored three Richmond High School students who are now freshmen at 4 -year universities. This experience has provided Allen the opportunity to see first hand some of the challenges faced by students who would be the first in their families to attend college. Through Allen’s 33-year career with Chevron, he has developed close connections to the Richmond community. In addition, his wife Barbara is a proud graduate from high school in Richmond and managed a medical office in San Pablo for many years.