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Our Staff

Alternatives in Action High School Leadership


Alternatives in Action High School serves youth from the Bay Area who are motivated to transform their lives and their communities. Our youth-initiated charter high school is located in the Seminary neighborhood of East Oakland.

Phung Lai
Executive Director

Email: plai@alternativesinaction.org

Phung Lai is an educator and educational leader in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years. Phung has extensive service in various Oakland non-profit organizations, AmeriCorps programs, and multiple K-12 charter and district schools, including Oakland Unified School District and Kern County Superintendent of Schools where she was the Northern California regional program supervisor for the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities/Youth statewide mentoring program. During this time, she collaborated with OUSD, Fresno Unified School District, Merced City and County School Districts, Sacramento City Unified School District, and Del Norte County Unified School District working with school administrators, staff and students to implement mentoring throughout schools and local community based organizations. Throughout Phung’s career, she has been part of the leadership team for three charter schools, served as a mentor, teacher, and school administrator. She is also an endorsed trainer with the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC).

Phung received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Welfare with a minor in education from UC Berkeley and holds a Clear California Teaching Credential and Masters of Education in teaching with the Reach Institute for School Leadership. She values time with family and friends, enjoys sports, and loves learning and trying new things.

Sierra Thai-Binh
Assistant Director

Email: sthaibinh@alternativesinaction.org

Hello AIA Team! I was asked to share a little bit about myself so here goes: I was born in Oakland and attended La Escuelita elementary but moved to  Havana, Cuba when I was eight and was raised there. I am a UC Santa Cruz graduate (Go Slugs!) and worked as a teacher and then administrator in San Jose for over ten years.

My most recent position was with Seneca Center Family of Agencies as an Unconditional Education Coach. As a UE Coach, I coordinated the implementation of multi-tiered interventions at partner schools including Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), Reading and Social Skills Interventions, Special Education services, and Community/Family engagement.

I have an awesome husband and two incredible (and occasionally challenging) kids, along with various pets. I love to read, bake, and dance, though not always in that order and I am a die-hard Oakland A’s fan so you will likely see me clashing with the school colors often.

I am very excited to join the AIA community. It really feels like a homecoming because I am back working in Oakland full time at a school that is founded on and embodies principles of youth empowerment and social justice. I look forward to bringing my knowledge, experience, humor, and unconditional care to our work together!

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Edgar Alvarado
College and Career Coordinator

Email: ealvarad@alternativesinaction.org

Edgar Alvarado is a queer Latinx aspiring educator from Oakland. He graduated from Alternatives in Action High School in 2014 and attended UC Santa Cruz to pursue his bachelor’s degree. His own experience as a first generation and low-income student motivated him to help others from similar backgrounds. He is passionate about combating the racial inequities that exist for Black and Brown youth when pursuing higher education. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2018, with a bachelor’s degree in Latinos and Latin American studies. He has since moved back to Oakland and has worked closely with youth in an after-school program and as a tutor inside the classroom. In November 2019, Edgar became the College and Career Coordinator at Alternatives in Action High School.

Kenia Rodriguez
Health and Wellness Coordinator

Email: krodriguez@alternativesinaction.org

Kenia Rodriguez was born in Vallejo, California. Her family is from Jalisco, Mexico and her favorite music to listen to are both Regional Mexican Banda and 90’s R&B. Her favorite color is green and her four favorite animals are unicorns, owls, dolphins and hummingbirds. Kenia was a teacher at Alternatives in Action High School for six years before going on to pursue a Master’s in Child and Adolescent Psychology: Prevention and Treatment. She feels fortunate enough to come back to the school which she loves and is really enjoying being a part of the community because everyone has a genuine love for the work they do.

Niku Shah
School Counselor

Email: nshah@alternativesinaction.org

Niku Shah is an associate marriage and family therapist with a passion and interest in working with young people. Niku was born in San Francisco, and grew up in the Bay Area. All of Niku’s family is originally from South Asia (mix of present day Gujarat, India and Karachi, Pakistan). They received a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Niku has worked as a paraeducator in a middle school and as a therapist in an elementary school. Niku loves to take long walks in Redwood Regional Park, underneath the tall trees, and also loves to cook (having been a bread baker in a former life, Niku still finds dipping their hands in dough to be very therapeutic). Niku is eager to support AIA’s high school youth and happy to be onboard the support services team!

Jason Richard
Restorative Justice Coordinator

Email: jrichard@alternativesinaction.org

Jason has an extensive background in youth development work. His love for working with youth grew during his time at the Berkeley YMCA where he served as a camp counselor and sports Coach. That job led to Sports 4 Kids where he worked for 6 years, then to Chabot Elementary where he created school based programs and leagues for youth. Jason was able to transition his work from elementary age youth to high school youth when he started with Alternatives in Action High School. He knew this was where he wanted to be when he was interviewed by youth.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Jason attended Long Beach State and Clark Atlanta University where he graduated with a degree in Psychology.

Lizbeth Gomez
Operations Manager
Email: lgomez@alternativesinaction.org
Lizbeth Gomez, an educator, artist as well as a human and social justice advocate. Lizbeth was raised in Oakland and attended Oakland  Unified District Schools and despite all of the distractions and obstacles that she came her way growing up, she managed to get through her K-12 school years and graduate. She found motivation, love and inspiration in mentors that helped her discover a new world, full of possibilities and opened her third eye, realizing the system we lived in is not very fair. Therefore, she decided to fight for people’s rights  and started taking action in East Oakland’s community. She co-founded the Homies Empowerment Program serving gang impacted/involved youth in Oakland,CA since 2009.  Lizbeth is currently enrolled in school and continues to mentor youth in the city of Oakland.
Lizbeth enjoys hiking, swimming, reading and spending time with her family.