Who We Are

We are community members who are committed to providing financial assistance to ESL and GED students so they can continue their education.

The impetus for SASS came from Elizabeth Weal, an ESL teacher at Sequoia District Adult School, along with other staff members at the school. These individuals observed that many of the school’s graduates had the potential and motivation to continue on to community college. However, financial constraints and a lack of information about college prevented them from making the transition. SASS was created in 2009 in response to this need, and we provided our first scholarships in 2010. Since then, the organization has received 501(c)(3) status.

With the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers and partners, and the generosity of our donors, SASS has accomplished an extraordinary amount in a very short time. We are serving a growing number of students, as well as expanding the scope of services we offer. In addition to providing scholarships to community college, SASS provides recipients with tutors, community volunteers who work one on one with students who seek help with their college classes. SASS also provides recipients with donated computers, helps students apply for scholarships from other institutions, and pays for GED tests. We continue to explore ways in which we can further expand our services.

Executive Director

  • Elizabeth Weal – Ms. Weal is a teacher, writer, community leader, and fund-raiser who, prior to teaching ESL at Sequoia Adult School, had a career as a marketing writer in Silicon Valley. She taught ESL for ten years and during that time, wrote several ESL textbooks. She has served on the boards of the Peninsula Chapter of Amigos de las Américas, and the Girls Middle School in Palo Alto. Ms. Weal is the founder of SASS.

Board of Directors


  • Laura Ayala (President) – Ms. Ayala was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. at age 15. She has a B.A. degree with honors from Wesleyan University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Since graduating from business school, Ms. Ayala has been focused on marketing leadership roles in innovative biotech companies in the Bay Area. She currently works as a Sr. Product Manager at Singulex Inc. On the SASS Board, in addition to serving as Board president, Ms. Ayala serves as a link to the Latin American community, assists with marketing activities and helps expand fund raising capabilities.
  • Kevin Wang (Treasurer) – Mr. Wang is a Business Valuation Senior Associate at KPMG’s Silicon Valley office. He lived in both Germany and China for several years prior to obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Wang has several years of tutoring experience with international students at UC Berkeley’s Student Learning Center. He is playing a key role on the SASS Finance committee.
  • Steve Russell (Secretary) – Mr. Russell is a serial entrepreneur and engineer who has started several companies, most recently Theatro. He has also served as a senior executive responsible for strategy and product at public companies. Mr. Russell has served on for-profit and non-profit boards, and has tutored students at Menlo-Atherton High School. His board responsibilities include driving process improvements and developing SASS’s strategic direction.

Board Members

  • Susan Miller Hornbeek – Ms. Hornbeek has over 20 years experience in marketing, including running program marketing at Silver Spring Networks and marketing communications at Marimba. Ms. Hornbeek spent two years living in Buenos Aires with her husband and two sons. She currently is active in SV2 and Partners In Education in Palo Alto and is a SASS tutor. At SASS she focuses on marketing and fund development.
  • Wendy Kuehnl-Ortiz – Ms. Kuehnl-Ortiz is Marketing Director of Abilities United, a nonprofit in Palo Alto. She also has held marketing positions at technology companies including Silicon Graphics and Knight Ridder. Ms. Kuehnl-Ortiz has volunteered at numerous Peninsula nonprofits including Stanford University English in Action, Project Read, the Sequoia Adult School ESL program, and Friends for Youth. Her Board focus is marketing and fund development
  • Kara Rosenberg – Dr. Rosenberg has been an ESL teacher in middle school and adult school. She served as an adult school administrator for 14 years during which time she earned an Ed.D. in Leadership and Change. She is passionate about helping both ESL and GED students find appropriate resources that will lead them to career pathways providing family sustaining incomes. She is also a SASS tutor.
  • Adam Varro – Mr. Varro is currently the Vice President of Customer Success at Indiegogo. Over the course of his 15-year career, Mr. Varro has help leadership positions at several innovative technology companies including Google, Facebook and UpWork. As a first-generation American, he is passionate about creating opportunities for immigrant families to achieve greater social mobility. Adam’s board focus is on program and fund development. 
  • Irma Zoepf – Ms. Zoepf recently moved to the Bay Area from Cambridge, MA where she was HR & Operations manager at Root Capital, an international social investment fund. She currently is a senior consultant at Exponential Talent. Ms. Zoepf was born and raised in Mexico and has an MBA from Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña. On the SASS Board, Ms. Zoepf serves as a liaison with the Latin America community and supports strategic development and process improvement.

Advisory Council

  • Alicia Aguirre. City Council Member, Redwood City
  • Kathleen Bennett. Founder, Girls’ Middle School
  • Jennifer Castello. Cañada College ESL coordinator and professor
  • Lionel de Maine. Chief Operations Officer, Sequoia District Adult School
  • Carrie DuBois. Trustee, Sequoia Union High School District
  • Nancy Goodban, PhD. Human services consultant
  • Jim Lianides. Superintendent, Sequoia Union High School District
  • Tom Mohr. Trustee, San Mateo County Community College District
  • Barbara Sanner. Retired executive, community volunteer
  • Ernie Schmidt. Planning Commission, Redwood City
  • Susan Speicher. Community volunteer

Our Funders

In addition to contributions from individual donors, Sequoia Adult School Scholars receives support from the following private foundations and non-profit organizations:

Sequoia Adult School Scholars, 3481 Janice Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303  |  (650) 395-8350