Team

Staff

Brenden Jackson
Program Director

Brenden likes to think of himself as an urban agriculture enthusiast, but really he is just a big kid that likes to play in the dirt. Brenden was born in Virginia where he camped, explored, studied literature and eventually earned a graduate degree in education. Through a series of fortunate events he married his best friend, and spent the next five years moving and traveling around the country. During these travels he met a diverse range of food growers who planted in him the seeds of food justice. In 2017 he joined forces with Amir and moved to Houston to inspire youth to embrace the joys of gardening and help create a more sustainable food culture. With roots firmly planted for the first time, Brenden is excited to explore how food systems can be used to connect people and cultures.

Phoebe Railneau
Director of Education

Chef Phoebe Raileanu is a farmer, educator, and pastry chef from LA specializing in animal husbandry and permaculture design. Phoebe has over 10 years of teaching and curriculum writing experience. She attended the Institute of Culinary Education and received a pastry degree before studying farming and permaculture at Urban Adamah in Berkeley, CA. Currently living in Austin, TX, Phoebe is thrilled to be part of Amir!

Andrew Davidov
Program Associate and Recruitment Coordinator

Andrew began work with Amir since 2016, serving as a Mentor and Program Associate. As Amir’s Program Associate, he will be coordinating with camps what delicious goods will be grown there this upcoming summer and working with the Farmers and Farm Managers at the camps. Andrew is also in charge of all Recruitment and gathering quality Farmers for the summer. He is ecstatic to be continuing to work on social justice projects around food, farming, and the environment.

Max Hill
Communications Lead

Max has worked as a Farmer and Farm Manager at Camp Louise, and has previously assisted in Amir’s recruitment efforts. Max manages Amir’s social media and other communications efforts.

Board of Directors

Stef Bugasch Scopoline

Stef has been farming with Amir since 2013, as a Farmer, then Mentor, Program Director, and now Board Member. Stef is responsible for advising Amir staff on all summer programming, from interviewing and placing Farmers, to meeting with our Directors to help their their vision become reality.

Alex Goldfarb
Operations Coordinator

Alex has been with Amir since shortly after its founding, and has worn a variety of hats throughout its development. As Operations Coordinator, Alex provides support for the financial, administrative, and human resources needs of the organization.

Yan Digilov
Chairman

Yan is the Chief Local Advisor at Firestarter, a Houston-based firm that focuses on active management of charitable portfolios and strategic project development. He graduated from Rice University with B.A. degrees in Mathematics and Economics. After spending time working in money management and as a technology consultant, his present role combines his professional experiences with a passion for nonprofit work. Focusing on efficient allocation of capital and human resources, Firestarter deploys active management techniques to ensure clients’ charitable portfolios capture maximum amounts of social alpha. Yan founded Amir with David in 2010, and was instrumental in laying the institutional foundation for the organization.

Rachel Colburn

Rachel Colburn has been a part of the non-profit world for over seven years starting with the Hoops For Kids program she co-founded. The idea was to successfully impact the at-risk youth community in Netanya, Israel through the sport of basketball and the local professional basketball team, Barak Netanya. The program has grown in so many positive ways since its fruition and has expanded into other cities like Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Katzrine. Program activities include weekly mentoring by professional athletes and volunteers, free tickets to their local professional basketball team’s games, and free t-shirts and basketballs for every youth participant. Aside from Hoops For Kids, Rachel is in the process of building the Kids Connect Network program, run by the Kids Connect Charitable Fund, which seeks to incubate and consult other non-profits with a focus on mentoring, community integration, and at-risk youth. Their goal is to have 1 million youth impacted worldwide by 2020.

Faith Brigham Leener

Faith has been involved in social impact work in numerous capacities as a policy analyst, program manager, educator and facilitator. She is currently the co-founder and Director of Strategic Development for Base Hillel, a Hillel International Innovation project that deploys dynamic Rabbinic couples into communities to build relationships with Jewish young adults and to use their home as a convening point for pluralistic Jewish life. Faith brings a deep love of the Jewish value of tikkun olam to Amir, as well as an appreciation for social impact work that engages children both physically and mentally. Faith holds a BA Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis University, an MPA in Non-profit Management from NYU Wagner, and is currently pursuing her MA in Judaic Studies from NYU Skirball. She met her husband Jon Leener at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Faith and Jon live in New York City.

Nathan Mitzner

Nathan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Cox School of Business in 2011, and was chosen as The Most Outstanding Risk Management Insurance Major in the nascent Risk Management Insurance Program. In the summer of 2010, Nathan interned with Arthur J Gallagher and was offered a full time position in the company’s Dallas office upon graduation. He formally joined the company in July.With a family background in commercial and residential real estate development and investment, he has become active in the company’s Real Estate Group. The grandson of Holocaust Survivors, he has the drive and determination to be a leader in the insurance industry.In the two years that he has been part of the Gallagher Team, Nathan has become an integral part of the real estate niche, and was invited to The Power Of Gallagher for being rookie of the Year in 2012.

Kevin Topek

Kevin has owned and operated Permaculture Design, LLC for more than 2 decades where he designs and installs Permaculture inspired naturalized, native and edible gardens and orchards for urban, suburban and rural landscapes all over the United States. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Houston, TX and is a graduate of Rice University where he studied Space Physics and Chinese Linguistics. After college he went on to study Permaculture with its founder, Bill Mollison, and then studied Keyline Design with Darren Daugherty. Aside from landscaping professionally, Kevin gardens for his family and friends, keeps chickens and bees and is involved with many charitable pursuits and organizations.

Shannon Lijek

Shannon is a executive at McKinsey & Company in San Francisco, CA and joined the Amir board in summer 2016 as the organization was meeting distinct transition challenges. Shannon brings with her invaluable consultative skills and knowledge, and is crucial to ensuring Amir's growth over the coming years. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, two daughter, and dog (Truman).