About Us – Serving the needs of our youth community since 2001
Valley Oak was created in 2001, providing education support for students in the San Francisco Bay Area and program support for the Pleasanton Unified School District. In 2007, the organization moved to Montana and in 2010 began working with opportunity youth and at-risk populations in Ravalli and Missoula Counties. In 2016 Valley Oak became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partner of Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc.
Our staff provides:
college/career workshops and programs,
scholarship and internship assistance, and
acts as a liaison for college to college course equivalency, policy interpretation, and program navigation.
Our Education Coordinators help schools and youth organizations develop and manage:
service learning and civic engagement programs,
write grants, and
develop policies and procedures.
Meet our Team, Board & Advisors
Patricia Meakin received a BS from Southern Illinois University and BA from the University of Montana, where she also completed her graduate work in Special Education. She retired from the U.S. Navy following Desert Storm, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, is a Montana certified teacher K-12, and was a 21st Century Grant Administrator. For over 20 years, she has volunteered her services to assist students (K-12 and college) and secured grants for schools and community organizations. Patricia was instrumental in the creation of the Bitterroot College and was appointed by the University of Montana President to positions on the Bitterroot College Steering Committee and the Bitterroot College Advisory Board.
Wendy has over 25 years of experience as a communications and media arts specialist. Since 2015, Wendy has served as Communications Manager for Audubon Canyon Ranch, a 501(c)(3) conservation organization. Ms. Coy has 10 years of non-profit leadership experience in the area of education reform, serving as founding Executive Director of the Oak Grove Education Partners, which funds and develops curriculum-based programs for art, music and Spanish for K-8 students. Previous consulting includes on the communications strategy team of New Technology Foundation (a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus project), a network of 41 high schools throughout the U.S. utilizing project-based learning as the focus of education learning.
Former Board Member
Kent Barbian was raised in Montana and received his Masters of Microbiology from the University of Montana. He has worked since 2000, for the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of NIH, as the Genomics Units Senior Microbiologist. For the past ten years Mr. Barbian has been a mentor for high school and college students who are awarded NIH Internships and supports youth in their extra curricular activities by refereeing local and State soccer games.
Mimi Ahern received a BS and Liberal Arts Certificate from the University of San Francisco and a Multiple Subject Credential from San Francisco State University. As an educator for many years, Mimi believes wholeheartedly in learner engagement with teacher encouragement. She is most proud of her Volunteer of the Year Award from Arundel Elementary School and the numerous hours she has given to nonprofit organizations focused on helping at-risk populations.
Dr. Pamela Small,
Guest Speaker / STEM Consultant
Dr. Small is a retired University of Tennessee Professor, National Institute of Health research medical microbiologist, and World Health Organization advisor. She published a book for foreign medical students in India and obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Stanford University. Time spent in the tropics stimulated Dr. Small's interest in microbial pathogenesis along with a desire to conduct research in an area relevant to improving health conditions in resource poor countries. Since 1996 Dr. Small's research has focused on understanding the pathogenesis of the environmental pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer. Passionate about education, she continues to help high school and college students through guest speaking and mentoring.
Wendi Fawns received her BA in Sociology with a MIS focus. She maintained a successful career in Information Technology with a large San Francisco Bay Area county while also volunteering with Child Protective Services and Juvenile Probation. In 2014, she received her Master’s of Education Leadership from the University of Montana and has since focused her efforts on helping rural students obtain college and career pathways.
Service Learning Committee Chair
Rebecca Fawns is the founder of the Community Cooking Connections (a service learning program of Valley Oak) and chairs the CCC Board. She received her BS from MSU Bozeman in Secondary Education Broad Band Social Studies and is currently teaching high school in Glendive, Montana. Rebecca Fawns was awarded several college scholarships based on her commitment to youth education and was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship with the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Leanne Deschamps currently teaches at Florence-Carlton Schools, grades 8-12 English as well as an adjunct with the University of Montana English Teaching Program. Valuing the importance each individual student brings to the community, Leanne seeks a variety of teaching strategies and community opportunities to engage students with their learning in and beyond the classroom. In the words of W.B. Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Leanne embraces these words each day of teaching, knowing that igniting that passion for using one's talents builds for a stronger community.
Social Media Coordinator
Pam Fawns is the founder of Fundraising with Flowers and Youth Building Remodel, projects for which she was awarded the Prudential of Spirit of Community, Presidential Service Gold Level, ServeMT, and Violet Richardson awards. She is the Program Manager for Community Cooking Connections, was the BioScience Team Leader for Ravalli County and interned with National Institution of Health, Rocky Mountain Laboratories as a high school and college student. Currently Pam can be found coding and designing for Yavapai Community College, Arizona as their Lighting Design Director.
Guest Speaker / Coach
Joe Bruno received his BS from University of San Francisco. He worked for 3COM Corporation, AVANTEK Inc, ON Semiconductor Inc, and Fujitsu and other semiconductor and technical companies in finance, human resources, engineering and operations. He worked his way up the ladder assembling equipment and then found ways to make the production more efficient, which earned him several promotions including Director of Planning & Customer Satisfaction, Director of Operations, and General Manager.