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Board of Directors

Battalion Chief Byron Berhel (Retired)


Chief Byron Berhel is the design architect behind the concept of the Firefighter Youth Academy. During the course of his 30 year career, Chief Berhel recognized a growing need in many of the neighborhoods of Richmond. Youth were often both the victims and perpetrators of violent crime and other unacceptable social behavior. He noticed that youth who resided in these distressed communities had the usual curiosity about the activities of firefighters and launched the Firefighter Youth Academy. He has served on numerous county, regional, and federal public safety committees, raising millions of grant dollars for programs that are still in existence today. Chief Berhel is passionate about his service beyond his employment with the Richmond Fire Department and seeks to share the successful Firefighter Youth Academy concept with other communities.

Ms. Deborah Berhel

Deborah Berhel is the co-founder and project manager of several of our youth development programs. Ms. Berhel serves as a mentor and counselor providing academic and social guidance for our student-cadets. She is an alumni of University of California Los Angeles and is currently expanding her education to include a degree in psychology so that she can be of greater assistance to our youth and children.

Ms. Cheryl Maier


Cheryl Maier is Business Services Manager for the Oakland Private Industry Council.  Her prior experience was as Executive Director of a non-profit agency in Richmond, CA, with initiatives in youth employment, economic and community development, and violence prevention.   She also previously worked for the City of Richmond, Contra Costa College and Peralta College District in planning and management capacities for employment training programs.  Cheryl has 30 years of experience as a grantwriter and project manager and serves on the Boards of many non-profit agencies, including the Brookside Foundation, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Youth Services Bureau and Richmond Friends of Recreation.

Dr. Aleisha Dobbins Ph.D


Dr. Aleisha Dobbins is an accomplished scientist with over 13 years experience in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry. An Ohio native, Dr. Dobbins holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Chemistry from Alabama A & M University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with emphasis in Genomics and Bioinformatics from the Howard University. She was honored as one of the California North Bay Business Journal’s “Top Forty Under 40” in 2012 and was a graduate of the first Executive MBA Cohort from Sonoma State University.


Dr. Dobbins’ doctoral research was completed through collaborative project she initiated between Howard University, the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute), and Carnegie Mellon. She was awarded the 2006 Council of Historically Black Graduate Schools/UMI Most Outstanding Dissertation Award and her work is heavy cited within and throughout the scientific community, she is published in the Journal of Bacteriology, and as part of the 2004 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Projects in Scientific Computing Annual Report. Her research experiences also included work at the National Institutes of Health, the Wake Forest University/Bowman Gray School of Medicine, the University of Minnesota Schook Veterinary Pathobiology Laboratory, and the Howard University’s Cancer Center.


Dr. Dobbins is a frequent speaker for training programs, meetings, conferences, youth development and STEM initiatives. She is an active leader in the community whose volunteer efforts and professional affiliations are numerous. Among these commitments, she serves on the Board of Directors for Support For Actively Rising Youth (SFARY); as a mentor for the International Center for Professional Development’s Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMPD); and Dr. Dobbins is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and The Links, Incorporated. 

Battalion Chief Kieth Cormier,

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District 


Keith J. Cormier is a Battalion Chief in the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District with over 28 years of service.  He is a past president of the Contra Costa Black Firefighters Association and between the years of 2001-2007 he served as Director for the Southwest Region of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters also serving as a National Board member. During his tenure in the fire service he has held the ranks of Fire Captain/Paramedic, Fire Training Captain, Fire Engineer, Fire Academy Instructor and Firefighter.  He has served as a Big Brother and instructor for the Los Medanos College Fire Academy.  He lives in Lafayette and devotes most of his time to his wife and two children.

Battalion Chief Rico Rincon,

Richmond Fire Department 


Captain Rico Rincon started his fire service career in 2002 and has spent more than 16 years with the Richmond Fire Department serving as a Firefighter, Engineer, and Fire Captain. He has also served as the Public Information Officer for 10 years. He currently works to provide Fire Suppression, Hazardous Materials mitigation, and Technical Rescue support to the citizens of Richmond.

Captain Rincon was recognized as the Richmond Fire Department Firefighter of the Year in 2006 for working with a team to develop an automatic aide response program. This program ensures that the closest fire unit is dispatched to an emergency notwithstanding of jurisdictional borders. In 2011, after responding to Hurricane Irene, Captain Rincon received a Resolution of Appreciation from the Essex County, NY, for training their disaster response team in the Incident Command System.

Captain Rincon is a strong advocate of firefighter safety and works with the IAFF Local 188 to improve firefighter working conditions and safety. He is the current President of the Richmond Professional Black Firefighters Association serving for over 5 years. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Richmond Youth Academy.

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Nick Berhel

Production Manager

Nick Berhel is a consultant for SFARY and the Robbin Mackbee Firefighter EMS Youth Academy. Nick brings experience and a focus on digital technology, project management and marketing. Nick is originally from the North Bay Area but currently resides in Southern California. His goal is to help inspire a generation of minority leaders and content creators through his work with SFARY and the RMFYA. Nick earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

Ashley Berhel

Chief Development Officer

Ashley Berhel has over 15 years of professional experience in organizational design, human-centered research, project management, and program development in various sectors, including healthcare, education, and technology. Ashley has worked with SFARY in several capacities since 2013. In her current role as Chief Development Officer, Ashley designs and implements innovative strategies for securing the financial resources necessary to further SFARY's overall mission through sustainable growth and expansion. With a B.A. in Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Ashley truly values the importance of building strong connections with the individuals and communities that SFARY serves, as well as creating lasting relationships with our supporters. In addition to her work with SFARY, Ashley has played an instrumental role in developing and advancing large interdisciplinary projects for Kaiser Permanente, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and IDEO design firm.. 

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Rose Baca

Assistant Project Manager

Rose Baca is a former cadet and now serves as our Production Assistant while she attends school to pursue a degree in health as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Rose graduated from the academy with honors and has been a committed resource to help the staff and the cadets get the most out of the program. Her dedication and adherence to the program’s principles of academic achievement, community service and self-discipline qualify her to serve in this capacity.

Ty McClarty

Production Specialist

Ty McClarty runs his own Video Production and Photography Businesses with over ten years of experience in Media and Marketing. Ty specializes in producing digital solutions for his clients by creating useful content for commercial and personal use. Ty resides in Solano County and is a tremendous supporter of our effort to use media as a tool to promote public safety and community service. We are very grateful for Mr. McClarty’s assistance and support with the Robbin Mackbee Firefighter/EMS Youth Academy Media Arts program and the “Youth on Safety, Health and Wellness” production.

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