Born and raised (mostly) in rural Central California, Ruth Obel-Jorgensen migrated from numerous dairy farms where child care, afterschool and summer programs consisted of feeding calves, jumping off hay bales, playing hide and seek in the tule fog, burying siblings in the mud and practicing clarinet for the school marching band. From a working poor, bi-racial and multi-cultural family, Ruth experienced the inequities of class and racial discrimination through her own experiences and those of her family. The only in her family to graduate from college and with lighter skin, Ruth also benefited from privileges that come with access to higher education and whiteness that others in her family didn’t experience. From rural, high poverty farm working communities with limited access and opportunity to a solid career and a wealth of resources in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ruth continues to straddle two different worlds – leveraging the rich dichotomy and complexity of all aspects of her identity to fuel her passion to empower communities and influence change.
Ruth studied psychology, social work and nonprofit management and leadership at California State University, Fresno (CSUF). Influenced by serving as a peer counselor and HIV/AIDS educator in high school, Ruth sought out to be a therapist only to have that direction shifted dramatically by Humanics– a nonprofit leadership and management program at CSUF. She switched gears from micro to macro and ultimately graduated with a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) and Humanics Certificate with an emphasis in community organizing and advocacy – all while leading civil liberties and anti-war campaigns, facilitating prejudice reduction training, interning at the National Association of Social Workers, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and working a full-time job to make ends meet. Since relocating to Oakland in 2005, Ruth has ran statewide programs and campaigns for higher education access and voter education and turnout with the UC Student Association, and has also supported national programs for LGBTQ+ equality and youth empowerment with the Gay Straight Alliance Network and Maven Youth.
Ruth joined CalSAC in 2008 intrigued by the possibility of creating systems change from within through values-driven leadership and practices that advance educational, economic and racial equity. She held the position of program coordinator and program director before becoming the executive director in 2011. Ruth prides herself in fostering a strong organizational culture that leads with values, acts with integrity, and strives to be and cultivate equity-driven leaders – recognizing that the work we do in the out-of-school time field is part of a larger social justice movement. Ruth is the co-chair of the CA Department of Education Expanded Learning Division Workforce Advisory, co-chair of the CA Afterschool Network Leadership Team, and a member of the ASAPconnect Advisory. She also serves as the CA State Affilitate Leader of the National Afterschool Association, and is an alum of the LeaderSpring ED Fellowship and the CompassPoint Bright Spots Program.
Ruth calls the farmlands of the Central Valley home, where majority of her family still resides, while enjoying her current community in Oakland with her spouse and three dogs. In her spare time she contributes to Maven Youth, a nonprofit empowering queer youth through career exploration and technology.