Mission

Gameheads is a tech training program that equips young people of color with the tech and life skills they need to succeed at school, in their careers, and beyond.

Based out of Oakland, CA, Gameheads uses video game design, development and DevOps to engage, prepare and train low-income youth and youth of color ages 15 to 24 in the Bay Area for careers in the tech and video game industries. Through a powerful medium that youth are familiar with and passionate about, our students learn how to code, design, manage projects, work in teams, lead, and create interactive projects that tell stories to enrich us all. In the process, they are also graduating from high school, getting into college to pursue STEAM-related degrees and preparing themselves to enter the tech and video game industries.

Team

Damon Packwood

Co-Founder, Executive Director

Damon has more than 18 years of experience in the youth development and education fields, positions at Juma Ventures, Hack the Hood, and Upward Bound. A San Francisco native, he watched the city’s working-class community disappear with the rise of the Bay Area tech industry while his students couldn’t get jobs right out of college.

His passion for education, interactive media, and multiculturalism led him to a master’s in multimedia tech with an emphasis on interactive design. For his thesis, he spent a year in the San Francisco Mission District studying the effect of technology on low-income communities. Damon believes that using video games to teach game design and development to “cultural alchemists” can help create the future tech zealots, digital rebels, and multimedia mavericks.

Bilen Mesfin Packwood

Strategic Communications Consultant

The Founder and CEO of Change Consulting. She has nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, PR and communication and has worked with several organizations such as The Rosenberg Foundation, Level Playing Field Institute, Women’s Funding Network and California Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color and more.

Tanya Alvarado

Administrative Assistant

Tanya has more than 17 years of experience as an Administrative Assistant. She spent 15 years in the gaming industry, using her passion for employee satisfaction and process improvement to promote from administrative roles to supervisory and managerial assignments in gaming and hospitality areas.

In addition to volunteering for the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Koman events, having been a Relay for Life Event Chair and Breast Cancer 3 Day Team Captain, Tanya enjoys teaching ceramic painting techniques to children, riding horses and traveling with her family. She lives outside Phoenix, AZ, with her husband and 2 daughters.

Carlos Cruz

Program Manager

Hailing from Northeast Ohio, Carlos joins the Gameheads team as it’s first Program Manager. He has a background as a community leader focused on building opportunities for underserved communities. Carlos graduated from John Carroll University in 2018 with a major in Communication. He began his journey serving in education in 2016 as a Servant Leader Intern with Children’s Defense Fund: Freedom Schools. Through this experience he was able to define his passion for addressing inequities in the public education system and access to the arts. In 2019, Carlos joined City Year Cleveland as Impact Manager serving in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District until 2021. Outside of Gameheads, Carlos is a volunteer moderator and public speaker for Latinx in Gaming. Carlos participated on two panels representing LXIG: “Building Community” held at PAX West 2019, “Self-Care as a Latinx Game Dev” held at PAX South 2020, and “The Artist’s Journey” held at PAX East Online 2021. 

His experience serving in education non-profits coupled with volunteering in the games industry inspires him to work in the very intersection that serves our youth: inspiring youth to pursue the dreams they set out for themselves, whatever they look like and wherever they come from. In his free time Carlos enjoys illustration and character design. He is a former artist-in-residence for the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center where he created a zine reminiscent of a character book. Through this project, Carlos illustrated BIPOC members of the Cleveland community as some of their favorite video game characters as a commentary on the intersection of non-white identities and character design in the games industry. His favorite video game franchise is Pokémon and loves playing Age of Empires IV with his friends on the weekends. 

Jose Martinez

Program Coordinator

Jose Martinez was one of the first Gameheads students and now works as the Program Coordinator. To him, it was a huge turning point and gave him a sense of direction towards his career. Jose believes in the organization’s vision. In addition to that, there can be a pipeline with the video game industry for people of color. He is fueled by helping others and being a leader to make change for the better. He likes to aid others to have an even playing field. 

Zoram Mercado

Broadcasting Technician

Straight outta Oakland, Zoram works for LatinxInGaming and Gameheads as the Broadcasting Technician. He spent his college days learning and having fun in the production studios as he pursued his Broadcasting Degree at San Francisco State University. Much of his experience stems from Gameheads where he documents, interviews, live streams, and edits content for the students. He strives to promote and showcase the talent of people of color in the tech industry.In the summer of 2017, he MC’d and produced his first livestream of the Annual Gameheads Showcase, with 1700+ viewers. In the winter of 2021, Zoram spearheaded a production plan for LXIG’s UNIDOS event leading up to 17,000+ views. His curious mind does not let him rest as he constantly discovers new strategies, software, mentors, and equipment.  He is enthusiastic for the near future as he gets his hands on new virtual production equipment.Other than that, Zoram wishes to expand on his music and theater minor from SFSU He is an all-around musician that is looking for opportunities to act up in front of the camera. He can be found on Twitter @Zmerca510.

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