Meet the Essay Readers!

The Berkeley High College essay readers are a group of experienced writers and editors who volunteer their time to help BHS seniors with their college essays and personal statements.

Essay Reader Bios

Mike Bolgatz is a lawyer practicing in Berkeley for the last 20 years. He has been volunteering reading college application essays for the last four years.
Katherine Brown attended Stanford University graduating with a degree in Journalism with a minor in French Language. She also studied law for 3 years, worked in Marketing and Public Relations and is currently a Suzuki piano teacher. She really has fun helping students 'get unstuck' or "rolling" while tackling college essays. Her 3 kids attend Pratt Institute, Stanford and Colorado College. For fun she likes to walk in Tilden Park, forage/garden, and host dinner around a bonfire.
Kathy Burns is an independent college advisor working with low-income seniors in El Cerrito/Richmond and Oakland on their college applications, including essays. Previously, she served as Western Regional Director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in San Francisco. She has been a Writer’s Coach at Willard and this will be her 3rd year reading college essays at BHS. Kathy has two daughters at Berkeley High.
Carla Castillo is in her third year as a BHS essay coach. She is a lawyer with extensive writing experience and also works as an independent essay coach in private practice.
elaine-bio-sep-2016Elaine Chan is a marketing consultant with extensive writing experience. She enjoys helping students succeed, and has volunteered as a tutor and Writer's Coach at Berkeley High since 2013. Elaine is a parent of two children: a son who is enrolled at UC Santa Barbara, and a daughter who graduated from The University of Southern California in 2016.
Steve Cohen is a communications consultant for non-profits and a writer for university and other publications. He held communications positions at University of California (UCOP and UC Berkeley) for 18 years, and has enjoyed being an essay reader for the last three years.
Vicky Elliott is a journalist who has worked at the International HeraldTribune, San Francisco Chronicle and now at Yahoo as an editor.
Janet Huseby is a journalist who has worked with the Associated Press, Time/Life Books and the University of California, Berkeley. This is her 19th year reading essays at Berkeley High.
Brenda Kahn earned a master’s in journalism from the renowned Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 30 years. She has held editorial positions with Runner’s World magazine and San Jose magazine, and her articles and personal essays have appeared in a number of publications. She currently works as the web editor and senior public information officer for a large regional governmental agency in the Bay Area. She has taught feature writing and copy-editing at the journalism program at City College of San Francisco, and was accepted to participate in the Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop. She has been a college essay reader at Berkeley High for more than a dozen years, and has four children who have attended Berkeley High and gone on to college.
Jamie Keller is a professional writer/educational therapist with a private practice specializing in working with rising seniors on their college application essays. Jamie has been helping seniors with their personal statements and volunteering at Berkeley High since 2006, successfully coaching hundreds of students in the art of writing unique, personal, and memorable essays.
Margaret Miller covered crime and politics for the Seattle Times, and she wrote for Outside Magazine and other publications. For four years she was the assistant dean at Cal's Graduate School of Journalism. At Cal she directed the admissions cycle, reviewing hundreds of applications every spring. Since then she has informally reviewed admissions essays for people applying to college, grad schools, fellowships, and jobs. Why? Because she really enjoys it.
Sara Sanderson is a retired public interest attorney. She has volunteered in the classroom writing programs and college essay programs at Berkeley High for about 10 years. “I focus on brainstorming with students to pinpoint their uniqueness and market their skills. Together we craft the outline of their essay and bring out their unique writing style."
Wendy Morrison is in her 14th year as an independent college counselor. She has been volunteering at Berkeley as an essay reader for over 10 years.
Bora Reed is a writer and editor who works as the communications manager for the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. She has enjoyed the many hours spent with her daughter (BHS '14) and her friends helping to write, revise (and revise again) their college essays.
Hilary Roberts, Ph.D., is an English professor at Contra Costa College. She teaches personal statement writing workshops at community education programs in the Bay Area. For fifteen years, Hilary has worked as a private coach for admissions, scholarship and internship application essays.
Ellen Singer-Vine is a retired psychologist, a graduate of BHS and the parent of three BHS graduates. “I have read essays for the last 13 years and I am impressed by the depth and range of subjects the students choose for their essay topics. I try to support each writer's voice, while helping to edit and organize the essay."
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