Melissa Phillips is the co-founder and Executive Director of San Diego Refugee Tutoring (SDRT). A credentialed teacher, she served in San Diego Unified schools (City Heights area) for almost two decades. When she discovered the intense needs of students from a refugee background in her classroom, she created SDRT with another colleague, Jeremy Blough. Together, they wanted to connect volunteers to students in an outside-the-box effort to meet the significant academic needs of students who recently resettled in the United States. SDRT has continued to grow at a rapid rate, far exceeding anything Melissa ever dreamt of creating. She loves watching the students and tutors connect where, as a result, both tutors and students end up seeing life from a different perspective. While living in City Heights for 21 years, she loved seeing firsthand the diversity that each unique culture brings to the community. She is passionate about all students deserving an equitable educational experience.
Melissa is also a mom to five children through adoption and foster care. When she isn’t with kids, she can be found on a date with her high school sweetheart (who also works in education), hiking, camping, jogging or reading.
Jess Kraus hails from the heart of the midwest; she grew up in a big multicultural family where she is the oldest of 4 sisters. She has lived in San Diego for 12 years and, through her daughter’s eyes, discovered SDRT. Currently, Jess is the Program/Admin Assistant and enjoys being out in the community, cultivating friendships, and watching students dive into a good story with their tutor.
Jess enjoys popcorn and a movie with her family. She loves to see live music with her daughter and is devoted to second-hand shopping.
Manager of Volunteer Services & Web Support
A San Diego native and oldest of three sisters, Andrea Zeidell started volunteering with SDRT in 2016 and developed a quick bond with the very first student she tutored. After that first day, she attended every tutoring session available to get the chance to work with “her” student, and whom she still works with today. When SDRT was hiring for a Volunteer Coordinator and Social Media Manager in 2017, she jumped at the opportunity to have a deeper role in the organization. Now with the title of Manager of Volunteer Services & Web Support, she is grateful for the continued trust in helping with the growth & health of SDRT.
Andrea is a huge fan of dance, Kundalini Yoga, HIIT, kids birthday parties, cooking with others, and sound healing. She loves traveling, full moon hikes, spending quality time with family and friends in nature and/or surrounded by good food, live music, and meaningful conversation.
Elementary School Director
Kristin McGraw connected with SDRT as a volunteer, supporting a teacher at Ibarra Elementary with new refugee students. Her first years teaching were in the San Francisco Unified School District where she taught grades 4-8. The diversity of her classrooms inspired her to return to graduate school to become a reading specialist and to learn more about second language acquisition. While raising her family in San Diego, she continued to support classroom teachers as a volunteer, tutoring struggling readers, and working at a charter school in City Heights supporting middle and high school students. Her role at SDRT allows her to continue pursuing her passion of supporting students and their families.
Kristin and her husband have recently become empty nesters after many years of raising their three children. In her free time she is happiest hiking, exploring national parks, knitting, reading, and spending as much time as she can with her family.
Middle/High School Director
Prior to becoming SDRT’s MS/HS Director, Andrew Younger taught grades 7-12 and was the English Department Head and Curriculum Specialist at a middle school in South San Diego where he worked with a large English learner student population. Empowering students through language and literacy inspired Andrew to pursue an English degree through SDSU and a M.Ed through the University of San Diego. He is excited to continue empowering students and families with SDRT.
Outside of the classroom, Andrew is an avid movie and music fan who always appreciates recommendations. He plays multiple musical instruments in his free time and enjoys trivia, tennis, skateboarding, and travel. Andrew has visited 12 countries so far and is looking forward to adding more countries to that list soon.