2023 District 9 Star Awardees

Pam Foley
4 min readNov 2, 2023

Each year we open the District 9 Star Application with the hopes of highlighting our community’s unsung heroes. We spread the opportunity to apply far and wide so we can hear stories of people doing great work throughout our community — stories that deserve to be uplifted.

My team and I always look forward to reading all the stories that are submitted about those who are making a lasting difference in the lives of others within District 9 and throughout San José. After the application window closes, we review all submissions and assess each nominee’s positive impact on our community.

We are honored to share these stories with you and take this opportunity to spread positivity, altruism, joy, love, and kindness in our own corner of San José.

Below are the three individuals nominated and then hand-selected by myself and my team to be recognized as the 2023 District 9 Stars.

Dave Noel

Dave was nominated by Joe Van Sambeek, but was already a familiar name for us. Dave Noel has served the community for over 10 years as the president of the Erikson Neighborhood Association in South San José.

The Erikson neighborhood truly has the high involvement it does due to Dave’s dedication to keeping neighbors well-informed and involved by organizing meetings and sending out their monthly newsletter full of updates.

As the driving force of the neighborhood, he has helped coordinate park improvement projects, creek clean-ups, and their annual Ice Cream Social National Night Out event.

Dave has played such an active role in fostering a community space that allows neighbors to engage with one another on a regular basis, unifying their voices and allowing them to address their neighborhood concerns.

I was honored to be able to recognize Dave both earlier in October at the State of the City Address for assisting a neighbor in need and again this past week at City Council. His efforts in fostering a welcoming, vibrant neighborhood where all families can live harmoniously do not go unnoticed.

Natasha Kramskaya

Nominations for District 9 Stars continue to come from the Valley-View Reed neighborhood. Natasha Kramskaya was nominated by two former D9 Star recipients, Vikki Bowes-Mok & Karen Adamski.

Natasha created the San José Free Little Art Gallery (SJFLAG) in February of 2022 in front of her home to display art and offer free paint supplies to the community.

Crafted to look like a miniature replica of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the SJFLAG was created as a community space for original art to be shared with neighbors and enjoyed by anyone.

Being a local artist herself, she spends time carefully curating the gallery featuring art ranging from ghoulish exhibits during Halloween to touching tributes for peace in the Ukraine.

Natasha makes sure that the community is involved by inviting artists to contribute work of all different kinds including paintings, mixed media, wood, and sculptures, and has even featured other local artist’s work.

Natasha has a passion for the arts just like I do and I have loved watching her bring her community together through not only her creativity but her generosity as well.

Tejas Billa

Tejas Billa was nominated by his youth group advisor, Noah Levinson and it was immediately clear why. Tejas is a dedicated and passionate local community member who volunteers between 16–40 hours weekly making huge impacts within the multiple communities he is a part of.

As a passionate leader, he serves as the chapter president of the BBYO Jewish Youth Group in South San José and leads California’s 4-H program as the State Ambassador.

He has a passion for creating meaningful relationships by welcoming new Israeli immigrant students at school and providing friendship and support to children with varying abilities ensuring they feel comfortable and confident with Bay Area Friendship Circle.

By planning and executing many events and programs, he has helped to bring entry-level STEM curriculum to underserved communities through programming in multiple San José bilingual schools.

As a new college student, Tejas has such a strong future ahead of him. I know the path he’s on

Thank you to everyone who nominated a member of our community, all of this year’s nominees, and the 2023 District 9 Stars. You have all made such a positive impact in our corner of San José. I am extremely grateful that we have the pleasure of celebrating and honoring these wonderful individuals year after year.

I am truly proud to call all of you District 9 residents and now three more community members our District 9 Stars!



Pam Foley

Wife & Mother. Former SJUSD Trustee. Real Estate Professional. Rotarian. Housing Advocate. San José District 9 City Councilmember & Proud San Jose Booster