2018 BCLI Fellows
Alex McDonald is a San Diego local who attended middle school and high school in the South Bay community of San Diego. After high school she attended San Diego State University, and then went on to receive a juris doctorate from California Western School of Law as a Kennedy Scholar. During her time at California Western, she served as an executive editor on the law review, and worked for local non-profit organizations including Think Dignity and the California Innocence Project. Since law school she has worked as a Deputy Public Defender defending the rights of the San Diego community within the legal system. Alex is excited to be a part of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute to learn how to better serve her community.
Brenda Aguirre Arnold is originally from Tijuana, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States over a decade ago and became a citizen in 2014. A graduate of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) Business Program, member of several community and political activism groups, Brenda is a dedicated activist for the LGBTQ communities, immigrant rights, and health care reform among many other concerns. She is a social media advocate and feels the often-underutilized tools can reach a broader audience. Brenda serves as membership coordinator and social media director for the grass roots organization ACLU South Bay People Power and is on the board of the Eastlake-Bonita Democratic Club as the public relations officer. She is also a member of Mi Familia and PFLAG, two organizations serving as support groups for LGBTQ families, allies and communities, and recently joined South Bay Alliance. As a married mother of four, Brenda and her family have set roots in Chula Vista because of the diverse and rich cultures and inclusive nature of the communities. Brenda believes in modeling for her children a path to becoming stronger as a person, community, nation and world.
Cristina Marquez is a low voltage electrician apprentice born and raised in San Diego County. After she graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Sociology she moved to Las Vegas for 12 years, where she worked in hotel guest services and as a private driver.
She is currently in her 4th year in the apprentice program at the San Diego Training Center accredited through Palomar College and will graduate in June 2018. Cristina has always liked to be active in any type of work she does and thrives in fixing and putting devices together.
She is also very active with the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) local union 569 and sits on the board for Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC). She volunteers on a regular basis including but not limited to:
- Walking and talking at numerous precinct walks
- Helping facilitate career fairs
- Engaging with school kids brought into the training center to show them apprenticeship opportunities
- Going to various communities in San Diego County school districts to educate kids about the apprenticeship program.
- Being a member of the legislative committee
Her love of Southern California called her back and will keep her here. Once she graduates from the apprenticeship program she looks forward to staying involved with the community and keeping San Diego the best place to live.
Gala Ledezma is currently completing her last year at UC San Diego, working towards a B.S. degree in Social Psychology and a Minor in Public Service. As a Chula Vista resident, Gala worked as a tutor for the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood Initiative at South Bay Community Services. In 2018, she looks forward to interning for a city council campaign, as well as participating in UCSD’s community-based research and outreach program. Gala is passionate about youth, education, and the U.S-Mexico border region.
Latisha Hill is a graduate of the School-Based Family Counseling Masters program at CSU, Los Angeles. After many years working in the public sector, Latisha started to recognize the need to promote and encourage strength-based dialogue surrounding mental health at the state, county, community and individual levels. Latisha hopes to be the voice for “everyday” citizens by one day serving in the state senate.
Leanna Augustus is a queer child welfare advocate, feminist and science enthusiast. She graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a B.S. in Biology in 2010. She currently works at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest in Community Engagement. She is currently a board member with the Coalition for Reproductive Justice. Leanna is heavily involved in the foster care community and currently volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate through Voices for Children.
She is fiercely passionate about women’s rights and fair access to healthcare and education for people of color.
Natasha Anderson-Moncrieffe lives by the motto “Art is Life is Art”. The Brooklyn, New York native loves calling San Diego home and utilizes every opportunity to submerge herself in the local art culture. Her background in News Editorial Journalism highlights her penchant for writing, while her career transitioned into creating marketing and public relations campaigns for corporate brands and various nonprofit organizations. She currently serves as the Product Marketing Specialist for Rio SEO, a marketing automation software company based in San Diego. She is also the Advocacy Chair for Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego, and membership chair for the San Diego Regional Arts & Culture Coalition. She was recognized for her contribution to the LGBT Center’s Young Professional’s Council with two awards from Senator Toni Atkins, and former mayor of San Diego and Assemblymember Todd Gloria.
She looks forward to joining CPI’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute in preparation for serving on a city board and expanding her dedication and service to improving equality, accessibility, community equity, art, and human rights advocacy for San Diego.
Noreen Woods is an IHSS caregiver, mother and grandmother who was born and raised in San Diego, California. She is very active in her union, United Domestic Workers. Noreen is currently elected County Representative of San Diego and sits on the statewide bargaining team. She is also a local board member and a culinary board member for UDW. Noreen is passionate about working with her fellow union members to defend the In-Home Support Services Program. Noreen is committed to doing that by being an active member in her community and by being an IHSS Advisory board member where she can provide ongoing advice and recommendations regarding the IHSS program.
Paola Martinez-Montes has lived in San Diego for nearly 20 years, growing up here since arriving from Mexico with her family in 1997. She is the daughter of immigrant parents and was undocumented herself for many years, giving her a unique worldview and sensitivity to the injustices and inequalities that many people face. Being raised in San Diego, she harbors a deep love for the city and the people who live here and it was that love that led her to organizing.
She began her organizing as a student at San Diego City College where she obtained a degree in Sociology, during which time she organized around ending budget cuts, increased tuition costs, violence against women, and immigrant rights. She was a teacher’s assistant in Gender Studies, and interned for the American Federation of Teachers Local 1931. All this experience allowed her to further understand inherent interconnections between the importance of social justice, unionism, and community organizing.
In 2011, she joined the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerments (ACCE), as a member of a civic engagement team, where her leadership and organizing continued to develop leading her to the position of Director of ACCE for San Diego County. As Director of the San Diego chapter of ACCE, she has engaged her community, run civic engagement programs, facilitated community-led campaigns, developed local community leaders as well as new organizing staff, and participated in numerous coalitions to develop policies and organizing campaigns aimed at improving the lives of low-income community members and people of color with a focus in Chula Vista and National City. Paola is currently serving as the Chair for the City of Chula Vista Human Relations Commission.
Philomena Marino is proud to be a third-generation resident of Barrio Logan. Growing up in this family neighborhood taught her how the actions of good neighbors’ support and add to the enjoyment of the community. Many of the long-time residents are the same neighbors who watched over her as a little girl and were part of the deeply nurturing atmosphere that is Barrio Logan.
She takes a personal interest in the elderly and is actively working with the Environmental Health Coalition to improve the Barrio Logan community. She has been instrumental in the community-based research project working towards the implementation of truck routing there and in a truck ordinance for residential San Diego. This ultimately improves the health of all residents regardless of age.
She’s a quality systems/project management professional with 25 years’ experience in the biotech industry. As a graduate of UCSD and National University, Ms. Marino earned a BA, BS, and MBA, as well as a Health Education Specialist Certification. With her education and passion, she advocates and supports egalitarian principles.
Sofia Nelson-Ferezi is currently an undergraduate student at UCSD, working towards a double major in Urban Studies and Planing and International Studies-Econ. She was raised in Tijuana but decided to finish her High School education in Chula Vista in order to follow her dreams and go to college in the US. Being exposed to the constant contrast of two clashing cultures brought to her attention the importance of planning in developing cities and believes that she can bring a new perspective in planning because of her bicultural background. She worked with City Heights Community Development Corporation where she had the opportunity to explore the impact that public policy can have in the lives of citizens. She hopes to continue to grow and learn both inside and outside the classroom walls in order to give back to her community.
Tannia Montesinos is a native of Mexico City and has lived in San Diego since the age of 4. She graduated from San Diego State University and San Diego City College with degrees in Social Work and Chicano Studies. With a passion for cultural issues, social justice and volunteer work, she has volunteered at Urban Corps of San Diego, Unite Here Local 30, Mid City Pediatrics and Kearney Mesa Juvenile Hall Detention Facility. Currently, Tannia is working for Community HousingWorks (CHW) as a Community Building Coordinator to coordinate free services and programming to families living in CHW affordable housing.
Tazheen Nizam is an accounting and finance professional. She holds an MBA degree in Finance and Organization Management.
She is a strong proponent of social justice and Immigrants Rights. Tazheen heads the North County Immigration Task Force. She sits on boards of organizations that work towards Civil rights, Immigrant rights and Interfaith Collaborations. She is a mother, a wife and a small business owner.
Yessica Diaz-Roman has been fully engaged in promoting diversity, inclusion, and health equity within the San Diego community, since relocating to this area after completing her doctorate in public health from Columbia University. Dr. Diaz-Roman served on the board of directors for MANA de San Diego, and Imperial Beach Health Center, and was a 2016-17 RISE Urban Leadership Fellow. Her current leadership roles include serving as Chair for MANA de San Diego’s Health Committee, board member for Columbia University’s Alumni Association of San Diego, and contributing to STEAM-related initiatives as founder of the STEAM Global Network. Yessica is a faculty member at Southwestern College. She is the eldest of four and a first-generation college student. Originally from New York City, Yessica is passionate about the arts and increasing access to higher education and STEAM careers for women of color. In addition to her doctorate in sociomedical sciences from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, she has joint master degree’s in public health and social work from the University of Michigan.
2017 BCLI Fellows
Andrea Gaspar is a queer Mexican born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana. She moved to Chula Vista at the age of 15, where she attended Otay Ranch High School. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California Irvine in International Studies and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies with a double minor in African-American Studies and Latin American Literature. While at Irvine, she served as the Executive Vice President of the Associated Students and as a board member of the University of California Student Association. She coordinated statewide student led campaigns to fight the incarceration of people of color, UC tuition hikes, and on campaigns for labor justice and immigrants’ Rights.
For the last two years, Andrea worked for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties as a Youth Organizer and developed an organizing and leadership program at 4 high schools in San Diego County. Gaspar believes that youth organizing is one of the most powerful tools to bring transformative justice and to challenge both macro and micro levels of systemic oppression that are affecting and killing communities on a daily basis. She now works as a Youth Organizing consultant in San Diego County.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Ayinde Watson attended Valley Forge Military Academy High School in Wayne, Pennsylvania. After graduating, he went on to play football at Fort Valley State University for 2 years as a Biology major before joining the United States Navy. Watson served for over 6 years in the Navy as a Corpsman, deploying twice and earning military decorations. He is an actor and musician as well as an avid runner.
Dominique Navarro works as the Fund Development Associate & Grant Writer for the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC). She joined EHC’s team in 2016 after working with various partners including the Center on Policy Initiatives and The San Diego Foundation Center for Civic Engagement in functions including grant writing, event planning, and community outreach. She has always been passionate about social and environmental justice and has worked on environmental education efforts in the U.S., Costa Rica and Mozambique. She is a proud National City resident and excited to join a board or commission in her community.
Gabriel Reyes Orosco is currently in his third year at San Diego State University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. He was born and raised in San Diego in the community of City Heights and is very interested and invested in serving his community. He is a mentor at Hoover High school as part of a full-ride scholarship with Price Community Scholars at San Diego State University. In his community, Gabriel has been part of a youth group, Advocates for Change Today, that advocates against drug use among youth. Additionally, he was a part of the City Heights Community Development Corporation as an intern with Active Transportation. Gabriel aspires to be a transportation engineer and hopes to see San Diego become more bike-friendly by embracing multi-modal transportation planning.
Mr. Hanif Mohebi was raised in the heart of Silicon Valley. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Diego Chapter. He is the former director of a communication consulting firm in San Jose and has held various senior positions at for-profit and nonprofit organizations. At a young age, he was exposed to community dignitaries in the UN and other U.S. agencies who influenced his character. He has appeared in both local and national media outlets. Mr. Mohebi has completed a Pre-PhD program, and has published research. He has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Globalization and Social Justice.
He has emerged as a guest speaker at high schools, universities, companies and community events on a variety of topics ranging from Concepts of World Citizenship to The Cycle of Love, to History of Anti-Civil Liberties Legislations. He is a young and passionate Muslim American with a wonderful cosmopolitan attitude and great love for civil rights, human rights, and the Constitution of the United States. He is obsessed with the idea of bringing about a positive change to the world through dedicating his life to serving humanity.
James Halliday is a native San Diegan. After graduating from Stanford in 2003, he pursued graduate studies in Cracow, Poland where he lived until 2005. From 2005-2014, he lived in Seoul, Moscow, and Istanbul, working for many years in journalism, before turning his professional focus to work at the intersection of education, philanthropy, and social enterprise. Since returning to San Diego, James has been the Program Director at the Education Synergy Alliance, then a co-founder of Impact Without Borders (IWOB), an organization that educates and accelerates social entrepreneurs in the San Diego-Tijuana region. In addition to his work with IWOB, James is a strategic consultant for social enterprises and nonprofits (with a focus on youth, educational equity, and workforce development).
Building a power base for progressive philanthropy and empowering the next generation of leaders in San Diego are also abiding passions. Toward those ends, James is board chair of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), San Diego chapter. James was a 2016 Fellow of the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA), and a 2016-17 Fellow of the RISE Urban Leadership Fellows Program (at USD). When he’s not working, he’s cooking – usually with family and friends nearby. When he’s not at his desk, he’s on the trail or planning the next trip. To kick back, he reads voraciously and wantonly, loves watching college basketball and binging on Scandinavian crime dramas.
Jenny Trang is a first-generation Vietnamese-American citizen. She is currently the Youth Development Coordinator at City Heights Community Development Corporation (CHCDC). She earned her Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Certificate and BA in Political Science and Child Development at San Diego State University (SDSU). Jenny was born and raised in City Heights and volunteered with several non-profit organizations since she was in high school. She mentored at STAR/PAL for 3 years, served as the Vice President of Public Relations with the San Diego Asian Youth Organization (SDAYO), and continued to serve SDAYO for several of years as a mentor to board members. Jenny currently sits on the Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council and Voice of San Diego’s storyboard team advocating for bilingual education.
Jenny has held internships with Former San Diego Council member Marti Emerald of District 9 and former Trustee and President of the Board of Education, Marne Foster. Jenny is a proud Student for Economic Justice (SEJ) alum where she worked with the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) on several economic justice campaigns.
Luis O. Osuna is a Mexican-American from Tijuana, Mexico. He migrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of six and spent his formative years in San Diego before leaving to attend college. Mr. Osuna is proud to be a UC Berkeley and California Western School of Law graduate. Today he is a personal injury, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice attorney at Golper, Sullivan & Rivera, a local boutique law firm.
In addition, he is actively involved in the community through his capacity as the Immediate Past-President of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association and as a board member for the Chicano Federation. He also sits on the development committee for MANA–a local nonprofit that mentors young Latinas to ensure their future success.
Most recently, he was nominated by San Diego Councilman David Alvarez to sit on the city’s Independent Rates and Oversight Commission. Subsequent to his nomination, he was appointed to the position by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Currently, Mr. Osuna is seeking to become the Vice Chair of the San Diego County Democratic party’s south area.
Maggie Ta is a Worksite Organizer at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 221 and advocates for workers’ rights within San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency sector. With over seven years of lobbying experience, Maggie has advocated for socially equitable legislation and initiatives from the county level to the federal level. One of Maggie’s (many) life missions is to ignite the spark between community engagement and effective policy solutions.
Prior to her current position, she was the Policy Specialist at Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network). This experience increased her fervor for community advocacy and sustainable policies.
Maggie received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Systems at the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a Leadership Fellow with RISE San Diego. In her spare time, she enjoys watching psychological thrillers and FaceTiming her parents.
Miriam Rodriguez’ dedication to serve and lead started at a young age. As the oldest of five, she helped her single mother care for her younger sisters while growing up in Los Angeles. Her mother struggled as a new immigrant and non-English speaker. She has been a volunteer and leader in the San Diego Unified School District for the past 11 years. Miriam is an outstanding advocate for all students in the Hoover Cluster and also a partner in advocating for affordable housing. Miriam traveled to Sacramento in the spring of 2016 to meet and persuade legislators; fighting for the passage and support of critical issues, proposals, and bills that would alleviate the housing crisis in San Diego.
Miriam enjoys being part of the Hoover Cluster’s Wellness Council a project that pilot in her children’s school in 2011. Miriam organized volunteers to start a fitness club at her children’s school, promoting walking and running during recess. She has helped establish the Hoover Cluster Wellness Council and served for the past two years as the President, and currently serves in the Hoover Cluster Leadership Council. Currently, she is the Hoover Cluster’s Rep. for the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).
Today, Miriam is known as a champion for children and families; advocating, volunteering and serving on committees, boards, leadership groups and panels to make sure that wellness is a priority and the parent voice is heard in a democratic process.
Miriam’s inspiration for her volunteer work is her family, her three school age children, and her community. Her vision is to prepare and inspire a new generation with healthy goals, to make a better place to live for all, in a positive and loving environment. Miriam was nominated for the Ruby Awards in 2016 for an outstanding resident leader. She is currently part of the leadership team at the City Heights Development Corporation.
Rickie Brown has been a resident of City Heights for over ten years. She currently serves as a Property Manager at Hollywood Palms and Casa Del Sol, with over 18 years of experience in low income/affordable housing. Her background also includes case management, Budget Coordinator for Developmental Disabilities in Louisiana, and business development for the Jacobs Center.
Originally from Nanakuli Hawaii, Roddy Jerome graduated in 1982 from W.R. Farrington H.S. in Kalihi, but has been a resident of City Heights, San Diego, for many years. Roddy Jerome has a vested interest in what goes on in his community. About 4 years ago, he started attending Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) community meetings in City Heights and began to find out more about how his neighborhood and the entire region is impacted by dirty energy, the lack of good public transportation and a variety of other environmental justice issues. Since 2013, Roddy attended and testified at state energy hearings, at San Diego’s City Council Committees about the City’s climate action plan, at SANDAG (San Diego Association of Government) hearings about the Mid-City bike corridor and in Sacramento to lobby state Legislators.
The aspect of community advocacy Roddy enjoys most is knocking on doors and informing his friends and neighbors about the common issues that affect all of us, urging them to get involved. Roddy continues his involvement with the City Heights built environment team and EHC, and looks forward to developing better tools through the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute to advocate for underrepresented communities and communities of color.
Sandra Duran is a reproductive justice advocate, immigrant, intersectional feminist, and digital organizer. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2014 with a BA in Communications and a minor in Sociology. Sandra currently works at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest as the Constituency Affairs Coordinator and has worked and volunteered for various non-profits in the Los Angeles and San Diego regions. Sandra proudly serves her community through volunteer work as a mentor for MANA de San Diego’s Hermanitas program, and as a member of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the Reproductive Justice Coalition in San Diego. She is passionate about the arts, access to healthcare and education, youth, and uplifting womxn of color.
Sandy Naranjo is a National City resident who is a social justice advocate that dedicated over a decade of her life to improve the lives of immigrants, LGBTQIA, workers, people of color and women. She was an Organizer at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 and was responsible for improving the lives of working women and men by developing the workers into effective leaders and organizing them into the union. She is currently President of the San Diego Cesar Chavez Commemorative Committee, 2013 San Diego Leadership Alliance Fellow, and a fellow of the 2016 Emerge CA class. She was also recognized in 2014 as the San Diego Business Journal’s “Top 20 in their 20s” and was “Woman of the Year” from the office of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
She has previously worked as a field organizer for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO where she worked to enhance the labor movement by connecting organized labor with the broader community through campaigns and activities such as We Deserve Better, A Better San Diego breakfast series, May Day, Occupy Labor Solidarity and Anti-Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement forums. Her experiences in union organizing developed through her internship as an organizer with Service Employees International Union Local 99, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1167, and with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OURWALMART).
Sandy earned three bachelor’s degrees in Political Science, Economics, and Political Economy with a minor certificate in Women’s Studies at California State University San Bernardino. Sandy was an active student heavily involved with Feminist causes by raising awareness on reproductive rights, equal pay, and domestic violence. She was also an active member on the Coyote Debate team where she competed in British Parliamentary debate tournaments in Bangkok, Thailand, Antalya, Turkey, Melbourne, Australia, Denver, Colorado, Ithaca, New York, and Portland, Oregon. She was also on the Model United Nations team where she and her team competed and won the Outstanding Delegation for two consecutive years.
One of Sandy’s defining activist moments was organizing a mock, same sex wedding at her high school. Along with her colleagues from the Gay Straight Alliance, they wanted to highlight the need to legalize same-sex marriage. Despite much criticism, and protest from the local elected officials, churches, and the community, Sandy and her allies were able to garner support from LGBT national organizations and they successfully changed history in their town.
Sandy’s passion for social justice was ingrained in her from birth. She was raised by parents who migrated to the United States, and like many other immigrants, faced harsh racism and classism. Her father Joseph A. Naranjo was an Ironworker who taught Sandy that the wedge between poverty and a good life for working people are unions. She owes her activism and passion for social justice to her father.
Simone Henriques was born in Brazil and has lived in San Diego since 1996. She lives in Clairemont with her two children and her Dachshund. Simone has been an active member of her community over the years. She served as Board Director and Historian for the Clairemont Town Council. She currently serves on the San Diego Mesa College Foundation as Board Director. She received her degree in Political Science from San Diego State University.
Zarai Santos is a native San Diegan and a graduate of San Diego State University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology. Before joining California School Employees Association as a Labor Relations Representative, she was the Imperial Political Coordinator for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, she worked in solidarity with a number of unions and non-profit organizations to achieve social and economic justice. She has been a committed community activist through youth civic engagement, union advocacy, and community empowerment in predominately Latino neighborhoods.
Zarai believes in the labor movement and collective power that many working families have sacrificed to achieve, including her family in the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) Union in Oxnard, CA. She is bilingual in English and Spanish and is passionate about political education that addresses the intersection of race, class, and gender inequality. In her spare time, Zarai enjoys reading, listening to music, and traveling.
2016 BCLI Fellows
Andrew Amorao currently serves as Operation Samahan’s Civic Engagement Coordinator, spearheading projects from state and local policy advocacy to voter engagement to naturalization and deferred action campaigns. Andrew possesses a wide-range of nonprofit and corporate experience, but his true passion is to serve and empower immigrant, underserved, underrepresented, minority, and low to no-income communities. Andrew graduated with a BA in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University and has served as the coordinator of Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture Festival, an annual multidisciplinary arts event presenting the work of emerging Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander artists from the San Francisco Bay Area.
He then went on to a career in agriculture, primarily the strawberry industry, learning to work with a diverse range of people, companies, and governmental bodies in Ventura County. Andrew also has an extensive sales background as well as a certificate in Marketing & Media from San Diego State University. He has used his expertise in management, logistics, and communication these past four years as the Event & Program Coordinator for the Kuya Ate Mentorship Program (KAMP). Fiscally sponsored by Operation Samahan, KAMP is an educational program that empowers local Filipino American youth in the exploration of culture, history, identity, and social justice.
For the last 17 years, Leticia Cazares has dedicated her personal life and career to advancing underrepresented and disadvantaged communities in San Diego, primarily working to eliminate health inequities. As Director of Outreach for the San Ysidro Health Center, a community health center with a network of 12 clinics and 23 program sites in San Diego, Leticia is responsible for community outreach and education, advocacy, partnership development and marketing. One of her most recent accomplishments was leading a team that ranked 8th in the State with the highest number of health insurance enrollments. To date, SYHC has enrolled over 12,000 low-income individuals and families in South and Southeast San Diego. Leticia currently sits on the Outreach Advisory Board for Covered CA where she helps inform policy and strategy around ACA outreach and enrollment efforts in the State.
In addition, she serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of San Diego-Imperial Counties where she is able to further carry-out her deep passion for civil liberties and social justice issues including immigration rights and criminal justice reform. Leticia received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Ethnic Studies degree from San Francisco State University, and in 2007 earned a Master of Public Health degree from San Diego State University.
Jessica Cobian was raised in the border town of Tijuana until the age of 12. Her exposure to immigrant’s issues and economic inequality inspired her to advocate for underserved communities. Jessica attended Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista and then graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political Science/International Affairs from the University of California Riverside. While at UCR Jessica was a Resident Advisor for the Chicano/Latino Hall and was a community leader with the Inland Congregations United for Change. After graduation she went on to becoming a Health Care Reform Organizer with the faith-based organization PICO National Network in Riverside and San Bernardino County. Now Jessica is the Lead Organizer for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in San Diego and works to develop community leaders who are shaping policies for racial and economic justice and are challenging the accountability of local elected officials.
During her spare time Jessica is also a Binational Community Organizer for the Non-Profit, Espacio Migrante, which provides job training skills to deportees in Tijuana. Jessica hopes to use the tools from the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute to continue to advocate for underrepresented communities in Chula Vista.
Ramon Espinal is an elementary school teacher. He has been teaching at Rosa Parks Elementary School in City Heights since the fall of 1997. Ramon has worked with the San Diego Unified School District for about 30 years. He was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in New York City, and has lived in San Diego since 1983. From 1985 to mid-1986, Ramon worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, Local 102 and prior to that he worked with the San Diego Association of Retarded Citizens. Ramon attended the City College of New York and later San Marcos State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Science.
At present Ramon is the Chair of Educate for the Future, a community alliance of teachers, parents, members of SDUSD Board of Trustees and community leaders, where they lobby and advocate around education.
He is also on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Education Association (SDEA), and prior to that he served for 15 years on the Board of Directors of the City Heights Community Development Corporation; including serving as Board President.
Fernanda Flores is currently working at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council as a part-time organizer. She is a senior at San Diego State University double-majoring in Social Work and Sociology. As a seven year Tae-Kwon-Do student, she has learned to engrave the five tenets, which are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. These tenets, along with her family values, have shaped her into the woman she is today. As a first- generation Mexican-American and the first in her family to attend a university, Fernanda devotes herself to education and community organizing. She is passionate about creating more transparent policy that addresses the needs of our diverse population. Therefore, she plans to pursue graduate school at SDSU and gain substantial experience and knowledge through exemplary programs such as, The Board and Commissions Leadership Institute.
David Garcia Ozua is an Anthropologist by training and a Social Entrepreneur by profession. David has spent the last eight years building higher education programs for low-income households, including being part of the national award winning Juma Ventures, and supporting first-time business owners in the San Diego/Tijuana region. As a SUHI (Sweetwater High School) graduate, David has made a commitment to assist in the continuous development of National City and was appointed to a five-year term as a Civil Service Commissioner by Mayor Ron Morrison and the City Council of National City. David is also proud of carrying the legacies of the National City Rotary and to call UC Davis his Alma Mater.
Robert “Bobby” Godinez II, moved to Chula Vista in 1988 and attended Chula Vista Jr. High and Chula Vista High School. He began working at a San Diego Shipyard in 1995 as a Sheet Metal Fitter and member of the Iron Workers Union. After suffering an injury, he was retrained in Information Systems and worked in this field for over 10 years before becoming an Organizer for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. In his capacity as a National Organizer, Bobby has developed many relationships throughout the United States. He has led and participated in several successful union organizing campaigns throughout the U.S. He is a 2015 graduate of the Harvard University Trade Union Program and has completed other programs and courses at the National Labor College, the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute and the University of Wisconsin – School for Workers. Bobby looks forward to building a stronger community for his daughter who is a student at Chula Vista High School.
Tiffany G. Harrison was introduced to the Urban League of San Diego County through its Youth Leadership Team in 2001. She has been blessed to have been afforded many opportunities to serve in the roles of a volunteer, staff member, 2011 National Urban League Emerging Leader, 2012 National Urban League Summer Intern, former National Urban League Policy Institute Junior Researcher, and current Young Professional President for the local Urban League. Tiffany is also an assistant at Alliance San Diego, a local social justice organization that builds coalitions and empowers the community to make social change.
Outside of work, Tiffany also serves as the Fund Advisor for the California Fund for Youth Organizing, San Diego NAACP Youth Council Founder & Advisor, Region 6 Professional Development Chair for the National Society of Black Engineers, and a Commissioner for the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission.
Her passion for creating a sustainable pipeline for youth and young adults has driven her support and outreach within the movement. She, like Whitney M. Young, is, ‘Not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.’
As an educator in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, Vanessa Montes has dedicated her academic and professional life to serving special education and English Language Learners. Vanessa currently teaches in a mild/moderate special education classroom with four years of teaching experience. She graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Credentials in Bilingual and Special Education. She furthered her academics to earn her Master’s in Special Education with an English Language Development certificate. Based on her current experience in the field of Special Education working with ELL students, Vanessa aspires to enter a doctoral program in which she can influence policy reform for ELLs with special needs.
Samantha Ollinger is the founder of Bike San Diego, a non-profit cycling advocacy organization whose mission is to transform San Diego’s streetscape to be a world-class, bicycle-friendly city. As the Executive Director, Ollinger sees San Diego exemplifying the ideal urban city that civic leaders around the world can only aspire to. Bicycling is one of the many avenues to lead San Diego onto the world-stage and BikeSD is committed to changing and executing the city’s narrative that will drive this transformation. Ollinger immigrated to the U.S. from India a year before turning 18 and simultaneously curses and blesses the experience that came with experiencing her final year of high school within the American public school system in the heart of Amish country.
A graduate of Temple University with a Business Administration degree with a focus on Accounting, Ollinger sees herself as a lifelong learner driven by insatiable curiosity and sees societal inequities and problems solvable via human intellect, empathy and a lot of compassion.
An advocate for open source software, local and sustainable food, and an avid reader, Ollinger lives with her husband and hundreds of compost worms (in a worm bin) in City Heights, San Diego.
Neal Ortiguerra is a dynamic leader with experience in nonprofit management, public health, and public policy. Neal has dedicated his career to meeting the needs of underserved communities and finding solutions to address the disparities they face. For the last seven years Neal has been employed by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW) where he has actively advocated for women and families – most recently as Operations Manager for the Community & Government Relations Department. PPPSW is the second largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the nation, serving more than 140,000 patients across Southern California annually. Neal is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in Public Health and a minor in Public Policy.
A native of San Diego’s District 8, Neal proudly serves his community through volunteer work as a high school varsity volleyball coach, as an active parishioner at his church, and previously as an Assistant Scoutmaster for a boy scout troop.
Miyo Ellen Reff is a third-generation Californian who would like to see the American Dream remain alive in our economically and culturally diverse state. Her family has lived the progression from farm laborers, sharecroppers, gardeners, to college-educated professionals, with a detour to the Internment Camps for people of Japanese Ancestry during WWII. Miyo graduated from Stanford University and was a clinical microbiologist for over 20 years. She has found her volunteer work with nonprofit organizations from PTAs to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to be very rewarding and engaging. She favors organizations that bring opportunities and experiences to new audiences. She currently serves on the board of Kiku Gardens, a senior housing and service organization, and the Mission Beach Women’s Club, a charitable community service club. Miyo has been married for 38 years and has 2 adult children.
Ana Ruth Robles is a 19-year-old Latina born and raised in Chula Vista, California. Ana is currently in her first year at Southwestern Community College with a major in Political Science. During her senior year in high school Ana joined a human rights advocacy group and traveled to Sacramento, California with the ACLU to lobby her state representatives. After graduating high school, Ana became a member of Chula Vista’s Housing Advisory Commission. Ana currently interns at KSDY, Channel 50, a San Diego/Baja California media platform.
Jose Rodriguez is the Organizing Director at the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council where he has worked the last 4 years. While at the council, he works on political organizing campaigns, organizing of rallies, protests, marches, and assists unions in development of internal and external member organizing campaigns. He is an advisory board member of Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) program through the Center on Policy Initiatives. Jose is an SDSU and City College graduate with degrees in History. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, cooking, gardening, and working on projects around their home.
A 37-yr San Diego resident, Norma Sandoval has been a very active and engaged community member throughout her life. Growing up in City Heights, she was blessed to have a plethora of languages and cultures in her daily life, which provided her with a worldly-perspective, that embraced others. It also propelled Norma to take affirmative steps in serving her community at a very young age – which has continued to this day. Understanding that an organized community of leaders transforms the livelihood and reality of children & their families, as a mother of four children and woman of faith, she has volunteered as Co-Chair of SDOP and as a member of Mid-City CAN’s Peace Momentum Team. As a school administrator, Norma has worked with families and helped educate San Diego’s children for the past eighteen years. Aware of the impact politics has in the daily lives of citizens, Norma constantly seeks ways to improve systems to serve more efficiently. Today, it is her endeavor to extend her leadership and serve her community at a new level as a member of BCLI’s first cohort.