Meet the Current Class

Ami Admire is Payómkawichum from the Rincon Indian Reservation and coordinator of Indian Health Council’s Native Connections grant. As coordinator, Ami is responsible for the promotion of mental health services, the prevention and reduction of suicidal and substance abuse behaviors, and the reduction of the impact of trauma among Native and indigenous youth within IHC’s nine consortium tribes. Ami and her team achieve this goal by infusing culture and indigenous knowledge and values into the framework of their youth classes and workshops. Nights and weekends, Ami directs the Rincon Youth Storytelling program, for those between the ages of 7 and 18, that travels performing traditional stories at schools, colleges and conferences in San Diego and Riverside Counties. Having spent 20 years as an advocate for her community, Ami hopes to learn new skills at BCLI that will increase her capacity to continue to serve her community.

Bradley Bang is a 62-year-old retired educator originally from Wisconsin and the Bay Area. After graduating from SDSU with a degree in telecommunications and film in 1983, he started working for the San Diego Unified School District as a media production specialist at Lincoln High School and O’Farrell Community School. During this time, he went back to SDSU to get his master’s in educational technology and a teaching credential from National University. In 1997, he started working as a teacher in the San Diego Unified School District, spending the last 15 years at Euclid Elementary as a computer prep teacher. During the last 10 years, Bradley has become more involved in political organizing, working primarily on education-related issues. He became involved with Educate for the Future and the San Diego Education Association. He worked as Euclid’s union site rep for the last 4 years before his retirement in 2017. Last year, Bradley worked on the campaigns of the Progress Slate of Candidates for the National City City Council. Currently, he’s doing organizing work for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. He’s also a recent graduate of the Residential Leadership Academy that is funded by the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency and Live Well San Diego and is now working with the National City Healthy Food Coalition. He has lived in National City for the last 5 years with his wife, Cecilia, who is also a teacher in the San Diego Unified School District, and his daughter, Daniella.

Roddrick Colvin hails from Indianapolis, Indiana via Seattle and New York City. He is an associate professor of public administration in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University, where he teaches courses in public administration and criminal justice. His current research interests include public employment equity, police officers’ shared perceptions and decision-making, and LGBTQ+ civil rights. Prior to entering the academy, he was the research director of the Policy Institute at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Rod has been active in many justice and social justice organizations, including; Community Coalition for Environment Justice, and the African-American/Jewish Coalition for Justice.  He is a founding member of the National Black Justice Coalition, and most recently served on the board of Brooklyn-based community kitchen, Neighbors Together.  Among other issues, Rod’s current interests include worker’s rights and the labor movement. He is a dues-paying member of the California Faculty Association.

Rod earned undergraduate degrees in political science and philosophy at Indiana University–Bloomington, a graduate degree in public administration at Seattle University, and a doctorate degree in public administration at the University at Albany (SUNY). He is a first-generation college graduate.

Iddo Gelle is a first-generation Somali American who grew up in City Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in international security and conflict resolution. Her academic course work trained her to play an important role as a mediator to advocate changes in her community. She has strong ties to City Heights and lived there ever since her family left war-ravaged Somalia. Her mother and father made a commitment that their children would succeed and have the opportunities that they never had. Her mother is a community leader and in many ways she has shaped Iddo’s zeal and passion to be a community advocate. Very early on, Iddo decided that she would devote her time and effort in her community offering her expertise to youth who needed the extra help. She volunteered many hours as a mentor/tutor at the Horn of Africa. The experience there was invaluable. It helped to jumpstart her career as a community leader in which she cofounded Youth Empowerment Focus in 2008 while she was completing her undergraduate degree. Youth Empowerment Focus was a grassroots community-based organization that served the youth of City Heights who shared common experiences as she did. With the assistance of other members of Youth Empowerment Focus, she created different opportunities for the youth of City Heights to learn, share, and empower themselves to rise above stereotypes and other bias that are often cast at youth of underserved communities. Her eight years of experience as a community organizer and managing a community-based organization in City Heights gave her passion for creating social change and empowering youth in her communities to be leaders and change agents. Currently she wears two different hats that still focus on supporting youth and residents in City Heights, the first being her full-time position as a resident services coordinator with City Heights Community Development Corporation and the other being a restorative practices facilitator and consultant at the National Conflict Resolution Center. 

Crystal Irving, MSW, was born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she received a bachelor’s in psychology and African & African American studies. Upon graduation, she began working for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica providing enriching after-school and summer experiences for underserved children and teens. As much as she loved that work, she knew that she wanted to gain the tools to positively influence the world at a greater level.  She went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and relocated to San Diego County to serve as a protective services worker for Child Welfare Services.

Over the course of the last 5 years, Crystal has served as a children’s social worker in Adoptions and is currently serving as a recruitment specialist. Her focus is the recruitment and retention of quality foster and adoptive parents. She also works to find forever families for children who have limited placement options. While in this position, she became a member leader of her union, SEIU Local 221. She joined the bargaining team andchallenged our Board of Supervisors to stop hoarding our reserves and instead invest in its employees and the communities they were elected to serve. She has organized and worked alongside colleagues and community partners to bring about positive change with the full voter participation measure that passed in November 2018. Crystal had the honor of being elected by fellow SEIU Local 221 members to serve as the politics chair and the county chapter vice president.

With a strong hope and vision for progress, she plans to bring her strengths to the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute to generate positive changes in San Diego County, the state, the country, and around the world.

 

Christopher Kennison is 27 years old and a student at San Diego State University. He’s a father of four beautiful children and happily married. He grew up in the southeast and South Bay sections of San Diego. As a formerly incarcerated individual, he has made it his goal to help people who have gone through what he has gone through. He doesn’t just want a seat at the table but to bring as many people to the table with him. A brilliant quote he lives by is Stokely Carmichael’s “My grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation’s out of breath. We ain’t running no more.”

Born March 31, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York, Michelle Krug lived with her younger sibling and single mom in the projects.  Michelle’s life as an organizer/activist began at 5 years old, walking the picket line with her mom, a teacher. She grew up in a household that did not eat grapes in solidarity with the UFW’s boycott.   At 6 years old she fought to have her own bank account.  She finally won that battle at 7 years old, and immediately typed up the following, “Responsible 7 year old to watch your child after school – 5 cents an hour.”  She put the advertisement in each mailbox of each building and thus began her work life.  She was competent, responsible, reliable, on time, and serious, learning at a young age many valuable lessons about people and work life.  Michelle left home at 12 years old and connected with social justice/community organizers who became her de facto family.  She became a block captain for their local food co-op, advocated for rent control, a woman’s right to choose, and civil rights among other social/economic justice issues. 

Education has always been important to Michelle and was a place of safety for her.  She made her way to college and won a Regents Scholarship which allowed her to do her junior year in Liverpool, England.  It was there that Michelle became involved in Operation Namibia, a peace group of young people from many different countries, whose focus was to take banned books to South West Africa, now known as Namibia.  During this time, they had to work on the boat that would take them to Africa.  While working on the boat, Michelle was asked to take the carpenter a Phillips screwdriver and screws, what she took him was a flat head screwdriver and nails.  The carpenter just laughed, but Michelle realized that although she was considered an educated person in our society, she had no clue of how our world is put together.  For example, how does electricity get to the outlet, how does that white stuff between the bricks hold the building together, etc.  This epiphany started her journey with various apprenticeships/trainings in England and then back in the United States.

Once back in the US, Michelle moved to San Diego, working in a variety of jobs until she began her thirty-year career with the City of San Diego. Beginning as a Motive Service Tech then shortly transitioning to Waste Water Operator.  Throughout her work career Michelle was involved in her union as a steward, executive board rep, and delegate to the labor council. Outside of work she was involved in both candidate and issue campaigns, was elected to the SD Democratic Party Central Committee, and as a delegate to the California Democratic Convention. She was, and continues to be, an advocate for immigration reform, affordable housing, decriminalizing homelessness, disability access and inclusivity,  quality public transportation, environmental awareness and justice, LGBTQ rights, education (including restorative justice, ethnic studies, cultural competency, parent empowerment, and funding equity for neighborhood schools). Upon retirement Michelle has not stopped; she serves on the executive boards of both AFSCME Retirees and the California Alliance of Retired Americans (CARA). Currently she is actively volunteering with the Rapid Response Network soliciting donations, collecting clothing, and doing overnight staffing, etc.  She also registers new voters at the monthly Naturalization Ceremony as well as out in the community. She has facilitated the passage of Project Labor Agreements in various school districts. Michelle worked on environmental justice legislation to protect Barrio Logan residents  such as Proposition B&C to create a geographic barrier between industrial use and residential neighborhood living spaces.  More recently she helped gain  needed support for AB805 which mandates more transportation equity in our county. She works tirelessly to support all workers, their communities, and families, be they janitors, hotel workers, teachers, or taxi workers.  Behind the scenes, at board meetings, communicating with her extensive network, walking picket lines, supporting boycotts, attending rallies, and tabling, Michelle continues to fight for workers wherever she is needed. At three years old, Michelle’s nursery school teacher wrote, “Michelle is a justice seeker.” She has never wavered from that stance.

Estefania Lopez currently serves as volunteer coordinator for a temporary shelter for asylum-seeking migrant families. She previously served as a project analyst for the University of California San Diego’s Office of the Vice Chancellor-Student Affairs, where she provided internal project management, research, and analytical support to senior administrative leaders. Her previous involvements also include coordinating college literacy programs for high school youth as an outreach program manager for the University of Michigan’s Center for Educational Outreach, research assistantships at the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity and the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good.

Estefania was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and raised in Los Angeles. The first in her family to attend college, she received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California Irvine and a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Michigan. Her interest in BCLI stems from a deep and earnest belief that civic engagement, service, direct action, and the democratic process have the potential to improve our communities.

Jose Lopez was born and raised in the South Bay. He is a grassroots community organizer with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. 

Jose joined the community organization in 2015 as a member of the Chula Vista chapter and fought alongside his neighbors to win infrastructure improvements like trash cans, stop signs, street lights, and a playground for their neighborhood. Now, as a community organizer, Jose gets to continue to work with his neighbors to build power for working class communities of color in the South Bay, most recently, fighting for rent control in National City. He is also the chair for Espacio Migrante’s Board of Directors, a binational organization that works with migrants, refugees, and deportees in the Tijuana/San Diego border region. 


Katie Melendez
is a leader serving her North County San Diego community. She advocates for low-income residents’ right to self-determine their future by fighting for housing justice, civic access, and class consciousness. She currently acts as the housing navigator for Recovery for Life of North County Lifeline, where she curates housing resources for her clients in recovery from substance abuse. Katie also volunteers with Residents United Network, serving on their policy committee and assisting in campaigns for housing justice in California. As a 2019 BCLI Fellow she plans to be a bridge between her often-neglected community and the decision making that shapes their future.

As a 2019 BCLI Fellow, Nicanora Montenegro seeks to gain the knowledge, training, and necessary tools in advocating and advancing social, economic, racial, and workers’ justice and equity through seats in commissions and boards that have direct impact on her community.  She aims to represent and provide a voice for people of color, immigrants, women, workers, marginalized, and other under-represented members of the community affected by decisions and policies of the different boards and commissions.

Maria Elena Morales is a formerly incarcerated leader who began her journey in the Coachella Valley and established herself in San Diego in 2011. While attending San Diego City College, Maria Elena used her personal experience with the criminal justice system to empower individuals from previously incarcerated and marginalized groups; by providing resources and giving sound to their voices. Since she began attending community college she has created opportunities to lead and co-establish student organizations such as the Urban Scholars Union and the Social Justice Coalition, organizations committed to increasing equity for individuals regardless of background. In the community, she has been active with the American Federation of Teachers Guild Local 1931. Maria Elena has participated as a Fellow for Students for Economic Justice and has always looked for new ways to expose the campus culture while working for SDCC to events like the first annual Women of Color in Leadership forum, Social Justice and Education Conference, and City Women Rock. Maria Elena is also a 2016 “Leading with Conviction” Fellow with Just Leadership USA’s national leadership training program. She was also appointed to the California Advisory Board for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Maria Elena is currently working at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties where she is focused on centering the leadership of formerly incarcerated0 people.

Sister Maria Muhammad has been known for working in numerous fields over the years until she decided to use her training in Early Childhood Development and found her love and niche in teaching at Muhammad University of Islam in Inglewood CA in 1996, and The School of Original Thought in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was also appointed to the position of Dean of Girls. 

She has since left her role as an educator and has been able to transfer all of her passion, along with the experience and knowledge she has acquired into her role as IAMBK Green’s Program Director. In addition to working as a part of IAMBK CDC team, she homeschools her 10-year-old son, is a Licensed Realtor and is the Owner of Steal Away Enterprises LLC, where she is a Virtual Instructor to Business Owners who wish to work in the Customer Care Industry from the convenience of their own homes. 

Prior to moving to San Diego, Sister Maria lent her talents to and/ or co-founded several community organizations in her hometown of Baltimore City; Phoenix Rising Baltimore, Sistah’s Only Empowerment Network, Sisters Growing Together, Zero Murder Rate Movement, Baltimore Citizens for Positive Change, Literacy Rules! and many more. Since moving to San Diego she has chaired several committees as it pertains to Justice and Equity; Black Women United, Justice or Else San Diego, and the organizing committee for 1st Saturday at the Spot; a black and brown collaborative to support local business and celebrate culture. 

Sister Maria attributes much of her success to the rigorous training of the Vanguard Class of the NOI that inspired her leadership, creative expression, motivation and love for her community. She is a daughter, sister, and wife, mother of three, and Ummi to three grandchildren. 

Lucia Napolez’s identity is tied directly into being a small business owner and being an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Her professional and personal journey in communication, social media marketing, and sales has led her down the entrepreneur path since 2016. She co-founded a digital media company in the emerging cannabis industry that within two years of its’ creation was accepted into a business accelerator and raised angel investment dollars to help finance her venture.

A strong sense of purpose for her comes from being able to stand in my own truth and share my experiences to create a safe space for conversation revolving around the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. She has dedicated the past several years to being an active participant in the LGBTQ+ movement across the United States. She’s volunteered for various organizations and groups within the LGBTQ+ community of San Diego, and continues to be a source of knowledge for many who have questions or concerns with the LGBTQ+ community.

Blair Overstreet is a committed advocate for racial equity and the San Diego chapter lead of Showing Up for Racial Justice, an organization that focuses on educating and mobilizing white people to fight inequality. Blair has worked locally in multiracial coalitions on issues like police accountability, humane immigration practices, and affordable housing. She’s a City Heights resident and believes strongly in grassroots, community-based organizing and neighborhoods where people look out for each other and build community power. In Blair’s decade-long teaching career, she helped her students understand the systems of inequality in our world and empowered them to go out and change it. Now she’s getting into that work full time as a community organizer and political advocate and a life-long educator.

Juan Perez is a San Diego native and graduated from San Diego State University in the summer of 2018.  He is an organizer at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.  His work revolves around unions; whether to help with internal/external organizing drives, educate politicians/union members/community folks on the history and importance of the Labor Movement, or being a part in the Labor Council’s endorsement process of political candidates seeking office.  

In the time that he has been at his job he has grown exponentially as an individual; he has gained confidence and knowledge to do the work efficiently but only because of the great mentorship he has had.  Working with union members and standing with them in the front lines fighting for better wages and benefits have given his life a purpose that humbles him to the bone.  He knows the work that he does is critical in making people’s lives better, so there’s never hesitation in waking up in the mornings.  So as long as there are people struggling to make ends meet, then he will continue to stand side by side with workers until the last person has the quality of life we all deserve.