Meet the Alumni


2017 SEJ Fellows

Christopher Kennison is a second-year student at City College and he hopes to be transferring to a university next spring or the following fall. Christopher is a business major and wants to intertwine this with social justice to help the community with jobs and housing. He is from San Diego and represents the communities of Chollas View, Mt. Hope in southeast and Imperial Beach in the south bay. Christopher is 26 with 3 kids and is married. He first got introduced to social activism from Professor Alexander during his first year in the Umoja Program and ever since then has been involved in everything politically and socially. Christopher strives for a better future for people who share his same struggles and for people that don’t have a voice. He is trying to set the example that anything is possible and not to let anything or anybody hold you down.

Diana Gonzalez  is a born and raised San Diegan who is interested in pursuing her master’s degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Gerontology. She currently attends the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and plans to transfer to SDSU. She would like to become part of the change in her neighborhood through advocating for quality education in low-income communities. She recognizes that knowing how the system is set up is crucial towards uncovering untapped talent in our youth.

Diana is not only aware of the struggle but is able to empathize and understand it from her own experience. For her, helping people goes further than for self-growth and development purposes, but rather for personal reasons. She has been susceptible to the injustices that come from being part of what society categorizes as “minorities” for most of her childhood and continues to face these challenges in her everyday life. She grew up in Barrio Logan along with her six brothers and sisters by immigrant parents. Throughout her life she witnessed the obstacles that the working class have to endure in order to make a decent living. Being part of the Students of Economic Justice (SEJ) fellowship, she hopes to gain the knowledge and experience to stimulate change in our communities.

Ix’Chel Osmara Martinez Moreno is a loved daughter of Rosa Maria Moreno Ayala, and Granddaughter of Maria Luisa Ayala Vega. Born in Varrio Logan and raised in Sherman, Ix’Chel reclaims her P’urhépecha blood, heart and soul. While being affected by patriarchy and the prison industrial complex daily, Ix’Chel continues to resist as an upcoming transfer graduate at both San Diego MESA & City College. She aims to receiving her BA under the umbrella of Ethnic Studies with an emphasis in Native American Studies, and Womyn/Gender/Sexuality Studies. Itzel is growing to be a future high school educator, friend, counselor, and sister to many youth of color in San Diego. She hopes to motivate, and encourage youth to express their spirit fearlessly, as we all carry our fire within.

Throughout the past 5 years, Ix’Chel Osmara has been a part of different organizing groups in San Diego. To this day, she collectively contributes into Project on Youth Non-Military Opportunities, Oaxaqueñx Youth Encuentro, and other collective community spaces. She does so in order to collectively resist against the hetero-patriarchic system that has continuously dehumanized incarcerated folx, and against the inhumane border that tears/steals the lives of many brothers and sisters. She acknowledges the significance in growing, healing, and being supportive, while vocalizing all in her community. With the love, and support of her familia, comunidad, and TzinTzuni, Ix’Chel is focused on being, belonging, & becoming her best self. She strives on getting in touch with the Flow of The Guiding Dance in her Life by plugging in the Melodies of her Spirit. She shares her passion with all that cross her path while releasing and shaping her authentic healing heart. With love and excitement she is prepared to contribute and experience community building within Student for Economic Justice.

Juan Perez is currently in his senior year at San Diego State University. He was raised in City Heights his whole life. Juan grew up poor, so he grew up quickly. Growing up in a large family with little money usually meant sacrificing. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves out of high school with the aspirations of going to college sometime. Juan never went to college during his time in the service but he did do a couple of deployments. One of these deployments was to a country in the Horn of Africa called Djibouti, that was more like a vacation for someone like him, but the second deployment wasn’t so friendly. Juan was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. He considers this moment of his life as the conscious shifter, the eye-opener. It really was the spark that lit the passionate, activist, skeptic fire in Juan that had been brewing for a very long time but never burned until this event happened. Since he got out of the Marines Juan has been dedicated to being a student (a conscious one) and has been fighting against the injustices that surround him. He is doing his part in the Revolution, whether if it’s in the non-profit where he is doing counter recruitment work, or his involvement in last year’s election by becoming a district delegate for Bernie Sanders and going to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, or if its as simple as being conscious in the products he buys, news he passes along, music he listens to, and definitely in the career path he has chosen, nonprofit work.

Kelsey Baird studies Sociology with a focus on public policy at Cal State University San Marcos in North County, San Diego, where she lives. She was born in Santa Ana, CA, raised on the Central Coast of California, and has been a resident of San Diego County for ten years. She is the President of CSUSM’s chapter of the Alpha Kappa Delta’s Sociological Honors Society and the founding President of the Sociological Student’s Alliance, which focuses on career readiness and social justice on campus.

Kelsey has become an advocate for disability rights and the rights of vulnerable populations. She is committed to policies and practices, which promote cultures and systems of inclusiveness, interconnection, and direct participation both on campus and in her community. She will serve as the first Student Chair of the newly formed Disability Affairs standing committee for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at CSUSM in Fall 2017. She is also head organizer and working with the Sociology Department to design curriculum for CSUSM’s first cross-disciplinary undergraduate course and national panel centered around intersectionality and disability studies for 2017-2018.

From 2015-2016 she volunteered and interned in the Center for Financial Opportunity at the International Rescue Committee in University Heights. This has informed her current qualitative research around access to vehicle ownership and livelihood for vulnerable populations in San Diego. Her experiences have led her to believe strongly in the power of accessible public education, and the public sector, as crucial components of both social change and social justice.

Riley Avila was born in San Diego and grew up in Temecula, CA, closely situated near the reservation of his Native American tribal community of Pechanga. Riley moved back down to San Diego where he graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Ethnic Studies and Behavioral Neuroscience. His early years of education were dedicated to the sciences, however his classes in Ethnic Studies spurred his growing passion for social justice, and activism. It was his involvement with USD’s Ethnic Studies Department that provided Riley with opportunities to connect with local tribal communities housed in San Diego, as well as his first activism experiences that engaged him with the Black Lives Matter movement. It was also through his education in Ethnic Studies, that Riley was able to learn how to critically assess the dominant master narratives that attempt to mask the injustices experienced by underserved communities. With his involvement in SEJ, Riley hopes to gain hands-on experiences that will further his abilities to navigate and fight for issues regarding social justice.

Sam Lyons is from Los Angeles, CA and is currently studying Psychology at UCSD. Their journey in economic and social justice began when they grew up in a low-income, single-parent household, which allowed them to see a glimpse of what economic injustice looks like. Having a medical disability, Sam is also constantly having to face skyrocketing costs of healthcare; they fight to make medications and treatments available to all. In addition to this, Sam uses their personal experience to recognize and fight the growing disenfranchisement of transgender people – advocating not only for social acceptance but also for legal protections and insurance benefits. These ideologies are all interconnected, and Sam has been able to work at the UCSD Women’s Center as a Social Justice Peer Educator to engage with the San Diego community about these issues. They will continue to do this work during the 2017-2018 school year as well as a Social Justice Educator at the UCSD LGBT Resource Center. Sam will be graduating Spring 2018, and hopes to use their degree to take their activism to a more personal level by becoming a License Clinical Social Worker to work with LGBTQ+ youth.

Sarah Farouq was born in the city of Baghdad, but the rubbles of war separated her from her extended family and forced her to migrate to the neighboring country of Jordan at the age of two. After that, she had to move to the United States. She has been living in the U.S. for about six years. She and her family faced several barriers while living in the U.S.. Learning the English language and mastering it in three years was the first challenge that Sarah and her family faced. But the main hurdle they faced was having to reestablish their lives and start a new beginning with no financial or linguistic foundation. Nonetheless, her parents believed that through work and education, they would provide better educational and economic opportunities for their children. Sarah, too, believed that as the oldest daughter, she was the role model for her siblings, leading the way for success. Although, they have faced many economic and social injustices along their journey to becoming citizens of the U.S., she and her family fought to overcome these inequalities. Sarah, with all of these difficulties, did not give up on her education because she believed that she was destined to come to the United States to make a difference in this unjust world. She believed that education was the key to self-actualization and triumph. She is currently attending Grossmont Community College and majoring in political science. Her educational goal is to transfer to UC Berkeley to eventually become a civil rights and immigration lawyer.

Sarah has dedicated the past five years of her life to providing a voice and opportunity for underserved populations through volunteering at nonprofit and educational organizations. She has volunteered at the Yalla San Diego program, which helps disadvantaged refugee students to overcome educational challenges through soccer and school assistance. She is currently teaching children Arabic at the Kurdish Learning Center and is working at the CalWORKs program of Grossmont College to help student parents in achieving academic success. Additionally, she has an active voice in social justice on her campus. She is a member of the EOPS and CalWORKs Clubs to promote student leadership and diversity. She is also organizing a poetry slam event at her school to provide a platform for students to speak up about issues they are passionate about. Ultimately, Sarah will devote her life and career to fight for social justice for women and underprivileged populations in her community and her home country.

Tammy Truong is a born and raised San Diegan who will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelors of Arts in public policy from the University of California, Riverside. As a daughter of Vietnamese refugees escaping war-torn Vietnam and a first-generation student attending college, the values of hard work, determination, and higher education was instilled in her. She would often hear stories of her parents going through the challenges of assimilating in the U.S; and working multiple low-income jobs in order to give her and her sister the best chances they could. She grew to learn and to recognize that the AAPI community is underserved in many aspects, negatively influenced by the model minority myth, and this inspired her to be involved in progressive social justice work at her university.

For four years, she served as a dedicated member of Sigma Omicron Pi, Student Chapters Inc, where she was able to take philanthropic action and provide educational opportunities to youth in Asia. In addition, Tammy is also a Research Assistant for the Transnational Labor Alliance Database led by Professor Marissa Brookes, where she was exposed to the labor movement and discovered the injustices of workers and unions globally. Inspired to fight for workers’ rights and racial justice, she later worked for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance in Washington D.C. In D.C., she was introduced to activism and resistance work, where and was able to organize a Race Talks forum that included various organizations to change the behavior and culture of race and racism in the community and in the workplace. Through her various experiences, Tammy is determined to spark change in the community and learn the methods of organizing through the Students for Economic Justice Fellowship Program to help underprivileged communities overcome their challenges. She strongly believes that progressive change starts locally. Therefore, she plans to stay and continue social work in her hometown of sunny San Diego and pursue a master’s degree in public policy or public administration.

2016 SEJ Fellows

April Lopez

April Dannette Lopez currently attends San Diego State University and is a double-major in Spanish and Sociology. She and her twin sister were raised by a single mother and they are both the first out of 4 brothers and sisters to attend college. Most of her childhood was spent in Barrio Logan, where she stayed with her grandmother who watched her while her mother worked. From a young age April was exposed to the many injustices minorities, low-income families and other San Diegans face, but it wasn’t until college that she discovered venues in which to make a change.

April believes that through the fight for social and economic justice we can achieve better conditions and equality not just here, but throughout the country. Currently she volunteers with Western Service Workers Association (WSWA) an all-volunteer membership organization located in Logan Heights where she works with the community to alleviate poverty. Although her paths are still unclear, she knows that her future endeavors include activism, organizing and making San Diego, especially, a better place for all its inhabitants.

Asma AbdiAsma Abdi is fueled by a passion for social justice that gleams like a fire that will always be lit. She is an honors student at San Diego City College and is interested in becoming an educator. One of her goals is to mentor underprivileged youth. Asma has periodically volunteered for San Diego Refugee Tutoring for the past four years. However her passion for social justice was sparked in the classroom, by Professor Alexander, who taught her to think more critically about socially constructed paradigms. Through the Umoja Program at City College, she has taken advantage of the numerous opportunities to interact with her community. This led to her involvement in the National Equity Summit, ACLU youth organizing training, lobby day, rallies, protests, and various conferences. Asma’s plan is to effect change and make an impact on her community.

Daniel Juarez

Daniel Juarez was born in San Diego, CA, and grew up in Tijuana, MX up until she was 11 years old. Due to financial difficulties, Daniel and her family moved to San Ysidro, to seek access to education and economic stability. Growing up in a working class immigrant community, She was well aware of the ways in which people from her community were disenfranchised politically, socially, and economically. Currently, Daniel is an Ethnic Studies major and Communications minor at UC San Diego, where they have dedicated their time to student advocacy, and organizing on efforts regarding access and affordability to higher education.

Daniel has worked on University systemwide and statewide issues through the Associated Students (AS) Office of External Affairs, and the UC Student Association. Daniel also worked as a student-staff intern at the Raza Resource Centro as part of the first cohort of interns. At the moment, Daniel works for the Early Academic Outreach Program at UC San Diego as the Office Assistant, and sits on the AS Council as the Associate Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and next year she will serve UC San Diego students as Student Body President. Daniel’s long-term goal is to do community-based organizing in her hometown, and she hopes that the SEJ program will give her the tools and skills necessary to do just that.

Jeffrey DeVante McKennie is a military kid who was born in Japan but claims San Diego as his home since he’s lived here for over 10 years. He is currently attending San Diego Mesa College as an honor student majoring in Ethnic Studies with an emphasis in Black Studies and double majoring in Law. He is also the Co-President of the Black Student Union on campus. Jeffrey plans on graduating and transferring to either UC Berkeley or UCSD and eventually would like to pursue a JD to become a lawyer so he can help out the Black community, mainly but not solely.

His parents served 22 years in the military, but throughout that career they never gave him anything less than he needed when it came to their support, encouragement and tough love to make sure he succeeded and didn’t end up on the same path they were on. Jeffrey strives to be the best he can be in everything he does, and intends to make the best of every opportunity given to him. He also works on music and poetry as a passion and enjoys every bit of it, it puts him in a state of relaxation and gives him the calmness he needs to get through his day. He applied to SEJ to help learn life experiences that can lead him to be a better person for the future while also helping those in need so that he may touch someone’s heart in a positive light.

Krystl Fabella

Krystl Fabella was born in Manila, Philippines where she observed first-hand stark-class disparities between impoverished and privileged communities, fueling her pursuit to break down barriers that underserved communities face and use education as a vehicle for empowerment. While attending UC San Diego, her passion for social justice, activism, and advocacy began when she ran a UC-wide campaign against sexual assault and helped successfully secure improved prevention education at UCSD. This past year she had the opportunity to serve as the undergraduate Vice President of External Affairs, lobbying state officials and organizing UC-wide for college affordability and accessibility. Here, she learned the power of diverse communities coming together to understand and address issues of social, economic, and racial injustice. Currently, she is working on the first UCSD high school civic engagement program and continues to pursue creating pipelines to higher education.

Nancy Nguyen

Nancy Nguyen is a firm believer that education has the power to transform individuals and uplift communities. Growing up a child of undocumented and refugee parents, she and her family have become targets for America’s unjust social, educational, and economic system. She understands that social, economic, ethnic, and gender inequalities are not mutually exclusive. This understanding has promoted her to pursue a degree in Sociology and Public Administration at San Diego State University. As the first person in her family lineage to attend a four-year university, she has come to question and critique the dominant ideology of meritocracy and the education system as the “great equalizer.”

Nancy’s involvement on campus and in her community is centered around on uplifting traditionally marginalized groups. She has participated in grassroots efforts with the Employee Rights Center, Center for Policy Initiatives, and the Labor Council. In collaboration with these organizations, she also helped plan a SDSU campus forum on labor rights and voter registration and helped develop a high school curriculum on labor rights. Nancy is also heavily involved with tackling educational disparities. She conducts educational research on classroom/school tactics in addressing students’ emotional and social needs and is active in enhancing the quality of education for nontraditional college students. Nancy plans on dedicating her life to uplifting historically disadvantaged groups through grassroots efforts, professorship, and policy.  Through Students for Economic Justice (SEJ), Nancy hopes to cultivate a deeper understanding for the intersectionality between social issues and gain organizing skills vital in progressing towards justice in San Diego and beyond.

Tylar Campbell

Tylar Campbell is the Southern Chair of the Black Caucus for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. He plans to major in the ethnic sphere of Social Sciences with an emphasis in Political and African American Studies. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Tylar plans to enroll in graduate school for law, and eventually go into policy change focusing on the eradication of the school-to-prison pipeline. He will also explore similar areas of injustice that have disenfranchised his family and friends and be the change in this system that the generations to come deserve to see.

2015 SEJ Fellows

Andy Tran

Andy Tran was born in Los Angeles but grew up in San Diego. He is currently studying Sociology at San Diego State University. On campus, Andy is involved as a student activist and organizer. He recently worked with the school’s Sexual Violence Task Force and Womyn’s Outreach Association to host Take Back the Week, a week-long series of events and programs for April’s Sexual Assault Awareness month. During this week, he was invited to give a presentation on Affirmative Consent and Sexual Assault that is set to appear in an independent documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. Due to personal experiences, Andy became interested in economic policy. In the future, he hopes to continue his research and activism while inspiring and teaching students how to organize and improve their campus and community as a Professor of Sociology. When Andy isn’t busy fighting for social justice, you can find him at his local recreation center shooting hoops.

Christian Alexander Gamez

Christian Alexander Gamez is a working class Chicano, son of a single mother, college student, grassroots organizer, and future educator that was raised in the neighborhood of Sherman Heights. He is a founding member of the San Diego City College chapter of Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) and has collaborated with various student and community organizations on and off campus. Christian is a second year student majoring in History at San Diego City College (SDCC) and is planning to apply to local Universities in the beginning of 2016. He graduated from Mission Bay High School in 2009 and returned to college in 2013 after several years of working to sustain his home. Christian plans to become a history teacher and community organizer upon receiving his Bachelors Degree in order to put theory to practice and highlight a version of history that is often untold; one which focuses on the complex history of gender, sexuality, race and the dynamics of the working class struggle against social and economic inequalities. As an educator, he hopes to inspire youth and give them the tools needed to confront an increasingly globalized system. Christian is someone who is determined to leave the world a better place than he found it and is focused on combating global issues by acting locally to support our diverse San Diego communities by addressing problems of immigration, mass incarceration, poverty and human rights. Christian is hoping that his time with CPI and his participation with Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) will allow him to humbly collaborate with, and connect with those looking to achieve social, economic, and environmental justice in San Diego and beyond.

Janera Montaño

Janera Montaño was born in Oakland, CA. She is the middle child of a single hard working mother of 3 girls. Her father was deported to Mexico when she was in High School. Janera grew up raising her younger sister when her mom had to leave to provide for the house. When Janera got to high school she realized her sister would follow the path she walked, so she had to start setting a straight path. From never hearing about college, Janera soon became college ready and was heavily involved in her community where she found her passion in Education reform and Immigration issues. Being the first in her family to go to college was challenging, however it is because of the consistent support of her friends and family and most of all, the kids in her community back home, that she was able to do it. Janera just finished her 3rd year at San Diego State majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, with focuses in Spanish, Counseling and Social Change and, Sociology.  Her ultimate goal is to open a nonprofit organization after teaching and working in education and attending Law School for Immigration.  She has always been passionate about helping others who share similar stories as her own in order to help her community rise. Janera understands the difficulties and challenges with being first generation and attending college and wants to impact her community. In her free time she enjoys reading, hiking, and traveling. Janera applied to SEJ because she wants to make a difference and show others that no matter where you come from anything can be possible.

Maria Elena Morales

Maria Elena Morales is a mother of five children and a student at San Diego City College, because of this it has been important to Maria to build a voice for herself, her children and the communities of San Diego.  She is a very active school leader on her college campus and a mentor to students everywhere. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Pillars of the Community Scholars Society and one of the founders of the San Diego City College Social Justice Coalition. She works hard to bring awareness to students on the many issues that San Diego communities are facing. She is an employee of City College as well and was successful in being one of the organizers of the San Diego City College 1st Annual Social Justice and Education Conference. She will also be a Parker Scholars Peer Mentor this next year and will be working with young women as they begin their educational journey. While active on a committee at the ACLU that tables on police practices in San Diego, she has made it a priority to hold San Diego Police accountable as they protect and serve our communities. Maria sees herself as a future community organizer in San Diego and wants to take what she has learned from being a student activist back to her communities.

Raysean DaJuan Liddell

Raysean DaJuan Liddell is a Compton born student at San Diego State University. Serving as a past President of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and a member of the Lambda Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, he is very passionate about serving the needs of the community. He accredits the awaking of this passion to his advisor and mentor Trimaine Davis Sr. who said “Once you have an observation, you then have an obligation”. Raysean lives by these words in his daily quest for equality and justice for all.

Sylise Hall

Sylise Hall is a born and raised San Diegan. She currently studies at San Diego Mesa college as a Social Work Major and intends to double major in Juvenile Criminal Justice. She is passionate about children and underprivileged youth. Sylise grew up in City Heights and lived with a single mother. She gained her strong work ethic from watching her mom work hard to support their family of three without ever giving up. Sylise first became involved with activism after the death of Trayvon Martin. This event inspired her to learn how she could make a change for social justice. She now is a member of the Black Student Justice Coalition, who are currently fighting to make a change in police practices and are advocates for social justice.

Tatiana Garcia

Tatiana Garcia is a first generation college student and a San Diego native. She was raised in Southeast San Diego and attended school in the Logan Heights/Barrio Logan neighborhood. For ninth grade, Tatiana was bused to Point Loma High School, and experienced culture shock for the first time. From a young age, her uncle taught her about the injustices that occur in the world. Tatiana was involved in protests as a child and took part in the fight for immigration reform in May of 2006. She knew she wanted to help people and make a difference in the world but did not know where to begin. When she started attending SDSU, Tatiana started majoring in Social Work and loved it ever since. She became a founding member of the Youth Empowerment Program (Y.E.P.) her freshman year and became Student Coordinator the following year. Y.E.P.’s purpose is to mentor and encourage unaccompanied child migrants during their stay in the shelter and motivate them to rise above their current circumstance. With her formal education and life experiences combined, she believes she can help unite communities and empower them to fight for a common cause.

Yu Jin Kim

Yu Jin Kim is an undocumented, undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Neuroscience and Physiology and minoring in Political Science. Yu Jin always wanted to be a doctor. To this day, her goal has not changed. While watching her mother’s hands cripple away with arthritis and joint swelling due to excessive working and her father’s health deteriorate as he worked day and night, not once has she seen them get a proper medical check up. Being undocumented, uninsured, and financially impaired, Yu Jin’s parents have become targets and abused by our unjust economic and social system. As much as Yu Jin would love to become a doctor to serve those who are socioeconomically disempowered, she is beginning to realize that her bigger passion may be to get to the root cause of their suffering, which centers around our flawed economic system that preys on immigrant labor. She wants to become a doctor that not only medically treats patients, but also a doctor that is fully capable of understanding the patients’ daily economic and social challenges that possibly could have contributed or even provoked the medical illness. Through SEJ, Yu Jin hopes to develop into a stronger woman with a greater sense of maturity and depth so that she can better serve her community as an activist and future doctor.

2014 SEJ Fellows

Bernadette Butkiewicz

Bernadette Butkiewicz is a charismatic and dynamic leader who has prided herself on always working to bring a voice to those who are often ignored. As a young, bright student of the CSU system she has spent her summers working her way through school as a HERE Local 30 member at the Mission Bay Hyatt. This experience helped her with understanding the importance of quality jobs throughout her city. She began her career in politics with precinct walking as young as age 11. Bernadette has interned for Congresswoman Susan Davis as well as worked on the campaign for Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez. Her position as Legislative Affairs and Special Projects Coordinator at Sonoma State University has sparked her passion for higher education advocacy in Sacramento. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of California State Student Association as a voting member representing 437,000 students in the CSU system. After completing her Bachelor’s in Political Science in the Spring of 2015 she hopes to return to San Diego and one day be a Political Director of an organization or business she truly believes in.

Biviana Lagunas

Biviana Lagunas was born in Corona but raised in Santa Ana, CA and Anaheim, CA. She is the child of hard working immigrant parents from Mexico. Biviana was raised by her father however, as her father suffered from alcoholism, she moved in with her aunt and uncle for a chance of a better life. Due to harsh experiences she was deeply motivated to be the first Latina in her family to attend college. When she moved to San Diego she began to look for volunteer work and helped with the David Alvarez campaign. In addition, she volunteered with the Western Service Workers Association fighting for economic justice. Biviana is an undergraduate at San Diego State University majoring in Sociology and minoring in School Psychology and Counseling. Her goals are to receive her Bachelors and continue onto her PhD. As soon as she earns her degrees she would like to be a counselor at Correctional Facilities. Her goal in counseling in such settings is to inspire these individuals, most importantly to send a message: it is never too late to start new. Furthermore, she loves cooking Mexican food, dancing, and spending time with her family and boyfriend. Biviana applied to SEJ to become the voice of the people who fear fighting for justice. Also, with the opportunity of joining SEJ she will learn and teach organizational skills to engage in cultural empowerment.

Eunice Ho

Eunice Ho is a rising senior at UCSD double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Sociology. Her first exposure to Ethnic Studies as an unsuspecting sophomore drastically changed her life trajectory from a lukewarm pursuit of medicine to an impassioned pursuit of social justice. After being involved in anti-human trafficking campaigns with International Justice Mission at UCSD, a particularly pivotal class about the prison industrial complex launched her career as a student activist in Students Against Mass Incarceration UCSD (SAMI). In the summer of 2013, she also had the privilege of serving sexually exploited women in the streets of Tenderloin, San Francisco as an intern with Because Justice Matters. Afterwards, she joined Barrio Logan College Institute as a tutor for middle school students in the neighborhood. Her exposure to various issues and city environments has made her even more invested in activism and as a practicing Christian, she is ecstatic to be working on a human trafficking campaign with the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice this summer through SEJ. In her free time she can be found in stirring conversation with good company, consumed in a book, taking photos with her beloved Sony camera, or bouldering at local gyms.

jenny trang

Jenny Trang is currently an upcoming senior at San Diego State University majoring in political science with a minor in child development. She is also working on her TESL certificate to teach English as a second language. Jenny has dedicated her time to improving the quality of life of children living in low social economic status communities. Previously, Jenny was Public Relations and later Vice President for the San Diego Asian Youth Organization, where she worked with youth to give back and improve San Diego. She tutored students without homes at the San Diego Rescue Mission and then tutored middle school students at STARPAL for 3 years. She worked at YMCA as a Youth Leader leading activities to engage elementary students in learning. Jenny has worked on many events for different organizations and volunteered in many political campaigns. Jenny has recently interned for Council Member Marti Emerald and assisted countless constituents of District 9.

Daniel Mendez Carbajal

Jesus Daniel Mendez Carbajal is an undocumented, queer, Chicano, immigrant, poet, college student, and grassroots community organizer, older brother and son born to Mexican immigrant parents in Acapulco, Guerrero, México. Jesus grew up in Golden Hill, where he still lives today with his family. Jesus is going into his second year as a transfer student at San Diego State University (SDSU) majoring in Chicana and Chicano Studies. He graduated from the Preuss School, UCSD in 2010 and received his Associates of Arts degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from San Diego Mesa College. He is determined to one day receive his Masters and Doctoral degree, most likely in an interdisciplinary department. Jesus is committed to his local and global community through his engagement in the San Diego Immigrant Youth Collective (SDIYC) and the Association of Chicana Activists (A.Ch.A.) at SDSU. He is determined to become an educator bringing themes of ethnic studies, gender, sexuality and history together. Jesus strives to one day publish his poems in a book to empower and motivate his multiple communities. Jesus is excited to work with CPI as part of the Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) to further the legacy and impact of past SEJers. Jesus looks to change the world one step at a time, one small task at a time, by changing himself first.

josh jones

Joshua Jones has had the opportunity to work on many projects in the San Diego area because of his work with Pillars of the Community, an organization that focuses on social justice issues in South East San Diego. He is helping others by sharing his experiences because he firmly believes that knowledge is power and setting an example for underrepresented and marginalized youth is essential to creating change. Joshua majors in Sociology and spent last semester as an English tutor at City College in the English Center. Since a youth, Joshua has been affected greatly by many social injustices, so he is passionate about creating change. He really cares about his community and people who makes it easier for him to be very effective in creating change through community service. He practices humanitarian values and inspires young people to believe in themselves and to know that they can make a difference in themselves and in their community. He is passionate about organizing our students and community to become more politically involved. One clear example was his involvement in the Rally for Treyvon Martin. In addition, he helped organize the successful Know Your Rights workshop with the American Civil Liberties Union. He has attended workshops led by the San Diego Organizing Project, a faith based organization focused on “creating hope and opportunities for youth in San Diego”. Most recently he had the opportunity to participate in Lobby Day 2014 in April in Sacramento, CA. He enjoys collaborating with a diverse range of professors, students, program directors, and community members and integrating their perspectives in organizational groups.

Laura Baeza

Laura Baeza was born September 16, 1993 in Chula Vista CA. Although Laura considers herself very privileged while growing up, her parents always kept her grounded and showed her that nothing is gained without dedication and hard work. She started at San Diego City College in the fall of 2011 and fell in love with the college, and all that it offers to its students. Around her second semester her professor Larissa Dorman inspired her to attain a degree in Political Science. Laura participated in clubs like BEAT ( Bringing Education and Activism Together) at SDCC. In the Spring of 2013 she was diagnosed with ovarian tumors, which caused her to leave school for a semester. This prolonged her ability to transfer to a four year university, and devastated her completely. But she came back stronger and began her first internship with the AFT, where she worked on the mayoral campaign. The opportunity she received from AFT allowed her to view how our city is running and how we can change it to benefit all of our citizens. This past Spring 2014 semester she received another internship with AFT, where she focused on workers’ rights, and that is where she realized that she wanted to eventually work with a union and pursue workers rights if she ever goes to law school. Laura’s goals are to earn a degree in Political Science so she can work for a union and change the city of San Diego, so that everyone can benefit and have equal opportunities, as well as some day attend law school and attain the ability to protect workers.

Luis Antonio López Resendiz

Luis Antonio López Resendiz was born and raised in Tijuana, Baja California Norte, México. I grew up in a humble house; my mother is a maquiladora (assembly plant) woman that took the role of a mother and father at a young age when I was five years old. She is my hero. My father has been building the United States of America with his hands and courage doing construction work since his early 20’s. Due to the poor economy and the lack of opportunities to have a decent life in México, my father decided to bring my siblings and me to El Norte (USA) so we can at least get better life. Since November of 2005 I became Mixtec student living the “illegal” life in this country. It is because of the classes I took in college that I became an active member in my community, several professors taught me the untold history of resistance of the “minorities” in this nation. Discrimination, segregation, the economic hardship, the US-Mexican border, and countless others issues were happening in front of my eyes and I couldn’t see them, until I started to take Chicana/o history classes and then I realize that everything was connected and my community was a lively prove of it. As an Indigenous student from the Mixtec tribe I started to decolonize myself from the Eurocentric ideas that have been introduced to all cultures of the world. I am bringing the past to the present to keep fight la Lucha with the knowledge of my ancient grandparents; I know for sure that today is the tomorrow I am creating. I decided to major in Political Science with the only purpose to learn how this capitalist world functions because in order for me to fight along my brothers and sister in this lucha I have understand the system to eventually defend my people.

Val Erze

Val Erze is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Critical Gender Studies. On campus, she has worked as both an intern and now as the Director of Local Affairs for the Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service (SPACES). As a student-run center that focuses on providing access and retention services to higher education for underprivileged and underrepresented students, SPACES has provided her with a chance to experience managing a non-profit center and to connect to other activists in her campus community. Through the SEJ program, she intends to continue building her knowledge of community organizing and social justice in a broader framework. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in law or public policy while maintaining her commitment to social justice and progressive politics.

2013 SEJ Fellows


Daniela Conde’s roots can be traced back to Puebla, México her birthplace. She has been highly influenced by the revolutionary womyn in her life and attributes much of her concientización to her single-mother, womyn activists, mentors, and professors. Daniela is an empowered student of color at the University of San Diego. She is majoring in Ethnic Studies and English; she will pursue graduate school and eventually receive a master’s in Education and a PhD in Ethnic Studies or American Studies. As a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a McNair Scholar, and a graduate of Reality Changers, Daniela is committed to contributing back to her transnational community through educational empowerment, community organizing, and interethnic/racial solidarity work. She was a Spring 2013 Organizing Intern for the Center on Policy Initiatives. Daniela is a member of many organizations on campus, has held leadership roles in MEChA, and will be the co-chair for the Association of Chicana Activists for the 2013-2014 year. Her service includes mentorship for young men and women at a Juvenile Detention Facility, immigration activism, and organizing conferences for first generation college students. Daniela is also enamored with learning languages and traveling, by the end of 2014 she will have traveled to more than 23 countries. Daniela is in love with life and is a believer in the transformation of this world; she is passionate about education, immigration, social justice, economic and political self-determination, revolution, and womyn empowerment. Daniela hopes to become a community organizer, an artist (painter/poet), and professor one day.


Janine Davis is an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego majoring in Political Science. She first became interested in working with local communities when she volunteered for Manna Food Bank in San Bernardino by assisting in preparing and distributing food packages for low-income families and the homeless. Recently, she has interned at the Center on Policy Initiatives by engaging in event planning and fundraising. This experience further exposed her to the importance of community organizing, while also giving her insight into the culture of nonprofit organizations and their participation in local government. On campus, she has kept busy by writing for campus publications and attending the annual in University of California Student Association conference where students directly lobby legislators in order to increase the accessibility of higher education. She applied for the SEJ internship in the hopes of learning more about the challenges facing San Diego and how community organizers are taking on these issues through action and empowerment. She believes this experience will help prepare her for a career in community organizing dedicated to advancing economic and social justice.


Paulene De Mesa is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego where she majors in Political Science with a minor in Sociology.  Beginning from her volunteer work in high school as President of Key Club, she developed a love for reaching out to the people and trying to make a change.  This drive for change translated to her choices at UCSD where she is affiliated with the Community Law Project (CLP), which encourages volunteer work and guides students to a path in the field of law.  She also joined the Youth Success and Outreach Program (YSOP).  This program lets students volunteer at foster youth homes every week to make a difference in their future.  With her experience in volunteer work and leadership, she aspires to become either a family lawyer or a foreign service officer for the United States.  After she graduates, she hopes to take a break from schoolwork and visit the Philippines for a bit.  Afterwards, she can then decide her path as a graduate student.  She chose to apply to SEJ to gain a better understanding of her city of San Diego and to learn from current community leaders to make better changes for the working people.  In her spare time she enjoys outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and swimming with friends.


Eric Henson is an undergraduate Urban Studies and Planning major at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Prior to transferring to UCSD, his full exposure to community organizing occurred when he was introduced to the captivating teaching and literature of a sociology course titled, “Social Problems” at San Diego City College. The course engaged in problem-posing discussions on societal stigmas and dilemmas of class, race, gender and disabilities, and how to pursue collective action in order to address such issues. Through the curriculum, he joined the campus-activist group “Education for All” (EFA) that educated student-peers and parents on the budget cuts from Elementary to Higher Education. The group worked on regional to state-wide scale with various activist groups to revive the California Masterplan for education. It led him to the opportunity to deliver a speech on International Worker’s Day 2010 about the history of California’s tax structure that has caused the vast increase of tuition that has affected the children of migrant workers. The intersection of different activist groups that worked collectively with EFA led him to develop an interest for neighborhood organizations, and working with them throughout Southeast San Diego, such as the Bay Terrace Community Association, and the People’s Produce Project of Southeast San Diego, where attended meetings and watched students from San Diego State University survey vacant land to be used in coordination with Southeast San Diego residents. These life occurrences spawned his interest in the history of  how communities and cities develop or decay, which directed him to the field of Urban Studies and Planning. He is looking forward the conscious framework of tools that the Center on Policy Initiatives will provide him to add perspective to his vision as a community organizer and social worker.


John Reid is an undergraduate at San Diego Mesa College who will be transferring to UCLA in the fall as a sociology major. During his time at Mesa he founded a student organization called B.E.A.T. (Bringing Education and Activism Together), which was dedicated to promoting awareness about current political issues and encouraging students to take action. For the last two years John has been an intern with the American Federation of Teachers local 1931, during which time he has worked on various political campaigns, participated in voter registration drives, and helped set up and run the Mesa College Workers’ Rights Center. John was attracted to the SEJ internship because he has a passion for social justice and he believes that in order to turn ideals into action it is necessary to have a firm grasp of the fine art of organizing. He expects SEJ to help in that regard, and he hopes to use the knowledge he gains to participate in building the movements for economic democracy and environmental justice. In his spare time, John enjoys rollerblading and singing karaoke.


Zarai Santos is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University where she studies sociology with an emphasis on child development. She first heard of the CPI intern opportunity while enrolled in a Working and Society Sociology class at SDSU. With the help of the SEJ Summer Internship program, Zarai hopes to aid diverse communities gain knowledge on economic and social justice issues.  In the future, Zarai hopes to inspire “non traditional” students into pursuing higher education.


Margarita Vargas Patron attends the University of San Diego. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Biology. As a first generation, studious daughter from an immigrant working class, she has always been told to make something of herself. That something took the shape of a career in the health field as a doctor; however, as the years at USD went by, she began losing interest in the pursuit of this career because it seemed unlikely that in the future she would be able to pursue ambitious plans towards fighting for social justice. For that reason, she is very excited to be a part of SEJ summer internship program to become exposed to the struggles of San Diego and ways to help so those skills and knowledge can be used later in life. In the future, she plans on attending graduate school. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, family time, helping her community, and reading books, especially from authors Isabele Allende and Brandon Sanderson.


2012 SEJ Fellows

Zainab Badi is an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego where she studies International Studies-Political Science. On campus, she works as the Director of Civil and Human Rights at the Student Sustainability Collective, an organization that seeks to educate students about the intersections of environmental and social sustainability and create policies to make UCSD more sustainable. She aspires to one day work in education reform to make a higher education accessible to all students. Zainab plans to either attend law school or pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration after she graduates. She chose to apply to the SEJ internship because she felt that she was getting too entrenched in a UCSD bubble and wanted to gain exposure organizing around campaigns in an off-campus environment. She hopes to gain a better understanding of the “real world” through this internship and is very happy to have an opportunity to work on progressive policy campaigns in the San Diego area. Zainab, an avid reader, particularly enjoys the works of Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn. Along with reading, Zainab also enjoys biking, learning guitar, making brownies, and learning languages in her spare time.


Kristian Castro hails from the University of California San Diego majoring in Communication and minoring in Management Science. Through his volunteer work Kristian has come to understand how marginalized communities struggle to find access to higher education. He first discovered his passion for making higher education more readily accessible after attending a statewide conference, hosted by the University of California Student Association. More recently, he concluded an internship with EMPOWER San Diego, a group seeking to promote community empowerment through civic engagement. Meanwhile, on campus, Kristian has served as the Chief of Staff for the Office of External Affairs on behalf of the Associated Students at UCSD. In the new school year, Kristian will serve as the VP of Finance for the Asian and Pacific-Islander Student Alliance. As a CPI intern, Kristian looks forward to developing a deeper understanding of San Diego politics and other issues pertinent to San Diego communities. After graduation, he plans to continue working to develop leadership and greater access to higher education in his community. In his spare time, Kristian watches movies and practices martial arts.


Mirna Cruz, a Chicana, wom[y]n of color, grew up in the communities of Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, Golden Hills, and San Ysidro. She is motivated by her mother,  a strong wom[y]n whohas struggled to live in the U.S. At age 13, she participated in the student walkouts against H.R. 4437 also known as “The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005”. In 2009, alongside her mother and AFSCME Local 3299, she protested to demand fair wages, stop layoffs, and fair treatment for the UCSD Workers. For many years she volunteered at the Golden Hill Recreation Center and Casa Familiar in San Ysidro. While attending Mission Bay High School she became active in Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan and was part of Café en la Calle, Colectivo Zapatista, Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC), and Project YANO. Currently she attends San Diego State University with a double major in Social Work and Spanish, and was the Vice-Chair of a student organization called Association of Chicana Activists. Her goal is to work with youth that have been incarcerated in the Juvenile Hall system. She aspires to help youth realize their college potential. In participating in the SEJ summer internship program, looks forward to gaining hands-on experience working in campaigns for economic and social justice that she can later bring back to her community. In her spare time she enjoys dancing, playing basketball, spending time with her loved ones and helping out her community.


Nancy Cruz, a recent UCLA graduate, double majored in Sociology and Chicana/o Studies and minored in Labor and Workplace Studies. Nancy came from working-class immigrant community. For as long as she can remember, her mother worked seven days a week to provide for her family. In working towards a better future for all, Nancy has worked with Youth Action Network, Cafe En La Calle, Collectivo Zapitista San Diego and helped found the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC). While at UCLA she became active in the Los Angeles labor movement, working with organizations such as the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), CLEAN Carwash Campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Student Worker Front. Additionally, she worked at the Labor Center on development of a social justice curriculum with the goal of creating spaces of reflection and action. In the future, Nancy plans to work towards a doctoral degree in education in order to change the educational system at an institutional level through the development of curriculum that is student relevant and facilitates critical thinking. In participating in the SEJ program, she hopes to gain knowledge about the specific needs and struggles of workers in her hometown. Her hobbies include traveling, getting to know people, engaging in critical discussions and dancing.


Manuel Enriquez’s parents emigrated from Mexico. As a first generation San Diegan, he is the first in his family to graduate from a four-year University. Manuel attended San Diego State University where he earned bachelor’s degrees in Chicana/o Studies and Sociology, and minored in French. He was apolitical until his third year at SDSU where his Chicano/studies courses opened his eyes as it relates to critical consciousness and self-identity. At that time, he joined the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.), and Association of Chicana Activists (A.Ch.A.). Through A.Ch.A., he gained leadership skills by helping members schedule study hours, overseeing the annual Chicana/Latina High School Conference, and coordinating scholarships. By participating in SEJ he hopes to learn additional organizing skills that he can share within his community. In the future he hopes to become an educator and motivate youth to be self-determined with aspirations for a higher education. Manuel enjoys playing the drums, the guitar and soccer.


Abigail Rosas currently attends San Diego State University. Born in Mexico, she lived there for eleven years and moved to City Heights in middle school. Upon entering High School she encountered opportunities to volunteer at her middle school. She thrives in academic environments and is passionate about education. For her SEJ is the “opportunity of a lifetime to have a closer impact in the working community of San Diego. It is an opportunity to see on a deeper level what it is to fight for causes that affect every person in the community; it is the chance to become part of something bigger than [her]self.” She looks forward to the opportunity to make an impact on many lives through SEJ. Upon completion of college, she would like to begin her own organization that will connect both parents and students.


Jasmin Griffin is an EARN intern participating in the SEJ program. She is an undergraduate student at Howard University where she is studying Economics and has minors in Math and Political Science. While at Howard, Jasmin has shaped the community by helping to organize her university’s first Relay for Life, the proceeds from which went to the cancer center of nearby Howard University Hospital and its patients. Jasmin has also worked with Mayor Gray’s administration in Washington D.C. and with a green building consulting firm to encourage responsible, environment-friendly development. Jasmin has a passion for learning and growing as a person and hopes that this internship will teach her as much as possible about community organizing.


2011 SEJ Fellows

Cassie Purdy is from the foothills of Northern California where she grew up with her parents and three older siblings. She developed a passion for social justice issues through her experiences throughout high school. Cassie was able to put those passions into practice when she moved to San Diego for college. It was here that she participated in an urban immersion program and became involved with the International Rescue Committee and their Food Security Department. Cassie also got involved on her campus through the peer education program and Sustainability Department. She also studied abroad in Morocco where she studied Arabic and Human Rights issues. Cassie Purdy is 20 years old and is currently studying at Point Loma Nazarene University to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She hopes to eventually receive her Master’s and continue working in ways that combine her passions for environmental and social justice issues.


Jose Rodriguez is an incoming student to San Diego State University and a graduate from City College where he co-founded a school organization called Bringing Education and Activism Together (BEAT) to create a forum for art, music, and political expression. In addition, he was the co-chair for the San Diego City College MEChA organization, which aims to empower Chicanos in the United States. In the future, Jose will educate and motivate more people to take part in the political process.


Julio Cesar Rivera is a student at San Diego State University majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Latin American Studies. A life-long resident of San Diego, he is committed to bettering the community. Seeing the plight of low-income people, particularly amongst communities of color, has given him the drive to make a difference. In early 2011, Julio began working with Feeding America through their SNAP Outreach program. Through that program, he worked across San Diego County assisting disadvantaged families apply for and receive food stamps. He plans on receiving his BA in 2012 and continuing to work on social justice issues on a wider scope.


Matthew Yagyagan recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a dual major in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. As a Golden Bear, Matthew was committed to social justice as a student organizer with the Pilipino American Alliance, the Berkeley Multicultural Community Center and Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education (CalSERVE), a progressive coalition of under-resourced students. He organized against budget cuts and tuition hikes that plague public education across California, mobilized Census participation in low-income communities in Oakland, and advocated for diversity and inclusion in higher education. Matthew’s institutional experience includes internships at Chula Vista City Council, the district office of Congressman Bob Filner, and most notably, on the Hill with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He is also a Front Line Leaders Academy Fellow with People for the American Way. Matthew was born and raised in San Diego, CA.


Richard Griswold was born in Fresno, California in 1990. He has moved many times in his life, living mostly in the Central Valley, before landing in San Diego in 2008. Earlier that year, Richard began his community activism and was heavily involved with the local “No on Proposition 8” campaign in Fresno. He gained an understanding of the injustices and inequalities that surround many people across the nation. Since, he has reached out to other affected communities of injustice, discrimination, and harassment. His hopes are that any one person does not have to feel isolated or alone when faced with the obstacle of intolerance. Richard lives in Mission Hills with his partner, Dan, two dogs, and one cat. Here in San Diego, Richard attends National University in the Bachelor’s in Sociology program. His ambitions include attending graduate school in Political Science.


Timothy Bolin moved from his home town of the Coachella Valley to San Diego to pursue an advanced degree in sociology. He will be starting his second year at San Diego State in the master’s program. Before coming to SDSU Tim received a BA in sociology and philosophy at the University of Redlands. Tim believes his work at State and CPI have helped him develop his political interests. He’s interested in the improvement of the lives of working people.