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© 2009-2018 Hispanas Organized for Political Equality–California.

Join us in welcoming the ninetieth HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI) Class - 29 Latina leaders from Sacramento to San Diego who have made their mark in academia, political engagement, government, law, and the non-profit and private sectors. This exchange between Latina professionals is what will inform the potential to increase Latina representation in the years to come. 

Meet the HLI Class of 2017.

April Alvarez

Strategic Partnerships Manager, Google | Bay Area

April grew up in California's Central Valley and was the first to attend college in her family. April graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Mass Communications. After graduating, April joined Teach for America and taught thirty-two third grade students in New York City, while also completing her master's degree in education. She returned to the west coast and continued to work in education at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, CA. April launched the Alumni Services Program at Eastide, leading a team providing college and career support to first generation college students. Formerly the Student Experience Program Manager for Google's Code Next, April worked on the design of the program, focusing on cultural, curricular and social dynamics of the learning experience. Recently April stepped into a Strategic Partnerships Manager role for Google taking on the challenges of bridging the tech opportunity gap for Black and Latino communities in major cities across the U.S. by sharing the Code Next experience and making tech accessible by all. April is an active member of HOLA, the Latino Google network, and Co-Chair of the Latinos in Tech Giving Circle for the Latino Community Foundation.

Paula Amezola De Herrera

Director of Public Health Career Services, University of Southern California | Greater Los Angeles

Mrs. Amezola holds a Bachelor of Science in Genetics from UC Davis, and a Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology) from UC Los Angeles. For the last 15 years, she has worked to reduce health disparities dealing with STDs, HIV, Obesity, and Cancer. As a Public Health professional, her primary interests are in community participatory research and building healthy communities. Mrs. Amezola has been committed to supporting systems that would bring equity to underserved communities. At the University of Southern California, she worked with the Annenberg School of Communication and the Keck School of Medicine, where she engaged in community asset mapping, coalition building, health communication, health policy and research. In 2015, she became the Director of the Public Health Career Services, at the USC Keck School of Medicine, where she advises MPH students and prepares them to be strong Public Health advocates. Simultaneously, she worked, as the Communication Evaluation and Development Consultant, at UC Merced, where she advises on health communication design and evaluation. Mrs. Amezola is originally from Madera and is excited to bring her expertise back to the San Joaquin Valley.

Sara Arce

Policy Director, The Campaign for College Opportunity | Northern California

Sara’s passion for higher education attainment was first instilled in her by her parents whose dream it was to see their daughters go to college. It was after her own college experience and completing an internship in the State’s capitol that she became interested in working to promote policies that help ensure all students have access to affordable public higher education.As the Policy Director for the Campaign for College Opportunity, Sara manages the Campaign’s advocacy and policy agenda to ensure access to and student success in higher education. Prior to her work at the Campaign, Sara worked as a Legislative Aide for four years to Assemblymember Das Williams (AD 37 – Santa Barbara) where she was responsible for staffing multiple policy areas including K-12 and higher education, managing bills through the legislative process, and served as a staff liaison for the Assembly Higher Education Committee during his chairmanship. Sara’s experience also includes working on various political campaigns and fundraising in the non-profit sector. She is an alumni of the UC Center Sacramento policy program, continues to volunteer on political campaigns and also volunteers with the Sacramento Cash for College program to assist high school students in filling out their financial aid forms in order to achieve their dreams of higher education.Sara holds a B.A. degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a double-major in Communications and English.

Deborah Bautista Zavala

Scheduler, Office of Assemblymember Miguel Santiago | Northern California

Deborah Bautista Zavala is Assemblymember Miguel Santiago’s (AD53 – Los Angeles) State Capitol Office Scheduler and Office Manager. Prior to joining Assemblymembers’s Santiago’s team, she served as Senior Assistant to Assemblymember Nora Campos (AD27- San Jose). Deborah has also worked for the Council of State Governments-WEST (CSG-West), and International House at the University of California at Davis. She earned her M.A. from the California State University at Sacramento, and received her B.A. in Chicana/o Studies and Spanish from the University of California, Davis. She has two young children and is known for being a hands-on parent and a life-long member of Woodland, CA. Deborah prides herself in raising her children in a Mexican-American community, speaking to them in both English and Spanish and sharing with them culturally rich experiences. She currently serves as a Board member of the Beamer Elementary School Site Council and serves on the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee.

Elizabeth Bille

Manager, Legislative and Advocacy Affairs, Government Relations Department, AltaMed Health Services | Greater Los Angeles

Elizabeth Bille is the Manager, Legislative and Advocacy Affairs within the Government Relations Department at AltaMed Health Services. She is involved in the coordination of legislative, advocacy and civic engagement activities, analysis of public policy and promotion of the Government Relations Department goals and objectives. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Houston holding a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Political Science and History and is Six Sigma Green Belt certified. Furthermore, Elizabeth was elected as Vice President of the Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council for the City of Los Angeles in 2014. The neighborhood council promotes more public participation in government, making government more responsive to neighborhood needs. Elizabeth Bille has experience as an academic researcher and community organizer with the James Irvine Foundation and an International Business certificate in a work and study abroad program in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth has lead successful civic engagement initiatives throughout Southern California and in 2016 was selected to be a Latino Vote Fellow by the National Council of La Raza. Elizabeth is a Mickey Leland Fellow who worked in Washington, DC with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. She has also worked as a campaign assistant and interned for several races including Houston, Los Angeles, and West Hollywood City Councils, Texas State Senate and Governor of Texas. Elizabeth is bilingual in English and Spanish, is an active volunteer in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and a Santa Ana Civic Leadership Initiative Alumni.

Maria Cadenas

Executive Director, Santa Cruz Community Ventures | Central Coast

Maria Cadenas is the current Executive Director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures, focusing its work on social and economic justice. She has extensive experience in community relations, program development, and the philanthropic sector with a specific focus on social change, including LGBT, Food, and Latino issues. She was the former Senior Community Involvement Manager for Driscoll’s, where she helped develop the global philanthropy program and oversaw the America's employee engagement and grant program focused on supporting farmworkers and their families in the rural communities. Prior to joining Driscoll’s she served as the Executive Director for the Cream City Foundation and as the Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin. A Women's Media Center Progressive Women's alumna, she received her BA from Beloit College and MBA from Alverno College. She chairs the Diversity Partnership Fund of the Community Foundation for Santa Cruz. She is a former member of the national board of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and the Stewardship Council of Roots of Change. A member of the Women’s in Radio Collective, you can hear her on the radio hosting Breakfast in Bed at KZSC 88.1 FM.

Sylvia Castillo

Senior Manager of Government & Community Affairs, Essential Access Health | Bay Area

Sylvia has advocated for health care access policies that improve the lives of low-income, minority populations for more than five years. As Senior Manager of Government + Community Affairs at Essential Access Health, she works to promote access to quality, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. She conducts community outreach and advocacy campaigns, and facilitates the Women + Health Care Reform Coalitions in Sacramento County and the Bay Area.Sylvia previously worked at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, advocating for the health and wellness of patients and families at the local, state and federal levels. She was certified as an Enrollment Counselor for Covered California’s first open enrollment period in 2013-2014. She received her B.A. in History and Latin American Studies from UCLA in 2006, and is a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the University of San Francisco. During her graduate studies, Sylvia interned for San Francisco Mayors Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee’s policy department and the National Council of La Raza in Los Angeles. Sylvia is an avid volunteer and has worked with numerous Latino youth organizations throughout California, such as the Nuestras Raices Cultural Arts Center, Adelante Mujer Latina, and the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP).She also served on the UCLA Latino Alumni Association, was Vice President of her Sorority, Lambda Sigma Gamma, and was a founding board member of the Lambda Sigma Gamma Foundation. In 2013, she participated in the Southern California Leadership Network’s New American Leaders Fellowship. Sylvia was born and raised in Baldwin Park, California, and was the first woman in her family to attend college.

Nancy Coleman Chavez

Senior Assistant, Office of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia | Northern California

Nancy Coleman Chavez was born and raised in Mexico City. Her passion for social justice, gender equity and changing people’s lives started at a young age. She has always enjoyed traveling and getting to know different people and their cultures around the world. At age 16 she came to California as an exchange student. When she returned to Mexico, she started working in politics. She campaigned for various local elections and worked for the National Committee at PRI.Later she worked for the President of Mexico as his Executive Assistant.At the age of 19 she traveled to France and lived there for a year. During her time in France she learned about the culture, the politics and literature of that country. She returned to Mexico and graduated from the Instituto Superior de Interpretes y Traductores with a Bachelor Degree in Interpretation and Translation. When Nancy returned from France she worked for the Secretary of Labor in Mexico analyzing and translating legislation. In 2010 Nancy moved to Sacramento, California. In that same year, she married Larry Coleman a now Air Force Veteran. She joined the Council of State Governments-WEST and started working with the 13 Western States as a Health Committee Coordinator and with the 10 Border states as an International Project Coordinator. In 2013, Nancy joined the California State Assembly looking for opportunities to impact the communities around her. Nancy enjoys doing community service by organizing an Annual Drive to help the homeless in the Sacramento Area. Her dream is to run for office and help bring equity to the most marginalized communities.

Norma J. Dunn

Executive Assistant to the President, United Farm Workers | Central Valley

Norma Dunn is the Executive Assistant to the United Farm Workers (UFW) President, Arturo S. Rodriguez. Norma’s work with the UFW enables her to engage in the efforts to provide and create better working conditions for farm workers. In addition, Norma is an Adjunct Business Instructor for Santa Barbara Business College, where she teaches College Math and Professional Resource Development. Her specialty is business networking, building lasting relationships and connecting individuals for optimal profitable partnerships. Her passion for education, professional development, and business has identified her as a dynamic speaker within her community. Norma served as Co-Chair for the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Development Committee, providing essential business workshops to the community. Norma’s diverse background includes her obtaining a Water Treatment Grade III and Water Distribution Grade III Certification during her 11-year tenure with California Water Service Company. She is a graduate of the Latina Leadership Institute of Kern County and volunteers in her community on a regular basis; her participation in Latina Leaders enables her to mentor young Latina high school students entering college. Norma serves on the Board of Directors for the Prospanica Bakersfield Chapter as the University Relations Officer and participates on the educational committee, working with community leaders to promote higher education in the Latino community. Norma holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, a Master of Business Administration from Kaplan University, a Human Resources Management Certificate, and Risk and Safety Management Certificate from California State University Bakersfield.

Domenica Escatel

Child Development Specialist, Stanislaus County Office of Education | Central Valley

Domenica Escatel is a Child Development Specialist with the Stanislaus County Office of Education. She recently went into business for herself with a transformational leadership company called Life Boss. Domenica went to school at San Jose State University and obtained her Bachelors in Photography and Art Education. At San Jose State University, she held the philanthropy chair for the entire Greek system for all local sororities. As she pursued her photography career she also began having private art shows in local art galleries located in San Jose. She then moved back to the Central Valley and worked for a non-profit called the Children's Crisis Center. She pursued her Master’s Degree in Leadership from Brandman University. She is the first one in her family in three generations to obtain not only a bachelor’s degree but also a Master’s Degree. She recently was recognized by The Modesto Bee as one of Stanislaus County's 20 under forty upcoming community leaders. The Stanislaus County Office of Education also has recognized her by giving her the Little Engine That Could Award. The little engine that could award recognized Domenica for leading, and organizing the children's festival sponsored by the Stanislaus Association for the Education of Young Children. The only children's festival in Stanislaus County that has an attendance of over 200 families. At that time, she also held a position with the Stanislaus Association for the Education of Young Children Board. She currently holds a leadership position on the board with the Women's Education Leadership League.

Cinthia Flores

Director, Dream Resource Center | Greater Los Angeles

Cinthia Flores is the Director for the Dream Resource Center at the UCLA Labor Center where she manages the center's flagship programs Dream Summer and Healthy California. Cinthia previously served as a Senior Public Administration Analyst at the UCLA Labor Center where her work focused on building transnational relations between Central America and the United States. Cinthia formerly practiced labor law representing private and public sector unions. Cinthia graduated from UCLA with a major in Political Science and minors in Chicana/o Studies and Labor and Workplace Studies. While at UCLA, Cinthia served as the first Latina Student Body President. During law school, Cinthia served as a Regent on the University of California Board of Regents. While on the Board, she secured funding for undocumented student service centers and diversity enhancement programs. Cinthia is a graduate of the Front Line Leaders Academy, a campaign leadership development program. Cinthia serves as the chair of Latinas Lead Young Professionals Network. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the Latina Lawyers Bar Association. Lastly, Cinthia serves as a Governor Brown appointee to the Health Professions Education Foundation.

Claudia Huerta

Legislative and Political Engagement Manager, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW) | San Diego

Claudia joined PPPSW in 2013 as the Binational Affairs Manager and now serves as the Legislative and Political Engagement Manager. Claudia Huerta is an experienced economic development and community relations strategist passionate about reducing systemic poverty cycles, advancing gender equity and reproductive healthcare rights, and increasing sustainable urban access. She has extensive experience working and advocating for low-income and marginalized communities in California, New York, Mexico and Brazil. In her current role at PPPSW Claudia identifies strategies and implements programs to address key reproductive health issues and legislation impacting access to reproductive health care in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. She works with legislators and staff, multiple community-based agencies, and volunteers to strengthen relationships and partnerships to ensure access to reproductive healthcare services and rights; and represents PPPSW on advisory boards and committees at a local and international level. She also provides cultural and linguistic expertise and guidance to enhance community health and voter education, reproductive justice outreach, and messaging to Latino communities and multi-cultural communities in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties in English and Spanish. Claudia holds a Master’s of Science in Urban Planning and a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Spanish Literature from Columbia University.

Lisette Islas

Chief Impact Officer, MAAC | San Diego

Lisette Islas is the Chief Impact Officer at MAAC, a 50-year-old nonprofit that provides programs and advocacy in the areas of health, education, career pathways, and housing. In this role, Lisette focuses on increasing the visibility, reach and outcomes of MAAC’s work, as well its workforce development strategies and programs. With nearly twenty years of experience working in the fields of community development and philanthropy, Lisette is passionate about finding new and better ways to help disadvantaged communities be more prosperous and civically engaged. Previously, Lisette was the Vice President of Community Engagement and Programs at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, where she focused on creating community- and capacity-building strategies as well as strategic partnerships. She also served as the Director of Learning and Programs at San Diego Grantmakers, where she developed programs and initiatives to increase the effectiveness of philanthropy in San Diego. Lisette graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology.

Esmeralda Macedo

Facilities Engineeer, California Resources Corporation | Greater Los Angeles

Esmeralda is a Mexican born and California raised Latino female engineer. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2008 and in 2012 from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering respectively. Currently she is working at California Resources Corporation as a process and water quality engineer. Her inspiration to pursue a career in STEM came from her high school chemistry teacher. While in college she became very involved in Cross Country and Track & Field teams, Maximizing Engineering Potential program and professional organizations such as: Society of Women Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Her passion for learning and passing knowledge to others takes form in mentoring and empowering young girls to go to college and become part of the STEM field; as well as educating parents on how to better support their daughters in school. Her company California Resources Corporation encourages her and helps her participate in middle school and high school outreach programs through Cal State Long Beach’s Society of Women Engineers fostering young girls desire to follow a career in STEM.

Luz Molina-Lopez

Technical Proposal Writer, Ajinomoto Althea | San Diego

Luz has worked in the biotech industry in San Diego for 12+ years. She started her career in the lab as a manufacturing operator for the production of medical biologics. Her experience includes microbial fermentation & purification of recombinant proteins and plasmid DNA, analytical testing, cGMP operations & documentation, and knowledge of FDA regulations for investigational new drug filings. Currently, she is a liaison for the business development team as a technical proposal writer. Previously, she focused on social issues and served with AmeriCorps in Health Access Project in Salt Lake City, UT. Luz also participates in her National City community as a board member for the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board and volunteers with Las Palmas Little League and Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center. Luz is a graduate of Sweetwater HS, Southwestern CC, and UC Berkeley. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology with an emphasis on Developmental Biology.

Danielle Nava-Mijares

Associate Executive Director California Conference for Equality & Justice | Orange County

Danielle is Associate Executive Director for The California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ). For twenty years, Danielle has worked in the non-profit sector in the areas of social justice, anti-bias education and civil rights. She currently serves as the Lead Partner in the Hate Violence Prevention Partnership of LA. She has served on numerous boards from The Violence Prevention Coalition and YWCA, Central Orange County serving as Chair and the California Association of Human Relations Organizations. Since 2002, she is adjunct faculty in the College of Educational Studies at Chapman University teaching in the Masters in Leadership Development program. In 2014, she was awarded the Linda Kearns Community Prevention Award by the Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Network. In 2012, Danielle received a Governor's appointment to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission and in 2009 she was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by Cypress College. She has the distinct honor of being a United States American Marshall Memorial Fellow since 2007.

Milena Paez

Elections Analyst, Office of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla | Northern California

Milena is an Elections Analyst focusing on large-scale voter education and outreach initiatives as well as statewide regulation of the National Voter Registration Act at the Office of California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Government Relations from California State University Sacramento where she was twice selected to represent the university at the International Model United Nations Conference with a research focus on the Commission on the Status of Women. There, she also helped guide students as Lead Mentor for the Odyssey Peer Advising program. Previously, Milena worked with the international non-profit AMIGOS de las Americas as Project Supervisor, launching community-based initiatives and developing educational programs throughout Latin America. With a background in bilingual education, she also taught ESL students in Colombia and throughout Northern California. Milena has a passion for community advocacy and continues her commitment to be a champion for civic participation and social justice.

Sarah Palacios

Vice President, ALZA Strategies | Northern California

Sarah Palacios is the Vice President of ALZA Strategies. Working both out of Los Angeles and Sacramento. Sarah manages office operations and client activities for ALZA Strategies. She develops and implements strategic public affairs campaigns to successfully meet client’s communications, political, and legislative challenges. Sarah provides counsel to clients ranging from local and state government level, corporations and non-profits by developing and executing innovative Latino outreach and communications strategies. Previously, she served as an Assembly Fellow in the office of Assemblyman Richard S. Gordon, staffing legislation and getting numerous bills signed into law. Additionally, Sarah has worked on a wide range of political campaigns providing strategic planning, campaign management, and communications services. In 2016 she ran and won in the 44th Congressional District as a delegate for Secretary Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. Originally from Los Angeles, Sarah worked for the Center for the Study of Los Angeles (CSLA) as a research analyst. She conducted various studies involving voter surveys, public opinion research, and census data analyses. Sarah is also a multiple grant recipient for independent research projects on issues such as redistricting, analyzing demographic variables, and developing methodologies to increase minority political representation. Sarah graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in Political Science and a Minor in Sociology. She currently serves on the executive board for the California Latino Capitol Association as its Policy Director.

Denise Peralta Gailey

Managing Director, Ortega Strategies Group | Orange County

Denise Peralta Gailey, Managing Director, for Ortega Strategies Group (OSG) based in Fullerton, is responsible for managing various clients in the natural resources and related industries. OSG, a private consulting firm, has managed projects in the water, agriculture, public accountability and community empowerment arena both regionally and statewide. In addition to serving as OSG’s managing director, Denise manages a political fundraising consulting business for local and state candidates. Denise was born in Torrance, and raised in Inglewood and Anaheim. Denise holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California State University- Fullerton, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

Marina Perez

Public Participation Specialist State Water Resources Board, Office of Public Participation | Northern California

Marina is currently a Public Participation Specialist with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) a regulatory agency under the California Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento. Her work involves outreach, engagement and education related to water quality and drought issues primarily in environmental justice communities throughout CA. In an effort to help SWRCB staff work more effectively with environmental justice communities, she also serves as a Risk Communication trainer staff state‐wide. Prior to this, she worked in the same capacity with a sister agency, the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and worked on high profile contaminated sites in Boyle Heights and Simi Valley. Her previous professional experience includes working in the private sector as a an Account Manager for Consensus Inc. where she worked on transportation, redevelopment, CEQA and environmental remediation projects. She also worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a Senior Community Outreach Specialist for the New School Construction Program, one of the largest public works program in the nation, where she worked with communities to build new schools and relieve overcrowding and busing. Marina has also worked in the non‐profit sector with Padres Contra El Cancer, Breathe LA and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Marina has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Masters in Public Administration from California State University,Northridge. Marina is a recipient of the 2017 Water Justice Leadership Award from the Community Water Center for her work in connecting East Porterville to safe, reliable drinking water.

Ramona Micaela Prieto

Senior Public Affairs Representative PG&E | Bay Area

Ramona Prieto is a Senior Public Affairs professional for Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E); one of the largest dual commodity energy providers in the United States. She specializes in sub-surface infrastructure investments and policy work for PG&E’s natural gas transmission systems. She is also a contributing member to the company’s Civic Engagement Initiative devoted to strengthening partnerships with leading external stakeholder groups. She has studied business management, ethics, environmental sciences and project management, culminating in an interdisciplinary Masters of Business Administration from California State University Chico and Copenhagen Business School. In her free time she enjoys time with her partner and family, San Francisco food excursions, and the occasional rugby match.

Brissa Quiroz

Science and Engineering Faculty | Central Valley

Brissa Yazmin Quiroz Enriquez, is a Latina scientist and engineer currently living in Fresno, California. She is the oldest of 3 sisters and all of them are engineers. She has a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a master’s degree in Industrial Technology from California State University, Fresno, and a PhD in Environmental science and engineering from UTEP. She was born and raised in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and attended local schools. She decided to step out of her comfort zone, and study engineering in El Paso. She had a choice to study engineering in Juarez, but she knew at UTEP she would have many opportunities, such as learning new languages (German, Japanese and Portuguese), studying abroad (2 summers in Germany), internships (Ford Motor Company in Michigan) and research experience. It took her almost 10 years to complete her doctoral degree due to the birth of her children and famly matters in Mexico . She left her comforts of home to return to Ciudad Juarez to help support her family during the uprising in Ciudad Juarez. Persistence has been a very important lesson in her life. She chose to work in education, because she wants to share her knowledge and passion for education with students. For Brissa the most important thing, is helping empower Hispanic parents to create a college culture so that their children achieve the American dream of obtaining a college degree.

Veronica Ramirez

City Attorney City of Redwood City | Bay Area

Veronica Ramirez has 12 years of municipal law experience. She was recently appointed City Attorney, she currently acts as chief legal officer to the City Council, City Manager and other executives on a wide variety of legal matters. Ms. Ramirez joined the City of Redwood City as Assistant City Attorney in 2011 after developing an expertise in land use and planning while with the law firm of McDonough, Holland and Allen (2005 - 2011), which joined with Burke Williams & Sorensen in 2010. Ms. Ramirez’ practice has focused primarily on representing cities and other public agencies in the land use and planning arena, including environmental analysis, real estate, and redevelopment. She started her career as a litigation lawyer with Downey Brand, a premier law firm in Sacramento. A 2004 University of California Davis law graduate with a certificate in Public Interest/Public Sector Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of California Berkeley, Ms. Ramirez is fluent in Spanish and active in La Raza Lawyers’ Association, an organization that serves as the national voice for the concerns and opinions of Hispanics in the community generally and in the legal profession in particular. She is also a member of the League of California Cities City Attorneys’ Department and was a contributing author of the League of California Cities’ “Open & Public VI” and updates to the Municipal Law Handbook publication as relates to the Brown Act. In her previous role as Assistant City Attorney in the City of Redwood City, Ms. Ramirez served as the primary legal advisor to the Planning Commission and to the Community Development Department and the Successor Agency to the Redwood City Redevelopment Agency.

Christina Ramos

Chief of Staff, City of San Jose - Council District 3 | Bay Area

Christina Ramos was born and raised in East San Jose, a graduate of The National Hispanic University in Liberal Studies where she was the recipient of the President’s Award in 2006. Currently, she is working for the City of San José as Chief of Staff for Councilmember Raul Peralez of District 3, representing the downtown and heart of the city. Prior to working in public services she was the Director of the MESA Schools Program at San Jose State University for 10 years supporting educationally and economically disadvantaged students to go to college and major in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. While working, she also studied and completed coursework for a Master’s in Public Administration. She has been serving the community as Commissioner of the Santa Clara County’s Commission on the Status of Women, Committee member of the Alum Rock School District’s Measure G and J Bond Oversight Committee, and a Santa Clara County Office of Education County Committee member. She is the former board member and President of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, Governing Board Member of the San Jose Cal-SOAP Consortium, and commissioner for the City of San Jose’s Library and Early Education Commission. Named as 2012’s 100 Influential Women of Silicon Valley from the San Jose Business Journal and one of the 40 Under 40 Latin@s to Watch and Gente Choice Award in Education in the Silicon Valley by Silicon Valley Latino Magazine.

Rosa Maria Santana

Media and Employee Communications Advisor, SoCalGas | Bay Area

Rosa Maria Santana joined SoCalGas in March 2016 as a Media Relations and Employee Communications Advisor. Prior to joining SoCalGas, the largest distributor of natural gas in the United States, Santana served as communications deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. Prior to joining Supervisor Solis' staff, she was associate director of media relations at Scripps College, a nationally ranked women's liberal arts college affiliated with the Claremont Colleges. Aside from her work in public relations and media relations, Santana is an award-winning journalist and educator. Throughout her career, she has advocated for racial and ethnic parity in U.S. newsrooms. She was the West Coast Parity Project Associate Director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists from 2005 to 2007. Through the Parity Project, she worked closely with West Coast newsrooms that sought to increase the number of Latinos in their respective news outlets. She organized community forums, bringing local residents and journalists together to talk about news coverage of area Latinos.

Elizabeth Shapiro

Chief Operating Officier, LA County Business Federation | Greater Los Angeles

Elizabeth Shapiro grows BizFed’s grassroots power in numbers by bringing in new members, promoting their brands, and connecting the stakeholders throughout our coalition. Elizabeth brings to BizFed a background in policy communications and fundraising. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Points of Light Foundation, coordinating volunteer efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Elizabeth then went to Capitol Hill to be Scheduler and Congressional Hispanic Caucus liaison for Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of the San Gabriel Valley. Prior to BizFed, she worked on local, state, and federal food poverty policy and major gift fundraising at the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks.

Jocelyn Vargas

Director of Community Programs, Raices Cultura, College of the Desert | Inland Empire

Jocelyn was born and raised in the Coachella Valley and is the daughter of migrant workers, her experience as an English learner had a great impact in the work she chose to pursue. She attended the University of California Los Angeles where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Chicana/o Studies and double minored in Latin American Studies and Education. As an undergraduate student Jocelyn had the opportunity to work at the Student Initiated Access Center where she worked to promote access to higher education for underrepresented minorities. Her interest in education led her to participate in the Education Abroad Program Field Research in Mexico where she learned of the educational experience of Indigenous communities in Michoacán. Upon completion of this program, she returned to Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Arts in Biliteracy, Leadership and Intercultural Education. Through her work with Raices Cultura as Director of Community programs, she has gained a new understanding of the issues affecting the Eastern Coachella Valley. Jocelyn led a Youth Participatory Action Research Project where along with 16 youth identified the factors that contribute to the lack of access to recreational opportunities. She is currently employed at College of the Desert and serve on Raices Cultura’s board where she continues to advocate to secure funding and creating programs that promote gender and social equity to address the needs of youth and residents in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Mayra Vazquez

International Business Affairs Coordinator, San Diego Chamber of Commerce | San Diego

Mayra Vazquez is a San Diego native, born and raised in the South Bay. Mayra has been a part of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce for two years as the International Business Affairs Project Manager, supporting policy initiatives and related events in the promotion of cross border and international trade and commerce. Most recently she took the lead on Education and Workforce Development policy at the Chamber. Prior to that, she was a Council Representative in the office of San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey where she led various binational and general business outreach efforts. She studied abroad in Argentina and Mexico, where she also had the opportunity to intern at the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Upon graduating from California State University, Long Beach, Mayra returned to San Diego and became involved as a volunteer and intern at several local organizations, including the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Center San Diego and Office of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Anayeli Zavala

Councilmember, City of Desert Hot Springs College and Career Project Coordinator, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership Worlforce Excellence | Inland Empire

Anayeli Zavala was elected to the Desert Hot Springs City Council in November of 2015. She has worked in the nonprofit sector focusing on health and education for the last five years. While managing health and wellness programs for a high school in an underserved community, she came to understand the impacts of policy on health and educational outcomes. This experience gave her the impetus to spend a summer in Washington D.C. creating a policy database for a national comprehensive healthy school policy project. She was then accepted as a Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute and addressed environmental issues throughout Riverside County. These experiences sparked her passion for policy and she is proud to bring a health and education lens to the city’s decision making process. Aside from her role on the Desert Hot Springs City Council, Anayeli works for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership as the College and Career Project Coordinator. She oversees the Behavioral Health Workforce Alignment Team, which convenes education leaders and behavioral health professionals to create a regional pipeline for students interested behavioral health careers. Anayeli also oversees a paid summer internship program for local students interested in health careers. Additionally, Anayeli serves as a board member of the Desert Hot Springs Rotary, Desert Hot Springs Microloan Bank, and the LiLaC Literacy Program. In her spare time, Anayeli loves cooking, dancing salsa and collecting workout DVDs.

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For questions or more information on the HOPE Leadership Institute contact:

Belinda Barragan 
Programs and Policy Director 
213.622.9549 
bbarragan@latinas.org

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