CLass of 2022
We are proud to announce the 24th cohort of the HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI), made up of 40 Latina leaders from across California who have made their mark in academia, political advocacy, government, law, and the non-profit and corporate sectors. This phenomenal group of leaders will embark on their 9-month journey in a hybrid setting and will enjoy rigorous sessions and prestigious guest speakers in the fields of civic engagement, leadership, political campaigning, health, education, and economic empowerment. The 2022 cohort will join a network of hundreds of HLI alumnae committed to improving political and economic parity for all communities and increasing Latina leadership representation in California and beyond.
Meet the HLI Class of 2022
Director of Communications and Binational Affairs | County of San Diego, Office of Supervisor Nora Vargas | San Diego
Seasoned communication and political strategist, Devonna Almagro's professional experience spans two decades working at the intersection of communications, community, and politics. Prior to joining Supervisor Nora Vargas’ Office, Devonna served as Principal for Ilumina Public Relations, where she spearheaded strategic planning initiatives for nonprofits, businesses, and political campaigns. Through her PR career, Devonna has managed a portfolio of education clients where she has led communications programs for publicly funded school infrastructure projects in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. Devonna began her career serving as an aide to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, followed by working field operations for candidates and initiatives throughout Southern California. Devonna previously served as Executive Director of the Sherman Heights Community Center and is currently part of the organization’s Board of Directors. Born and raised in the border cities of Calexico, CA, and Mexicali, Baja California, Devonna has called San Diego home for the past 23 years after moving to pursue a dual degree in Ethnic Studies and Spanish from the University of San Diego. Devonna has earned recognition for her leadership and civic engagement by the City of San Diego and was named a 2017 Woman of the Year honoree for the 80th Assembly District.
Policy Director | California EDGE Coalition | Northern California
Anna Alvarado is the Policy Director for the California EDGE Coalition. Her work involves policy development and legislative advocacy focused on closing California’s education and workforce skills gap to achieve greater equity a broadly shared prosperity, and economic mobility for all Californians. Anna brings with her over 10 years of experience in legislative and advocacy work in and around the State Capitol community. Most recently, Anna was a registered lobbyist for Cruz Strategies where she advocated on behalf of local governments, higher education institutions, and non-profit health care organizations on issues relating to homelessness, housing, student financial aid, and mental health. Prior to lobbying, Anna worked for the California State Senate. She served as a policy analyst for Senator Jim Beall. In this role, she staffed numerous bills, committees, and policy areas; including women’s rights, K-12 and higher education, Latino community issues, immigration, veteran affairs, transportation, and health/human services. Anna is passionate about social justice issues and is dedicated to ensuring California’s most underserved communities have an opportunity to achieve their career goals and dreams, in addition to supporting more women to elected positions at the local and state levels.
TK-8 Dual Immersion Principal | Monterey Peninsula Unified School District | Central Coast
Rita Burks is an experienced TK-8th grade Dual Immersion School principal, mother, and California native. She grew up in Los Angeles, and as a first-generation college graduate, she began her educational career at Santa Monica Community College before earning a Bachelors in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University. Rita continued her education by earning a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Cal State Teach and a Masters in Educational Administration from Concordia University. Driven by her belief in cultural diversity, social-emotional learning, and bilingualism, her focus is helping all stakeholders develop a strong self-identity, in order for them to understand their relationship to the world and to disrupt systemic racism in education. Rita strives to continually develop herself and others while keeping her focus on the equity gap that persists in underserved communities. Rita takes pride in developing systems to support a positive school climate, leadership development, and student achievement. As an educational leader, her goals include equity and rigorous instruction for all students. In addition to her primary job functions, Rita Burks has been recognized by the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District for her extraordinary commitment to enhancing student learning environments through meaningful Dual Immersion practices.
Professional Coding Supporting Services, Lead | Kaiser Permanente | Central Valley
Sofia Colón believes every student deserves an education that prepares them for college and career. She understands that educational attainment greatly impacts one’s health. By supporting a college-going culture, Sofia also supports the health and wellbeing of her community. Sofia Colón is a Lead in the Professional Coding Support Services department at Kaiser Permanente. She has demonstrated leadership qualities throughout her healthcare career by taking on additional responsibilities and advancing in job positions. Notably, she co-led a process improvement project that increased quality in her department. She is the Founder and Circle Leader of Latinas in Healthcare, a Lean in Circle that aims to increase Latina representation in healthcare leadership. In her community, Sofia Colón is a strong advocate for student achievement. Sofia serves on the Stockton Scholars Advisory Board providing city-wide scholarships for high school seniors. While a member of the South Stockton Schools Initiative, she learned how to analyze educational policies and successfully articulate recommendations to the school board. She was a proud member of the Steering Committee for Strong Communities, a voter-approved special tax that is dedicated to the City of Stockton recreation and library programs, services, and facilities. Sofia Colón is a proven advocate for students and families.
Lobbyist | Governmental Advocates | Central Valley
Melissa Cortez is a Partner at Governmental Advocates. She joined the firm in 2000. Prior to joining Governmental Advocates, Ms. Cortez worked in the State Capitol as a Legislative Aide for a member of the California State Assembly and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. At Governmental Advocates, Ms. Cortez works on a variety of issues, however, she specializes in healthcare, renewable energy, and the state budget. Representing the interests of pharmaceutical manufactures, benefits managers, and health care providers her work has ensured that Californians have access to the professional services and medications they need to improve their quality of life. During her tenure, she has also worked to advance California's energy and climate goals, the development of renewable energy, and the economic opportunities of a green economy. Ms. Cortez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Journalism from the California State University at Sacramento.
Program Manager | University of California, Berkeley | Bay Area
Jessica has worked in the nonprofit sector building a pipeline of underrepresented students to higher education, worked as a career advisor, and now works as the Program Manager for the evening and weekend MBA office at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She has worked with students K through MBA and also serves as a board member for the Oakland Public Education Fund. Her work also extends to advocating for the needs of Latinx staff through her work as the Chair of Diversity and Advocacy for Alianza, the Latinx/Chicanx staff organization, and as a member of the dean's staff advisory committee. As she likes to say, "If staff don't feel welcome, how can we ever pretend that students will feel like they belong?" She also works as a public speaker focused on harnessing Latinx identity for career growth through speaking engagements both within UC Berkeley and outside of UC Berkeley.
Director of Institutional Research and Planning | North Orange Continuing Education | Greater Los Angeles
Dulcemonica Delgadillo is currently the Director of Institutional Research and Planning at North Orange Continuing Education and is the Co-Founder of Sisterhood for Equity Consulting, LLC. Dulce currently chairs The California Community Colleges’ Noncredit Regional Research Group and has been appointed to sit on the California Community Colleges State Chancellor’s Office Data Warehouse Advisory group. She has over 13 years of diverse research experience in program evaluation, institutional research, strategic planning, and capacity building. Prior to her shift to the community college system, she worked in the private sector specifically working at community research consulting firms in Los Angeles. Her work focused on collaborating closely in conducting meaningful research and capacity building with foundations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and social service departments. Her research has focused on adult education, noncredit, student success in community colleges, civic engagement, immigration, homelessness, and workforce development. She received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Occidental College and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from UCLA. Dulce also currently sits on the Board of Directors for Whittier’s Women’s & Children’s Crisis Shelter since 2015 and has served as the Treasurer since 2019.
Vice President of Strategic Planning and Education | Latino Education Advancement Fund | Bay Area
The daughter of immigrants from Chihuahua, Mexico, Lisanna was born in and shaped by San Jose, California. She is also a first-generation graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she majored in Politics with an emphasis in Political Theory and completed her MBA at the University of the People. Currently, Lisanna is the Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development for Latino Education Advancement Foundation, an organization focused on improving outcomes for Latinx students and families in East San Jose by providing support services for college enrollment and persistence. Previously, she was the Regional Director for 10,000 Degrees and the Director of Programs at the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV). Lisanna serves as the Board President for Local Color San Jose and a career coach for Career Launch Academy. In early 2021, Lisanna was honored as an Extraordinary Woman of Santa Clara County by the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women for her involvement in educational equity and community advocacy. Lisanna is a graduate of the Latino Leadership Academy, Cohort 11. In her spare time, she is also an avid hiker, dance choreographer, and photographer.
Office Manager | California State Assembly – Assemblymember Rudy Salas | Central Valley
Jenilee Fermin is the Office Manager for Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-32) in the California State Assembly. She was born in Inglewood, CA and raised in Bakersfield, CA. She is the oldest of three siblings and her family shapes who she is. Her parents immigrated from Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s and she is the first in her family to attend college. She is an advocate against Domestic Violence. She is most interested in immigration issues, mental health, women's issues, equitable healthcare access for all, poverty, arts and culture, and human rights. Jenilee is passionate about mentoring women and the youth. She is a member of Latina Leaders of Kern County and Poderistas groups. Jenilee’s an active member of her church and spends countless hours volunteering in her community. She is an active volunteer at Dress for Success Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Jenilee is passionate about making Kern County a better place and influencing the next generation of leaders.
Government Relations Manager | Southern California Edison | Orange County
Jessica has over 15 years of experience working on political campaigns, legislative advocacy, and external affairs in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Currently, Jessica is a Government Relations Manager at Southern California Edison (SCE) where she leads external affairs strategies in central and northern Orange County. Prior to joining SCE, Jessica served as Senior Director of Communications and External Affairs at a children’s health policy organization. Jessica also spent over 7 years in Washington, D.C. where she led federal advocacy efforts for a public affairs firm after serving as Senior Legislative Advisor to former U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Jessica is a strong supporter of health equity and proudly serves on the board of directors for Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers (the Coalition) and Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA). She also serves on the executive board of the North Orange County Chamber and is a member of the Santa Ana Chamber board of directors. Jessica is a graduate of Coro’s Women in Leadership (WIL) program and Equality California (EQCA)’s Institute Leadership Academy. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Chapman University and a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of California, Riverside.
Program Manager, Civic Engagement | California Community Foundation | Greater Los Angeles
Natalie Gonzalez supports the Public Policy and Civic Engagement team through strategic partnerships, advocacy, local, and state initiatives, specifically the COVID-19 Community Health Project at California Community Foundation (CCF). Prior to CCF, Gonzalez served as Director of Engagement at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley (BGCGCV), providing support to youth development programs and services throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. She has helped establish nationally recognized programs that promote youth empowerment, civic engagement, and leadership among under-resourced communities. Recently, Gonzalez supported a county-wide initiative to mobilize young voters and increase voter turnout through grassroots organizing and social media activations. Gonzalez received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Merced.
CEO & Attorney | The Grande Law Firm | Greater Los Angeles
Cynthia Grande is the CEO and founding attorney of The Grande Law Firm where she helps immigrant families live without fear and achieve the American dream. Since launching her law firm in 2012, Cynthia and her team have helped more than 1,400 families in the areas of immigration and bankruptcy law. Her firm has now expanded to multiple locations throughout California. Additionally, as a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador, Cynthia is passionate about empowering immigrant families to succeed in education, entrepreneurship, and law. She currently serves on the board of directors for the El Camino College Foundation and the Latina Lawyers Bar Association, as well as serves on a national committee with the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Cynthia received her J.D. from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA and her Bachelor's from the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Leadership Development Specialist | CEN | Bay Area
Yanira Guzmán, has over 15 years of developing and delivering culturally relevant and engaging training for both the public and private sectors. As a first-generation college graduate, she has 8+ years of teaching in California’s public elementary schools, in both urban and affluent school districts as a Spanish bilingual teacher and literacy coach complemented by 8+ years in providing software implementation and customer training for a top 50 Forbes tech company. She advocates for all student populations – regardless of background, socio-economic status, language, etc. to have access to quality education. Yanira’s heart is in the nonprofit world. She is an Advisory Board Member for Techqueria, the largest nonprofit of Latinx in tech, and is an elected Board Trustee for Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. When she is not working, she co-leads Latinas of the Bay Area, a professional and social network for 400+ Latina women. She holds an M.A. in Education from San Francisco State University and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley.
Ann Karen Higareda
Director of Public Relations and Governmental Affairs | Cross Border Xpress | San Diego
Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Karen is proud to be a binational citizen. Her academic training in architecture began at Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana, Mexico, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. It continued north of the border at Woodbury University's San Diego Campus, where she received a Masters of Science in Landscape + Urbanism. Karen is currently the Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs at Cross Border Xpress, a unique project, based on binational cooperation. CBX is an airport terminal located in the Otay Mesa area of southern San Diego, California, United States, with an access bridge connecting it to the Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Karen is an intentional risk-taker, passionate about delivering positive results and adding value to her community through collaborative projects around youth empowerment, city planning, politics, and gender equality. Her favorite non-profit is The David's Harp Foundation, where she serves as a Founding Member of The Circle of Influence, a group of women from all life paths with the mission of financially supporting the organization through student sponsorships. Karen currently serves as a board member at the City of San Diego at the International Affairs Board, LEAD San Diego, and San Diego Young Leaders.
Financial Education and Community Engagement Manager | Women Economic Ventures | Central Coast
Originally from Mexico City, Irene is an entrepreneur and financial professional passionate about empowering others to take control of their finances. She currently works as the Financial Education and Community Engagement Manager at Women Economic Ventures, a non-profit focused on the economic empowerment of women. In her current role, she focuses on developing and providing free financial education in English and Spanish while also advocating for Financial Literacy with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lens. She is also the co-founder and co-host of a wellness podcast in Spanish called Cafecito a Tu Salud, where she focuses on sharing tools and inspiration to help others increase their quality of life. She also serves as a board member of the Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation and the Santa Barbara Response Network ensuring that the community has access to education and mental health support. She has spent most of her professional career working in the fields of Financial Advising, Impact Investing, and Economic Development and started her path in the financial industry after pursuing a degree in Finance and Entrepreneurship at the University of Utah. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA, and enjoys spending time in nature and with her friends.
District Representative | Senate Rules | San Diego
Diana has spent the past three years working for the Senate President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate. Two of the three years were spent as a District and Binational Representative for the 39th Senate District. During this time she has also had the opportunity to work and volunteer on local, state, and federal campaigns outside of work. Previous to her work in the senate she interned for the office she is now paid staff in, as well as interning for the County of San Diego's Probation Department in the sex offenders unit. In college, Diana studied Women’s studies and Spanish. She was also chapter president of the San Diego State University's IGNITE club on campus, which is an organization that promotes women in leadership positions. All throughout grade school, Diana was involved with student leadership and as her mother likes to say, "She has been organizing on the playground since she was five years old."
Director | Center for Employment Training Immigration and Citizenship Program | Bay Area
Monica Limas is the Director at the Center for Employment Training Immigration and Citizenship Program. She has made significant advancements in delivering affordable and culturally sensitive immigration legal services to mixed-status families in Santa Clara County. For the last decade, Monica has organized up to nine legal service organizations to provide a massive one-day workshop where thousands of people receive a free legal consultation, application assistance, and education to apply for citizenship completely free of charge. As a former City of San Jose employee, she supported neighborhood leadership development, community organizing, and grassroots advocacy. Her civic awakening developed after she volunteered as an Emergency Relief Vehicle Supervisor in New Orleans, LA following Hurricane Katrina. Monica’s creative approach to management and community building is influenced by her experience as a Senior Producer for Media G3, where she launched an email marketing software that increased brand recognition, product loyalty, and sales growth. Monica Limas was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was six years old. She is a native Spanish speaker and is the first one in her family to graduate from college.
Community Health Program Specialist | County of San Diego | San Diego
Lizbeth Lopez is a proud Chicana public health professional. Lizbeth currently serves as the Business Sector Lead for the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency Live Well San Diego Support Team providing support to businesses and organizations as the region undergoes economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. She is managing the County’s annual Love Your Heart event which brings together community partners to prevent heart disease and stroke and empowers the public to take control of their own health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lizbeth was deep in the trenches leading various operational efforts aimed at reducing the negative impact and spread of COVID-19 and increasing vaccinations in the region. Throughout her career as a public health professional and especially during COVID-19, Lizbeth has made it a priority to serve communities who have been disproportionately impacted by health diseases and provide resources and services in an equitable manner. Lizbeth is actively involved in different communities including being the Co-Chair for the MANA de San Diego Health Committee and Co-Lead for the Membership Committee for the San Diego County Latino Association. Lizbeth is passionate about increasing community engagement amongst the Latinx community.
Program Manager | Planned Parenthood Mar Monte | Central Valley
Currently, a Program Manager with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM), Monica oversees affiliate-wide education programs, spanning several counties in California. Outside of her work with PPMM, she also serves as Director of Policy for the Stockton Younger Women’s Task Force. In the spring of 2021 Monica completed the Master of Public Policy and Administration program at CSU Sacramento, her research spanned various policy issues including, homelessness, government agency collaboration, and Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI). Through her professional and academic experiences, Monica realized that her goals for career and community lead her towards a more active role in the Central Valley. Monica’s career began in reproductive justice, and prior to her role in management, she served as a Health Educator. She established partnerships in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties built bridges with various communities to better support access to health care. Monica has been with PPMM for about 12 years, she started in a volunteer role as a Peer Health Educator in Fresno County. In her different roles, she has successfully taken on various projects throughout Central Valley and Sacramento County. Monica Miranda is a first-generation Latina from the Central Valley who is committed to social justice and community equity.
Director, Randall Lewis Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Social Impact | University of La Verne | Greater Los Angeles
Jessica Morales is the Director of the Randall Lewis Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Social Impact at the University of La Verne. She is responsible for leading and managing the center to meet its mission of providing essential entrepreneurial and innovative training and education to students, alumni, and the community, as well as, creating social impact in Southern California, aligned with the university’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Jessica has spent many years serving as a mentor and career coach to high school and first-year college students in various organizations including, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, TELACU Foundation, and the Tiger Woods Foundation. Jessica was the first in her family to earn a higher education degree, she attended the University of La Verne where she earned both an MBA and a BS in Business Administration.
Regulatory Affairs Strategy Manager | SoCalGas | Greater Los Angeles
Edith Moreno has worked for Sempra Energy’s regulated California utilities for over 8 years. She currently serves as a Regulatory Affairs Strategy Manager for SoCalGas overseeing the development of regulatory advocacy strategy and tactics in various proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission. Prior to joining the Sempra Energy family, Edith worked for two major environmental consulting firms supporting Clean Water Act regulatory compliance projects throughout Southern California. She received her bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences and Hispanic Literature and Culture from Brown University, a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a certificate in Business Management from the University of California, San Diego Extension.
Field Director | Christy Holstege for State Assembly | Inland Empire
Yosmin G. Nunez is a lifelong resident of the Coachella Valley. A first-generation Latina college graduate, Yosmin attended College of the Desert and transferred to San Francisco State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She holds a Master of Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach. Professionally, Yosmin serves as a Field Director for the Christy Holstege for state assembly campaign. Her experienced has ranged from program management, community engagement, direct service coordination, as well as policy advancement. Yosmin led efforts to ensure families have access to community resources. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Yosmin led efforts to implement COVID response efforts out in the community. Efforts included ensuring connection to resources such as: rental assistance, food and diaper distributions, and distribution of PPE items. Yosmin has also work as a Political Consultant, she has led several successful political campaigns. She was instrumental in electing the first female mayor of the City of Palm Springs. Yosmin Nunez had the privileged to serve a District Policy Liaison for the 56th Assembly District and Majority Leader for the California State Assembly, V. Manuel Perez. As a former District Policy Liaison, Yosmin navigated the intricacies of policy and politics and worked on garnering local support for an array of legislative policies focused on various social issues. Yosmin is an alumnus of the Women’s Policy Institute Sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of California. Yosmin is also a Co-Founder of Mujeres Advancing Leadership, Advocacy, and Success (MALAS).
Assistant Principal | Palm Springs Unified School District | Inland Empire
Jessica Parent is the Assistant Principal at Cielo Vista Charter. An immigrant from Mexicali, Mexico, became the AP three days prior to the California school closures and has successfully helped lead her school during an unprecedented time. Jessica has been with PSUSD for 15 years. Jessica Parent was recognized as a Riverside County Semi-Finalist Teacher of the Year in 2019. Before becoming an AP at her site, she was instrumental in building the middle school program at CVC TK-8, including Student Council and Leader In Me. Her greatest contributions and accomplishments in education come from her passion to do everything in her power to inspire and ensure that all students are provided with the equitable resources and opportunities to be college and/or career ready. Jessica started the first CTSO in PSUSD: HOSA Future Health Professionals. She also mentored other HOSA and JUMP advisors across the Coachella Valley. Jessica worked with different career academy teams, and the AVID program. She started her career as a high school teacher in which she discovered her uncanny ability to see the leadership potential in all students, to recognize often hidden “star power” among the students she has been fortunate enough to work with.
Employee Community Engagement Specialist | Boeing | Orange County
Maria is the Employee Community Engagement Specialist at the Boeing Company. In this role, Maria is responsible for the company’s community engagement activities including drives, STEM education outreach, and skills-based volunteer projects. Maria has been inspired by the support the company offers employees to engage in the community. Seeing the impact of volunteerism, the generosity of employees, the company’s gift match program, and the Employees Community Fund has been a driving force for her to connect the passions of employees with the needs of the community. Maria collaborates with business resource groups, nonprofits, and elected officials to host healthy discussions that are important to the community, the most recent panel discussions being on racial equity and disparities. Maria holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in Art History from the University of Texas in El Paso and a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. In her spare time, she volunteers at Heart of Ida, a nonprofit that helps elderly seniors, by translating documents from English to Spanish to help serve the Hispanic senior community in Long Beach. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends. In January, she’ll celebrate her 17th year at Boeing.
Central Valley Government Affairs Representative | Ygrene Energy Fund | Central Valley
Virginia resides in Fresno, CA, her current employer is Ygrene Energy Fund, she is the Central Valley Government Affairs Representative, prior to Ygrene Virginia worked for OhmConnect Inc. as a Community Engagement Manager. Prior to working in the private sector Virginia was a public servant: Virginia was the Constituent Services Director for Congressman TJ Cox (CA-21), Virginia was able to recover over $4 million for constituents during 116th Congress. Prior to working in the House of Representatives Virginia worked for the Fresno Police Department in the Records Section as the lead Police Support Services Technician, processing California Public Records Act requests and subpoenas for the Fresno Police Department where she received employee of the quarter. Virginia also served in the U.S. Senate working for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as a Staff Assistant and for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer as Staff Assistant and Assistant to the State Director. Virginia was the first in her family to earn a higher education degree, she attended UC Merced where she earned a BA in Political Science and an AA in History. Virginia was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA, is the second eldest daughter (of 4 daughters) to Mexican immigrants.
Sasha Renee Perez
Director of Public Affairs | Campaign for College Opportunity | Greater Los Angeles
Sasha Renée Pérez is a Councilmember for the City of Alhambra who has championed historic policies that create social, environmental, and economic justice for all. She has been recognized as Active San Gabriel Valley’s Outstanding Elected Official of the Year and Los Angeles County Democratic Party’s Democrat of the Year. Prior to her transition to Councilwoman, Sasha served as Mayor of Alhambra, making her the youngest Latina Mayor to represent a medium-sized city in California history and the first openly-Bi Mayor in U.S. history. Outside of her role as Councilwoman, Sasha is the Director of Public Affairs for the Campaign for College Opportunity where she leads the Campaign’s statewide coalitions of students, civil rights organizations, and higher education leaders to fights for policies that improve college access, success, and affordability. In her free time, Sasha serves her community as a Board Member for Asian Youth Center, an Executive Board Member for the California Democratic Party, and a Commissioner for the California 100 Commission. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and reading with her cats.
Estefania lopez Perez
Senior Policy Associate | Inclusive Action for the City | Greater Los Angeles
Estefanía B. López is a Senior Policy Associate for Inclusive Action for the City. She has background in project and campaign management, policy and data analysis, communications, and shelter and crisis management. She previously oversaw operations at a migrant shelter in San Diego and delivered project and policy analysis support to UC San Diego. Estefanía earned a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education from the University of Michigan, where she also developed college literacy programs for high school youth and served as a research assistant for several policy centers.
President | Unidad LLC | Inland Empire
As a lifelong student and community advocate, Georgina has devoted most of her career to education. I began as a middle school teacher and continued as a counselor both at the K-12 level and post-secondary level. Georgina has worked as a counselor and has dedicated her time advocating for mental health support, closing the academic achievement gap, access to higher education, school connectedness, and inclusion of all students. This led her into administration work that gave her the opportunity to apply the same energy and make an impact on the school-wide policy. Most recently she served as the Director of Equity and Access at Alvord Unified School District where she was responsible for the district counseling, Title I, and AVID programs. As the Director, Georgina developed and implemented the Ethnic Studies curriculum at all Alvord Unified School district comprehensive high schools; increased the enrollment and course opportunities for dual enrollment with their local community college. Georgina also expanded the PUENTE program to three middle schools and one high school. As a result of this, these three middle schools are the only in the Inland Empire and California to have the Puente Program. Georgina also secured Coaching for Cultural Success, an implicit bias training, for her management team at the site level and at the district level. Her community advocacy and a keen awareness of the imperative need for mental health support and other support systems have led her to start her own business. In her business, Georgina provides the direct support needed in the community regarding mental health, medical needs, and sober living using evidence-based cultural strategies that focus specifically on the community she serves. Georgina also continues her education/student advocacy by serving on a variety of community organization boards to ensure that our community continues to receive the necessary tools and support needed to achieve academic success.
Adjunct Faculty | California State University, Long Beach | Inland Empire
Dr. Marcela Ramirez-Stapleton has 17 years of experience in student affairs practice, higher education research, and public service. She is an expert in multicultural affairs and California cultural centers. Dr. Ramirez-Stapleton currently teaches doctoral students in Educational Leadership at California State University, Long Beach. She most recently served as the Director of the Cross-Cultural Center at the University of California, Irvine. Ramirez-Stapleton is Past-President of the California Council of Cultural Centers in Higher Education (CaCCCHE) serving a three year term on the executive board (2017-2020). CaCCCHE is a network of professionals who are committed to social justice and equity work on college campuses. As a private consultant she also conducts training, workshops, and keynote speeches on issues of equity and diversity. Additionally, Ramirez is a University of California (UC) Regent Emerita (2015-2017). During her doctoral studies she was appointed by the UC Board of Regents to serve a two year term and was involved in higher education policy and advocacy work. She was recognized as a “Woman of Distinction” by Jose Medina, California State Assembly Member and Chair of the Higher Education Committee. She received her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy at the University of California, Riverside.
Legislative Director | California State Senate | Northern California
Michelle Reyes has a distinguished background in public policy, political campaigns, public service, and public affairs. She currently serves as Legislative Director for Senator John Laird, where she develops, manages, and navigates the Senator's legislative agenda and budget priorities through the complex world of politics and policy in the State Legislature. She works closely with policy and fiscal committees, legislative leadership, state agencies, and the Governor's Office to advance the Senator's legislative priorities. During the first year of the 2021-22 legislative session, Governor Newsom signed 100% of the Senator's bills he considered -- a percentage that places the Senator in the top percentile of the Senate. Before working for Senator Laird, Michelle was an Associate Lobbyist at Political Solutions, a top all-female lobbying firm in Sacramento. She represented several Fortune 500 companies on a wide array of policy issues and helped them navigate California's complex legislative process. Her multi-dimensional advocacy included: collaborating with in-house and contract lobbyists, trade association management, coalition building, and public affairs campaigns. Michelle has completed numerous marathons, including the Boston Marathon, is a proud UCLA Bruin, and enjoys taking her rescue dog, Zeke, on new adventures.
Senior Program Specialist | State Center Community College District | Central Valley
Monique Reyna is a Senior Program Specialist for the CalWORKs department at Fresno City College where she works to ensure that equitable services are provided to all students. While working at Fresno City College, she also participates in various department and campus committees to ensure shared governance. These committees include co-chairing the CalWORKs Equity Committee, serving as an advisor to a student club for formerly incarcerated students, and serving as a Senator for classified professionals. Monique was also recently elected to serve as the regional representative for the California Community College CalWORKs Association. In addition to her full-time employment, Monique is also committed to serving those within her community. Since her return from college, Monique has helped various community members obtain employment, find housing resources, and enroll in college. Additionally, she was recently appointed by the Mayor to serve on the City of Sanger Citizen Oversight Committee. While in college, Monique found her voice in advocacy after being elected Student Government President, both at the community college level and at the California State University level. Monique hopes to continue he work in advocacy as well as serving those within her community.
Director, Public Affairs | Warner Bros. | Greater Los Angeles
Karla joined Warner Bros. in 2016 and serves as Director of Public Affairs managing government and community affairs for the Studios and Networks Group. In this role, she leads legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts to support Warner Bros./Warner Media’s business interests at the state and local level, and across various key production destinations including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. She works closely with productions across Warner Bros., HBO, and the Turner Networks to address government-related production issues with city, county, state and federal agencies in North America. She previously worked as a Health Deputy for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas where she managed health policy and programmatic initiatives for seven years. Most notably, she helped open a new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles and launched thirteen school-based health centers throughout the Second District. Prior to joining the County, Karla managed public affairs and community outreach campaigns for land-use, transportation, and political campaign clients with Consensus Planning Group, now Consensus, Inc. Karla serves on the Board of Zocalo Public Square. She Chairs the Board of WarnerMedia’s Latinx Business Group Vamos-Burbank, and was President of the Junior League of Los Angeles in 2018-2019.
Director of Programs | Alzheimer’s Association | San Diego Area
Ana L. González Seda, MPH is the Director Programs for the San Diego/Imperial Chapter for the Alzheimer's Association. Under Ana’s leadership, she oversees the education programming, social engagement activities and diversity and inclusion focusing on senior health, people living with Alzheimer’s and their care partners. Ana has worked in the non-profit health sector for leading organizations in San Diego for over 20 years focusing on engaging communities of color. Ana is an active advisory board member with the California Health Department of Public Health-Office of Health Equity since 2018. Ana participates on community boards which support quality affordable housing and livable neighborhoods, foster economic selfsufficiency and stimulate investment. As well as engaging communities of color to participate in translational research through University based educational institutions. Ana is bi-cultural, biracial raised in San Diego. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from San Diego State University and earned a Master's Degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Services Administration. Ana recently received a certification in Project Management from the University of Redlands. In her free time, Ana enjoys spending time with her vivacious eight-year old son, Christian and husband, residing in San Diego.
Director of State Government and External Affairs | Rocket Companies | Greater Los Angeles
Lisette Torres is an emerging community leader with nearly 15+ years in the financial sector. She is passionate about reducing economic barriers and increasing equal access to wealth vehicles for underserved communities. Currently, she serves as the Director of State Government and External Affairs at Rocket Companies, responsible for strengthening community relations. Previously, she spent six years working in strategic roles within the real estate industry, where she saw firsthand the inequities of homeownership access for people of color, especially in California. Through her work, she has spearheaded alternative lending experiences for multicultural segments and has helped establish Fair Housing programs at the California Association of REALTORS®. Ms. Torres is a first-generation college graduate and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the California State University East Bay. Her goal is to continue empowering marginalized communities by bridging resources, and people in order to build sustainable communities.
Director of Strategic Partnerships | Arizona State University | Greater Los Angeles
Dulce Vasquez is an education advocate, change-maker, and passionate community leader. Dulce currently serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships in the Office of the President at Arizona State University. She is responsible for developing strategic university-wide partnerships, furthering university initiatives, managing special projects, and expanding ASU’s presence in Los Angeles. She was previously the Managing Director of Zócalo Public Square, L.A.’s civic forum, for 9 years. After spending half of her childhood undocumented, she attended Northwestern University as a Gates Millennium Scholar and received a B.A. in political science and philosophy. She also studied at The Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). She has a Master’s in Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dulce was appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as a Commissioner to El Pueblo Historic Monument, Los Angeles’ birthplace. She is on the advisory board of the U.S.-Mexico Committee at the Pacific Council on International Policy and is on the Board of Trustees at Zócalo Public Square, and on the board of Amanecer Community Counseling Service. She is also running for Los Angeles City Council in the 9th District.
School Counseling Programs Manager | Green Dot Public Schools | Greater Los Angeles
For over 15 years, Erika Viramontes has served in various capacities within education. Erika is currently the School Counseling Programs Manager for Green Dot Public Schools (GDPS). While at GDPS, she has served as a Counselor Support Specialist, providing support to school counselors to ensure students had access to best fit post-secondary options. She served as a counselor at a high school campus in Boyle Heights. She also served as an adjunct counselor at a local community college. Prior to Green Dot, she worked with America's Promise Alliance, leading college access and scholarship program for Cesar Chavez Charter Schools for Public Policy (Northeast Washington, DC). During that time, she also served as Director of Scholarship and Retention Services at the Hispanic College Fund and has worked at The East L.A. Community Union (TELACU) Education Foundation as the Scholarship Program Coordinator. Erika first began in education as a Spanish and College Readiness teacher at Animo Leadership Charter High School (Inglewood, CA). She holds a Bachelor's degree with a double major in Spanish/Sociology, and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University, and a Master of Science in School-Based Family Counseling from California State University, Los Angeles.
Ruby Rose Yepez
Senior Advisor: Key & National Accounts | Edison | Greater Los Angeles
Ruby Rose is a seasoned building industry professional with 15+ years of experience specializing in affordable housing projects. Ruby Rose graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a Bachelor of Architecture. She has gained industry experience through her work in architecture, construction, and sustainability consulting. She holds several certifications including LEED AP BD+C, Certified Energy Analyst, Certified Green Building Professional, and a Green Rater. As an energy consultant, Ruby Rose has guided teams to successfully secure funding and implement sustainability features required for Third-Party Certifications and Utility incentive programs. She certified over 30 projects as LEED or GreenPoint Rated. Ruby Rose currently supports Southern California Edison as a Senior Advisor assisting developers and builders and promoting de-carbonization programs and resources. She is very active in the building industry currently serving as a Planning Commissioner for the city of South El Monte and a former Board Member for the US Green Building Council Los Angeles Chapter and California Association of Building Energy Consultants. She is a committee member of the ICC Los Angeles Basin Sustainability Committee and Professional Women in Building, as well as a board member for the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association. Ruby Rose is passionate about serving those around her, volunteering in a number of roles such as president of the Latino Professional Alumni Chapter at Cal Poly Pomona, Membership Director for the Latino Business Resource Group at SCE and offering free yoga classes to her local community to create unity amongst community members.
Manager of Community and Government Relations, US | Unibail-Rodamco Westfield | Greater Los Angeles
Susana Sandoval-Young is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Susana spent her early childhood between Mexico and California where her family worked in the agricultural fields. Growing up in the Salinas Valley, Susana learned how to work hard and fight through adversity in order to achieve success. Susana currently works at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield or better known in the market as Westfield Shopping centers and airports concessions. Susana manages Community Relations and philanthropic giving for Westfield's US operations. Additionally, Susana is charged supporting with government relations across the US market including CA, DC, IL, NY, WA, and FL. Susana has worked for Westfield for over 15 years and working her way up from a JR assistant. She is hard-working, resourceful, and embodies the passions of her activist parents that live within her. Susana is passionate about Westfield's D&I initiatives and has completely changed the way the company interfaces with communities to include more support to people of color. Susana hopes to continue to grow in larger roles that will allow her to advocate for and continue to support underserved communities with the more direct goal of creating generational wealth for Latinos and African Americans.