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Class of 2019

Join us in welcoming the twenty-first HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI) Class - 24 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 2019.

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Cynthia Arreguin Alvarez

Consultant, California State Assembly Transportation Committee | Northern California

Cynthia Alvarez is a Consultant for the California State Assembly Transportation Committee. Cynthia develops, reviews, and analyzes legislation, balancing the need to modernize the transportation sector in a manner that improves safety, reduces pollution in vulnerable communities, and allows California to remain competitive in the global economy. Prior to this role she served as Legislative Director for State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, where she managed the member’s legislative package on critical issues facing California. She began her career with the member as an Assembly Fellow through the prestigious Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellowship program. Prior to working for the Assemblymember, she worked for the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (CAHCC) as a Program Specialist and Legislative Assistant. During her time at CAHCC, she staffed the President & CEO on various legislative matters pertaining to Hispanic small businesses, served as a liaison to all CAHCC membership and helped coordinate CAHCC's annual statewide convention. Before joining the CAHCC, she completed a legislative internship for the California Special Districts Association (CSDA) and became familiar with special districts and other local government issues. Furthermore, her internship with the Sacramento State Semester Program confirmed her commitment to practice in the areas of government and public policy. She had the opportunity to intern at the Capitol office of Senator DeSaulnier.


Maribeth Annaguey

Law Partner, Brown George Ross LLP | Greater Los Angeles

​Maribeth Annaguey is a law partner at Browne George Ross, LLP, a prestigious litigation boutique firm. Maribeth has been a litigator, focusing on business and entertainment matters, since 2003. She has lectured at Boalt School of Law and the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law (USC Law). Maribeth co-founded, and serves on the board for, Extera Public Schools, a non-profit organization that operates public charter schools in underserved communities, and the Scholar Bridge Board, an organization that supports underserved Fulfillment Fund Scholars through post-graduation success. In 2003, Maribeth graduated from USC Law, where she served as President of the La Raza Law Students Associates (2001-02) and Editor-in-Chief of the Southern California Law Review (2002-03).


Isabel Arvea

Chief of Staff to Long Beach, Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, City of Long Beach | Greater Los Angeles

Isabel Arvea is the Chief of Staff to Vice Mayor and Sixth District Councilmember, Dee Andrews in the City of Long Beach. She has extensive experience as a civil service employee and as a council office staff member. She has served as a District Director, Field Deputy, and Administrative Intern. She began her career in the City of Long Beach as a parks and recreation employee, leading key programs to keep at risk youth out of trouble. Her self-discipline and time management skills have contributed significantly to her successful career and being a role model for her infant daughter. She continually organizes community clean ups, youth programs, and family events in one of the densest areas in the City of Long Beach. She is bicultural, fluent in English and Spanish. Isabel has a Master’s in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration focused on Business Management and Human Resources from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

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Mabi Castro

Community and Government Relations Operations Manager, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest | San Diego Area

​Mabi Castro is currently Operations Manager at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. Prior, Mabi worked with hospital executives as a business development account manager to understand their challenges and identify business solutions that would enhance patient's health and decrease readmission rates. Mabi is a passionate advocate for women's rights with a background in public policy. Her commitment to social justice compelled her to work for the California State Senate as a Legislative Analyst and Community Representative for three years. Mabi advised on international relations, education, economic development, and environmental sustainability. Mabi obtained an M.A. in International Politics from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a B.A. in International Development from UCLA. Through her studies, Mabi had the opportunity to live in Yucatán where she researched health and sustainability trends in Mayan communities. She also lived in Geneva where she collaborated with the International Labor Organization and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN on child labor issues. Mabi is proud of her seamless upbringing between Mexico and the U.S. and acknowledges she is a byproduct of her community, which is what drives her to build on that work for future generations.

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Karla Cativo

Outreach and Organizing Manager, Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund | Greater Los Angeles

Karla works as he Outreach and Organizing Manager with the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund. Currently, she also works as part-time faculty in the Central American Studies department at CSU Northridge. As a Latin American scholar and native of El Salvador, she has been privileged to reconnect with the Latino community in Los Angeles, and refers individuals to vital local resources. In early 2015, Karla was accepted into the PhD program in Latin American and Latino Studies at the UC Santa Cruz. Before 2015, Karla worked at multiple non-profit organizations. In 2013, she worked as the Outreach & Education Manager at Susan G. Komen, LA County providing breast cancer knowledge to minority women. Prior to this, Karla formed part of the research team at Juarez and Associates, Inc., where she observed and documented parent participation in First 5 LA's Best Start program.

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Gloria Cruz Cardenas

District Director, City of San Diego | San Diego Area

Gloria Cruz Cardenas currently works for the City of San Diego’s Council District Nine Council President Georgette Gómez as her District Director and Public Safety and Binational Affairs Advisor. Cruz formerly worked as an organizer at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. She's a proud SDSU Alumni where she participates as a mentor for undocumented students and provides internship opportunities for current students. With her strong passion for community advocacy, she continues to organize with Binational LGBTQ and immigrant communities to increase visibility and understanding of their narratives.

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Marina Escobedo

Deputy, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas | Greater Los Angeles

Marina serves as a deputy a part of the constituent services team for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Prior to joining the county, Marina worked for the California State Assembly and the City of Long Beach. Leadership and public service has become her professional calling and has made it her goal to empower the next generation of leaders. She has served as Vice-President to the Long Beach Democratic Club, and a delegate for the 70th Assembly District during the 2014-16 Democratic Convention. Marina continues to stay involved and currently helps chair the Emerging Civic Leaders Committee through the Empowerment Congress, as well as various other organizations including Leadership Long Beach. Marina received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside in Political Science and participated in the UC Washington (UCDC) Program. She went onto complete a Master of Arts Degree in Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach, where she graduated Pi Alpha Alpha.

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Mayra Flores

Communications Director, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor Susan Ellenberg | Bay Area

​Mayra Flores is a communications professional residing and working in San Jose. Currently, she is the Communications Director for Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. Before joining Supervisor Ellenberg’s team, Mayra served as the Vice President of Communications at the Silicon Valley Organization where she ran all internal, external and member communications, media relations, and digital platforms. Prior to this role, Mayra worked as a digital PR professional at Zeno Group, an Edelman Company. There she straddled both digital public relations for legacy, start-up and growing tech companies around the country as well as multicultural audience engagement for global brands. Prior to this, Mayra spent a decade as a journalist in the South Bay. She worked for AOL’s Patch startup, launching one of the first online news sites on the west coast and managing 17 sites between two counties towards the end of her tenure. She spent the first half of her journalism career working for the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, first as a cub reporter, then beat reporter, editorial projects manager, and finally a liaison between SVCN and The Mercury News during the sale of the two to Bay Area News Group.

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Vanessa Gonzalez

Associate Lobbyist, Political Solutions | Northern California

​Vanessa Gonzalez joined Political Solutions in 2018 as an Associate Lobbyist managing issues ranging from housing to natural resources and energy, among others. Before joining the Political Solutions team, Vanessa worked for Assembly member Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso. Her legislative responsibilities primarily focused on Budget Committee, Labor Committee, Appropriations Committee and general immigration issues. Among her many accomplishments, Vanessa is most proud of AB 1665 (E. Garcia), “Internet For All,” which authorized $330 million dollars to the Public Utilities Commission to extend the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to ensure that no less than 98% of Californian households, especially rural communities, have internet connectivity. Vanessa serves on the board of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation and is a member of the Sacramento Latina Leaders Network and the Latina Lobbyist Network. Born and raised in Yuba City, California, Vanessa obtained a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from San Diego State.

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Maria Jimenez

Private Educator, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians | Inland Empire

​Maria Jimenez is a private educator for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians where she prepares and implements curriculum for multi-aged, multi-subject instructional programs. Maria's passion for serving her community has led her to become involved with the Riverside Latino Network, Pasadena Adelante Youth Alliance, MANA of San Diego, and serving as an ambassador for Technolochicas. Maria has earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of La Verne in Liberal Studies. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. In 2017, Maria earned a Masters in Educational Technology from Azusa Pacific University. In addition, Maria has earned various professional certifications in staff development such as Google for Educators and Microsoft Innovate Educator.

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Emilia Leon

Health Program Specialist, County of Santa Cruz - Department of Public Health | Central Coast

​Emelia León is currently a Health Program Specialist at the County of Santa Cruz providing evidence-based classroom facilitation at various alternative school sites around the County. She is trained as a Pregnancy Options Counselor and an HIV test counselor. From 2011-2015 she worked at the YWCA of Watsonville as the Teen Program Coordinator working with middle school girls to address how gender norms affect someone's identity and relationships with others. She is an active member of her community and volunteers with several non-profits. She is currently the co-chair for the board of directors of Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. CAB is dedicated to eliminating poverty through partnering with the community and advocating for social change. She is a volunteer with Hospice of Santa Cruz where she participates in a youth grief camp. She attended San Francisco State University where she earned two degrees: Spanish Literature and Raza Studies.

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Jacqueline Lopez

District Director, Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD | Inland Empire

​Jacqueline Lopez is an accomplished government and public affairs professional with over fifteen years of experience working with small business, government entities, and non-governmental organizations, specializing in public policy, public affairs, and media relation. She has an extensive track record serving the Inland Empire, most currently as the District Director for Congressman Raul Ruiz MD, who represents California 36th Congressional District. Prior to this role, Jacqueline held positions with California’s State Legislature first as Press Secretary to former Asm. V. Manuel Perez, then as District Director to Asm. Eduardo Garcia. Her leadership in the Inland Empire includes her tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the Coachella Chamber of Commerce, her work with the Riverside County CalWORKs and Workforce Development Centers, and her service as the Vice President of the Dr. Reynaldo Carreon Foundation, which provides scholarships for young people in the Coachella Valley to pursue higher education, and Vice Chair for the City of Indio Planning Commission.

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Angie Manetti

Lobbyist, Campbell Strategy & Advocacy | Northern California

Angie Manetti is currently a lobbyist at Campbell Strategy & Advocacy with over seven years of legislative experience. She has worked on various high-profile issues during her time inside and outside of the Legislature. Prior to joining Campbell Strategy and Advocacy, Angie served as Director of Government Affairs for the California Retailers Association where her advocacy focused on preserving the presence and operations of various Fortune 500 retailers in the State. In her capacity, Angie oversaw a broad portfolio of issues including labor, tax, product stewardship, goods pricing and regulation, and healthcare. Her success in commanding such broad subject matter rests in her ability to think balanced, critically, and strategically. These skills were fostered during her time in the California State Senate where she served as a Legislative Aide for Alex Padilla, current Secretary of State. Under then-Senator Padilla's leadership, she staffed historic legislation which provided the nation's first plastic bag ban and created California's earthquake early warning system.

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Paola Martinez-Montes

San Diego Director, ACCE Institute | San Diego Area

Paola Martinez-Montes is the Director of San Diego ACCE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. During the last 6 years at ACCE, she has run civic engagement programs, facilitated community-led campaigns, and led coalitions aimed at improving the lives of low-to-moderate income families. She is also a recent graduate of the Boards and commissions leadership institute which helps her leadership as the Board chair of the Engage Action Fund. Paola is currently also serving as the Chair of the Human Relations Commission in the City of Chula Vista where she resides with her partner and 2 children. Paola is the daughter of immigrant parents, having arrived in San Diego in 1995 from Mexico with her family. Her undocumented status gave her a unique worldview and sensitivity to the injustices and inequalities that our communities face.

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Ana Jovel Melendez

District Director, California State Assembly | Central Valley

​Ana Jovel Melendez is the District Director for Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (31st Assembly). Previously, she was Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at Fresno State, where she administered the Intern Scholar Programs in Washington DC, Sacramento, and California, and developed and hosted a Spanish-language public affairs television program. Prior to the Maddy Institute, Ana was the State Projects Director for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. She obtained legislative experience as a Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute Scholar in Washington D.C. with California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and also as a Maddy Scholar working for California State Assemblymember Sarah Reyes. Ana earned her BA in Political Science and a Minor in International Political Economy from California State University, Fresno. Her honors include being named a Resnick Aspen Institute Fellow, a Sally Casanova California State University Pre-Doctoral Fellow, a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, a Leon & Sylvia Panetta Congressional Intern, and a Maddy Scholar.

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Amalia Mejia

Project Manager, California State Association of Counties | Northern California

Amalia Mejia is the Project Manager for the California State of Association of Counties (CSAC) Technical Assistance Hub overseeing the CSAC-Results First Partnership. In her role, she assisted with language in California AB 372 increasing standards for Domestic Violence Programs. Before joining CSAC, Ms. Mejia conducted research and policy analysis for Families in School. Her experiences include working in the legal field, campaigning, and researching criminal justice, education and immigration policy. She received her Masters of Public Policy from Pepperdine University and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is an appointed Juvenile Justice Commissioner for Sacramento County, member of the California Latino Capitol Association Foundation, Latinx Young Democrats of Sacramento, and Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc. She continues to empower college students as advisor of her sorority.

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Zuleica Murillo

Executive Director, Community and Family Services, Fresno Unified School District | Central Valley

Zuleica Murillo is the Executive Director of the Department of Community and Family Services with Fresno Unified School District. Prior to her role as the Executive Director, Mrs. Murillo served multiple roles within the department leading the Parent University Program. Under her leadership, Parent University had a 44% increase in parent participation including doubling the number of workshops throughout the district. She also led the development of new programming including: The Hispanic Academy with the Fresno Police Department, Neighborhood Revitalization with the City of Fresno, the grand opening of the District Parent Resource Center, Restorative Practices parent curriculum and new outreach and recruitment effort with the Fresno Street Saints. Before her service at Fresno Unified, she held several management positions in healthcare and the banking industry for over ten years.

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Nelly Nieblas

Manager of Advocacy and Public Policy, BREATHE California of Los Angeles County | Greater Los Angeles

Nelly Nieblas is the Manager of Public Policy and Advocacy for BREATHE California of Los Angeles County. Prior to this role, Nelly was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as the Legislation and Public Information Manager at the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. In her previous role as the Director of Public Policy & External Affairs at Public Allies, Nelly worked with Congress and the Obama Administration to protect SSDI benefits for People with Disabilities and was an invitee to the first-ever White House Forum on Nonprofits in 2013 hosted by Senior Advisors. Her roles with local government include her tenure at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services and working in the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.  Before those roles, she was a United Nations Observer for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and a Program Analyst at Mexico's Office of the Secretary of Education and Health. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government and was a member of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

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Tamara Becher Patterson

Community Advocate, California Equity and Excellence Initiative | Bay Area

Tamara Becher Patterson is a community advocate for equity and excellence in our schools. She is passionate about addressing important issues with a focus including diversity, excellence and community. She recently ran for school board where she had honest conversations with hundreds of parents and community leaders. While she did not win a seat on the board, the experience reinforced how critical it is for our Latino families, and ALL families, to be provided both the opportunity and resources to excel in school. Recently she was a Senior Product Manager and member of the management team at a cleantech startup where she was responsible for delivering solutions that solve true customer needs. She has over a decade and a half of success, first at a multinational company, followed by startups in healthcare, energy and technology. She is a proven business leader, authentic relationship builder, and known for getting things done. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley, a BS in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology, and a BA in Physics from Wesleyan University. She is a first generation American raised in New York and now lives in Mountain View, CA. Of everything she has done, she is most proud to be a mother of three amazing children. 

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Griselda Ramirez

Director, Civic Engagement, Mid-City CAN | San Diego Area

Griselda is the Civic Engagement Director for Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (Mid-City CAN) in City Heights where she organizes community members for transportation justice and built a successful grassroots civic engagement program. As a Los Angeles native, Griselda relocated to San Diego to work in social justice and civic areas from political campaigns, fighting for worker rights, to getting involved with several community organizations. Griselda graduated from California State University Fullerton, where she earned a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. Her mission in life is to bring resources to those who need them and help build a culture of voting in her community. Griselda's inspiration comes from her family and friends, life experiences, and traveling.

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Sarah Soto-Taylor

Deputy Secretary, Government Operations Agency | Northern California

Sarah has over 20 years of experience in health care administration and public service. Currently she is a Deputy Secretary at the State of California Government Operations Agency where she is responsible for the oversight of the Census 2020 Office.  Prior to joining the Government Operations Agency, Sarah worked as a Senior Consultant at Covered California. Sarah was the Deputy Director of Community Relations at Covered California where she launched projects focused on strategies for increasing awareness of the Affordable Care Act through state-wide Outreach and Education Campaigns and Enrollment Assistance Programs.  Sarah held various senior management and leadership positions at the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board in the areas of Eligibility, Enrollment and Marketing, Benefits and Quality Monitoring, Legislation, and External Affairs.  She administered community outreach grants for the Healthy Families and Medi-Cal Programs at the Department of Health Care Services. Prior to joining state-service Sarah was as a bilingual community health educator and administrator of health care programs in the private sector.   Sarah earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Education and Master of Public Health degree from San Diego State University. Sarah has devoted her career to bringing innovation and steady leadership to public programs that serve our communities. Sarah is an active volunteer at her daughters' school and leads two Girl Scout Troops.

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Karla Torres

Community Development Specialist, Microsoft | Orange County

Karla is a focused thought leader who has helped organizations build their community engagement strategies by leveraging civic, education, and nonprofit partners to drive local impact. At Microsoft, she project managed tech equity programs focused on maximizing representation and diversity in STEM. She achieved the highest employee volunteer engagement in Los Angeles to date and represented the company as a Microsoft Innovative Educator. While a graduate student at USC's Marshall School of Business, Karla held several board positions including Vice President. She also helped develop Bridget, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing digital skills training for traditionally underrepresented girls in LA. At Seneca Family of Agencies, Karla supervised teams and successfully wrote grants that benefitted Orange County foster youth. As a youth development leader for the City of Anaheim, Karla developed health and workforce development programs rallied by Mayor Tait. Karla serves as a board member for Girls Build LA and NFTE.

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Myriam Valdez

Legislative Director, Office of State Senator Melissa Hurtado | Northern California

Myriam M. Valdez is the Legislative Director for State Senator Melissa Hurtado. Prior to this role, Myriam was with Health Access, where she advocated for issues related to Medi-Cal, budget proposals, prescription drugs, and oral and public health. Myriam was formerly a Legislative Aide for Senator Holly J. Mitchell, staffing Health, Education, Labor, Housing, and Immigrant issues. She currently serves as a Board Member for California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, an organization committed to reproductive health and rights of Latinas/xs. Prior to her legislative work, Myriam interned for Congressman Jim Costa and worked as a Program Manager for the Chevron STARS Program, which aims to help “high potential, low opportunity” students succeed. Myriam has helped organize the annual mentorship program for the Women's Policy Summit, served as a mentor for the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP), and mentored for the Sacramento Puente Project. She graduated from CSU Bakersfield with honors, is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, and a former Senate Fellow.

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Diana Vazquez- Ballesteros

Policy Manager, California Environmental Justice Alliance | Northern California

As CEJA's Policy Manager, Diana is responsible for representing the interests and perspectives of our member organizations in front of the legislature, governor's office, agencies, and environmental advocates. Diana provides analysis of administrative policies, legislative proposals, and state budgetary proposals that impact environmental justice communities throughout California. Before joining the CEJA team, Diana worked as a Policy Advocate for Sierra Club California in Sacramento and previously worked as a Legislative Assistant for Assembly Member Ed Chau and former Assembly Member Mike Eng, where Diana provided analysis and recommendations on legislation and policy proposals. Her volunteer experiences include working with organizations like the Association of Raza Educators, Ethnic Studies Now- Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Latina Leaders Network, CLCA and NLC. Diana is also a proud first-generation college graduate from the University of California, Davis where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies and went onto to receive a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay.


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

Stephanie Ramírez Zárate
Program Manager 

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