CLass of 2020
Join us in welcoming the Twenty-second HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI) Class - 14 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 2020
Principal, Xara Public Affairs | Inland Empire
Violeta Aguilar-Wyrick is a political and public relations professional with local, state and national experience. She recently started her own public affairs firm, Xara Public Affairs, LLC, in her hometown of Riverside California. During the 2019 general election cycle she successfully led Gaby Plascencia’s city council campaign in the City of Riverside to victory. Gaby’s campaign broke barriers as the first Latina being elected in the Riverside City Council. Prior to that, her work and clients have included SEIU 121RN, SEIU-UHW, Opportunity PAC, California State legislature, and others. She works with clients on developing political, legislative, and new business development strategies in the Inland Empire and throughout Southern California. Her work has resulted in over $50 million of contract victories.
Lucero Chavez Ramirez
Field Representative, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez | San Diego Area
Lucero Chavez is a Representative for Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Her policy responsibilities include the following issue areas: environment, education, housing, business, transportation and immigration. Lucero is a first generation college student who attended the University of San Diego on a full-ride merit scholarship and graduated with honors with a degree in International Relations and Sociology. Lucero served as Vice-President of USD’s Student Outreach and Recruitment Club, engaging other low-income, first generation students like herself. Lucero graduated Hilltop High School in 2013 as her class’ Valedictorian. Lucero grew up in Chula Vista with her family.
Operations Engineer, California Resources Corporation (CRC) | Orange County
Sarah D’Avella is an Operations Engineer for California Resources Corporation. She oversees various OPEX and CAPEX well work projects including ESP and rod pump changes, producer and injector add pays, and wellbore repairs such as cement squeezes, casing sleeves, and inner liner installations in the LA Basin. Prior to her role as an Operations Engineer, she worked as a Facilities Project Manager in the LA Basin and as a Pipeline Mechanical Integrity Engineer in the Ventura Basin. Sarah is active in employee resource groups, serving as the president of the Early Career Network and as a steering committee member of the Women’s Interest Network (WIN), and she was honored as a “WIN Champion” at the 2019 WIN Conference. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from California State University Long Beach where she served as president of the mechanical engineering honor society Pi Tau Sigma.
Legislative Analyst, California State Association of Counties | Northern California
Marina Espinoza is the Legislative Analyst in the policy area of Housing, Land Use, and Transportation at the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). Prior to joining CSAC, Marina was a Legislative Aide and an Assembly Fellow in the Office of Assembly Member Kevin Mullin. Before that, she was a Research Analyst at LeSar Development Consultants, where she worked with local jurisdictions on various housing plans. Marina has also completed internships with the San Diego Housing Federation and the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research at the UC San Diego Department of Pediatrics. In her spare time, Marina has been involved with various organizations, including the Sacramento Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, SheShares, California Latino Capitol Association, and San Diego American Planning Association. Marina received her bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning from UC San Diego.
District Director, California State Assembly, 56th District | Inland Empire
Stella Jimenez is an accomplished government and public affairs professional with over ten years of experience working with small businesses, government entities, educators, and non-governmental organizations, specializing in public policy, public affairs, and media relations. She has an extensive track record serving the Counties of Riverside and Imperial, most currently as the District Director for Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, who represents the 56th Assembly District. Prior to this role, Stella was a journalist for a local newspaper The Desert Review and a restaurateur. Born and raised in the City of Torrance, residing in Imperial County since 2006, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the United College of Business, Downey.
Senior Accountant, California Resources Corporation | Central Valley
Tristen Lopez is a Senior Accountant at California Resources Corporation in Bakersfield, CA, where she focuses on reporting production and revenue for CRC’s assets in the LA Basin. After spending more than a decade working in the energy industry, she has learned the importance of promoting energy literacy and believes it holds the power to improve the lives of all Californians. A passionate advocate of STEM education, Tristen has spent more than five years volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club, motivated by her desire to provide learning opportunities, resources, and support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Tristen earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting from California State University, Bakersfield.
Senior Associate, Penn Hill Group | Central Valley
Ruth López is a Senior Associate at Penn Hill Group, a Washington, D.C. based education policy lobbying and consulting firm. She has a strong background in education policy and particular expertise in issues relating to English language learners and disadvantaged communities. López provides policy analysis, research, and coalition support on projects focused on a range of K-12 and higher education issues. Prior to that, López worked for Policy Strategies and Solutions where she played an integral role in complex projects that involved extensive research, coalition building, and policy analysis and development. Prior to that, López worked as a policy analyst at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s National Public Policy Office López holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish with an emphasis on Hispanic languages and bilingual issues and a minor in education from the University of California, Berkeley.
Owner/Administrator, Cedars Care Home, L&B Care Home for the Elderly | Bay Area
Born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, Irais is the oldest of sixteen children. She began her career as a special education teacher in Mexico, and worked in the public education system of rural Mexican communities for several years. Irais migrated to the U.S. in 1989, where she began working as a caregiver for the elderly in San Francisco. She continued her education earning her Certified Nursing Assistance certificate and eventually completing her Medical Assistant Associate Degree from Santa Rose Empire College. Irais continued her career in the health sector by owning and operating two care homes in Calistoga. Irais was appointed to the Calistoga City Council for a 4 year term and was re-elected in 2016.
Senior Communications Manager, Airbnb | Greater Los Angeles
Jasmine Mora is a Senior Communications Manager at Airbnb. Over the past three years, she's led policy communications for a number of international and domestic markets including Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. West Coast. In her current capacity, she directs the company’s communications for diverse communities, ensuring that Airbnb is reaching key constituency groups like African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ people. Prior to Airbnb, Jasmine was the Communications Director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C. Jasmine is from Wilmington, CA and after graduating from UC Berkeley, taught middle school in Los Angeles while pursuing her Master’s in Education at Loyola Marymount University.
Southern CA, Outreach Manager, Small Business Majority | Inland Empire
Claudia Moreno manages Small Business Majority’s outreach, education and policy efforts in the Inland Empire/Central California regions. Claudia develops relationships with both business partners and small business owners across the region to discuss ways to best help small businesses thrive in their local economies. Claudia also works closely with the California team on statewide policy initiatives. An Inland Empire native herself and the daughter of a small business owner, Claudia understands the importance of giving back to her community and intentionally working to empower underserved entrepreneurs. She previously worked at the White House during the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of Presidential Correspondence.
VP of Community & Government Relations, Planned Parenthood | Northern California
Sofia Navarro has over ten years of professional non-profit experience and is currently the VP of Community and Government Relations for Planned Parenthood Northern California (PPNorCal). Sofia is responsible for the oversight, development and implementation of the overall vision and plan for PPNorCal’s Case Management, Education and Public Affairs departments. She also provides oversight of the Planned Parenthood Northern California Action Fund and its state PAC. Sofia works with a team of educators, case managers, public affairs officers and directors, who cover 20 northern counties, and serve over 50,000 youth, teens, parents and adults annually by providing case management and age-appropriate sex education. . She holds a Masters in Leadership and Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Mary’s College of California.
Director Sales Enablement, Best Buy | Orange County
Melissa Noriega is a director of sales enablement for Best Buy Inc. She's been with the company 12 years, and is the only Latina Director in Best Buy. In her former years she worked every job available, from farm labor, flea markets, and food service to tutoring coaching and retail. She was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border. Grew up in a migrant family where part of the year was spent at home in Calexico and the other part in farm fields by the central valley. Received a B.S. in Business from the University of Redlands, Married her partner of 12 years and with him spends her free time traveling or volunteering in Riverside County.
Community Advocacy Director, American Heart Association | Greater Los Angeles
Amanda Staples is the Community Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association - Greater Los Angeles. Staples was a key leader in the Los Angeles Families Fighting Flavored Tobacco coalition where she successfully championed an ordinance to end the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes in unincorporated Los Angeles County. With a passion for health equity, Staples serves on the Community Prevention and Population Health Task Force that makes recommendations to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Health Agency, and Department of Public Health. Staples has extensive experience in budget analysis, policy writing, and advocacy. She worked for a women-led transportation advocacy startup where she researched regional transportation investments. Prior to that, she served in Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s capitol and district offices.
Intergovernmental Relations Director, County of Imperial | Inland Empire
Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter currently works for the County of Imperial in the Executive Office as its Intergovernmental Relations Director, drafting, analyzing and advocating for or against policy proposals on the County’s behalf, serving as the County's voice on state and federal policy. Prior to her service with the County, she has more than ten years of experience working for federal and state legislators, including Congressman Juan Vargas as a Senior Field Representative from April 2013 to November 2015, California State Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez as a Senior Field Representative from January 2009 to April 2013, and United States Senator Barbara Boxer as a Senior Staff Assistant from July 2005 to January 2009. She is an Imperial County native who graduated from Southwest High School and later received her bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine.
For questions or more information on the HOPE Leadership Institute contact: