Meet Our 2018 Fellows

Elizabeth Arellano, 99 Rootz, Merced, 20 years old

Elizabeth is the youngest of three children and a Latina born and raised in Merced, California. Her experience growing up poor and having to work twice as hard to be able to support her family, motivated her to be an organizer in her community, which she has done over the last six years. Elizabeth is committed to working to transform her community to ensure equity for all.


Joshua Barrientes, Barrios Unidos, Fresno, 22 years old

Josh is Youth Health Ambassador at Fresno Barrios Unidos, where his work revolves around informing the community about health issues that include mental health, emotional and involvement. Josh cares for others and his community, and treats others like he treats his family.


Jess Contreras, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Kern County

Jess Contreras Civic Engagement Coordinator in the Central Valley. Working in one of the most conservative counties in California, doing voter outreach in the form of Voter Registration, and collecting signatures for a ballot initiative. We hope to have a positive impact in our communities by giving a voice to underrepresented communities.


Andrew Escamillia, Californians for Justice, Fresno, 26 years old

Andrew supports Californians for Justice political education work, organizing youth from marginalized communities, and ultimately hopes to bring justice to those communities most affected by the systems of oppression. The YO! Cali Fellowship will support the development of Andrew by building up his skills, capacity, and knowledge of organizing.


Mahlija Florendo, True North Organizing Network, Northern Tribal Lands & Del Norte County

Ai-yu-kwee, my name is Mahlija Florendo, a youth fellow for the Emerging Organizers Fellowship, representing the DelNorte and Tribal Lands of Northern California. My focus is on cultural and environmental preservation of  the Indigenous people and building movements and community within native and indigenous peoples.


Amber Gensaw, True North Organizing Network, Northern Tribal Lands & Del Norte County, 25 years old

Aiy-yu-kwee, my name is Amber and I am a Yurok Tribe member. I’m currently a True North Board Member, and a leader in my local community. Through the fellowship, I am focused on learning & teaching Restorative Justice and developing an RJ debt-repayment program in my local community for system involved youth.


Alex Gonzalez, Faith in the Valley, Kern County, 24 years old

Alex Gonzalez is a community Organizer with Faith in the Valley Kern. Faith in the Valley engages faith communities in addressing issues such as police accountability, healthcare, education, immigration, and environment through grassroots organizing.  Alex has powerfully engaged youth in this work and has provided young people with the tools and platform to move on the issues that impact them the most. 


Mariela Huazano, Eastern Coachella Valley Youth Organizing Council, Coachella, 20 years old

Born and raised in Mecca, CA Mariela is a Queer Chicanx trying to bring light, empowerment and representation to marginalized people, especially the brown, black and LGBTQ+ community through art and organizing. Through the fellowship with art and organizing she will work with the youth to combat and restore effects of the school to prison pipeline.


Patricia Leal-Gutierrez, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, Kern County, 24 years old

Patricia Leal-Gutierrez, born and raised in the rural agricultural towns of the Eastern Coachella Valley, now a Policy Advocate in the Central Valley with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability working on environmental justice issues. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies from UCLA. Pati enjoys dancing folklorico and being surrounded by nature.


Myvron McNight, Black Parallel School Board, Sacramento, 21 years old

Myvron is an outgoing and motivated mentor to youth. His purpose is to pass down knowledge he’s gained from experience to create a better future for upcoming youth. He organizes and mentors youth in Sacramento to dismantle the school to prison pipeline and aboloish zero tolerance policies. Currently he is working around AB420 and SB680 to  end zero tolerance policies that disproportionately impact youth of color in a negative way.


Michelle Rivera, ACT for Women & Girls, Tulare County, 27 years old

Michelle Rivera grew up in the rural barrios of the central valley. Exposed to the injustices prevalent in their community at a young age, they began to seek resources and build relationships with those most affected. As a program coordinator at ACT for Women and Girls, Michelle continues to build those relationships with community members and provides the tools, resources, and support to resist, organize, and ACT!


Tyreece Sherrill, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, Stockton, 19 years old

Tyreece is a young, sophisticated youth leader who was born and raised in Oakland, and now resides in Stockton. His work with Fathers and Families of San Joaquin is focused on expanding restorative justice and transforming our criminal justice system to help create a better system for people in need of support and healing.


Marinarde Soto, 99 Rootz, Fresno, 20 years old

Mari is originally from Fresno. Mari is building power with young people in Sanger, CA to make a positive change within their communities, while also incorporating art, culture and healing.


Araiye Thomas-Haysbert, Sacramento BHC - Youth Leadership Team, Sacramento, 19 years old

Araiye is a youth organizer in South Sacramento, who prides themselves on being a strong advocate on youth mental health awareness, LGBTQIA+ issues and leadership development to help improve their community.