Meet our 2019 Fellows

Alba Piedra
Resilience Orange County
Santa Ana, CA

My name is Alba Piedra. I am 18 years young organizing in Santa Ana with Resilience Orange County. I organize with young people and guide them to be amazing leaders, as well as practicing to be their best self. I have been organizing in the movement for 4-5 years and have grown to become a strong leader in my community where I can incorporate my creativity, healing practices and leadership skills.


Alisha Sim
Khmer Girls in Action
Long Beach, CA

I am a program coordinator with Khmer Girls in Action. I am a second generation Cambodian-American who was born and raised in the city of Long Beach. The hardships and experiences of being raised by immigrant refugees has inspired me to be a voice that brings justice and healing back to families and communities. Through this fellowship, I am ready to be open minded, and learn with my peers to become a stronger mentor and leader for my community. I love doing arts and crafts as a form of storytelling and healing practices.


Andy Gonzalez
Gender & Sexualities Alliance Network
Los Angeles, CA

Andy (they/them/theirs) is a trans gender non-conforming Latinx artist, who currently works as the Southern California Field Organizer with GSA Network. Born in Watsonville, CA but raised in Tijuana and Guadalajara Mexico until they were 16, Andy and their family returned to Los Angeles, CA. Since then, South Central has become their home. Andy has been organizing since they were in high school with Community Coalition and their GSA club. During college, Andy became involved with several LGBTQ+ collectives such as, FMLA, a feminist club which fought for safe spaces and increased representation of queer and trans students on campus. Additionally, Andy has collaborated alongside Immigrant Youth Coalition and Defend the Criminalize to fight against the deportation and detention of undocumented queer and trans folks. As a youth organizer with GSA Network, Andy works alongside amazing queer and trans youth fighting for racial, gender, economic justice and ending the school prison pipeline. Through the Emerging Organizers Fellowship, Andy hopes to develop their skills and talents to better raise other youth organizers to live out their full potential in their communities.


Briyana Haas
ACT For Women & Girls*
Visalia, CA

Briyana Haas was born in Jackson, Mississippi, then relocated with her family to the Central Valley at a very young age. She was always encouraged by her family to be curious and question the world around her. This led to Briyana realizing how much change was needed in her communities which created a passion for justice and equity. When Briyana was attending community college, she happened upon a local progressive organization, ACT for Women and Girls and was able to be involved in the Feminist Leadership Academy. After transferring and completing her degree, Briyana has now moved back to the Central Valley and was hired as a staff member at ACT. Now being a Policy and Campaign Coordinator, she has the opportunity to assist in continuing the fight to improve conditions in her community and the rest of California through policy and legislation.


Carlos Lemus
Richmond, CA

Carlos is the Voter Engagement Coordinator at RYSE and leads the voter registration initiative, a non-partisan statewide initiative to inform 16-24 year old students on the impacts of voting. Carlos maintains and builds RYSE's values and alliances when coordinating with educators, school staff, and community leaders to host training, workshops, and presentations. Before joining RYSE, Carlos was a video producer of short films, documentaries, and music videos spanning issues of food justice and student activism, particularly during the #BoycottDriscolls movement. He was a double major in History and Film & Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. Carlos is most passionate about the interdisciplinary approaches to health, creative expression, and community building.


Carolyn Nguyen
Chinese Progressive Association
San Francisco, CA

Carolyn is a proud Vietnamese American womxn, child of refugees, from Anaheim, CA. She is a Youth Organizer for CPA's Youth Movement of Justice and Organizing (Youth MOJO), a program focused on youth empowerment through political education, community building, and youth-led campaigns. Through the Emerging Organizers Fellowship, Carolyn is excited to grow alongside other amazing youth organizers, as well as develop her campaign strategy analysis and one on one coaching skills with young folks. What she prioritizes is making deeper impacts in our movement through grounded connections, trust building, and alignment of our vision. In her free time, she enjoys eating noodles, hanging out with loved ones, and watching hours of Netflix.


Cheyenne Phoenix
California Native Vote Project
Los Angeles, CA

My name is Cheyenne, I am from the Navajo and Northern Paiute Nations, I am 23yr old and I was born and raised in Southern California. I have been an active member of the Los Angeles/Southern California Native community since I was a teen. I continue to uplift my community through organizing and working to break the negative cycles and patterns caused by historical trauma. I am a student at Long Beach City College, majoring in Sociology. I am also the new Youth Organizer with the California Native Vote Project, and we work to mobilize Native folx throughout California through Integrative Voter Engagement, education, and registration.


Cielo Flores
Gender & Sexualities Alliance Network
Oakland, CA

Cielo Flores (They/He) is a Transqueer Salvadorian by way of West Oakland! They are the happiest finding new music, with some plants in a garden, or receiving a plate of some bomb food especially if it’s with other QTPoC folks! He has found so much healing and joy being within community with friends and chosen family around qultura, art, and activism that he is inspired to recreate spaces for queer youth in Oakland to tap into the power of "Qultura Cura." Within the Fellowship Cielo would develop their skills to one day open their own youth center that would provide resources around queer support, job prep, and community trainings.


Citlali Ruiz Martinez
Resilience Orange County
Santa Ana, CA

I'm a first generation student attending Santa Ana College and I've been involved in organizing for the past three years with Resilience Orange County. I enjoy spending time with my loved ones on my free time, and some of my hobbies include painting and reading.Through this fellowship I hope to bring new strategy and organizing skills to other young organizers in Orange County and throughout CA through organizational partnerships. Ensuring that undocumented people are at the table while sharing space with other underrepresented communities throughout California, primarily in my city and county, are impacts I want to carry forward.


Daniela Ruiz Sanchez
Coleman Advocates for Youth
San Francisco, CA

I am a 1st Generation American in my family. I grew up in a single parent household, after my father was deported when I was 6. Growing up life was tough, and I had to grow up really fast. I work with Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth as the Civic Engagement Fellow where I register people to vote and facilitate Voter’s rights workshops. I do the work that I do because this country is built upon biased and discriminatory legislations and policies towards marginalized communities. So getting people to be politically active by way of voting is a way we as a community can come together and make sure that we are being taken care of.


Diana Diaz-Noriega
Richmond, CA

I'm a 23 year old immigrant organizer, born in Mexico, Guadalajara Jalisco, and raised in San Pablo, California. I use art, storytelling, culture, dance, poetry and photography to support my healing centered youth organizing work. Through this fellowship I hope to build strong relationships with youth organizers across California, to learn, share, and explore new strategies to heal and organize in all levels. I want to co-create safe spaces with all YO! Cali Fellows, where we can be vulnerable with one another, challenge each other, and re-imagine and work towards a world that meets the needs of all of our communities.


Donald Smith
Californians for Justice
Fresno, CA

I was born and raised in Oakland CA until I turned 13, then I moved to Fresno CA. I come from a huge family, we spend lots of time laughing and creating memories. I love working with youth because I believe youth are not only our future but also our present. During the fellowship I look forward to building strong relationships with folks and going through the same process that I send my students through as an Organizer.


Gabriela Fernandez
Dolores Huerta Foundation
Bakersfield, CA

I got involved with social justice because both of my parents are undocumented. After getting involved with the Dolores Huerta Foundation I found out about other injustices against people of color. I enjoy the work I am doing with our youth because they are learning how to have discussions about the political climate. Students pay attention and want to get involved. Through the fellowship I want like to learn more about organizing, how to do power analysis so we can build power with youth, and how to do healing circles. I want to be a recourse for our youth.


Ines Garcia
99 Rootz
Atwater, CA

My name is Ines Garcia, 99Rootz Youth Organizer in Atwater, Ca. I was born in Oaxaca, México to farming working parents who raised her in Merced, California. Being a woman and growing up low income and Oaxaqueña have shaped me into the person I am today. Through the emerging organizers fellowship, I hope to gain foundational and transformational organizing skills that I can use in my community. I also hope to share my experience through youth organizing and building a bigger network within a range of fields related to social justice to bring change in our communities.


Jennefer Heng
Khmer Girls in Action
Long Beach, CA

Jenn is the youngest daughter of Khmer refugees and was born and raised in Long Beach. After spending most of her 20s in the Bay Area, she returned home to support the leadership and development of Khmer/Southeast Asian youth in Long Beach. As a community organizer at Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), she strives to center healing, art, and storytelling to build youth power and create long-term access and change.


Jesus Fraire
California Native Vote Project
Los Angeles, CA

Greetings, my name is Jesus "Jesse" Fraire (Tohono O'odham/Chicano). I was raised in Oakland and Los Angeles, California. I am excited to learn from and engage with our fellowship cohort members and staff. My plan is to implement the fellowship teachings and experiences to help support in organizing our American Indian/Alaska Native, Indigenous, and Latino communities to create positive change and increase social/political representation.


Jose Orellana
Loud 4 Tomorrow
Delano, CA

Jose Orellana is the Youth Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment. His experience as an intern with Central Valley Freedom Summer led him to a path of youth organizing in Delano, California. After seeing the power and energy of change by young people, he and other Delano youth, started LOUD For Tomorrow to exercise their power and make a positive difference within their communities. Through the fellowship, Jose hopes to contribute to the youth organizing movement growing in the Central Valley so others can experience what he did.


Joseph Avila
Coachella, CA

Joseph Avila is a queer activist from Indio and Alianza's Civic Engagement Coordinator. They run the Youth Organizing Council (YO-C!), which aims to develop critical consciousness and leadership among Eastern Coachella Valley youth through discussion, community building and self-discovery as well through planning events like the Soapbox competition and the Hue Music & Arts Festival. They are also an organizer for the Eastern Coachella Valley Pride Festival. Before joining Alianza, Joseph graduated from UC Riverside with a double degree in English and Creative Writing. During their time at UC Riverside and post-grad, Joseph worked with youth from the Inland Empire and Eastern Coachella Valley in different capacities through music and academic tutoring in after-school programs, in group homes with formerly incarcerated youth, and at a youth shelter in the Coachella Valley facilitating mental health support groups. They hope to continue their work empowering young students and helping to build more safe spaces where the ECV LGBTQ+ community can flourish.


Kaila Mathis
Urban Peace Movement
Oakland, CA

I work as a community organizer with Urban Peace Movement in Oakland, CA. While working with Urban Peace Movement, I have had the opportunity to work with youth leaders to transform the social conditions that lead to community violence and mass incarceration which impacts communities of color. Through this fellowship I hope to help provide the tools and support that would help the youth that I work with to become confident youth organizers.


Laura Baeza
Mid-City CAN
San Diego, CA

Laura Baeza is a Chula Vista native but spent most of her childhood living in Tijuana, Mexico and was a cross-border student. She attended San Diego City College in 2011, and participated in BEAT ( Bringing Education and Activism Together) at SDCC, a student-led social justice club, and this is where her passion and activism for social and economic justice began. As a student, Laura interned with many unions and local nonprofits, where she organized students, teachers, fast-food workers, and more. In the fall of 2015 Laura transferred to UCLA, where she continued to organize for a local union, and spent a summer in Washington D.C. doing Policy and Research for the union. Laura, earned her B.S. in Political Science in the summer of 2017 and came back home to San Diego and started organizing. Laura, has been organizing youth in City Heights since 2017 and focuses on educating youth on various issues so they build understanding and power, so they can advocate for necessary and positive change in their community. On her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with loved ones and doing pilates. Through this fellowship, Laura hopes to build youth power and bring social and economic justice to those who are most in need and to bring positive change to her community.


Marisa Moraza
Fresno Barrios Unidos/Women Empowered
Fresno, CA

Marisa Moraza was born and raised in Tulare, CA. She currently works as a Youth Leadership Coordinator with Fresno Barrios Unidos where she coordinates Womxn Empowered, a leadership and support program for young womxn and gender non-conforming youth in Fresno. Marisa is excited at the opportunity to share her experiences and the concerns of youth in the San Joaquin Valley with other youth organizers. She hopes to develop skills and tools to support her current work of advocating for more inclusive youth spaces in Fresno.


Maura Villaneuva
Californians for Justice
Oakland, CA

Maura is an undocumented Latinx who believes that in order to achieve meaningful change, those impacted need to be at the forefront of organizing efforts. Through this fellowship she hopes to transform and further develop her organizing and campaigning skills. She wants to make lifelong change in her students, especially with the new skills gained through this fellowship.


Nancy Truong
Chinese Progressive Association
San Francisco, CA

Nancy Truong is a Community Organizer with Chinese Progressive Association, where they work on a variety of organization wide projects and youth organizing programs. Nancy grew up in San Francisco by way of Vietnam and comes from a working class family. Through the fellowship she hopes to gain clarity on her movement contribution and how to combine her interests in health justice, environmental justice and cultural organizing into her work at CPA and the broader movement.


Samantha Bradshaw
Building Healthy Communities Del Norte/Redwood Voice
Crescent City, CA

My name is Sam Bradshaw and I like art, poetry, longboarding, community organizing and sloths. My biggest dream is to deeply improve my community through the process of community organizing and empowering people.


Steven Ortega
InnerCity Struggle
East Los Angeles, CA

"Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world" - Dolores Huerta

My name is Steven Ortega and I am a 22 year old college student majoring in Sociology and Chicanx Studies at CSUN. I've always been interested in my culture, traditions, and the history behind it all. I am very compelled to work with youth and better their resources and opportunities in comparison to what I've experienced. Organizing and planning events is my favorite professional and casual task to do, it gives me a sense of pride and warms my heart to know that i'm helping back my own community and the folks around me.


Tania Bernal
California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Bakersfield, CA

My name is Tania Bernal I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.With this Fellowship I hope to improve my public speaking skills and develop my leadership skills to create other leaders in the community. As an undocumented youth I hope to accomplish cultural healing in black and brown communities.


Vanessa Maldonado
Sanger, CA

Growing up in a small rural community I learned that opportunities and resources are not spread out evenly across the valley. I ultimately made the decision to attend college in Southern California where I was exposed to community organizing and can now see the inequalities our small rural towns face. I moved back to the Central Valley to give back what I learned and recreate that space for the youth where they can be their whole selves. Through this fellowship, I hope to gain the skills needed to create a safe space where youth can convene to address these inequalities.