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Kahlil Almustafa is a performance poet, author and educator from Queens, New York. Almustafa has performed on hundreds of stages, whether for a mass rally, a nightclub, church, university or a backyard family reunion. He is the 2002 Nuyorican Grand Slam Champion and the author of four book of poetry and his debut CD CounterIntelligence.
In addition to being a talented performance poet, Almustafa is also a skilled arts educator, facilitating poetry workshops and professional developments, writing curriculum and advocating for integrating art into classrooms. His collection of 15 years of poetry, Growing Up Hip-Hop, is used in more than forty classrooms nationally from the elementary to the university level. In 2009, Almustafa completed the '100 Poems For 100 Days' project where he wrote 100 poems in the first 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency published in a collection of poems entitled, From Auction Block to Oval Office. He is a recipient of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival's Future Aesthetics Artist Re-grant (FAAR), funded by the Ford Foundation as well as The Field's Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists (ERPA) grant which receives funding from The Rockefeller Foundation's Cultural Innovation Fund. Almustafa is a graduate from Goddard College's MFA Interdisciplinary Arts program. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Julia, and their cat Mitzy.
Peter Amaro, Content Marketer, Thomson Reuters
Pete Amaro brings experience and passion for work in the public sector, and combines it with private sector experience helping businesses navigate the ever-changing and increasingly competitive online marketplace. Pete has worked with organizations as diverse as San Diego Coastkeeper, where he worked as a Legal Intern researching issues including stormwater quality and low impact development (and, yes, participating in numerous beach cleanups!); the Harrison Institute for Public Law, where he participated in a clinical program as a Policy Analyst researching adaptation and mitigation strategies for governments to address sea level rise; the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, where he also worked as a Policy Analyst, researching issues ranging from pensions to regional transportation; and Organizing for America (now Organizing for Action), where he served as an Organizing Fellow in Minnesota during the 2012 election cycle.
Currently, as a Content Marketer for Thomson Reuters, Pete works with small- and mid-size firms throughout the U.S. to establish and improve their online presence. His work includes developing numerous types of content, including web marketing, white papers and social media promotion. A San Diego native with family roots in Los Angeles, Pete is a graduate of Columbia University and the Georgetown University Law Center. A lover of both urban and natural environments, Pete enjoys surfing, hiking and exploring the diversity of L.A.
Lynnzi Brianza, Public Grants Manager, KIPP LA Schools
Lynnzi Brianza, Public Grants Manager at KIPP LA Schools Lynnzi is the Public Grants Manager at KIPP LA Schools, a network of free open enrollment charter schools serving families in South and East Los Angeles. At KIPP, Lynnzi is responsible for the application,reporting and compliance of federal and state funding, including funding for afterschool programs. Most recently, she has been coordinating the submission of KIPP LA Schools' charter petitions. Previously, Lynnzi worked as a project coordinator for a federally funded Hispanic Serving Institution- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grant at the National Council of La Raza/California State University Long Beach Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training. In this role, Lynnzi managed a peer mentorship program for Latino students studying STEM disciplines.
Lynnzi obtained a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Whittier College and a Master's degree of Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach. Currently, Lynnzi serves on the Board of Directors for Whittier College's Alumni Association and also Alianza De Los Amigos - Whittier's Latino Alumni Association. In her free time Lynnzi enjoys salsa dancing, traveling and volunteering.
Maggie Buckles, Judicial Law Clerk, United States District Court
Margaret (Maggie) Buckles is an attorney based in Los Angeles who currently works as a judicial clerk for a Federal District Court judge. Before law school, Maggie had a career in international politics and development, both as a student and an activist. Instead of attending law school immediately after completing her undergraduate program at USC, Maggie worked on a master's degree program at USC in International Relations. For her Bachelor's and Master's theses, she conducted original research in Spanish in Costa Rica and Guatemala, interviewing the actual negotiators of the Central American and Guatemalan peace accords. As a result of these interviews, she saw the impact international human rights lawyers had in shaping the future for millions of Central Americans.
After graduating with this background in the international realm, Maggie worked on behalf of progressive groups in Cuba, helping them to gain access to information and technology that would better enable them to advocate on behalf of the women, Afro-Cubans and religious minorities they represented. In order for her work to continue in Central America, Maggie founded HAD Assistance, a non-profit start-up that worked on socio-economic development issues in Central America. Maggie also spent one year using the same microfinance-complementing strategies she had used in Central America to support fledging businesses and low-income individuals in South Los Angeles. Maggie returned to USC for law school beginning in 2011, where she was a member of the International Human Rights Clinic. In the Clinic, she co-wrote research papers for the tribunal prosecuting the Cambodian genocide. She also co-wrote an amicus brief to the California Supreme Court arguing that the state law that permits juvenile offenders to be sentenced to life without parole is a violation of United States human rights treaty obligations. As an attorney, she is now particularly concerned with issues of due process, discrimination in the legal process, and prison reform, as well as broader issues of finance regulation and campaign finance reform. In her free time, Maggie is an avid equestrian and loves international and domestic travel and exploring Los Angeles.
David Burke, Of Counsel, Ryther Law Group
David Edward Burke is an attorney, animal rights advocate, and event producer whose interest in politics and social justice dates back to his childhood growing up in Downey, California. The son of two teachers, David has worked for both the House Ways and Means Committee in the United States Congress and the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division. While attending UCLA School of Law, David served on student government, taught legal writing, and was named the Outstanding Attorney in the Akin Gump Mock Trial Competition. In 2008 he was the West Los Angeles Captain for the Yes On Proposition 2 campaign, supporting a ballot initiative that mandates better treatment of animals raised for food.
After receiving his J.D. in 2009, David clerked for two local judges and subsequently co-founded Expand Animal Rights Now, an organization dedicated to using the legal system to help animals. As EARN's Chief Operating Officer David has led efforts to stop dog shootings by law enforcement officers, and to educate students about the benefits of a healthier, more humane diet. In 2014, David created and produced the world's first Vegan Oktoberfest celebration in Santa Monica. The event had over 3,000 attendees and exclusively featured vegan food and beer. David was inspired to produce Vegan Oktoberfest as a way to confront stereotypes, bring vegans and non-vegans together, and show people that they could have a great time while doing right by animals. In addition to his work for animals, David is staunchly committed to fighting against the corrosive influence of big money in politics. He believes that citizens suffer when corporations, special interest groups, or extremely wealthy individuals exert undue influence over our political system. David previously worked as the Education Chairman for the Money Out/Voters In Coalition, a group that is committed to restoring democracy of, by, and for the people. In his spare time David is an avid writer. He enjoys writing about a myriad of topics including crime, relationships, and baseball. He has had articles published about the treatment of animals within the legal system and the impact of money in politics.
Ana Cisneros Alvarez, Staff Attorney, Inner City Law Center
Ana Cisneros Alvarez is currently a staff attorney at Inner City Law Center, a non-profit legal services organization in the heart of Skid Row. In her current capacity, Ana represents low-income tenants in eviction proceedings. Prior to working at Inner City Law Center, Ana was a staff attorney at Wage Justice Center, a non-profit organization that specializes in enforcing low-income workers' rights. She graduated from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, in the spring of 2013 and earned her BA in Sociology from Pomona College in 2007.
During law school, Ana maintained her commitment to the community and to social justice lawyering through various externships at non-profit and advocacy organizations such as Bet Tzedek Legal Services' Employment Law Unit, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, and the Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor. Additionally, Ana took on leadership roles as Co-President of La Raza de Loyola and Co-Vice President of the Immigration Law Society. Ana's advocacy on behalf of low-income communities of color began well before law school. She also worked as a Legal Organizer for the CLEAN Car Wash Campaign, which supports the rights of car wash workers in Los Angeles. Ana was raised in Escondido, California, in North County San Diego. She enjoys spending time with her family and learning how to cook Guatemalan cuisine.
Dominique is thrilled to be joining the 2015 Los Angeles NLC Fellowship Class! She spent the last 15 months working for the campaign to elect Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction of California. She is in the process of applying to graduate school to obtain her MasterÕs in Public Policy. Prior to the Tuck Campaign, Dominique worked in various capacities of the education sector. From progressive independent schools, to RSD and Charter Schools in New Orleans, LA. Dominique's passion for children and equitable education spans far and wide.
Dominique received her Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley. At Cal, Dominique fought for increased representation of minority students and worked for inclusion in the residence halls as an RA for 3.5 years. She also spent every spring break and summer working on carious campaigns in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. In her spare time, Dominique enjoys traveling domestically and internationally, dabbling in herbs and homeopathic remedies, dancing and reading.
David Durand, Lead Organizer, NationBuilder
David Durand has purposefully placed himself in positions that both benefit others and advance his abilities in bringing about progressive social change. A majority of his professional career has focused on enabling people of color to empower themselves, especially youth of color from underserved communities. David currently works for NationBuilder, a start-up tech company that developed the first digital community organizing system, as a Lead Organizer working to collaborate with non-profit entities at various levels within the community through the Internet. He also serves as a Board Champion for New Earth, an arts and education-based leadership program that serves thousands of youth in 9 LA County juvenile detention facilities, as well as an Alumni Board member of Antioch University, Los Angeles. Before organizing with NationBuilder, David spent 8 years in various positions of leadership primarily within the YouthBuild, John Muir Charter School, and City Year networks where he united, trained and enabled hundreds of severely disadvantaged young adults to engage in their communities as leaders through education, service, and civic engagement. During this time, he also consulted for various non-profits across the U.S. and Haiti, as well as contributed to one of the first youth leadership programs in Iraq.
David's holds a Master of Arts in Education, Leadership and Change from Antioch University, where he wrote a youth leadership development manual for his Capstone Project. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he studied abroad in the South of France during his entire senior year. Aside from raising his two toddler sons to be progressive leaders and planning a world tour with his wife, David's future goal is to direct his own international non-profit in community development in francophone and anglophone Africa and Caribbean.
Ilissa Gold, Southwest Assistant Finance Director, J Street
Ilissa Gold is the Southwest Assistant Finance Director for J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization dedicated to promoting strong U.S. involvement in bringing about a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. In this role, she is proud to advocate for the two-state solution as a means of ensuring a democratic and Jewish Israel alongside a safe and secure Palestine, and to work to change the conversation in the American Jewish community around the topic of the Middle East. Ilissa is the president and founder of the Miracle Mile Democratic Club, which represents the Miracle Mile and Mid-City West neighborhoods in Los Angeles. She is one of the youngest presidents of a club within the Los Angeles Democratic Club, and she is proud that the club reflects the young and diverse character of the neighborhood, bringing that voice into the party. Through the Miracle Mile Democratic Club, she advocates for neighborhood priorities such as increasing funding for public transit, building more affordable housing, and supporting small businesses and the arts community. Ilissa also serves on the boards of the Jewish Women's Conference of Southern California and on the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles' Advocacy Training Project, through which she co-moderates an annual workshop on using social media for advocacy.
Ilissa received her B.A. in Government from Cornell University and her J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. Although she has made Los Angeles her home, she is a Nashville native and still very much considers herself a Southerner. She enjoys cooking, dancing, exploring all of the different neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and watching her Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators.
Darryn Harris, Assistant Director, UCLA Government & Community Relations
Darryn Harris is an individual of extraordinary talent, passion, and commitment towards social and economic justice, which was sparked by the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest. With over a decade of experience in community engagement, Darryn has demonstrated an unwavering commitment towards progressive values and public service. Darryn brings a wealth of experience from the public sector, and currently serves as the Assistant Director of UCLAÕs Government & Community Relations. Prior to UCLA, Darryn served as a District Director in the California Legislature, where he planned and organized various statewide convenings that informed data collection for reports and publications, such as the "State of Black California." This report was instrumental in informing various community-based organizations, as well as statewide legislation and policy affecting African-Americans in the areas of health, economic empowerment, education, housing, drug_use and crime. Additionally, as a staff member he developed and staffed "citizen advisory councils", volunteer groups lead by constituents interested in informing the state budget and legislative action.
Darryn is a proud native Angele–o. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and a Masters of Education in Higher Education & Organizational Change from UCLA. Darryn is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and proudly serves as President of the Black Los Angeles Young Democrats (BLAYD).
Yael Maizel, Southwest Senior Field Director, J Street
Yael Maizel is the Southwest Field Director for J Street, an advocacy organization working to change the U.S. political dynamics around Israel by mobilizing broad support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this position, she oversees volunteer-led chapters across five states in the Southwest region, engaging J Street lay-leaders in local advocacy, community organizing and communications efforts. Prior to joining J Street, Yael spent five years in Israel where she worked for a number of social justice and human rights organizations. Most recently she served as the Senior Development Associate at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the country's oldest and leading human rights organization.
In 2005-2006, Yael was awarded the New Israel Fund - Social Justice Fellowship. During this fellowship year, she worked as the Community Organizing Projects Coordinator for YEDID - The Association for Community Empowerment. There, she managed a grassroots campaign advocating for publicly funded housing for evicted families. She is also a graduate of the Join for Justice Fellowship, a one-year training program for young Jewish leaders in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and community building. Yael holds a B.A in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. in the same field from Tel Aviv University. Born and raised in Seattle to Israeli parents, Yael lives in LA with her husband Shay, a graduate student at USC.
Nicholas Melvoin, Director of Policy, Communications and Legal Counsel, Great Public Schools: Los Angeles
A proud native of Los Angeles, Nick is currently the Director of Policy, Communications and Legal Counsel for Great Public Schools: Los Angeles (GPSLA), a new organization focused on marshaling community support to improve the efficacy and transparency of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. Nick is also an Adjunct Faculty Member at Loyola Marymount University, where he teaches a course on Legal Advocacy at the School of Education. Nick's interest in education policy began when he was teaching in Watts as part of the Teach For America program. After teaching, he spent a year on staff with TFA, where he helped with development and regional strategy. Inspired by his time in the classroom and eager to explore change from another vantage point, Nick received a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholarship to attend NYU School of Law. At NYU, Nick was the Editor-in-Chief of The Review of Law & Social Change, a Guarini Government Scholar and the Chair of the Education, Law & Policy Society. Nick spent his summers at the ACLU of Southern California and at The White House, where he served on the Domestic Policy Council's Justice and Regulatory Policy team. He also spent time as an Education Pioneers Fellow in LA and as a legal clerk at the US AttorneyÕs office in Manhattan.
Nick has a BA in Government from Harvard University and an MA in Urban Education from LMU, where he was the Student Researcher of the Year. Nick serves on the Board of Directors and is Programming Director of Camp Harmony, a nonprofit camp for homeless and underserved children in the LA community. And when he's not working, Nick enjoys playing soccer and tennis, skiing, fishing, hiking and practicing yoga.
Mark Montgomery ,
Mark lived in a combination of tent and abandoned old school bus for two years because of deep personal convictions and perhaps from reading too much Thoreau and Tolstoy. He had just finished his graduate degree in history education and was certain that he would only eat vegetables, rarely wear shoes, and never keep paychecks for the rest of his life. But in living out this false ascetic ideal, he came to realize that the many problems plaguing his community, nation, and planet could not be solved by isolating himself from them.
After serving an AmeriCorps term and teaching high school logic for two years, Mark enrolled in law school at Pepperdine to be able to use the law to change policy, which is the heavy hand that perpetuates discrimination, income inequality, and ambivalence toward progress in this county. At Pepperdine he is a Dean's Scholar, the president of the public interest law group, vice president of the LGBT legal society, and a zealous progressive in an overwhelmingly conservative environment. Throughout law school he has volunteered with Compassion Over Killing, the LA HIV Law and Policy Project, the LA Youth Network, and will work with the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2015. He will pursue a public interest career in environmental justice, animal advocacy, or civil rights and plans to run for public office in the near future. Mark loves bicycles, mountains, vegan nutrition, and the law. Although he gave up the school bus for an apartment in Santa Monica, he still only eats vegetables and reluctantly wears shoes.
Jordana Mosten, Staff Attorney, Public Counsel
Jordana Mosten is a Staff Attorney in the Immigrants' Rights Project of Los Angeles-based non-profit Public Counsel. She joined Public Counsel as a Skadden Fellow to provide holistic immigration and social services to victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes. She expanded her practice to represent children seeking asylum in affirmative and defensive cases. She also represents abused, abandoned and neglected children eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in the delinquency, family, and probate systems Ð before state courts, the immigration service, and immigration courts. Prior to joining Public Counsel, Jordana served as a law clerk in the Eastern District of California.
She received her Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School, with pro bono distinction, where she served as development editor of the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties and as a board member of the Stanford Law Latino Students Association. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History, phi beta kappa, from Rice University.
Maya Paley, Director of Legislative and Community Engagement, National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles Section
Maya is a proud Los Angeles native who has specialized in gender, migration, and human rights throughout her academic and professional career. She currently serves as the Director of Legislative and Community Engagement for the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles, a progressive organization that aims to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families in Los Angeles through direct services and advocacy. Maya is responsible for NCJW/LA's legislative advocacy. She launched and now runs working groups on reproductive justice, human trafficking, domestic violence, gun violence prevention, healthcare reform, and childrenÕs rights. Maya also launched NCJW/LA's Advocacy Training Project, which trains community members to be effective at advocacy, and the Human Trafficking Outreach Project, which raises awareness about human trafficking and helps implement an important law in Los Angeles County through door-to-door volunteer outreach.
Maya earned her bachelor's degree in Political Science from UC Berkeley and a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University. She has run college and career preparation programs for teenage girls in the inner-city of Los Angeles, worked on empowerment programs for sex workers in Guatemala City, and researched the effects of anti-human trafficking and domestic violence legislation in Tbilisi, Georgia. In 2010, Maya's coalition-building and advocacy with the Sex Workers Project was instrumental in getting the first Vacating Convictions law passed in the United States. The law helps human trafficking survivors restart their lives by clearing their conviction records. In August 2010, Maya moved to Tel Aviv as a New Israel Fund/Shatil Social Justice Fellow. Through the fellowship, Maya researched the lived experiences and challenges faced by asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea who are living in Israel. Her research culminated in the publication of two reports titled "Surviving in Limbo." Her project was the first in-depth research on African asylum seekers in Israel. In 2012, Maya founded the international coalition Right Now: Advocates for African Asylum Seekers in Israel. In her spare time, Maya enjoys watching old musicals, karaoke, and traveling anywhere and everywhere.
Joe Pileri , St. Vincent Medical Center Attorney , Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Joe is an attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Joe runs a medical-legal partnership between Bet Tzedek and St. Vincent Medical Center where he provides free legal services to low-income patients and community members of the hospital with the idea that addressing the legal needs of patients will have positive health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Joe also represents tenants in slum housing cases and unaccompanied minors in immigration-related proceedings. Joe has lived in Southern California since childhood and has degrees from UCLA and Harvard Law School.
After college Joe spent time volunteering in rural Peru. In law school Joe worked with human rights organizations in Argentina and Colombia, on behalf of felons appealing death penalty sentences in Louisiana, and organizing stakeholders in rural Mississippi seeking access to jobs, healthcare, and education in the region. Joe previously worked as an attorney at Sheppard Mullin in Los Angeles where he represented corporate clients of all sizes in a variety of transactional matters and where he was active in the firm's pro bono program. Joe's passion for advocating for others ultimately led him to his position at Bet Tzedek. Joe is also active in advocating for access to quality healthcare for the bleeding disorders community in LA and beyond. Joe lives in Venice Beach and when heÕs not working you can find him on his beach cruiser.
Christopher Records, Special Projects Coordinator , PUC Schools
Christopher Lo-Records currently works as a Special Projects Coordinator for the Partnerships to Uplift Communities schools network, where he project manages college access initiatives, internships, and schools accreditation projects for the sixteen schools that make up the PUC network. He is also a consultant for the education non-profit Educators 4 Excellence, where he helps to organize and facilitate programs to increase teacher voice in policy-making. Prior to joining PUC and E4E, Christopher taught Special Education in Southeast Los Angeles for four years, during which time he served on the school site council, was a department chair, and advised the campus Gay-Straight Alliance and Leadership clubs. He also worked, part-time, for LAUSD and E4E, on education policy initiatives related to teacher performance, and served as an Education Pioneers Graduate School Fellow.
Christopher is passionate about social and economic equity, and identifies both as a queer man and as a Catholic. A current Masters in Public Policy student at USC Price School of Public Policy, Christopher is the Founder and Executive Chair of the Queer Policy Caucus, the LGBTQ students association at Price, for which he recently received the Albert Brecht Scholarship in Leadership from the USC Lambda Alumni Association. He is also co-chair of the planning committee for the 2015 Students of Color and Allies Policy Forum, an all-day policy conference focusing on racial and socioeconomic equity issues. He has a Bachelor of Arts in History from UC Riverside, a Master of Arts in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University, and is also Teach for America alumnus. He lives with his husband, Ryan, and enjoys running marathons, reading, and burning up frequent flyer miles.
Zachary Ritter, Associate Director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion, University of Redlands
Zack Ritter is currently Director of Academic Support and Career Services at American Jewish University (AJU). In this role, he helped create the Industry Partner Program (IPP), wherein professionals and organizations from the Los Angeles region serve as career mentors to AJU students. He is also co-chair of the academic success committee, which provides support for students facing difficulty both academically and socially. He also helped teach a global current events course, where students were taught ways to become politically involved.
Prior to AJU, he worked as a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) academic mentor for the College of Letters and Science, and was an instructor for UCLA's Summer Readmission and Retention Program. Additionally, he was an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) history tutor at University High School, in Los Angeles Unified School District. During his graduate studies, he served as a UCLA student affairs ambassador to Hong Kong City University, strengthening relationships between both institutions. Additionally, he conducted research in Singapore, analyzing how the Singaporean government strives to instill a cohesive national identity, through civics education and racial tolerance holidays. Building upon this interest in racial diversity, he completed his dissertation on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean international students' racial stereotypes toward and experiences with domestic students. He has presented his research at the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) as well as the Comparative International Education Society (CIES). Based off of this research, he crafted a diversity awareness curriculum for UCLA Dashew International Center's American Culture and Communication courses. He has also participated in the New Ground Muslim-Jewish fellowship, acting as a host for an inter-faith web series with a Rabbi and a Sheikh. Additionally, he has taught intergroup dialogue courses at UCLA on race and socio-economic status, and collaborated with service-learning professionals to make a political awareness undergraduate course in UCLA's Civic Engagement Department. He has interned in Senator Dianne FeinsteinÕs office, and volunteered for Mayor Garcetti and President Obama's election campaigns.
Zack received his B.A. in History in 2008, his M.Ed. in Student Affairs in 2009, and his Ph.D. in Higher Education in 2013, all from UCLA. He enjoys playing basketball and tennis, going to cultural events/museums around LA, playing piano, finding hole in the wall restaurants, and learning about history, philosophy, and politics.
Catherine Shieh, Teacher, Manual Arts High School
Catherine Shieh is a Bay Area native who currently teaches Government and Economics at Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles. As a teacher and mentor to students in their last year of high school, her mission is to help empower students to become civically engaged during and after their high school careers. Prior to joining her Teach for America placement, Catherine was interning for Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7) in his Washington, DC office where she was instrumental in creating the bipartisan California Public Higher Education Caucus in Congress. Catherine first got started in politics at age 16 through Vision New America, a program that works towards engaging young Asian Americans in politics. While working for then-Assemblymember Joe Coto, she worked on public health issues for the Latino community in San Jose, helping host the annual San Jose Children's Health fair.
During her time as a student at the University of Southern California, she spent 3 years working at USC's Unruh Institute of Politics, where she helped fellow students obtain political internships and opportunities while also conducting university-wide political events. She has since worked for Congressman Mike Honda for the creation of the Anti-Bullying Caucus, California Forward on voter access for all Californians, and EverFi for education technology access for over 5,000 schools across the country. Catherine has also worked on Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas' campaign, Congresswoman Janice Hahn's campaign, Congresswoman Julia Brownley's campaign, and OFA in 2012 among other minor campaigns. Catherine received her Bachelor of Arts from USC and remains active with the USC College Democrats as President Emeritus. She loves reading nonfiction and trail running in her spare time.
Danielle Tenner, Education Attorney, Alliance for Children's Rights
Danielle currently serves as an education attorney at the Alliance for Children's Rights, a nonprofit legal services organization dedicated to improving the health, safety, stability and education of foster youth in Los Angeles County and throughout California. She represents students in general and special education matters, and works with community partners and on legislative initiatives to improve policies and practices affecting foster youth, who experience abysmal educational outcomes. Prior to working at the Alliance, Danielle was an associate with the international law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, where she practiced complex business litigation and volunteered pro bono hours to represent clients in matters ranging from death penalty litigation to immigration.
Danielle is a proud graduate of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is passionate about improving the educational landscape for all children in the Los Angeles region. Prior to law school, she taught sixth grade, also in the LAUSD, serving her first two years as a Teach For America corps member. Danielle holds a JD from Harvard Law School, where she spent two years representing low-income families and leading community organizing efforts to prevent post-foreclosure displacement as a member of the student-run Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. She also holds a MA in elementary education from Loyola Marymount University, and a BA from UC Berkeley in psychology, where she focused her studies on child development. Danielle serves on the Executive Committee of the Teach For America Los Angeles Associates Board and on the Board of Sol-La Music Academy, which brings together her passions for education and music. Her interest in music also compels her to sing with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Legal Voices Choir, which carries the coveted distinction of being L.A.Õs only legal orchestra and choir.
Elica Vafaie, Project Director, California Community Foundation
Elica Vafaie is a project director and attorney at the California Community Foundation where she directs the One Los Angeles, One Nation Initiative - a $1 million initiative focused on changing misperceptions of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities in Los Angeles County through grantmaking and convening in the areas of civic engagement, policy, advocacy, and capacity building of nonprofit organizations. She also advises the foundation and supports grantmaking in the areas of immigration law and policy, legal aid, and oversees the fiscal sponsorship of an online crowdfunding platform. Prior to joining CCF, Elica worked at California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. with disadvantaged unincorporated communities in the Central Valley; the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic representing detained immigrants facing deportation in Arizona and refugees from Haiti; the Center for Constitutional Rights working on Guantanamo and government accountability litigation and advocacy; and worked as a certified mediator on employment discrimination cases at the Federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
She is a graduate of the University of California, Davis School of Law where she was a U.C. Human Rights Fellow. She holds a bachelorÕs degree in French and a certificate in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California Irvine and spent a year abroad at the Institut D'ƒtudes Politiques in Paris, France. Elica is Iranian-American and the first in her family born in the United States. Since moving to Los Angeles, she has grown to love the County's complexity and diversity, exploring food in Tehrangeles, and has dabbled in Improve.
Juan Vasquez, Organizer, NationBuilder
During my 26 years on this planet, I've strived to create and find my own definition of success while shaping my values along the way. ItÕs been a hell of a ride so far - starting in Colombia. I grew up with my father, a pilot who traveled most of the time but is the best father I know. At 11, I moved to the States, first to a small town called Morristown, TN. A classmate there asked me if in Colombia I would do my school work on tree leaves. After a few months there I moved to South Florida, where my entrepreneurship spirit lit up. In 8th grade, I was slinging candy out of my backpacks - Reeses, Snickers, Airheads, Jolly Ranchers- only the good stuff. Once I hit high school I knew I wanted to go out in my own, as my parents accumulated 4 additional divorces between themselves. So I did as much as I could to stay productive. Chick-Fil-A, Gap, a gourmet dog food mall stand, landscaping, seasonal jobs, all made it on my resume.
This mindset landed me at the University of Florida where I discovered I was more of an experiential, social learner and not a classroom dude. Along the way I was the president of the Colombian Student Association, organized peace marches, started my own advertising organization for the thrifty misfits in my program, and threw some legendary parties. Since I majored in advertising my first two years were spent in the accounts department of a small and then a mid-size shop, both in North FL. I quickly learned the ad world wasn't for me. Upon this realization I called upon the universe for opportunities. A grassroots Los Angeles mayoral campaign answered and it was the craziest, most trying months of my life. All worth it. I did a cameo in nonprofits, and now I dedicate my time to bringing technology and access to those who lack it. My 13-year old sister is my hero. I've also traveled to a bunch of countries in Europe, and I love BBQ. In my opinion, cars are hurting us, so I bike to and from work. My sister calls me weird. I think she's weird too, and I love her for it.