Sacramento 2015 Fellows

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Cornelious Burke, Public Policy Manager, Bay Area Council

 Cornelious Burke Public Policy Manager Bay Area Council Cornelious manages the Bay Area Council's Sacramento office, overseeing state policy and legislation and serving as one of the Bay Area Council's liaisons to the state Legislature and the Governor's Office. Prior to joining the Bay Area Council, Cornelious served a real estate officer and special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Real Estate Services Division at the California Department of General Services. In this capacity he managed the state's real estate portfolio and played a leadership role in statewide leasing, disposition of state-owned property, construction management, legislative analysis, and small business outreach. He also worked as a legislative aide for several members of the California State Senate and as a policy advisor to the Chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

A native of Los Angeles, he holds masters degrees in urban planning and public administration from the University of Southern California and undergraduate degrees in political science and urban studies from Loyola Marymount University. He also holds a California Real Estate License. Throughout college and graduate school, he interned for several governmental agencies, business advocacy associations and political campaigns. When not working he enjoys Shakespeare plays, playing golf, and cheering for the USC football team.


Chioma Chukwu, Staff Counsel, Department of Fair Employment and Housing

 Chioma Chukwu is an attorney with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the largest civil rights agency in the United States, charged with prosecuting complaints of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Prior to joining the DFEH, Chioma worked in the San Francisco office of Sanford Heisler, LLP, a national boutique class-action litigation law firm, where she litigated individual and nationwide class actions involving wage and hour, employment discrimination and other civil rights violations. Chioma received her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School Law School.

During law school, she participated in the Employment Law and Criminal Defense Clinics where she successfully advocated on behalf of individuals seeking unemployment insurance benefits and represented indigent clients charged with various misdemeanors, respectively. She also holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside.

Chioma currently serves as a Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division's Minorities in the Profession Committee. She is also a past National Director of the National Black Law Student Association's Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition.


Vignesh Ganapathy, Legislative Consultant, Civil Justice Association of California

 Vignesh Ganapathy is Legislative Consultant for the Civil Justice of California (CJAC), an organization that advocates for a fair and balanced civil justice system. At CJAC, he assists in representing the organization's members on litigation issues in the State Legislature by developing policy positions, interacting with government officials and organizing events. Prior to joining CJAC, Vignesh had worked in and around California politics. He began his career on the finance team of Attorney General Kamala Harris's 2010 campaign in Los Angeles, and most recently worked with the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee, where he specialized in consumer protection and electronic privacy policy.

In addition to his work at CJAC, Vignesh serves as a mentor with the C.K. McClatchy High School's Law and Public Policy Academy and co-manages Rue 27, an arts development organization. With Rue 27, he interfaces with local Sacramento artists and businesses to foster a climate in which both can grow and develop. Their monthly pop-up events have created a pipeline for new and upcoming young talents to develop mentorships and greater exposure. He is a graduate of the University of California Santa Cruz, and the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where he studied in a program under Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy and Elena Kagan of the United States Supreme Court. While in law school, Vignesh served as student liaison to the South Asian Bar Association of Sacramento and Co-President of the Middle Eastern and South Asian Association. His deep commitment to cultural outreach and development has also led to an appointment to the 2015 Tamil Pioneers Award Committee with the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) during their annual convention.

Vignesh grew up in Toronto, Ontario and the San Francisco Bay Area. When he is not working on progressive causes, he enjoys motorcycles, rock climbing, playing music, and baseball.


Laura Gonzalez, Account Coordinator, Imprenta Communications Group

 Laura Gonzalez currently is an Account Coordinator at Imprenta Communication Group, an award-winning public affairs, campaign, and ethnic marketing firm which specializes in reaching diverse audiences. She is responsible for supporting multiple accounts dealing with community engagement and outreach in Northern California and Central Valley Region. Laura Gonzalez received her Bachelor's degree in Government with a minor in Women's Studies from Sacramento State.

Throughout her time at Sac State, she was involved in the United Sorority and Fraternity Council and served as Director of Office Governmental Affairs, where she represented CSU students in higher education advocacy efforts. In 2011, Laura served as the student body president; in this position she sat on 25 University committees, created two ASI scholarships, and helped write the business plan for the ASI Farmer's Market.

After graduation, Laura completed the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in San Francisco where she completed 6-week projects in government, nonprofit, labor, social enterprise, and corporate business sectors. She activated her interests in entrepreneurship by joining the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy. This led to her involvement in Code for Sacramento and her current role in a local start-up who formed after placing 2nd at Startup Weekend Sacramento: Women's Edition. Laura will be joining the Mendocino Agricultural Families' Scholarship Fund Board of Directors in early 2015 and hopes to continue to stay involved in her hometown of Ukiah, California.


Tera Hannah, Senior Research Associate, Legislative History & Intent

 Tera Flores Hannah is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) Master of Public Administration program at the USC State Capital Center in Sacramento. She currently works as a Senior Research Associate at Legislative History and Intent, where she researches local, state, and federal statutory enactments and regulatory adoptions used in judicial proceedings.

During her masters program, she interned in the Sacramento City Manager's Office and the district office of Congresswoman Doris Matsui. She also worked as a Graduate Assistant coordinating executive leadership training programs for the California Institute for Mental Health and the National Conference of State Legislatures. As part of her studies, she conducted research and outreach for the California Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control in State Government, the Loaves and Fishes Mustard Seed School, and the Better Hong Kong Foundation. For the past two years, Tera has served as a student representative to the USC Graduate Policy & Administration Community, the Graduate Public Affairs Regional Council, and the American Society for Public Administration-Sacramento Chapter. Tera graduated in 2009 from the University of California-Davis with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Managerial Economics.

During her undergrad, she participated in the UC Public Policy Program, studied abroad in Mendoza, Argentina, and interned in the Victims Services Unit of the Attorney General's Office and the Constituent Services Unit of the Governor's Office. In her spare time, Tera loves to read, cook, and travel, and is an avid sports fanatic. She devotes much time and effort to nonprofit and community organizations, like Sacramento Habitat for Humanity and WALKSacramento, working with low-income families and underserved communities. She is passionate about the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community because she was born and raised on the Pacific Island of Guam.

She humbly follows five generations of public servants and aspires to be a strong advocate for the health and wellbeing of the API community. In the future, Tera hopes to work in the California Legislature, move to Washington, D.C, to work in Congress, and return to Guam to work in local government.


Gardner Hensill, Associate Attorney, Angius & Terry 

 Gardner Hensill is an associate attorney with Angius & Terry, focusing both in litigation and general counsel matters. His practice includes drafting governing document revisions and amendments, contract review, and assisting community associations with interpretation of governing documents.

Mr. Hensill graduated from the University of California at Davis with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. He received his Juris Doctor with Distinction from The University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where he was admitted into the Traynor Honors Society for his academic accomplishments. Prior to working at Angius & Terry, Mr. Hensill worked exclusively in civil litigation, focusing on personal injury, and premises liability matters.

Mr. Hensill is a member of the State Bar of California and admitted to practice before every District Court in California.


Stephanie Jordan, Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

 "Stephanie Jordan currently serves as Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. In this role, Stephanie primarily works on criminal justice issues, including reviewing parole decisions of California's lifer inmate population. Prior to her appointment, she interned for the Legal Affairs unit for one year. Stephanie received her BA in psychology from the University of California, Davis, and her law degree from the University of Michigan.

During her time at Michigan, Stephanie was very active in the law school community. She served as Secretary of the Law School Student Senate and Fundraising Chair for the Latino Law Students Association. She also served as an orientation leader for first-year law students and volunteered for the law school's admissions office. While in law school, Stephanie enrolled in two of the law school's clinics, the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and Criminal Appellate Practice. She also interned for the Office of the Washtenaw County Public Defender and spent spring break of her first year of law school volunteering for the Orleans Public Defender in New Orleans. Stephanie grew up in Northern California. She enjoys traveling, pilates, and cooking.


Jeff Le, Deputy Director of External and International Affairs, Office of the Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown Jr.

 Jeff Le serves as Deputy Director of External and International Affairs for California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. He interfaces with domestic stakeholders and convenes foreign dignitaries on behalf of the state. Prior to his state service, he was Senior Manager for Development and Communications at Global Rights, an international human rights organization that worked with disenfranchised communities in the Global South. From 2010-2011, Jeff worked with local communities across 17 Afghan provinces as the Strategic Communications Manager at International Relief and Development on the largest USAID project in the country.

Jeff has also worked at the State Department, the U.S. House of Representatives, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the United Nations, The Carter Center, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and has been an international election observer in 10 countries. Jeff received his BAs in Political Science and History from the University of California, San Diego and his MA in Political Science as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Central European University in Budapest. He is a Political Partner for the Truman National Security Project and a Term Member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Jeff has completed two 100-mile races and has been to every Major League Baseball stadium in the United States.


Alma Elizabeth Lopez Flores, Policy Analyst, Council of State Governments West

 Alma was born and raised in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico. She and her family immigrated to California when she was nine-years-old. Alma has three brothers and is the first one in her family to go to college. Alma received her B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chicano Studies from CSU Sacramento, in spring of 2011. While at Sacramento State, she organized around issues in higher education.

Alma has continued her advocacy efforts, post-graduation, with community organizations such as Union C’vica Primero de Mayo and Sacramento Immigration Alliance, focusing on immigration issues. Alma plans on advancing her education and attain a Ph.D. to be able to further contribute back to her community.


Carrie Martin, Legislative Assistant, California State Senate

 Carrie Martin recently began working in the office of California State Senator Mark Leno as a Legislative Assistant in the policy areas of Transportation, Health and Human Services, Elections, and Veterans Affairs. Previously she served as Assistant Deputy for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, working to increase civic engagement through both outreach programs and policy changes.

Ms. Martin also volunteers in a leadership role with the California Center for Research on Women and Families coordinating the Pathways to Policy Mentoring Initiative. She came to Sacramento in 2010 to participate in the Executive Fellowship, during which she served in the communications office of the California High Speed Rail Authority. Prior to joining the Sacramento community, Carrie worked in nonprofit settings in Santa Cruz, training students in conflict resolution and developing a bicycle education program for high school students from the ground up.

Carrie is a passionate advocate for women, girls, and the LGBT community. She has volunteered with Sacramento Women Take Back the Night, V-Day, and The Gender Health Center. Originally from New Hampshire, Carrie is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, where she earned a degree in Theater Education.


Tyrone McGraw, Legislative Aide, California State Assembly

 "Tyrone McGraw is a legislative aide in the Office of Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond). In this capacity, Tyrone is principally responsible for staffing Mr. Thurmond on Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services, which Mr. Thurmond chairs. Prior to this position, Tyrone served as a Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellow in the Office of Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), where he staffed legislation and advised Mr. Bocanegra in a number of areas, including Housing and Community Development.

Before arriving in Sacramento, Tyrone worked as a Teaching Fellow at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men Englewood Campus, which is located on the South Side of Chicago. There, he taught and worked primarily with a group of thirty-three ninth grade students, who, collectively, were known as the Pride of Relentlessness 2016. That experience and the perspective he gained now inform his work on behalf of underserved communities in California. Tyrone graduated with a BA in American Studies with Honors from Stanford University, where he was a two-sport athlete in football and track.

As an undergraduate, Tyrone externed for District Judge Thelton Henderson, who initially overturned Proposition 209 (1996) and sat on the three-judge panel declaring overcrowding in California prisons. He also interned at The White House under the Obama administration in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and externed for Ronald M. George, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California. Tyrone studied abroad in Berlin and at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). He was active at Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service as a Public Service Leadership Fellow and at the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service. Tyrone was born and reared by a single-parent mother in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, CA, and he currently sits on the executive board of the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco (BYDSF).



Angel Melchor

 Raised in the farm-working community of Salinas, Angel Melchor understood the importance of fighting for progressive issues. At a young age, Angel was exposed to the struggles of farmworkers who advocated for a respectable wage and improvements to harsh working conditions.

At Cypress College, Angel's political interest developed. As a result, he campaigned and was elected into the Student Body Senate. In Long Beach he founded the Coalition For Latino Advancement, which established the second AB540 scholarship for undocumented students in the State. In addition, He advocated against UC and CSU tuition fees increases. At Cal State Fullerton, Angel searched for a deeper understanding of political narratives and micro-politics. He took interest in international politics and the United Nations. He represented Fullerton as a delegate at the prestigious NYU and Harvard Model United Nations. His interest in international politics led him to the United Kingdom, where he studied, and worked for the Labour Party.

In 2012, Angel returned to California. He worked as a Campaign Manager and Political Consultant with the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council and Monterey County Democratic Central Committee. He co-founded a progressive non-profit, The Liberty Initiative, which advocates for progressive issues, such as worker's rights, deferred action for undocumented childhood arrivals, and immigration reform. He founded and was the president of the Young Professional Democrats, and was a member of the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee. Prior to relocating to the Sacramento area, Angel was the District Representative for a State Senator in Monterey California.



Michael Pimentel, Senior Legislative Analyst, California High-Speed Rail Authority

 Michael Pimentel serves as Senior Legislative Analyst for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority). In this role, Michael develops and manages the Authority's legislative program, advises on legislative and budgetary issues and developments, and serves as the Authority's primary liaison to the California State Legislature, California State Transportation Agency, and the Office of the Governor. In his two years with the Authority, Michael has: successfully steered Authority-sponsored legislation through the State Legislature to signature by Governor Brown; led the Authority's staff-level efforts to obtain Cap and Trade revenue for the high-speed rail program; and co-authored three project update reports, covering the overall status of the high-speed rail program. Previously, Michael served as a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. In this capacity, Michael staffed four of the Governor's Deputy Legislative Secretaries, providing research assistance, legislative analysis, and administrative support in the areas of business and taxation, housing, and transportation.

Michael's support throughout the 2011-12 legislative session facilitated the creation of approximately 1000 detailed bill memorandums that distilled positions from impacted agencies and departments, summarized fiscal impacts and legislative histories, and recorded feedback from stakeholders. These memorandums informed sign or veto recommendations presented to Governor Brown.

Prior to joining the Brown Administration in 2011, Michael was the Media Monitoring Coordinator for the Brown for Governor 2010 campaign. In this position, Michael developed and refined a zero-cost system for tracking and recording broadcast media coverage of the gubernatorial election across ten media markets. His work informed paid advertisements, press releases, and rapid response. Michael attended the University of California, Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with Departmental Honors. While at Berkeley, Michael worked as a research assistant in the Department of Economics, exploring topics in behavioral economics and economic history. MichaelÕs honors thesis examined the effects of state-level social fragmentation on regional support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Additionally, Michael cultivated his understanding of public policy as an intern for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and as member and Co-Director of the Berkeley chapter of the Roosevelt Institute. A Los Angeles-native, Michael spends his free time hunting for great Mexican food, rock-climbing, and devouring news blogs.


Elena Ruiz, Finance and Political Director, Bera for Congress

 Elena Ruiz is a results driven professional with expertise in outreach, management, and fundraising. She currently serves as Finance Director for Bera for Congress in California's 7th District. In this position, Elena manages a multi-million dollar fundraising operation in one of the most competitive congressional districts in the country. In 2014, she helped lead the successful Bera for Congress campaign in the most expensive House race nationwide ($23+ million spent).

Prior to working for Congressman Bera, Elena served in similar positions with Pace for Colorado and Giffords for Congress. In addition to her political experience, Elena has worked in fundraising and communications roles for a number of non-profits including San Miguel High School, La Pilita Museum, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson. Elena also co-founded a start-up leadership program in Tucson, Arizona to increase community investment and create shared goals between non-profit organizations, undergraduates, and young professionals.

Elena earned her Bachelors degree in Public Administration (Public Policy, Health Administration, and Philosophy) from the University of Arizona. An Arizona native, Elena wrote her thesis on the impact of undocumented immigration on the Arizona healthcare system, an experience which encouraged her to pursue a career in politics and social entrepreneurship.


Kim Waterman, Human Services Specialist, Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance

 Kim Waterman Human Services Specialist Department of Human Assistance Kim Waterman serves as a Human Services Specialist for the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance. She is responsible for coordinating the internship program for two of Sacramento's public assistance bureaus, liaising between local employers and CalWORKs recipients seeking community work experience. In addition to providing guidance to clients reentering the workforce, she maintains a working knowledge of eligibility regulations governing California's public assistance programs.

Prior to her work at Sacramento County, Kim served as assistant to Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal and press intern to Speaker Emeritus John A. Perez. She has also worked as a behavioral therapist to children with autism. Kim has a passion for advocacy. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), she volunteered as a voice for a foster youth before the family court system. Most recently, she participated in an immigration justice project in Tijuana, meeting with deportees and local activists at drop centers and community shelters.

Kim graduated with high honors from UC Davis, earning a BS in Psychobiology and a BA in Spanish. She spent a year studying at the University of Granada, Spain and participated in a student exchange project in Morocco. Kim's fluency in Spanish has enabled her to better serve her community as a translator and advocate. In her free time, Kim enjoys singing, dancing and playing her ukulele.


Erandi Zamora, Staff Attorney, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

 Erandi Zamora is a staff attorney in the Litigation Unit of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF). At CRLAF, Erandi has the privilege of working with rural and low-wage workers throughout California on issues related to wage theft, violation of workplace standards, discrimination, and pesticide exposure. Prior to joining CRLAF, Erandi was Associate Counsel for Legal Mobilization with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. In this role, Erandi led the Lawyers' Committee's voter protection efforts in California and Arizona. Erandi also worked on issues relating to access for limited English proficiency voters and she engaged in workerÕs rights advocacy. As a student activist, Ms. Zamora worked on issues related to workersÕ rights and educational outreach programs to increase minority students' access to higher education. Ms. Zamora graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Irvine with a B.A. in Political Science and Chicano/Latino Studies. She received her law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 2011. At Columbia Law, Zamora served as the Executive Co-editor of the Human Right Law Review's Spanish Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual.

Erandi is the proud daughter of farmworkers and was raised in California's Central Valley.