Jake Tonkel was raised in the Santa Cruz mountains building forts in the redwood forests with his twin brother. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Sustainability Studies. His classes on Environmental Sociology and being raised by a mother with a background in Women’s Studies helped him discover a passion for environmental and social justice.
After graduating, Jake worked for a non-invasive heart valve company, before taking off to Morocco for two years to volunteer with the Peace Corps. There, Jake learned Arabic and worked in a youth center developing environmental initiatives and teaching chess and English. Jake also helped to lead Columbia University’s Engineers without Borders students through the technical and cultural challenges of two rural engineering projects; an access bridge and a well water system. Jake returned home in 2016, where he has since worked as an R&D engineer at a startup developing a new system for arthroscopic joint surgery.
A background in community organizing, an environmental sustainability education, and the global awareness of living abroad in an Islamic country led Jake to join the Santa Clara County Green Party, where he now serves as a Green Party County Council. He has been active in organizing anti-war protests, discussion panels on divestment, and developing community outreach strategies. Having assisted the Native protesters at Standing Rock in 2016, Jake dove further into the fossil fuel divestment movement and now sits as a Co-Chair of the Public Banking Action Team for the South Bay Progressive Alliance. The Action Team engages in lobbying and education outreach to push for a public bank in Silicon Valley that will help local governments divest their funds from destructive industries and in turn, invest in local needs like affordable housing, public education, and climate mitigation infrastructure.
Despite the busy schedule, Jake still bikes to work every day and enjoys playing soccer a few times a week.