We are thrilled to be celebrating our 18th cohort of our Leadership Academy. Please join us in celebrating their accomplishments at a virtual graduation ceremony on February 26, 2021, from 7 to 9 pm PT. We will be joined by the musical talents of The Tewa and our honored guest speaker, Jose G. Gonzalez! There’s also an after-party to hang out with the group in a kickback style. Learn more about the Academy and the experiences, as well as what upcoming projects to expect! Register today!
Alondra is a recent graduate from Pitzer College where she majored in Environmental Analysis on the Policy track with a minor in Spanish. During her time at Pitzer College, she was also a member of the Pomona-Pitzer softball team. She is so excited to being a part of the Leadership Academy and learn more about community advocacy and organizing with Cohort 18. In her free time she enjoys hiking, going to the beach, listening to music and baking. Alondra is looking forward to learning more about ways to make green spaces more equitable and accessible for all, and the tools needed to contribute to positive change.
Amy Quintanilla is a junior at Wellesley College, studying Environmental Physics. She is a first generation college student and Central American from the San Fernando Valley. Amy hopes to attend graduate school for Environmental Engineering and is passionate about creating equitable access to green spaces and engineering solutions to improve public health through environmental conditions such as air and water quality. In her free time, she loves to garden, run, hike, and draw.
Ana Cobarrubias is an Environmental Science and Recycling Resource Management major at Santa Monica college. Since highschool, Ana’s work has revolved around social, racial, and environmental justice. Organizations she’s worked with or volunteered at include youTHink, Heal the Bay, 5 Gyres, Reusable LA, Ciclavia and the California Science Center. Highlights from her work include lobbying in Sacramento for police transparency, meeting Leed founder Robert K. Watson, creating her own youth workshop on cultural pride and single handedly conducting five waste audits in South Central for 5 Gyre’s “Trashblitz “. She is an outdoor enthusiast, garden lover and sustainability advocate. Talk to her about environmental history, our waste stream and climate change. A proud chicana and South Central LA native, she aspires to make meaningful change in her community. You can find her biking to downtown LA with her fiancé, filming whatever her pets are up to, or drinking taro boba.
Anakaren is an artist born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and minored in Theater and Geography at UCLA in 2017. She has conducted research related to environmental issues and has continued to remain involved in the environmental justice movement in Los Angeles. She has also pursued her passion for the arts by working at several production studios and local theaters. She has written and performed plays and has created short films. She is excited to be a part of the Nature for All Leadership Academy and hopes to continue to use the arts to connect people to nature and to expose environmental racism occurring in underrepresented communities.
Evellyn Rosas was born and raised in Panorama City, CA, in the San Fernando Valley. She is the oldest of three siblings and a first-generation graduate. Evellyn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR) with a minor in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University. Through after-school programs at Adelante Youth Alliance, she educates and empowers youth to develop their academic, career, leadership, and personal potential. Her main goal for community organizing is to make spaces welcoming and inclusive for folks who want to learn more about history and representation, no matter their level of knowledge. Additionally, her self-care habits include reading fiction, camping, therapy, and drawing anything that catches her eye.
I am a first generation Angeleno, my parents are from Peru and Guatemala. I studied Psychology as an undergrad. I currently work with several organizations that serve at-risk/incarcerate youth. I teach at-risk youth how to produce their own radio shows/podcasts. Recently got connected with an organization that teaches at-risk youth about environmentalism and the outdoors. Passionate about learning more about how I can transfer my skillset to a career in environmentalism. I was introduced to the outdoors at a young age but never thought it could be a reality to see myself working in this field. I also have a cat and host my own radio show.
Jaice Mendoza-Macias is a Special Education teacher at East College Prep, a charter school in Lincoln Heights, with 6 years of experience. Jaice graduated from Pomona College with a double major in Chicanx Studies and Anthropology. Upon graduation, he was accepted into Teach For America and simultaneously began working towards his Masters in Special Education at Loyola Marymount University.
Pre-COVID, Jaice captained a co-ed adult soccer team and coached the women’s soccer team at his school during the week. Now, if he’s not making candles he’s brewing Kombucha. On weekends, however, you can still find him on some mountain summit shouting “Woohoo!” at the top of his lungs. Jaice’s love for the outdoors is something he’s known for among his circles – students, colleagues, friends, and family all know that retreating to nature is what energizes him, what grounds, and inspires him.
Maura Palacios Mejia is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Scholar in the Wayne Lab at UCLA. Her research focuses on applying environmental DNA (eDNA) to address issues in conservation management and urban planning. Her projects use eDNA to assess species assemblages in the Mojave Desert Springs, a threatened ecosystem and to explore microbial community changes in relation to hazardous materials at Brownfield sites throughout Southern California, for potential bioremediation practices. Maura also uses eDNA as a tool for education and outreach; teaching EEB 87, California’s DNA: A Field Course and running the CALeDNA Summer Research Internship and Institute programs.
Kris Fortin is a Los Angeles native, but he currently splits his time with his home region and Orange County/Santa Ana. Kris has been a journalist for more than 12 years, making stops at Planetizen, Los Angeles Streetsblog and the Orange County Register. He currently hosts the SGV Podcast, talking to decionmakers and activists about the region’s built environment and the human efforts to make it more equitable and sustainable, and writes stories about the SGV for Los Angeles Streetsblog. When he’s not writing articles, he’s advocating for equitable transportation infrastructure in low-income communities of color as the project director of Santa Ana Active Streets. Kris’s favorite activities are riding his bike in pitch-black darkness, chatting with his dad in the mornings, hugging his mom, chismeando with his colegas, and napping on hammocks.
My name is Kathryn, and I am a queer Salvi American born in and deeply connected to the San Gabriel Valley. However, I spent 4 years living in the Midwest, where I first participated in environmental organizing through direct actions against pipelines. I returned to the SGV to work in labor organizing and immigration law research. I am now aspiring to expand my advocacy for low-wage laborers to include visioning a return of the land to its workers. Until then, I nurture my relations by hiking solo, writing in community, serving as a driver for mutual aid support, and riding Metro as far as possible.
Krystle Yu is a recent college graduate from Pitzer College with a degree in public policy. As an aspiring urban planner driven by the ideals of environmental justice, she is passionate about addressing how inequities in the built environment and transportation shape community access to outdoor and green spaces, and the impact that access has on a community’s health. Having grown up in the San Gabriel Valley she is excited for the opportunity to learn from both local advocacy groups and her cohort, and get more involved in the activism seeking to protect the San Gabriel Mountains. Currently, she works at Day One Pasadena as a community outreach coordinator, raising awareness about the benefits and importance of access to means of active transportation like walking and biking.
Montserrat Plascencia- Bernal
I am a seed from the traditional territory of the Coca Peoples, known today as Guadalajara (Mexico),and harvested on the traditional territory of the Tongva People, known today as Los Angeles. My deep connection to the outdoors and the environment began when I needed a safe green space to be whole with one full breath, while I continued to discover the strengths in having an intersectional and cultural identity. I have walked many paths where I gained wisdom and tools to speak for the urban garden bees through an ecological lens, for the locally resilient communities of color through a political leadership lens, and for the protection and regeneration of nature’s resources through sustainability lens. I center family, justice, and love in the actions I take and nurture relationships built on honesty, accountability, and reciprocity. Hola/Hello Cohort 18 Familia/Family, my name is Montserrat Plascencia- Bernal.
Nadia is a living creature born to occupied Tongva territory, so-called ‘Los Angeles’, in the throes of late capitalism. She has studied naturopathic healing, culinary, mycology and botany, and currently runs a nonprofit mobile metaphysical lending library which seeks to re-enchant the world and decolonize spirituality. When she’s not reading, she’s organizing for tenant rights and the abolition of law enforcement and the prison-industrial complex, gardening, and concocting elaborate schemes, each one more ludicrous than the last. She hopes to abolish private property, release the commons and free the land.
Rosa L. Maldonado
Rosa is a binational Latina (Mexican and Guatemalan) aspiring to pursue graduate work on the nexus between forced migration and the climate crisis. Her professional goal is to become a professor and be a supportive mentor to students throughout their academic and professional endeavors. She is a proud Chicana/o and Central American Studies alum from CSUN (2018). Before the Academy, she was serving as a CivicSpark Fellow for Compton Community College District, helping with implementation efforts to advance a historic Student Housing project. On her downtime, she enjoys listening to her mom’s cumbias in the background as she reads. Currently, she is reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
I give gratitude to my parents, they each journeyed to California as young adults from Argentina, and due to their courageous uproot, I was able to later sprout. From a very young age I was always justice-oriented, and that manifested throughout my education and career by looking for jobs that helped people in any way. I have interned for an international non-profit, and worked as labor union organizer for the past year. Now I aim to explore helping people while helping the earth. Underlying this new venture is the belief that every one of us needs to have a relationship with nature. Quite easily we forget the living things around us as we are surrounded by walls and asphalt. I am proud and eager to develop this vision, while connecting Angelenos to the land at the Nature for All Academy.
Shabnaz Marzina Khandoker
Hello! I am a student at Cerritos Community College studying environmental science. I am planning to transfer Spring 2021 to a UC or CSU. I love science and I enjoy learning about sustainability, community advocacy and environmental justice. My hobbies are volunteering outdoors, hiking and backpacking, camping, swimming, photography, writing poetry, reading, music, and road trips. I am so excited to be a part of the 18th Cohort and get to know and work with everyone!
Oscar Monge is a native Angeleno dedicated to working with inner city youth and community residents to uplift efforts against gentrification & displacement and advocating for community-led environmental justice initiatives. He joined T.R.U.S.T. South LA in 2017 as an Environmental Planner and this year became the organization’s new Associate Director to enhance T.R.U.S.T.’s Community Land Trust vision of de-commodifying land and homes by removing them from the speculative market and strengthening T.R.U.S.T.’s Black and Brown member leadership to collectively steward community owned land. Oscar is also an active boardmember of the California Community Land Trust Network and an avid participant in his local Cypress Park Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee.
Samantha is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC). She grew up in Boyle Heights and feels deeply connected in the region of Los Angeles. Samantha’s interests range from cultural history, to art, and informal education. She finds passion and a connection to her own history through ceramic art. You can often find her at POT Ceramic Studio making mugs and bowls.
Samantha enjoys working with the youth to share her love of native plants and animals in Los Angeles. She writes curriculum for The Natural History Museum’s summer camp Adventures In Nature and for 17 city parks through the ESTEAM summer camp program.
Before working at NHMLAC she worked as the Visitor Services Coordinator at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and was a curatorial intern at the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum. Samantha is a graduate of the 2017-2018 Arts for LA, ACTIVATE Cultural Policy Fellowship where she made meaningful connections with local artists from all around LA County.
Valeree Catangay is sustainability professional and illustrator from Long Beach, California. She loves to express her passion for environmental justice and nature throughout her artwork and believes in the power of art as a form of advocacy and activism. During her time at UCLA she co-founded the Environmentalists of Color Collective to increase diverse narratives in the environmental movement on campus. Currently she is creating a sustainability program at Dolby Laboratories where she focuses on reducing the organization’s environmental impacts through energy efficiency projects and employee engagement. In addition to drawing, she spends her free time longboarding and walking her dog Koda.
My name is Robert Aceves (aka Robby), son of two immigrant parents and brother of three older sisters and a younger brother. I am the first in my family to graduate high school and recently graduated from UC Santa Barbara with my degree in Chicanx Studies. I am extremely passionate about advocating for our most underserved communities and ensuring their voices are heard and represented. A little about me, I love boba and enjoy going on runs, playing soccer and cycling.