Leadership Academy 14th Cohort Participants

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Patricia Almanza

Patricia is a native of La Puente and has a background in Hospitality Management and Special Events Production, and Grassroots Marketing. Having worked on several large-scale events where waste and corporation-sponsored unhealthy food for low-income families are very common, she is now working on community projects and events that promote sustainability, waste reduction and encourage healthier alternatives. As a child, Patricia’s parents took Patricia and her siblings to local parks and mountains, teaching her to respect the land. As an adult, she enjoys hiking and biking and traveling especially to national parks and historical sites. She is drawn to the history and beauty of our local spaces and wishes to work on programs that help protect them.

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Celia Contreras

A recent grad from UCSC with a B.A. in Community Studies, Celia recently completed an internship with Pacoima Beautiful. This gave her the opportunity to work closely with her community and attain a better understanding about the environmental hazards it faces. She is now a Forest Ranger with the Angeles National Forest. She hopes to further her career with the Forest Service so that she can be an advocate for underrepresented communities to help them further explore their backyard.

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Miyuki Gomez

Miyuki grew up on the eastside of the Los Angeles River, in the heart of East LA. She moved to San Francisco for college in 2010 to study Biological Anthropology but found her way back to her roots in 2016 and currently resides in East LA again. Growing up in a concert jungle, being outdoors was something she craved. Thanks to community programs like Telacu Upward Bound, Girls Inc. and a few other programs, she had the opportunity to explore more green spaces than the average LA native. The majority of her work experience lands in the work of education, specifically special education. Fighting for equality and inclusiveness has been a passion of hers since she was child and continues to shape the path of her careers. Her advocacy work began back when she was in middle school and continues to present day—whether it is through working with non-profit organizations like Outward Bound Adventures and National Parks Conservation Association or in her professional life as a paralegal.

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Carolyn Jones

Carolyn is currently completing the 52 Hike Challenge, which is a global movement that encourages people to hike for 52 consecutive weeks. It was during this challenge that her love specifically for hiking developed. She plans to use the skills she learns from the leadership academy to help introduce under-represented groups to the benefits and shared responsibility of the outdoors.

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Ned Martinez-Zavala

Ned is a proud Angeleno, born in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Ned graduated from CSUN with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management. Once she graduated, Ned decided to quit her unfulfilling bank job and travel alone with her backpack for 3 months. This trip was a catalyst that deepened Ned’s love for adventure, travel, and the outdoors. Ned has a passion to expose young girls of color to adventure and the outdoors. She is currently working for a nonprofit that focuses on equipping low-income communities with knowledge and skills through education reform. Aside her love for the outdoors, Ned also has a passion for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education. She has worked for multiple startup companies that give access to STEAM education to underrepresented youth in attempts to encourage careers in the fastest growing industry of today.

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Arthur Rodriguez

Arthur was born in the central valley, has worked and lived in California as a carpenter, and became environmentally aware while finishing his work on a hospital in San Diego. He has since organized within inner cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Arthur is interested in implementing urban mining at landfills using an onsite resource recovery park. He has volunteered with Sol Justice Institute with their Food for Thought Fridays program in Inglewood CA. He helps separate produce brought in by Food Forward into 500 bags given to families in need. He also prepares food that is then distributed to families who suffer food insecurity through LA Kitchen.

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Estela Romero

Estela Romero is a resident of El Monte and mother of two children who she wishes to inspire and be their role model. She enjoys spending time with them out in nature. Estela is currently part of the Promotora Program for the Los Angeles State Historic park. She is also a domestic violence advocate and has volunteered with Park Champions, Mujeres de La Tierra, Community Nature Connections, and Memorias Migrantes. She is passionate about nature and wants to engage her community and introduce them to the beauty and importance of the surrounding environment.

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Malinelly Romero

Malinelly is a senior attending El Monte High School. She’s lived in the City of El Monte all of her life where she’s been involved in her community in various ways for about 10 years. She’s volunteered for the City of El Monte. She is proudly part of the city’s Royal Court, the Miss Friendly El Monte and South El Monte. In her free time, she is also a writer and surrounds herself in nature. In the future, she hopes to attend college and major in environmental law and policy.

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Sam Salomon

Sam recently graduated from Pasadena City College with degrees in natural sciences and humanities. She spent much of her extracurricular time putting on events revolving around mindfulness and sustainability, which she hopes to continue supporting. After learning about individual ecological footprint, Sam decided to implement more eco-friendly lifestyle adjustments such as vegetarianism and reduction of single-use plastics, and hope to deepen her knowledge about the ways in which she can be more kind to our environment, our Earth, our home. On a larger scale, she would like to advocate for the protection of natural areas. Access to the outdoors is essential to one’s mental health and wellbeing, especially with the stresses of living in an urban city. Sam seeks to encourage her community to partake in local hiking trails and public parks as a fun way to enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.

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Monica Sandoval

Monica grew up on a ranch with livestock, vegetation and produce at her whim not too far from Los Angeles. Her parents instilled in her and her sisters a culture of living off of the land, passed on by our ancestors. Anything from horseback riding to hiking to dirt bike riding, as long as she was outdoors, she was happy. She is also part of the BMX community and believes bikes and trails can be mutually beneficial to her small town of Avocado Heights. She looks forward to getting more people to learn about BMX and more BMX members to connect with nature. Monica is currently going to school to become a radiologist.

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Phillip Tran

Phillip is a San Gabriel Valley native who is passionate about green spaces and environmental issues. He believes exposure to nature can have a strong, positive impact on mental health and strengthen communities by providing public spaces. Not only does he enjoy spending long and short hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains and urban parks, but he also loves exploring new libraries for fun. His earliest memory of feeling concerned for the environment was in the second grade when he learned about the landfills where all the styrofoam lunch trays, plastic sporks, and miscellaneous waste end up. He pursued his interests in environmental issues at UC Davis and received his B.S. in Environmental Policy Planning and a B.A. in Economics. Afterwards, he sought to inspire and educate the youth on energy and water issues, helped homeowners make the switch to solar, and worked on energy and solid waste programs in Contra Costa County through the CivicSpark program. Currently he is committed to integrating sustainable values into his family’s small business and learning how he can best position himself to make a positive social and environmental impact.

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Christine Wang

With her finance career in Entertainment, Christine strives to balance her cubicle act by devoting time outdoors. She can be found gripping hiking poles, balancing on a yoga mat and typing on a keyboard (preferably in that order). She is passionate about making positive changes one step at a time, which includes coordinating the CSULA VITA program–a program that offers low-income families with free tax advice and filings. Having seen the substantial impact of devoting time to those less fortunate, she is now on a mission to combine her love of the outdoors with community work. Whether it’s hiking, biking or just taking a stroll in the park, she understands the many benefits that the outdoors can offer and wishes to make sure everyone can take part in the same joy it brings her. To her, green is not just a color; it is a lifestyle she chooses to adopt. She hopes to engage the community in protecting our planet in ways that would make Mother Earth blossom and Captain Planet proud.

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Haley Whelan

Haley recently earned her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton and is looking forward to a career in the department of Parks and Recreation. During her time with the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., she planned and participated in service projects that centered around Children’s Hospital of Orange County, homeless shelters for women and children, and disaster relief efforts. Haley was awarded the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Bronze Award, Silver Award and Presidential Service award. Haley has also earned three World Champion titles during her time spent touring with the best marching music ensemble in the world, Blue Devil Drum and Bugle Corps, where she played the marching French horn. Haley is passionate about protecting our green spaces and ensuring that everyone in Los Angeles has equal access to nature.

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Janet Yu

Janet is an American-born-Chinese who can converse in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. She is currently an incoming senior at Alhambra High School with an interest in pursuing Environmental Science studies in college. Her favorite hobbies include biking and exploring new places to gain new experiences and try new things. In three words, she would describe herself as outgoing, open-minded, and straightforward. She is a lover of Korean pop music, webtoons, and home-cooked meals.

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Danielle Zamora

Danielle Zamora grew up in North Whittier and is a lover of hiking, camping, and singing about the outdoors. She is an Outreach Coordinator for Bike San Gabriel Valley where she promotes active transportation and is working on a 5-city pedestrian and bicycle master plan. She leads family-friendly bike rides and is a volunteer Women on Wheels coordinator encouraging more girls and women to bike. Danielle completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of La Verne with a double major in Studio Art and Psychology. In 2017, she earned a Masters in Community Psychology at Marymount California University and completed a research study focused on the challenges and motivations for biking perceived by women bicyclists in the SGV. In the process of earning her degree and interning with BikeSGV, she went from being a cautious recreational bike rider to a confident bicycle commuter and certified bicycle safety instructor. This past May, Danielle biked 335 miles through the Redwoods and along the Northern California Coast to raise awareness about human-induced climate change. She fundraised over $3,000 to support BikeSGV’s effort to reduce climate change and create a healthier, more active SGV. When she isn’t biking, you can find Danielle performing with her indie pop folk rock band, Rubbish House Goons.