A transplant from Montana, Nick has lived up and down the peninsula for 15 years. He now lives in San José with his wife, a San José native. He tries to stay plugged in with the local arts, education and maker communities. Nick has been an actor and director, a cabinet maker and now a worker in a tech field. He is also an education, public health, social justice and environmental advocate. Nick nurtured an early passion for environmental issues on expeditions with the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources. Those many journeys helped him develop an appreciation for a wide variety of topics from fire ecology to the plights of threatened salmon fisheries; from the impacts of mining on communities to the great debates about the how we access and enjoy public lands. In his time with CALA Nick hopes to develop the skills needed to organize and promote community action on initiatives affecting our local environment. As our infuriating and discouraging national politics create obstacles to smart policy around global climate change and general environmental stewardship, he aims to contribute to grassroots movements that can be meaningful to the communities that are and will be disproportionately affected by pollution, rising sea levels, and the like.
Kat is a native Californian and has lived most of her life in the South Bay. While she has always felt a connection to her community and has been concerned for the welfare of her fellow citizens, she's only become more involved in the past few years. Kat had worked as a fire fighter for over 14 years, but unfortunately the physical toll the job took on her body led to multiple injuries which eventually brought that career to an end. Kat works as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant now and spends her free time looking for other ways to benefit her community.
Kat has been active politically as a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign and has also been involved in environmental activism. She worked with The Climate Mobilization as a field mobilizer for Northern California and was trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality leader in 2015. Kat is looking forward to learning more about how she can advocate for her community and looks forward to collaborating with everyone.
A Bay Area Native, Ofelia has lived in East Oakland for about 3 years but was born and raised in the Gardens neighborhood of East Palo Alto. Ofelia holds a bachelor's degree from UC Santa Barbara in Sociology, U.S. History and Sociocultural Linguistics and a master's degree from the University of San Francisco in Urban Affairs.
Ofelia has worked with various organizations and coalitions around housing issues, with a specific focus on the needs of low-income, working-class, immigrant and communities of color. Ofelia is currently a planner on the Housing and Neighborhoods team at ABAG-MTC and is eager to continue working closely with her community in East Palo Alto. Ofelia is eternally indebted to the community that raised her and her long-term goal is to not only help stabilize vulnerable neighborhoods, but also make them vibrant, healthy, safe, culturally relevant spaces where legacy residents have the opportunity to build assets.
East Palo Alto
East Palo Alto
Serena Desai graduated from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. She received her B.S. in Biological Science and has an STS minor in Science & Risk Communication. After graduation she worked with California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, a statewide organization that assesses Marine Protected Areas along the Central Coast. Her data analysis project looked at how temperature and larger oceanic processes affect the catch rates of blue rockfish. It was through her love for the ocean and passion to help the environment that she came to CivicSpark, an Americorps program focused on addressing California's climate change and water management issues at a local level. In her second year as a CivicSpark fellow, Serena is looking forward to addressing water conservation working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District in her home city of San Jose. She truly hopes to help implement changes that help reduce carbon footprint on a local level because she believes every action has a ripple effect.
East Palo Alto
Miguel Gonzalez is a Colombian-American educator. Raised in San Jose, he started working in East Palo Alto schools in 2006 as a substitute instructor, and has since then developed his own urban arts and life-skills program. Having received his BA degree in social sciences from San Jose State University, he applies his knowledge of the various social sciences to his approach in using arts, culture, and creative expressions as vehicles for youth empowerment and transformation. He currently works with schools in San Jose, East Palo Alto, and Oakland, where he actively seeks to collaborate with other educational and youth empowerment organizations. His knowledge of cultural and intellectual arts is important in his role as a social emotional learning coach with Oxford Day Academy.
Trina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She and her husband have been residents of San Martin for two decades and her step-daughter is in college studying Animal Science. Since 2015, Trina has been the President of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance, which aims to protect San Martin’s rural integrity. Her objective has been to bridge the gap between the County and the Community and to find common ground to resolve community issues. She sits on the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee, which gives land use recommendations to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors & Planning Commission. Over the past few years Trina has written a column in her local paper, Gilroy/Morgan Hill Life, on issues as they relate to San Martin. Most recently, she has been working with others in the community to create a San Martin Chamber of Commerce. As of June 2017 Trina agreed to be their Community Liaison Director until their formal election next year. Her goal is to continue to raise awareness of our rural community, one person at a time.
Rick has been passionately involved in Redwood City affairs for several years and looks forward to continuing this work. His first volunteer endeavor was as the treasurer of the Parent Club at his kids’ school, which later turned into serving as president of the school’s Site Council. Rick created the first middle school cross-country team, which became a citywide after-school sports program. After this, as a board member of the Redwood City Education Foundation, he started and directed the city’s first half marathon and 5K to raise money for the local schools. Rick joined with his wife to volunteer and help lead several parcel tax and bond campaigns, including the first successful parcel tax in the school district’s history.
Later, when an opening came up on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, he applied and was appointed by the city council. A couple of years later, he was appointed to the Planning Commission--he is an advocate for balanced growth and protecting our quality of life. A native of New Jersey, Rick graduated from Princeton with a degree in Public and International Affairs, and later earned an MBA from UCLA. His professional career was as a CPA, although he is semi-retired. He is married to his wife, Naomi, and has three grown sons.
Flora has always been passionate about social justice and environmental issues. After earning a degree in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz, she returned to the Bay Area to work in various fields, including social service, tech, and higher education. Several years ago, she decided to pursue her dream of a career driving sustainability and completed a Master’s degree in Sustainable Management. Through this program she gained expertise in cultural transformation, renewable energy, climate change, food systems, and waste management. At that time she also served as the Environment and Natural Resource Fellow at a national nonprofit conference where she harmonized corporate and nonprofit partners to craft panel discussions on global water security, reforestation, ecological economics, life-cycle analysis, and sustainable design. After contributing research to the Sustainable San Mateo Indicators Report for 7 years, she became the Program Manager in 2015.
Riley's family has lived in Campbell for 5 generations and he has always been close to nature living across the street from the Los Gatos Creek. As a certified arborist and landscape designer, Riley's passion lies in helping the community green their living spaces and learn how to become more efficient and effective stewards of their environment. He works for an urban forestry nonprofit based in the South Bay and has many opportunities to harness civic engagement through projects and events that the group hosts. He also has opportunities to engage elected officials whom the group seeks to support their organization and its efforts. Riley is looking to gain the ability to be more effective in his leadership and communication skills to further the work he is already involved in doing in his community from CALA.
Karen became involved in civic activism through a Participatory Budget process that was taking place in her neighborhood. She was concerned about the negative turn the process was taking and decided to get involved. Doing so awakened a long-forgotten interest in civic and social issues that she had developed in college while studying international relations and political science. Last year, Karen joined her neighborhood association to help her neighborhood flourish. She saw the NA as a natural advocacy platform for the community, and she became Vice President this past January. Since then, she has been interested in doing more for her community and the larger region. As her awareness has evolved, she has expanded her interests from a very local focus to issues that involve more than just her neighborhood. Karen believes personal interests must be balanced with regional and global interests for the best solutions. Through the neighborhood association, she has gotten involved in many different issues that affect her community. She is currently on the Community Working Group for High Speed Rail, advocating for specific alignments that will better preserve her neighborhood in San Jose. Recently homelessness has come into the forefront in the Bay Area and she would like to become more involved in looking for positive solutions that involve the community and are compassionate, integrated and effective. Karen is really looking forward to learning more about how to be an effective advocate, especially in terms of influencing government and positive change
Jay is a native Californian raised in Cupertino, CA with an engineering and psychology degree from Santa Clara University. While raising his three grown children, he coached many youth sports teams and volunteered with several organizations serving marginalized youth. Currently, he's a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in San Mateo County where he advocates for teenage boys on behalf of juvenile court judges. Over the course of his professional career, he co-founded a handful of software startup companies and also worked within large organizations including Apple and Cisco, leading new business and corporate change initiatives. He is now applying his business, IT and organization development skills to support the growth and development of marginalized youth. Jay's vision is to ensure that all youth in child welfare have access to the opportunities and life experiences needed to develop into valued members of their community. To get there, he believes that individuals and businesses in local communities must supplement the efforts of non-profits and governmental agencies.
Rebecca, born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Daly City about 5 years ago. After earning her bachelor's degree in nutritional science, Rebecca continued her educational career at the University of San Francisco where she earned a Master of Public Affairs. Passionate about food justice and environmental justice, Rebecca aspires to work at the intersection of these important causes. She believes that in order to protect and restore our environment, the food system, from soil to consumer, must be reformed from its current state to one that is ecologically sound and sustainable. In addition to protecting the environment, Rebecca’s lifelong mission is to help end global hunger.
Nicole has always been interested in helping others. She started with helping dogs find good homes and has moved to helping her neighborhood out to wanting to help those that don't have a voice because of their age. She is currently interested in helping children that come from abusive homes. Their age limits them in what they can do for themselves and our system does not seem to understand that they need an advocate that can speak for them and that an attorney is not always the best fit. Nicole wants to speak for them through our government officials and the court system.
Chiseche Salome Mibenge holds a PhD in International Human Rights Law and is the author of Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative’ (Penn Press 2013). As part of her doctoral research, Chiseche conducted fieldwork in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. In her current position, Director of Community Engaged Learning for Human Rights at Stanford University, she promotes and facilitates experiential and rights based approaches to learning through: curriculum development with instructors; and relationship building between the University and community organizations. Some of her Bay Area partners include Africa Advocacy Network, Menlo Park Police Department, and Samaritan House. Prior to her work at Stanford, Chiseche was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York. She taught human rights courses to graduate and undergraduate students and led a study abroad tour to Chile allowing students to experience community based research and advocacy with indigenous communities. Her community service in NYC included volunteering as an advocate for survivors in emergency departments under the North Central Bronx Hospital Sexual Assault Treatment Program. Chiseche is also a creative writer and is a Columbia Journal Winter Contest for her short story ‘The Protected Party’ (Spring 2017).
Nature has always been Jane's passion, oasis, teacher, and delight. Her protective environmental outlook and approach was influenced by her German up-bring, and this has drawn her to becoming involved in diverse local environmental issues. Jane is currently the Santa Cruz Bird Club Conservation Officer, a member of the Sierra Club Executive and Conservation Committee, and a member of the Valley Women’s Club Board. In the past, she participated in the San Lorenzo River Task Force, San Lorenzo Paddle Pilot Program Advisory Group, and Riverwalk Summit.
During Jane's involvements in environmental initiatives she has realized that the environment and its needs are low on the priority list of government decision-makers. She has also learned that positive environmental change can be achieved by determined, well-thought-out, hard work. Jane is excited to participate in CALA because she is eager to learn how to place the environmental voice successfully at the local government decision-making table.
Mitchell is a native of San Diego but has lived in the Bay Area for 23 years. A former high school math teacher, he now works at Save The Bay as a Regional Political Organizer. Over the last 8 years he has worked on political campaigns as a staffer and consultant ranging from city council and school board to U.S. Congress. He also worked as the San Mateo County Regional Organizer on the successful Measure AA campaign in 2016. He hopes to expand on that experience and deepen ties to the region-wide political landscape and increase his understanding and knowledge of the unique issues related to the work of protecting and restoring our natural resources--particularly the Bay and shoreline. He lives in Redwood City with his wife, niece, and two dogs.
Smita was born in India and grew up in San José. In 2002, she and her cousins in the foothills of the Himalayas launched the Mountain Children's Foundation, which works to empower young people in mountain regions to transform their communities from the ground up. She also volunteers as a mentor for foster youth and is involved with a number of other nonprofit organizations working on a variety of issues. At the local level, she is passionate about protecting our wilderness and its inhabitants — especially the South Bay's unique and beautiful Coyote Valley — and finding real solutions to the crises of homelessness and mental illness in our county.
She is dismayed by the lack of civility and informed discussion in the current political and social discourse and is looking to CALA to learn how to facilitate more productive conversations, mobilize support and action, and become a more effective leader and organizer.
Peter Ruddock is a sustainable food advocate and small business consultant. He is working toward creating a more sustainable world, by changing the way we interact with our environment and with each other. He concentrates on food systems change, because given that everyone eats everyone should be able to relate to a healthier, more sustainable food system. He believes that there are four areas where he can best work on fostering this change: educating people about sustainability, creating a resilient local economy, creating vibrant local communities, and changing policies to foster these other changes. He is active in a number of grassroots non-profits to help accomplish these goals: Slow Food, Slow Money, Transition Palo Alto, and the San Mateo County Food System Alliance. He is the Coordinator of the California Food Policy Council. And he is also a co-founder of EcoFarm's new Diversity Advisory Group, which is working to make the EcoFarm Conference a more diverse and inclusive place.
East Palo Alto
A native of the Jersey Shore, Emily Schwing came to the Bay Area by way of the University of South Alabama where she earned a B.S. in Meteorology (2011). Emily earned her M.A. in Communication Studies at San José State University (2014) with a focus on Environmental Communication. In her current role as Development Communications Manager at Veggielution Community Farm, Emily coordinates Veggielution’s overall communication strategy across a variety of media platforms. She is responsible for implementing the farm’s education and community engagement programs including Veggielution Cocina, a community cooking class series. A longtime surfer, Emily is now an avid backpacker. When she’s not on the farm, she can be found in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Erica is a Milpitas native who spent a long time living in San Jose and now lives in Santa Cruz. She has always been interested in environmental protection and regeneration. Erica serves as secretary for her local Sierra Club group,which addresses issues ranging from transportation to forestry. She had the honor of representing the Sierra Club for her city's Water Supply Advisory Committee, which created a water plan for Santa Cruz. Erica has a five year old boy who likes to cook and loves being outdoors and rides on the back of her cargo bike for trips around town. Currently she is interested in the possibility of public banking to create a systems change by empowering communities to use their funds locally while divesting from oil pipelines.
Cindy has always been passionate about social justice issues and helping others. Her activism and community involvement began in high school where she focused on youth mentorship, advocacy, and volunteerism. This passion continued during her undergraduate studies on race and ethnicity at Stanford University and graduate school studies at Hunter College School of Social Work in New York.
Cindy has worked as a facilitator for public speaking, community organizer for academic equity, and mental health worker. Currently as a health educator, she is committed to improving the physical and emotional health of young people, due to the growth in both childhood obesity and mental health issues. As a native of San Mateo, Cindy is concerned about the population growth and gentrification of the Bay Area, and its impact on open space. She is interested in addressing the growing fear among immigrant communities due to the current xenophobic climate.
Cindy looks forward to the opportunity within CALA to network, think, and innovate among community advocates. Cindy desires to catapult herself into a more active role in community advocacy...she feels like she has been dormant for too long and is ready to organize! She currently lives in San Bruno with her husband and 2 year old daughter.