Previous Classes

Class of 2018-2019

San Jose

Jaime Angulo

Jaime Angulo is a native of Colombia who trained as a Mechanical Engineer, specializing in metal structures and modular housing construction. He came to California in 2000 to work on a manufactured migrant farm workers housing project in the Central Valley. In 2001 he married Dayana Salazar, a San Jose State University Urban Planning professor. In 2002 Jaime and Dayana settled in San Jose and Jaime starting working for Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley (NHSSV) as their Community Building and Organizing Program manager.

NHSSV and United Neighborhoods of Santa Clara County developed the Responsible Landlord Engagement Initiative (RLEI) and appointed Jaime to lead the program. Today, after 6 years, RLEI has become a recognized community inspired tool that helps neighborhood groups resolve problem property issues, ensuring that neighborhoods stay safe and healthy. In 2015, the RLEI program found a new home with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Jaime continues in his role as manager of RLEI with the plan to growth and expansion of the program in Santa Clara County. Jaime and Dayana live in downtown San Jose with their 10-year old son Kai.

Palo Alto

Patricia Becker and Health News You Can Use at She also recommends products including Organic Body Care, Health Foods, Yoga Props and Books at BESTHealthCare.

Patricia has 25 years of education, expertise and practical experience. Her nutrition study is steeped in ancient Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines. She teaches yoga based on the Principles of Alignment and is a certified Yoga Alliance RYT®. She is also part time Yoga Instructor for Stanford University’s Health Improvement Program.


Robin Brune

Robin Brune has been a resident of the San Lorenzo Valley, in the Santa Cruz mountains, for fourteen years. She looks forward to strengthening her skills in advocacy and civic engagement through the Community Advocates Leadership Academy.

San Jose

Alba Cardenas

Alba is interested in bridging the community with information they need. Alba is bilingual which helps her reach communities that otherwise would not learn what is affecting their environment and how it impacts their lives. Alba is passionate about the access that communities have to green spaces, as well as making a change to improve or increase those opportunities. She is looking forward to learning many tools and network connections in CALA to aid in her community advocacy.

San Jose

Shay Franco-Clausen

Shay Franco-Clausen is a mother, activist, mentor, change-maker, nonprofit founder and wife, who find ways to serve as a voice for those whom have lost theirs.

A “protector of Women’s, LGBTQA, Environmental and Human Rights,” Shay finds her way to take her rightful place at many decision-making tables. Always advocating for policies changes that benefit “all people” of her community, Shay serves on many boards and commissions. Being the first Afro-Latina, Lesbian to serve as Chair the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women, Chair Justice and Advocacy Committee, past member of the Santa Clara County IPV – Domestic Violence Task Force, Norcal Representative for Association of California Commissions for Woman, President of the Silicon Valley African American Democratic Coalition, Chair of the San Jose Evergreen Green Valley College Bond Oversight Committee and Director of Outreach and Communication for Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee, to name a few.

A champion in the fight for socioeconomic, racial, and gender equity, Shay is the Director of Development and Government Relations for a local Nonprofit, Silicon Valley FACES, using her lens to serve the K -12 students. In the school communities, Shay know the importance of teaching empathy and understanding, as a guide to building stronger communities. In January, with her passion and love for open space and conservation, Shay will be elected to serve 4 years on the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, representing District 5. Shay is a mother of 5 wonderful children, with her wife Yolanda, who is a Law School student that serves in Palo Alto Police Department. Shay values her life experiences, as the impetus to her passion for serving.


Andrea Fraume-Valencia

Andrea Fraume Valencia has been calling the Bay Area “home” since 2005. She was raised to believe in improving the world for future generations and care for the environment. Living and studying in San Jose gave young Andrea the safety to apply these lessons, serve her local community and learn about social justice. Andrea currently works as an Outreach Coordinator for Bay Area Wilderness Training, bringing resources for educators and youth workers to lead outdoor trips for youth of color and young people from low-income backgrounds.

San Carlos

Kathleen Goforth

Kathleen grew up on the East Coast, went to college in the Midwest, and has lived in San Carlos for over 30 years. For most of her adult life she has worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional office in San Francisco, where she currently manages the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) program. Kathleen has a B.S. in Science and Environmental Change, with an emphasis on biology, and is a Certified California Naturalist. She volunteers as a docent, Education Center host, and citizen scientist at Edgewood Preserve in Redwood City, and serves on the board of the Friends of Edgewood.

She has completed the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability’s (OS) Master Conservation and Master Composter training programs, and periodically volunteers to assist with public outreach for OS programs and Peninsula Clean Energy. She has also been trained in crisis response by the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

Kathleen loves working with children. She has enrolled in CALA to learn how she can be most effective in working at the local/regional level to: ensure that Peninsula communities continue to be leaders in combating and adapting to climate change; support the well-being of foster children; and generate public support for the restoration and protection of native ecosystems. When not working or volunteering, she can often be found puttering around in her yard, which she is trying to transform into a locally native wildflower garden.

San Mateo

Jessica Gonzalez

Jessica Gonzalez is the first generation in her family to attend college. She has lived locally in San Mateo for 27 years. She works as a Para Educator for the San Mateo Foster City School District. Jessica is involved with my community through volunteering in public schools and with a non-profit organization called Faith In Action. She is a leader for San Mateo Unidos where they gather once a week to be in community. The impact she hopes to make is to inspire our future generations and continue to fight for equity for everyone. Jessica enjoys going on hikes and finding a good bite for pizza.

San Jose

Rick Holder

Born and raised in the city of San Bernardino, California, Rick Holder is intimately familiar with the challenges of concentrated poverty, mass incarceration, and civic disengagement. After a rather tumultuous childhood spent in the foster care system, Rick enlisted in the United States Navy as an Information Systems Technician. His six-years of service took him on a journey around the globe aboard the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser ported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Having recently separated from active duty, Rick is currently studying Economics and Political Science at Foothill College with the hopes of transferring to a four-year university to study Public Policy. He’s been extremely active in his post-military life, interning with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and the California Wilderness Coalition while also working part-time at two technology companies. Profoundly passionate about all matters pertaining to poverty, criminal justice, veterans, and climate change, Rick hopes to have the opportunity to channel his endless energy and passion to affect real change in his community and beyond.

An avid reader and writer, Rick hopes to one day pen his own novel, but until then he’ll be content with traveling the world with his lovely wife Leslie and caring for their adorable Australian Shepherd. His mission is leverage his energy, passion, and experience to uplifting and empowering society’s most marginalized individuals and communities. Although he doesn’t know what the future holds, he knows for certain that he’ll continue to serve in whatever capacity he can, whether as an elected official or as a highly engaged community advocate.

Moss Beach

Kris Lannin Liang

Kris is a third-generation Bay Area native that spent the better part of her youth in forts, forests, playgrounds, and city, county and state parks. She rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial mammals and birds, and advocates for protecting them, and their onshore and offshore environments. As a University of California Certified Naturalist, she educates the public about the importance of restoring, protecting and utilizing our biodiverse communities to improve human health as well as the health of our planet. Kris is excited to meet and collaborate with people committed to positive change, and learn from people that have been successful in their endeavors.

Moss Beach

Mary Larenas

Dr. Mary Larenas possesses a BA in Biology and a Doctorate in Psychology. During her Post-Doc as a Neuropsychologist with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center Mary became fascinated with how the brain responds to the natural environment and how wilderness experiences are vital to good mental health. During her 64 years on planet earth, she participated in two Arctic expeditions, traveling by canoe, with no outside contact, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Each trip was almost 40 days long and over a 1000 miles in length. Mary and her husband lived on a sailboat for 12 years and traveled over 30,000 miles on their 30-foot sailboat to the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. Mary has been actively involved in advocating for sensible development, gender equity, the right to die with dignity, Marine Protected Areas, open-space and natural resource protection. Currently, she is a Docent naturalist at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (FMR) in Moss Beach. Her passion is working alongside the County Parks Dept., N.O.A.A., Fish and Wildlife, community members and other stakeholders to update policies that protect the fragile habitats at FMR, which has been designated an Area of Special Biological Significance.

Palo Alto

Ava Lindstrom

Ava is a native of Illinois and has worked for Committee for Green Foothills for several years; she currently manages development and communications. As an officer with the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, she hopes to create a better and more just Silicon Valley. Ava graduated from Stanford University with a degree in French and enjoys reading, trivia games, and pictures of adorable reptiles.

San Martin

Connie Ludwig

Connie has been a resident of San Martin since 1988, and resides with her husband on the land where six generations of the Ludewig family have lived. Together they enjoy their two cats in the yard, family, and traveling. As a former board member of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance (SMNA), she has taken concerns to the county, and worked to develop relationships with officials. She has also co-chaired fundraisers to support community needs, and is an advocate for the San Martin community.

Following the 2017 storm-related contamination of San Martin, Connie researched and brought awareness to residents and the authorities about recurring raw sewage spills from Morgan Hill to San Martin during the past several years. She continues to work to establish solutions to these problems (including 204,000 gallons of sewage released into Llagas Creek).

During the past year, Connie has been the Membership Director of the San Martin Chamber of Commerce (SMCoC), established in 2017. She also writes their quarterly newsletter, and a bi-monthly article in the GMH Today magazine, featuring the Chamber. Connie’s hopes are to gain proficient skills for successful community leadership, and to implement positive changes in San Martin.

San Carlos

Jay Macintosh

Jay is a native Californian raised in Cupertino, CA with an engineering and psychology degree from Santa Clara University. He’s been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in San Mateo County the past few years where he advocates for youth on behalf of the juvenile court. Jay’s mission is to ensure that all foster children know that they matter a great deal to their local community. This occurs when a multitude of community members show up to lend a hand. To achieve this, he’s orchestrating an effort to make it easy for individuals, businesses and other organizations to find, connect and contribute resources to a specific foster child at the time of need.

Redwood City

Alison Madden

Alison lives in Redwood City in a floating community that they are trying to save initially through advocacy and now in the realm of litigation (unfortunately, as last resort). A fun fact about Alison is that she lives on a houseboat. She has always been involved in community activities, mostly access to services and voting, until she realized the importance of civic and citizen engagement in the planning process. Alison seeks, as a resident, voter and mom, to improve civic engagement and the focus of councils onto the people, not just the projects and the money.

San Jose

Cherise Orange

A true Marylander, Cherise Orange has always strived to build bridges instead of walls. From helping organizing community events as a young child to a volunteer planner at Baltimore’s Neighborhood Design Center. It is her love of people and building stronger Black communities that pushed her path toward planning. In 2013, she graduated from Morgan State University with a Masters in City and Regional Planning and was recognized by the American Planning Association (APA) Planning in the Black Community Division as a Robert A. Catlin/David W. Long Scholar.

Today, Cherise is an Associate Planner for Santa Clara County Parks where she focuses on innovatively engaging the public in the planning process and getting people outdoors. Cherise serves as the Board of Directors Chair for the African American Community Service Agency in San Jose and on the APA – Northern California Section Board as the South Bay Regional Activity Coordinator. In these roles, she hopes to implement changes that will help minorities to thrive in Silicon Valley.

San Jose

Julianna Page

J’ana Page is Bay Area born and raised. She is a full time student and part time barista. She is majoring in political science at San Jose State University and graduates in spring 2019. In her free time she volunteers for campaigns and find ways to help her local community. Her ultimate goal is to better the world in big or small ways.

San Francisco

Alexii Sigona

Alexii is an undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco (USF) in the department of Environmental Studies. A proud member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band located here in the Bay Area, Alexii is deeply interested in the intersections between indigenous knowledge and environmental issues at the local level. He is very active on campus at USF and continuously works to bring indigenous voices to academic settings. He also works part-time for the Amah Mutsun Land Trust which works to restore traditional Amah Mutsun territory and bring back Native plants, cultures, and traditions. He hopes to learn how to effectively work with local communities to improve settler colonial relations and protect our open spaces and ecosystems. Alexii plans to attend graduate school and study food sovereignty and indigenous land rights.

Mountain View

Barb Singleton

Barb has been a strong advocate for the issues close to her heart. As an amateur violist who got her start in public school beginning strings class, she has a passion for children’s music education, all performing arts, and live orchestral music. This led her to work at a professional symphony as a development manager.

During the 2012 presidential election cycle, Barb was in charge of contributions to political campaigns for Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered food (GMO’s). The outpouring of passion from contributors inside and outside of California for this ballot measure showed Barb what could be accomplished when people join together. Sparked by this job, she joined the League of Women Voters, started a Money In Politics committee, organized and promoted the City of Emeryville’s City Council and School Board Candidates forums and accompanied the Mayor and City Manager to speak to the public about the issues.

After moving to Mountain View in late 2016 for a cyber security position at NASA, Barb became more aware of the extreme issues facing Silicon Valley including the housing shortage and inequity. This prompted Barb to return to a career in the nonprofit sector. Recently, Barb has volunteered with, Innovate Climate Action in Sunnyvale, and STEAMfest – Redwood City Library Foundation.

Barb is originally from Southern California and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Business Management from Pepperdine University and a MS in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Redwood City

Michael Smith

Mr. Smith is the founder and CEO of E&I Advisors, a boutique management consulting firm focused on delivering operating and go-to-market strategy for small and medium-sized technology companies that are struggling to meet their revenue goals. He is also an Assistant Professor of Business at Cañada College in Redwood City where he teaches courses on business law, entrepreneurship, and strategy.

Prior to the founding of E&I Advisors, Mr. Smith was a Director of Strategy and Business Planning at American Express based in New York. In this role, he worked in the Global Corporate Payments business unit focusing on innovation and target growth development.

Mr. Smith also lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea as a Global Strategist for the Samsung organization. While at Samsung, he advised c-suite members of the company on market entry, competition, and mergers & acquisitions. He also spent several years on Wall St as an investor and relationship manager.

Mr. Smith lives in Redwood City where he serves as a Planning Commissioner and the Palm Park Neighborhood Co-chair. Michael holds an MBA from New York Univeristy’s Stern School of Business. He also holds a BA in Political Economy from Yale University.

San Jose

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren is a staff attorney for the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. His work includes litigating fair housing matters in state and federal courts as well as advocating for the production and preservation of affordable housing locally. Through his practice, Matt works to combat displacement of households of color from the diverse communities of Silicon Valley. Matt graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law, where he was a Dean’s Fellow. He received a Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights from Arizona State University, and he received his undergraduate degree from Gonzaga University.

San Jose

Elaine Bauer

San Carlos

Diego Castro

San Jose

Stephanie Flores

San Jose

Diego Martinez


Deepti Nanawati

Class of 2017-2018

Palo Alto

Kathy Alford

Kathy is a native Californian, having lived here all but 21 months of her life. She earned a B.A. in Photojournalism from SJSU, and has worked in horticulture since the late 90s, becoming a California Certified Nursery Professional in 2003, an ISA Certified Arborist in 2006, a UCCE Master Gardener in 2013, and an ISA Tree Risk Qualified in 2017. Kathy founded her tree care business in 2001. Kathy started volunteering with Canopy, Palo Alto’s tree advocacy non-profit, in 2007 as a planting leader. She was quickly invited to join the Program Committee, is a founding member of the Tree Care Subcommittee, and has been a Pruning Instructor and Supervisor since 2012. She’s now a part time Canopy employee, with the title Tree Care Specialist. Working with Canopy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of Kathy’s life, enabling her to combine work she loves to do with her continued passion for the environment. Following completion of the Community Advocates and Leadership Academy, Kathy is looking forward to providing a more proactive role in the environmental non-profit sector.

San Jose

Nick Allen

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.

San Carlos

J.R. Bae

J.R. lives with her family in San Carlos and works as an attorney, educator, and nonprofit administrator. She has been engaged in volunteer community service continuously for over 40 years. By gardening with senior citizens, representing women seeking asylum from the Democratic Republic of Congo, tutoring and mentoring struggling and underserved students, and serving as a community mediator and facilitator, she has lived her commitment to advancing the common good through personal service.

She enrolled in the CALA class in order to strengthen her advocacy and civic engagement skills so that she could be more effective in her work to assure that the most vulnerable people in our community have equal access to social services and civil justice.

San Jose

Kat Baumgartner

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.


Ofelia Bello

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.

Menlo Park

Lauren Bigelow

A native Texan, Lauren came to the Bay Area in 2010 with a family that’s passionate about engaging with and protecting the natural world. She has been an active member of the Silicon Valley progressive community for the past 8 years. After receiving a BS in Psychology and Social Action, Lauren began working with regional nonprofits on a variety of social justice issues. She brings more than a decade of marketing and community experience to her work at Palo Alto Housing, a local affordable housing nonprofit where she manages the City of Palo Alto Below-Market-Rate (BMR) rental and ownership programs, Mountain View Employee Homebuyer Loan Program and most recently, the City of Mountain View’s BMR rental and purchase programs.  A recent graduate of CGF’s Community Advocates Leadership Academy, Lauren is delighted to be part of the advisory board and lend any help she can in the endeavor to use land well.

East Palo Alto

Andrew Boone

Andrew Boone has lived in the Bay Area for ten years, and over that time has persistently pushed policy makers to invest in better infrastructure for people walking and bicycling. Andrew holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. Andrew presses for improvements to public streets that prioritize walking and bicycling as modes of transportation, via the public input processes various bicycle and pedestrian transportation plans, land use specific plans and El Camino Real “corridor plans”, and office space developments. Andrew has worked as a journalist since 2013, first for Streetsblog San Francisco before founding his own People Powered Press in 2015.

San Carlos

Matthew Burrows

Matt, a native of Los Altos, is an old Greenfeet hand, having served on our Board from 2006 to 2014, including multiple years as President. His knowledge of our organization and long-time commitment for our mission are welcome additions. When not spouting unfounded opinions at our board meetings and events, Matt works in the automotive industry and also administrates the Frank Burrows Memorial Scholarship in east San Jose. He lives in San Carlos and enjoys hiking and traveling while he’s not working or volunteering with us.

San Jose

Serena Desai

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.

San Jose

Miguel Gonzalez

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.


Bill Grove

Bill is a retired physician who is concerned with the degradation of our environment and global warming. He believes we need fair solutions to local, national and global health policy issues as well as social and economic injustice. Bill is currently involved in his community disaster preparedness group as a CERT member, neighborhood organizer and Ham radio operator. The news paints a bleak polarized world which is mired in intransigence. In contrast, Bill sees the world not in black and white, in right and wrong, in us versus them, but in shades of gray. He hopes to learn how to be more effective in resolving competing interests and working with compromise when necessary to achieve win-win outcomes that move forward.

San Martin

Trina Hineser

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.

Redwood City

Rick Hunter

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.

San Jose

Flora Kaplan

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 Knight

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.

San Jose

Karen Lattin

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.

Daly City

Rebecca McDowell

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. ​

San Jose

Nicole McLane

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.

Menlo Park

Chiseche Mibenge

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).

Santa Cruz

Jane Mio

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.

San Jose

Mackenzie Mossing

Mackenzie’s life has been shaped by a love for all animals domestic and wild. She grew up in San Jose and attended Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, where she initially started on the pre-veterinary track. But those plans changed when Mackenzie started working for a wildlife rescue and education facility during her junior year of college. Through that job, she came to learn about local and global threats to wildlife, and decided to change her career path to focus on wildlife conservation. Mackenzie spent a summer interning for the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia and then went on to intern for Save the Elephants in Kenya after completing her degree. Now, she work for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society as an Environmental Advocacy Associate, where she is focused on establishing a future for wildlife and nature in Santa Clara County.

Redwood City

Mitchell Oster

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.

San Jose

Smita Patel

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

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.

San Jose

Emily Schwing

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.

San Jose

Nicole Shaddox

Nicole Shaddox lives in San Jose, CA with her husband, Francisco, and daughter, Samantha. Nicole was a teen mom and after graduating high school, she went to school to become a Certified Medical Assistant. As a medical assistant, she worked in low cost and free clinics in the bay area. She currently works for the nonprofit Helping Parents Helping Parents. Working as an Education Specialist, helping families of children with disabilities. She is also a volunteer CASA (Court Appoint Special Advocate) for foster youth.

She is one of the founding members and current Executive Board Officers of the CUHSD Education Foundation. She has been a dedicated volunteer for the past decade. She was an active volunteer at her daughter’s elementary and middle schools. When her daughter entered high school at Westmont she decided to become very involved in supporting the Westmont community and CUHSD. In the last four years, she has been part of the Westmont PTSA board, the last two years as president and grad night chair. She was on Westmont’s School Site Council. She is also part of the LCAP and Financial Advisory committees at CUHSD. In 2016, she co-chaired the CUHSD Measure AA campaign.

Her dedication to advocating and volunteering on behalf of today’s youth does not stop there, she is also part of organizations that support and advocates for foster and LBGTQ youth. Also, she is part of organizations that support youth in need of mental health, special education, and teen parents. Nicole’s has a passion for advocating for human, social and civil rights.

Santa Cruz

Erica Stanojevic

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.

San Bruno

Cindy Urquidez

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.

San Mateo

Megan Waters

Megan grew up in Maryland, just outside D.C., but has called the Peninsula home for the past two years. After a brief stint as a college swim coach, having swum competitively in college herself, Megan was inspired by her student-athletes to pursue a career in the field of sustainability. She began her career volunteering with Rock Creek Conservancy to remove invasive species from the nation’s second oldest park, until landing an internship in D.C. with the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) . At NARC, Megan supported the transportation team in developing a Solar in Transportation toolkit, which outlined actions and funding sources available to local governments.

Shortly thereafter, in November of 2015, Megan accepted an AmeriCorps position here in the Bay Area. The AmericCorps position was through a Governor’s Initiative program called CivicSpark, designed to increase the capacity of local governments in California to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change. Partnering with the County of San Mateo and City of Foster City, Megan focused her AmeriCorps year on water conservation, after which she was hired full-time by the County to assist with the Schools program to promote the 4R’s of waste reduction (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot-compost). Now, Megan serves the County as the Commute Alternatives Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability, encouraging and supporting County employees in taking transit, carpooling, and walking or biking to work.

In her spare time, Megan still dabbles in coaching with the San Mateo Master’s team, and enjoys rock climbing, biking to work, knitting, and cooking. She is excited to be able to share her experiences with and learn from her CALA group, in preparation for a waste reduction campaign she is planning for a multi-family housing development in San Mateo.

Palo Alto

Vibha Akkaraju

San Jose

Donna Cortez

San Jose

Cynthia Denny

San Jose

Mariska Gaska

Redwood City

Elizabeth Softky

Redwood City

Vilami Young

Class of 2016-2017


Kelli Brownell

My interest in civic engagement began in college with a class on the politics and ethics of public service. Since then, I worked as a fundraiser for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization, and the Ada Initiative, an organization that supported women in open technology and culture. I’ve also worked as a web developer for nonprofits across many areas. I have found that the the CALA curriculum and speakers, their wisdom, their diverse experiences, and their resilience, have really helped me think about how to take practical and effective action for positive change.

Half Moon Bay

Valdeir Faria Filho

I was born in Brazil, grew up in California, and lived a fairly nomadic life until recently. In each place I’ve lived, I’ve tried to engage with the needs of the local community, whether by volunteering at local orphanages, working at a poll booth, or assisting with community-led projects. Human development is the cause I feel most invested in and it brings me so much happiness to see people succeed and reinvest in their own communities. I’d like to use my own success to help my community, and CALA is the perfect fit for that goal. I knew that I would learn about things that have sparked my curiosity for a long time like community leadership, communication, and organizational structure. It’s been a great program and I have enjoyed every class.


Rani Fischer

I am an environmentalist from Sunnyvale. I signed up for CALA in order to learn how to influence legislation through community engagement. As a member of Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action, my advocacy is centered on climate issues and tree protection. I also work as a church organist.

East Palo Alto

Uriel Hernandez

Uriel Hernandez grew up exploring the bay area from his home in East Palo Alto. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College where he studied Architecture and History. Living in rural Vermont while studying how spaces and stories fit together, he developed a love for easily accessible green spaces for recreation and contemplation. He brought this love back to East Palo Alto through his work at Canopy where he organized community tree plantings and advocated for more green space from 2015-2018. Uriel has a special fondness for trees and is an ISA-certified arborist.In 2017 Uriel joined the City of East Palo Alto Planning Commission. In 2018 he was made Vice Chair.His hobbies still include exploring the bay area in search of unique places, special parks, and public space treasures. His favorite places include the baylands around East Palo Alto. He dreams of the day when he can bike along the bay through a green corridor from East Palo Alto to San Francisco.

Redwood City

Jessica Huckabay

As a professional health educator, I see the impact of chronic health conditions and health disparities on a daily basis. My work is all about improving the health outcomes of older adults. As an advocate for this population, I have dedicated my professional career to creating and implementing programs that address their highly sensitive needs. I credit much of my professional success to the relationships I have built in the community while engaging policy makers and advocating for community -based organizations.

San Carlos

Deb Kramer

I run an organization called Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful: my vision is a community that works together for a vibrant, healthy creek. Coyote Creek has suffered from poor “public relations,” most recently with the 2017 Coyote Creek flood. However, through increased community awareness efforts, many people now have a more positive view of the creek and are motivated to restore and preserve it. The CALA program has helped me in my work with a core group of community advocates on the creation of Coyote Meadows, an urban open space park. CALA has shown me how to use communication and leadership skills to improve collaboration among diverse groups working on a common cause.

Los Gatos

Terian Lee

I’m really interested in civic processes, I follow water issues in the news, and last year I became a Community Emergency Response Team member. I’ve volunteered for diverse causes such as literacy and voter registration, and recently through online groups, I’ve become increasingly involved in local issues. CALA’s broad overview of networking and organizing has helped me become more effective when assessing the needs of others and their involvement in a given cause. CALA has introduced me to a new approach that has improved the way I advocate for local causes.

South San Francisco

Margaret Li

I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Hawaii when I was ten. I feel that I gained a good perspective on life from living in paradise and then moving out of it. I learned to appreciate the beauty of nature and its vulnerability to development. I became really interested in urban planning and joined the Sierra Club. As an environmental engineer, I understand the importance of the balancing sustainability and development. I’m a dedicated advocate for clean energy initiatives and for shifting attitudes about clean energy. CALA is a vital community of passionate advocates who want to make a difference and make me proud to be involved.

El Granada

Eliza Manchester

My family has been in the Bay Area for generations and I am a proud resident of the coastal community of San Mateo. I have worked with many public officials over the years and have served as an advocate for environmental issues like reducing the use of plastic bags. I am passionate about identifying ways to maintain the beauty of our Coastside while promoting sustainable, eco-friendly growth for recreation and affordable housing.

The CALA program is a great opportunity to learn more about pertinent challenges facing the Bay Area. The best part of CALA was networking with other community leaders attending the class. I know I will see many of my classmates advocating for important causes in the future and I look forward to working with all of them! I currently work for the Economic and Community Development Department at the City of South San Francisco and can be reached at [email protected]

San Mateo

Jude Martin

I grew up in the small town of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I like to say that like Don Ameche and Orson Welles, I moved out of Kenosha to see the world. My work for greater inclusivity is influenced by the anti-war activists, feminists, and racial equality advocates I met at University of Illinois in the 70’s, from working to teach nutrition and health, to helping secure dignity and respect for our elders, to empowering youth to make a difference.

Moss Beach

Barbra Mathewson

I’ve lived in my community in the unincorporated Coastside for over 40 years, and my community has seen many proposals for poorly-planned development following a change in our water laws. I’ve become a passionate advocate for Coastside open lands, and am committed to fighting unrealistic development. I worked for PG&E for 45 years and after my retirement I felt it was time to give back but I was uncertain how best to do it. CALA and Committee for Green Foothills gave me the perfect platform to learn how to make a difference.

Redwood City

Shab Nemati

I’m heavily involved in Redwood City’s public North Star Academy and serve as a Park, Recreation, and Community Service Commissioner, all while working full-time as a realtor. I care deeply about education and supplementing our school with enrichment to address the dearth in funding in our community. I have overseen the creation of 8 after-school programs at North Star Academy and also rolled out a Persian Immersion preschool class at the Park and Rec Center in Redwood City. CALA is a wonderful supportive community that has taught me to look beyond my perceived boundaries and overcome obstacles to reach my goals, however unattainable or difficult they seem.


Albert Nguyen

I am a resident of Sunnyvale, California, and have lived in Santa Clara County for the past 6 years. I am passionate about my work in the field of mental health and social work. I advocate for victims of child abuse, suicide, bullying, youth violence, and individuals afflicted by trauma. I attribute much of my drive to make a difference to my many years of martial arts training and practice. I am passionate about making an impact on the on other’s quality of life, especially for those who are marginalized, disenfranchised or oppressed. CALA provides a blueprint for the development of great leadership.

San Jose

Ravi Pathak

I’m a devoted father and husband, and although I work for a large tech company my true passion is public service. I’ve assisted nonprofits like the Art Of Living, Care for Children, Rotary Club, the Evergreen Cultural Association, and the American Heart Association. I also enjoy learning to fly small airplanes, acting on stage and television, and participating in various adventure sports such as paragliding. I’ve even won a national award for sketching!

San Jose

Nancy Paul

I have been a public school teacher in San Jose for almost 20 years. While I am devoted to all children, my particular passion is closing the achievement/opportunity gap for African-American and Latino children. CALA has given me the skills I need to pursue projects over time that will help me contribute to closing that gap.


Christopher Sturken

I’m a Belmont native. I was a SF State Environmental Studies student and part-time grocery clerk; now I’m a CivicSpark Fellow for the City of Hayward Environmental Services Department and a tenant/immigrant rights advocate. At Hayward, I do greenhouse gas emissions reporting and promote community engagement through environmental programs. Back home, I organize with One San Mateo to advance tenants rights; and, I present before local government councils to enhance immigrant protections. CALA has taught me how to empower my community to influence local government policy.


Sridhar Subramaniam

I am a Silicon Valley tech industry veteran looking to use technology to help address climate change. I’m especially interested in energy usage and the potential of time-shift technology to mitigate it. CALA has helped me identify a place where my goals for my business and my environmental values intersect. The leadership and advocacy skills covered in the program have helped me during recent conversations with energy utilities and companies.

San Jose

Yvette Valenzuela

I was born in El Paso Texas but relocated to San Jose at age 4 and never left. I believe I was born an advocate, and now I am now 40 years old and can say that every year I am a part of something that not only makes me grow as a person but gives me helpful things to pass on to others as well. My latest project is bringing a Greenmarket-style farmer’s market to California. New York’s Greenmarket has been going on for over 40 years now, and I believe if it can happen in a state with winter it can definitely happen in the Valley of Heart’s Delight! I think that the Community Advocates Leadership Academy (CALA) is providing a specialized training not currently found elsewhere, even in high-ranking universities. Every class not only leaves each student ready to apply a lesson to our own advocacy efforts, but also provides us with the contact information of agencies and people in the community who can provide further resources and advice. I love being in such an eclectic group of people, and I strive to help us have a good time while we’re working for things we believe in.

Los Altos

Cheryl Weiden

I became an environmentalist late in life after working for years in finance and high tech. One day I picked up a book about how catastrophic the earth’s future could be unless there is a drastic change of course. I knew I had a responsibility to act for the future of my children, or at least to do what I could. CALA is helping me develop the leadership skills I’ll need to be an effective activist.


Martha Davis

Santa Clara

Lauren Edwards

San Mateo

Nicole Fernandez

Santa Clara

Jan Hintermeister

San Jose

Sylvia Miller

Santa Clara

Sajeemas Pasakdee

San Jose

Christina Thalls

San Jose

Doreen Villemaire

Santa Clara

Benazir Vohra

Moss Beach

Cid Young

San Francisco

Sophia Young


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