Current Program Members

Region 1

Gayle Akins is a Political Consultant in Oakland, CA.  Her most recent work was as Campaign Manager for an Oakland Mayoral Candidate.  Her passion for community service started when she was 10 years old.  She learned about leadership, first hand, from her mother, a teacher and community leader in Nashville, TN, where Gayle was born.

Veronica Canton came from El Salvador to the United States at nine years old and has lived in the Bay Area since. Her mother left her behind to live with other family members due to the civil war.

Amyra Cobb-Hampton, Esq. has devoted her entire career to the public in her role as a deputy alternate public defender. She holds a B.A. in political science and rhetoric, a Juris Doctorate and currently pursuing an M.B.A.

Originally from Chicago, I have called the Bay Area my home for almost 25 years - 20 of them in Oakland. My husband and I live in Montclair, with our two daughters ages 17 and 20. Through my work and volunteer activities, I have always tried to inspire and enable others so that together we can make a difference in our communities, both locally and globally.

The name Thida is Burmese and means 'water' or 'Daughter of the Furrows'.” Thida's political awareness began at the age of ten when her father took through the slums of Calcutta to meet Mother Teresa.

Elise Crane is lead on an $11 million workforce development portfolio at the San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education.b

Tyra Fennell develops and implements programs for the San Francisco Arts Commission such as StreetSmARTS, a mural art program that celebrates the vibrancy of urban art by connecting established muralists with private property owners in order to deter property vandalism.

Gina Fromer has spent over thirty five years devoting her energy and talent to non-profits that serve the needs of children and their families in San Francisco. A native San Franciscan, raised in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, Gina began her community social work at Young Community Developers, where she spent her teen years counseling her fellow youth and helping to develop and sustain the YCD’s Summer Youth Employment Programs.

Elba has spent the past eight years helping children and their families across Napa County get access to healthcare services as the Health Services Manager for Children’s Health Initiative Napa County. Elba has helped 16,000 Napa County children have affordable health care coverage and access to services.

Genoveva Islas was born in Fresno, California and grew up in rural communities of the San Joaquin Valley; her parents were farm laborers. She is the first in her family to attend college and graduate with an advanced degree

Chandra Lopez-Brooks is the proud mother of Allawni Ford, age 18 and son Kasiah Brooks, age 9. Chandra holds numerous positions on committees and boards throughout Silicon-Valley. Mrs. Brooks has over 15 years of experience in Government Relations, Community Involvement, Activism and Advocacy for the most underserved and disenfranchised people in her community.

I am the mother of 3 girls, an involved San Francisco resident, a Democrat, and a Latina. I was born and raised in El Salvador, and immigrated to San Francisco with my family during the Civil War

I am a first generation Colombian American, daughter of immigrant teachers from the suburban area of Medellin, Colombia. I have experienced firsthand the dangers of a countryside wrought with civil strife, the struggles of immigrant families, both documented and undocumented, and the vast and varied opportunities of a capitalistic and democratic society.

Pamela O'Leary has been an Adjunct Professor at American University and Trinity Washington University. She consults for organizations in the area of women's leadership development with an expertise about millennial women

Rochelle is a Certified Staff Nurse III at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center specializing in Neonatal Intensive Care.  Rochelle is an active member of the California Nurses Association, a delegate for the Democratic Party of California and serves as an alternate for the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County.

M. Paloma Pavel is an educator, psychologist, and innovator specializing in transformative leadership. Her education includes Harvard University and the London School of Economics, and she is visiting faculty at UC Davis’ Center for Regional Change. She was the first North American faculty aboard the Peace Boat, circling the Earth to humanitarian hot spots. Her recent publication includes MIT Press’ Breakthrough Communities, Sustainability & Justice in the Next American Metropolis.

Anna Tryon Pletcher is a federal prosecutor and adjunct professor at University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.

Ms. Polsky is an environmental attorney for the California Department of Justice (DOJ).  Her current work focuses on protecting Californians from toxic chemicals in consumer products: providing legal advice to state agencies that regulate toxics; litigating enforcement cases to stop dangerous chemical exposures; testifying in Congress and preparing others to testify on toxics-related matters; and working with scientists and product designers to accelerate the market entry of safer, greener products. 
 

Christina Resasco is Founder of Mobilize For The Cure, a consulting firm that specializing in fundraising and development strategies for Nonprofits. She won the title of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of The Year in 2013 for her extraordinary fundraising efforts. She is also an accredited professional in energy and environmental design, designated by the United States Green Building Council and ran a nanotechnology firm that specializes in greenhouse gas mitigation. She is an avid supporter of environmental, human and animal rights. 

Melissa Sandgren is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School where she researched policies around international and domestic gender inequalities. She currently works on diversity issues at Yahoo and has previously worked for: UN Women, Congresswoman Pelosi, the World Health Organization, and the Global Fund for Women. 

From a weldor in the SF shipyards, to Engineering on the Golden Gate Bridge, to her current work as a superintendent overseeing maintenance and construction of the public water utility in the East Bay, Margo Schueler has committed her work to building and maintaining California’s infrastructure.

Zephanii Smith was introduced to civil rights and social justice activism as an elementary school student through her local NAACP's Youth Empowerment Summit. She recently completed her term on the NAACP's National Board of Directors and has served as President of the Stockton Youth Council and the California-Hawaii Youth & College Division.

Helen Wolter currently chairs the City of Mountain View Parks and Recreation Commission, where she assists in overseeing parkland use in the densest city in Silicon Valley.

Sabina was born and raised in Pakistan and comes from a family of political leaders. Her earliest political inspiration was her father who served as a federal minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She met Benazir Bhutto on several occasions who inspired her immensely as a woman leader and served as a role model.

Region 2

Cassandra Chase is a business owner and social entrepreneur. She takes pride and serves her municipal and surrounding communities through developing unique partnerships that improve business systems.

Mara Elliott is a Chief Deputy City Attorney. She and her team advise department heads, the City Council, and the Mayor on issues relating to purchasing and contracting, environmental services, the Americans with Disabilities Act, living wages, storm water pollution and remediation, information technology, clean energy, and equal opportunity contracting. She has practiced law, primarily in the public sector, for twenty years.

Erika Feresten is one of the foremost executive coaches in the political arena. Her clients have included members of the United States House of Representatives, state legislators from across the country, city leaders in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. as well as candidates during their runs for political office.

Heidi is a sixth generation Californian born in Pasadena. Raised by a single mother, Heidi learned at an early age the importance of taking care of herself and others.

Nichelle is deeply committed to education. As a Faculty Advisor and Fieldwork Supervisor for the Cal State TEACH and Transition to Teaching online teacher credentialing programs, she draws on her classroom teaching experience to prepare teacher candidates to confidently and competently meet the academic and social needs of our students. Her passions are protecting women’s health and reproductive rights and preserving the environment. She holds active leadership roles in her place of worship and is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

Sara Hernandez grew up in Salinas, California before attending Duke University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Studies.

I graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1996. Afterwards, I worked as a legislative aide, for approximately 1.5 years, for Supervisor Leslie R. Katz, San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Elizabeth Knowles is the Executive Director of the ABA Immigration Justice Project (IJP). She supervises the Legal Orientation Program at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility, the IJP’s Pro Bono Lawyer Training and Referral Program, and the National Qualified Representative Program in San Diego, which provides government appointed counsel to mentally incompetent detainees in immigration removal proceedings.

Courtney La Bau has most recently worked and lived between Cairo, Egypt  and Los Angeles as a Senior Investment Advisor for Borak Capital Holding, an investment company specializing in packaged investment opportunities within the finance, real estate and entertainment industries across the Middle East, specifically in Egypt through Borak and its subsidiary companies.

Andrea Marr is a professional engineer and the owner of Wedge Consulting, where she advises large institutions on energy management strategies.

Kate Pynoos is in her third year at UCLA School or Law. Before attending law school, she was a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations where she focused on US economic competitiveness, specifically US trade and immigration policy. 

Ms. Portillo-Rabinov is a Senior Transportation Planning Manager at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) where she is team planner for the SB 375 Sustainability transportation program addressing and coordinating policy and planning strategies, as well as leading the Orange line BRT sustainable corridor implementation station area design plans; also a lead manager for Active Transportation Program for regional improvements in streetscape design and preservation of existing transportation land uses.

Tisa Rodriguez is an Associate Environmental Planner at the California Department of Transportation for San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  She analyzes transportation projects, and seeks to balance the needs of people and the environment with necessary transportation infrastructure improvements.

Natalie resides in Los Angeles, and is currently the Dickran Tevrizian Fellow, an attorney at the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) where she provides legal advocacy to victims and survivors of domestic violence.

For many years I was a TV Producer of National Talk Shows, Documentaries and TV Movies. From 2010-2012 I was elected President of the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) and motivated a volunteer board to work hundreds of hours for the betterment of the community.

I am a Cincinnati, Ohio native, the daughter of a nurse and an insurance salesman. I proudly adopted the City of Angels as my permanent hometown in 1995. I hold a BFA from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and an MFA in film from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

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