Current Program Members

Suzie Abdou has a proven track record of advocating for women’s issues. She served an international post with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs’ Jordan field office, where she managed the institute’s Women’s Political Participation & Parliamentary Development program. Previously, Suzie served as the Director of Global Programs at Women's Voices Now, a not-for-profit organization focused on media and women’s rights in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Sabrina Ashjian is a deputy district attorney in the Consumer Fraud & Environmental Protection Unit at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. This work assists consumers in cases where they have been victim to fraudulent business practices and scams. She also participates in an environmental justice task force and handles environmental cases locally and throughout the state involving illegal disposal of hazardous waste into our water and soil, pesticide over-sprays that get into our air, asbestos in low income housing, and oil spills.

Shelly Blair, PhD is an Organizational and Talent Development specialist in Southern California. She spent several years teaching at universities before moving into the corporate world. She is invested in improving Mission Viejo, CA through the the Cultural Arts Committee, Friends of the Arts Board, and local school district committee. She taught her students civic engagement for years, and is excited to roll her sleeves up and learn about running for office herself.

Poet, author, public speaker, and teacher, Genea S. Brice, was raised and reared in Vallejo, CA.  After graduating from Hogan High School (June, 1988), she earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies; concentration: English Literature (from Patten University, May, 1998), graduated from the Patten University Teaching Credential Program (May, 1999), and she earned an M.A. in Theological Studies; concentration: Old Testament Studies (from Sacramento Theological Seminary and Bible College, May, 2005).

Liz Brisson loves cities and public transportation. As a public servant at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Liz leads a team planning major new rail and bus corridor investments. Liz is also a mover and shaker in Oakland where she lives. In 2014, she co-founded Transport Oakland, achieving the political advocacy organization’s founding goal of creating Oakland’s first Department of Transportation (OakDOT) less than two years later.

Lorrie Brown is an elected State Delegate for Assembly District 37 and a community activist who ran for Ventura City Council twice. She owns a consulting business called Final Polish which handles content management, branding and public affairs. She holds a Master in Public Policy, a Bachelor in Communication: Journalism and an Associate in Bilingual-Cross Cultural Studies.
She has worked for the City of Oxnard’s Community Development Department in project management and most recently the County of Ventura‘s Public Works department  as a management assistant.

Taisha Brown has been dedicated to public service her entire life. As an activist committed to the civil rights and labor movements, Ms. Brown has worked extensively within her Union SEIU Local 1000 as a member leader advocating on behalf of fellow workers and the community at large. Ms. Brown currently works for the State of California.
She has a wealth of experience engaging diverse groups of people and fighting for equal rights for all. She is the current President of the Martin Luther King Jr.

Jenny was raised in a single mother household in an affordable housing unit in the Tenderloin. She attended public schools in SF.  During late middle school, her mother got injured from working at a noodle factory in SOMA. Since her mother was not fluent in English, she had to help her mother navigate through the hospital as well as claiming worker's comp. From that experience, she knew she had to be the first one in her family to attend university for her family to have a better future.

Allison Cook works at the intersection of storytelling, design, and psychology to push for a better world. She currently heads up the brand and engagement work at The Solutions Project which advances the transition to 100% renewable energy for all - 100% for 100%. She learned the ropes as a founding member of the Story of Stuff Project where she launched over a dozen movies that have garnered more than 40 million views and nurtured a community of over one million changemakers.

Alison Cormack has years of experience working in technology companies and in politics.  Her first job after college was on Capitol Hill as a junior analyst with the United States Senate Budget Committee.  After business school, she worked at Hewlett-Packard for seven years in finance, sales, and operations.  As a full time mom, she led a $76 million bond for Palo Alto libraries and was the President of the Palo Alto Library Foundation, which raised $4 million in private funding.

For the last nine years, Mariana Sabeniano has served as staff in the California State Assembly – her most recent position is as Legislative Director in an Assembly office. In her current capacity, Mariana oversees the Assembly member’s legislative agenda and helps the Member prepare to vote on legislation.

Petra DeJesus is an attorney in San Francisco, CA and a member of the SF Police Commission. After graduating from law school, Petra DeJesus focused most of her legal career in public interest law. She represented low income individuals at California Rural Legal Assistance, Mission Community Legal Defense, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s office. As a senior Public Defender trial attorney, she has experience in all aspects of criminal litigation and has completed numerous jury trials including serious felonies and homicides.
In 1995, Ms.

Melissa Demyan is a professional political operative, an organizer, and a human rights activist with experience in leadership, research, fundraising, and intersectional communication. Melissa graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2013 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Sociology—Joint Honors Politics & Sociology. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Moorpark Democratic Club. Elected as a Delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she earned the most votes among women running in Ventura County.

Vecky Elliott is a political consultant, community organizer and a social and environmental justice activist in Tracy, CA. Her background is in political science, comparative politics, international relations and civic engagement. She has taught at the Tyler Junior College and at the University of Texas at Tyler, where she co-founded the Model United Nations program. Ms. Elliott currently serves as the president of the Democratic Party of Greater Tracy.

Lisette Estrella-Henderson was sworn in as the Solano County Superintendent of Schools in January of 2017-the first Latina County Superintendent of Schools in Solano’s history and only the second female to hold the position. She is deeply committed to providing every Solano County student with equal access to the highest quality education as well as the necessary support services that will enable all students to be successful in college and careers, and as productive citizens of the community.

The first person in her family to earn a college degree, Gina Fischer graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2007, majoring in political science and geography, and minoring in history.  She has extensive experience in political organizing and non-profit leadership. During her undergraduate career, Gina interned at Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund, helping manage their campus field operations to defeat harmful parental notification ballot initiatives.

I am Victoria Fleming and I have been an advocate for women and girls since I was in high school.  I completed a Bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University in Women’s Studies while working for Progress Foundation and Baker Places to provide quality mental health care to vulnerable populations.  I went on the graduate from UC Berkeley with a Master’s in Social Welfare with an emphasis in Community Mental Health.

Stacy is an elected delegate for Democratic State Central Committee, Assembly District 38, where she serves as the AD38 Regional Vice Chair, she is on the EBoard of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, also on the EBoard of her local club Democratic Alliance for Action, and is member of the National Federation of Democratic Women. She is a passionate activist within the party and is proud to represent the Emerge CA class of 2017.

Colleen was raised between two worlds. First, as a Catholic in politically charged Belfast, Northern Ireland during the “troubles,” and then in a liberal Jewish enclave in New Jersey. Her experiences during these formative years led her on a path to help others in need, as well as hold community above all else. Colleen’s work on behalf of women started when she created Oona, an online job sharing platform for women who want to remain on the career track on a part-time while caring for children or aging parents.

Dr. E’leva Hughes Gibson is a native San Franciscan and an active citizen who is familiar with the unique experiences of youth and families in the Bay Area.  She is committed to providing access to high-quality services, promoting equity, and advocating for social justice.  Having first-hand experience growing up in the city, as well as currently raising her family in San Francisco, enables her to truly understand the opportunities and challenges facing families as they relate to health, education, safety, economic stability, and employment.
 
A child of a Filipino immigrant, U.S.

Paula Goldman is Vice President and Global Lead for Impact Investing at Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm started by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.   She has extensive experience with both for-profit and non-profit start-ups.  She holds a PhD from Harvard, where she studied how unorthodox ideas become mainstream and has been on faculty at UC Berkeley as well as Mills College.  

Angela Hockabout is the founder of the Alameda Renters Coalition, an organization that increased tenant protections in Alameda, CA through two new city ordinances and a failed rent control ballot initiative. Angela is a fervent YIMBY, fighting for more housing throughout California. She is determined to see 1.8 million California homes built by 2030.

Hilary Hodge is a writer and a social media marketing expert. She serves as the Executive Director of Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s Small Business Education Center and Coworking Space. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Democratic Central Committee in Nevada County. When Hilary is not working or volunteering, she is singing with the Music in the Mountains chorus or working in her garden. Hilary lives in Grass Valley with her wife and their three cats.

Dr. Donna Marie Hunter is a school administrator, conference speaker and parent advocate.  Her mission is to encourage, educate, enlighten and empower individuals with knowledge that transforms thinking and life.  Dedicated to bridging the gap between school districts and parents, creatively and strategically writing LCAP goals to benefit all students.
As a conference speaker, she passionately teaches with an encouraging message of HOPE and how school districts can make great strides in building and sustaining positive relationship with parents and the community.

Dr. Donna Marie Hunter is a school administrator, conference speaker and parent advocate.  Her mission is to encourage, educate, enlighten and empower individuals with knowledge that transforms thinking and life.  Dedicated to bridging the gap between school districts and parents, creatively and strategically writing LCAP goals to benefit all students.
As a conference speaker, she passionately teaches with an encouraging message of HOPE and how school districts can make great strides in building and sustaining positive relationship with parents and the community.

Dr. Donna Marie Hunter is a school administrator, conference speaker and parent advocate.  Her mission is to encourage, educate, enlighten and empower individuals with knowledge that transforms thinking and life.  Dedicated to bridging the gap between school districts and parents, creatively and strategically writing LCAP goals to benefit all students.
As a conference speaker, she passionately teaches with an encouraging message of HOPE and how school districts can make great strides in building and sustaining positive relationship with parents and the community.

Sarah Ismail is a former UC Berkeley lecturer and current public health professional with eight years of global health and development experience and five years of teaching and curriculum development experience. She is a proud and practicing Muslim who wears hijab and fights for women’s rights. Sarah is a long-time resident of Santa Clara and Alameda counties; she was born in Santa Clara to first-generation Egyptian immigrants and attended elementary and high school in Santa Clara and San Jose, and middle school in Egypt.

Katy Janes is a scientist in an environmental nonprofit in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of California that uses citizen engagement at the heart of its work in watershed restoration in an effort to link water, science and people for the benefit of human and environmental health.  Katy is passionate about learning how systems work and applying that understanding to solving problems through a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach.

Lori Kern is Communications Director at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135. She has been in her position for two-and-a-half years, and has been a union member with three different unions. She became active with Teamsters Local 2010 as a member lobbyist before being hired at UFCW Local 135.
Lori recently began her third term on the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee in January 2017. A life-long democrat, she became involved in politics during the re-election in 2004 election of George W. Bush.

Cherise Khaund's mission is to advance educational opportunities for all students. After earning her Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, she joined AmeriCorps*VISTA as a community organizer, launching tutoring programs and connecting parents who didn't speak English with their children’s schools. She then earned a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Nonprofit Management at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Tamika L’Ecluse is child, family, and community advocate in Sacramento. Born in Sacramento and raised by a single mother, Tamika grew up impoverished and relied on public education and government assistance for survival. At 18, she enrolled at American River College in hopes of earning an Associates Degree in Science, but later shifted her focus to Early Childhood Education, and attended Sacramento City College.

Sheryl Lane is a native of Richmond California. She is passionate about engaging communities and constituents on public policy issues that impact their lives and working with them to develop ideas and solutions that result in a positive change and better opportunities for accessing financial security and prosperity, quality education and safer neighborhoods.

Maika Llorens Gulati has served as the first elected Hispanic school board trustee at the San Rafael Board of Education since 2015. A strong advocate for high-quality education, Maika strives to ensure that all children have the access and opportunities they need to reach their maximum potential. Passionate about education and the environment, Maika has over 18+ years of international marketing experience working with Fortune 500, midsize and entrepreneurial companies in both technology and services sectors.

Rachael Rose Luckey is community rights activist, with special emphasis on the LGB/Trans Movements, living in Los Angeles. She is an officer of the Stonewall Democratic Club making her the highest elected transgender political figure in LA County.  She is the Executive Director for LA TransCon 2018, is on the executive board of the Transgender Service Provider Network and participates on the LAPD LGBT Working Group.

My name is Carmen Malik-Pearson. I work for Service Employees International Union Local 1000 as a Labor Negotiator and Representative. I do this work because I genuinely care for the community I serve and strive to make the lives around me better. I would like to see more women in leadership because our presence is vital as successful and tangible role models of what can be accomplished when we uplift one another and work together.

Patrice Marshall McKenzie is skilled professional adept in the legislative process, public affairs and media relations. She possesses a well-rounded repertoire of skills and expertise, including policy development, community relations, event management and design, and human resources to name a few.
 
Patrice currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna. Her primary responsibilities include the development and implementation of policy priorities, intergovernmental relations and supervising staff. Previously, Ms.

Janet Miller is an educational innovator and Central Valley community activist, who brings fresh perspectives in secondary and post-secondary education. Her work has centered on building college and career transition programs and growing access to them.

She holds a BA in English Language Arts from Hunter College, the City University of New York, an MA in Organizational Development from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and an MA in Special Education from San Francisco State University.

Dr. Courtney Monk has focused her career on improving educational outcomes and opportunities for students from all backgrounds.  She is currently a Manager of Data Science at Chegg, an education technology company that helps students succeed academically and professionally. Her team at Chegg provides business analytics and data-driven strategic partnership for business leaders.  Prior to joining Chegg, Courtney spent nearly six years at Teach For America (TFA), a non-profit organization whose mission is for all children to have access to an excellent education.

Susan Monk serves on the Planning and Transportation Commission, City of Palo Alto. She’s a Board Member for NARAL Pro-Choice California Privacy PAC, Political Action Committee for women’s reproductive health and justice. Co-Chair of Education and Outreach for NARAL Peninsula Leadership Council. Most recently was Campaign Manager in a successful local election. Susan is a CA licensed attorney and also worked extensively in Internal Communications at a Fortune 500 high tech company in Silicon Valley.

Melanie Nutter is the Principal of Nutter Consulting and provides urban sustainability and smart cities strategy for cities, foundations, nonprofits and companies.  Since 2014, Nutter Consulting has led a wide variety of consulting engagements include the development of smart city strategic planning documents and project plans for over 30 U.S.

I am a mother of 8 and grandmother of 13.  I have seen and done many things in my time and so am well-seasoned professionally, community, and street wise.  I have been a strong advocate for those that could not advocate for themselves and is also a strong team player.   I have always said that in order to change something you sometimes have to do it from the inside.   Now I work in my community and the focus of my work is to build community.  I have helped to start a nonprofit that is residen- driven and resident-focused.

Rebecca Pynoos loves people and places.  She is dedicated to improving, enriching and stimulating lives in the city and the life of the city.   She has an interdisciplinary background that includes program and community development as well as expertise in gerontology.

Tricia, a Certified Urban Planner, has worked in local government for six years, and presently staffs L. A. City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. A committed Democrat, Tricia attended her first Political Rally at 17, for Presidential Candidate Michael Dukakis, and has voted in every election since. Having an unquenchable desire to understand how our current civic and social climate developed, and a natural inclination for problem-solving civic problems, Tricia was drawn to a career in Urban Planning after two others.

With a background in architecture, education and policy, Beth Rubenstein is a Legislative Aide to Supervisor John Avalos of District 11 in San Francisco. She works on the city budget, workforce development, children and youth policy, arts policy, and District 11 community development projects. She is the co-founder and was the long-time executive director of Youth Art Exchange, which offers programs in architecture, visual and performing arts, and leadership development to San Francisco public high school youth. She has taught at the high school and college level.

For the last nine years, Mariana Sabeniano has served as staff in the California State Assembly – her most recent position is as Legislative Director in an Assembly office. In her current capacity, Mariana oversees the Assembly member’s legislative agenda and helps the Member prepare to vote on legislation.

Monica Senter is a dedicated community organizer who is committed to social, economic and environmental justice in all of her work.  Monica holds a JD from the most progressive law school in the country, New College of CA. She started her career in 1996 as campaign manager for CalPIRG in Sacramento, CA to qualify a campaign finance reform ballot initiative.

Mamta Singhvi, MD MPH is a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist and public health advocate.  Her expertise includes promotion of holistic health, and to that end she is a certified yoga instructor with an avid interest in meditation and nutrition.  She enjoys working with underserved youth, providing mentorship as they navigate the higher education landscape.

Jai'Oni Sly is an educator in Los Angeles, California. She recently finished her Masters in Education, focusing her research on programs that can be implemented into classrooms to help bridge the achievement gap for students of color. Currently she is working in an elementary school looking at how technology can help improve math and reading literacy for kindergarteners.

Jennifer Smith resides in Goleta, California and is an Employee and Labor Relations Analyst and Trainer at UC Santa Barbara. Jennifer is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis School of Law with a certificate in Public Service. As a law student, she interned with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and The National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C.. She was also named the Outstanding Woman Law Graduate from UC Davis by the National Association of Women Lawyers.

Tracie Stafford began her career in marketing, working her way up from data entry operator to management. She eventually opened an event marketing and management firm and quickly became a community leader, devoting countless hours chairing boards such as The National Association of Women Business Owners and The Sacramento Small Business Board.

Elizabeth Texeira resides in San Mateo, California and currently works for the University of California and Continuing Education of the Bar planning the West Coast's first public interest law conference. Previously, she was the Executive Director at The School Fund, an international education nonprofit, founded Girls Thinking Global, a nonprofit in the girls’ empowerment space, served as a Teach for America corps member in New Orleans, Louisiana, and worked as an Emergency Medical Technician and Education Specialist throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Erin Tollini is serving her fourth year on the Tiburon Town Council, where she just wrapped up her term as Mayor.  Prior to the Town Council, she served on the Tiburon Planning Commission for four years.  She is also an attorney, admitted to practice law in New York and California, and worked as a corporate finance attorney for Cahill for six years.

Esmeralda Vasquez was born in Downey, California and was raised in multiple cities until her family finally settled Simi Valley, California. She attended Moorpark College for two years, transferred to UCLA, and received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Throughout her time at UCLA, she participated in multiple internships and organizations that cultivated her passion to pursue a career in public service.

She joined a student activist club called Act for Equality, an organization that fights for LGBT and Women’s Rights.

Melinda Vasquez is a local graduate of MCHS, Palomar College, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She has a built a professional mortgage loan career and is a CA licensed attorney. Her volunteer work began in 2007 with Voices for Children as a CASUM, which inspired her to involved locally. She has served as the President for the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and Rancho Penasquitos Democratic Club.

Mya Whitaker is an Oakland native that has a profound love for her city. “Passionate,” “real” and “connected” are just a few ways to describe this young visionary; one who envisions Oakland being a place that is safe, where people aren’t afraid of inner-city youth, but embrace them and help them to [each] discover their unique potential.
Once labelled as what some may call a “troubled youth,” the birth of her son  Ky was the turning point that caused her to begin self-inventory and evaluate her personal choices.

Dr. Grace I. Williams is the Economic & Community Development Manager for the March Joint Powers Authority where she leads the strategic planning efforts for MARS (Manufacturing Aerospace Research and Science), a regional initiative to attract Aerospace & Defense companies to a 3,300-acre job center in Riverside County.  Grace has more than 15 years in the field of community and economic development, and manages complex entitlement projects for industrial, commercial, healthcare, retail and aviation companies.

Tiffany Woods is a wife, mother of three, trans woman, photographer, filmmaker, and longtime community organizer, who came out over 27 years ago in San Francisco. A nationally recognized LGBT Leader and an At Large Delegate to the DNC for Hillary Clinton in 2016, she is one of the first three  trans delegates to ever attend the Democratic National Convention from California in 2016.  She is the first trans person to run for district delegate in CA-13, Rep. Barbara Lee’s district in 2016.

Barri Worth Girvan is a proud leader from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.  She has committed her career to serving as staff to strong Democrats, including Senator Bob Hertzberg, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, and currently works as District Director in the California State Senate.

Put Yourself On The Ballot

Learn about the Emerge program, how to apply and get connected to our Council of Allies

Support Our Work

Emerge California needs your help to expand our training.