Our twenty-three RISE Fellows for the 2017 program year represent some of San Diego’s best and brightest community leaders, activists, practitioners, and agents of social change. They have demonstrated their experience in and commitment to a variety of issues affecting urban communities across San Diego, including education, urban planning and redevelopment, food justice, and gang violence prevention.

 

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MAUREEN “MOE” ABUGAN

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Moe is a creative worker born and raised in San Diego. They work at the University of San Diego’s Center for Health and Wellness Promotion as an innovator, designer, and social media manager for student wellness-based messaging. Moe is building Create Fam Studio, a hub for creative, collaborative, and educational projects that promote healing for women, girls, non-binary, and trans folks of color in San Diego. Additionally, they actively volunteer with Artists Building Community Project and KAMP San Diego. Moe earned their MA in leadership studies at the University of San Diego and their double BA in visual arts media and communication at the University of California, San Diego.

 

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KAMERON BACON

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Kameron was born and raised in east San Diego and is proud to currently call City Heights home. He works as a program technician for the CONNECT2Careers program at San Diego Workforce Partnership where he develops partnerships in the community with employers to create opportunities for youth throughout San Diego. Previously a “disconnected youth” himself, Kameron takes great pride in the opportunity to help others with similar backgrounds each day and believes everybody deserves a fair chance to a good life, no matter where they come from. He is a proud father and in his spare time enjoys attending baseball games and exploring San Diego with his fiancé and their three-year-old son. His career goals are to continue working in the nonprofit sector helping others and possibly running for public office in the future.

 

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LOU BARRIOS

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Lou is proud to have called San Diego home for the majority of his life. A graduate of Ramona High School, he developed a passion for social justice in college and moved to the Bay Area to begin his career in public education as a math and science teacher. After working as a physics teacher and math department chair for Aspire Public Schools, he returned home to teach math and science at High Tech High. Since then, Lou has taught in Escondido, San Diego, and San Ysidro and is the school board president of Howard Gardner Charter School in Chula Vista. He holds both a BA and BS in mechanical engineering from the University of San Diego and a master’s in education from Alliant International University. When not working in the classroom, Lou loves going anywhere on two wheels and spending time laughing and eating with his friends and family.

 

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RYAN BEAL

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Ryan is a recent graduate of San Diego State University (SDSU) where he received his BA in management with a minor in marketing. While there, he held multiple leadership roles in various organizations and became a founder of the Black Business Society at SDSU. Ryan enjoys supporting those around him and embarking on change missions to elevate the status quo. He works at a biotech company in San Diego, actively works with the homeless, and regularly volunteers at his local church.

 

 

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JENNIFER BUSTAMANTE

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Jennifer is the owner of The B Factor and for the past eight years she has dedicated her career to the San Diego region in various community leadership roles. She is involved with the South County Economic Development Council, City of Chula Vista Housing Advisory Commission, San Ysidro Health Center, and MANA de San Diego among others, and is also a member of the Citizens Water Academy and MANA’s Latina Success Leadership Program. In 2014, she co-founded a group of high school volunteers with the mission of increasing graduation rates by connecting youth looking to complete community service hours with local nonprofits. Jennifer has three children – Victor, Alexis, and Charlie – and spends her leisure time with their Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts activities and enjoying the beach and local mountains. She loves to run, bike, and hike.

 

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CHRISTINA CONTRERAS

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Believing education is the vehicle to social justice, Christina has amassed twelve years of experience working with K-12 public schools and in higher education where she brings her perspective as an immigrant’s daughter and the first in her family to go to college to her various roles. She works as the college and career coordinator for the nonprofit science education organization Ocean Discovery Institute, serving the community of City Heights and contributing to the pursuit of equitable access to education for everyone. Christina is developing a mentoring program and providing leadership and vision for the inclusion of social-emotional learning in the institute’s programming. She has a BA in economics from Pomona College and an MEd from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

 

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KELSEY DANIELS

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Kelsey was born and raised in San Diego and considers southeastern San Diego home. A graduate of Hampton University, she has used her sociology degree in various capacities related to child and youth development. Kelsey works as a youth support partner for a transitional-age youth program that uses artistic expression to break the stigma of mental health services; previously, she provided support to youth in a group home setting and in summer literacy and after-school programs. Kelsey is returning to school in the fall to build upon her skill set and pursue a master’s degree in social work. She is passionate about mental health advocacy, youth empowerment, and finding purpose in life’s journey. In her spare time, she uses her passion as a poet to engage the community she loves in artwork that encourages vulnerability. She looks forward to her journey with RISE San Diego as she strives to operate in her purpose of facilitating healing.

 

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JASMINE DARNELL

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Jasmine is a workforce development and higher education professional, an educator, and a change agent. Over the past fifteen years she has served the communities of San Diego and held leadership positions in the nonprofit, for-profit, local government, and higher education sectors. Jasmine is the vice president of ADACI, a business development firm dedicated to the entrepreneurial advancement of youth and small business owners. She is also the co-founder and board chair of a nonprofit organization that holds a 90% high school graduation rate and 80% college acceptance rate for underprivileged youth in San Diego. She is a passionate researcher and fervent investigator of academic, behavioral, and social barriers to student success, online experiential learning, and entrepreneurial followership and has successfully given over a dozen presentations at academic conferences in several countries. A doctoral candidate in organizational leadership at Pepperdine University, she holds a BS in human services, an MBA in organizational leadership, and an MA in teaching and learning with technology. In addition to career and academics, Jasmine is heavily involved in her church community, loves playing board games, and thoroughly enjoys watching films with her husband and daughter.

 

 

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SIMONE EDWARDS

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Born and raised in Jamaica, Simone has lived in three countries and several states and now calls San Diego home. She graduated from Southern California Seminary with an MA in biblical studies and San Diego State University with a BA in theater. She is the host and co-founder of The Simone Edwards Show, a lively hour-long talk show that gives its listeners an opportunity to intersect with their destiny so they can discover and fulfill the purpose for which they were created. In 2017, she began an affordable business education series called “Build & Grow with The Simone Edwards Show” to provide direction and assistance to budding entrepreneurs and business owners in San Diego. As a writer and artist whose gifts knows no bounds, Simone has written, directed, and produced several plays and one-acts, released her first spoken word CD, UnBound (2016), and has been the San Diego Prestige Awards’ Spoken Word Poet of the Year two years in a row. Simone is a licensed minister with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. She believes every aspect of her life is a gift from God and how she lives her life is her gift back to him.

 

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SEAN ELO

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A first-generation college grad, Sean earned his BA from Chapman University where he studied psychology, sociology, and history; while in school, he was also an award-winning high school coach. After graduation, Sean served as an English and special needs teacher in Peru, worked as an environmental preservationist in Ecuador, and taught English in South Korea. He subsequently came to San Diego to attend California Western School of Law where he served as president of La Raza Student Association and Amnesty International and – inspired by his background and belief in disadvantaged communities working together – strengthened the Student Diversity Coalition. He received the school’s Pro Bono and Public Service Honors Society award for his work with the City Heights Community Law Project. After earning his JD, Sean worked as regional field director for Congressman Scott Peters’ reelection campaign. He now works to build community power and fight for social justice as the director of campaigns and policy for Mid-City Community Advocacy Network in City Heights.

 

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TORAZZI HAYSLETT

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Torazzi was born and raised in San Diego and is a proud member of the Barrio Logan community. Dedicated to closing the achievement gap and making a difference in urban education, she has been teaching for twelve years and is extremely knowledgeable in culturally-relevant pedagogy and project-problem based learning. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from United States International University in 2003 and is a recent graduate of the University of San Diego’s Educational Leadership Development Academy. As a RISE Fellow, Torazzi welcomes the opportunity to use her leadership and instructional skills to create a collaborative leadership environment that prioritizes civic engagement and enhancing our urban communities in various capacities.

 

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SHARON LARIOS

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Sharon is the director and founder of Turnaround Youth Foundation. Her vision is to change the model of gang prevention in her neighborhood of Linda Vista by taking a holistic approach that targets the root of the issue and emphasizes building family support. Through her organization, she has partnered with Montgomery Middle School where she facilitates weekly process groups with at-risk students and built relationships with the University of San Diego, Bayside Community Center, and San Diego Police Department – Western Division to host community forums that create awareness of community resources and highlight cultural barriers that may be the root of certain issues. Sharon serves as a board member of the Linda Vista Planning Group and is a certified substance abuse counselor.

 

 

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SKYLER McCURINE

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Skyler is redefining the look of leadership as a personal stylist, public speaker, wonder woman, and founder of Le Red Balloon. Driven by the lackluster and stereotypical portrayal of women in the media, she leads workshops for teenage girls and professional women around conscious media consumption, leadership, self-acceptance, personal branding, and style. Skyler’s passion for fostering leadership and courage in young women have led her to a TEDx talk, the San Diego Business Journal’s “Emerging Generation” award, and a recent invitation to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit as Swiss luxury watch brand Baume & Mercier’s guest of distinction; additionally, she was a finalist for the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 in the social entrepreneurship category. Skyler is a native San Diegan and received her BA in communication studies from Loyola Marymount University and MA in organizational management from Ashford University.

 

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MONICA MONTGOMERY

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Monica is a native San Diegan. She received an undergraduate degree in political science from Spelman College and a juris doctor from California Western School of Law. Monica has been a member of the California State Bar for eight years and practiced civil rights and consumer law until 2013. She now serves at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties as a criminal justice advocate leading the local campaign to reform the money bail system. Before joining the ACLU, Monica worked at the City of San Diego for Councilmember Cole, Mayor Faulconer, and Councilmember Todd Gloria during his term as interim mayor. While there, she worked as a senior policy advisor focused on the policy areas of criminal justice reform and public safety, neighborhood revitalization, workforce development, small business development, equal opportunity contracting, and youth services. In her capacity at Councilmember Cole’s office, Monica strongly advocated for equitable practices in government, including reform on the Citizens Review Board for Police Practices and better employment opportunities for people of color.

 

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MARK MORENO

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Mark is a native of southeastern San Diego who attended local schools during his childhood. He is employed by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and holds the rank of lieutenant. Before retiring from the team in 2016, he played many years of tackle football for two-time National Public Safety Football League champions the San Diego Enforcers, a nonprofit regional team comprised of fire, police, border patrol, and California Department of Corrections officers. Mark has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in public administration. In his off time, he enjoys coaching football and spending time with his family.

 

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ARNOLD NORIEGA

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Arnold has worked towards equitable health through access to culturally competent healthcare for the past seven years. Since moving to San Diego in 2009, he has worked and volunteered with organizations to provide medical care to vulnerable populations in San Diego and Tijuana. Arnold has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from UC San Diego and a master’s in public health from San Diego State University. He works with the California Department of Public Health at the Office of Binational Border Health where he focuses on priorities in the border region as well as those shared with Mexico. He is a member of Let’s Get Healthy California’s innovation team and works to redesign the healthcare system and lower the cost of care in the state. As secretary of the San Diego County Promotores Coalition, he works to advance and support the work of organizations working with community health workers who are known as agents of change for the health and wellness of their communities. Outside of work, Arnold is very active in the LGBT community and a member of the Young Professional’s Council of the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He also volunteers as the advocacy director of Impulse San Diego, training and educating community members on LGBT health issues focused on HIV prevention and treatment, stigma and discrimination, and substance abuse.

 

 

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MARY PENETRANTE

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Mary is a senior analyst at Illumina and a community mentor for KAMP San Diego. At Illumina, she identifies business process gaps and applies project management principles to implement scalable solutions using a holistic systems-based approach. Outside of her work for Illumina, Mary spends her time with the local grassroots organization KAMP, which empowers San Diego middle and high school students, the local Filipino community, and each other to explore Filipino history, culture, and identity through facilitated workshops that challenge participants to engage in open dialogue. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry/chemistry from UC San Diego. Her inspiration comes from her family and friends, nature, travelling, learning about scientific and technological advancements, and cuisine from around the world. Mary believes food tastes better and is more enjoyable when shared.

 

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CARMELIN RIVERA

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Carmelin is a 21-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department and holds the rank of sergeant. He has worked in an array of assignments in patrol, the Gang Suppression Team, the Graffiti Strike Force, and the domestic violence, child abuse, sex crimes, leadership development, officer wellness, and in-service training units. Carmeline is also an adjunct faculty member at San Diego Miramar College, National University, and the University of San Diego. He has developed and/or presented many dynamic courses and workshops to law enforcement officers, military personnel, and community members across the country on leadership, professionalism, ethics, tactical communications, intelligence-led policing, racial profiling, cultural diversity, situational awareness, community policing, procedural justice, emotional intelligence, gang awareness, and narcotics. He has collaborated with the US Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women to develop and facilitate training courses blending leadership with criminal justice concepts. Carmelin has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in executive leadership from the University of San Diego. As a doctoral candidate in leadership studies at the University of San Diego, his research interests include toxic leadership in law enforcement, social identity, organizational effectiveness, and the role culture plays in organizations.

 

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AMANPREET SANDHU

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Aman is a first-generation American born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. She is the evaluation and learning analyst at Mid-City CAN where she provides research support for its Momentum Teams. She wrote the health impact assessment of the Restorative Community Conferencing Pilot Program comparing health outcomes for a restorative versus traditional criminal justice approach to crime. Aman has a background in both nonprofit work and public health. She graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s in biology and is completing her master’s degree in epidemiology and biostatistics from the San Diego State University School of Public Health. After graduating from UC San Diego, she dedicated a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at HandsOn Santa Clarita. There, she worked on capacity building via volunteer management for nonprofits that targeted low-income populations and won the Santa Clarita Unified School District’s Golden Apple award for her work with local schools. Most recently, she worked for the UC San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health on the evaluation of pipeline programs created to increase the number of under-represented minorities and disadvantaged groups in the medical field. She hopes to use the skills she has acquired over the years along with her experience with RISE to create a healthier and safer San Diego for all. In her free time, she can be found riding her bike throughout San Diego with her husband and friends in a quest to find the best tacos.

 

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TARYELL SIMMONS

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Taryell believes that successful careers come from being connected to one’s passion. On a mission to help young people find their passion and pursue their purpose, he has dedicated his career to exposing people to opportunities that will help them figure out paths to combine their talents with a career they love. Taryell is a training specialist for the CONNECT2Careers program at San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP), which aligns the career aspirations of young adults with businesses that are committed to developing them. Previously, he worked as a program specialist for SDWP where he built relationships and created employment opportunities for young job seekers with San Diego businesses. Taryell is a native Washingtonian, a strategic connector, and a happiness enthusiast.

 

 

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ANDREW STRONG

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Andrew serves as the chief of staff to the chief administrative officer of the County of San Diego. He works closely with the County’s executive team to implement policies directed by the Board of Supervisors and coordinates the day-to-day operations and functions of the Chief Administrative Office. Andrew served in the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman before joining the County in 2008 as a human resources analyst. He joined the Finance & General Government Group Executive Office as a CAO staff officer in 2012 where he managed communications between the Chief Administrative Office, Deputy Chief Administrative Offices, and the Board of Supervisors and assisted with implementing ongoing strategic initiatives. In 2014, he was promoted to chief of departmental operations for the Department of Planning & Development Services where he led a team of thirty-five employees and oversaw the management of department administrative functions in the areas of budget and fiscal management, organizational development, contract management, information technology, and geographic information systems. Andrew has a Bachelor of Arts degree in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University and Master of Arts degree in human resource management from National University.

 

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HILDA “GRACIE” URIARTE

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Gracie is a first-generation college graduate and proud daughter of immigrant farm workers in the Central Valley. She was born and raised in the rural agricultural community of Mendota and San Diego became home when she studied political science and Chicano/a studies at the University of California, San Diego. Since attaining her bachelor’s degree, Gracie has been involved with and worked for MANA de San Diego in the Hermanitas Mentorship and the Pre-College Institute’s Upward Bound programs. She is passionate about education from Pre-K to higher ed, comprehensive immigration reform, and having an impact on a range of issues critical to making society more equitable for the historically underserved and disenfranchised. As an advocate and scholar, Gracie hopes to continue to build her skills and expertise and further develop the tools necessary to best help her communities, both in the Central Valley and San Diego, through the RISE Urban Leadership Fellows Program and her lifelong commitment to personal and professional growth.

 

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SALINA VILLEGAS

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Salina is a mother, transformational leader, and hood scholar raised in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. She has attended San Diego public schools her entire life and gave the valedictorian speech for the inaugural class of the San Diego Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical High School. She is a graduate of the Reality Changers program and was the first in her family to leave home to go to college. Salina has been an advocate for students in marginalized communities for the past nine years. As a senior in college, she was employed by the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center where she worked proactively with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to increase the number of students of color in institutions of higher education. After graduating college, she founded the alumni director position at Reality Changers to increase the college retention rates of their first-generation college student graduates. Soon after, she became an academy instructor through their sister program College Apps Academy where she grew expert at demystifying the college application and financial aid process, and delivering college survival techniques to over 800 inner-city high school seniors. She previously worked with Helix Charter High School as an academic coach where she facilitated intensive academic support for ninth grade students in their Extended Learning Class and at Hamilton College Consulting as an editing partner where she provided college application support and guidance to Ivy-league applicants. Her professional and academic experiences inspire her to become a leading provider of college admissions advising services for low-income, first-generation college students. She is focused on developing a movement/force to address the lack of academic, social, financial, and cultural training for such students to succeed and feel confident about their existence on predominantly white college campuses. Currently, she is taking time off professionally to nurture her two-year-old son, apply to graduate school, and be a RISE San Diego Fellow. She has been inducted into the San Diego Unified School District Hall of Fame and was recently recognized by Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins as an Emerging Female Leader. She holds a BA in American studies and rhetoric studies from the University of California, Berkeley.