Our twenty-five RISE Fellows for the 2019 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.

JULIUS ALEJANDRO

Julius is an organizational strategist who strives for innovative approaches to solving social issues. He has over ten years of experience in grassroots organizing and the nonprofit sector

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that has intersected economic development and health disparities affecting communities of color. He received his master’s in organizational leadership from National University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University. He has completed professional certificates from Accion on entrepreneurship and Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business on foresight and innovation.

He has collaborated with community-based organizations, nonprofits, and startups entities as a way to create social impact for the region. Julius has created and led youth development programs for career paths and community services and frequently conducts leadership workshops at universities and in the community. He has been recognized by public officials on the local, state, and federal levels for his community service and youth mentorship.

ARWA ALKHAWAJA

Arwa is a community organizer, lifelong educator, recent graduate of the University of San Diego’s Masters in Leadership Studies Program, and a certified leadership/executive coach. She has

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twenty years of experience teaching at the Islamic School of San Diego (ISSD) and is honored to have become a steady fixture in the San Diego Muslim community. During this time, she has worked with the ISSD school board to help improve education outcomes and modernize the curriculum. Although her resume simply states “teacher,” Arwa’s role as an educator in the largest mosque in San Diego felt incomplete unless directly engaged with the outside community, both Muslim and non-Muslim. She helped start and pioneer an outreach program for visiting public school students that gave them the experience and leadership training necessary to be the very best advocates for their communities’ cultures.

ALIZA AMAR

Aliza is a change maker. Her work to empower people is driving real, tangible social change and her story is a reminder that we all have the strength within us to become leaders and the

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source of change. When she was twenty-one her life changed forever: she was raped during a job interview, and her assailant recorded the assault and distributed the footage as pornography. Aliza rose from the fog of despair and shame to inspire countless survivors to make their voices heard and address the growing epidemic of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. As a leader in the San Diego #MeToo Movement and founder of Breaking the Silence Together, a San Diego-based nonprofit advocating to bring change to violence against women, she is helping others rise just like she did.

Aliza works at the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility where she inspires women to turn their life from battle into personal victory. She believes within each woman lies a leader waiting to be born. Her biggest aspiration is opening Open Heart Marketplace: a retail store that will be operated by survivors of human sex trafficking and prostitution that will give them the opportunity to support their families by earning a living with power, dignity, and honor.

Aliza holds a BS in human services and a certificate in project management.

NATALIE BAGAPORO

Natalie is a second-generation Filipina-American from Bonita, CA. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2018 with BA in human biology and Asian

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American studies, she returned to her family who now resided in San Ysidro, CA. With the values of kapwa (shared humanity), relevant education, and social justice, Natalie has committed to reconnecting with the Filipino-American community in San Diego. While at UCLA, Natalie put her leadership and managerial talents to good use in student organizations including Samahang Pilipino, University Camp, and student government. She actively participated in cross-community coalition meetings, the training student project staff, the development of student-run and student-initiated internships and training manuals, and the direction and evaluation of access and retention counseling sessions, project management, and cultural programming. Natalie was at the forefront of improvements to the efficiency of Samahang Pilipino’s systems while motivating and engendering a spirit of teamwork among the organization’s diverse team. Her experience in grassroots organizing, public relations, facilitation, delegation, and developing empowerment and transitional leadership strategies has been invaluable to the growth of her organizations.

Currently, Natalie focuses on the engagement of Filipino-American youth and young professionals. She serves as an Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC) Ambassador for the San Diego and Imperial County Region; supports the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) efforts in leadership development, civic engagement, and advocacy while working to build programs to engage and educate Filipino-American youth; volunteers with the Kuya Ate Mentorship Program San Diego (KAMP SD) as a mentor to high school students in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD); and is a youth engagement liaison for UniPro San Diego, a national Filipino-American organization dedicated to the mentorship and development of young Filipino-American professionals.

Her current passion project focuses on youth organizing in the San Diego area. With her development from EPYC, KAMP SD, and UniPro, Natalie has outreached to Filipino and Filipino-American educators in the SDUSD and Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) to centralize resources for Filipino community work. She envisions this database to be the start of a network that will work towards the empowerment of future generations and productive collaboration between generations.

With her experience with youth organizing, Natalie hopes to pursue a Master of Education degree to conduct research and add scholarship on Filipino-Americans. She aspires to create more public schools within SUHSD to address growing populations and over-enrollment, institutionalize ethnic studies within high school curricula, and increase access to educational opportunities such as the International Baccalaureate program, scholarships, and programs that address inequalities within the school system.

DONNA "SHELBY" BATCHELOR

Shelby graduated from Yale Divinity School in 2007 and has dedicated herself to the service of others as a spiritual care provider. She has worked in a variety of healthcare settings

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from trauma units to pediatric intensive care, and most recently in the hospice industry. At The Elizabeth Hospice, Shelby is a spiritual care specialist and community educator who presents on end-of-life care, cultural diversity, spirituality, and more at conferences, workshops, universities, and colleges. Since 2011, she has served on its board of directors as the outreach and social media chair. While at Yale, Shelby served on the Freshman Class Council and Yale College Council, co-chaired the Winter Ball, was active in the Yale Film Society, and was a coxswain for four years on the Yale Men’s lightweight crew team. Transforming her diverse experiences into opportunities to enrich both her local community and the greater global community are at the forefront of all she does. After ten years in San Diego, Shelby is now proud to call herself a California girl.

TINESIA CONWRIGHT

A devoted community leader within the nonprofit and for-profit industries, Tinesia is a nonprofit executive, career development specialist, and board-certified life coach. She specializes in

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leveraging community resources, partnerships, and employment options for underserved youth and families. She was born and raised in southeastern San Diego during the 1980s and 90s at the peak of gang violence within a neighborhood facing large pockets of poverty and few opportunities for educational advancement and socio-economic mobility. Despite the challenging environment, she found an outlet to express her love for dance through a youth group, The Steps of Praise, where she realized the capacity within youth to influence social change and uplift their peers and community. She discovered her self-worth and met people within her community who inspired her to become the person she is today.

Passionate about nurturing the growth of girls and developing them into our future leaders of tomorrow, Tinesia launched and serves as executive director for Depositing Empowerment Through Outreach & Urban Redevelopment (DETOUR). The organization offers the Focused And Naturally Confident Youth (F.A.N.C.Y.) Teen Girls Expo, Leadership Academy, and scholarship youth development programs that have empowered over 1,000 girls since 2009.

Tinesia earned her BA in public administration from San Diego State University (SDSU) and her master’s in nonprofit management and leadership from the University of San Diego. Currently, she is the Youth Workforce Development Program Manager for the San Diego Housing Commission. Tinesia also serves on multiple boards: the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission, the San Diego Police Department Chief’s LGBT Advisory Board, the San Diego Urban League Young Professionals, and the SDSU African-American Alumni Association.

BRENDAN DENTINO

A New Jersey native, Brendan earned his BS from the George Washington University where he studied exercise science and participated in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC).

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Upon graduating in 2013, he accepted a commission in the Navy as a surface warfare officer and was stationed in San Diego. Toward the end of his military service he participated in many progressive causes, including the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA) Institute and multiple political campaigns.

Brendan is currently working towards a Master of Science at the University of Southern California while he serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the San Diego Promise Zone, a federal government initiative designed to increase economic opportunity and decrease poverty.

RICHARD FLAHIVE

Richard is a student services professional and part-time theater actor. He is a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where he double-majored in political science/

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American politics and sociology and minored in theater. He grew up in Chula Vista in a complex family situation. Moving often throughout the region, Richard lived in a motel room with his parents near Chula Vista High School for seven years and later slept on his grandmother’s floor, technically homeless, for the last few months of high school and his three years at community college.

It was at San Diego City College (SDCC) in his first position as a peer mentor, a role he held for three years, where he discovered he wanted to be an educator and community leader. While there, he was a Phi Theta Kappa student and a one-term senator for the Associated Student Government (ASG), where he often represented first-year students. As a senator, he spearheaded the campus-wide May Day City Jam festival and was chosen to represent ASG at student conferences in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. After graduating with an associate’s degree in language arts and humanities, he was the lead peer mentor for the pilot Completion Program, where he oversaw the mentoring component of the department.

After transferring to UCSD, Richard mentored for TRiO Student Support Services; taught a “Transfer Year Experience” course as a discussion leader for two years; was a transfer orientation leader for Muir College; and served as a Muir senator for the Associated Students and as president of the All Campus Transfer Association. He starred in nearly a dozen short films as an actor and an intern for Triton Television and performed as an actor in the 2017 campus-wide Mending Monologues. Richard was a scholar for the McNair Research Program, where he worked on two projects: the reentry of formerly incarcerated community college students, and the development of career pathways in the finance industry within career services at elite universities. In these roles, he learned what it took to plan and coordinate events, give presentations to large and diverse audiences, and communicate with students and staff from diverse backgrounds, often in intimate one-to-one counseling appointments. Richard was the Senior Speaker at the 2017 All Campus Commencement Ceremony, where he shared the stage with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Currently, Richard is a jobs and internships engagement technician at SDCC’s Transfer Career Center, where he helps students find jobs. This entails bringing employers to campus, setting up hiring fairs, and connecting companies and organizations from the community to the student population. He also does contract work for the nonprofit Interactions for Peace as an actor and workshop leader for their piece Tunnel of Bullying, where he facilitates discussions with students in grades five through nine about bullying and cultural tolerance.

Richard plans include attending graduate school, teaching within the university system, developing a student services program, and maintaining his passion for acting in film and the arts.

AZUCENA GARCIA

As a Gompers Preparatory Academy graduate, Azucena is very proud of the advancements the school has made, from the reduction in gang involvement in the student body, to increasing the

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college acceptance rate. After her first year in college, she became committed to giving back and told herself she would get a job at a Title 1 school. Part of Azucena’s commitment arose from the realization that she was at an academic disadvantage having studied at an inner-city school—compared to many of her peers who came from white-collar families—and from her desire to help others. Always good at math, she majored it in at college with the hope of becoming a high school teacher. Now in her fourth year as an 11th grade math teacher at Gompers, she can proudly say that she has achieved her dream and more.

Azucena was accepted to Teach for America (TFA) where she met like-minded individuals who put students first and worked together to ensure that students in underrepresented communities received an equitable education. Through TFA she had the opportunity to meet Nate Howard, Executive Director of Movement BE, a nonprofit that focuses on developing young entrepreneurs and encourages teenagers to defy stereotypes so they can tell their own stories before others do. In their partnership, Azucena was able to lead workshops at Victoria Summit School, a small charter in San Ysidro that helps teen parents earn their high school diplomas. This experience was very special because it allowed her to reach out to a community outside of southeast and help young Latinos to not only develop their English writing skills, but to find themselves through creative writing.

As a lead in Unidos Por Monica (United for Monica), she was a pivotal part in an effort to engage Latino voters in San Diego City Council District 4. By volunteering for now-Councilmember Monica Montgomery’s campaign, Azucena was able to find a passion for civic engagement that she didn’t know she had. Following the campaign, she has felt inspired, invigorated, and thrilled about the movements and efforts happening in her community.

REV. J. LEE HILL, JR

Lee is the senior pastor of Christian Fellowship Congregational Church (UCC) and convener of the Interfaith Justice Coalition in San Diego. He is a licensed and ordained Baptist minister with full

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standing in the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Christ and has served in ministry since 1999, most notably at The Riverside Church in New York City.He attended Florida A&M University and graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelor of Art in integrative studies with a concentration in management and leadership in 2001. He earned a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University in 2005, where upon graduation he received the coveted John Thomas and Dorothy Porter Award in Vocational Formation and Community Ministry given in honor of John Thomas Porter. In 2017 he received the Bill J. Leonard Distinguished Service Award Pro Fide et Humanitate for his work and advocacy as a public theologian. He has completed additional studies at Howard University’s School of Divinity in 2002, Princeton Theological Seminary in 2009, and several units of clinical pastoral education, and he was a pastoral leadership fellow at the Martin Luther King International Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College. In 2017 he earned a doctorate from Emory University, where his work investigated the Narrative Lectionary’s impact on biblical literacy, spiritual development, and social actions within the Black Church.

His current research interests include the life and ministry of post-reconstructionist Baptist preacher George Washington Woodbey and Christian mystic Howard Thurman, 21st century African-American worship and liturgy, and emerging models of Narrative Leadership.

He is married to Christie Hill who serves as the deputy director of the ACLU. They have two young sons and reside in southeast San Diego.

DAIRRICK HODGES

Dairrick is an artist, playwright, poet, performer, and social activist from southeast San Diego. Throughout his eleven-year career in social services working with foster youth and youth

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experiencing homelessness, he has graced stages across California using his artistry as a tool for healing and advocacy. He is passionate about educating youth on mental health and healthy relationships, and contributing to creating safe spaces for LGBT+ youth. Dairrick is the founder of a grass-roots organization called The SOULcial Workers, a theatre arts agency dedicated to the social education and emotional development of youth in vulnerable populations. Working to prevent suicide through creative youth development, the organization serves to amplify the stories and experiences of marginalized bodies and to raise community consciousness around trauma and relationships.

ROMEO HORN

Born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in Fresno, CA, Romeo moved to San Diego in 2007 on a full scholarship to attend and play football at San Diego State University. He earned his bachelor's

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in sociology and is seeking a master’s degree. Romeo has been a teacher at Gompers Preparatory Academy for two years. Always passionate about helping others and teaching people new things, he has previously worked in various fields with a variety of people. He is one of the founding members of SDSU’s Pull Program, where underprivileged minority high school students are offered a chance to stay on campus and attend college classes in the summer before their senior year.

CHRISTINA JOGOLEFF

Christina can be found dancing on the grass of Waterfront Park with her preschool-aged son. She smiles knowing he will never live the reality she was born into. As a single mother since

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before his birth, she firmly believes that the best way to empower him is to be present, lead by example, and encourage him to have his own voice and thought. Christina was the first in her family of six to attend a university, graduating magna cum laude from the University of California, Santa Cruz with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in feminist studies and political science. She earned a Master of Arts in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) while working to create alternative pathways to incarceration.

As a white skinned Chicana born and raised in southeast San Diego, Christina was born into a family ridden with alcohol, narcotics, and physical abuse. Gang- and drug violence engulfed the lives of her uncles and cousins; she experienced death (murder) at a young age and witnessed the power of racism in her family. In times of need, her family sought donations of food, clothes, and necessities. Despite their financial hardships, they organized free immunization drives, campaigns on healthcare access, and demonstrations addressing (in)adequate care for San Diego families living in poverty. Through these efforts, Christina understood that our lives are impacted by forces outside of our homes.

While a doctoral student at UCR, she was the first to receive both the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in the Humanities. Her research and volunteer work focused on decreasing recidivism and gendered incarnation. When she wasn’t doing research on the history of California’s women’s prisons, she was lecturing on marginalized histories of the United States or facilitating self-empowerment workshops at A New Way of Life, a re-entry home for recently incarcerated women in South Los Angeles.

Leaving her PhD studies after giving birth to her son, she began helping mothers across California learn self-care and self-love. Losing oneself in motherhood is an epidemic that needs much attention in this world. It was in this work that Christina grasped the power of social media on the lives of women and gave birth to her newfound purpose: to empower young girls with a curriculum that shifts their relationship with and use of social media.

Christina is an innovative leader and her passion inspires others to fall in love with life. She speaks, writes, and is continually inspired by the young women she works with. She believes we are here to teach, learn, and live (self) love.

SELINA LUGO

Selina was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. In 2004, she moved to San Diego where she attended San Diego City College and later transferred to the University of California, San

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Diego and majored in sociology. From a young age, Selina was surrounded by art and it has always played a major part in her life. Under the guidance of her father, who is an accomplished artist, Selina has explored various media including acrylic, watercolor, ceramics, and photography and has exhibited in galleries and venues throughout San Diego and Sacramento. In 2011 Selina co-founded Mercado Golondrina, a traveling market that promoted local artists and created pop-up markets throughout Southern California where they could sell their work. By 2016, Mercado Golondrina became a permanent resident of Barrio Logan and opened up shop with six of its original artists, including Selina.

That same year, she co-founded Project REO, a community-organizing movement in Paradise Hills with her husband and three other families. Together, their mission is to beautify and revitalize their community through community clean-ups, movie nights, and family-friendly events like Trunk or Treat and Holiday in the Hills. Through the work of Project REO, they realized there was a need in the community for a safe space where the public could come together and socialize. Selina and her husband and four other families invested in their community to open a coffee shop on Reo Drive called Project Reo Collective. Selina’s activism and drive can be seen through her art and leadership in the community.

VIET MAI

Viet is an educator and poet from San Diego, CA. Upon finding his voice through spoken word poetry, he has connected with community leaders throughout San Diego and other cities to inspire

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young people, promote civic engagement, celebrate art and culture, and elevate social consciousness. Highlights include the San Diego PoetrySLAM Team’s 2017 National Poetry Slam Championship; the California Association of Teachers of English 2016 Award of Merit; a Special Commendation from The City of San Diego Race and Human Relations Commission in 2015; and being named 2014 Facilitator of the Year by the Aaron Price Fellows Program.

Viet serves as a program facilitator with the Village of Promise Collective Mentoring Program and as an independent consultant specializing in education, data analysis, and community development.

His latest venture is vKnowledge Collective: a collaborative community consulting network designed to impact education and mentorship, health and wellness, and social entrepreneurship. Viet hopes to figure out what all that means while pursuing his master’s in social innovation at the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego.

COURTNEY OCHI

Courtney was born and raised in Honolulu, HI and moved to California to attend the University of San Diego (USD). She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Spanish and

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studied abroad at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. During her time at USD, she volunteered in a bilingual second grade classroom at Carson Elementary School, an experience that solidified her love for teaching and working with children and ultimately led her to join Teach for America. She spent two years teaching students from grades transitional kindergarten through fifth grade in southeast San Diego while earning her Multiple Subjects Elementary Teaching Credential through the High Tech Graduate School of Education.

Her passion for educating and supporting the whole child through a focus on social emotional learning drew her to Thrive Public Schools in 2016, where she currently works as the Intervention Coordinator at Thrive’s TK-8 Linda Vista campus and has the privilege of working with amazing students and families in her community.

CORISSA PICH
LIKI POROTESANO

Calling southeastern San Diego home since moving from Fiji at the age of eight, Liki is a proud alumnus of Morse High School. He earned a full athletic football scholarship to Prairie View A&M

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University and continued his studies to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) at San Diego State University. After grad school, Liki was selected as Management Fellow for the County of San Diego – Health & Human Services Agency, a position designed to give future leaders a strong foundation and provide an enriching opportunity to understand public service. In 2017, he was promoted to an administrative analyst role with the Office of Strategy and Innovation where manages and oversees the onboarding process of organizations across multiple sectors to advance the vision of Live Well San Diego for a region that is building better health, living safely, and thriving.

DOMINIC PORTER

Dominic is a higher education administrator with over eight years of experience in leadership in academic program development, community engagement, budget administration, and project

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coordination. He has worked at every level of education including community college systems, research universities, and professional post-graduate schools. Dominic has managed programs for underserved K-12 students in the Phoenix metropolitan and American Indian Reservation, continuing education programs for adults, non-traditional students, and operations and budgets for law school students in San Diego. In these roles, he has supervised over 100 staff members and student workers from various backgrounds and professional experiences, served on institutional advancement committees and specially-appointed tasks forces as a member and lead chair, and spearheaded projects designed to enhance the academic and career development of underserved and underrepresented community members. Throughout his career, Dominic has purposely positioned himself in roles that enable him to serve the needs of the community and develop programming that addresses issues and provides development opportunity. He plans to continue his career in academia as a leader and an actively-engaged contributor to the improvement of underserved and under-representative communities.

DITA QUIÑONES

Dita is a full-time single parent and an Emmy-winning bilingual journalist who works in broadcast, online, and print news. Born in Tijuana, B.C. as the oldest of three to a Mexican mother

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and Filipino father, her family moved to the U.S. when she was two. Always curious and creative, Dita spent most of her free time taking photographs and typing away on stories. She was a gifted student and graduated from Mission Bay High School, where she was the yearbook’s chief photographer and a member of Adelante Mujer. She graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA with a bachelor’s in cinematography. During her college years, she served on the board of Chroma/Contraste Black & Latino Student Union, where she was committed to bringing students together through community events. She later attended the University of California, Los Angeles for broadcast news.

Dita’s raw talent and connection to the hip-hop community helped land her assignments on major advertising campaigns and music lifestyle magazines in New York. When the recession hit, she moved back to Los Angeles, which is when she became pregnant during an abusive relationship. Wanting a better life for her infant son, she escaped the relationship by returning to San Diego and has never turned back.

Inspired to deliver leadership to local community efforts for working families experiencing financial hardships, she knows first-hand the challenges of balancing child care and career while living in San Diego as a single parent to a young child. She spent years juggling unstable housing and child care arrangements that kept her limited to unpredictable freelance work in her field with no benefits. Through self-determination and research, she became her own advocate fighting against a system that often seems to paralyze progress and prosperity for low-income working families. While never planning on being a single parent, she feels it was a blessing in disguise because her life is now filled with purpose.

Today, she is motivated to build a better future for local working families and children through advocacy and journalism. As a parent leader for Parent Voices, a state-wide organization fighting to make quality child care accessible and affordable for all families, her advocacy has helped pave the way for the passage of AB273, which expanded child care access to parents taking an English class or high school equivalency class and raised the ancient income ceiling to allow more low-income families access to affordable child care.

Dita is a two- time vice-president of the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a way for her to give back to an organization that helped her get a better footing in her career. She helped bring together Latino journalists from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, where she says convincing American journalists who stereotyped Tijuana as “dangerous” to travel south of the border to meet other fellow journalists was huge.

MARTHA ROMERO

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Martha grew up in the neighboring suburb of Pablo Blanco. Her parents separated when she was six years old and her mother, Margarita, took on the task of caring for

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Martha and her two siblings. At eighteen, Martha began working in the legal department of the Colombian Army. She later attended law school at Catholic University of Colombia, completing her studies 1993.

Much of her youth and her life as an adult were marked drastically by the violence in her country. In 2006, she immigrated to the United States with her sons, Carlos and Diego, and they have lived in San Diego ever since. Since moving to California, she has studied English at an adult school in the City Heights area and worked cleaning houses to support her family financially.

Her first experience with volunteerism in the U.S. was at Normal Heights Elementary School shortly after moving to the country, where she volunteered in the English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) program supporting students who were learning English as a second language. She also volunteered for several summers in the Junior Lifeguard program that her children were active participants for many years. These experiences ignited her passion for working to serve a community of immigrants that shared many of her same experiences, challenges, and needs.

For the past five years, Martha has worked tirelessly to further the efforts of the Latino parent group, Parent Odyssey, at High Tech High School near Point Loma. Her volunteer work supporting Latino parents has evolved, from teaching others the basics of navigating the American public educational system, to more complex issues such as the college admission process. The driving force behind Martha’s work has been a fierce desire to raise awareness among the parents in her Latino community about the importance of their involvement in their children’s education. She hopes her efforts will empower parents and contribute to their children’s academic success and ability to attend university and complete their professional studies.

Since its founding in 2014, 120 families have joined Parent Odyssey and 35 of them are actively working to develop seminars and courses each year for students who have been sponsored by local universities. Since 2016, Martha has worked side by side with Perla Meyers, PhD in the Department of Mathematics at the University of San Diego to establish an SAT preparation program. Through this program, 32 students in tenth and eleventh grades whose parents are part of the Parent Odyssey movement at High Tech High School are able to receive high-level exam preparation at a small fraction of what it would cost them elsewhere. Martha has high hopes that the children of the parents she works with will go on to university and continue to pursue higher education. Above all else, her dream is that achieving their academic goals will eventually allow these young people to develop leadership within their community and be an example for future generations.

MATTHEW SMITH

Matthew grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to San Diego in 2003, graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2012 with a degree in social work. He has had the opportunity

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to work in neighborhoods across San Diego, with an emphasis in City Heights, southeastern San Diego, and Barrio Logan, to connect youth to transformative experiences through outdoor education and recreation programs with Outdoor Outreach, an organization whose mission is to create authentic opportunities for youth to inspire possibility and hope within themselves while discovering their voice in the community to make a change through adventure education programming. Matthew has previously worked in youth outdoor education programs in the Santa Cruz Mountains, South African townships, the jungles of Ecuador, and in Yellowstone National Park.

During a life-changing season when he was a teenager—when his father committed suicide, and his mother suffered from chronic health issues preventing her from working—Matthew had the chance to experience the deep care that humans can show for others in their community. Reflecting back as this an adult, he was inspired to pursue a career of positive impact for others. One of the greatest impacts he envisioned was creating spaces for youth to discover and explore the world we live in. Through partnering with Outdoor Outreach and other organizations across the region, he has facilitated opportunities for thousands of youth to discover lasting change for nature association on the micro-, mezzo-, and macro spheres in the San Diego community.

WILNISHA "TRU7H" SUTTON

TRU7H is an Artivist. A voice for the voiceless, she uses her vocal abilities and life’s lessons to inspire folks to change. She is taking San Diego and beyond by storm because she is very bold.

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TRU7H is just TRUTH. A very honest person in all of life’s facets, TRU7H has learned to not tell all her truths to strangers… but if she could she would. “It’s something powerful about owning your truth no matter how ugly it may be,” which puts her into an authentic yet vulnerable category of her own. She believes in all forms of love and in her community. “Love is a super power that we all possess, we just have to tap into it more.”

ALEXANDRA UZARRAGA

Ale is a transborder photographer born in San Diego, CA and raised in Tijuana, B.C. In 2009, she began nearly three years of photography technical career studies in Cuernavaca and

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Querétaro. Since then, she has practiced this art in several ways, mainly focused on landscapes. Ale creates photography projects and educates marginalized communities in San Diego through art, using photography as a tool to create social change and transform communities.

CHRISTOPHER VALLEJO

Christopher is a young professional of color currently serving as a council representative for the office of San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gomez. As a council representative,

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he performs constituent casework, policy research, project planning, and bilingual communication to serve the residents of San Diego’s Ninth District. He is a native San Diegan and received his BA in political science with minors in anthropology and leadership studies from San Diego State University. Christopher is passionate about improving the quality of life for San Diego communities, especially diverse neighborhoods such as City Heights, through a career in public service.