Our Team

Photo Credit: Inspira Studios

We are Rise Together

Click Our Portraits to Read Our Stories

All portraits were taken by Devi Pride Photography.

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Angela Chambers

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Angela Chambers, an Oakland native, was raised in Berkeley and is a long time resident of Santa Cruz County where she has established her role as a deeply rooted community leader, fierce youth..

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Chairman Val Lopez

(pronouns: he/him/his)

Valentin Lopez has served as Chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band since 2003, and the President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust since its inception. Valentin is a Native American Advisor to the University of California...

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Elaine Johnson

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Elaine Johnson is from the Bronx in New York City. From an early age, community, collaboration and making a difference in her community led her to do the work that she does...

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Fe Silva-Robles

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Fe Silva-Robles is an indigenous woman, native of Santiago Laxopa, Ixtlán, Oaxaca. She grew up speaking Zapotec, learned Spanish in elementary school, and learned English when she...

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Ashlyn N. Adams

(pronouns:She/Her/Sir)

Ashlyn was once a young person in what felt like an impossible situation. She raised herself and her siblings in the Bay Area, and came to Santa Cruz for education and new opportunities

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Consuelo
Alba

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Consuelo Alba is the executive director and co-founder of the Watsonville Film Festival (WFF). Under her leadership, WFF developed from a grassroots collective into...

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Erica Padilla-Chavez

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I was born in Watsonville, the first U.S.-born daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. As a small child, I remember vividly the day that Cesar Chavez came to our home...

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Gina Castañeda

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

When you hear my story, do not think of me as a victim or a survivor. I am a champion!

I do not remember most of my childhood. I just know I wanted to be loved. By age 11, my mom and I...

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Jacob Martinez

(pronouns: he/him/his)
“When you create an environment where youth feel respected, like they belong, and have a supportive community, they can envision a different future for themselves.”

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Jenny
Kurzweil

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

As the granddaughter of Jewish refugee factory workers and union organizers and the daughter of civil rights and feminist queer activists, I inherited a hard wired drive

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Kara Meyberg Guzman

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

As the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local, a local newsroom, I focus on serving communities not otherwise served by local media. I’m passionate about producing fair, accurate, reliable news.....

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Jaime
Molina

(pronouns: he/him/his)
Jaime Molina is a longtime resident of Watsonville and comes from strong and proud Mexican roots. He is a family man who lives by family and cultural values. His parents come from.... 

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Jorge
Savala

(pronouns: he/him/his)

Jorge Savala grew up in a migrant labor camp north of Santa Cruz. His mother asked the owner to address the inhospitable conditions, but he refused...

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María Ramos Bracamontes

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I am a Mexican Indigenous certified nurse midwife in Watsonville. I was born at home in the Coca territory of Ayotitlán, Jalisco, and raised between Ayotitlán and the beach flats in the coastal Awaswas territory... 

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Cat
Willis

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Cat Willis is the founder and executive director of the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center in Santa Cruz. She is originally from Rochester, New York, where she began her...

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DeAndre'
James

(pronouns: he/him/his)

I came from very humble beginnings, growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois—a place rivaled by street gangs and poverty. I am the son of a schoolteacher and a construction worker...

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Esabella Bonner

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Esabella Bonner is a long-time Santa Cruz resident, entrepreneur, visionary, and award-winning changemaker working to bridge the community. Bella is a Cabrillo College.. 

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Helen
Aldana

(pronouns: they/them/theirs/elle/le)

I am a proud child of la bella María Elena y Antonio el hermoso. In my parents’ search for home, they found each other in Boyle Heights, where they first...

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Jennifer Herrera

(pronouns: she/her/hers)
Jennifer Herrera was born and raised in California with her three sisters, by a family that emigrated from the Philippines.  She grew up in a tight-knit family around the Filipino-American communities in...

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Justin Cummings,
PhD

(pronouns: he/him/his)

As a child growing up in Chicago, IL, I was very passionate about diversity, social justice, and protection of the natural environment.  This inspired me to become very active as a college student...

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MariaElena
De La Garza

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Born and raised in Watsonville, I bring over 30 years of nonprofit experience to my work as executive director of the Community Action Board (CAB) of Santa Cruz County...

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Dr. Nereida
Robles Vásquez

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Dr. Nereida Robles Vásquez is a co-founder of Senderos, a non-profit organization created in 2001, as a folklorico dance group for disenfranchised youth. She was inspired to...

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Dr. Rebecca Hernandez

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Rebecca, Mescalero/Warm Springs Apache and Mexican American, believes that when we commit to truth-telling, we are all liberated. She earned her PhD in American studies, specializing in the...

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Ruby
Vasquez

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I am the daughter of loving parents who worked the fields, safeguarded traditions, served others, and emphasized the importance of education and familia. These values have...

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Stacey Marie
Garcia

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I come from a bicultural family, composed of teachers, Cuban immigrants, environmentalists, athletes, organizers, and poets. They taught me how to...

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Stephanie Barron Lu

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I stand for courage, compassion, dignity, well-being, and joy for myself and all others. I am a proud daughter of immigrants, with Mexican, Guatemalan, and Chinese heritage...

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Susan
True

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

As the CEO of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Susan oversees the stewardship of over $170 million in assets and mobilizes people, ideas and resources to...

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Thomas Sage Pedersen

(pronouns: he/him/his)

When Thomas was a child, one of his first phrases was “friendly conversation”. Ever since, the driving force in Thomas’s life has been his ability to have deep and transformational ...

Honorary Founding Members

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Brenda Griffin

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I was born and raised on the East Coast. My family moved to the North to escape the Jim Crow South. I was raised by my grandmother. Although she did not have a high school education

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Carmin
Powell, M.D.

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Born in Monterey and raised in Santa Cruz through the ’80s and ’90s, I know that my life today as the director of pediatrics at Watsonville Community Hospital is the reality of...

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Keisha Browder

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

Keisha Browder has a legacy of breaking barriers to pave the way for communities of color - from her early years as a member of one of the first African American Girl Scout Troops in Compton...

Kevin
Heuer

(pronouns: he/him/his)

Kevin spends most of his days hanging out at the intersection of giving and action for the greater good. Each passing day is a chance to learn from and assist generous souls and community problem..

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Kevin
Heuer

(pronouns: he/him/his)

Kevin spends most of his days hanging out at the intersection of giving and action for the greater good. Each passing day is a chance to learn from ...