CFJ Board

Taryn Ishida (Ex Officio Member) – Executive Director, Californians for Justice

Maria Noel Fernandez (San Jose) – Associate Director of Organizing and Civic Engagement, Working Partnerships

Nhu Anh Can (San Jose) – Senior Operations Manager, Edmodo

Yasmin Noriega (San Jose) – Student, CFJ Alum

Santos Alvarado (San Jose) – Student, Independence High School

Maria Soto (Long Beach)

Diana Cruz (Long Beach) – Student, Ernest McBride High School

Tajah Morrow (Long Beach) – Student, Cabrillo High School

Jessica Gunderson (Oakland) – Policy Director, Partnership for Children & Youth

Meredith Fenton (Oakland) – Strategist, Facilitator, Coach

Nailah Williams (Oakland) – Student, Laney College, CFJ Alum

Kim Boyer (Fresno) – Executive Director, Central Valley Afterschool Foundation


CFJ Staff

Statewide     Oakland    Fresno    San Jose    Long Beach

Statewide Staff

Taryn Ishida (taryn_AT_caljustice.org), Executive Director, has been a part of the CFJ family for over ten years, helping start a college advising program in 2005 and serving on the board of directors before becoming Executive Director of CFJ. As ED, Taryn provides leadership in program and campaign strategy, development and outreach, alliance building and policy, and management and operations. Taryn previously worked at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, playing an integral role in launching the Foundation’s place-based grantmaking program in 2008. Prior to the Packard Foundation, Taryn worked at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Pepperdine University and is a candidate in the Masters of Nonprofit Administration program at the University of San Francisco. Taryn enjoys being a devoted aunty to her niece and nephew, discovering new desserts, and playing tennis.

Karen Anselmo (karen_AT_caljustice.org), Finance and Administrative Director, oversees finance and human resources at CFJ, making sure that the ship is running smoothly so CFJ can achieve its greatest impact. Karen has spent her career on the inside of social justice organizations working on leadership development, public health, and housing. Karen also ran the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Bay Area from 2006-2010 and danced with the salsa team Salsamania for a few glorious years. Nowadays you’re likely to find her playing with her daughter or kiteboarding. Karen earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and her master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco.

Sambathany Chen (sambathany_AT_caljustice.org), Operations Associate, is heavily influenced by her Khmer heritage and uses her culture and history as the foundation that drives her motivation and passion to work towards social change. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz where she majored in American Studies and minored in Education. Throughout her college career, she was highly involved in Asian American Pacific Islander activism and focused much of her efforts in college access and retention work. In her spare time, Sambathany loves to cook, explore the outdoors, and spend time with her doggy, Oreo.

Norma Rodriguez, (norma_AT_caljustice.org), Organizing and Policy Director, provides leadership in strategic relationship building as well as developing legislative and policy strategies in order to advance CFJ’s mission. Previously Norma was the Organizing Director at the Center on Policy Initiatives where she developed effective community and labor coalitions focused on economic and social justice issues. She also has grassroots organizing experience with immigrant rights as well as civic participation of underrepresented communities. She also has arts and culture experience having chaired Fiesta Del Sol, San Diego’s largest Latino street festival, as well as being arts commissioner for the City of San Diego where she focused on increasing arts funding and had a role in the strategy that led to additional funding for arts and culture. Norma has also taught art and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in studio art from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s in Latin American studies with an emphasis on international migration from the University of California, San Diego. During her Masters, Norma had the opportunity to participate in the Mexican Migration Field Research Program, a binational research project between Yucatan and the U.S. and was one of the authors of the book which published their findings. She is a first generation college student, the proud daughter of immigrants and originally from Porterville, California. She enjoys good books, running and quality time with her people.

Rhea Martin (rhea_AT_caljustice.org), Organizing Director, oversees and supports CFJ’s four regions by providing campaign strategizing, supervision and staff and leadership development. She joined CFJ in 2001 as a sophomore in high school, when she decided to start working towards educational justice, fighting against the educational inequalities that plague the African-American community. As a high school student, she helped to run and win a bathroom improvement campaign in Long Beach. While she worked in Fresno as an organizer, CFJ Fresno managed to cut the student to counselor ratio from 800:1 to 450:1 and won new student-friendly A-G posters for every classroom in Fresno Unified. A student at California State University, Fresno, she collects all things Bob Marley and loves pretending she can sing along with her favorite 90’s Hip Hop and R&B acts.  As a staff member now, she cannot imagine working on anything more important than uplifting and empowering her community to speak up and demand change.

Saa’un P. Bell (saaun_AT_caljustice.org), Strategy Director, grounded in her southern roots of Greenville Alabama and Eastern Samar, Saa’un is the oldest of six, from a serious, but comical, working class Black and Filipino immigrant family. As a former English Language Learner student from Long Beach Unified School District and 1st generation college graduate, Saa’un is committed to building a public education infrastructure where all students have the opportunities to fulfill their highest aspirations. Saa’un joined CFJ in 2009 as an Organizer where they organized community college students and youth of color in Oakland schools. Currently, Saa’un oversees all communications & narrative strategy for CFJ’s regional and statewide campaigns. They are also an Associate at the Center for Story-based Strategy where they get to apply their story & strategic wizardry on statewide & national communication projects. Saa’un holds a BA in Philosophy.

Chelsie Brooks (chelsie_AT_caljustice.org), Development Manager, leads the foundation and grassroots fundraising programs at CFJ. Chelsie started working with CFJ in 2010 as an intern for the Campaign for Quality Education while studying Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis at Mills College in Oakland. She is inspired by CFJ’s commitment to racial justice and political action and is excited to be a part of building a strong foundation for this work.  

Margarita Vargas Patron (margarita_AT_caljustice.org), Development Associate, supports CFJ’s grassroots fundraising programs. Margarita grew up in San Diego County and is a first-generation college graduate. She studied Sociology and loved it because of her deep-rooted commitment to social equity. After graduating, her personal background and experiences led her to embark on a year of service in Austin, TX as a Jesuit Volunteer (JV) with the Workers Defense Project, a workers’ center that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment. For all these reasons and more, she is honored and excited to be a part of CFJ. Despite hailing from Southern California, she does not know how to surf but will definitely take the necessary steps to avoid bodies of water in this cooler city!

Jeremy Lahoud (jeremy_AT_caljustice.org), Senior Strategy Director, has worked for and with grassroots organizations focused on youth organizing for racial and social justice since 1994. In 2004, he joined CFJ as Long Beach Lead Organizer and subsequently served as Organizing Co-Director in 2007-2008 and Executive Director from 2009-2012. Prior to moving to California, he spent a decade organizing for racial and educational justice with African American, Latino, and Arab American youth at the Southwest Youth Collaborative in Chicago. Since 2013, Jeremy has been a Senior Fellow with Movement Strategy Center focused on strategic support, transformative movement building, capacity building, and coaching with youth organizers across California. He is excited to have re-joined the CFJ staff family as a part-time Senior Strategy Director in Fall 2017. Jeremy lives in South Los Angeles with his partner, Maria, a high school Social Studies teacher, and their three children, Aldila (11), Tecún T(6), and Amar (2). In his spare time, he enjoys cooking the traditional Lebanese food he grew up with, playing capoeira with his adopted Los Angeles family, the Omulu Capoeira group, and learning from his Rinzai Zen teachers, Norma Wong and Rosie Abriam.

Oakland Staff

Geordee Mae Corpuz (geordee_AT_caljustice.org), Organizing Director, is a first-generation Pilipina-American born and raised in the Bay Area. Her commitment to racial justice began as a student at UC Davis where she worked as a counselor and mentor to low-income high school students from Vallejo and South Sacramento while pursuing a BA in Asian American Studies. This experience left Geordee with the desire to create lasting change in CA’s education system. A desire she put into practice when became the Oakland Youth Organizer at Californians for Justice in 2012. Through organizing, Geordee Mae found coaching as method for healing and sustainability in the movement and in May 2017 she received her coaching certification from the Coaching for Transformation program at Leadership that works. As Organizing Director, Geordee Mae oversees all capacity building work and organizing in the Oakland region. She is also a Life & Career Coach for other organizers in the movement.

Justine Santos, (justine_AT_caljustice.org), Lead Organizer, is an organizer/scholar/eco-friendly Ilokana from the Bay Area. Her political organizing roots are in Union City where she organized peers and community members to address street violence targeting Pilipino/a and Latina/o youth as a high school student. She continued organizing in college, doing environmental justice and anti-displacement work with youth and obtained a BA in Environmental Studies at San Francisco State University. Justine also grew a passion for education justice as an educator through Pin@y Educational Partnerships. She was ecstatic for an opportunity to work with CFJ, where she can merge her passion for education with her commitment to organizing. She supports the campaigns, leadership development, political education and organizing of young people in Oakland. Justine enjoys spending time outdoors and picking plants that she can propagate from random places. She has a deep love for French fries, but the only thing she loves more is a sweet pup named Nala.

Robert Paige, (robert_AT_caljustice.org), Organizer, is a CFJ Alumni born and raised in Oakland and a father of two beautiful girls. After experiencing first-hand the injustice of our education system, Robert realized how critical youth development was and aspires to empower youth of color through his experience. He is a multi-talented artist that embodies the culture of Oakland through his poetry, theatre, and music. He incorporates his artistic creativity in his organizing. He challenges himself to think outside the box and also step outside the office.

Fresno Staff

Grisanti Valencia (grisanti_AT_caljustice.org), Organizing Coordinator, oversees the Fresno region by leading local campaigns and leadership development of youth in Fresno. Grisanti is a Queer Indigenous Zapotec Migrant from the state of Oaxaca. She was born in Guaymas, Sonora and is a native of Ayoquezco De Aldama, Oaxaca. Grisanti writes poetry from personal experiences focused on her childhood and the Oaxaqueno culture.  She is passionate about racial and social justice and believes we must make education accessible for all students. When not working, you can find her having family time and hanging around Fresno with her Pug Lassie as well as hosting poetry nights.

Luis Ojeda (luis_AT_caljustice.org), Lead Organizer, supports the organizing team in Fresno with campaign work and alliance building. Luis is a queer immigrant from Colima, Mexico that is passionate about social justice and challenging white supremacy. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Fresno. During his spare time, Luis enjoys watching certified fresh films and being politically engaged.

Andrew Escamilla (andrew_AT_caljustice.org), Organizer, supports CFJ’s political education work, organzing youth from marginalized communities, and ultimately hopes to bring justice to those communities most affected by the systems of oppression. He graduated from Fresno State University with an M.A. in Education with the option in Higher Education Leadership. He is passionate about higher education access and equity for all, developing youth to be future leaders in their communities, and critical race theory to address issues of race and class. When not working, you can find him enjoying outdoors, family time, supporting his partner Mayra, and enjoying their little pupper, Appa.

San Jose Staff

Angeles Rojas, (angeles_AT_caljustice.org), Lead Organizer

Albert Tobias, (albert_AT_caljustice.org), Organizer, was born and raised in Eastside San Jose, Califas. After graduating high school, he attended San Francisco State, majoring in Mathematics with a minor in Latina/o Studies. Albert first joined CFJ as a high school student and has come back to join the San Jose team as its regional organizer. He supports San Jose’s LCAP engagement work in ESUHD and LCAP capacity building by facilitating the Bay Area Professional Learning Network. He also heads San Jose base building and youth leadership development. According to Pottermore, Albert has been sorted in Gryffindor House.

Katia Lopez, (katia_AT_caljustice.org), Campaigns Associate, hails from Guayangareo Valley. Katia moved from Morelia, Michoacan to San Jose at the age of three and first stepped into organizing as a freshman in High School. She comes from a family made up of strong womyn who helped center social justice in her life. Katia, like most of her cousins and siblings, joined Californians for Justice in high school and while at CFJ she honed her phone banking, canvassing, and leadership skills. Currently, she has joined the CFJ team as the Campaigns Associate and is responsible for coordinating internal and external events as well as  building CFJ’s civic engagement capacity. For her, this is an opportunity to really engage California’s youth in building power and transforming our collective reality. When she’s not organizing with the baddest team around she enjoys coloring with a nice cup of coffee to relax or even better, binge watching Netflix (purely for sociological analysis of how television and cinema reflect our current zeitgeist).

Long Beach Staff

Alejandra Ponce de Leon (alejandra_AT_caljustice.org), Statewide Campaign and Communications Manager oversees and supports the CFJ Long Beach region by leading local campaigns and leadership development. Alejandra holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies, and a minor in Chicana/o Studies and Political Science, as well as a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning. She has 10 years of organizing experience, in addition to years committed to organizing and serving her community as a volunteer and activist. Though Alejandra joined the CFJ team only recently, she has led several campaigns to victory in her time as an organizer, including the formation of OC RISE UP, the coalition that led the successful implementation of district-based elections in Anaheim to ensure better representation of working families and communities of color.

Mayra Gonzales (mayra_AT_caljustice.org), Leadership Development Coordinator, grew up in South East LA where they supported the organizing efforts of Communities for A Better Environment and Youth For Environmental Justice as a high school student. They received their B.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and previously worked at the Multicultural Community Center there. Mayra is excited to be back in Southern California after many years in the Bay Area. They are passionate about popular education and community-based learning models that give communities the tools to dismantle systems of oppression and fight for liberation.

Melisa Anne Bautista (melisa_AT_caljustice.org), Organizer, M.Ed is a second generation Filipina American who claims Southern California and  San Francisco home. She received her B.A. in Political Science with an Asian American Studies minor from San Francisco State University and Masters in Education from UCLA. She is grounded in work that serves and reflects her purpose of cultivating community. Melisa started organizing during her undergraduate career with the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE), teaching Ethnic Studies with Pin@ay Educational Partnerships (PEP), and has worked in various capacities within education and schooling institutions and organizations. Melisa is passionate and has a strong background in ethnic studies, trauma informed yoga, self- care, cooking, hiking, traveling, eating ice cream, & drinking alkaline water! She is excited to be working with Californians for Justice and “serving with the people” in Long Beach.