As Executive Director of Californians for Justice, Taryn leads the organization to actualize its mission of racial justice by building the power of youth, communities of color, immigrants, low-income and LGBQ, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming communities. She provides leadership in program strategy, alliance building and policy, and organizational and fund development. She started as a volunteer with CFJ in 2002, and has since supported CFJ youth leaders to win local and state campaigns that have improved school climate and access to social emotional learning, strengthened equity and engagement in school funding, and increased civic participation among youth of color. Prior to CFJ she spent eight years in philanthropy at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Taryn sees public education as the system that can either interrupt or perpetuate racial inequality in our country, and believes that youth must be the ones to reimagine and lead that change. She is a proud alumni of Molokai High in Hawaii, home of the “fighting farmers”, where she benefited from the vibrancy and strength of being in a multi-racial school community. Outside of work Taryn likes to play tennis and force her toddler and family to spend quality time with her.
As a 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.
Najla helps build the capacity of school district and CFJ staff to increase parent and student participation in decision-making to advance justice for youth of color. Before CFJ Najla worked as an organizer in housing justice where she supported community leaders in winning millions of dollars for affordable housing and tenant protections in the East Bay. Najla came up as a student leader with CFJ in East San Jose where she received the support to apply and be accepted to Stanford University. While in college, Najla developed curriculum and taught for high school and college students on the topics of educational justice and community organizing. As an immigrant Xicana woman influenced by Black feminism, Najla believes that freedom necessitates the destruction of all systems of oppression. She’s in the social justice field because she believes a better world is possible. Najla values time spent with family and friends and in her free time contributes to a socialist cadre formation and practices yoga. Najla is indebted to her mom and grandmother for supporting her unconditionally.
As Senior Strategy Director, Jeremy offers leadership to staff in transformative organizing, strategic thinking, and leadership development. He also works on our statewide team to develop meaningful relationships and support CFJ policy work in Sacramento. Jeremy 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. Jeremy lives in South Los Angeles with his partner, Maria, a high school Social Studies teacher, and their three children, Adila, Tecún, and Amar. 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.
As a Senior Strategy Director J. Ishida leads the integration of of local and statewide organizing to win power and concrete improvements in our communities. J. brings 17 years of community organizing and racial justice experience through their work with Californians for Justice, Movement Strategy Center, and as an independent consultant for youth organizing and civic engagement organizations. They see education as a key institution that must be reimagined by young people in order to win the battle for racial justice in our communities. J. is a founding member of Liberation Ink, a silk-screening collective whose profits support social justice organizations, and a parent of two free-range children.
Albert leads CFJ’s statewide Civic Engagement campaigns and supports the Sacramento team with our grassroots coalitions. He first stepped into organizing as a CFJ Youth in East Side San Jose in 2008 during the Great Recession and saw how public schools and youth of color were devalued. He brings a Queer Latinx lens to his work. This lens and consciousness were fostered with love and struggle in organizing spaces like Student Unity and Power and MEChA at San Francisco State. He completed his tenure at San Francisco State University with a B.A in Mathematics and a Minor in Latina/o Studies. Albert views the education system as a mirror to the layered oppression found in society at large. He sees racial justice as the critical framework to break down the institution of education as it is and transform it into a liberatory system.
San Jose Staff
Rosa oversees the CFJ San Jose region organizing team, leads the organization’s base building and leadership development across the four regions, and contributes to the statewide strategy.
Her commitment to Social and Racial Justice is rooted on her experience as an english learner, first generation immigrant, and being a CFJ leader when she was a student at Overfelt High School in East San Jose. Throughout her time at CFJ, Rosa has been part of different campaign victories in the East Side Union High School District including Bilingual Certification, the adoption of A-G as default curriculum for graduation, and Student Voice on the district’s budgeting process. She has also led efforts that engaged youth leaders of color to win local and state measures. Rosa played a key role in statewide campaigns to stop the California High School Exit Exam, win equitable funding for schools and student voice which has given students across California decision making power over their school funding.
In addition to Education Justice Rosa has experience organizing immigrant communities, and contributed to the development of the Immigration Rapid Response Network in Santa Clara County. She believes that in order to achieve meaningful change, those impacted need to be at the forefront of organizing efforts. Rosa is a first generation college student and received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She enjoys live music, going for hikes and participating in direct action!
Angeles Rojas, Lead Organizer, plays a key role in overseeing the campaigns and leadership development work in San Jose. Angeles work includes training local organizers and student leaders in base building and campaigns to advance educational justice in the East Side Union High School District. She has been part of the CFJ family for over 15 years, taking different leadership roles as a student and then as an alumni. In 2016, Angeles joined our staff, and since then she has strengthened our partnership with local teachers, principals, and district staff within the East Side Union High School District. Angeles’ organizing is driven by her commitment to cultivate community and build meaningful relationships with those around her. She is passionate about supporting the leadership growth of young people in her community, just like her mentors did with her as a young person. Angeles learned the importance of working in community and supporting each other from her parents who are always there to support family members and others in their community. Angeles enjoys going to the movies, hanging out with friends, but most importantly she loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews.
Robert is a youth organizer with a focus on the recruitment of student leaders mainly working with students and folks at Fremont High School, he is a CFJ Alumni born and raised in Oakland and a father of two beautiful girls. After being involved in community groups at a the young age of 15, Robert helped lead a piece of the advocation for proposition 30 which increased taxes for the highest earners in California to go toward public school system founding. Robert has seen how critical youth development is and aspires to empower youth of color through his experience to creatively energize and inform decision making. 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.
Like many of our staff here, Maura is also a CFJ student alumni who has been a part of the CFJ family for over a decade. For many years she worked in the San Jose office first as a youth organizer in high school then as a college intern and finally came on staff before transferring to SFSU to pursue a double major in Spanish and Latino/a studied. During her time there she served as vice president of the Ethnic Studies Research and Empowerment Center. Before coming back to CFJ Maura worked with various orgs like TIGRA, a transnational organization that works with the Filipino and Latinx immigrant community to empower them to use their economic citizenship to create change in their community. She also worked with the Alliance for a Just Society gathering data to address issues around access to healthcare for low income communities and was able to travel all over the U.S. She now works in the Oakland office as an organizer who focuses on Leadership development as well as recruitment at Oakland High. In her free time you can catch her hanging out with her three- year old niece or screen printing social justice images with Taller Girasol.
Justine leads Oakland’s campaign and oversees base building and leadership development in the region as Lead Organizer. She started organizing in high school in a youth-led campaign to pass a $500K youth violence prevention initiative in Union City, CA and organized throughout college, where her interest in education justice began. She supported to initiate a social justice pathway Change It Now (C.I.T.), at Chabot College, taught Ethnic Studies at Balboa High School through Pin@y Educational Partnerships, and engaged in environmental, education and housing justice organizing in San Francisco and Oakland communities. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability and Social Justice from San Francisco State University and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Human Rights Education at University of San Francisco. As a first-generation working class Pinay, she is excited to weave her passion for education within her organizing work and resistance praxis. Her experiences throughout the years have deepened her interest in transformative youth organizing, racial justice, critical education and leadership development, and she is grateful to be part of the CFJ team to do this work. In her personal time, Justine enjoys being with her family, her partner, Nala (their dog), or connecting with Mama Nature.
Geordee Mae oversees the Oakland region organizing while also balancing various organizational duties, including the leadership development of CFJ students and staff and training school districts across the state. Geordee Mae has played a critical role in the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula in Oakland and spearheaded the first LCAP Student Advisory Committee in the state, which brings real decision making power to students. To date, Geordee Mae has trained over 15 school districts across California on how to engage students and parents with the vision of making all schools community schools. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Geordee Mae is a first-generation Pilipina-American daughter of immigrant parents. She received her BA in Asian American Studies from UC Davis. Her commitment to racial justice in schools began during her time at Davis, where she worked as a mentor and counselor to students of color in Vallejo and South Sacramento. Geordee Mae is also passionate about creating methods of healing and sustainability in the social justice movement through coaching, and in May of 2017, she completed her Coaching for Transformation certification with Leadership That Works. Geordee Mae uses these skills to help Coach up and coming organizers throughout the Bay Area. Geordee Mae is a die hard Warriors fan who enjoys traveling and being in nature.
Lucila is in charge of overseeing the campaign and implementation work in Fresno, as well as supporting the leadership development and base building work. In her statewide role, she participates and helps to coordinate statewide policy and organizing educational coalitions. Lucila recently re-joined the CFJ team after having worked in the immigrant rights field, leading labor-community coalitions with Working Partnerships USA, and as a Legislative and Policy Advisor to a council member in San Jose. She is also an alumnus of Californians for Justice from the East Side of San Jose. As a first-generation immigrant, Lucila believes achieving racial justice in the education system will transform the lives of students of color, and help provide a context for our nation to follow. Lucila currently resides in the Central Valley and enjoys long walks (and audiobooks) in her free time.
Donald works side by side our youth as an organizer in Fresno. He focuses on building a strong base of Fresno youth while encouraging leadership skills within every student. Originally from Oakland, Donald has ample experience working with teens throughout the state of California. He often shares his love to motivate and inspire youth on becoming the change needed for today’s advancement. He is heavily involved in his community where he strives to bring awareness on ways to be active in one’s neighborhood, community and school. He loves visiting his family in the Bay Area and traveling with his wife as they explore new cities, art and hxstory.
Andrew supports CFJ’s political education work, develops youth from marginalized communities, and builds our Fresno base with equity in mind. He is currently working on the Relationship Centered Schools campaign at Edison High School with the hopes of making a systemic change in the interpersonal, internalized, and institutional levels with youth and adults. 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 trying to bring in critical race theory to address issues of race and class. When not working, you can find him enjoying the outdoors, family time, supporting his partner Mayra, and enjoying their little pupper, Appa.
Long Beach Staff
As Organizing and Policy Director, Norma 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-labor coalitions focused on economic and social justice issues. Norma works for racial justice and education equity and wants to see education be truly equitable for everyone regardless of race, background or legal status. She is a first generation college student, the proud daughter of immigrants from Puruandiro Michoacan and originally from Porterville, California. She enjoys good books, running and quality time with her people.
Melisa works with and supports young people in Long Beach in building their critical consciousness, supporting their growth as leaders and human beings, and engaging students in dialogue and action around issues and topics that most impact them. Her purpose is rooted in community and she has a strong background and practice in Ethnic Studies having worked with students inside and outside of the classroom in San Francisco and Los Angeles as an educator. Melisa received her Bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University and Masters in Education from UCLA. For her, racial justice matters because she believes that we need humanizing policies and practices that support youth of color in ensuring that they have an equitable education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family/friends, cooking, yoga/meditation, napping and having new experiences!
Mayra coordinates CFJ’s major statewide leadership development programs and supports the organizing team in creating learning environments that nurture and challenge youth to build their skills and political awareness to lead CFJ’s campaign work. Mayra 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. Mayra is currently working on their Masters in School Counseling at CSULB and hopes to continue building power with young people to manifest educational systems where all students can thrive.
Elizabeth develops, executes, and evaluates local campaign, leadership development and base building strategy in the Long Beach region. She began organizing at the University of Southern California (USC) with Students for Education Reform. As the chapter leader at USC, she mobilized students around the Local Control Funding Formula and led a school wide achievement gap awareness campaign. She was also involved in the student-led USC Campus Climate Coalition seeking to make the the university campus more inclusive and equitable for students of color. She strongly believes that education is a human right and has the power to transform our communities into the spaces people of color deserve. In her free time she enjoys attending music festivals, roaming in nature, and finding new coffee shops and vegan restaurants.
Communications & Development
Maria writes and submits all foundation grant proposals and reports and tracks our grant deliverables. She received her BA in Ethnic Studies from UCSD and PhD in History from the University of Chicago. She has taught undergraduate courses in Latino Social Movements, History of Mexico, and US Policy in Latin America. At the University of Chicago, she pursued new initiatives to address the academic and professional needs of graduate students of color, including training for diversity fellowship competitions. She is excited to bring her research and writing skills to CFJ. As a Mexican immigrant in American public schools, Maria experienced firsthand the discrimination students of color often face, including stereotypes, low expectations, and educational tracking. These lessons have encouraged Maria to do her part to ensure equity and access in education. She is also committed to helping other PhDs find careers outside of academia.
Katia is responsible for coordinating the annual fundraisers, sponsorships and expanding the organization’s grassroots fundraising capacity. Hailing from Guayangareo Valley, she 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 woman 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 organizing, canvassing, and leadership skills. For her, this is an opportunity to support California’s youth in building power and transforming our collective reality. When she’s not fundraising 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).
Hannah carries out CFJ’s regional and statewide messaging and campaign efforts. Prior to joining Californians for Justice, Hannah spent several years as a reporter focusing on education, health care and technology for community and business papers in the Central San Joaquin Valley. She is a former USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellow and lifelong resident of Fresno, Calif. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She is excited to take her love of language to the nonprofit world, where she can craft powerful narratives leading to social change and racial equity. Hannah finds social justice work to be much more satisfying than reporting on movements from the sidelines and is appreciative of the opportunity to work with students and families. In her spare time you can usually catch her reading, camping or relaxing with loved ones.
Chelsie leads Californians for Justice’s Development Department including steering the fundraising programs and leading organizational projects that improve CFJ’s culture, systems, and processes. Chelsie started working with Californians for Justice in 2010 as an intern for the Campaign for Quality Education. Since then, she has helped CFJ to significantly expand their grassroots and foundation fundraising programs in a variety of roles covering grassroots and foundation fundraising and strategic communications. Chelsie also earned her B.A. in Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis from Mills College in 2011. Chelsie is committed to helping young people build a more racially just education system that supports all students to succeed because she believes in the power of education to transform the lives of young people. Chelsie grew up in Redding, CA and now calls Oakland home.
As Senior Operations Director, Karen oversees operations (human resources, finance, and administration) at CFJ, making sure that the foundation is strong so CFJ can achieve the greatest impact. Karen benefited from a good public education and believes that public school, if done equitably, can be a powerful force for good in our society. She’s spent her career at social justice organizations working on leadership development, public health, and housing. She 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 and making up excuses to drink bubble tea.
Corrine Galván Gutierrez is responsible for implementing human resource management strategies and processes that ensure a motivated workforce and an inspiring workspace founded on equity and inclusion. Corrine was born and raised in Inglewood, CA and identifies as a biracial queer woman of color. Previously, Corrine has worked with organizations and communities of color in Los Angeles, CA, Camden, NJ, Albuquerque, NM, Salt Lake City, UT, and Buckbushridge, South Africa. They are intentionally involved in and write about queer liberation, food system justice, racial justice, Xicana politics, housing inequality, and on the intersections of race, class, and gender. They continue to challenge institutions and systems of oppression focused on ending violence against all bodies, ensuring equitable, accessible and affordable housing, healthcare, and education and ending poverty and hunger. They enjoy building and sustaining an uplifting community of friends, riding their road bike, dancing, gardening, camping, hiking, street art, traveling, ice cream and great music.
Californians for Justice Board of Directors
Stephanie Aguilon (Long Beach) -- Student, Ernest McBride High School
Kim Boyer (Fresno) -- Adjunct Faculty, Fresno Pacific University
Nhu Anh Can (San Jose) -- Senior Event Manager, Shiloh Event Management
Allen Choi (Oakland) -- Graduate student, CSU East Bay
Robert Green (Oakland) -- Student, Mount Eden High School
Meredith Fenton (Oakland) -- Strategist, Facilitator, Coach
Jessica Gunderson (Oakland) -- Government Relations Consultant, Leafly
Taryn Ishida (Ex Officio Member) -- Executive Director, Californians for Justice
Darcie Kiyan (San Jose) -- Director of Foundation Operations, El Camino Hospital Foundation
Tajah Morrow (Long Beach) -- Student, Cabrillo High School
Yasmin Noriega (San Jose) -- CFJ Alum, Student at West Valley College
Jessenia Reyes (Long Beach) -- Manager of Educational Equity, Advancement Project
Sierra Salas (San Jose) -- Student, James Lick High School
Maria Soto (Long Beach) -- CFJ Alum, Business Office Assistant, Orange Health & Wellness Centre
Nailiah Williams (Oakland) -- CFJ Alum and Student at Laney College