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.
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!
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.
Karn is the Policy and Alliance Director and works to advance CFJ’s vision for justice by building power through policies and people. Born and raised in Chicago, Karn has been able to work with multi-racial grassroots organizations in Chicago, the Bay area, and Portland. In Chicago, he organized Asian American youth around immigration reform and the DREAM Act. He served as the Director of Student Organizing at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth in San Francisco, where he organized black and brown youth and working-class families around education justice issues. In Portland, OR, he worked with high school students to start a youth-led organizing group that started and won an ethnic studies campaign for Portland Public High Schools. He also organized with incarcerated adults at Oregon State Penitentiary, to start and win a campaign to build a healing garden inside prison grounds. He also co-founded the Portland chapter of Asians 4 Black Lives, which works with Asian Americans to organize around Black liberation. Karn continues to do this work because he trusts the vision of young people, especially when it comes to education, since they’re the ones who are the most impacted by these issues. Karn is also really bad at cooking but really good at eating.
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.
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.
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
Nhada organizes in San Jose, supporting students’ leadership in their movement to demand space, build power, and claim ownership of their education. She draws grounding and inspiration from her own experiences as a high school and college student in San Jose and the southern Bay Area, as well as her involvement in organizing as a student across coalitions, organizing in her own faith community, and organizing in San Jose around gentrification and displacement.
Nhada believes that access to a holistic and culturally relevant education in which each student is supported and centered is a fundamental right for all, and that working for change in education uplifts all communities and pushes back against all systems and intersections of oppression. She holds a BS in Ethnic Studies and Political Science from Santa Clara University, and enjoys ice cream, board games, taking naps, and spending time with her loved ones.
Lucila is in charge of overseeing the campaign and implementation work in San Jose, 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.
Josh organizes alongside youth leaders to create a just educational system for all youth regardless of race, sexual orientation or zip code. Josh currently oversees the Base Building strategy & tactics within the San Jose region. Josh is a proud Hmong American son and the second youngest in a family of 11. Josh was raised on the back of refugee parents & secondhand clothes and first to graduate out of college with a BA in Psychology & minor in Education at the University of California Santa Cruz. He started organizing after recognizing how oppressive the modern educational system was for students outside the perceived model student– pale complex, obedient & silent; and wanted to change that reality for his younger brother & future generations. In his spare time, he likes to watch anime, lift weights and enjoy a casual beer with his friends or at the bar.
Rayna Smith is an Organizer at CFJ in Oakland. She is a youth advocate, confidant and leader at Fremont High School. She has been organizing for 12 years which she attributes to losing her play brother Gary W. King Jr in an officer involved shooting on her 16th birthday. She joined the fight for Social Justice and hasn’t stopped fighting the good fight. She had a hand in raising Oakland’s minimum wage, shooting down the youth curfew, bringing jobs to the army base, opening a job center in West Oakland and so much more. Being a mother of two beautiful girls has inspired her to make some lasting changes in the injustice system. She knows the only way to win is to never give up and she is committed to making some lasting changes for generations to come. Rayna loves winning and that fuels her passion to fight for justice for people near and far. She is a dynamic Public Speaker, Poet, Movement Leader and so much more.
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 a Lead 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 oversees the base building, leadership development and campaign strategy in Oakland as Organizing Director. She also leads the leadership development strategy across all four regions, holds the CFJ research team focusing on ways to build power through data and experience, and contributes to the statewide strategy. Justine started organizing in high school through a youth-led campaign to pass a violence prevention initiative that benefits Black and Brown youth in Union City, CA. Her analysis of social justice issues and agency to organize was born out of her Ethnic Studies education in high school, which confronted her with coming to terms with what it meant to be a first-generation, working class Pinay in the United States. Her campaign victory as a youth empowered her to continue developing as an organizer and she later got involved with Filipino American groups organizing for National Democracy in the Philippines and other grassroots organizations tackling issues around housing, environmental justice and education. Her institutional experiences working in education, especially initiating a social justice pathway, Change It Now (C.I.T.) at Chabot College in Hayward, CA and teaching Ethnic Studies for 3 years at Balboa High School through Pin@y Educational Partnerships grounded her in how deeply oppressive the current education system is and sparked her passion to fight for education justice. Justine loves that at CFJ, she is able to weave her passion for education with her organizing praxis. Her experiences throughout the years have affirmed her love for transformative youth organizing and commitment to fighting for racial justice and liberation. She is grateful to be part of the team! Outside of CFJ, Justine serves as a Library Trustee for Daly City to push conversations on community engagement, racial justice, equity in Daly City public libraries. For fun and joy, Justine values quality time with her peoples, her fur-babies Nala & Rumble, and connecting with Mama Nature through long walks or bike rides.
Isabella works as an organizer in the Oakland region at CFJ, she works closely with our youth to achieve the futures they see for their schools and communities. Isabella got involved with CFJ by starting off as a volunteer while attending San Francisco State University. She quickly grew a love for organizing, and holds a lot of passion for transforming the community in Oakland where she was born and raised. Graduating from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Race and Resistance Studies has allowed Isabella to understand her own experience growing up in the public education system. She hopes to be one of the caring adults involved in our schools that helped change her life as a youth. During her free time you might catch Isabella at concerts, or watching one of the latest movie releases at the theater. She enjoys spending time with her loved ones and working on creative projects with friends.
Te’Ausha Garcia. Youth Organizer & Social Activist in the Fresno region. She became involved with CFJ as a sophomore in high school through a club on campus and the atmosphere is what kept her engaged. Te’Ausha finally felt like she was a part of something huge that could actually make a difference for schools and communities in her city. All the issues people face, their mission, their student-led aspect, everything seemed to fit and just make sense. The culture at CFJ is what sparked the passion inside of her, she does this work because she envisions a world where folks of color no longer have to worry about discrimination. She envisions a just society, a society where the needs of our people are put first, always in an attempt to make the world a better place. She sees what’s going on around her and sees those who are affected by discrimination, white privilege, and more. More importantly, Te’Ausha’s experiences resemble what other folks experience and she knows that before she can start to see a real change, she must be willing to put in the work.
“ I Never do anything that doesn’t make sense, and to me, it not only makes sense to be an activist for my community, my peers, my family, for those who are afraid to stand up, but it’s in my DNA. It’s who I am. I was born to make legendary moves and be the face for young folks of color.”- Te’Ausha Garcia
As lead organizer, Maria oversees the organizing work in Fresno and plays a key role in advancing educational justice in the local schools. Maria first became involved with CFJ as a high school student where she helped establish the Edison High School chapter and has been organizing ever since. Most recently, Maria was the Graduate Coordinator for the First Generation and Low-Income Student Center at Brown University where she supported both undergraduate and graduate programming aimed at strengthening and bringing awareness to the needs of the first-gen and low-income student population. The passion to ensure every student, regardless of race, gender identity, or citizenship status, has access to a superior education is what drives her to do this work. Maria holds two bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Political Science and a master’s degree in Sociology from Brown University. In her free time Maria enjoys traveling, DIY projects, and learning new recipes she will never actually get around to cooking.
Jamila Rice is an Organizer at Californians for Justice in Fresno. She is a recent Political Science graduate of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, AL. In 2018 she graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned several disciplinary distinctions. During her tenure at Tuskegee she was involved in the University Ambassador Program, she served as the Student Government Association Judicial Advisor for the 2017-2018 school year, was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, a third-year New Student Orientation Leader, president of the Bioethics Debate Team and a member of the President’s Men and Women Leadership Panel. All while working as a work-study interpreter for Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and owning a custom tea business called Beautiful Tea.
During the summer of 2016 Jamila was a George Washington Carver Intern at Iowa State University where she conducted research on ways to assist migrant and seasonal farm workers in agricultural emergencies while also developing and disseminating 4-H material to youth in Iowa ages 7 through 12.
In the summer 2017 Jamila interned at Yosemite National Park as the Volunteer Office Outreach Intern. She assisted with Yosemite’s Volunteer in Parks (VIP) Program and outreached to surrounding communities of color in an effort to have them volunteer with National Park System and reclaim National Park land as their own.
Most recently, Jamila has completed a 6-month fellowship with the Forest Service in Boston, MA. During her time with the Forest Service Jamila assisted the Emerald Necklace Conservancy Canopy Classroom Program at Northeastern University which educated 3rd graders from inner-city Boston about the urban wilderness.
Jamila served as the Edison High School CFJ chapter president in 2013, where she participated with CFJ throughout high school as well as participating in SYLA and Advanced SYLA.
Jamila is excited to be an Organizer with Californians for Justice. She is looking forward to inspiring youth to fight for social and economic justice. Her favorite quote taken from a former CFJ organizer is, “A butterfly has no boundaries.”
Long Beach Staff
Omar leads Long Beach’s campaign and oversees base building and leadership development in the region as Lead Organizer. He began organizing in 2007 in his hometown of Stockton, CA with Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, and the ESPINO Coalition successfully advocating for the closure of a youth prison in Stockton. In 2013, organizing alongside young people with the Long Beach- Every Student Matters Campaign and winning the LBUSD School Discipline Principles and Practices Resolution. From 2016-2019, he was the Lead Organizer with Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), and anchored the Invest In Youth Campaign and the Building Healthy Communities Youth Workgroup and Youth Committee. In his tenure at KGA Omar oversaw Youth Participatory Action Research, winning $100K seed money from the Mayor’s budget to establish the first ever Long Beach Children and Youth Fund, and the cities first ever youth-led strategic plan. His commitment to youth organizing stems from his experience being pushed-out, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system, and continues to be grounded and moved towards justice and liberation by all the friends and family he has lost due to violence, mass incarceration, deportation and poverty. His life’s work however centers around fatherhood and raising his son Oceloeztli to be free!
Joshua Jimenez is an Organizer with Californians for Justice in Long Beach! He works with our CFJ high school youth leaders in base-building and leadership development! Born and raised in Long Beach, CA as a Filipino-American, Joshua’s roots in youth organizing started in 2009 at 15 years old. At that young age, he not only learned about his rich Filipino culture and heritage, but the struggles of Filipino im/migrants in the U.S. and abroad. From working with Filipino immigrant youth on the streets, to helping build Filipino cultural clubs at Lakewood, Cabrillo and Poly High School in Long Beach. His direct experience with the School-to-Prison pipeline as a youth growing up in Long Beach only makes his commitment and dedication to racial justice work that much more genuine.
Over the past 10 years, Joshua has been involved with the Filipino community particularly in doing human rights work and fighting for genuine democracy and sovereignty in the Philippines! He was able to travel to New York, Chicago, Seattle, and the Bay Area to numerous anti-war conferences, and national gatherings of different anti-imperialist organizations/movements to build international solidarity for the liberation of the Filipino people!
Joshua is also a hip-hop MC, DJ and graphic designer! His love for hip-hop culture easily translates to love for the youth and using art as a tool to educate, organize and mobilize our communities!
Ahuitz Romo-Gonzalez is a Leadership Development Youth Organizer in the Long Beach Region for Californians for Justice. Ahuitz oversees Leadership Development programming that supports youth 14 -18 to develop a deeper understanding of civic engagement and community organizing by building connections, developing critical thinking, and visioning for a healthier and just future. Ahuitz is the proud son of two Mexican immigrants, and was raised in the Bay Area. Ahuitz brings to his work a passion for social justice education through his experience working with youth from underserved communities in the Bay Area and Southern California, and witnessing the brilliance that young conscious minds can offer this world. He has supported schools, communities, and youth development programs to create safe, inclusive, and nurturing learning environments for all youth. Ahuitz holds a B.A. in Ethnic Studies, Media & Cultural Studies from UC Riverside and a M.A. in Social & Cultural Analysis of Education from California State University Long Beach.
Communications & Development
Katia is responsible for development project management, administrative support of the California Partnership for the Future of Learning, special project management, and executive director support. 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 women 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, fundraising, event planning, 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 reading or 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). When tired of being inside she enjoys being outdoors with her partner James and their border collie Cerberus.
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.
Allison manages the ongoing stewardship and growth of CFJ’s foundation portfolio, focusing on community-centric and economic justice principles in her fundraising strategies. Her professional path is deeply rooted in the nonprofit sector, most recently fundraising for immigrant rights and justice. As the daughter of Filipine Bisaya immigrants, Allison regards community care and decolonization as integral to both her personal and professional growth. She earned a B.A. in World Literature and an Ed.M. in International Education Policy. She believes learning and unlearning is at the core of liberation, and wants to see revolutionary systems change in both U.S. and global education.
Outside of her fundraising grind, Allison is a badass biscuit baker, a creative writer, and an auntie to the best nephew in the world.
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.
Joyce Harrington is a first-generation college graduate with a BS in Finance. With over 15 years of experience in the corporate world as a Controller, her heart turned toward social justice during the nationwide social injustice against Black American’s in 2020. No longer able to sit idly by and do nothing, she turned her corporate knowledge to help this social cause in the way she knew how by joining CFJ as the Accounting Manager. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors and spending quality time raising her three children.
Jesse originally served as the Finance Director at CFJ for 5 years from 2006-2011 and returned to the position in 2019. In the interim, he supported fiscally sponsored projects as the Finance Manager at Movement Strategy Center. He loves spending time playing with numbers in spreadsheets. Jesse has an MSW with a focus on community organizing and has a small private psychotherapy practice in Oakland.
Ever Galván is responsible for implementing human resource management strategies and processes that ensure a motivated workforce and an inspiring workspace founded on equity, diversity, inclusion, and racial justice values. They bring over 13 years of HR experience and more than 20 years of social justice movement work to CFJ.
Ever enjoys writing on the intersections of being a queer, nonbinary, disabled, polyam, white-passing person of color. They live with their partner and two rescue dogs in sunny Long Beach, CA. In their free time, they find pleasure in play, deep belly laughter, and grounding connection. Fun fact: they have color coordinated bookshelves.
As the People & Operations Associate, Anais supports CFJ’s human resources, infrastructure, and operations by ensuring the team is supported with tools and a work environment that is rooted in black liberation values. Her dedication to social and educational justice stems from her own personal experiences and her participation within CFJ as a high school student. Anais has worked with organizations that advocated for economic, educational, and housing justice, and focused on curriculum development centering interconnectivity, restorative justice, and leadership development. Anais holds a B.A from CSULB in Sociology with a concentration in Social and Group Relations. Anais believes that the current capitalist system oppresses communities of color and believes that such systems can be abolished and restorative solutions can be established for and by our communities. During her free time, she enjoys writing, dancing, and spending quality time with her family and friends.
Californians for Justice Board of Directors
Stephanie Aguilon (Long Beach) -- Student, Ernest McBride High School
Nhu Anh Can (San Jose) -- Senior Event Manager, Shiloh Event Management
Desiree Carver-Thomas (Oakland) -- Researcher and Policy Analyst, Learning Policy Institute
Meredith Fenton (Oakland) -- Strategist, Facilitator, Coach
America Hernandez (Fresno) -- Social Services Coordinator, Kids in Need of Defense
Taryn Ishida (Ex Officio Member) -- Executive Director, Californians for Justice
Jason Phan (Oakland)
Ethan Zatko (Oakland)
Spencer Lara (Long Beach) -- CFJ Alum, Student at Long Beach Community College
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