Rosa De León
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!
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.
“A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well.”- Bell Hooks
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.
Justine oversees the base building, leadership development and campaign strategy in Oakland as Senior Strategy Director. She also leads the org-wide narrative strategy, CFJ’s research team and contributes to the statewide strategy. Justine started organizing as a high school youth and continued throughout college, organizing around issues of racial justice, U.S. imperialism and globalization, environmental justice and housing justice. Her institutional experiences working in education at different capacities – as an organizer, in after school programs and as a teacher – has revealed how deeply oppressive the current education system is and moved her to commit her love and labor to education and racial justice organizing. She is grateful to be part of the CFJ team! To move towards her joy, Justine spends much of her non-work time building / deepening relationships with her peoples, & connecting with Mama Nature through long walks or bike rides.
Arvin works as the Statewide Campaigns Manager that coordinates with Californian for Justice’s organizers and youth to get their communities civically engaged and striving for racial and educational justice. As a high school student in Union City, he took ethnic studies classes that started building foundational knowledge on issues of history and social justice. Because of that experience, in college he became politically active, attending actions in defense of the college of Ethnic Studies at SFSU, housing issues in SF’s SoMa district, working at the student equity center at CSUEB, and helping found the Northern California Pilipinx American Student Alliance (NCPASA). After graduating, he worked in government, organizing with local grassroots organizations on various issues, working the rapid response Immigration defense hotline for Alameda County advocating for Abolishing ICE, and especially in non-profit organizing helping put together civic engagement campaigns to empower youth, the local Filipino and East Bay communities through the electoral system. Arvin was born in Toronto, Canada but raised in the East Bay Area. He also graduated from Cal State East Bay with a major in Political Science with a focus in Public Administration and a minor in Ethnic Studies. In his free time, he’s out in nature, playing with his cat Wesker, or (safely) out with friends.
San Jose Staff
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.
Angeles Rojas 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.
Stephanie Jauregui is CFJ’s Oakland Youth Organizer. Stephanie is also a CFJ alumni. She started organizing in High School and helped start the CFJ chapter at Fremont high. In the 6 years of organizing Stephanie has lead and organized big rallies and walks out, collected 500 signatures for Schools and Community First, and organized in various communities; Oakland, San Jose, Contra Costa, and LA. Stephanie believes in a revolution and fighting for liberation for all. At a young age, Stephanie has experienced many things that were normalized in her community; hunger, substance abuse, gun violence, family incarceration, domestic and sexual violence. She wants real change in East Oakland and everywhere. Stephanie is also an outspoken artist; singer, songwriter, poet, and painter. Her art speaks in-depth on all the violence she has endured and can really see her healing process and the way she views the world through it.
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.
Ernesto is the Organizing Director for Californians For Justice (CFJ), overseeing the base building, leadership development, coalition work, and campaign strategy in Fresno and statewide. His journey began in 2006 at California State University Fresno with the student activist group Movimiento Estudiantil (Ch)Xicanx(o/a) de Aztlan (MEChA). Here he was introduced to, grounded, and involved in radical, transformative grassroots movements happening around prison abolition, police brutality, indigenous and immigrant rights, to name a few, with small nonprofits and autonomous collectives/groups.
Graduating with a Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology in 2008, he organized with CFJ (the first time around!). After that, he was editor of a local progressive newspaper in 2014. In the fall of 2015, Ernesto returned to organizing with the East Bay Asian Youth Center and he went on to organize with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in 2020.
Ernesto does this work out of love for his community and believes change begins with young people and every movement and issue must center the most marginalized, always.
He likes to unwind by laughing, eating good food, experimenting with his indoor garden, being outside, listening to and playing music, and just being; being in the moment, being with himself, being around good energy and vibes.
Denise Rogers-Heydt is a Youth Organizer in the Fresno region, she is a Fresno State alumni and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with two minors: one in Philanthropic and Community-Based Leadership and the other in Music. As a research assistant with the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, they took part in analyzing focus group data for the Climate Change Health & Equity, developing the Central Valley Housing Data Repository, and co-facilitating racial equity workshops for DRIVE projects. Denise served as the Fresno State NAACP Political Action Chair during the Spring and Summer terms of 2020, during which she co-organized and co-lead the #WeCan’tBreathe event which highlighted the social inequities experienced by Black residents of Fresno, as well as other communities of color; there were at least 3,000 people in attendance and it is known as the largest demonstration in Fresno’s history. Because of this demonstration, she was awarded the Youth Way of Peace Award by The Fresno Center for Nonviolence and the city of Fresno established a Police Reform Commission and Black Lives Matter Day. She also developed the Clovis Unified School District Alumni Discrimination survey, which generated over 4,200 responses in less than 72 hours.
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.
As the People & Operations Manager, 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. She 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 transformative 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.
Asher Ki, Youth Organizer & Social Activist in the Fresno region. They became involved with CFJ as a sophomore in high school through a club on campus and the atmosphere is what kept them engaged. Asher finally felt like they were a part of something huge that could actually make a difference for schools and communities in their 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 them, they do this work because they envision a world where folks of color no longer have to worry about discrimination. Asher 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. They see what’s going on around them and see those who are affected by discrimination, white privilege, and more. More importantly, Asher’s experiences resemble what other folks experience and they know that before they can start to see a real change, they 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.”- Asher Ki
As a Capacity Building Associate, Janice supports the implementation of LBUSD’s Relationship Centered School’s Professional Learning Network by training school sites staff and developing student participants in school transformation. After joining Californians For Justice in 2016, Janice co-founded Lakewood High School’s CFJ chapter and took on the role of club president. Shortly after, Janice began working with Khmer Girls in Action as an ambassador with the Invest in Youth coalition. With this coalition, Janice served as a youth empowerment co-chair for the Yes On Us campaign, which put Measure US on the 2020 Long Beach City elections ballot and won $1.6 million annually to fund racial equity programs in the city. Concurrently, she trained and supported CFJ staff and volunteers in informing voters across the state about Prop 15. Racial justice in education is important to Janice because she believes that all students deserve to feel safe and empowered in their schools. Janice is a first-generation college student currently working towards a degree in sociology at the California State University of Long Beach. She aspires to follow her passion for social justice and continue pursuing a career in community organizing. Janice enjoys doing makeup, creating art, hiking, and spending time with her pets.
Jasmine is a Capacity Building Associate, she works to build the capacity of our LBUSD high schools participating in our Relationship Centered Schools and Equity and Inclusion professional learning network. She provides support and develops the students’ leadership on the design teams. Jasmine joined CFJ her sophomore year at Long Beach Poly high school in 2018. Since then she has held several student leadership positions where she facilitated Relationship Centered Schools campaign workshops and trainings for LBUSD administrators, teachers, support staff, and community partners. Jasmine co-facilitated an LBUSD Learning Day Launch on implicit bias and a Poly High school professional development training on how to build relationships with students. Racial justice in education is important to her because she believes that all students no matter where they come from, who they are, or what their background is deserve to have the resources, support, and education that represents them and allows them to flourish. Growing up Jasmine witnessed and experienced different forms of discrimination and racism in schools. She noticed that certain students are treated differently, the education system was not created for people of color to thrive. Jasmine realized that in order for the system to change she must take action. Jasmine is a first-gen college student currently attending California State University of Long Beach working towards a degree in Social Work. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her siblings at the park.
Najla Gomez Rodriguez
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.
Spencer currently works to build the capacity of our Long Beach Unified School District professional learning network high schools and provide support to the students on those design teams, as well as develop their leadership. Since joining Californians For Justice in 2016 they’ve held multiple positions— as a statewide strategy intern Spencer worked with a team to move forward the Relationship Centered Schools campaign. From 2019 to 2021, they served on the CFJ board of directors as a student board member. During the fall of 2020, they worked as a phone banker calling voters across the state to educate them on Prop 15 and to get them out to vote.
Racial justice in education matters to them because race is something that affects Black, Indigenous, students of color in every aspect of their lives including education, where they are often taught that they won’t succeed. Schools can be violent and damaging places for oppressed students, so it’s crucial for BIPOC to create a place where they’ll be valued like they deserve. Spencer currently attends Long Beach City College, where they are pursuing a degree in sociology. Their hobbies and interests include astrology, tarot, and goth culture.
Communications & Development
Saul Olivas (they/them) assists with the writing, submission, and reporting of grants for CFJ. As Grant Manager they form an integral part of the Development Team and serve to further all funding and development projects. Additionally, they support the Communications Team with cross-departmental communication and organizational narrative creation. Saul accidentally began grant writing in undergrad and has successfully navigated many years of grant management. Their greatest desire is to exist fully in their work and be a tool for change. A life-long reader and writer, they enjoy anything and everything that involves a story. Whether talking about your day around the campire or watching someone fall off a stage—they are all uniquely beautiful stories. Born and raised in San Diego, Saul is known at CFJ for surfing, dancing, and laughing.
Martha is the Development & Events Associate at CFJ, Martha helps manage our grassroots fundraising efforts and run events for our statewide and regional campaigns. This will be her third official year working on staff in a nonprofit organization, she went to a private high school which enabled her to work in the nonprofit field since she was 14 years old. Her high school’s work-study program helped her get connected to Loaves & Fishes, a homeless services organization in Sacramento, first as an intern and later as a Development Associate who managed and maintained a CRM to help the organization with its abundance of heart-felt donations and records. From an early age, she has always said she wanted to help people and make a change in her community rather than work for corporate America and have things stay the way they were. The fight for racial justice in education is important because it helps communities of color advance in their future careers and have a fair and equal opportunity just as the rest of their peers. Growing up in a Mexican household she was always kept busy with sports, mainly soccer, and helping her dad fix cars so she rarely had time to sit down and watch cartoons like a normal kid. Now as an adult she loves spending her free time watching anime and drama shows.
Katia Valeria Thiel
Katia is responsible for CFJ’s individual donor fundraising activities, development project management and special project management. 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 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 2 fur babies Cerberus and Fenrir.
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.
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.
Ever Galván (they/themme/elle) seeks to combat neoliberalism in social justice nonprofit organizations, manifest our most inspired visions of liberation, and advocates for the centering of Black, Indigenous, queer & trans, immigrant, femmes, sick and disabled people of color in movement spaces. For over 15 years, Ever has worked with individuals and organizations in a trauma-informed people-first HR capacity to develop and hold space for generative conflict as the key to healing–creating a safe and brave space for multiple conflicting truths to exist within ourselves and our communities.
Ever supports organizations’ ability to intentionally and thoughtfully navigate senior leadership transitions, decentralize power, realign practices with an intersectional lens, and foster organizational cultures of multi-directional learning. Ever cultivates organizations’ ability to coregulate, orient towards interdependence and collective care, and disrupt complacency and comfort within traditional DEIB structures.
Ever has facilitated workshops and consulted for SisterSong, Take Root, The Road Home, Casa de Salud, Eve’s Garden, Just Food, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more. While organizing with Action in Montgomery with the PICO Network, they trained in the Saul Alinsky model of organizing. Today Ever applies transformative justice models inspired by the work of Ruth Rittenhouse Morris, Mia Mingus, Sara Kershner, Mariame Kaba, Ejeris Dixon, and Adrienne Maree Brown. They apply their studies of emergent and liberatory strategies to all areas of their work.
In their free time, they volunteer for an organization that aims to build power in working-class communities of color in the US. Their interests include guerilla gardening, animal rights, street art, astrology and tarot, & crip and queer theory at the intersections of race and class. They also enjoy community building on land originally stewarded by the Tongva people with their partner and three rescue dogs, Honey, Hazel, and Luna.
Bendi Ratsavong (She/Her) is the People and Operation Coordinator who focuses on human resource administration duties. Administering payroll, benefits, PTO, onboarding, and supporting all needs in the POPS team. Bendi has worked in this field for the past 4 years making radical changes to how systems operate.
Bendi’s passion for social justice started in college, as a young student attending CSUEB. She has rallied and marched for BLM, the Women’s Movement, and has been an advocate for Asian American Students in the Central Valley. She is passionate about achieving justice for all.
Social Justice in education to Bendi means, redefining, understanding, and relearning educational equality for all students. Bendi wants to help students demand equity and growth in their education. It is important for all young people to know that they are heard!
Bendi is a proud first-generation Laotian American who displays her culture through her clothing, tattoos, and jewelry. She grew up in Fresno, CA where she is striving to make change for the better in her community. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, painting, pretty much anything creative that gets her mind flowing!
Californians for Justice Board of Directors
Desiree Carver-Thomas (Oakland) -- Researcher and Policy Analyst, Learning Policy Institute
Meredith Fenton (Oakland) -- Strategist, Facilitator, Coach
Taryn Ishida (Ex Officio Member) -- Executive Director, Californians for Justice
Jason Phan (Oakland) -- Group Product Manager, Atlassian
Ethan Zatko, (Oakland) -- Senior Consultant, BDO FMA
Jessenia Reyes (Long Beach) -- Manager of Educational Equity, Advancement Project