The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change jobs and advance in their careers, which is not reflected in these bios. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute Alum can be found here.
Lucia Napolez grew up in Yuma, Arizona with her immediate family. She is proud to say that her grandparents and parents come from the seasonal migrant worker's camps laid out from Yuma, AZ all the way to Fresno, CA. She is the first in her family to attend a four year university, and has received two professional degrees.
Lucia relocated to San Diego in 2007 to start anew and begin developing her career. She enrolled in community college, and eventually transferred to San Diego State University to study International Security and Conflict Resolution. By junior year, Lucia was a double major in I.S.C.O.R. and Spanish, with a minor in LGBT Studies.
Lucia became very involved in LGBT social justice, and started donating her time to various organizations in the LGBT community in San Diego. Through her knowledge and experience in LGBT culture, she secured a position with Rescue Social Change Group as a cultural expert and Client Services representative for its National LGBT campaign.
Since joining Rescue Social Change Group nearly a year ago, Lucia has moved internally within the company to her current position as an acting liaison for both Client Services and Creative Operations.
Sarah Abshear is an attorney whose practice covers business and complex commercial litigation across multiple industries. She has experience with all stages of case development, from initial claim assessment to post-trial motions and appeals, in federal, California, and other state courts. Sarah has represented a variety of clients, including Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, classes of plaintiffs, individual plaintiffs and defendants, and government entities.
Sarah received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2009, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and served as a Writing and Research Editor of the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems. She received her B.A., summa cum laude, in Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 2006.
Sarah is admitted to the state bars of California and New York; the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; the U.S. District Courts for the Southern, Central, and Northern Districts of California; and the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. She is a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the Lawyers Club of San Diego, where she serves on the Reproductive Rights & Women's Advocacy Committee.
Jeremy Bloom is the Donor Relations Manager with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Jeremy joined the ACLU in 2015 and is responsible for managing a mid-level fundraising portfolio including annual and planned giving, with a focus on identifying donors and strengthening their relationship with the ACLU.
Jeremy has worked in the nonprofit fundraising and political organizing fields for more than eight years. Prior to coming to the ACLU, Jeremy lived in Santa Barbara and served on the boards of a community-based foundation and faith group. He is an active member of Young Professionals Council, a project of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, currently sitting on the executive committee as the secretary/treasurer.
Jeremy was born in Upstate New York and has traveled extensively throughout North America, the Middle East, and Africa. Jeremy obtained a B.A. in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, VA.
Khalisa Bolling is passionate about building healthy communities and improving people's quality of life. She earned a Masters of Public Health from SDSU, and began her career at the City of National City. There, she managed a Lead Hazard Control Program and a Healthy Homes Program. She served as the Director of Programs for Outdoor Outreach, a non-profit that connects youth to the transformative power of the outdoors. Khalisa is currently working for UCSD in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health coordinating a research study funded by the NIH. This study investigates the efficacy of a multi-level physical activity program aimed at improving the health of older adults. In this role, she also leads a Community Advisory Board and delivers a training to empower older adults to become program leaders.
Khalisa serves as board member and chair of the advocacy committee for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. She is committed to advocating for infrastructure that will allow biking to become a viable transportation option for all. She also serves on the Groundwork San Diego board, a non-profit that engages businesses, residents and government officials around transforming the Chollas Creek watershed into a community asset.
Beeta Jahedi designs and implements San Diego Grantmakers' program strategy and member learning initiatives. In this role, she creates opportunities to innovate and collaborate on the issues that drive San Diego philanthropies, ensures that SDG continuously fosters a well-informed and connected community of grantmakers, and that programs offered contribute to members' philanthropic effectiveness.
Prior to joining San Diego Grantmakers, Beeta was a senior program associate in the president's office at The JPB Foundation, where she managed a $50M portfolio in poverty, effective philanthropy, and performing arts education. She was also the assistant director of learning services at Philanthropy New York (PNY) where she implemented PNY's member learning strategy, launched and designed several collaborative projects and initiatives, such as the role of philanthropy in post-election America and best practices in disaster grantmaking after Hurricane Sandy, and increased the use of digital and social media at programs as a tool for funders to continue discussing best practices and engage with the wider philanthropic sector.
Beeta is a 2016 San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA) Fellow. She also serves on the Screening Committee for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. She was formerly Chair of the Girls Incorporated of New York City's Junior Board, and a co-leader of the Alumni in Philanthropy Group of NYUWagner.
Beeta received her M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Administration from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and received her B.A. in Gender Studies from Bard College at Simon's Rock, an early college.
James Halliday is a native San Diegan. He attended public K-12 schools, completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma program at San Diego HS in 1999, and had the privilege of being an Aaron Price Fellow, where the connection between civic engagement and public leadership first took root.
After graduating with a degree in history from Stanford in 2003, James pursued postgraduate studies in Cracow, Poland, where he lived until 2005. Between 2005-14, he lived Seoul, Moscow, and Istanbul, where he worked for many years in journalism, before transitioning the focus of his work to the intersection of education, philanthropy, and social enterprise.
He is currently Program Director at the Education Synergy Alliance, and actively involved in shaping the impact economy for the greater San Diego region through his work with ImpactSD and the local chapter of EPIP.
Erin Tsurumoto Grassi works as a Human Rights Coordinator for Alliance San Diego, where she helps support and organize the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.
She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a biracial, fourth generation Japanese American. Those experiences helped shape her passion for social justice and racial equality from a young age.
The first to graduate from college in her immediate family, Erin has a Bachelor's degree from Whittier College in Political Science and Spanish, and a Master's of Art degree from the University of California San Diego in Latin American Studies with a concentration in International Migration. During college she interned for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in the Bay Area, Assemblywoman (now State Senator) Lois Wolk's district office, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Prior to joining Alliance San Diego, Erin was a community organizer with Justice Overcoming Boundaries and the Gamaliel, where she worked with leaders on a variety of issues, including transportation, housing and immigration.
In her free time, you can find her running, cooking, reading, dancing and rock climbing.
Rosa Flores is Vista Community Clinic's Health Resource Advocate where her work centers primarily on connecting historically underrepresented communities to resources through comprehensive outreach, coalition building, leadership development, and community organizing. Her goal is to promote and ensure all North County San Diego residents choose health.
An heir to the immigrant experience, Rosa's volunteer work is dedicated to advocating for immigrant rights and policy. She is a former volunteer with Latinos Organizing for Action of North County and the Imperial Legal Outreach Program legal team at the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties where she worked to ensure the correct implementation of the TRUST Act and assisted in providing legal resources to migrants in detention, respectively. Rosa is a recent graduate of MANA de San Diego's Latina Success Leadership Program. She has a history of canvassing for local campaigns and issues throughout San Diego and is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the North County Immigration Task Force.
A graduate from San Diego Sate University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor Spanish, Rosa is wholeheartedly committed both personally and professionally to immigrant, health, and educational justice in San Diego.
Nate Fairman has spent the last decade of his life developing his skills as a Journeyman Lineman constructing and maintaining high-voltage power lines. At the age of nineteen, he began a four-year apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers which included 8,000 hours of on the job training in one of the most dangerous fields of work. He sits on the Executive Board of IBEW LU 465 and has founded an IBEW Young Worker group focused on volunteer work and building community-labor partnerships.
Nate is a native of San Diego and was raised by his mother whom he lost as a teenager after a difficult battle with cervical cancer. At a young age he provided for his family and worked at a fast food restaurant while attending high school where he developed a tremendous respect for working families from all walks of life. Shortly after graduating he began his apprenticeship and found a passion for the construction trades and organized labor.
After attending the AFL-CIO Next Up Young Workers leadership training he has enrolled in the Labor Studies program at San Diego City College and is planning on continuing his education and strengthening the local labor movement.
In December of 2014, Alberto Velasquez became the Senior Policy Advisor for Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, the first Latina elected Mayor in the history of San Diego County. In that capacity he is the Mayor's primary advisor on issues ranging from Economic Development, Infrastructure, Transportation, the Environment to Binational Affairs. He is also the primary contact in regards to these issues for the Mayor's office.
A near life-long resident of the South Bay of San Diego, Albert has been active in his neighborhood as chair of the Otay Mesa/Nestor Planning Group and as the District Eight representative for the Qualcomm Stadium Advisory Board. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and was named the most outstanding student of political theory of his graduating class.
Prior to joining the Mayor's staff, Albert was a District Field Representative for Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez serving the communities of San Diego, Chula Vista and National City. He was lead policy person in the district on Health Care, Education, the State Budget, Transportation, the Environment and Border Issues.
In his spare time Albert enjoys traveling, reading, and a fan of Manchester United and the San Francisco Giants.
Wilda Wong's family left Hong Kong shortly after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests saw the massacre of demonstrators throughout China, leaving indelible images of those trying to block the military's advance. It was perhaps then she began to understand the power of the media to shape perception and give voice to the oppressed.
Her family arrived in San Diego, where Wilda joined her high school paper as an award-winning features editor, later earning a degree in film at UC Berkeley as a first-generation college student. She has since traveled to six continents and lived or worked in four, studying cinema in France, volunteering for an Italian NGO in Cambodia and serving in the Peace Corps in South Africa.
Wilda's international work took her back to San Diego, where she continues to learn about local issues. She is a communications professional specializing in telling stories for various causes in the social sector, having done work for the Government Accountability Office, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, and San Diego Workforce Partnership. She has also volunteered with Amnesty International, International Rescue Committee, Tam Tam Mandingue and Pacific Arts Movement, where she helps program its annual San Diego Asian Film Festival.
Gabriel Urias currently focuses on the implementation of the landmark class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson. Before working at the ACLU Urias was an associate at Kraus Law Corporation where he focused on Immigration Law and removal defense. Throughout his legal career, Urias has committed himself to serving underrepresented immigrant communities with the care, compassion, and dignity they deserve.
Urias was born and raised in the rural farm community of Shafter, California, and the proud son of two immigrant parents from Mexico. He attended UC Berkeley and San Diego State University as an undergrad, and received a law degree from California Western School of Law. He is an active member of the San Diego Raza Lawyers Association and is on the executive board for Cal's Chicana/Latino Alumni Association of San Diego.
Mark Tran is a Program Associate at The California Endowment. He joined TCE in January of 2016, and provides support in grant making, grant monitoring, assisting grantees with grant proposals, analytical and research support, and providing consultation, technical assistance, information, and other support to strengthen capacity of community partners to engage in collaborative community-led change strategies.
Before joining TCE, Mark was at Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (CAN), a community collaborative based in the diverse community of City Heights in San Diego, California. He was at Mid-City CAN for 6 years, beginning as the Youth Community Organizer, transitioning over to their Leadership Development Specialist, and eventual promotion to Associate Executive Director.
Mark's background in community development work began years earlier with his post-Hurricane Katrina experience in East Biloxi, Mississippi. It was here where Mark received his grounding in community development and community organizing; working with the historic Black and Vietnamese American communities of East Biloxi.
Mark attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he doubled majored in Asian American Studies and History. He is also a graduate of Gamaliel National Leadership Training, Midwest Academy, International Association for Public Participation, and the Institute of Cultural Affairs.
A Chicago native, Isabel Schechter moved to San Diego in 2014. She has worked as an event manager for almost 20 years. Prior to moving to San Diego, Isabel was very active in the Chicago sustainability community, including outreach to underserved communities. She served as a board member for Faith in Place, an environmental nonprofit working with faith communities on environmental issues, and a Steering Committee member for Women in Green, a women's sustainability group.
Isabel is a strong supporter women's reproductive freedom, including volunteering for women's clinic defense. She has also supported civil liberties and hunger causes for many years. Isabel is passionate about libraries as a public good, and has volunteered as a literacy tutor, and served on the Chicago Public Library Foundation Junior Board. Within one week of moving to San Diego, she joined the Friends of the Library chapter for her local branch library and has been an active volunteer.
Isabel has been active in science-fiction communities for more than 20 years, attending and planning conventions, and as a frequent panelist. Her essays on fandom, religion, community building, and race and representation in science fiction/fantasy have been published in WisCon Chronicles; Invisible 2: Personal Essays on Race and Representation in SF/F; and Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Isabel is currently co-Chair for the San Juan (Puerto Rico) in 2017 bid for the North American Science Fiction Convention.
Isabel is a first-generation college graduate and holds a master's degree in Divinity from University of Chicago.
David Lin works as an attorney for a plaintiffs' law firm with an emphasis on securities, antitrust, and derivative shareholder class action suits. Outside of work, David volunteers with Casa Cornelia, representing asylum applicants in immigration court, and with the California Innocence Project. The common thread throughout David's work has been the use of the justice system to protect people against abuses of power by those in positions of authority.
David received his B.S. in Physics from UCSD and went on to earn his J.D. at the Northwestern University School of Law. While at Northwestern, he worked for the National Immigrant Justice Center and the MacArthur Justice Center. He also volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for the Chicago family court system.
David is licensed to practice law in New York.
Ashley Rodriguez works as the Development Coordinator for the Center on Policy Initiatives. Ashley has extensive experience in grants management, social media, community engagement and event planning. Ashley helped to organize a statewide coalition that advocated around public transit to provide free transit passes to students.
She served as the Event Chair for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of SDSU, and is now a Legislative Ambassador for the ACS Cancer Action Network. She is chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) board and serves as a committee member of the local political action committee, Run Women Run.
Ashley graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in International Security and Conflict Resolution, and minored in Spanish and Women's Studies. She recently completed her Master's in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego in 2015.
In her spare time, Ashley enjoys taking her dogs on walks and sampling craft beer from local breweries.
Mehry Mohseni is a family law attorney with the firm Cage & Miles, LLP. A native San Diegan, Mehry grew up in Encinitas and graduated from Carlsbad High School. She then graduated magna cum laude from California State University, Long Beach where she received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and a minor in Child Development and Family Studies.
During her undergraduate degree, Mehry worked as a pre-school Teacher's Assistant and as a visitation supervisor for families affected by domestic violence. After graduation, Mehry became a Program Assistant for the National Family Justice Center Alliance. In this role, she consulted communities and multi-disciplinary service providers throughout the nation on providing coordinated services for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse.
Mehry next obtained her Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law. She served as Vice President of the Public Interest Law Foundation, Secretary of the Women's Law Caucus, and Community Chair of the Child, Family and Elder Law Society. She also clerked for San Diego Superior Court, Juvenile Division judges, handling research on various juvenile dependency and delinquency matters. She then clerked for San Diego County Counsel, Juvenile Dependency Division where she represented Child Welfare Services on numerous dependency matters.
Mehry currently serves on the Women's Resource Fair Task Force, is Co-Chair of the Membership Development Committee for Lawyers Club of San Diego, and volunteers for the Think Dignity Legal Clinic. She is passionate about creating safe homes and communities for youth and families in San Diego.
A first generation college student, Kenyatta Parker was born in the small town of Vallejo, CA and moved to San Diego with her family when she was 8. She attended San Diego State University, earning her Bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in public health. It was during these years her passion for sexual health bloomed; participating as both a sexual health peer educator and a research assistant with The Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health assessing the sexual health needs of women in adult entertainment.
After graduating, she began her career in public health at Vista Community Clinic as an HIV Health Educator for at risk adolescents and young adults of color. She developed her skills as a certified HIV test counselor and family planning educator, often counseling clients on sensitive topics such as family planning, HIV/AIDS, STDs, sexual assault, substance abuse and violence prevention.
Kenyatta Parker is currently the Lead Health Planner for the San Diego HIV Planning Group, formerly know as the San Diego HIV Health Services Planning Council. As an employee of The San Diego LGBT Community Center out-stationed at the County of San Diego HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch she and a small, dedicated staff coordinate a variety of planning functions related to care and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS and in support of the San Diego HIV Planning Group.
Malieka Johnson is a humanitarian, artist and healer. As a general and adult special needs dentist, she firmly believes in a patient-centered approach to oral health care. This involves actively listening to the needs and desires her patients and working collectively with them and staff to achieve the best outcomes.
Malieka graduated, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 2003. She later earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2011. Dr. Johnson completed a general practice residency at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California where she received specialized training in treating people with special needs, spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
Dr. Johnson also serves as volunteer adjunct faculty for Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, and as a volunteer clinical faculty instructor for the UCSD Student-Run Free Dental Clinic. She is a board member for the San Diego Dental Health Foundation as well as a member of the Editorial Board for the San Diego County Dental Society. Dr. Johnson is an alumna of the American Dental Association Institute for Diversity in Leadership.
Malieka has been on multiple dental mission trips abroad, volunteers in her local community with various events, and helps lead a ministry building homes in Mexico. Malieka enjoys learning, music, Spanish, as well as a variety of hobbies and interests that focus on staying mentally, physically and spiritually active.