The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change advance in their careers or have other accomplishments, which are not reflected here. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute alumni can be found here.
Nikki Weil is an attorney, trained in communication, mediation and conflict resolution. Through her (non-legal) consulting practice, Empowered Communication by Nikki Weil, she offers communication and conflict resolution courses and private coaching to professionals, individuals and parents. Nikki is a certified instructor with Gordon Training International. She teaches people how to talk so others will listen, how to listen so others will talk, how to confront others when problems arise and how to solve problems so that everyone gets their needs met.
With these skills, Nikki helps professionals accomplish more and stress less, she helps women feel confident and assertive in their personal and professional lives, and she helps parents reconnect with the joy of parenting and raise confident, independent and empathetic problem-solvers. Nikki has owned and managed a private law practice since 2012. She also has professional experience in sales, marketing and advocacy. Nikki earned a J.D. from University of San Diego School of Law, Cum Laude, in 2011 and is a member of the State Bar of California. She earned a B.A. in Public Policy, Planning and Development, Cum Laude, from the University of Southern California in 2005.
Throughout her professional career, Nikki has held several leadership positions in local and national nonprofits and consistently meets with elected officials to discuss important issues. Her strengths include writing, problem solving and event planning. Nikki loves to meet people and learn about different cultures. She enjoys walking, yoga and spending time with family and friends. Nikki is also fluent in Spanish.
Paola Aracely Ilescas is a Community Health Specialist at Vista Community Clinic, a non-profit health care center that serves the North County region. She currently coordinates a group of community leaders, known as Poder Popular, who spearhead advocacy work surrounding public health issues. She co-facilitated a curriculum focused on clarifying social inequalities that contribute to health disparities. With the curriculum completed, Paola was able to welcome and enlist a new set of community leaders that helped expand Poder Popular.
Paola assists in guiding the group to advocate for policy changes that enrich and support disenfranchised neighborhoods. Through this, Paola continues to investigate methods that capacitate Poder Popular in different realms, including negotiating, organizing skills, and leadership. Being first generation and Zapoteca, Paola continues to support her community outside her professional work. As a member FIOB, Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales, Paola documents the events and the work that is centered on the indigenous migrant experience and addresses issues pertaining to the community, such as interpretation and cultural revitalization.
She also works internationally with other bases in Mexico and is able to mediate meetings that ultimately serve to minimize the disparities in indigenous migrants’ experiences. As a resident and activist in Vista, she has observed that there are opportunities to expand the network and coordination in North County. She is excited to be part of a progressive group and of the 2018 SDLA cohort looks forward to her growth.
Ryan is the Director of Strategic Advancement at San Diego Grantmakers, a regional association of more than 115 foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, giving circles, donor-advised funds, grantmaking public charities and government funders where he leads the expansion of SDG’s efforts in membership growth, resource development, public policy, and communications.
Previously leading the San Diego Center for Civic Engagement at the San Diego Foundation, Ryan’s career in philanthropy and community organizing has leveraged over $2.5bn in infrastructure funding and directly raised $15m for local charities. Ryan moved to San Diego from Brisbane, Australia, where he spent five years as a policy and media adviser in the federal government on the portfolios of financial services, industry and innovation.
An active writer and thinker about future directions in philanthropy, Ryan has authored thought pieces and OP-EDs in numerous national publications and has been a speaker at internationally renowned conferences such as South By South West (SXSW), the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference (PRSA ICON), Social Media Week, and more locally at Politifest and the Cause Conference on themes focused on civic technology and immersive storytelling.
Randy Van Vleck has been with City Heights Community Development Corporation since 2010, where he works as the Transportation & Planning Manager. In 2008, he graduated with Honors from UC San Diego with a BA in Sociology and a Minor in Urban Studies & Planning. In his work, Randy connects residents to decision making opportunities, helps facilitate community-based transportation planning, advocates for policies that achieve transportation justice, and works with agencies to advance walking, biking, and transit projects in the City Heights area.
He has helped secure $180 million in infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit projects in the Mid City area and co-led a campaign to change course on a freeway expansion project on the Martin Luther King Jr. SR-94 which will now implement a community-supported Bus-On-Shoulder Pilot Project. Randy stays rooted in the community he grew up in – Castle Park, Chula Vista. He founded Bike Walk Chula Vista in 2012. Under his leadership, Bike Walk Chula Vista was able to generate community, business, and political support for the implementation of four miles of bike lanes on Broadway Ave.
He also founded and co-organizes Los Cruzadores which has led transnational bike rides from San Diego to Tijuana since 2006. Randy serves as an appointed member of the City of San Diego Bicycle Advisory Board, and served on the SR-15 CenterLine BRT Stations Study, University Avenue Working Group, and San Diego County Bike Coalition Board of Directors. He is a 3rd generation San Diegan, and a 2nd generation Brazilian-American.
Katie Penninga works as the Clinical Services Manager in the HIV department at San Ysidro Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center providing comprehensive health care services at multiple sites throughout the South Bay, South San Diego, and East County. In her role, Katie manages the operations of two HIV medical clinics, including the administration of two federal grants that support clinic medical services and demonstration projects.
With bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Social Work from Calvin College, she began as a frontline social worker directly interacting with clients and families. After obtaining her master’s degree in Social Work from Grand Valley State University, Katie moved into supervision and management of public health programs. Initially, her efforts concentrated on maternal-child health and early childhood programs, but she has now moved her focus to HIV/AIDS.
Originally from Grand Rapids, MI, Katie first experienced San Diego when she moved to the area shortly after college. After working in the area for about a year and a half, she left to take an opportunity to live and work in rural Peru. Returning to Michigan from Peru, Katie began working for a community health care organization and completed graduate school. After experiencing several brutal Michigan winters while building her management expertise, Katie returned to San Diego in August 2015 and has been happily making the city her home.
Rachel Stevens is the Development Assistant for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Rachel joined the ACLU in 2017 and is responsible for managing the donor database and assists in donor cultivation and stewardship.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Economics and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder, with a focus on the economics of inequality and discrimination. Her experience with nonprofits began in college, where she led a fundraising and community engagement committee for Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA).
Rachel serves as the Marketing and Communications Chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and is passionate about engaging emerging leaders and developing impactful programs to serve the nonprofit community. Rachel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and lived in Boulder, Colorado for six years before relocating to San Diego in 2016. In her free time she enjoys listening to political podcasts, exploring new restaurants, and hiking national parks.
Matthew Hunter is passionate about socioeconomic justice and improving people’s lives through organized labor. Having only a G.E.D, he began his career with San Diego Gas and Electric at the age of 25. From there, he progressed from a general laborer to a registered Cathodic Electrician with the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (N.A.C.E) over a 13-year period. Matthew is presently the subject matter expert and lead trainer in regards to corrosion control at San Diego Gas and Electric.
Not long after his initial hiring, Matthew found himself engaging with the local union and advocating for others through the collective bargaining agreement. In 2017, he became the Political Registrar and a Shop Steward for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 465. In taking the role of the Political Registrar, Matthew advocates for working families locally and in Sacramento along with engaging local union memberships concerning the importance of political participation.
Matthew is a native to San Diego, California who grew up in East County. He is committed to building alliances that strengthen the ability of all working class people, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation to better their lives and the lives of their families through their labor.
Liliane serves as the Operations Manager for Blair Search Partners – a retained executive search firm specializing in placements for San Diego-based nonprofit organizations – where she is involved in almost every aspect of the firm’s daily operations. Liliane began her career in technology, providing IT solutions for school districts throughout San Diego County, with clients such as Rancho Santa Fe School District, Cajon Valley Unified School District, and San Marcos Unified School District.
Current community involvement includes Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), LEAD San Diego, Lotus Credit Fund, Women Give San Diego, and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). In addition, Liliane is a professional flautist and has taught both privately and for award-winning music programs in San Diego County for over five years. Liliane received her BA with summa cum laude honors. She also holds a MBA from California State University San Marcos, where she graduated valedictorian of her class and was the recipient of the faculty-nominated “Outstanding Graduate Student” award within her specialization of International Business, which included work in Germany.
Born and raised in San Diego, Satomi Rash-Zeigler left her beloved hometown to pursue a degree in Psychology at UCLA. After several years of working as an organizer around the country, including a short stint in Cleveland as an organizing director for a local community based organization, she returned to San Diego where she currently works at University Professional and Technical Employees, Communication Workers of America Local 9119 (UPTE-CWA 9119) as a Leadership Development Coordinator for the Student Services Professionals Campaign at UCSD.
Outside of her work with the union, Satomi is part of the core committee for APALA San Diego where she works collectively with the other activists and leaders to address issues that revolve around immigration, labor, affordable housing, and racial and economic justice. She is also collaborating with community members in East County SD to shift the political landscape to reflect the ideological diversity held by East County residents.
In her free time, Satomi is a performing member of San Diego Taiko, a traditional Japanese drumming group and the cofounder of The Magnificent, an entertainment and production company. She is also an avid urban gardener, voracious foodie/baker/cook, marathon-runner, and ever-vigilant and unabashed optimist who fights for social justice out of love for her communities.