2012 Fellows Class

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.

Roberto Alcantar
Calfresh Advocate, Feeding America San Diego

Roberto Alcantar was raised in the South Bay region of San Diego where he has lived for over 23 years of his life. After graduating from Southwest High School, Roberto attended UC Berkeley where he graduated with a Bachelors degree in Political Science and a Minor in Public Policy. Roberto studied abroad for one year at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia for a year and studied Aboriginal Culture. Roberto was recruited into the U.S. Department of State were he served at the U.S. Consulate in Perth were he was able to work directly with then U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, during her last visit to Australia.

While working in the State Department, Roberto worked on Foreign Policy issues regarding the East Asia Pacific region, led research on strategic use of natural resources and developed outstanding relationships with local Governments abroad. His travels have taken him to the Asia Pacific region.

After college Roberto moved back to San Diego and worked on a project funded by the Department of Justice to battle Human Trafficking in San Diego County and continues to be an active anti Human Trafficking advocate. He has also worked in Higher Education. Roberto is currently the Calfresh Advocate at Feeding America San Diego. As a Calfresh Advocate at Feeding America San Diego, Roberto has advocated on behalf of applicants to the Food Stamp program who have been facing barriers while going through the application process. He has been instrumental in developing an Advocacy strategy for his organization, which included taking Community Organizations to Sacramento to advocate for Hunger issues during Hunger Action Day.

Roberto was invited to present at the 2011 Annual California Association of Food Banks Conference. Roberto has been active in various Political campaigns in the South Bay, continues to advocate for his community and is currently serving his second term as President of the South Bay Democratic Club.

Heather Steiner
Asset Management

Heather Steiner works in the asset management industry. Before that she taught political economy at UCLA as a visiting assistant professor and at New York University as a doctoral fellow, and also served as a consultant for a non-profit organization dedicated to turning around two failing high schools in South Los Angeles. Heather’s interest in international economic policy – especially in developing countries - led her to complete her Ph.D. in political economy at UCLA in 2010.

While working on her Ph.D., she conducted field research in Argentina and Peru, and remains interested in Latin American politics. In the course of her doctoral work, Heather also became involved in education reform. Through organizations such as Education Pioneers, she has worked to improve public education for underserved populations and to promote school choice in Southern California.

Prior to starting her doctoral work at UCLA, Heather worked in finance in New York City and earned her Master’s degree in international economic policy at Columbia University. She moved to Cardiff-by-the-Sea in 2006, where she currently lives with her husband, Matt, and their dog.

Vanessa Cosio
IT Manager, San Diego LGBT Community Center

Vanessa Cosio is the Information Technology Manager at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. The Center’s mission is to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV communities. Vanessa maintains The Center’s network and computer equipment, online Exchange server, CRM applications, and oversees the David Bohnett Cyber Center.

Prior to joining the Center, Vanessa worked as a Web Designer and Front-End developer throughout San Diego. She also gained political experience as the Deputy Field Director of San Diego, Riverside & Imperial Counties for the No on Prop 8 campaign and Field Director for Alliance for a Better CA/Jerry Brown for Governor.

Vanessa currently serves on the board of directors for the San Diego Democrats for Equality (formerly San Diego Democratic Club) as the IT Director. She is also a founding member of the Young Professionals Council – A Program of the San Diego LGBT Center and serves as the Secretary/Treasurer.

Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts in Cinema-Television from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2005. She returned to her hometown of San Diego to receive her Bachelor of Science in Media Arts from Platt College in 2009.

Monica Fernandez
Community Advocate, Bayside Community Center

Monica currently works at Bayside Community Center as a Community Advocate. In her current position Monica is implementing a Leadership Academy to increase civic engagement among residents. She also runs an educational program targeted towards helping high school students with their post secondary plans. Besides working in the non profit arena Monica has also worked as a Partnership Specialist for the 2010 Census where she worked diligently to engage hard to count communities to participate in the 2010 count.

Monica received her B.A. in American Studies: Identity Politics from the University of California Berkeley and her M.A in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. She is a native of San Diego and has a family history of involvement at the local level. Monica currently resides in the East County where is involved in the School Site Council and District Advisory Board of her local school. Monica's interests and passion lie in ensuring a quality public education for all students and working towards increasing access to higher education. The students and community members she works with inspire her on a daily basis to continue working for change.

Trinh Le
Organizer, Center on Policy Initiatives

Trinh currently works as an Organizer at the Center on Policy Initiatives, a nonprofit research and advocacy center dedicated to the interests of working people in the San Diego region. She previously worked with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, San Diego Asian Film Foundation, and Little Saigon Foundation before joining CPI.

Trinh graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Sociology and Asian American Studies. As a college student, she was heavily involved with organizations such as the Asian Pacific Coalition, Vietnamese Student Union, and the National Asian American Student Conference. Soon after college, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where she worked with the Vietnamese community and other low-income communities of color to rebuild and organize after Hurricane Katrina and then also after the BP Oil Spill disaster. Trinh worked for Hope Community Development Agency, organizing local residents to identify key neighborhood issues and empowering them to address those issues.

She supported newly formed Asian American organizations by pushing to advance their local initiatives. After working for three years in the Gulf Coast, she decided that it was time to move back home to build her career in San Diego.

Katelyn Hailey
Development and Marine Conservation Coordinator, San Diego Coastkeeper

Katelyn Hailey is the development and marine conservation coordinator at San Diego Coastkeeper, a nonprofit environmental organization working to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in San Diego County. In this role, Katelyn is responsible for securing foundation, corporate, government and major donor support, as well as overseeing marine conservation projects relating to the California Ocean Plan and the Marine Life Protection Act.

Prior to her position at Coastkeeper, Katelyn worked as associate coordinator for the Hansen Summer Institute on Leadership and International Cooperation, which brought together students and young professionals from developing countries for an intensive summer program on conflict mediation, cultural diversity, leadership skills and issues of globalization.

Katelyn holds an M.A. in political science with emphasis in international relations and comparative politics and a B.A. in sociology, both from San Diego State University. She also spent a year studying sociology at the University of Bristol in England. Having grown up in Trabuco Canyon, CA, Katelyn developed her love for the environment at an early age through hiking, camping and exploring in the Cleveland National Forest.

Consuelo Martinez
Law Office Manager, Law Offices of Deborah L. Raymond

Consuelo Martinez is a Law Office Manager at a consumer protection law firm in Del Mar, CA. Having worked since the age of 16 and throughout her entire time in college, she has accumulated over a decade’s experience in business administration and the finance industry. When Consuelo is not at her day job, she is advocating for issues surrounding immigrant rights, women’s rights, and civic participation.

In the summer of 2004, Consuelo co-founded the Escondido Human Rights Committee. The organization has played a key role with grassroots organizing and advocacy of immigrant rights in the North San Diego Community. Her community work in Escondido was featured in Poder Escondido, a film produced by local high school students and the Media Arts Center San Diego in 2006. Consuelo has been involved in social justice issues since she was in high school. She has served in various leadership capacities for numerous nonprofit and political organizations in San Diego County. In addition, Consuelo is a former Commissioner for the City of Escondido’s Community Services Commission.

Consuelo currently resides in Escondido, CA. Born in Santa Ana, CA to Mexican immigrant parents, Consuelo was the first in her family to obtain a college degree. She graduated from California State University San Marcos and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She is also alumnus of the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership Institute and Summer Institute for Latino Public Policy.

In the future, Consuelo aspires to become a public interest attorney and run for political office. She also plans to create Escondido’s first cultural & social justice center that will serve the needs of its diverse community.

Rachel Dixon
Public Affairs Database Associate, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest

Rachel works full time in the public affairs department at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW), overseeing their constituent relationship management database and volunteer recruitment and retention for all electoral and educational outreach activities. Her efforts as a volunteer coordinator have made PPPSW's phone banking efforts among the most successful of any other Planned Parenthood affiliate across the country.

Rachel began her career with Planned Parenthood as a volunteer and has assisted in defeating all three parental notification initiatives that have appeared on the California ballot. In addition to her work at PPPSW, Rachel works as an independent makeup artist and CA Board Licensed esthetician. She studied makeup and earned her credentials at Makeup Designory in Burbank, CA and obtained her esthetician's license from Bellus Academy in Poway. She has worked in many different medias including film, TV, print, and runway.

Rachel was born and raised in San Diego and aspires to continue her political involvement within her community in order to help build a stronger progressive movement. She currently resides in La Mesa, a suburb of San Diego, and enjoys traveling, reading, movies, & spending time with her dog.

Aaron Allen
District Representative, Senator Juan Vargas

Aaron Allen is currently a District Representative for State Senator Juan Vargas. Aaron’s issue areas include the environment, transportation, housing and taxation and the budget. Prior to joining Senator Vargas’ staff, he worked for the Chula Vista City Council and the San Diego World Affairs Council. Aaron is a volunteer mediator for the National Conflict Resolution Center and is a member of the Community Housing Work’s Facelift Planning Committee.

In 2009, Aaron graduated with a double major in Political Science and History from the University of California, Berkeley. Aaron is very active in his community, and sits on a number of community groups and boards: the City Heights Project Area Committee, the City of San Diego Normal Heights Community Planning Group, the United State Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission and the San Diego World Affairs Council Board of Directors.

Aaron is also interested in small business development and microfinancing loans. He has worked with ACCION San Diego and the International Rescue Committee’s Center for Financial Opportunity to help local entrepreneurs develop their businesses. Finally, Aaron is a blogger for the Foreign Policy Association, where he provides his analysis of current international conflicts.

John Greenwell
Teacher, KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy

John Greenwell is a Science teacher at KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy in San Diego where he enjoys helping his middle school students grasp a better understanding of the world as they prepare for college. In addition to serving as a grade level and department chair there, he has created and led many educational trips with his students, which include destinations as far away as Ireland, Egypt, and China. John served as the Biology and French instructor at the KIPP STEP program at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts in 2011.

John earned his bachelors degree in Philosophy and French Literature from Fordham University in New York City. As part of his undergraduate work, John studied in a French immersion program in Quebec, Canada as well as in an intensive Arabic program in Fez, Morocco. He then earned his Masters of Science in Education from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

A native San Diegan, John is an active member of the Young Professionals Council, a philanthropic organization supporting the San Diego LGBT Center. He continues to volunteer for various progressive, community organizations throughout the San Diego region and looks forward to the work he and his NLC Institute fellows will do!

Tiffany Hernandez
Financial Analyst & Small Business Owner, Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP and Everyday Thinkers

Tiffany Hernandez is a financial analyst for Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP and the owner and founder of Everyday Thinkers, a small business that celebrates the gift of thought. Both of these roles enable her to help others make sense of the world around us, whether it be through numbers or our own thoughts.

Through her work with Everyday Thinkers, Tiffany provides workshops, classes and guidance on how individuals can use journal writing for creative expression, self-discovery and stress relief. She facilitates a journal writing group with the Women’s Museum of California that encourages women to discover the beauty and potential within their own thoughts while writing and sharing in community and hopes to expand this program to other organizations.

Tiffany has a Bachelors of Science degree in Accountancy from San Diego State University and a Master's of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband Andres and beagle JJ, running (she has completed four marathons) and going to local farmers markets to support local businesses.

Tammy Lin
Immigration Attorney, Prins Asylum Attorney, Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Tammy Lin is the immigration attorney for Jewish Family Service of San Diego’s Prins Asylum Program providing pro bono representation to scientists, musicians, artists, scholars, and professionals seeking asylum with the ultimate goal of rebuilding their careers free from persecution. Envisioned in 2008 as a west coast affiliate to HIAS’s Prins Program (NYC), Tammy was JFSSD’s lone attorney in a sea of social workers creating the organization’s first legal program. In its fifth year, Prins holds a high asylum grant rate with clients from around the world (e.g. Africa, Russia, Cuba, Asia, Middle East) in a range of professions (e.g. professors, doctors, musicians, journalists) and of all denominations.

Tammy previously worked as an associate in a business immigration firm and clerked with the ACLU San Diego, Texas Civil Rights Project, Elder Law & Advocacy, Center for Public Interest Law, and California Senate Public Safety Committee as an Associate Consultant. She earned a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame (Pol.Sci/I.R. with Minor, Peace Studies) and a J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law. Tammy, a Texas native, is a daughter of immigrants that spent her childhood in the family’s Chinese restaurant. Her dog’s name is Homer.

Aline Aprahamian
Senior Analyst, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest

Aline Aprahamian Racic is the Senior Analyst for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest where she supports agency leadership through the analysis of complex financial models and assists in the preparation and management of a $56 million operating budget. In her previous role as the Director of Strategy Management and Social Enterprise she helped shepherd the creation and development of profit-generating social enterprises focused on broadening community access to Planned Parenthood’s services within San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties.

Prior to her work with Planned Parenthood she was the Associate Artistic Administrator for Houston Grand Opera, executing artist contracts and payments, administering visa applications, and directing all travel and housing details for incoming performers.

Aline earned her bachelor’s degree in music from Grinnell College and her MBA from San Diego State University. Over the years she has volunteered for non-profit hospice organizations in both Houston and San Diego and is passionate about end of life care.

Born in Amman, Jordan and having lived in different parts of the country and world, Aline continues to enjoy traveling and exploring different cultures with her husband, Dusan.

Amy Chang
Marriage and Family Therapist, Amy Chang, LMFT: San Diego Marriage and Family Therapist

Amy Chang is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in San Diego. In 2010 she found her private therapy practice in which she provides individual therapy, couples counseling, and family therapy. Amy’s work consists of helping her clients understand and access their strengths to overcome emotional barriers that may be hindering them from living a fulfilled life. Amy finds it rewarding to see her clients transform and make the changes necessary to have a more balanced and satisfying life.

Amy has experience working in various non-profit agencies throughout San Diego addressing core issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, domestic violence, and relationship conflict with individuals and families. She is an active member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapist for the San Diego Chapter. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Masters in Counseling from San Diego State University.

Besides providing therapy and being an entrepreneur, Amy enjoys time with her family, amateur photography, reading, and dominating in board games.

Allison Don
Legislative Correspondent, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

Allison is a Legislative Correspondent for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer where she responds to constituent letters on the subjects of health, women's issues, the judiciary, crime, and politics (including campaign finance and congressional ethics). Although Legislative Correspondence departments are typically in a Senator's D.C. office, Senator Boxer chooses to have her department in her state offices.

Prior to moving to San Diego, Allison worked in Washington D.C. as the Scheduler for U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who represents her home state of Oregon. Like Senator Boxer (who is the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee), Congressman Blumenauer is a champion for the environment and sustainable transportation policies. Prior to her time in D.C., Allison lived for a year in rural Japan where she worked as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japanese middle schools.

In her spare time, Allison enjoys practicing music, travel, and the La Jolla beaches. She looks forward to growing deeper roots in the San Diego progressive community. Allison earned a B.A. in Politics from Pomona College. She grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, a suburb of Portland.

Efrem Bycer
Performance Auditor, City of San Diego

Having grown up in Seattle, Little Rock, and Vermont, Efrem now lives in Downtown San Diego and spends his free time training for half-marathons, brewing his own beer, and enjoying the region's beautiful weather. He currently works as a Performance Auditor with the City of San Diego where he works with City departments to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local government operations.

Efrem is passionate about improving the local and global community and dedicates time to building nonprofit organizations' ability to achieve their missions, particularly through better board governance. He serves on the YNPN San Diego Advisory Board, the NHA HeadStart Policy Council, and on the Board of Directors for Congo Leadership Initiative. Prior to moving to San Diego, Efrem helped develop a long-term recovery plan for New Orleans' Upper and Lower Ninth Ward that drew $140 million in public investment and consulted for the City of Syracuse to improve its neighborhood planning program.

A member of the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity, Efrem served on its National Council from 2008 to 2010. He received his bachelors degree in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and his Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

Jessica Kort
Communications and Program Associate, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego

Jessica works as the Communications and Program Associate at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, a resource for philanthropy dedicated to engaging, educating and working with donors and community organizations to achieve charitable goals. At the Foundation, Jessica maintains the organization's publicity, coordinates media relations and client communications as well as collaborates on young adult and teen programs.

Jessica previously served as the Assistant Communications Director of SCHAP, an organization committed to sustainable international development and Program Coordinator at Temple Emanu-El of San Diego. Her background includes nonprofit administration, event planning, graphic design, fundraising and marketing.

Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree in International Studies, Anthropology from University of California, San Diego and her master’s degree in International Conflict Studies from King’s College London.

Though a native San Diegan, Jessica spent many years living abroad, has a soft spot for London and always has her next trip in mind. She occasionally fits in sewing, camping, painting and yoga. She actively participates in the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Emerging Practioners in Philanthropy and volunteers locally and nationally for Alpha Epsilon Phi.

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