Policy Advisor, Office of Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe
Born and raised in Southeast San Diego, Eric is a Policy Advisor for San Diego Council District 4, which is represented by Council Member Monica Montgomery Steppe. Through his work, he engages the policy areas of land use, transportation, and environmental issues. Aside from his graduate studies in City Planning at SDSU and his undergraduate studies in Urban Studies at UCSD, he attributes a lot of his passion for learning through his student activism at San Diego City College and witnessing the grounded truths of exclusionary development practices in the Central and Southern neighborhoods in San Diego. He joined the SDLA board in 2018, where he seeks with other board members to spread more awareness of San Diego's most overlooked neighborhoods and cities in the region. He joined the SDLA board in 2018, where he seeks with other board members to spread more awareness of San Diego's most overlooked neighborhoods and cities in the region.
Clinical Services Manager, HIV department, San Ysidro Health
Katie Penninga’s passion for serving the underserved has compelled her travels, studies, and career trajectory for nearly two decades. As a health professional and vocal advocate for public heath services in historically oppressed communities, she is committed to improving access to quality care for all in San Diego County, and specifically to creating safe and celebratory spaces for our LGBTQIA+ neighbors.
Originally from Michigan, Katie holds a Master of Social Work degree from Grand Valley State University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Bachelor of Social Work from Calvin College. In her current role as Clinical Services Manager in the HIV department at San Ysidro Health, she oversees operations for the HIV, Infectious Disease and Gender-Affirming Medicine and Sexual Health (GeMS Health) Clinics. Through the daily management of contracts, federal grants, and research agreements, and overseeing the development and implementation of HIV Research programs that include collaborations with the Center for AIDS Research at UCSD, the CDC, and SDSU, Katie is able to speak from experience to the struggles, victories, and critical needs facing San Diego public health systems.
Katie is a licensed social worker in both California (LCSW) and Michigan (LMSW). Before moving to California, she spent seven years in maternal child health and child development public health programs in Michigan, in addition to a stint living and working abroad in Peru. She was a fellow in the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA) Institute class of 2018, and joined the SDLA Board the same year, where she serves as Treasurer and Institute Co-Chair. When she isn’t working toward health and wholeness in San Diego, she’s likely finding creative new ways to connect with her nieces and nephews from a distance, or looking forward to the time she can safely travel to a new corner of the world she loves to explore.
Conference Specialist, Housing Dining and Hospitality Division, UCSD
Joe Fejeran (he/him/his) was born and raised on the island of Guam in the South Pacific. In 2004, his family relocated to San Diego County, where he has lived since. Upon graduating high school, Joe began his higher education journey at Grossmont College, where he was a member of the speech and debate team and won two Gold Medal awards from the Phi Rho Pi National Forensics Tournament. He is a proud transfer student and finished his degree program at UC San Diego (TMC, Class of 2011) with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.
In 2010, Joe began working with a local theater company to produce The Vagina Monologues and the MENding Monologues as a fundraising effort for local, San Diego-based social organizations. He believes in the power of Artivism (art as activism) and storytelling as an effective tool to win over hearts and minds. Joe began his professional career in the hospitality industry at the iconic Hotel del Coronado, serving briefly on the board of the San Diego Concierge Association. Seeking a change, he left the hotel in 2015 to return to UC San Diego, where he works as a Conference Specialist in the Housing Dining and Hospitality division. Joe also serves on the board of the LGBT Staff & Faculty Association.
Joe remains passionate about issues around gender-based violence, the LGBTQIA+ community, inclusion, and the CHamoru diasporic identity. Outside of his professional commitments, Joe is an accomplished podcaster and bar trivia host.
Program Manager, San Diego Hunger Coalition
Jaqueline Hess is the CalFresh Program Manager for the San Diego Hunger Coalition working to eliminate barriers and increase access to food assistance in San Diego County. She has an extensive background in hunger and poverty relief and is dedicated to serving her community. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from San Diego State University, she served one year of national service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Hunger Free America. This experience reaffirmed her passion and commitment to public service and social justice.
Jaqueline was a 2019 Fellow of the San Diego Leadership Alliance Institute and a 2019 Graduate of Mid City CAN's Board and Commissions Training Program. She serves as the Board Chair of HandsOn San Diego helping to strengthen San Diego communities through volunteer action and leadership development. She is dedicated to making a difference by empowering others and working on community issues related to hunger, housing and poverty. In her free time, Jaqueline enjoys spending time with her adopted dog, Milly, trying new foods, and reading psychological thrillers.
Promise Zone Coordinator, Economic Development Department, City of San Diego
Alex Southard currently serves as the Promise Zone Coordinator with the Economic Development Department at the City of San Diego. She works with a small team to bring stakeholders together to collaborate on projects and funding opportunities directed to some of the City's most underserved communities. She previously held positions in fundraising at the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Museum of Us in Balboa Park. After several years in the museum field, she shifted to a career directly focused on her passion to advance economic justice and equity.
Alex holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies and History with a minor in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida and a M.A. in Museum Studies with an emphasis on nonprofit management and fundraising from San Francisco State University. She also holds a certificate in Business Intelligence from UCSD Extension. She was a 2020 Fellow of the San Diego Leadership Alliance Institute.
Senior Internship Counselor, Academic Internship Program at UC San Diego
Daniel Carrillo is a Senior Internship Counselor with the Academic Internship Program at UC San Diego. In this role, Daniel works with campus and community partners to develop community-based learning opportunities for students. As a first-generation college student, Daniel is passionate about working with students to discover their interests and how to make a positive impact in their communities. Originally from San Bernardino, Daniel began his career at the University of Washington in an early childhood education program that connected college students as mentors in Head Start preschool classrooms.
While living in Seattle, he joined a city commission to work on technology access issues and volunteered with grant-making committees and advocacy organizations to address disparities in all levels of education. Daniel continues to work to improve the campus community on issues of diversity, sustainability, and access. He hopes to apply the knowledge and skills he has gained to advocate for underrepresented communities in the San Diego region.
Maria Gpe. Bojorquez-Gomez
Confidential Executive Assistant to the Mayor, City of San Diego
Maria currently serves as Confidential Executive Assistant for Mayor Todd Gloria in the City of San Diego. Previously, Maria was the district scheduler for Congresswoman Susan A. Davis, for whom she also handled immigration, postal and veterans’ casework and represented various communities in meetings and events.
Maria completed her two-year Masters in China Studies at Zhejiang University International College in 2018. In Zhejiang, Maria was part of the founding team to create the first legal and independent foreign-only student government in the country. She worked as a consultant for the university, in addition to serving in the Virtual Student Federal Service of the USA Department of State at the Global Engagement Center.
Maria graduated from Haverford College with a B.A. in Political Science, minor in Chinese, and concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. At Haverford, she worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs for four years and was part of student government for two years. In both positions, she coordinated with student organizations, implemented programs, and collaborated with administration for campus-wide projects.
Policy Advisor, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Emily is a Policy Advisor for San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and focuses on environmental and climate policy. She has nearly a decade of environment and energy policy experience. She notably served in the Obama Administration's Office of Energy and Climate Change, where she advised on electric vehicle and renewable energy policy, and was also a 2014 fellow with the San Diego Leadership Alliance. She received her master’s degree in Environmental Management from Yale.
Director, Student Life & Leadership, San Diego State University
Caryl Montero-Adams is originally from a small town in northeast Ohio. As a first-generation college student, she moved across the state to pursue higher education. While in school, co-curricular involvement introduced her to leadership development, social justice, and community wellness. Caryl’s transformative collegiate experiences sparked a lifelong passion for service and community engagement, which included volunteering on political campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights, lobbying for comprehensive sexuality education, and participating in an intensive experiential learning program centered on issues of diversity and inclusion. Each of these experiences led Caryl to pursue a career in student affairs where she hopes to positively contribute to students’ experiences through co-curricular engagement.
Having established roots in San Diego in 2011, Caryl serves as the Director of Student Life & Leadership at San Diego State University. In her role, she leads the areas of Student Organizations & Activities, Fraternity & Sorority Life, the Glazer Center for Leadership & Service, and Commuter Life. Prior to her role as Director, she served as an Assistant Director of SLL for Fraternity & Sorority Life and as a Residence Hall Coordinator at SDSU. Caryl has been honored by the Division of Student Affairs with the Strengthening Connection to SDSU (2020), Excellence in Student Development (2018), and Exceptional New Professional (2014) awards.
Caryl earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Health Promotion and Education: Community Health from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Science in Education degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Indiana University. Caryl resides in central San Diego, where she and her partner Luis are raising their child Remington.