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New Leaders Council


Meet the 2015 Oakland Fellows

Ismael Armendariz, Special Education Teacher, Oakland Unified School District

	Ismael	Armendariz	Ismael Frank Armendariz Jr. was raised in Downey, California, by his mother Cynthia Maga–a and his grandparents Frank and Margie Maga–a. Ismael is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and is currently earning his Masters in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University.

While attending UC Berkeley, Ismael served as the Educational Awareness Coordinator for the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center and the Director of Organizing and Community Development for the bridges Multicultural Resource Center. He was also selected as an intern for Congresswoman Roybal-Allard through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Leadership Program. Prior to transferring to U.C. Berkeley, Ismael attended East Los Angeles College where he competed on the wrestling team, earning Athletic and Academic All-American status and was honored as the 2005-06 ELAC Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Ismael's passion for social justice led him to the classroom as a Special Education teacher. As an alumni of Teach for America, Ismael is committed to the field of education, as both an educator and advocate for students with learning differences. In his current role, he founded a program for Latino students focused on building professional, academic, and social supports through decolonial pedagogy and advocacy. In terms of Special Education, Ismael is interested in researching and implementing critical pedagogy practices in the classroom.

Through NLC, Ismael hopes to build a professional network that can help him sustain his efforts to strengthen collaboration between Latino parents, students, and teachers. He also hopes to become a more effective advocate for students with learning differences.


Courtney Baxter, Financial Consultant, Robert Half

	Courtney	Baxter	Courtney Baxter is a lifelong California native. Originally from Southern California, Courtney attended community college in Victorville and later transferred to California State University, Fullerton. While at CSUF, Courtney revived the College Democrats on her campus and was President for two years.

It was during her experience with the College Democrats and her work with the Obama for America ('08) campaign that ignited a passion for politics and progressive values and also gave her the tools to work in the progressive community through trainings completed from Democracy for America, Wellstone, and the Center for American Progress. After spending four years working full time in banking while simultaneously earning two BAs in Accounting and Political Science, Courtney went on to work for a litigation firm based in Newport Beach where she worked as an assistant paralegal. Not being fulfilled in her work with the law firm, Courtney continued to work in politics in her free time with the Democratic Party, several local campaigns and with the Orange County Young Democrats.

After two years, she wanted to move on to more fulfilling work and applied to Teach for America (TFA) where she was accepted a 2011 Corps Member to teach single subject mathematics at Castlemont High School in Oakland. While teaching at Castlemont High School, Courtney saw first hand the challenges that teachers and families in urban and economically disadvantaged communities faced, which only further motivated her passion for education and working to ensure that all children were given an opportunity to overcome personal and familial challenges and succeed in school in an effort to escape cycles of poverty.

Taking her experience as a teacher and personal experiences as a first generation college student from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background, Courtney went on to become a mentor with Businesses United in Lending and Development (BUILD), a 4-year nonprofit college-readiness program that uses entrepreneurship as a vehicle to motivate socioeconomically disadvantaged and disengaged high school students.

As a mentor, she helps students write business plans, prepare financial statements, and present their business ideas to venture capitalists for funding while also giving advice and guidance for preparing to apply and attend college.

Professionally, Courtney works as a financial consultant and most recently worked as a Political Compliance Analyst for a Fortune 500 company in helping them to prepare lobby and political contribution reports for various local, state, and federal agencies. She is also currently serving her second term as the Vice President of Finance for the East Bay Young Democrats.


Brian Bingham, Juvenile Institutional Officer, Alameda County Probation Department

	Brian	Bingham	Brian A. Bingham is the youngest of three children and was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He spent his school-aged years in the Bay Area; comes from a devout religious background and as a licensed minister matriculated to state and international levels of leadership within his denomination. Outside of academics he was involved in student government, played several instruments in the concert, marching, jazz and symphonic bands, and was always a leader among his peers.

Brian's formal education consists of a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California Riverside, with a minor in African American Studies (2005). There, he was the Editor of Features and opinions for the X-Factor; a progressive, alternative school newspaper. He is completing his Masters in Social Work, from the California State University East Bay, with an emphasis in children, youth and families. Brian attended the C.H. Mason Bible College (2007) and his coursework included Counseling, Marriage & the Family and Healthy Relationships. Brian is also currently pursuing his Masters in Theology and Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Professionally, Brian works for County probation, is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, Executive Board Member for the Black Young Democrats of the East Bay and is a Commissioner for the Police Advisory Board for the City of Oakland. He also serves as a interviewer for the city of Oakland Hiring Board for Oakland Police officer. His past experience is Intern Therapist for Oakland Unified School District (2007-2008) and Intern Therapist at Seneca Center- Day Treatment facility (2005-2009).

Brian is a youth advocate and has always loved working with troubled youth and has a natural proclivity to inspire them to see the good in themselves and make the negatives of their life into a positive. Brian is an advocate and influential public figure in the city of Oakland. He is a progressive leader and is making his mark in the community.


Christman Bowers, Western Director,

 CB_photo.jpgChristman Bowers is the Western Director for, a political advocacy organization started by key leaders in the tech community. He joined because he is passionate about providing a way for people to come together and create a new political movement by engaging in innovative advocacy. Recently, emerged as a major proponent for comprehensive immigration reform, an issue that Christman values. Christman embodies the true innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of this generation.

Before joining, Christman served as a Regional Field Director for the Cory Booker Campaign, and as a Director with 270 strategies on education reform in Newark, NJ. Also, serving as the youngest managerial staffer during President Obama's re-election campaign in Ohio. Christman's most memorable political experience was his tenure as the African-American Outreach Coordinator for the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

Additionally, Christman spent time working with community-centric tech-start up Nextdoor in San Francisco. Although Christman currently resides in the San Francisco, he calls Southern California home, proudly representing the Inland Empire. His skill-set revolves around his deep passion for community engagement, and the not-for-profit sector. Christman has also Co-Founded a non-profit campaign in his hometown, "I Am Virtuous" providing young women with opportunities for success and growth.

Christman is well known for his tenacity and project management skills, allowing him to excel in the spheres of politics, the tech industry, and civic engagement. Christman enjoys attending concerts, art and cultural festivals, and roller-skating. He is proud to collaborate with the stellar and ambitious individuals here at NLC Institute.


Chris Bridges, Butler Koshland Fellow, The Equal Justice Society

 Chris is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, where he served as an active member of the Black Law Students Association, the Asian Pacific Law Students Association, and the Latin American Law Students Association. He also holds an MS in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and a BS in Political Science and BA in Criminal Justice, both from North Carolina Central University, where he founded and led the Black Unification and Resocialization Network, an organization with a mission to provide education, support, networking, and community advocacy tools for African American students.

Chris recently finished a two year fellowship with the ACLU of Northern California as the Racial Justice Project Fellow, where he worked on school to prison pipeline issues as a member of the Education Equity team. Chris is currently a Butler Koshland Fellow with the Equal Justice Society in Oakland.

Under the mentorship of Eva Paterson, Chris is continuing to work on school discipline and education issues as well as inequities within the criminal justice system. To aid in these efforts, Chris is using social science, structural analysis, and real life experiences to help broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination to include implicit bias.


Michael Chavez, Financial Services Professional, MassMutual Financial Group

	Michael	Chavez	Michael W. Chavez, Financial Advisor at MassMutual San Francisco Michael W. Chavez grew up in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Along with his parents, Michael immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old. Soon after settling in Lynwood, California, he realized that higher education was the only way to achieve the American Dream of socio-economic upward mobility.

Michael's hard work and dedication resulted in an impressive academic record, which earned him a full scholarship to attend UC Berkeley. Michael attained his Bachelors of Arts in Political Economy in May 2013. During his time as an undergraduate, Michael connected with students from similar upbringings. He learned the skills to become a leader and give back to the community, in order to provide other low-income and immigrant children the opportunity to attain a higher education. As a member of MECHXA and Brother of Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Michael became an active leader within the RAZA and Multicultural Greek communities on campus.

Additionally, Michael started providing educational assistance to K-12 students from disadvantaged backgrounds, first as a tutor and eventually as an instructor for TRIO's Talent Search program. He has also taught at East Oakland's Roots International Academy through his involvement with the East Oakland Youth Development Center.

Michael's past experience includes interning for Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen, Oaklands Centro Legal de la Raza, and Waddell & Reed Financial. Michael is currently a Financial Advisor with MassMutual San Francisco. On his free time, Michael continues to give back as a volunteer at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) by preparing taxes for low income individuals, persons with disabilities, and non-English speakers. Michael considers himself an educator, and an advocate for higher education accessibility and financial literacy.


Leo Esclamado, Community Organizer, Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA)

	Leo	Esclamado	Leo is a Community Organizer and incoming Co-Director of the Transnational institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA), which seeks to build economic power & promote economic citizenship among immigrant communities. Based in Oakland, CA, he has worked with newly arrived immigrants through leadership development, developed ethical financial tools for financial literacy, and piloted initiatives for campus divestment against incarcerated immigrants. His passion for grassroots work is built on the ideal that strong communities are the building blocks for sustainability and system change. He has spent over 8 years working in immigrant rights and community development, starting with rebuilding communities in New Orleans, LA, and Biloxi, MS, after Hurricane Katrina, where he helped develop the first Vietnamese American community development corporation in the region.

Leo was trained as a community organizer through the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO), a racial justice organization training community organizers of color based in Oakland. He also serves as a Board Member of the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES) that seeks to build a transnational diaspora movement for climate justice.

Leo graduated with a Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan with a focus on multi-racial community organizing, sustainable community development and social enterprise. Alongside his grassroots work, Leo is an avid social hiphop dancer and believes social movements, like dancing, need a new beat.


Aldo Gallardo, QTY Program Coordinator, Health Initiatives for Youth

	Aldo	Gallardo	Aldo Gallardo coordinates Health Initiatives for Youth's QTY Treehouse, a drop-in space for queer and trans* youth in Oakland. In this role, he supports three high school Gay-Straight Alliances in the Fruitvale and West Oakland neighborhoods, facilitates trainings on sex education and anti-oppression topics, and collaborates with various services providers to bring resources to the drop-in space. He is also on the steering committee for the Youth Empowerment Summit conference in the East Bay for LGBTQIQ2-S youth.

A community organizer and nonprofit professional, he has advocated for tenants' rights and access to education in Chicago, domestic violence victims and LGBTQ access to healthcare in San Diego, and youth empowerment in Tampa. He has experience with program management, asset-based community development, and policy research. He is passionate about immigrant rights, black-brown coalition building, and queer liberation amongst communities of color. He has a BA in sociology with a minor in Latina/o studies from Northwestern University, where he was inducted to the DERU Senior Leadership Honor Society for his activism on campus on issues of diversity and inclusion. He also studied Spanish language and literature as an exchange student at the Pontificia Universidad Cat—lica de Chile, and has taken courses in law and policy at the University of Mississippi and Thomas Jefferson Schools of Law.

Aldo is a queer, 1.5-generation, formerly undocumented immigrant from Lima, Peru. He enjoys playing classical saxophone, engaging on social media, and reading books on peace and justice.


Emma Gibbens, Business Development Associate , Organizer Inc

 Emma Gibbens got her start in Northern Minnesota working to elect Senator Al Franken. Since that first taste of community building, she has spent the last 6 years working in political campaigns across the country. Taking all she learned in the field, she has now transitioned into political technology working for a small startup called Organizer, which is a mobile app for door-to-door canvassing. Emma attended the University of Wisconsin Madison and received a double major in Political Science and in East Asian Studies with a Chinese focus.

Emma is passionate about empowering women and increasing number of women in leadership roles. She is Vice Chair of Women Get It Done, an organization that works to elevate women by maximizing our collective network and collaborating to develop innovative solutions to obstacles in the workplace.

In her free time, you'll find her working on her urban garden with her neighbors, reading a good book, and out and about exploring the world. Before moving into politics, she was a serious cellist playing in multiple orchestras and participating in a music tour in China.


Shaun Haines

	Shaun	Haines	As a San Francisco native, I want to be of service to the community that has given so much to me. My personal maxim is: the greatest route to failure is not to try. That's why I am running for elective office, and why I became involved in community organizing and public service several years ago. I seek to affect social change through activism, advocacy and community organizing. I have seized various opportunities during my volunteer work to prepare myself for even more impactful roles.

These opportunities include taking on leadership roles and participating in organizational development. Most recently I have served my community by being a member of the board of directors of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, as well as the board of San Francisco Pride, and the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, to name just a few. My involvement ranges from being a volunteer on several successful campaigns to raising money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. I've been working on building networks to strengthening disadvantaged communities, re-establish our resources and create supportive structures.

My motivation to become a public servant stem from my experiences as a private citizen. As both an African American and a Gay man, I have been challenged by and have overcome many obstacles in the pursuit and completion of my goals. I have surprised a lot of people over the years with my ability to disprove invalid assumptions of my character and abilities, not least myself.


Tommy Hayes , Marketing , Cleantech Group

	Tommy	Hayes	Tommy is an East Bay native who keeps returning here out of a love for Oakland and the plan to make it his lifelong home. He credits his grandparents' die-hard loyalty and involvement in the city (back before it was trendy) for the original inspiration. Following college, Tommy spent a year teaching K-8 science in Puerto Rico, where he saw persistent structural inequality drag down otherwise vital communities.

Upon return to California, TOMMY worked as an environmental advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco for several years, primarily on environmental policies with strong economic merits. His work often included collaboration with Green For All and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which helped incorporate his passion for both environmental and social justice. In graduate school, Tommy focused on transportation innovation and how cities can encourage cleaner, more affordable, and more accessible mobility.

Whether it's biking, taking functional public transit, ridesharing, or using cleaner fuels, he hopes to pull together the will and the resources to make our options better. He now works for the Cleantech Group in San Francisco, which helps clean technology start-ups and investment partners find one another in order to scale and make impact.

Tommy earned his B.S. at the University of Notre Dame and recently completed his MBA at the Yale School of Management jointly with a Master of Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.


Jas Johl, Director of Crowdfunding Strategic Initiatives, UC Berkeley
& Fellow, Center for Institutional & Social Change

	Jas	Johl	Jas Johl is the Director for Crowdfunding Innovation & Strategic Initiatives at UC Berkeley, and a Fellow at The Center for Institutional & Social Change, where she previously served as the Assistant Director. Her areas of policy interest and expertise include: increasing diversity at elite institutions of higher education; expanding economic opportunities for women; and exploring emerging and alternative social and micro-finance models.

Jas serves on the National Advisory & Steering Committee for The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, the nation's largest student policy organization, and is committed to youth empowerment, millennial leadership and education equity and access. She earned her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley and her M.Sc in Comparative Social Policy from Oxford University.


Laksmi Lagares, Owner, Lagares Consulting

	Laksmi	Lagares	Passionate about working with organizations and leaders who meet populations where they are, Laksmi's purpose is to help people realize they are more than their environment. Raised in East Oakland, CA, Ms. Lagares is inspired by a variety of progressive leaders. Local heroes like family friend Carmen Flores, an original member of the Community Service Organization; training ground for Cesar Chavez. And well-known leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Laksmi is the owner of Lagares Consulting. Her career includes; 15yrs experience in all aspects of Business Development and Public Relations within: Tech, Finance, Advertising, Marketing, Education, Social Impact and Philanthropy. Experience in overcoming the odds, combined with a successful and diverse professional background; enables her to communicate across cultural and socio economic divides, creating positive impact by translating needs and developing strategy to support mutual wins.

A former foster youth and first in her family to go to college, she attended Sonoma State University, majoring in Communications. After three years she was recruited to work in the technology industry. Laksmi returned to school as a working adult while raising her daughter, Maliha. She graduated from DeVry University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and begins her MBA program spring, 2015. Laksmi volunteers with and sponsors a variety of community organizations and NPOÕs throughout California.

LKSMI has sat on various boards and committees including the City of Benicia General Plan oversight Committee and is a former Board Director for the Prescott Joseph Center for Community Enhancement.


Jennifer Lopez , Academic Adviser , University of California

	Jennifer	Lopez	Jennifer was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA by Mexican immigrant parents. She is the oldest of three children and is the first in her family to graduate from college. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Jennifer is passionate about education reform and currently works as an Academic Adviser at the College of Letters & Science at UC Berkeley. She has volunteered with many multi-cultural organizations and retention centers on the UC Berkeley campus, including Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc. As the academic chair of her chapter, Jennifer revived their Latina Youth Leadership Conference that serves to empower over 100 middle school girls in underserved schools throughout the Bay Area every year.

Recently, Jennifer worked as a part of Abel Guillen's campaign for Oakland City Council, District 2. Through her work with the campaign she discovered her passion to work in local government. Jennifer seeks to learn more about policy formation and the legislative process that impacts the city of Oakland. She strives to engage and mobilize local communities to empower themselves through civic engagement.

Jennifer is also affiliated with the Latino Democratic Club of the East Bay, National WomenÕs Political Caucus, and the LAM Network. She is dedicated to improving the progressive infrastructure to ensure strong democracy, social justice, and equal opportunity.


Claudia Paredes, Academy Director, The Greenlining Institute

	Claudia	Paredes	"Claudia Paredes is an older sister, daughter and adopted mother to Charlie (a multi-ethnic rescue dog) and proud first-time homeowner in Oakland. She is driven by her commitment to racial equity, social justice and the advancement of opportunity for communities of color and low income communities. Over the past 5 years, Claudia has served as the Leadership Academy Director for The Greenlining Institute. Together with a dedicated team, she leads five core leadership development programs that engage young leaders of color in various stages of their educational and professional trajectory.

Through a shared vision based on the values of collective leadership, these programs empower and train the next generation of leaders dedicated to sustainable solutions that include and benefit California's most vulnerable communities. A formerly undocumented immigrant from Peru, Claudia was educated in East Bay public schools, holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University.

Claudia is a perpetual student of leadership and believes in the power of individual and collective development and empowerment as a means to greater social change. She is a proud of alumna of Rockwood Leadership Institute and the Hispanas Organized for Policy Equality (HOPE) Leadership Institute, both focusing on individual leadership growth and practice. She is now honored to join the inaugural cohort of the New Leaders Council, Oakland and hopes to contribute and benefit from the experience for the advancement of Oakland, the Bay Area and California.


Maritza Perez

	Maritza	Perez	Maritza Perez is in her final semester at Berkeley Law. She grew up in Elko, Nevada in a large, working-class Latino family. Her background as a first-generation American and college graduate fueled her desire to become involved in progressive politics from an early age in order to dismantle inequitable treatment of underrepresented groups. For instance, at the University of Nevada, Reno, she founded the Latino Student Advisory Board to arm students with leadership tools necessary to build a Latino pipeline to college. She also completed various internships, including stints with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Congressional Office in Washington, DC and Obama for America in Nevada.

After college, Maritza joined Teach For America (TFA) to foster academic growth in schools serving children from low-income communities. She taught at a challenging, New Orleans public school and realized how failing policies contributed to educational disparities. Consequently, her experience as a teacher prepared her to take her passion for social justice from the classroom to the courtroom, where systemic issues could be litigated.

In law school, Maritza has continued working on behalf of disenfranchised communities. For example, she joined the Death Penalty Clinic to contribute to a mitigation investigation aimed at overturning a capital punishment conviction and served as a law clerk at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, DC, working on criminal justice and education equity issues. She hopes her experience as a New Leaders Council Fellow will inform her future work as an advocate for underserved communities.


Ellie Tumbuan

	Ellie	Tumbuan	Ellie Tumbuan is a cross-sector capacity builder with a commitment to social justice and infrastructure equity. She's been a strategy consultant as the Director of Impact at Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, served in a program officer role for family foundations at the Jewish Community Federation's Endowment Fund, and worked in international economic development at The Asia Foundation on barriers to market entry, competitiveness initiatives, food security, and womenÕs entrepreneurship. As an Indonesian immigrantÕs daughter, Ellie invested in her commitment to democracy, equity, and accountability in grad school. She's part of a team that developed a transparency index for American citiesÕ use of open data. The study she co-authored, "Big City Smart City", will be presented at the American Society for Public Administration's 2015 conference. Her passion for civic innovation as a lever for social justice and government effectiveness brought her to OpenOakland, a Code for America brigade, where she works on organizational strategy, fundraising, and civic engagement.

Having also spent much of her time in graduate school on various aspects of criminal justice reform, Ellie has conducted strategic management assessments, an evaluation of restorative justice programming in a federal corrections institution and a local county jail, and developed a policy brief on overincarceration in California.

Inspired to contribute to justice system reform, Ellie currently serves on the San Francisco Reentry Council's Subcommittee on Policy and Operations to shape local policy on prisoner reentry and community supports. Ellie is a founding member of OPF-SF, a cohort of young activists who set out to democratize and diversify the field of philanthropy by making the practice of charitable giving accessible to everyone through the One Percent Foundation. She has served on the local steering committee of Emerging Practitioners In Philanthropy and as a board member for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Bay Area, where she led the largest revenue-producing program committee for the chapter. She earned her MPA with an emphasis in Urban and Strategic Management from San Francisco State University and a BA in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach.


Azadeh Zohrabi, National Campaigner, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

	Azadeh	Zohrabi	Azadeh is currently the National Campaigner at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights where she is working with families, communities, organizations and policy makers to end mass incarceration and redirect the savings from criminal justice reforms toward the communities most damaged by incarceration. To this role, she brings over 10 years of experience working with and advocating for people in prison and their families including women in prison and people in solitary confinement.

Prior to joining the Ella Baker Center team, Azadeh was a Soros Justice fellow at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children in addition to internships with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Justice Now. She also served on the legal team representing Pelican Bay prisoners in their class action lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement and continues to serve on the prisoners' Mediation Team for the California prison hunger strikes. Azadeh is a graduate of UC Hastings College of the Law and has published two scholarly articles, Resistance & Repression: The Black Guerrilla Family in Context and Creating the Bad Mother: How the U.S. Approach to Pregnancy in Prisons Violates the Right to be a Mother (co-author).

Shaped by her early life in Iran, where many in her family were political prisoners, Azadeh is dedicated to reducing the number of lives damaged by incarceration. She feels honored and privileged every day to work with people in prisons, their families, and allies as part of a bigger movement for freedom, justice and equity.


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