Dion Aroner is deeply rooted in California government. After six years as a State Assemblywoman and 25 years as Chief of Staff to her predecessor, Tom Bates, she knows how to get things done in state government. She is an undisputed expert in state budget and human services issues, and has the institutional memory to help clients successfully navigate the Legislature and Administration. She began her career as a social worker for Alameda County and developed her leadership skills at an early age by becoming the first woman president of Service Employees International Union 535. Dion is a native San Franciscan, a proud graduate of UC Berkeley, and a longtime resident of the East Bay. She serves on the Boards of Freight and Salvage (a folk music venue in Berkeley), Seneca Center (serving severely emotionally disturbed children), and Safe Kids California.
Elmy Bermejo is an experienced government and civic leader with a passion for building, connecting and strengthening relationships to assist people and organizations achieve their goals. She has been a senior government official with more than 25 years of experience in executive level management, strategic planning, policy development and advocacy. She has a successful record of collaboration with public and private stakeholders on a range of issues including paid leave, disaster relief and small business. Elmy recently served as a Senior Adviser and Outreach Director for Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, the first woman ever elected to this position in California She previously served in President Barack Obama’s Administration as the Regional Representative for the Secretary of Labor in the Western United States and as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in Washington D.C. Her public service includes working for several elected officials including Retired CA State Senators John Burton and Don Perata, former Congressmembers Lynn Woolsey and Mel Levine and the late U.S. Senator Alan Cranston. Elmy is currently the President of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, serves on the board of The Beneficial State Foundation and is an Advisory Member of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE). She is also a founding member of the Emily’s List Latina Advisory Council and EMERGE, an organization that trains Democratic Women to run for local office. She previously served on the California Commission on the Status of Women and is a recipient of the Dolores Huerta Woman of Courage Award from the US Hispanic Leadership Institute. Elmy’s family owns Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant a well-known and beloved San Francisco institution for more than 50 years. There she gained valuable insights and sensitivity to the challenges faced by small business owners, many of whom are immigrants.
Tess Bridgeman served as Special Assistant to President Obama, Associate Counsel to the President, and Deputy Legal Adviser to the National Security Council (NSC), where she covered the full range of issues relating to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Bridgeman previously served in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser, where she was Special Assistant to the Legal Adviser. Prior to that role, she served as an Attorney Adviser in the Office of Political-Military Affairs, focusing on armed conflict, detention issues, and the intersection of the law of armed conflict and human rights law. Bridgeman clerked for Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and served at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Earlier in her career, Bridgman worked as a consultant for the World Bank Inspection Panel, where she conducted the first comprehensive assessment of the World Bank’s community-driven accountability mechanism, and co-founded a food security and community development organization in Oaxaca, Mexico. A Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar, and Gardner Fellow, Bridgeman has a D.Phil. in International Relations from Oxford University, where she focused on global governance and international institutions; a J.D. from NYU Law School, magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, which she attended as a Root-Tilden-Kern and Institute for International Law and Justice Scholar; and a B.A. with University Distinction and Departmental Honors from Stanford University.
Kim Carter is the Founder/Ambassador of Time for Change Foundation. Certified in accounting with an emphasis on non-profit organizations, Kim was inspired to leave the corporate world in 2002 to start Time for Change Foundation. Motivated by her own experiences as a formerly incarcerated woman, Kim made it her mission to help women and children make the transition from homelessness and recidivism to self-sufficiency. Kim is a powerful voice for women who bear the scars of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration. It is Kim’s belief that by providing these women with training and the opportunity to develop life skills, in a nurturing and supportive environment, they will become independent, active participants in their communities. She aspires to the work of her idol, Harriet Tubman, by lighting a path and leading others to freedom from addiction and incarceration. Her motto is that “a lit candle loses nothing when it lights another.” Kim is also a motivational speaker, an advocate, an author, a graduate of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute and more recently a developer.
Jennifer Chou is a Reproductive Justice & Gender Equity Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. Her current work focuses on expanding and protecting access to reproductive health care in the Central Valley. She also leads the ACLU-NC’s efforts to ensure implementation of inclusive, medicallyaccurate, and comprehensive sexual health education across the state.Before joining the ACLU, Jennifer was an If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, where she represented NAPAWF in coalition leadership to reintroduce federal immigrant health legislation and authored a policy agenda about the reproductive health status and needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander women. Before law school, Jennifer was a paralegal with the litigation department of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.Jennifer earned her law degree from the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law, where, as a student in UCLA’s Appellate Advocacy Clinic, she argued a case in front of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Jennifer earned her B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies, with a concentration in Asian American Studies, from Wellesley College.
Fabiola DeCaratachea is a Director at Richard Heath & Associates, Inc based in Fresno. She provides leadership and oversight to the development and execution of outreach and education efforts in support of multiple programs, especially around access to healthcare for low income families. She is skilled at organizing and implementing complex outreach programs and ensuring success. Fabiola has 15 years of experience working with culturally diverse and under-served communities, including serving as a previous Program Officer focused on the Central Valley for the Women’s Foundation of California. She has a strong commitment to building partnerships and formalized relationships with, and among, community partners who provide direct services and funding to under-served communities. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College and is a bilingual in Spanish and English. Fabiola is Latina and lives with her husband and children in the Fresno area.
Elizabeth Escamilla, is currently Director of Education at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Before joining the Lucas Museum, she held various positions in the Education Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum for 22 years. In addition to designing the largest guided school visit program in an American art museum, she championed access to the museum by Title I school communities through an annual, one-million- dollar bus funding program. She spearheaded the development of online, collection-based resources, and brokered partnerships with Teaching Channel and Khan Academy to expand reach. Elizabeth is a leader in the area of arts integration, and she has presented locally and nationally on issues in the field of museum education. In 2014, she was named Museum Educator of the Year by the National Art Educators Association. Elizabeth is a California native, born in Ventura County and is proud of her California university undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Santa Barbara and San Francisco State University, respectively.
Sandra Flores was previously served as the first program director of the Fresno County Preterm Birth Collective Impact Initiative, a collaborative effort to reduce the number of babies born prematurely in Fresno County. The Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative is part of the larger $100-million, 10-year Preterm Birth Initiative, led by the University of California, San Francisco, and funded by Lynne and Marc Benioff and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Fresno County is one of six sites selected for the Preterm Birth Initiative, and the only site implementing the collective impact model. Alameda County and San Francisco are the other two U.S. locations, with international sites that include Nairobi, Rwanda and Uganda. Sandra was the Senior Program Officer for the Central Valley Community Foundation (formerly Fresno Regional Foundation). She was with the Foundation from 2007 through 2016. As part of her role at the Central Valley Community Foundation, she oversaw the competitive grant making program which included Arts & Culture, Youth, Human Services, and Environment. As Senior Program Officer she also led the Teen Pregnancy Prevention and High Impact grant making initiatives on behalf of the foundation. A native of Fresno, Flores attended Fresno City College and received her bachelor’s degree in history from Oklahoma City University. She is a member of the Adolescent Sexual Health Work Group, an organization through the California Department of Public Health that promotes and protects the sexual and reproductive health of youth in California.
Marlene Garcia is Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission, the largest state financial aid system in the country serving close to half a million low-income students in the state. She has 25 years of experience working on educational equity and policy issues within the California Legislature and higher education institutions. She is passionate about advancing gender, racial and economic justice issues. She previously served more than six years as a national leader in Apple Inc.’s Education Strategic Initiatives Group. Additionally, in her distinguished career she has served as Vice Chancellor of Government Relations for the California Community College System, Deputy State Policy Director for the California State University System, and as a Senior Policy Consultant in the Senate Education Committee. She also served as a senior higher education advisor to former Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown, Jr. Ms. Garcia has been nationally recognized for her work and was featured as one of 11 “Higher Education’s New Generation of Thinkers” in the 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Also a Fellow with the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in 2004, she is active in several organizations both nationally and in the Sacramento community where she resides with husband Phil Garcia. Ms. Garcia earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature from UCLA and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Claremont Graduate School.
Business leader who brings strategic thinking, creative insight and operational rigor to establish enduring impact to organizations and the balance sheet. Entrepreneur by default, with 20+ years of experience working across Fortune 100 and 500 companies, strategy consultancies, and design firms—commanding a depth of capability and leadership adaptable to global markets, scale, and demands of the C-Suite.
Eunisses Hernandez is a policy advocate and campaign strategist with over 5 years of experience in working with local and state legislators, system actors, and communities most devastated by criminalization, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration. As a native of Los Angeles, the daughter of immigrants, and loved one of people with mental health needs and substance use disorders Eunisses knows the detrimental impacts that criminalization has on immigrants and communities of color.
These experiences inform Eunisses analysis and policy development. Eunisses has extensive experience in developing and implementing alternatives to incarceration. Most recently, she was appointed as a voting member to the Los Angeles County Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group and Co-chair of the Community Based System of Care AD HOC.
Eunisses is an alum of WPI-Local and WPI-State.
Karen Jordan currently serves as the CFO of CFO Systems LLC. She is a a performance-focused finance professional, offering extensive experience and broad set of skills in cash flow analysis, variance analysis, cost tracking, financial model development, reporting, and budgeting. Known for solid analytical skills and keen eye for detail, I thrive at formulating wealth accumulation and preservation plans, and strategically allocating resources using in-depth industry knowledge. I am decisive and growth-focused with unparalleled work ethic and innate ability to lead and motivate multiple teams and personnel toward peak performance. Prior engagements include Chief Financial Officer of The San Diego Blood Bank, SVP of Finance & Operations at WomenCare Global International, and senior financial roles in the San Diego area and Dublin, Ireland.
Surina is a proud Californian by way of Connecticut and Pakistan. A first generation immigrant, Surina came to the US with her parents and five older siblings in 1973, and has been dedicated to gender, racial, and economic justice issues ever since. As CEO, Surina oversees the Foundation’s strategic direction which is focused on building community-based power through investing in effective community-based organizations, training community leaders in policy advocacy, connecting key partners, and mobilizing significant financial resources. Surina first became involved with WFC as a volunteer in 2004 serving on a grants review committee. She joined the staff in 2005 as a Senior Program Officer and was promoted to Director of Programs and then Vice President of Programs. In 2011 Surina was recruited by the Ford Foundation to design and launch Ford’s LGBT Rights Initiative and went on to become a Director in the Democracy Rights and Justice Program where she shaped more than $30 million in annual grantmaking around the world to expand rights for women, LGBT people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and in the areas of strengthening democratic participation and governance. She returned to WFC as CEO in 2014 and is dedicated to engaging more people to support those who are most impacted by the problems in their community to develop solutions to advance gender, racial, and economic justice. Earlier in her career Surina served as Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (now OutRight Action International) where she worked to advance the human rights of LGBTQI people and people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Prior to that she was a research analyst for Political Research Associates, conducting groundbreaking research on the Right’s attacks on women and LGBT people. Surina serves on several Boards and is currently co-chair of the Board of Directors of Funders for Reproductive Equity. She is also a member of the Board of Voices for Progress, Alliance for Justice, the American LGBTQ Museum, La Cocina and a member of the Advisory Board of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a founding Advisor for the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative, and a member of the Public Policy Committee for Northern California Grantmakers. She previously served on the Boards of numerous organizations including Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, Outright Action International, and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Surina is a widely recognized expert on gender, racial, and economic justice and a frequent commentator on the power of women’s philanthropy. In 2015, Surina was recognized with a Leaders in Action Award from Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and in 2017 the South Asian Network recognized Surina with a Community Solidarity Award. Her writing and research have been published widely in print and online publications including the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Philanthropy News Digest.
Diane Manuel is a Financial Advisor with Urban Wealth Management. She joined Urban Wealth Management after a successful career with Merrill Lynch, the California Endowment, and The J. Paul Getty Museum. She has published articles on Investopedia.com, Nasdaq.com and on the Urban Wealth Management website, where she writes a series focused on philanthropy called “Your Life. Your Legacy.” Diane is a founding member of the Giving Circle Angelenos 4 Los Angeles which is active in the entrepreneurship and the promotion of innovative solutions to support uplifting change in the African-American community in Southern California. Diane has over 20 years of experience helping individuals and organizations in their efforts to identify, implement, and accomplish their goals. Additionally, Diane is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional.
A third-generation native Angeleno, Sen. Holly J. Mitchell is the proud daughter of career public servants and the protégé of community leaders who instilled in her a passion for service. She continued her family legacy of “firsts” when she was named the first African American to chair the powerful Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee in December 2016. Less than two months later, a profile in The Los Angeles Times described Mitchell as the “Legislature’s moral compass.” She proved to be just that in 2017 and 2018 when she oversaw the adoption of consecutive state budgets of nearly $200 billion each and won wide praise for directing funds to elementary and college students, the health-care systems and long-neglected programs to assist infants, the elderly, youth and working families. She serves on several committees, including being named in January as vice chair of the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response.
Lora O’Connor is a producer, social entrepreneur and strategic catalyst, specializing in high impact partnership and resource development and cultivation, working across sectors towards the goal of a world that works for all of us. Areas of high Impact include Women & Girls leadership and empowerment, a Regenerative and Clean Energy-based Environment , Social, Racial and Gender Justice and Social Impact Film, Media and Entertainment.
Quency L. Phillips is a proud Chicagoan and Northwestern University alumnus, currently based in Morgan Hill, CA. He is an entrepreneur, public-speaker, writer and influencer with extensive experience in marketing and the management of professional athletes and entertainers. His work in the nonprofit and public sectors has been focused on the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis and developing grassroots leadership. He is currently Chief Marketing Officer for eHarvestHub Inc., and serves as a Board member at Somos Mayfair in San Jose, CA, and the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center in San Mateo, CA. He was formerly a member of the Housing Advisory Committee for the City of Gilroy, CA.
Susan has spent the better part of the last 45 years involved with community activities, politics, volunteer work and philanthropy, both locally and globally. Her primary focus has been in the area of women’s issues, particularly reproductive rights, but she has also been involved with various educational institutions and other community organizations.
With her husband and four children she established a family foundation, The Libra Foundation, whose mission is to support organizations which promote environmental justice, gender justice and criminal justice reform.
Additionally, Susan manages the agricultural operation of her family’s ranch, Hick’s Mountain Ranch, in West Marin. Last but not least, Susan is deeply engaged in progressive’s political activity, particularly working at the grass roots, community activism level.
Aria Sa’id is a transgender advocate and award winning political strategist based in San Francisco Bay Area. She is a founder and the Executive Director of the Transgender District – the world’s first transgender district, celebrating the resilience, culture, and presence of transgender people in San Francisco’s famed Tenderloin neighborhood. She is the founder of Kween Culture Initiative – a social and cultural empowerment project for Black transgender women. Ms. Sa’id and her efforts have been featured in numerous media platforms including Forbes, CNN, The Daily Mail, OUT Magazine, Marie Claire, The Guardian, Huffington Post, CBS, Vice, and San Francisco Chronicle.
Aria is an alum of WPI-State.
Samala is a creative leader focused on building new paradigms for early stage investing in companies founded by teams of people from spectacular, unconventional and unprecedented backgrounds.
Samala embodies multitudes — a believer and weaver of strong social fabric, a Wharton business school grad, a native New Yorker turned Californian, a purveyor of culture, a daughter of immigrants and a DJ that’s played all over the world. Her work and writing in investing, technology, social innovation and civics has been featured at the Obama Administration’s White House LGBTQ Technology & Innovation Summit, at the Aspen Institute, in publications like Forbes, The New Yorker, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, TechCrunch and Al-Jazeera, Refinery29 and recognized by NBC, Congress, and the California Legislature.
As a consultant she worked with brands like Chanel, Clif Bar, and Cirque du Soleil. She was a Senior Advisor for Social Innovation for Mozilla, contributor to the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program, and a member of New Media Ventures’ Investment Committee. Samala currently serves on the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator Advisory Council.