Be the Leader this Moment Demands

Representation matters, especially in politics. In a system constructed and dominated by white men, it’s clear we need more women, especially women of color and gender non conforming people, in elected office. Here are four Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) alum we’re celebrating who are running for office this year. Because we all know gender justice means having womxn in the halls of power from the school board to the statehouse. 

Danielle Guillen

Running for School Board in Redlands in San Bernardino county. 

Danielle learned the power of community and education growing up in the Inland Empire. Her parents worked tremendously hard to transfer her to an elementary school outside of her neighborhood school. It was this small act of attending a better elementary school that affected the entire trajectory of Danielle’s life. She would not realize how impactful her parents’ decision was until she was 1 of 4 people from her county, the biggest county in the United States, accepted into Yale University.

As a first generation college student at Yale University, Danielle realized her family was not alone in their struggle to access equitable educational opportunities. Her desire to extend equitable education opportunities to families, like her own, led her to become a secondary math teacher on the Navajo Nation where she experienced first hand the barriers low income rural families face to accessing high quality education.

As the Director of Organizing and Policy for Los Angeles Unified Board District 5, Danielle intimately understood the state of education in the second largest school system in the United States and the urgency to make sure that half a million children have access to equitable education. In her current role as Director of Strategic Policy and Organizing Support at a national education nonprofit, she works with senior leaders and organizing alliances across the nation to ensure that students have access to equitable education. She is a candidate for Redlands Unified School District, Trustee Area 5 to ensure all students have the same educational opportunities in her hometown.

Jocelyn Vargas

Running for Coachella Valley Unified School District for Trustee Area 4

Jocelyn Vargas is a proud daughter of immigrants, born and raised in the Coachella Valley. As an English language learner, first-generation college graduate, and product of local public schools, she has first-hand knowledge on challenges students face. Ms. Vargas has dedicated the last 10 years uplifting her community and students of the Eastern Coachella Valley. 

Ms. Vargas’ personal and educational experience ignites her passion for increasing student success, equity and access through culturally relevant and representative curriculums. After completing her bachelor’s at UCLA, and master’s in Biliteracy, Leadership and Intercultural Education at Loyola Marymount University she returned to her community to apply educational practices that recognize and are responsive to the current and inclusive context of student learning. 

Ms. Vargas has participated in various leadership programs including the HOPE Leadership Institute, Young Elected Officials Network and Emerge CA.

Jocelyn Vargas for CVUSD

Maria Cadenas

Running for Santa Cruz City Council

For over 20 years, Maria Cadenas’ focus has been in developing local and global social, business, and philanthropic models that foster equity, community engagement, collaboration, and wealth building. Born in Mexico and raised in California, Maria founded UndocuFund Monterey Bay to provide relief to COVID-19 impacted workers. To date UndocuFund Monterey Bay has supported over 1,300 families and distributed almost $2 million, most going to women with children. She received her MBA from Alverno College and BA in Creative Writing and Business Administration from Beloit College. Maria is a current candidate for Santa Cruz City Council, if elected she would be the first Latina to serve in Santa Cruz’ history – a city where over 20% of the population identifies as Latino. Learn more at

Suely Saro

Running for Long Beach City Council District 6.

Suely Saro is running for Long Beach City Council District 6 in the November 3rd, 2020 election. As a field representative for the Office of former State Senator Ricardo Lara, Suely had the opportunity to work closely with residents in District 6 and throughout Long Beach. As past Chair of Long Beach’s Citizen Police Complaint Commission, Suely supported the mission of providing independent, impartial and objective investigation of alledged police misconduct and reviewed the services provided by members of the Long Beach Police Department. A committed civic leader, she cares deeply about ensuring a bright future for all the residents of Long Beach. Learn more about Suely Saro.

Waunette Cullors

Running for School Board in Antelope Valley of LA County.

Waunette Cullors is both a leader and an inspiration to many in
her community. Her life has been dedicated to serving and being a positive role model for youth and involving herself in any way to better their lives – from PTA President to councilwoman. 

Waunette has been successful at showing youth how to break-out of their societal roles and to inspire them to aim for goals higher than they’ve previously imagined. She has served as a 4H Leader, Regional Director for Girl Scouts, Vice-Chair and Treasurer for Highland High School’s Booster Club, and an Ambassador of the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce. Waunette, being culturally adept, likes to share her culture with the community, as well as with younger generations, and has served on a multitude of executive boards committed to advancing the African American community. She has been Vice-Chair of the NAACP, President of the Friends of Jackie Robinson Park, Director of the Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, and treasurer for Lancaster’s Mayor Prayer Breakfast. Currently serving as Council Woman for Little Rock Town Council. 

Her life mission is to focus on the education, heritage, culture,
and health and wellness of her community while adding a “WOW-factor” to these lessons. She feels that a lot of children today have very little or limited exposure to museums, nature, art, and the world of science, and has thus developed the WOW Flower Project, a non-profit organization, to bring the awe of those activities to the children of her community. As Executive Director, her focus is on developing programs and events that mirror the WOW Flower’s mission and that gives numerous children the opportunity to go on field trips, college visits, and experience a range of other opportunities that may not be commonplace in the community.

Waunette for Keppel School Board

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