Alessandro Negrete – Director of External Affairs
Alessandro Negrete (He/Him/His) is a queer immigrant of color that was born in Manzanillo, Colima, MX. He grew up in California, and early on he saw and witnessed first hand the issues that low income communities of color face. As he grew up and his family moved around following the picking seasons as his mother was a field worker, he started reading to grow his own skills. When he was in high school he organized his classmates against Prop. 21, which sought to criminalize youth of color. He continued to stay active in his Boyle Heights community. Later on finding a connection to his queer and immigrant identity, he connected with the immigrant youth movement and worked to get Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals passed through organizing with the Immigrant Youth Coalition. After volunteering with them for years, Alessandro was able to become the leader of the first statewide network of grassroots community based immigrant youth led organizations. Their he learned the importance of bringing resources and having communications strategies. He brings that wealth of lived experience to all parts of his surroundings. Always acknowledging the need to talk about intersection, he hopes to expand his knowledge of environmental racism and connect his immigrant community to this work.
Ashley Orona – Community Stability Organizer
Ashley Orona (She/Her/Hers) grew up in unincorporated Florence-Firestone. She graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. During her undergrad, Ashley led and participated in organized efforts regarding issues that affect students and communities of color. She is currently an organizer in her community with a grassroots organization she co-founded called Juntos Florence-Firestone Together. Alongside community members, she’s fought against systemic barriers and fought to keep people in power accountable.
Cindy Donis – Community Organizer
Cindy Donis (She/Her/Hers) grew up in the city of Maywood and graduated with a BA in Chicana/o Studies and Gender & Feminist Studies at Pitzer College. As a daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, she has always valued her roots and history of struggle. She became involved in social movements and organizing in college, fighting for worker rights though the Claremont Student Worker Alliance as well as connecting local and international movements through the Chiapas Support Committee. She spent 3 years working at the Labor/Community Strategy Center, as a youth organizer challenging the mass criminalization of black and brown youth and the militarization of communities. She is committed and passionate about creating a world where black and brown communities are truly free.
Diana Sanchez – EmPower Program Coordinator (LB)
Diana Sanchez (She/Her/Hers) is an animal rights and environmental activist from Southeast Los Angeles who discovered her passion while volunteering abroad. Diana received her B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), which she accredits for allowing her to fully comprehend the interconnectivity between people and the environment they are exposed to. Growing up in near proximity to the 710 freeway, she has seen first-hand the effects of inequity, catalyzing her devotion to advocating for environmental justice in marginalized communities locally, and globally. Diana is a co-founder of the Student Sustainability Coalition, a student group at CSULB, and has worked on the board committee of other organizations that focus on the protection of human and environmental health. She is dedicated to addressing issues of pollution and climate change and hopes that her efforts can influence others to be a part of a global community committed to a healthier life and planet.
Jan Victor Andasan – Community Organizer
Jan Victor Andasan (Siya/They/Them/Theirs) was born in the Philippines until they emigrated in 1997 to Long Beach. They lived there for about five years where they attended Daniel Webster Elementary. They moved to Carson in the South Bay area where they got involved with student organizing against the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. They went to the University of California where they got a Bachelor in Arts in Asian American Studies with a concentration in Pilipin@ Studies. During their tenure at UCLA, they were involved with organizing students of color, LGBTQ issues, and various issues affecting underrepresented communities. They worked on the affordability, accessibility, and quality of higher education. Jan has a passion for addressing social justice issues.
Janet Valenzuela – Community Organizer
Janet Valenzuela (She/Her/Hers) is a eco-mujerista from Huntington Park (Southeast Los Angeles), who’s work is centered on bridging the outdoor industrial complex to environmental justice issues in the Los Angeles area using alterNative models to connect the outdoors to environmentally disadvantaged communities. She will be graduating from California State University Northridge with a B.A. in Chicano/a Studies and a Minor in Sustainability, with plans to pursue a career in environmental health law, particularly incorporating the intersections of grassroots activism and environmental justice. She is dedicated to challenging ongoing structures of colonialism that work towards rationalizing the use of destructive elements in her community and those alike.
Jasmine Gonzalez – Community Stability Organizer
Jasmine Gonzalez (she/her/hers) was born in Boyle Heights but moved at the age of eight and grew up in the city of Commerce. She obtained her B.A. in Geography from UC Santa Barbara and eventually became involved in political campaigns where she was able to develop her passion for engaging community members. She developed a personal interest in housing and came across EYCEJ where as a member she learned of the importance of community in order to fight oppressive systems. She is dedicated to housing justice and continually strives to equip herself with the tools needed to better support her community. Her goal is to empower the community by giving renters the tools and information they need. Her favorite part of doing outreach is hearing the infectious smile on someone’s face when she tells them housing is a human right.
Jessica Prieto – Community Stability Policy Organizer
Jessica Prieto (She/Her/Ella) was born and raised in East Los Angeles. She completed her Masters of Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA, focusing on Community Economic Development, and Housing in 2019. She also has a B.A. in Urban Studies and Planning with a minor in Race and Resistance Studies from San Francisco State University. Jessica has previously worked at T.R.U.S.T. South L.A. and USC’s Environmental Health Center, and has interned for the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Bus Riders Union, and Causa Justa: Just Cause. She has extensive experience working at the grassroots level on various planning issues and their impact on communities of color, such as transportation equity, anti-displacement, and environmental justice. She has been an EYCEJ member since 2015, participating in MP-SJRC’s first cohort, organizing tenants impacted by Exide Technologies, and representing EYCEJ in the Lower LA River Working Group. She enjoys walking and taking transit, watching movies, is a frequent patron of local street food vendors, and
believes knows Housing is a Human Right!
Jocelyn Del Real – Empower Program Coordinator
Jocelyn (She/Her/Hers) was raised in Bell Gardens, where much of her interest for environmental justice began. She graduated with a BA in Geography/Environmental Studies and Urban Planning from UCLA. She has been involved with EYCEJ since high school and has served as a researcher for the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative. She assisted research in brownfield truthing, researched industrial pollution in the communities of Southeast and East LA, and will continue to produce community-based knowledge to demand accountability from polluters. She will continue working toward sustainable development and building power in low income communities of color.
Laura Cortez – Co-Director
Laura Cortez (She/Her/Hers) is a lifelong Bell Gardens resident. Laura received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from CSU, Los Angeles and her Master of Arts degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Community Development from CSU, Long Beach. She has been an Spanish-English interpreter since 2010, including interpreting for domestic violence victims, health, and immigration organizations. Before coming to EYCEJ, Laura focused on youth in Southeast LA and Long Beach to transition into college and work toward health equity. More recently, she organized community in Long Beach and Wilmington around air quality and health advocacy. Laura’s focus is to work toward equity that improves the lives of families of color through community-led leadership in the Southeast cities for current and future generations. Laura was one of EYCEJ’s Community Organizers, but now is a Co-Director.
Lupe Valdovinos – Administrative/Operations Assistant
Guadalupe (Lupe) Valdovinos, (She/Her/Hers) was born and raised in East Los Angeles. Very proud of her community, culture and family history, she decided to be the first in her family to pursue higher education. She graduated from CSULA in 2018 with a BS in Public Health. She has ambitions to combat environmental health disparities in her community and began volunteering with EYCEJ in the summer of 2018. Having participated in water research for H2Ours campaign was the moment she felt she can encourage the growth of knowledge in her community. It is through her efforts in volunteering with EYCEJ that she found her passion to fight the good fight with amazing people. Lupe’s journey has just begun and she embraces it with everyone willing to grow with her.
mark! Lopez – Co-Director
mark! Lopez (He/Him/His) comes from a family with a long history of activism. He was raised in the Madres del Este de Los Angeles Santa Isabel (Mothers of East LA Santa Isabel – MELASI), an organization co-founded by his grandparents, Juana Beatriz Gutierrez and Ricardo Gutierrez. This set his trajectory as a community activist. He has engaged in a wide array of student activism at UC Santa Cruz where he earned his B.A. in Environmental Studies, and taught university courses at UC Santa Cruz, Cal State Northridge, and UCLA Extension. mark! earned his M.A. from the Chican@ Studies Department at Cal State Northridge, where he completed his Masters thesis titled”The Fire: Decolonizing “Environmental Justice.” mark! joined East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice as a member three years before joining the staff. After serving as Lead Organizer for East Yard Communities and Co-Director with EYCEJ Co-Founder Angelo Logan, mark! served as the Executive Director for over 6 years. He is now serving as a Co-Director along with Laura Cortez and Taylor Thomas. He organizes in the area where he was born, raised and continues to live. mark! is the 2017 North American Recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
Paola Dela Cruz-Pérez– Youth Organizer
Paola Dela Cruz-Perez (She/Her/Ella) was born and raised in South Los Angeles and moved to Compton when she was a teen. She began her organizing as a youth by coordinating mutual aid efforts with and for unhoused and housing insecure families. Through these experiences, she became politicized about the systems that perpetuate injustices. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she deepened her understanding for community healing, community organizing, and community power building. Paola continues organizing in her hood through East Yard’s Southeast LA membership spaces, Compton Tenants Union, and Compton Rising. She is passionate about engaging and equipping youth with the necessary tools to fight against environmental racism, white supremacy, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. Paola loves being in and around water and is an Aztec Mexica danzante.
Taylor Thomas– Co-Director
Taylor (she/they) calls Long Beach home, where she was born and raised and continues to deepen her roots. Having had an incredibly gracious grandmother as an example, and raised in an under-resourced community, she has been involved in various community-based efforts since the age of 15. She has supported organizing for quality and affordable education, as well as worked with folks experiencing homelessness. With the guidance and support of Great Leap and EndOil, Taylor, along with four other community members, co-wrote and performed a theater play called ‘The Air We Breathe’ in 2013, which chronicled what it’s like living in Long Beach and dealing with air pollution. She began her journey with EYCEJ as a member shortly thereafter, eventually becoming an intern before transitioning into a staff role. Taylor aims to combine art, sustainability, compassion, and social justice into a movement of love. She earned her B.A. in Human Development from CSULB. She is a vegan that likes all things in pastry form from her favorite local coffee shop, and loves following cute pets on Instagram. Taylor was EYCEJ’s Research and Policy Analyst, but now serves as a Co-Director.
Whitney Amaya – Incinerator Organizer
Whitney Amaya (She/Her/Hers) grew up in Long Beach, California with strong ties to her family. Her parents, whom immigrated from El Salvador in the late 1980s/early 1990s, have taught her the importance of education, caring for the environment, and fighting for justice. She received her B.A. in Geography/Environmental Studies from UCLA in 2015, and her M.S. in Geographic Information Science from CSULB in 2018. Before joining East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice as staff, she had volunteered as a member for about three years and was a proud participant of the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative. Whitney will continue to address environmental racism and organize together with her community.
Tiff Sanchez – Eastside Youth Organizer
Tiff (she/her/hers) is a 3rd generation, Angelino, with family roots in East LA and Boyle Heights. A pattern maker by trade with more than 17 years of experience in the fashion industry, she gained her certification in fashion design at LATTC. Her eclectic organizing background comes from an “Each one, Teach one”, DIY ethos learned from various autonomous community spaces in Los Angeles like The Smell, a DTLA punk venue where she contributed to creating a safe, all-ages community space for local youth. She also co-organized PPE drives for day laborers in partnership with IDEPSCA and her futbol supporter group Lxs Tigres Del NorthEnd. She is a member of WOC Sisterhood Collective where they provide communal healing and she’s a volunteer with Warriors Community Self Defense, both out of East Side Cafe in El Sereno. She was a member at East Yard for a year before joining the team and it was at East Yard where she learned that community building and organizing does not have to come from an academic level but rather the recognition of one’s ability to put their love of community and experience into action. Tiff enjoys drinking tea, 90’s R&B, all things sci-fi, and plants.
Erick Huerta – Media Organizer
Erick Huerta (he/him/ey foo) is an undocumented immigrant with a temporary work permit via Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He is a digital strategist and communications consultant for non-profits, labor unions, and grass-roots organizations. With a background in journalism, he was a digital organizer for the immigrant youth movement in the early 2000s, a freelance writer for publications like L.A. Taco, and a community blogger for Boyle Heights. He is currently a board member of the grassroots organization People for Mobility Justice, advocating for transportation justice and equity in L.A. His latest project is hosting his own podcast, Órale Boyle Heights.