Board of Directors
At the heart of our organization is the Board of Directors, made up of members from the local communities of East Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and Long Beach. The Board of Directors is not just the face of the organization; they also identify local issues, guide the direction and help to meet the mission and vision of the organization.
EYCEJ Board of Directors
Yesenia Fernandez – President
Yesenia Fernandez was born in East Los Angeles and raised by a community of hardworking people–her single mother in Rosemead, her mother’s family in the City of Commerce, and her father’s family in East Los Angeles and Michoacan, Mexico. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Cal State Dominguez Hills. She previously served as an urban school district leader in Lynwood where she evaluated principals and developed systems to improve equity and access to higher education. In addition, she spent fifteen years at Bell Gardens High School as an English teacher, administrator, and student advocate. She was a first-generation college student and earned a Bachelor’s in English, a Masters in Educational Leadership from Cal State Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Education at Claremont Graduate University. She studies how systemic racism in the public school system perpetuates segregation and precludes students of color from higher education. She is dedicated to working with school leaders and policymakers to ensure equity and justice in urban schools and our communities. She has been a member of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) since 2007 after her students, who became involved with EYCEJ, inspired her to learn about the environmental racism with which our community is forced to live. She continues to be an EYCEJ member as it is focused on protecting and healing our communities. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Iris Verduzco – Treasurer (they/them)
Iris Verduzco was raised in South Gate, a city whose historical toxic industrial practices are still impacting the region today. Iris began learning about the history and existing environmental conditions in their city and neighboring communities in high school becoming involved in environmental and social justice work with Communities for a Better Environment. Iris went on to study environmental and public health at the University of Southern California, where they sought opportunities to research accounts of environmental racism in low-income and BIPOC communities living near sources of contamination. And from Southeast and East Los Angeles in the U.S. to Yokkaichi in Japan, their research uplifted the power of community resiliency and persistence in combating the impacts of toxic emission release. During this time, Iris conducted research through the support of programs like the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative, where they investigated problem sites in and near the Lower LA River that displayed potential for dry-weather urban runoff. Iris has a deep love for water and food justice and seeks any invitation to hold toxic industries and governing systems accountable for the harm they contribute to. Iris is invested in fighting for equity and accountability for our communities to eliminate the social, public, and environmental health harms induced by our current, historical, and systemic structures.
Javier Garay – Secretary
Javier Garay was born and raised in Bell Gardens. Beginning his activism during his junior year of high school as a youth member, Javier began developing knowledge of the organization and work through dedicated volunteering. Javier’s work with the organization has assisted in identifying his passion for clean air, quality of life, and community. Outside of the organization, he is currently a student at the University of California, Irvine studying for a B.A. in Environmental Engineering. He enjoys coffee, joking around, and having fun experiences.
Suzette Aguirre – Vice-President
Suzette was raised in Huntington Park. Growing up with asthma next to the industrious city of Vernon, Suzette became involved with Communities for a Better Environment in high school and has since been involved with environmental justice work. She has worked alongside community members in EYCEJ’s La Cosecha Colectiva program and was in the first and second cohorts of the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative. She graduated from CSU Long Beach with a B.S. in Dietetics and Food Administration and is currently a Master of Public Health student at UCLA in the Community Health Sciences department. Suzette is dedicated to tackling health inequities by building up low-income communities of color.
Kimberly Amaya – (She/Her/They) was raised in Long Beach, California. She has been passionate about protecting the environment since joining the Green Team in middle school and protecting her community since joining East Yard during high school. She helped co-found YA! (Youth in Action) at her high school after learning about the environmental racism her community suffers from. After graduating high school, she participated in the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative on a project focused on refineries. She researched how the refineries worked, the top pollutants that were emitted from the refineries near her neighborhood, and the harmful effects of the pollutants. She has also participated in the planning committee for the West Long Beach Bike Toxic Tour that informs community members not only about the various polluting facilities harming the community but also how the community has been thriving with grassroots organizing and community-based solutions. She is currently studying at CSULB for a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. She hopes to work in the renewable energy sector for a future with sustainable development.
Marcos Lopez – Marcos was raised in South Gate, California. As a high schooler they were part of Youth Action, where they learned about environmental justice through Communities for A Better Environment. As they began their college chapter, they decided to pursue a degree in Urban and Regional Planning, where they learned about the history, processes, and policies that impact their community. After college, Marcos moved to Long Beach where they presently reside and work. Marcos currently lives adjacent to the ports, and they are tired of breathing densely polluted air. Overall, Marcos is very excited to see the extinction of Oil Refiners because community health is greater than corporate wealth.
Jackie Espinoza-Chavez – Jackie Espinoza-Chavez (She/Her/Ella) was born and raised in Lynwood. She’s the proud daughter of immigrant parents. Her maternal side of the family came from Honduras, Central America, and her paternal side from Guadalajara, Mexico. Growing up, her mother Rosita always instilled in her it was a great privilege to be a U.S. citizen and it was her duty to help those that weren’t as lucky as her. She was often asked by others to help translate documents in English to Spanish or to accompany them to appointments when there would be no translators. Later in high school, she became an activist and participated in marches and protests against the discrimination and racism of her people, the immigrant community. Her parent involvement started when she realized parents’ voices were being ignored. The majority of them did not speak English and were afraid to speak up because of their status. She decided to be their voice and advocate for them by joining parent groups and providing Parent Workshops and Resource Fairs. In 2015, she was awarded California Senator Ricardo Lara’s Women of Distinction Award for representing the city of Lynwood for her volunteer work and community engagement. She holds a degree in Bachelor of Science in Applied Studies with a minor in Public Administration from the California State University of Dominguez Hills. She’s currently the Vice-Chair of the Measure K & Measure N Bond Citizen’s Oversight Committee for Lynwood Unified School District and has held other titles in other commission boards and committees for the city of Lynwood and the School District. In December 2019 East Yard presented her with the Emerging Leader Award. She’s a proud member of the South SELA East Yard membership where she continues her fight for equitable rights to quality of life for water, air, housing, and other important areas. East Yard has been the biggest supporter throughout the difficult times in her life and has given her the opportunity to exercise her skills and passion as an activist and advocate in helping those most in need.
Wendy Cubillo – Wendy Cubillo (she/her/hers) was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. As a 17-year-old, she has witnessed first handedly how much change-making power youth hold as a young generation, especially in low-income communities. She has seen the many passions and talents that youth have, which she believes deserve to be recognized. Fighting for change, and learning more every day, Wendy has been a member of Youth in Action since 2019. Here she has developed her passion for engaging with her community, which led her to fall in love with photojournalism. Through photography, she tells stories related to identity, activism, and pride. Shifting through the different lenses of our people, Wendy uses photojournalism to highlight the day-to-day lives of the Los Angeles community. She is currently a member of Las Fotos Project, a photography mentoring organization, in which she aims to capture every unique story, taking her camera everywhere she goes.