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New Leaders Council

2018 NLC LA Engaged Fellows

Jose Castaneda | Stephanie Castellanos | Alejandra CortezJessica Jinn |  Jeremy Knight | Nicole Pellegrini | Miguel Segura | Stephanie Shaw |  Alberto Uribe | Cynthia Valencia | Greg Washington | Gerrard Panahon 

Jose Castaneda, Commissioner for City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation

Jose CastanedaJose Trinidad Castaneda III is founder of Xinampa Farms, a small business based in Orange County dedicated to providing scalable food production systems and educational materials. Xinampa Farms mission is to provide greater access to clean and nutrient-rich food, create green jobs, and build sustainable communities. Currently, Jose Trinidad serves as a commissioner on the City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation Commission, and is an active member of Fullerton’s Community Emergency Response Team. He volunteers throughout the city and hosts regular presentations on the role of civic engagement and combating climate change. Jose Trinidad carries a deep passion for for environmental, immigration, and LGBTQ issues.

He spent his academic career organizing students to require Ethnic Studies courses for all freshman, creating several Gender Neutral Restrooms across campus, and negotiating with administrative officials for greater funding for undocumented students. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a minor in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from California State University, Los Angeles, and has continued his advocacy work throughout Orange County. Jose Trinidad is a New American Leaders Project alum and a member of the OC Pipeline Project. He has worked on several political campaigns for local candidates since 2014, including progressive candidates in the cities of Fullerton, Anaheim, and Buena Park. He plans to utilize his training to launch his run for local office in 2018. As an advocate for higher quality education, Jose Trinidad launched an after school initiative in 2015 as the Aquaponics Leadership Program coordinator at Parks Jr. High School, teaching the principles of leadership and sustainability to diverse youth.

When he isn’t empowering youth, he enjoys managing the Richman Community Garden after visiting the Farmer’s market and reconnecting with his roots through ceremony.


Stephanie Castellanos, Talent Consultant and Diversity & Inclusion Strategist

stephanie___headshot_(2).jpgStephanie Castellanos is a Talent Consultant, Diversity & Inclusion strategist, expert facilitator and grassroots community organizer. Her passion for social innovation and youth empowerment stems from her upbringing in Inglewood, CA, experiences as the first in her family graduate from college, and as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Stephanie has innovated the recruitment strategies of national education and political organizations, working across more than 30 states including California, New York, Texas, and in South Florida for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.

She is the Co-Founder of The Coalition for Diverse Educators (C4DE), a national grassroots movement to increase teacher diversity in urban public schools. Stephanie's leadership and equity-based workshop series, WOKEshops, has coached and trained over 20,000 diverse youth, college students, young professionals and community leaders at over 70 campuses nation-wide. Her expertise includes community organizing strategy, social impact talent acquisition, diversity & inclusion training design and facilitation, and leadership development for first-generation & students of color.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Justice Now, a nonprofit organization advocating for women in prisons, as well as a Young Professionals Network (YPN) Leadership Council member at Latinas Lead, a political action committee. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Major in Sociology and a Minor in Urban Planning & Regional Studies. 


Alejandra Cortez, Therapist

ACortez_(2).jpgAlejandra Cortez is a first generation Mexican-American whose life purpose is to serve and make change. She currently works as a therapist providing outpatient mental health services to children, teenagers in the community she grew up in, Northeast Los Angeles. She is working to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to better advocate on mental health issues. She is also the creator of The Social Changer, which she uses as a platform to break down the negative stigma that social workers have and promote the importance of mental health in creative ways.

She attended the University of Southern California where she developed her passion for giving back. After graduating, she joined City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps program, to serve as a tutor and mentor to students in high-poverty community. There she saw how violence impacted communities and t need of different levels of change that needed to occur to move forward with positive change. She knew she had to be part of the change.

Alejandra decided to came back to Los Angeles to pursue her Masters in Social Work at USC. During her graduate studies, she was co-president of the Latino/a Social Work Caucus and the Graduate Student Government to assist her USC communities in various issues. Even though she was involved at USC, she still felt the need to start change in her community. As a student, she decided to run for her neighborhood council as she knew that to make change, policy and activism was important. She was privileged to serve as Chair of her council for two years. Here she saw the power of having a social work policy and having a say in community matters. She continues to use her social work background in politics and advocacy as she knows that is the key to success.


Jessica Jinn, Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Jessica_Jinn_headshot_NLCLosAngeles_2018_(1).jpgJessica Jinn is the Communications Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, the nation’s largest civil rights organization fighting for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. In her role, she plans and executes digital campaigns and strategies to uplift the organization’s policy and litigation work.

Prior to this role, Jessica worked in the clean energy sector, planning and creating policies for cities to adopt clean transportation solutions. She collaborated with local and state governments in a variety of clean transportation projects, ranging from siting electric vehicle charging stations to creating policy best practices for cities to prepare for electric vehicles. During this time, she also strengthened her sense of environmental justice and helped develop an outreach and education program for disadvantaged communities to learn about innovative state programs that lower the cost of clean vehicles. Jessica grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles (in the San Gabriel Valley!) but only moved back to LA as an adult last year.

She has a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s degree in international economics from University of California, San Diego. She is a new volunteer with 826LA and a local Sierra Club chapter. When she isn’t working, she likes to draw, work on crossword puzzles, bake, and hang out with her dog.


Jeremy Knight, Director of Membership at Students for Education Reform (SFER) 

Jeremy_Knight_(2).pngJeremy Knight is the Director of Membership at Students for Education Reform (SFER), an organization that develops college students into grassroots organizers who fight for educational justice in their communities. He joined SFER as a founding member on his college campus before joining full-time to develop SFER’s early membership and training programs. He’s landed panels for the organization at SXSW and led the organization’s first national polling effort, surveying 1000 first-generation college students about their k-12 experience. Efforts like these have grown SFER’s media presence from a few untraceable media hits to over 200 pieces a year and helped grow its membership from a couple hundred names to more than 11,000 members, supporters and alumni.

Jeremy’s drive for educational justice is rooted in his experience as a first-generation college student who attended both good and bad public schools. He is exploring the relationship between education policy and city planning—particularly in long-term regional planning—as a set of critical conditions for building smart, integrated cities of the future, where marginalized communities see their ideas, dreams and hard work reflected in their city’s growth and progress. He’s conducted undergraduate research on the relationship between city planning, government and education policy, in addition to creating a rural participatory community development plan for a small village in Sierra Leone and developing community engagement and marketing plans for the City of Sydney, Australia’s transportation department.

Jeremy was a Robertson Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill and currently sits on the Robertson Scholars Alumni Council. He studied city and regional planning and received his B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also studied education at Duke University and hails from Atlanta, GA.


Nicole Pellegrini, Director of Product Development and Production at Nancy Mac LLC

nicole-headshot_(2).jpgNicole Pellegrini was born and raised outside of Albany NY, but has considered Los Angeles her home for almost 10 years. Currently Nicole is the Director of Product Development and Production at Nancy Mac LLC, an LA based design and production startup. Specifically, her role in the company includes creative direction, building relationships with vendors and manufacturers, product development, and brand development for small businesses who are ready to make the leap into a global retail market.

Working with a startup, Nicole wears many hats. However, getting down to the nitty-gritty of her work means focusing on the bigger picture of raising the bar of industry standards. Her main objective when building relationships with vendors is to break away from fashion faux pas and work with manufacturers that are compliant with worker’s rights, ethical trading, upcycling materials and developing more sustainable products.

Design work aside, Nicole is actively involved with multiple Los Angeles based non-profit organizations such as the Wildwoods Foundation and the Eagle Rock Yacht Club. Both organizations give Nicole the opportunity to help build our communities while engaging in her favorite recreational activities; exploring nature and playing dodgeball. As a committed advocate for public parks and access to open and green spaces, Nicole stepped into a leadership position at the Yacht Club where she serves as the main liaison to parks in west Los Angeles, leading a team of volunteers and inspiring members to pursue the common good by organizing events and programs that improve the quality of our parks and the lives of our youth. Nicole is leading the Yacht Club for their second year in the LA Clean Streets Challenge; a city-wide cleanup initiative developed by Mayor Garcetti, to bring Angelenos together in serving their community by keeping our public spaces clean and accessible for everyone.

In her spare time Nicole enjoys taking road trips, exploring new hiking trails around Los Angeles, and hanging out at local cafés with her headphones and a good book.


Miguel Segura, Parent and Community Advocate

Miguel_Segura_NLC_2017-2018_(2).jpgMiguel Segura currently works at Los Angeles Unified School District as the Parent and Community Advocate for Board Member Ref Rodriguez. Miguel personally acts as the liaison between the Board Member and schools in the Southeast cities of Los Angeles. He manages constituent casework; supports schools throughout the Southeast; and builds and maintains relationships with political, advocacy, and local community groups. To fulfill the Board District 5 vision, Miguel mobilizes parents and community members to help them develop the organizing skills they need to be self-advocates to create real systems change. In his own words, “change comes when people stand up, speak up, and no longer want to stick to the status quo.”

Miguel started his career is education in 2010, as an Early Child Education teacher in Pico Union and South Los Angeles through Teach for America. Upon completion of his degree in 2009, Miguel served as an Intern on the Business Team for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, with aims to continue developing his engagement in the field of public service. In 2012, Miguel began volunteering for the Finance Team on Eric Garcetti’s campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles. As a native Angeleno, Miguel hoped to remain a relentless advocate for his community and in 2014, was elected to the Westlake North Neighborhood Council. Among his contributions to his own community, Miguel served as an Advance Staffer all over the United States and Grassroots Organizer in Nevada, Louisiana, Pennsylvania for Hillary for America, a Staffer to 49th District Assemblymember Ed Chau, a Consultant and Organizer for a New York City Field Program, and a Press Aide.

A strong champion of advocacy, education and social justice. Miguel has a B.A. in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies from California State University, Northridge and a Masters in Education from Loyola Marymount University. He finds pleasure in hiking, playing sports, drinking coffee, cooking, going out to dinners, spending time with family and friends and watching Netflix.


Stephanie Shaw, Assistant Manager of Corporate Affairs for PETA

Stephanie_Shaw_NLC_headshot_(2).jpgStephanie Shaw moved to Los Angeles nearly 5 years ago to take a position with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, where she currently serves as a Corporate Liaison focusing on ending the use of animals for entertainment. Stephanie has worked with legislators, property management companies and community organizations across the country to earn commitments not to host wild animal exhibits, and has convinced dozens of companies to remove elephant rides and other exploitative activities from their itineraries. She was instrumental in lobbying the California Coastal Commission to deny SeaWorld's permit to build new tanks for the orcas it holds in San Diego. While the Commission ultimately approved the permit, it did so only under the condition that SeaWorld stop breeding orcas in California.

Stephanie is a mentor with WriteGirl, an LA-based nonprofit that matches girls with women writers to foster creativity and self-empowerment. She also volunteers with the ACLU's People Power grassroots campaign, working to increase voter engagement across the country and hosting activist training events in LA. Prior to living in California, Stephanie co-founded FosterPups, an Arizona-based organization dedicated to raising awareness about the companion animal overpopulation crisis and encouraging responsible, permanent placement for animals.

Stephanie holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Sport Management from The Florida State University, and a Master's of Arts in Leadership and Coaching from the University of Central Florida (UCF), and earned Summa Cum Laude honors at both institutions. While at UCF, Stephanie worked as a graduate research assistant studying queer theory and the depiction of women and LGBT athletes in sports media. She co-authored several peer-reviewed articles and is published in the Journal of Homosexuality. When she's not fighting for human and animal rights, she teaches group exercise classes at a gym in Atwater, enjoys reading on her Kindle, watching documentaries, and hiking with her rescued dog.


Alberto Uribe, Tech Industry

Alberto_Uribe.jpgAlberto Uribe is a multifaceted individual who loves giving his time towards positive change. A native of California, he was raised in both the barrios of Long Beach and in the more rural outskirts of Bakersfield. Growing up, Alberto’s hard-working Mexicana mother ingrained the importance of succeeding in school in order to move forward in life. Working past the hardships in life, Alberto became the first in his family to attend college at the University of California, Merced.

At UC Merced, Alberto was very active in different organizations exposing him to diverse communities and experiences. Early on in college, Alberto found himself traveling to South-West India with a team of missionaries visiting an orphanage. Here, Alberto was humbled to see how life was in a third-world country. Later, Alberto would join UC Merced’s Yosemite Leadership Program, a program partnered with the National Parks Service teaching environmental stewardship and leadership. With the program, Alberto worked on a community-based Capstone Project with a nonprofit to present the importance and opportunities of higher education to high school foster youth.

After receiving his B.S. degree in Management with a minor in Psychology, Alberto moved back to the LA area. There he became an administrative assistant volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Whitter, and an Administrative Intern with the City of Whittier. By immersing himself in those environments, Alberto discovered how much he enjoyed both the non-profit and public sectors. In 2015, Alberto found himself homeless after being illegally kicked out of his home. Seeing that his city could not fight for him due to district lines, he started attending city council meetings to become more familiar with local government. In 2017, Alberto became a candidate for Norwalk City Council with goals to lower crime, empower local businesses, and to fight for transportation projects. Alberto inspired many, but sadly did not win.

Alberto currently works in the fashion tech industry. In his spare time, Alberto enjoys poetry, exploring the outdoors, and spending quality time with his loved ones.


Cynthia Valencia, Campaign Organizer at ACLU of Southern CA

Cynthia_Valencia_-_Headshot_(1).jpgCynthia Valencia is a Campaign Organizer at the ACLU of Southern California working on Immigrant Rights issues. Most recently, Cynthia worked on the ACLU’s community mobilization efforts to campaign for the California Values Act, a bill that was signed into law that limits state and local resources from being used to carry out mass deportations by the federal government and creates safe zones at schools, hospitals and courthouses. She is currently working on the ACLU’s Clean DREAM Act efforts, coordinating with local community groups and recruiting grassroots volunteers to advocate for this legislation. Cynthia is a first-generation American and was the first person in her family to go to college, earning a B.A. in Political Science from USC. Since graduating, she has worked on local political campaigns as a campaign organizer and campaign manager and has worked as a legislative assistant for Councilmembers in the City of Long Beach. Cynthia hopes to encourage minorities and underrepresented groups to become politically active, so that we can all have better representation in elected offices. In her free time, Cynthia enjoys spending weekends at the beach, traveling to as many places as possible, and going to Disneyland too much.

Greg Washington, Litigation Associate at Paul Hastings

Greg Washington Greg Washington is a litigation associate at Paul Hastings in Los Angeles. His work focuses on white-collar crime, internal investigations, securities law, and complex business litigation. He is an active participant in the firm’s pro bono practice. Greg holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communication Studies from California State University, Fullerton and a law degree from UC Berkeley.

During law school, he worked as the Senior Articles & Essays Editor of the California Law Review, focusing on legal scholarship dealing with the impact of race on police interactions, criminal justice reform, and employment discrimination. He has also researched a range of civil rights issues—including voting rights, reproductive justice, and employee wages in the tech economy. Prior to law school, Greg worked in Sacramento for the administration of Governor Jerry Brown on the implementation of the Affordable Care. First, after being selected as one of eighteen Executive Fellows, Greg worked on state changes to the individual health insurance market. Next, he worked on the health benefits expansion of the state Medi-Cal program. In those roles, he conducted budget and legislative analysis, worked with stakeholders, and testified in legislative hearings. During college, Greg served as the President of the California State Student Association, where he was the spokesperson for the California State University system students. His advocacy focused on college access, affordability, and quality education for all California students. Greg is passionate about criminal justice reform, health accessibility, education, and worker’s rights.

When Greg isn’t working, he enjoys basketball, photography, podcasts, and cooking.


Gerrard Panahon, Resource Analyst at Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NLC_head_shot_-_Gerrard_Panahon_(2).JPGGerrard Panahon is a Resource Analyst at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he manages the finances of various aerospace projects. Gerrard is an active member of JPL employee affinity groups SPECTRUM, the LGBT group, and the Filipino group. Gerrard was born in Los Angeles, California, and was raised in Burbank, where he currently resides. Gerrard has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Cal State Los Angeles. While at Cal State Los Angeles, Gerrard represented the student body as an Academic Senator, helping pass a resolution on textbook affordability. Gerrard served for 2 years as Treasurer of the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, while pursuing his MBA with an emphasis in finance at Loyola Marymount University.

Gerrard has been involved as a participant or served as a board member of organizations such as the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) and the Filipino American Democratic Caucus of the California Democratic Party. In addition to his community involvement, Gerrard is an accomplished public speaker who has won multiple awards and oratory contests. He is involved in the Toastmasters International organization and was awarded the highest honor of Distinguished Toastmaster. In July 2017, Gerrard was appointed by the Burbank City Council to serve on the Burbank Commission for Cultural Arts for a 4 year term. He was also selected to be a member of the 2017 cohort of Leadership Burbank.

Besides civic engagement and community service, Gerrard enjoys cooking Filipino food and meeting friends for karaoke.

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