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Young Professionals Council Academy Graduates

Meet the YPC Academy 2019 class

The 2019 YPC Academy Class is in session from Feb. 23-June 1, 2019. Celebrate with them at the YPC Academy Graduation Brunch on June 29, 2019. More details to be posted soon.

Hazelruth Adams [She-Her-Hers]

Hazelruth hopes to help build communities that support people to be authentically themselves and reach their true potential. She has volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, meeting regularly with children in the foster care system and advocating for children's needs to the court; a Graduate Student Consultant with the Seattle Human Rights Commission, developing a framework to maximize the commission's impact on human rights; and she led a new, experimental interfaith group that hosted interfaith meals and volunteer projects in San Diego, strengthening relationships particularly between young Muslim and Christian people. Hazelruth is a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Bankers Hill and facilitates the 20s/30s group at the church. She received her BA in International Studies and her Master in Public Administration from the University of Washington. She is a grants/research administrator at the University of California, San Diego.

Brenda Arnold [She-Her-Hers]

Originally from Tijuana, Mexico she immigrated to the United States almost two decades ago and became a citizen in 2014. She graduated from UABC Business Program in Mexico. And also graduated from the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute last year.  Became embroiled in activism in the past 5 years, co-chartering the ACLU’s grass roots organization People Power South Bay, currently serving as the membership coordinator and social media director. People Power South Bay has been a recognized group that advocates and works for immigrants of all statuses. She is a member at large of South Bay Alliance, which is an LGBTQ advocate group in the south area of San Diego county. She was recently elected as the president of the Eastlake Bonita Democratic Club, after having served as the public relations officer and secretary. She also a member of Mi Familia and a sitting board member of PFLAG San Diego, two organizations serving as support groups for LGBTQ families, allies and communities. She a pansexual unapologetic married mother of four on a mission to give a voice to those who are silenced and to challenge those who silence them.

Collin Boudreaux [He-Him-His]

Collin Boudreaux currently works as the Front Desk Manager and Client Services Coordinator of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, connecting new and returning clients to all of the vast services The Center has to offer; Collin is also an HIV Tester and a member of the #BeTheGeneration team at The Center. A San Diego transplant of six years now, Collin moved to California after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Gender & Sexuality Studies. Collin has been active with the San Diego LGBT community since arrival as a member of the San Diego Armada Rugby Club. Recently, Collin raised an incredible $6,600 for AIDS Walk & Run San Diego in his inaugural year as a participant. In his spare time, Collin enjoys exploring many genres of music, attending music festivals, and spending time with his partner, Matty.

Deja Cabrera [She-Her-Hers]

Deja Cabrera currently works as the Transgender Services Coordinator at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, where she’s responsible for the development and management of activities, programs and services that help build and sustain the well-being of the local transgender community. Deja came to San Diego from Santa Barbara, CA. She has experience in LGBTQ+ program support, PrEP outreach, HIV/Hep C education, prevention & testing. In addition to activism, Deja also dazzles the LGBTQ+ community with inspiring performances that showcase her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. In 2012 she was crowned Santa Barbara’s Queen of Pride. She was always a girly girl, even if the world around her didn’t initially see her that way. She also knew she wanted to speak up for — and help — people who identified in the same ways she did. She finds her role models in communities and coalitions of other transgender women of color, who have been continual inspiration for resistance, healing, organizing, and thriving. Her identity as an empowered transgender woman of color, is inseparable from who she is, who she’s been, and who she will be in the future.

Jarmaine Evans [He-Him-His]

Jarmaine Evans is the Dean of Academic Affairs for a higher education institution located in San Diego, California.  He has been in education for the past 15 years as an instructor and administrator in both proprietary and private education.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Johnson and Wales and MBA from Strayer University. Jarmaine moved back to San Diego in 2016 from Miami, FL to be closer to his family shortly after the passing of his mother.  

Jarmaine is a member of several business and national organizations such as the American Management Association and Chamber of Commerce.  Previously, he was a manager in many capacities for several companies ranging from major cruise lines companies to building private partnerships.  Evans has a comprehensive understanding of the post-secondary institutions’ philosophy, articulation of credit, student success strategies, and experience with processes and practices related to accreditation and institutional effectiveness. Jarmaine has a true passion for education, tutoring, changing lives and traveling. He is looking to continuing to gain new skills and knowledge through the Young Professional Council Academy at The Center.

 Fernanda Flores [She-Her-Hers]

Fernanda Karina Flores serves as a Business Agent for Teamsters Local 481 representing over 3500 working families in San Diego County. She is a field representative, organizer, assists in labor contract negotiations, and serves as a political liaison. Prior to joining Teamsters, Fernanda worked as the Lead Field & Campaign Coordinator for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. She was instrumental in the reconstruction and revitalization of our 112-year-old labor organization. Fernanda is the first queer women of color in our labor council’s history to develop and lead a paid apprenticeship program for college students, execute pro-worker political campaigns in the local, state, and federal level. She also advocated for racial, immigrant, LGBTQ+, education, affordable housing, and environmental justice through empowering our constituency groups, organizing, legislative advocacy and worker action. As first-generation queer daughter of immigrant parents, she lives through a plethora of intersectionality’s; therefore, impacting her perspective of society and passion for change. Born and raised in our binational San Diego/Tijuana region, Fernanda is a strong advocate for our most marginalized communities. A proud Alumni of San Diego State university, she received her bachelor’s in Social Work and Sociology and participated in various organizations and internships, such as School of Social Work Social Action Committee and the SDSU Consensus Organizing Center. In 2017, Fernanda was humbled to volunteer and serve as the Director of Education and Outreach for the Cesar Chavez Commemorative Committee, facilitating the scholarship process for high school and community college students.

Jose Gutierrez [He-Him-His]

Born and raised in Illinois, Jose is a first generation Mexican American and first in his family to attend college. After pursuing his bachelor’s in Psychology and working with undocumented youth apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security in the Chicago-land area, he gained a passion for social justice and equality issues in the community. Jose relocated to San Diego in 2014 and has transitioned his career towards Human Resources with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization sector. Jose currently works as a Human Resources Coordinator for Community Catalysts of California, a nonprofit whose mission is to advocate for, empower and support veterans as well as program clients with developmental disabilities across the state of California. He is actively looking at ways to utilize his experience and knowledge in order to better serve the San Diego LGBTQ community. Outside of work, Jose enjoys running the many beautiful trails San Diego has to offer as well as trying new foods and sites around the city.

Forest Haerr [pronouns: He-Him-His]

Forest is a transgender man who was born and raised in San Diego. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Bard College in Upstate New York and recently became a licensed EMT. He has mainly worked in horticulture, gardening, and landscape design and is passionate about California native plants. He has also worked at book stores and is currently employed as a barista at Black Market Bakery in North Park. He recently began volunteering at the Center with the goal of working with trans and nonbinary youth and looks forward to his continued involvement in the LGBTQ2IA+ community. He hopes to be able to work in the intersections of environmental and social justice.

Melkitsedeq Jorge Hernandez [He-Him-His]

Born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Jorge is proud of his Mexican heritage, but no less proud to be an American. Since a very young age, he always knew he was gay but due to homophobia and an environment that said that being gay was something wrong, for many years he hid who he was, having to maintain the secret and be a different person to different people. Along with the homophobia he faced, in 2010 Jorge was diagnoses with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - a very deadly form of cancer. The combined fear of his secret being exposed along with facing the possibility of death made him aware of how fragile and precious life really is. Jorge is currently a Liberal Arts major at Southwestern College and also working to get his certificate of proficiency in French. He plans to transfer to SDSU to get a Bachelors degree in International Relations. Jorge is a member of the Associated Students Organization (ASO) at Southwestern College, serving as a Senator and is also the student delegate representing the college as a whole to the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC). He hopes to run for and be successfuly elected to the position of Student Trustee for the Southwestern Community College District Board of Trustees. Jorge is highly interested in politics, especially Mexican and American politics, and he has served in an advisory capacity to the current Mexican ruling party MORENA in Tijuana. He speaks Spanish and English fluently, is proficient in Portuguese, and is working on mastering French.

Wilson Saiki Junior [He-Him-His]

Wilson Saiki Junior was born and raised in Brazil and moved to the United States in 2013. He is currently studying Political Science at San Diego City College and hopes to have a career in government or in progressive organizations. He is interested in pursuing his master’s degree in public policy. Wilson decided to study political science after campaigning in the 2015-2016 presidential primary election. Even though he’s not yet a citizen, Wilson volunteered for Senator Bernie Sanders campaign and learned about the American political system while canvassing and phone banking in Arizona, California, and Nevada. In 2018 he was part of the Students for Economic Justice program with the Center on Policy Initiatives, where he had the opportunity to develop his skills as a community organizer and build a network of progressive allies in San Diego. He also worked with the ACLU on the YES on Proposition 10 campaign, regarding affordable housing and rent control in California. At City College, he is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He is also the president of the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance and plans to transfer to UC Berkeley or UCSD in the fall of 2019.

Miguel Lopez [He-Him-His]

A San Diego native, Miguel Lopez starts his day at 4:00am at the gym to promote his value of self-care. He is a first-generation college graduate with a passion for health, personal and professional development. He values collaboration, service, community and stewardship which align with the values of his current employment. He serves as the Prospect Research Analyst at The San Diego Foundation where he continuously identifies and builds a pipeline of prospective clients for the Foundation. The Foundation improves the quality of life in all our communities by providing leadership for effective philanthropy that builds enduring assets and by promoting community solutions. In this capacity, he works closely with the Foundation’s Vice President of Development and New Business Development Director to discuss development strategy and donor stewardship. Prior to the Analyst role, Miguel worked with the Foundation’s Regional Affiliate program facilitating database reporting, event coordination and competitive grantmaking. He’s most proud of creating and structuring the Prospect Research Analyst role, a new position at the Foundation. Through YPC, Miguel is eager to collaborate with like-minded individuals looking to advance LGBTQ+ rights in the San Diego region.

Jessica Noel [She-Her-Hers]

Jessica is a native San Diegan with a passion for using data-driven decision making to improve the lives of vulnerable youth and their families. She has worked for several nonprofit advocacy organizations, including the Children’s Defense Fund, the American Lung Association, and Children at Risk. Jessica currently serves as the lead researcher for career and adult education at Southwestern Community College in the South Bay. In 2017, Jessica earned her Master of Public Policy from UCLA where she was awarded the Luskin Leader Fellowship and spent a year working on local child poverty policy. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Sociology from Southern Methodist University. At SMU, Jessica was awarded the Outstanding Sociology Senior Award for the Class of 2012 and the Betty Janette Maynard Award for her research on gender inequity in athletics. Dedicated to creating spaces for young and emerging advocates, Jessica joined the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of San Diego. She served as programming chair in 2018 and began her role on the executive committee in 2019. Outside of work and volunteer commitments, Jessica enjoys spending time with her partner and their anxious rescue dog, Almond.

Sam Put [He-Him-His]

As a native San Diegan, Sam grew up with all the sun, diversity, and beauty California has to offer. He graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) with a Master of Social Work degree and Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC), which emphasizes on collaborations with K-12 schools and families. Sam has worked with youth and adults ranging from 3 to 80 years old. Experience includes work as an inclusion instructor for children with special needs, a social rehabilitation counselor for adults with moderate to severe special needs, and a social work clinician for adult refugees with severe mental health conditions. He served as president of SDSU’s OUTreach, organizing LGBT+ community events and workshops. He conducted research regarding LGBT+ young adults and stigma, garnering SDSU’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Award. Sam was 1 of 40 social workers across the country to be selected as a fellow for the Minority Fellowship Program (MFPY), sponsored by SAMHSA to address mental health and substance abuse needs of minority youth. He currently provides mental health services to high-risk adolescents and Middle Eastern refugees. He hopes to continue working with at-risk communities including war refugees and LGBT+ youth. Sam enjoys great food, tennis, and kind company.

Tyler Reichtenstein [He-Him-His]

Tyler Reichenstein, an east coast native, has been in restaurant management for most of his adult life, working to try and make his work environment more inclusive and educated on transgender and gender non-conforming issues. In the past year, he has led North County-based work seminars alongside Starbucks staff members on LGBT topics. Before moving out west, he attended universities and high schools as a transgender activist, speaking at Rutgers University, Temple University, as well as many others. Since moving to Oceanside, he previously ran an asexual support group at the North County LGBT center and has continued his activism while hoping to continue pursuing his education. Currently, Tyler is attending Arizona State University to finish his bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Jae Red Rose [They-Them-Theirs/She-Her-Hers]

Jae moved to San Diego during the summer of 2017. In that that time, they have started their transition and developed a fervent passion for activism. Jae serves on the Board of Directors for The T-Spot and Lambda Archives as well as being on the planning committees for San Diego Trans Pride, She Fest and the Won’t be Erased March and Rally. She is a group facilitator at The LGBT Community Center and The Hillcrest Youth Center, and a youth coordinator at San Diego Pride. They are passionate about accessibility, intersectional social justice, and being a positive role model for all of our community.

Makana Rowan [He-Him-His]

Makana Rowan is a writer, activist and event organizer in the non-profit realm. He is currently Leichtag Foundation’s Events Manager where he works with hundreds of local, national and international non-profits to create and execute their events. Prior to his current role there, Makana spent 2 years creating a co-working space for non-profits at the Foundation. As a gay man, Makana has seen the healing power that a truly inclusive space can have. That is why space making has become his passion. Makana recently completed a Schusterman Foundation fellowship for Community Builders in Israel and is a member of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. These experiences led him to the YPC academy where he hopes to apply his skills to the Queer Community specifically. Makana’s background is in creative writing. He is a published song writer who has had songs on a number one album. He has also written treatments for many music videos and has published several essays.

Tristan Sotomayor [He-Him-His]

Tristan Sotomayor is a Georgia native and service member finishing his Naval career in San Diego. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Georgia College and State University. After graduating, he worked for a nonprofit doing historic preservation. He contributed to his Georgia community by researching and writing on its local architectural and civil history. Tristan then enlisted in the United States Navy as an Aviation Structural Mechanic where he worked on jets and helicopters. Two years into his naval career he was relocated to San Diego and is happy to now call this city, home. During his time in the navy, he traveled around the world and visited many different cultures and societies. Along the way, he was able to witness the ways in which culture, privilege, and accessibility determine social justice for different people groups. Tristan is working towards an MA in Clinical Counseling and Mental Health. His utmost desire is to become an affective advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

 Joshua Walden [He-Him-His]

Josh Walden currently works as a post-bar law clerk as he transitions to a position as an Associate at Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP, assisting in special education and student matters.  A San Diego native, Josh has an extensive background in education law assisting school districts and students in the Greater San Diego County in different legal matters.  He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Diego School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UC Davis.  Josh has previously worked as a law clerk for the San Diego Unified School District’s Office of the General Counsel and as a judicial extern for the Honorable Jill L. Burkhardt.  He has also assisted students from low-income families and students in the foster care system in special education matters with the University of San Diego School of Law’s Education and Disability Clinic and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program’s Education Law Advocacy Project.  Outside of his professional activities, Josh volunteers with Big Brothers of San Diego County and also sings First Tenor with the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

Stefanie Zimmers [She-Her-Hers]

Stefanie Zimmers currently works as a Resource Counselor for Community Interface Services, a San Diego based nonprofit that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. Before moving to San Diego, Stefanie spent over ten years working in the television industry in Los Angeles. She produced 12 popular cable television programs on major networks such as Bravo, Food Network and History Channel. Stefanie volunteered as a media consultant for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership LAB, created to organize and empower communities to defeat anti-LGBT prejudices. She created, produced and edited targeted video advertisements used in multiple social justice campaigns. In 2015, she was selected to represent the Los Angeles delegation at The National LGBTQ Task Force Power Summit in Miami, Florida. She is also a member of the 2017 San Diego Leadership Alliance Fellows Class. Stefanie graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Television, Radio, and Film.

 YPC Academy 2018 class

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Paulo Batista

Paulo Batista is originally from Florida and moved to San Diego in 2013. He works as a property manager for the Target in Eastlake, Chula Vista. He transitioned eight years ago from female to male and is a trans activist. He helps support benefits for many communities throughout San Diego. He is also part of the leather community. In 2014, he recently broke barriers in the City of San Diego by winning the leather title of Mr. San Diego Eagle 2014 and SoCal Drummer 2015, as the first transman to hold either title in the State of California and helping change minds about acceptance with trans community.

Nicole M. Borunda

Nicole is a San Diego native who is working to address our region’s unique challenges by tapping into our incredible power and diversity. We live in a coastal desert with the busiest border community in the world, we are host to nearly 35 million visitors each year, and we are home to several military bases, a 33-mile port, a booming biosciences industry and the best beer anywhere. Everywhere she looks, Nicole sees how San Diego can flourish as a global model for the future. Nicole is currently focused modernizing San Diego’s energy grid by advocating for advanced energy technologies and democratizing power by bringing more choices to our energy market. As the Director for Development at Climate Action Campaign – a nonprofit whose mission is simple: stop climate change—Nicole rallies the people and resources to make this happen. Nicole received her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College, with a double major in English literature and psychology, with a minor in teaching. She recently completed her MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego. When Nicole is not at work, she can be found at the beach or spending time with her gaggle of niblings – her eleven favorite reasons to fight for a more progressive and equitable future.

 Calvin Brown

Calvin Brown is currently employed as a Financial Services Representative with MassMutual. Californian through and through, Brown is passionate about self-care, financial stability and management, garish colors, documentaries, and living life to the fullest. Calvin moved to San Diego in 2013 from Merced, CA to pursue his Bachelor of Art's from the University of San Diego. Immersing himself in the study of Communication and in addition he received a minor in Sociology and graduated from the University of San Diego in the Spring of 2017. During the span of his education, Calvin managed to involve himself in several organizations. Serving as Co-President of USD’s Chapter of Black Student Union, a general body member of USD PRIDE, and immersed himself in the production of marketing for USD’s Celebration of Gender Expression: Supreme Drag Superstar 6. If Calvin isn’t getting outdoors or seeking a good deal while thrifting, he’s probably cooking, baking, or catching up on a good book.

Zach Bunshaft

Zach Bunshaft has dedicated his life to making San Diego a better place to live for all. Throughout his college career, Zach served as President of the SDSU College Democrats and worked as an organizer and campaign fundraiser to help elect responsible public servants. In 2016, Zach graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Social Science and moved across country to work as a Staff Assistant/Legislative Correspondent in the capitol office of Congresswoman Susan Davis. After spending a year working on Capitol Hill, Zach realized that he simply could not live without his San Diego community. He then moved back home to work as a community representative in the district office of Congresswoman Susan Davis. In this role, Zach currently focuses on issues of Energy, Environment, and Housing, among many others, as one of the Congresswoman’s eyes and ears in the district. Zach is also the community representative for the Hillcrest/Uptown area and serves as a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community. In his free time (which he has very little of) he enjoys volunteering and exploring new places to eat and be merry throughout San Diego.

Nijah Crenshaw

A San Diego native, fluent in English and Spanish, Nijah studied Health Science at California State University, Fullerton. She has been an employee at The San Diego LGBT Community Center since August 2015, but her involvement with the LGBTQ+ community began way before then. Nijah became an ally at a young age, growing up with a gay uncle, she witnessed the obstacles he faced as a black gay man and knew she had to join the fight for equality. Nijah hopes to continue learning and improving her skills as an LGBTQ+ advocate.

Adrian Downing-Espinal

Adrian Downing-Espinal is originally from New York and came to San Diego in 1999 to attend the University of San Diego and be closer to family. Adrian graduated from USD in 2003 with a BA in Sociology, and minors in Genders Studies and Leadership, with a certificate for non-profit management. While at USD, Adrian served as VP and President of the USD Pride organization, co-founded a Rainbow Alliance for student LGBTQ groups at local colleges and universities, and made presentations as a Rainbow Educator, educating peers and staff about LGBTQ people. In 2002, Adrian interned at the San Diego LGBT Center working to get out the vote and coordinate the Speakers Bureau. Adrian graduated from the Pride Leadership Academy in 2011 and has volunteered in various capacities. In 2013, Adrian helped co-found We Are FAIR, a group dedicated to ensuring the implementation of curriculum that is fair, accurate, inclusive, and respectful of various identities including LGBTQ people. Adrian worked as a case manager and counselor for four years at an inpatient treatment facility for homeless veterans and left her job in 2017 to care for a family member. Adrian also stepped into the role as Director of The Brown Building, which is a queer run, social justice oriented organization in City Heights that offers a safe gathering space for underrepresented community members, including trans folks and POC. Adrian is an active committee member of She Fest, with a personal desire to improve visibility, programming, and community for women in the LGBTQ community. Adrian lives in North Park with her wife Rosemary, and their Rottweiler, Hilde. Adrian lives by the motto “preach to the choir, because they need to hear it too” and spends a lot of time thinking about how to educate the LGBTQ community about our vulnerable and underrepresented members, and the interconnectedness of our struggles.

Vanessa Dubois

Born and raised in France 39 years ago, Vanessa Dubois came to San Diego to attend San Diego State University to study dolphins and do an internship on photo identification. She graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology. Vanessa was interested in dolphin-assisted therapy so she volunteered in a special school for autistic children - and fell in love with it. She then worked with special needs children for 13 years. She’s a skilled photographer who has been doing photography for over 20 years. Vanessa has volunteered for a number of community organizations, including San Diego Pride for 16 years on the photography team. She loves capturing moments!

Jimmy Gordillo

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jimmy Gordillo is a first generation proud Mexican American gay man, and the first in his family to attend college. He had the honor of attending San Jose State University, where he was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain and graduated with degrees in Psychology and Spanish. Since then, he has traveled to over 92 cities spanning 20 countries on 5 continents! Upon graduating from SJSU in 2004, he started his teaching credential program in Mexico through a partnership between San Diego State University and the University (ITESM) in Querétaro, Mexico. He gained incredible insight in serving others while exploring his roots.  He returned to Los Angeles in 2007 to finish his Masters degree in Educational Leadership at Cal State University, Northridge, magna cum laude. In 2010 he made the move to San Diego to continue his professional journey in education.  Now in his 11th year in education, he currently serves as the Assistant Principal at an elementary school in the Stockton/Barrio Logan community providing historically underserved students with a rigorous curriculum and creating lifelong learners focused on social justice and equity. He embraces working in a multicultural/multilingual community and he is passionate about making a difference in the lives of all students and helping to empower the school community. He looks forward to gaining new skills and knowledge through the Young Professionals Council Academy at the San Diego LGBT Center.

Cassie Harris

Cassie Harris recently immigrated to San Diego from Sydney, Australia. In Sydney, Cassie worked as a Queer Officer at the University of New South Wales and organized several community groups including UNSW Buff Club, Queer and Feminist Book Club and Sydney Queer Arts Collective. Cassie is also a video and performance artist with a BFA in Time-Based Art and a BA in Theatre and Performance Studies. Combining their passion for building and supporting the LGBTIQ community with their love of the arts, Cassie has edited six collaborative zines and curated a successful exhibition. They hope to continue creating platforms to celebrate the creativity of LGBTIQ community in San Diego.

George M. Hotaling

A New York native, George Hotaling was born and raised in the small town of Jefferson, New York.  He attended the State University College at Cortland where he earned a B.A. in political science with a concentration in law and justice.  Upon graduation, he attended Officer Candidate School and received his commission in to the Army in November 2008.  He served in the Army for eight years in a variety of different roles both nationally and internationally, most recently in Southern Arizona as an instructor and mentor to junior U.S. and international officers.  George decided to leave the military in 2016 to pursue a different career path and relocated to San Diego where his husband is currently stationed in the Navy.  Since relocating to San Diego he has become an active member within the San Diego community, volunteering with organizations such as San Diego LGBT Pride as both an operations assistant and military liaison for the LGBT Pride festival.  Most recently he graduated from the University of San Diego in January 2018, where he earned an M.S. in Global Leadership.  He is actively looking to take his knowledge and experience to further serve the San Diego LGBTQ community and nonprofit sector, looking to focus on HIV assistance, education, and outreach.

Merritt Renee Jones

Born and raised in California, Merritt Jones has deep love for giant redwoods, electric sunsets, sassy queers and kick-ass farmer’s markets. She is also passionate about holistic healthcare and is the owner and clinic director at two holistic & integrative clinics here in San Diego. Merritt founded Jones Family Acupuncture in Carlsbad in 2015, and in late 2017, she opened Natural Harmony Reproductive Health in Mission Valley. Merritt’s practices are dedicated to providing compassionate, integrative, effective care to meet her patients’ unique needs. With an interest in both Eastern and Western medicine, Merritt is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Primary Care Provider and holds a Master Degree in Chinese Medicine from the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and is a graduate of the Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition, earning the title of Certified Nutrition Consultant. Outside of work, Merritt enjoys spending time with her wife, Jess, and their rescue herding mutt, Fox, as well as cooking and eating delicious food, practicing yoga and building queer community.

Carlos Juarez

Carlos is a gay first-generation Chicano student pursuing his undergraduate degree in Public Relations with a minor in African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton where he currently works at Student Support Services (SSS) a TRIO program that serves students who are first generation and/or low-income. He has been involved with LGBTQ community engagement through volunteering with San Diego Pride and the Center’s #BeTheGeneration program initiative. During his junior year at CSUF, Carlos was selected by as the 2017 CSUF Panetta Congressional Intern interning at Washington, D.C. in a program headed by the Panetta Institute of Public Policy. During his time on Capitol Hill, he researched legislation to better improve the acceptance of transgender military personnel. Born and raised in Escondido, he developed an early passion advocating for communities of color. Upon graduation, he plans on attaining his master’s in Social Work and continue to dedicate his personal and professional life to social justice, LGBTQ community organizing, and public service.

Colin King

Colin King is a Southern California native who originally came to San Diego to attend UC San Diego. While getting his BAs in Political Science and Communication, Colin strove to make a difference on campus. He was involved in many diversity initiatives, which eventually led to him being a recipient of the Chancellor’s Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and Diversity award in 2014. After graduating, Colin has worked in many departments at UCSD, including the Bannister Family House, the Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service, and currently works in the School of Medicine. He also took some time to teach English abroad in Barcelona, which furthered his passion for travel and culture. In his spare time, Colin enjoys country dancing and playing kickball for the Varsity Gay League.

Mark D. Maddox

Mark Maddox, originally from a small town in Washington State, moved to San Diego from Seattle with his partner in summer 2013. After nearly a decade in corporate retail, Mark now works as the Sales Coordinator at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla. Since Pride 2015 Mark has been an active volunteer with The Trevor Project and with San Diego Pride, serving in various departments. He is now the Assistant Parade Manager for San Diego Pride and looks forward to seeing the culmination of San Diego’s largest civic event. Mark seeks to bring an intersectional approach to his work and to utilize the curriculum of the YPC Academy to better inform his current and future endeavors.

Ana Laura Martinez

Ana Laura is the daughter of Latinx working-immigrants, she grew up in Tijuana, Baja California and San Diego. She is the Leadership Development Coordinator at the Center on Policy Initiatives, where she coordinates the Students for Economic Justice summer fellowship, a program that supports students in their trajectory as critical labor and community organizers. While a student at UCSD, she was involved in coalitions that organized around educational equity, immigration, labor, and anti-racist campus measures. Her organizing experience comes from being an organizer with SEIU-Good Jobs LA through the UCLA Labor Center, UAW 2865, and AFSCME 3299. She has served as a teaching assistant, grounding her teaching philosophy on critical thinking and inciting students to a commitment in social justice outside of the classroom. Ana Laura is also a member of the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice-San Diego chapter, doing advocacy work that centers women of color. Ana Laura has a dual BA in Ethnic Studies and History from the University of California, San Diego. She currently resides in El Cajon, where she loves to screenprint and sew.

Autumn McClain

Autumn McClain is the Behavioral Health Services Database Manager and Information & Referral Specialist for The San Diego LGBT Community Center, where she has provided intake counseling, social program enrollment services, non-medical case management and connections to continued care to clients for the last five years. Originally from Houston, Texas, Autumn grew up in San Diego and received a Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico and plans to continue her education in public health. Autumn has experience working the medical field, but a passion for non-profit representation, community outreach and sexual health education, recently completing an internship with Lead The Way, a HIV testing campaign funded by the University of California, San Diego’s Antiretroviral Research Center and the National Institute for Health. She is ready for an exciting year in the YPC and will continue to use her privilege to further empower the LGBT community.

Alvaro Medrano

Alvaro was born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana until age of 5.  At that point, he and his family migrated to live in San Diego.  He identifies as a fronterizo, chicano, latino, mexicano americano, queer, gay, cisgender male. He received his Bachelors in Environmental Science from UC Santa Barbara, where he was deeply involved with the Queer Student Union and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.  After, he moved back home to engage on the road of becoming a teacher.  He received a bilingual teaching credential from San Diego State University  and now serves students as a science teacher in the Sweetwater Unified School District.  Within his teacher role, he serves as an advisor for a student club named Safe Zone and coach to the robotics team.  He is eager to engage with his YPC cohort members and learn about ways to serve and connect with his communities. He is passionate about serving LGBTQ youth, folks with addiction and other mental health illnesses, homeless youth, trans and gender non-conforming folks, undocumented immigrants, and environmental justice.   During his free time, he likes to exercise,  practice yoga, ride his bike, be outdoors and spend time with family and friends.  He also enjoys being around art, live music, water, travelling, and dreaming of what’s next.

Jay Milo

Jay Milo is a highly motivated young professional working in the medical device and biotechnology sector as a Research Scientist in the R&D Biomarker Discovery group at Inova Diagnostics. He has been employed at Inova for the last seven years where a few of his responsibilities include: discovery of novel biomarkers in various autoimmune disease areas, performing feasibility studies which involve assessing the clinical and diagnostic utility of the markers and lastly showcasing the findings at both domestic and international scientific and medical conferences. Additionally, while working full-time he is also pursuing his Masters of Advance Study in Medical Device Engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. He is the youngest out of six siblings and immigrated to the United States in 1992 from the Philippines. He has been a Southern California resident for more than twenty five years residing predominantly in the North County region.

Alex Ordoubegian

Alex, a California native, born in Sacramento, has always served his communities where he has lived. His dedicated service to the LGBT community is a strong passion of his, and also currently serves as the Facilities Manager for the San Diego LGBT Center and the Youth Housing Project in San Diego, CA.  Alex is active in multiple sports organizations, and is currently a representative, for the High Rollers Bowling League (LGBTQ League) in the International Gay Bowling Organization. Alex also has been a member in many other San Diego based LGBTQ Leagues including; AFCSL (America's Finest City Softball League), AFFL (American Flag Football League), and the SDTF (San Diego Tennis Federation). Alex moved to San Diego in 2008 and currently resides in Hillcrest. His entrepreneurship began in 2012 when he opened a home improvement business for high efficiency products for homeowners.  The business was very successful and was sold 4 years later. Alex also interned in the Development Department of The San Diego LGBT Community Center in 2011 while studying Economics at San Diego State University. Alex has been volunteering for over 9 years with AIDS WALK San Diego, and has most recently been serving as Area Manager for Safety and Route for the past 6 years. Alex currently sits as Treasurer on the Executive Board for a local organization called Street Bundles, Inc. whose mission is to make 3-day sustenance kits and pass out to the homeless/less fortunate. During his free time, or what's left of it, Alex enjoys hiking and socializing out in the local neighborhoods with friends and is a current ambassador for the #Bethegeneration community outreach program here in San Diego.

Jean Anewschka (Ani) Robles

Jean Anewschka Robles (“Ani”) was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and is working towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. They received a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Utah Spring of 2017. They earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and minor in political science from the University of Utah in 2016. Ani is currently working as a Bilingual Staff Counselor for the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Their clinical interests include looking at the intersection of Self-Harming Behaviors among the LGBTQ+ community. Ani is also currently working as a PSR specialist for Vista Balboa Crisis Center. In 2016-2017 Ani worked as an Initiative for Transformative Social Work (ITSW) experiential scholar to contribute to the planning of projects that pursues creating spaces of belonging for minoritized populations to see themselves in at the College of Social Work, on campus, and in the community. They worked as a graduate research assistant working under Dr. Aster Tecle whose research focuses on exploring how African refugee women talk about “resiliency” and how it facilitates and/or limits their survival strategies, in Salt Lake City in particular. In summer 2015, through the Hinckley Institute of Politics they completed an internship at Ibarra Strategy Group in Washington, DC, a leading government and public affairs firm that specializes in advocacy services, intergovernmental affairs and Latino outreach. As an intern at the Center for Documentary Expression and Art they presented their work “Exhibits That Teach – Artists/Scholars-in-Residence Youth Art Programs that Build Art Skills and Create Social Consciousness” at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). On their free time they enjoy watercolors painting and writing poetry.

Maria G. Rodriguez

Maria Rodriguez is a first-generation Mexican-American born and raised in Southeast Los Angeles. Maria is a proud Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), providing a range of services to vulnerable populations throughout San Diego County, a career that is both challenging and filled with possibility. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice/Sociology from San Diego State University (SDSU) and a Master's Degree in Social Work from California State University San Marcos(CSUSM). Maria is a recipient of the Imperial Court de San Diego Scholarship in 2013, which assisted her in completing her graduate studies. Maria has been a volunteer for Big Brother, Big Sister mentoring program, San Diego Youth Services, and Creciendo Fuerte (Growing Strong) in North County San Diego. Maria has worked with individuals from all walks of life and in a multitude of settings, including LGBTQ+, immigrant, monolingual Spanish speakers, and homeless individuals. Maria is committed to helping empower, advocate, and encourage resiliency in individuals and communities in order to fight injustice and oppression, in all forms. She is dedicated to enhancing the well-being and quality of life of others through the use of self-empowerment and multidimensional collaborative change.

Ryan Trabuco

Ryan Trabuco is a Field Representative for State Senator Toni Atkins where he represents the various communities within San Diego City Council Districts 7 and 9. He was elected to an unprecedented four terms as President of the Clairemont Town Council, and served in that role for nearly 6 years. In 2017, he was named President Emeritus for his years of service to the Clairemont community. Politically active, he is an elected Assembly District delegate to the California Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, and serves as Vice President of Resource Development for San Diego Democrats for Equality, as well as IT Chair for the Clairemont Democratic Club. In his spare time, he enjoys catching up on the latest movies, trying out new restaurants, and attends comic book conventions as often as he can.

Emily Tran

Emily Tran is a cis-gender femme identified lesbian. She’s a first generation Vietnamese-American who recently relocated to San Diego last summer. She currently holds a licensure from the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), as well as her Residential Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) Administrator Certification in the State of California. Having written more than fifty clinical policies and procedures for several senior assisted living communities, she continues to redefine, implement and maintain successful processes with every new community. Understanding how important it is to start from the ground up, Emily aims to cultivate each situation to allow a solid and organic foundation to be built within her spaces. Through leading by example with each engagement, she remains empathetic, compassionate, and open-minded to each person’s journey in life. Her next focus is LGBTQ+ senior advocacy.

Nicole Verdes

Nicole was raised in San Bernardino County before relocating to San Diego in 2002. While employed for a Third Party Administration firm in La Jolla since April 2002, she has earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Sociology/Sociological Practice from Cal State San Marcos. She currently serves as Board Treasurer for Lambda Archives of San Diego and continues to dedicate her time volunteering for multiple causes and organizations throughout San Diego County.

Yuo Wu

Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in San Diego. She earned her BA in Public Administration from San Diego State University and MA in Public Administration from National University. She currently works in Human Resources for the County of San Diego and proudly serves as a Champion for the County’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. She has a passion for volunteer work: she has served The Center; San Diego Pride; She Fest; and is currently a Patrol Volunteer for Stonewall Citizens’ Patrol. She is an active member of IPMA-HR (International Public Management Association for HR), WLLE-SD (Women Leaders of Law Enforcement), County of San Diego Employee Resource Groups (LGBT and Allies, and CSDFEA), and a lifetime member of SDSU Alumni Association.

 YPC Academy 2017 class

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

 Abrahán Monzón

Abrahán Monzón is the Assistant Director for the ASI Community Centers at California State University San Marcos where they oversee that campus’ Gender Equity Center and LGBTQA Pride Center.  Abrahán grew up in the Imperial Valley, received a Bachelor’s at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master’s in Education at California State University, Fullerton. Prior to their current position, Abrahán worked at CSUF’s Diversity Initiatives & Resource Centers providing support for the University’s cultural heritage month celebrations.

 Adan Cortez

Adan Cortez originally came from New Mexico to attend the University of San Diego in 2011. While attaining his bachelors in Biochemistry, Adan participated in Relay for Life as a Mission/Advocacy Chair and served as a Student Director for Founder’s Chapel Choir. As a research assistant, Adan addressed water quality in East Africa by conducting field sampling and composing a filtration matrix to eliminate arsenic from drinking water in Uganda. Upon arriving, Adan participated in organizing focus groups within the Ugandan community and developing relations with villagers. Adan currently works as a chemist in the biotech industry, and he volunteers with groups like the Human Rights Campaign and #BeTheGeneration. He intends to attain a Master’s in Public Health to serve and be an advocate for the community.

Andrew Oliver

Andrew Oliver is a Masters Candidate at the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University. He has a B.A. in History from John Brown University. He was president of the John Brown University History Club and College of Arts and Letters Representative for the Latin American Studies Student Organization at San Diego State. He has been a volunteer for Traveling Stories and Feeding America in San Diego. He serves as the Field Coordinator for the San Diego Council on Literacy. His primary role at the SDCOL is to serve as a liaison between the Affiliated Programs and the SDCOL. He is a San Diego transplant from the Midwest.

Ben Mendoza

Ben Mendoza currently works as the Office Manager & Affiliates Program Coordinator at the Cross-Cultural Center at UC San Diego. Ben received a Master of Arts in Higher Education Leadership from the School of Leadership and Education Studies at the University of San Diego. Prior to moving to San Diego in 2013 to attend graduate school, he lived in Seattle, Washington for eight years where he received a B.A. in Communication Studies from Seattle University and worked at Seattle Central College. Ben is passionate about supporting and facilitating identity development work and advocating for an intersectional approach to justice. He has volunteered with The Trevor Project, San Diego Pride, San Diego ComicCon, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and Seattle PrideFest. 

Benjamin Walker

Benjamin Walker has spent his career working for enterprise software companies, focused on business development and customer success. As an engineer, he helps large companies map business problems to technical solutions. He currently works for AppDynamics with customers in the San Diego region. Benjamin and his partner recently moved to San Diego from Portland, Oregon. As a native of El Paso, Texas, he is happy to again be living in a Mexican border community. He earned both a BA in Linguistics and a BS in Computer Science from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Carter Hantula

Carter Hantula recently relocated to San Diego from Orange County after working at the Anenberg Space for Photography. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, he studied Art History and Psychology.  He is an ARIES Data Specialists for The San Diego LGBT Community Center, providing technical support and data management to HIV service providers. Through his work at The Center, Carter has become much more engaged in social and political activism and hopes to find new avenues to pursue this passion through the Young Professionals Council.

David Decker

David Decker, a Phoenix native, moved to San Diego in 2015 where he launched the San Diego division of Varsity Gay League growing the organization from zero to 500 athletes across 4 different sports. With a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education and a passion for sports, youth, and the LGBT community, Decker has channeled these diverse skills to volunteer for his community. He is been a coordinator for San Diego Pride’s Youth Programs and Athlete Ally, helped to found the San Diego LGBT Sports Coalition, volunteers for Lambda Archives of San Diego, and sings 1st tenor with the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus. While living in Phoenix David, volunteered for Phoenix Pride and served on the boards of the Phoenix Sunfish Swim Club and the Valley Chamber Chorale. Currently a Banker with Wells Fargo in Hillcrest, Decker lives with his partner in University Heights.

Diego Flores

Diego Flores is a gay, 4th generation Chicano who was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. Diego is fluent is American Sign Language (ASL) and is working towards becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for Deaf/Hard of hearing couples and families. Diego has lived in San Diego for 3 years and loves the beaches, volleyball, and working at The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Diego is currently the On Duty Counselor at The Center and enjoys helping clients from all walks of live find the information, resources, and support they need. In 2012, Diego received his B.A. from CSU Northridge in Psychology with a minor in Family Studies. Diego moved to San Diego in July 2013 to attend SDSU's Marriage and Family Therapy Program. After graduating from SDSU in 2015, and before working at The Center, Diego was involved in creating courses for spouses and family members of veterans and active duty military, on how to better understand their loved ones.

Gilberto Mercado

Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and raised in Tepic, Nayarit (both in Mexico), Gilberto served in the Mexican Air Force and studied civil engineering in Tepic before moving with his family to San Diego in 2000 at the age of 23 to start a new life. After teaching himself English, he ultimately received his Associate’s Degree in psychology from City College in 2015. He is grateful for the assistance he received from the Tom Homann/Harvey Milk Scholarship Fund and the Imperial Court de San Diego in the pursuit of his degree. Passionate about immigrants’ rights and eager to immerse himself in social service advocacy for LGBTQ latin@s, Gilberto proudly accepted a position as the bilingual outreach program assistant at the San Diego LGBT Community Center in 2016. For the past five years he has been the pitcher for the Babycakes softball team in the America’s Finest City Softball League. He resides in Fashion Valley with his husband George Biagi and their dog Brody.

Jen LaBarbera

Jen LaBarbera is a queer brown/mixed-race tomboy femme archivist, librarian, writer, and organizer. She is an ex-pat of the progressive political nonprofit world, and brings an intersectional lens to her post-organizer career as a librarian and archivist for feminist and queer archives. Jen has been involved in some kind of activism since third grade and found her social justice home in the reproductive justice, queer, and anti-violence movements. She grew up in rural western New York, developed her skills as an organizer/rabble-rouser in the midwestern/mountain-west states of South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, and has made homes for herself in the Rocky Mountains and southern California. Currently, Jen is the Head Archivist at Lambda Archives of San Diego.

Jesse Sweeney

Jesse Sweeney moved to San Diego from Connecticut in 2014 to pursue his M.A. in Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling at University of San Diego. Jesse is currently working as a School Counselor at a kindergarten through eighth grade social/emotional learning charter school, where he also sponsors the school's Gay Straight Alliance. Jesse additionally loves being a volunteer for the Hillcrest Youth Center, having started in spring 2016. Jesse hopes to continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth both professionally and personally.

Jessica Cole

Born and raised in Chula Vista, Jessica went to the east coast to get her degree in creative writing from Emerson College. She spent three years teaching elementary school before she decided to study sign language poetry at UCSD, where she completed her MA. She now works as a sign language interpreter and uses her free time to run the San Diego Feminist Book Group and to serve as vice president for the San Diego chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).  She is especially interested in how building community can make activism more effective.

John A. Hermosillo

Born in San Diego and raised in Chula Vista, John currently works at the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) at the University of California, San Diego as a College Access Program Advisor through AmeriCorps VISTA. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. John has a B.A. both in Chicana/o Studies and Gender Studies and an alumnus of Delta Lambda Phi, Gamma Chapter at UCLA. He has been involved with community engagement through community service and philanthropy during his undergrad. He has a combined passion for critical race theory and gender theory with a strong background in complex research and analysis, specifically on queer Chicanx culture and queer youth of color. His undergraduate studies have taught him many theoretical approaches and philosophies that have fostered him towards cultural humility and sensitivity. During his senior year at UCLA, He took a senior thesis course on Feminist Praxis. The primary focus of this thesis was on community-based learning on queer youth of color in education that led him to intern for the Los Angeles LGBT Center (Youth Center on Highland). Since moving back to San Diego in 2014, John has been interested in the issues concerning the Queer Latinx community in San Diego, with issues such as immigration, health, disability, education, and homeless youth.

Kelvin Barrios

Kelvin Barrios is a Council Representative with the Office of San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gómez (San Diego’s first LGBTQ Latina elected to City Council) where he represents the various communities of City Heights. He is the lead staff member following Rules Committees, Prop 64 (legalization of marijuana), Homelessness, and Transportation issues within his area. Before joining team GG, Kelvin served on the City Heights Area Planning Committee and was Vice-President of the City Heights Town Council. He also worked as a Political Consultant, having served as the fundraiser for Councilmember Gómez’s campaign as well as other local candidates and democratic organizations such as the San Diego Democrats for Equality. Kelvin currently serves on the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party, State Political Director of the California Young Democrats, and Chair of the CYD Labor Caucus.

Lauren Manalo

Lauren is a queer writer, performer, and activist dedicated to equity, social justice, and intersectional feminism. As a proud first generation Filipinx, she is a passionate advocate for immigrant and AAPI rights. Lauren currently serves as the Director of the Inclusion Initiative at Old Town Improv, cultivating a more inclusive community of artists with scholarship, learning, and performance opportunities for diverse performers. She is the Marketing and Communications Representative for Community HousingWorks, a nonprofit that provides stable homes that people can afford, builds healthy communities where people can thrive, and opens up opportunities for people to achieve their dreams. Since receiving her B.A. in Political Science with a Public Law emphasis from UC San Diego, she has devoted her career and volunteerism to local non-profits, specializing in cultural education and the arts.

Mary Sanders

Mary Sanders is a passionate licensed clinical social worker committed to serving and advocating on behalf of San Diego's most vulnerable community members. Mary currently provides mental health therapy services at Family Health Centers of San Diego to individuals from different cultural backgrounds, LGBTQ, and language capabilities suffering from a variety issues including trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. She developed a special interest in treating trauma while providing therapy to San Diego's foster youth and became certified in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Mary is dedicated to being a lifelong learner and is pursuing teacher certification for Mindfulness of Self-Compassion at UCSD School of Mindfulness. She is a graduate of The University of San Diego with a Bachelors in Sociology and she earned her Masters in Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin. Mary is the youngest of six children in a biracial family and grew up on the US-Mexico border in the rural town of El Centro, CA.   She has lived abroad in Argentina, South Africa and Spain and has traveled to over 20 countries. Mary has demonstrated, lobbied, and phone banked for organizations including The Center, The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) and Texas Gun Sense.

Ricardo Duarte

Graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Ricardo returned to San Diego where he was born and raised. Having graduated with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Education, they have focused their time in Santa Barbara on community organizing through La Familia de Colores, Queer Commission and organizing UCSB Pride, and through the Finance and Business Committee helping to fund different local organizations. Through their Education minor, they have worked with local schools in low income areas of Santa Barbara on computer literacy as well as after school programs helping to improve the outcomes of the specific programs goals. They now work in the South Bay YMCA for the REACH program helping improve under privileged youth engage with education as well as athletic and social skills.

Shah Fallah

Shah Fallah was born in 1987 and moved to San Diego in February 2016. He graduated from architecture school and earned his Bachelors Degree in 2015. He works at Hilton Worldwide Sales and volunteers with the San Diego LGBT Community Center and Jewish Family Services of San Diego. He's a proud gay man who loves to travel and is happy to reside in Hillcrest/Mission Hills.

Tery Benedetti

Tery is a native of Honolulu, Hawaii and was raised in San Diego, California. He served four years in the United States Navy onboard the largest ship in the fleet, The Aircraft Carrier. During his four years, he went on three deployments taking him all over the Pacific Ocean, the Middle East, and Australia.  After the military, he pursued a career in aviation. He has 80 hours of flight time in a Cessna 172 flying out of Montgomery Airfield. He also carries two bachelor’s degrees. One is in Professional Aeronautics and the other in Culinary Management.  So, he can fly an airplane and cook a twelve-course meal at the same time. Neither one of his degrees are being used in his current position as a Patient Care Coordinator for Briova Specialty Pharmacy.  He helps people acquire their specialty medication for a variety of different illnesses.  He is currently studying for the PTCB exam to earn is Pharmacy Technician License, but is slightly procrastinating. In his spare time, he attends meetings at the LGBT Center and volunteers his whenever possible.

Val Erze

Val Erze, a San Diego native, attended the University of California, San Diego, and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Critical Gender Studies. As an undergraduate she was involved in establishing a new queer student organization on campus, student organizing around fee hikes and unfair labor practices, and served as a Students for Economic Justice Fellow with the Center on Policy Initiatives. She also served as the Director of Local Affairs at SPACES, a student-run community center at UCSD dedicated to empowering high school and undergraduate students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. After graduation she was lucky to work towards economic equality for the LGBT community as the Operations Manager for GSDBA, San Diego's LGBT Chamber of Commerce. She currently works in Regional Planning at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and plans to continue to dedicate her personal and professional life to social justice, community organizing, and public service.

Valorus Cromwell

Born and raised in San Diego, Valorus has worked in various fields from cosmetology, woodworking and the bar/restaurant service industry. Valorus received his cosmetology license in 2010 where he then went on to practice hair styling for some time. From there he went into woodworking as a finish carpenter where he discovered a passion for furniture design. Valorus has also been involved in the service industry since 2009. Currently, you can find him bartending at your local piano bar, The Caliph. Valorus currently works as a schedule analyst for a utility company that contract’s with San Diego Gas & Electric. He is looking forward to expanding his knowledge of social and political issues while becoming an active, involved member of The San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Veronica von Borstel

Veronica received her Master's Degree in International Business specializing in international trade with Latin America and a Bachelor's Degree in Art & Design from San Diego State University, and has been in the culinary field since 1996.  After encouragement from her dear departed friend and mentor, Chef Kerry Simon, she began her culinary training in Los Angeles. After her training, she did her pastry apprenticeship at Emeril’s Delmonico in New Orleans, LA, and has worked in kitchens all over the country from Miami to Philadelphia and back to her hometown of San Diego. Veronica has been featured on Food Network's Halloween Baking Championship, San Diego Living, Fox Morning News, The San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego Reader, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, The NOH8 Campaign, SDPix Magazine, NBC's The Feast, KSON Radio, and She is constantly curious about the world around her, and she enjoys immersing herself in the traditions, food, architecture, and customs of other cultures. 

 YPC Academy 2016 class

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Natasha Anderson

Natasha Anderson lives by the motto"Art is Life is Art". The Brooklyn, New York native loves calling San Diego home and utilizes every opportunity to submerge in the local art culture. Her background in News Editorial Journalism shows her penchant for writing, while her career transitioned into creating marketing and public relation campaigns for various non profit organizations. She has worked with ArtSanDiego, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, and the Jonathan Tarr Foundation to name a few. Natasha finds fulfillment in fusing passion with purpose and currently does freelance work as a project manager and event coordinator. She is a Big Sister for the Big Brother Big Sister of San Diego County organization, and the Arts Advocate Committee Chair for the Rising Art Leaders of San Diego. Natasha is an active advocate for the LGBTQ community , and is most passionate about promoting equal civil rights, gender equality, and challenging homophobia and transphobia through community outreach and innovative thought leadership. She has volunteered with San Diego Pride, Dine Out San Diego, the Women's Resource Center "Red Hot Dance" and #BeTheGeneration program initiatives.

Angelica Angeles

Angelica Angeles moved to San Diego in 2011, she is originally from Sacramento, CA. Currently, she is an event coordinator for Direct Cannabis Network, her responsibilities lie in providing outreach and set up for networking events in the cannabis industry. Another passion of hers is studying fashion and event management at San Diego Mesa College, she lends her experience in event coordinating to the San Diego Mesa Fashion program in the events department. Personal hobbies include modeling for various events in California, her brand Aries_I_Am is breaking into the Queer Fashion Community. Other organizations she has volunteered for: Rock N’ Roll Marathon, South Bay Pride, San Diego Pride, and the San Diego Arts Foundation.

Jacel Faracco

Jacel is originally from Long Island and prior to relocating in San Diego, she volunteered for a domestic violence outreach program. She has worked in the restaurant industry for 11 years and is currently pursuing a degree in psychology. This summer's pride celebration will mark her first time exploring the LGBT community as an active volunteer.

Malek Guerbaoui

Malek Guerbaoui recently relocated to San Diego from Santa Barbara, CA. He currently works as the ARIES Data Specialist for The San Diego LGBT Community Center, providing technical support to HIV service providers and conducting data and quality management activities. Malek has a passion for community building within the LGBTQ community, and sexual health education, specifically HIV health disparities affecting LGBTQ populations. He formerly coordinated the HIV Education and Prevention Program at Pacific Pride Foundation and has been providing HIV and Hepatitis C testing to the Santa Barbara Community for over seven years. While in Santa Barbara, Malek provided LGBTQ sensitivity trainings to the local colleges, businesses, and senior living facilities; coordinated the local syringe exchange program; created a mobile HIV testing program; educated the community about sexual risk reduction information and PrEP; and served on the Santa Barbara Pride Festival Committee. Malek is excited about the new opportunities to get involved with and advocate for his community here in San Diego.

Derek Hanley

Derek Hanley currently works as an Account Director for PR Newswire. In this role, he manages client relationships in Southern California and consults clients on how to successfully communicate in their Marketing, Public Relations, and Investor Relations efforts. Derek received his MBA in Marketing from the University of New Mexico in 2013. He moved to San Diego in the Summer of 2015 from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he volunteered with arts based nonprofits and city planning organizations.

Robert Hubbard

Robert has worked in the financial services and insurance fields for over 10 years. Following his graduation from the University of Chicago, he also started and co-chaired the Gay Rights Advocates for Change and Equality (GRACE) and served as board secretary of (PUEBLO) People United for the Education Building Leaders through Organizing in Santa Barbara. After moving to San Diego in January 2015, Robert and his partner Jeremy have become heavily involved in the community. As a recent resident of San Diego, Robert is interested in the issues concerning San Diego County, and how he can help create more space for people to be themselves. 

Melissa Kelley

Melissa Kelley is an intern at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center working on her bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She also holds an Associates’ degree in Alcohol & Other Drugs Studies. She has extensive experience as a case manager and has plans to become a licensed clinical social worker. Melissa is currently involved with San Diego Trans Pride, San Diego Pride and SheFest as their accessibility coordinator, making sure all community events and meetings are accessible through American Sign Language. She believes that a sense of community is vital for the LGBTQ population to thrive. It brings feelings of identity and pride as well as kinship, and is made possible through processes such as full accessibility, communication, inter-group relations and networking. This is where her passion comes in, networking and building a support system with ready access to resources, services and events for all members of the LGBTQ community, not just in North County but throughout the entire San Diego region.

Jairo Leon

Jairo Leon is currently the HIV Programs Assistant at North County Health Services, sustaining strong ties between clients and their medical home to ensure viral suppression. Advancing the educational, social, and economic ideals of underserved communities is his passion. Jairo co-founded the community-based Foucault philosophy group to foster academic mentorship, and reimagine traditional academic arrangements. A member of the San Diego Dream Team, an undocumented, youth-led immigrant rights group, he has worked to fundraise for scholarships, coordinate DACA clinics, and provide education presentations in San Diego high schools and colleges. Jairo received his B.A in Literature & Writing from California State University San Marcos, and will soon begin his master’s in student affairs at UCLA.

 Kara Lin

Kara has lived in San Diego since 2009, but is a Northwest native, calling both Seattle, Washington and Eugene, Oregon her hometown. She received her B.A. in Digital Technology & Culture, with a minor in English and a certification in Professional & Technical Writing, and graduated with honors Magna Cum Lade. She has been utilizing her skills as a technical writer, graphic designer, and marketing specialist in San Diego to make the world a better place! She stays active in our LGBT community by donating her time volunteering with San Diego Pride as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Kara's passion is working toward equality through social change.

Megan Meek

Born and raised in San Diego, Megan moved west to Hillcrest two years ago. After graduating with a Bachelor's in Marketing and Management, she began managing social media accounts for local creative businesses and realized she had a knack for creating a web presence. Megan has spent the past four years as a Brand Manager and Social Media Marketing Consultant for several small businesses in San Diego—specializing in blogging, web management, photography and social media. Megan has an extensive background in volunteering, ranging from “Ball Girl” at the Tantrums and Tiaras Dunk Tank at CityFest to creating and running a summer camp for low-income children in Tecate, Mexico. After walking in AIDS Walk San Diego for the nine previous years, Megan recently served as one of the Area Managers for the 2015 event.

 Arnold Noriega

Arnold currently works for the California Department of Public Health, Office of Binational Border Health and is currently finishing his Masters of Public Health. He and his team strive to facilitate communication, coordination, and collaboration between California and Mexico health officials, health professionals, and communities in order to optimize border and binational health. To focus on LGBTQ health, Arnold is member of Impulse, San Diego Chapter, to help raise awareness of safe-sex education along with other health outcomes among San Diego’s LGBTQ community.

Edgar Nunez

Edgar Nuñez is blogger, musician, and recent graduate of the University of California, Davis. They were born and raised in Vista, a city in North County San Diego, and hopes their passion for community activism will open doors in the area that will allow them to serve people in their hometown.  With degrees in Sociology and Women's studies, they focus their attention on the promotion of transgender, anti-racist, and feminist causes and their intersections with economic justice. During their time in college, they served on the Associated Students of UCD's Gender and Sexuality Commission and was the founding treasurer of Supporting Survivors with Four-Legged Friends, a club dedicated to promoting therapeutic bonds between animals and survivors of intimate partner violence. Currently, Edgar is working on their art and in the process of settling back home after finishing their undergraduate degrees. They hope to attend graduate school in the near future to further prepare themselves to service the community.

Tyler Renner

Tyler Renner is a Development Associate at The San Diego LGBT Community Center where he works to support fundraising efforts and provide donor stewardship and recognition. He grew up in Orange County, CA and attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Upon graduation, he worked as Behavioral Therapist at the Koegel Autism Center. Before moving to San Diego in late 2015, he worked at Pacific Pride Foundation, a local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS center in Santa Barbara. There, as LGBTQ Program Coordinator, he provided cultural competency trainings to health and social service providers, ran a weekly youth group, and worked directly in schools to build Gay-Straight Alliances. He also worked to co-found the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network and local PFLAG chapter. For the last two years, he travelled to 40 states with activist and artist, iO Tillett Wright. As manager of Self Evident Truths Project, a 10,000-person portrait campaign, he engaged with thousands of LGBTQ Americans.

Matthew Rice

Matthew Rice currently works as a Defense Intelligence Contractor, teaching critical analytical skills onboard U.S. Navy ships to their intelligence teams. From 2006 to 2016 he served as a Navy Intelligence Specialist Senior Chief, leading worldwide intelligence missions and working to protect the U.S. from both domestic and international terrorism threats. While on active duty, he obtained his Bachelors Degree in Intelligence Analysis from American Military University and is currently enrolled in the Public Administration Masters Program. Committed to connecting Veterans with the Communities that they in, he started Veteran Volunteers of San Diego and then transitioned his work to Us4Warriors where he is currently an Associate Board Member. 2016 has proven to be a busy year as he was elected the President of the Veterans Democratic Club of San Diego County, appointed to serve as the Regional Director for the Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund, and is the Chairman of the Swings For The Future National Golf Tournament. Matthew's future aspirations include working to integrate the LGBT and Veteran communities and growing as a community leader and volunteer all with the eventual hopes of advancing democratic values through elected office. To connect with Matthew, click HERE.

Jay Satpute

Jay Satpute, a San Diego native, attended NYU and graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication. After school, he worked in corporate sales at Hugo Boss New York. In 2009, he returned to San Diego and shifted his career to the Home Mortgage Industry. Jay is also a personal assistant to a high net worth individual. He is looking forward to further involvement with the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Alex Sheldon

Alex is a Research Analyst with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), an independent think tank working to speed up equality for LGBT people. Alex received a Master of Arts in International Human Rights and a certificate in Global Health Affairs from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where her research concentrated on the intersections of LGBT movements in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the promotion of health as a human right in LGBT populations. She has designed trainings for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on LGBT identity inclusion in the Middle East and South Africa, and has worked directly with LGBT communities in East Africa and the Caribbean. Alex graduated from Whittier College in 2008 and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

 Heather Sheldon

Heather Sheldon currently works as Relationship Manager for Broadridge Financial Solutions, facilitating and supporting the delivery and development of the Financial Services Industry products to Broker Dealer home offices and their financial advisors. Previously having responsibility for management of a girl’s empowerment non-profit, she is able to apply her finance, team management skills, and growth strategy planning experience to her current role. Heather’s passion has been, and continues to be, supporting local and global efforts in uplifting and empowering girls and women. Hailing from the great state of Alaska and later attending Western Washington University, Heather has crisscrossed the country from Bellingham, WA to New York City and back again to the West Coast. She looks forward to growing her San Diego roots having moved here from Los Angeles in May. Heather’s strong sense of service was ingrained young, recently she has volunteered with and been involved at various levels with AmeriCorps VISTA, Girls on the Run LA / SD, EmpowHer Institute, iMentor, VDAY Santa Monica. Heather’s passion for adventure and international development has taken her to Ghana, Istanbul, Israel and Thailand. Her involvement with YPC Academy speaks to her desire to connect with and learn how to best serve the needs of the community. Looking forward, Heather hopes to further combine her passion for community service, philanthropy and leadership to become an established subject matter expert in the still emerging industry of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Jon Spencer

Jon is currently an active-duty military member stationed in San Diego. He joined the Navy post-DADT following his studies at the University of California Los Angeles where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He volunteered for the UCLA LGBT Resource Center in 2008 during the Proposition 8 protests in Westwood. His passion for languages, culture, and travel has taken him to several countries in South America where he studied Spanish and Portuguese. He is currently working as an Information Systems Technician onboard the USS San Diego, where he is also designated as the primary Search and Rescue Swimmer.  Jon plans to pursue a Master of Arts degree in International Relations with a focus on Politico-Military affairs. He is proud of having achieved his Eagle Scout award in 2004, and his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and Information Dominance Warfare awards in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Jon is excited to be a member of this year’s YPC Academy and is looking forward to becoming an active and involved member of San Diego’s great LGBTQA community.

 David Thompson

David Thompson, Jr. is Associate Director of College Counseling at The Bishop's School, a grade 6-12 independent school in La Jolla. In addition to working with students in grades 10-12 on curriculum planning and college preparation, he supports the School's diversity efforts serving as sponsor to affinity groups for Latino, Black/African-American, and Queer students. David is from Philadelphia, PA, where he grew up the son of a retired city police officer and school secretary. He graduated from Lehigh University in 2006 and studied Psychology, Sociology, and Religion Studies. He has worked different roles in education and for non-profit organizations. Dialogue, equity, and context are at the root of his interests and interactions believing that the best moments leave him with more questions than answers. David moved to San Diego in 2013 and currently volunteers with Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity as a local chapter advisor in addition to facilitating regional and national leadership programs where he is an advocate for member inclusion, sexual assault, and hazing education. He volunteers also with the Barrio Logan College Institute and is thrilled to expand his network in the San Diego LGBT community.

 Brandon Torres

Brandon Torres currently works as the Program Coordinator and Services Navigator for Youth at the San Diego LGBT Community Center where his responsibilities include overseeing programming at the Hillcrest Youth Center and providing case management to residents at the Sunburst Youth Housing Project.  He received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Children, Youth, and the Family and in Women Studies from California State University, San Marcos in 2014. Throughout his undergraduate career Brandon served in a variety of student leadership positions including being a Resident Advisor, doing communications work for the Pride Center, and worked as a writing consultant at the campuses Writing Center. Following graduation, Brandon served as a sexual health educator with San Diego Youth Services where facilitated classroom discussions on topics of consent, safe sex practices, and sexuality.

David Vance

David currently works as Director of Operations at Donatic, a San Diego non-profit that fosters philanthropy and supports organizations across the nation. He is also a tutor at Reality Changers, where he works with low-income high schoolers who will become first-generation college students, and leads a weekly discussion group on gender identity at the Hillcrest Youth Center. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, he moved to San Diego after graduating with a B.A. in English Literature from Kenyon College in 2014, where he developed his passions for critical theory, social justice, and education. 

 LaRon Williams

LaRon Williams, is a native of San Diego, CA and attended San Diego State University to receive his Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Communication. He is a Social Justice Advocate, College, and Mental Health Counselor in training. He will receive his Master of Science degree in Multicultural Community Counseling in May 2016 from San Diego State University Community Based Block and pursue LPCC licensure upon graduation. He currently serves as an Intensive Wrap Coach for Families Forward Wraparound-Mental Health Systems serving children and youth who have a mental health diagnosis that are either at risk for out of home placement, in need of support transitioning home, and  assist them in becoming more successful in other key areas of their lives. Additionally, he is a Counselor for Counseling Services at Cuyamaca College where he is committed to helping students achieve their educational, career, and personal goals.

 YPC Academy 2015 graduates

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Jeremy Bloom

Jeremy has worked in the non-profit fundraising and political organizing fields for over seven years. He has volunteered for multiple organizations in the Santa Barbara area and sat on the board of a community based foundation and faith group. Jeremy and his partner, Robert, moved to San Diego in early 2015 and he is looking to becoming more involved in the San Diego LGBT community.

 Andrew Brandon

Andrew Brandon is the Supervisor of HIV Program Services at Family Health Services of San Diego. He works closely with his team to empower gay men to protect themselves from HIV through prevention or treatment. Previously he served as Outreach Coordinator connecting uninsured families to Covered California and Medi-Cal through the Affordable Care Act. Born and raised in San Diego, Andrew has a passion for serving those most in need in his community. Andrew has his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Old Dominion University and plans to attend graduate school in San Diego.

 Kirby Carlock

Kirby Wallace Carlock is a five year resident of San Diego, born and raised in Shelbyville Tennessee. Upon moving to San Diego, he dove head first into the Hillcrest’s LGBT community. He helped to open and then manage nightly operations at Fig Tree Café Hillcrest for two years. Currently he can be found bartending at local hot spot Babycakes. While representing Babycakes he was named runner up for the 2014 Tantrums and Tiaras, an annual charity drag pageant, helping to raise $40,000+ benefitting the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Kirby Graduated top 10% of his high school class, but did not persue higher education until 9 years later. He is now entering his sophomore year at San Diego City College, with intention to transfer to San Diego State University, majoring in International Business (with emphasis in Spanish and Central America) and minoring in LGBT Studies. He is very excited, eager, and hopeful for the ability to serve the San Diego and International LGBT communities

 Molly Chase

A native San Diegan and current District three resident, Molly represents Councilmember Gloria in the communities of Old Town, University Heights, South Park and Golden Hill. She is responsible for advising the Councilmember in his role as the Chair Pro Tem of the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and as a San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board Member and Chair of the SANDAG Transportation Committee. Molly also staffs the Utility Underground Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Todd Squad, Molly served as the Director of Appointments, Protocol, and Special Projects in the Office of the Mayor and as an Associate in the Los Angeles District Office of the Urban Land Institute. She graduated from the University of Southern California Cum Laude with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in International Policy and Management. When she is not working to serve the residents of District Three, Molly enjoys walking through Balboa Park, cooking and spending time with friends and family (and her cat, Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

Cassandra Chavez

Cassie is an ARIES (AIDS Regional Information and Evaluation System) Data Specialist for the San Diego LGBT Community Center. She moved from the greater Long Beach area to San Diego in 2012 to pursue a Master’s degree in social work. She graduated from San Diego State University in 2014 with a concentration in administration and community development. Cassie has worked in community healthcare since 2007, including working in health center management for Planned Parenthood of Pasadena, managing two syringe exchange and HIV/Hepatitis C testing sites in Santa Barbara County, and coordinating an academic peer-health internship focused on healthy sexuality and communication for UC Santa Barbara. She also holds a BA from UC Santa Barbara, where she majored in political science. Cassie is passionate about advocacy through service and has dedicated her career to ameliorating community health disparities.

Anthony Ehlers

Anthony is originally from the Chicagoland area, where he completed a bachelor of science in Communicative Disorders with emphasis in Rehabilitation Services.  After college he worked with a Deaf Education Program.  Since moving here in 2012, Anthony has been with the Arc of San Diego.  He is currently a Case Manager with Community Employment Services at the Arc.  He enjoys volunteering with various nonprofit organizations, most recently helping with operations in the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and accessibility with San Diego Pride. In the future, he would like to work more with the diverse communities of San Diego.

Neiman Hatcher

Neiman is a native San Diegan, however has been raised all across the globe. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and holds a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters of Science in Consulting Psychology. He is President of the Organizational Psychology Student Association and sits on the Board for the Society of Occupational Health Psychology. Neiman serves as the Global Diversity Program Manager, LGBT Specialist for IKEA Global and also works as a contract Management and Organizational Development Consultant for Insights4Results, LLC specializing in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and government sector.

Garth Langley

Garth Langley received his Bachelor's Degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice from California State University Hayward. He served as a Public Affairs Officer for the United States Marine Corps from 2012-2015 and transitioned from active-duty in April 2015. He is currently enrolled in a graduate program in Public Affairs and Practical Politics at the University of San Francisco and is seeking future employment in Law Enforcement. During 2015 he plans on serving in marketing and public relations roles during San Diego LGBT Pride and San Francisco Fleet Week.

Luis Legaspi

Luis is a native of Sacramento who graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Textiles and Clothing, with an emphasis in Marketing. Utilizing his multiple experiences abroad and marketing skill set, Luis works on promoting access to higher education and international education to diverse communities, with particular interest in creating and promoting services for the LGBT community. Luis has been volunteering with the Center since November 2014.  To connect with Luis, visit:

Marc Marconi

Marc is a Graduate of San Diego State University and has been active in Regional Politics his whole life. After leading the field program for a San Diego City Council Race in 2014, he joined Donor Development Strategies (DDS), a fundraising firm operating on behalf of Public Broadcasting. He is now the Lead Director of their San Diego Office where he oversees the field fundraising program for DDS, on behalf of KPBS in San Diego. Marc remains active in the community, volunteering his time to non-profit and politically active organizations and causes he believes in.

Sarah Merk-Benitez

Sarah Merk-Benitez currently works as the Outreach Coordinator at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, coordinating outreach efforts, helping with major fundraising events, and working regularly with volunteers at The Center. Before The Center, Sarah was worked in the faith non-profit sector, as a high school and young adults pastor. She has extensive one-on-one and group experience with diverse, at-risk youth. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and is currently working on a double Masters degree at Bethel University. Sarah has volunteered at several non-profits, including The Center and the Stein Education Center; and has led several international aide and relief trips to Haiti. She's passionate about people and acting on behalf of those who are treated unjustly. Born and raised in San Diego, Sarah has always had a love for the city, but more recently has fallen in love with her neighborhood of Hillcrest. Her passion for social justice and human rights extends from those internationally to those walking the streets of her very neighborhood.

Martin Molina, Jr.

Martin Molina is currently a General Manager for Pinkberry Inc. Martin moved to San Diego from Los Angeles 5 years ago. Since then, he started his volunteer work as the president of Impulse San Diego, a Nonprofit organization that focuses on HIV prevention and education in the LGBTQ community.

Mulika Musyimi

Mulika was born and raised in a small town in Kenya, East Africa, and came to the United States in 2003. He studied at Truckee Meadows Community College community in Reno, NV and earned a general studies degree and an arts degree respectively, while serving as an elected senator in the student government and as ambassador for the campus outreach and public relations programmes. He became active in civic engagement during the 2008 election cycle with a stint at a “Get out the Vote” grassroots campaign doing phone banking. He relocated to San Diego in 2011, and the annual AIDS Walk in 2014 was his first volunteer assignment through The San Diego LGBT Community Center and out of that, many other events followed. He is the clinic administrator at a Posture Therapy and alignment clinic in San Diego, a YPC 2015 fellow, an avid soccer fan, a freelance personal trainer and a 2015 prospective transfer student at University of San Diego studying corporate social responsibility and sustainable enterprises.

William Pontius

William Pontius is an activist from Seattle who specialized in community organizing, fundraising, and corporate responsibility.  In 2007, he was elected Mr. Gay Seattle and later moved on to be Mr. Gay Washington.  At the time he worked with hundreds of business and corporations raising funds for charity for gay youth.  William’s first stab in politics was being hired as the LGBT Community Organizer for Washington United for Marriage working on the Refrendum-74 campaign. It was the first ever voter approved marriage equality campaign to pass in US history. He even starred in “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  William moved to San Diego in late 2013 for a change of pace, but quickly began working for his first elected official, Kevin Beiser.  He was the Field Director for Kevin Beiser’s re-election to the San Diego Unified School Board.  Currently, William is the ERG Regional Vice President of a fortune 500 company, sits on the Board of Directors at an enterprise level, and works with the business community in Marketing for The Greater San Diego Business Association.  He is also working on the D7 City Council race and plans to launch the Out and Equal San Diego Affiliate later this year.

Hector Salas

Hector Salas, a San Diego Native, currently works as a New Business Development Manager for a Local Private Insurance Firm. Prior to the insurance world, he worked in the hospitality industry for 13 years and served as Director of Public Relations for the SDCA. Hector graduated from UC Irvine with a BA in Political Science.

Prabha Singh

Prabha Singh currently works as support staff for the San Diego HIV Health Services Planning Council as an employee of The LGBT Center. Originally from the East coast, Prabha received her B.Sc. from the University of Maryland and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health at National University. Prabha also volunteers for a UCSD health-research study observing AIDS, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs in San Diego. Prabha is also fluent in Hindi and looks forward to working with different community organizations in the near future.

Sergio Velasquez

Sergio Velasquez is a Health Educator for the In The Mix Program at Family Health Centers of San Diego. A transplant from Los Angeles, Sergio first moved to San Diego to attend the University of California San Diego and pursue his passion for science and healthcare. While there, Sergio became actively involved with the on-campus LGBTQ community, serving as a Principal Member of LGBTQIA at UCSD, the university's largest and oldest queer student organization. While there, Sergio also served on the World AIDS Day planning committee, which helped spark his passion for HIV/AIDS advocacy and activism. Upon completion of his Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, Sergio searched for a way to make his drive and interest in the HIV services field a career, which then led him to Family Health Centers of San Diego. Sergio is always looking for new ways to get involved in his community, whether through helping empower LGBTQ youth or aiding people access the health services they need.

Michael Vierela

Michael is a development associate at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Before moving to San Diego from Seattle in 2014, he spent more than two years as an arts administrator promoting and developing nonprofit arts programs at organizations including: Bumbershoot, Western Washington University, and the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. Michael is interested in the policies, practice, and benefits of funding and preserving arts and culture in communities.

YPC Academy 2014 graduates

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Cory Wolsey
Cory is a native San Diegan and currently works as a hairstylist at Detour Salon in Hillcrest. He has been volunteering with Center activities since 2013.

Daniel O'Donnell
Dan currently works in the admissions department for Ashford University.  He received an undergraduate degree in political science from Illinois State University in 2007 and completed a Master’s program in public administration in 2012 at National University. He currently is the co-chair of the James Ryan O’Donnell Memorial fund and will be traveling abroad the next 12 months.  When he returns, Dan plans to activate his civic engagement through volunteer work and finding a job that aligns with his passion for government.

Fabian Maes
Fabian Maes is a product analyst at Underground Toys. Fabian has been volunteering with the San Diego LGBT Community Center since April 2012. He is a member of the steering committee for California Men’s Group and Riverside and San Diego Trail Bears.  A Colorado native, Fabian received a Master’s Degree in science and management with a double emphasis in project leadership & management and computer information technology.

Gabriel Hernandez
Gabe Hernandez received his Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree in communication studies from San Diego State University and is planning to attend the MBA program at SDSU as well. He currently works at San Diego State University Career Services, supporting employer development and assisting students in building a path from their degree to a career.

Harrison Malone
Harrison is currently an account manager at Prometheus Laboratories, a gastrointestinal diagnostics and therapeutics company, and is applying for graduate degree programs. He has been involved in various non-profit organizations in the past, including the Flying Samaritans, an organization dedicated to providing free health care to local residents of Mexican border cities. He is looking forward to working with more community organizations in the future.

Jarrett Zarate
Originally from Houston, Texas, Jarrett has been an Officer with the Department of Homeland Security since 2008. He enjoys participating in various volunteer organizations, most recently with Gay For Good and San Diego LGBT Community Center. In the future, he plans to seek more opportunities to lend a helping hand to anyone in need in the United States and abroad.

Kimberly Martinez
Kimberly Martinez is a senior systems engineer at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems where she also serves as the Inclusion Council president, overseeing nine Employee Resource Group leaders.  Kimberly also volunteers in the LGBT community as the PFLAG San Diego Scholarship chair. She is originally from Denver, Colorado and became a resident of San Diego while serving in the United States Navy as a nuclear surface warfare officer.  Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Science degree in systems engineering from the United States Naval Academy and is currently completing a Master of Science degree in systems engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Continuing her commitment to the naval service as a surface warfare officer, Kimberly is an active reservist in the United States Naval Reserves and holds the rank of lieutenant commander.

Lucia Napolez
Lucia Carolina Napolez is a recent graduate from San Diego State University with two B.A. degrees; one in international security and conflict resolution, and the other in Spanish. She also has a minor in LGBT studies. Lucia has volunteered for many organizations in Hillcrest, including Lambda Archives of San Diego, San Diego LGBT Pride, and The San Diego LGBT Community Center. She continues to volunteer for various causes and support political campaigns in her free time. Lucia moved to San Diego when she was 17 years old to pursue a better life and better weather. Before leaving Yuma, she attended her local community college, online high school and alternative classes while attending her primary high school. She graduated one high school year before her class and left Yuma for San Diego.

Luis Fitch
Luis Fitch, or Fitch as everyone calls him, is a San Diego native who spent years of his childhood growing up in Tijuana. Fitch has previously worked in the medical field as an HIV Counselor, insurance counselor, treatment educator. Currently, Fitch works at UCSD Medical Services as a hospital assistant for 9 different specialties. He has volunteered for different local organizations such as Mama's Kitchen and San Diego LGBT Pride. In 2012, Fitch founded "The Warm Smiles Project" which has delivered more than 1,200 toys and blankets to the kids and elderly living on the streets on Tijuana for Christmas. Fitch has big plans in the works to reach other communities in need in Tijuana and San Diego with this project.

Matt Wathen
Matt is a native San Diegan and REALTOR® currently working with Pemberley Realty. Matt attained his BS in mechanical engineering from UCSD before working as a field engineer in construction management for four years. Upon returning from a year-long sabbatical living in Italy, he decided to embark on a new career as a real estate agent and to delve into a more active role in the LGBT and broader social justice movement.

Miguel Larios
Miguel is a bilingual evaluation specialist with the San Diego Regional Center, serving adults with developmental disabilities. He began his career as a kindergarten teacher and then worked as a social work counselor. He is one of the founding members of PrideFit, and currently serves as a board member and as the secretary of the organization.

Rick WelshiemerRick is a graduate from CSU Monterey Bay where he co-taught classes on social justice and organized community events. From there he obtained his MA at CSU San Bernardino where he taught two classes on public speaking. He has worked for, and volunteered with, several nonprofits including the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation, The Center, and as a San Diego AIDS Walk Area Manager. He currently is working within the auto insurance industry.

Sebastian Valles
Sebastian Valles is a Research Analyst for Laboratory Corporation of America. He moved to San Diego from Long Beach, CA in 2013. He served in the United States Navy as an Electronics Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer from 2001 to 2005 aboard the USS Bataan and has two tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. Sebastian has been with Gay4Good Orange County for 3 years and joined Gay4Good San Diego in 2013. Sebastian is currently pursuing his second degree in Astro Physics.

Tessa Lauren
Born and raised in Riverside County, Tessa left sunny Southern California for chilly Northern California to get her Bachelors of Arts in History from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After graduation she made her way to San Diego, where she has become a perennial volunteer for San Diego's LGBT Community Center. Tessa is currently seeking to further her career goals in K-12 education.

Timothy Caudill
Tim works on the staff of Congressman Scott Peters of the CA (52) district in San Diego, where he helps assist with all outreach and event planning related to DOD and veteran based functions.  He also does casework for those same organizations, assisting veterans with getting their benefits. Tim serves as the treasurer and secretary on the executive planning committee for the San Diego Pride military contingent.

Traci Wilkerson
Traci is the founder of Traci’s Paws, Inc., a nonprofit established to assist pet rescue groups to increase their adoption success rates.  She serves as an LGBT ally and activist, and has been active in the LGBT community for the last 8 years. She is also an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness through AIDS Walk San Diego and Dining Out for Life San Diego, and for Alzheimer's/dementia awareness through Alzheimer’s Walk San Diego for the last 7 years. Traci has a background in elementary education, and taught first grade and kindergarten for 6 years.

Trinh Le
Trinh Le is the leadership development coordinator at the Center on Policy Initiatives. She is also on the boards of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) – San Diego chapter, Mid-City CAN in City Heights, and the San Diego Leadership Alliance. Trinh has over eight years of community organizing experience and recently was awarded the “Most Valuable Organizer” of the year for 2013 by the New Organizing Institute. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in sociology and Asian American studies.

Wyn Furman
Wyn Furman is the manager of community research at The San Diego Foundation. She serves on the board of the San Diego Leadership Alliance and the steering committee of the San Diego chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. Wyn is also a member of Women Give San Diego and Run Women Run. She enjoys volunteering for Animal Rescuers Without Borders and for her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.

YPC Academy 2013 graduates

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Bianca Burt
Bianca plays a key role in all training and job development initiatives at a Workforce Readiness Specialist for the San Diego Housing Commission, Bianca. She has also worked for the State of California for 4 years as a sworn correctional officer.

Carlos Salazar
Carlos is the Finance Supervisor of Program Management at Mental Health Systems. He currently serves as the Executive Director of two small non-profits Forward Thinking and PrideFIT.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of San Diego Pride and San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

Cassandra Ortiz
Cassandra is a senior technical service representative for Prometheus Laboratories. She is currently working on her Masters of Science in Education from National University.  Cassandra volunteers with Elderhelp of San Diego and Gay for Good.

Leonard Darnell Walker
Darnell is the system & technical trainer at GreatCall, Inc. He works closely with Product Development and Network Technology to develop training material and processes for new products and system updates. Leonard has also been a Center volunteer for 4 years.

Elizabeth Faris
Liz is an associate with Collaborative Services Inc. a public outreach and communications firm. She has supported the communication needs of government agencies, public utilities, municipalities and non-profit organizations through a range of communications for diverse audiences.

Gabriela Santis
Gabriela is an operations supervisor at the Social Security Administration.  Gabriela received her graduate degree from UCLA and an MBA from Webster University.  She has volunteered with various non-profit organizations in Latin America including Tranparencia.

Kevin Putrus
Kevin has had a career as an insurance agency manager and has spent 2 years as an agency manager before being recruited in to a new position for an electrical contracting company where he currently works as a project manager in San Diego, California.

Matthew Anker
Matthew was born and raised in Marin County. He to Sacramento to attend Sacramento State University and started his financial services career working for River City Bank in the heart of Sacramento.  After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, he worked for several banks to further develop his career.

Melissa Elliott
Melissa currently is the case manager for the Sunburst Youth Housing Project at The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Melissa has over 5 years of experience working in mental health services both in the San Diego and northern Illinois region. Her professional interests focus on mental health and advocacy for youth.

Michelle Banuelos
Michelle is currently in the Recruitment Department at AMN Healthcare where she helps Registered Nurses maximize their skills by working at top rated facilities across the country. It was while in college that she realized she would forever be involved with local non-profits and that it was her duty to promote change.

Rick Cervantes
Rick is the development associate at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, supporting The Center's fundraising and social media efforts. Prior to coming to The Center, he was part of the marketing & public relations team of Mo’s Universe. He has been involved in the local LGBT community since moving to San Diego from Lodi, CA in 2006 to finish school at San Diego State University. Rick is a co-founder of San Diego Remembers, and has served other community organizations such as San Diego Pride, and the Stonewall Citizens' Patrol.

Ryan Darsey
Ryan sits on the San Diego Democratic Central Committee. Ryan was a senior field organizer for the No on Prop 8 campaign. He was part of GLSEN’s national student leadership team, working to create safer schools for LGBT students and their allies. Ryan is currently working on his B.A. for political science and plans to attend law school in the future.

Shawna Held
A first generation college student, Shawna attended Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. After graduating in 2010, she served as AmeriCorps member. Shawna has a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University (SDSU). Currently, she is the SafeZones@SDSU Graduate Assistant.

Steven Cavanaugh
Steven is a Marketing executive with eFinancial Communications, an IT firm that specializes in data analytics for the financial industry. He began his career in retail banking, and moved into marketing roles with various media and web advertising companies. Steven is active in the progressive community, and enjoys writing music and learning jiu jitsu.

Vanessa Goodwin
Vanessa has been the Staff Accountant for the San Diego LGBT Community Center for the past five years.  She has volunteered for various organizations, including a year-long position in AmeriCorps NCCC.  Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration with a Specialization in Human Resource Management.

Yana Zhukova
Yana is an Accounts Administrative Representative in Small Business Accounts at Kaiser Permanente, and member of Local 30 Union, OPEIU. Yana has worked with various non-profit organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Environment California (PIRG), and served as Operations Manager for the San Diego & Inland Empire NO on Prop 8 Campaign

Sarah Reusch

Chad Austin

YPC Academy 2012 graduates

Note: These bios remain static from the time of the participant's graduation from YPC Academy. Many graduates have moved on to new careers, board service, and other activities since the time of this publication.

Abraham De La Cruz
Abraham De La Cruz is an associate at the strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Abraham’s main professional focus is on strategic planning, IT project management and ERP implementations. A native of New Mexico, Abraham received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico, with a concentration in Accounting.

Barbara Moreno
Barbara is the web content specialist for the Port of San Diego. In her role, Barbara has produced award-winning videos for the Port of San Diego, including two bronze Telly Awards (2010, 2011), and first- and second-place awards from the San Diego Press Club. Barbara grew up in Burbank, California and earned a BA in Broadcast Journalism at California State University, Los Angeles.

Ben Cartwright
Ben Cartwright currently works as the Executive Director of the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus, managing the day-to-day administration, development, networking, and media relations and marketing efforts of the chorus. A San Diego native, Ben has been very active in the city’s LGBT community and has an extensive background in nonprofit administration. He received a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership & Management from the University of San Diego (USD) in 2011. Ben has volunteered for, served on the board of directors, and worked for numerous nonprofit organizations, using his talents to support community groups such as San Diego LGBT Pride, Stepping Stone, San Diego Remembers and the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He has also worked in San Diego's LGBT media for many years, currently working as a staff writer for San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and San Diego PIX magazine, and previously wrote for the former Gay & Lesbian Times and Update newspaper. Ben has volunteered with Stonewall Citizens Patrol since January 2008.

Brandon Tate
Brandon joined Environmental Health Coalition in 2012 as the Development Director. Brandon has a B.A. in English from San Diego State University and has extensive experience with community organizations including serving as Co-Chair of the YPC and Executive Vice President of the San Diego Democrats for Equality. Brandon sees his career and volunteer work connected by a passion for achieving social justice and equality.

Brian J. Nagle
Brian attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he graduated with a B.S. in Neurobiology. In 2009, Brian moved to San Diego to attend the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. Brian is pursuing a career in medicine with a specialty in geriatric psychiatry. He enjoys swimming and cooking in his free time.

Georgette Gómez
Georgette is the associate director of the Toxic Free Neighborhoods Campaign at Environmental Health Coalition. Georgette has focused on improving the health and environment of low-income communities adversely affected by pollution due to discriminatory land use policies that limit the quality of life. Gómez graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental and Natural Resource Geography Policy-Analysis.

Gianni M. LaChica
Gianni is a Senior Specification/Technical Writer for a medical device company. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree at SDSU in Rhetoric and Writing Studies with a specialization in Professional Writing (2012). Gianni has volunteered for Wounded Warriors, It’s All About the Kids, San Diego Parks and Recreation Youth Sports, and Unico. Gianni is proud to be an active ally to the LGBT Community

Ian Johnson
Currently Ian is the special events associate at The San Diego LGBT Community Center. He has combined his passion for the community and giving back in his work. For the past seven years Ian has been teams coordinator for AIDS Walk San Diego. Ian has volunteered for numerous organizations, raising funds for Christie’s Place, Mama’s Kitchen, The Center and others.

Jared Quient
Jared currently serves as a vice president with AMSOLAR International, a solar energy developer. In 2008, he joined Obama for America as the statewide Deputy Voter Protection Director in Florida. Mr. Quient began his career working for Congresswoman Susan Davis of San Diego. He served as a fundraiser for the Presidential campaign of Senator Joe Lieberman. Jared is a graduate of San Diego State University, and graduated cum laude from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Jarryd Davis
Jarryd is the Vice President of Marketing and Events, for the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce. He is the person responsible for the Chamber’s many large scale community events, the extensive marketing and communications efforts of the Chamber, as well as handling the Chamber’s robust Government Affairs Committee. Jarryd received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2007 with a minor in American History from George Washington University, in Washington, DC. 

Jason Whitehouse

Jesus Sanchez
Jesus is the outreach coordinator for Voices for Children, where he currently creates awareness campaigns and inspires the community to advocate for foster children. Jesus has been an active member of the Young Professional’s Council since 2010. In the fall of 2012 Jesus will begin a masters program in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at the University of San Diego.

John Greenwell
John is a Science teacher at KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy in San Diego where he enjoys helping his middle school students grasp a better understanding of the world as they prepare for college. John earned his Masters of Science in Education from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He continues to volunteer for various progressive, community organizations and looks forward to the personal and professional growth that he will do side by side with the rest of the YPC as they make a positive impact in the greater LGBT community!

Justin Knepper
Justin has been in the financial services industry for over 17 years, in a variety of capacities in management. He currently is the Vice President-Business Resource Manager for Bank of the West. He possesses an MBA in Management and a Masters in Rhetoric & Writing from San Diego State University. His personal pursuits include writing, graphic design, music, sketch art, and international travel.

Kimberly Simms
Kimberly earned her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California and started her own law practice focusing on the unique legal needs of the medical marijuana community.  As a passionate advocate for LGBT rights, Kimberly is committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBT community through legal work, education and public policy work. Kimberly serves as a volunteer attorney for the California Innocence Project; a program devoted to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates.

Maricar Camaya
Maricar attended Oberlin College and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and left with a degree in Comparative American Studies and an interest in the arts and community building. He has directed and edited a short documentary on transgender artists called, “Trans Art,” through Visual Communications' Armed with a Camera program.

Paul Richardson
Paul is currently a Pharmacy Intern Coordinator at CVS Caremark with responsibility for the San Diego and Las Vegas markets.  Paul has volunteered with multiple organizations throughout Southern California to include, In the Mix, APNA: Asian Professional Network and Association, IPA: Indian Pharmacist Association, GYA and was treasurer for the GSA at Palomar Community College.

Tony Winney
Tony has passionately served the public sector for over fifteen years in a variety of positions in local, state and federal government. Most recently, Mr. Winney has served the cities of La Mesa, Poway and Vista as a Senior Management Analyst and Public Information Officer. Tony is married to David Gatzke. They reside in the city of San Diego with their son Ethan and their dog T-Bone.

Vanessa Cosio
Vanessa is the Information Technology manager & Database Administrator at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. She gained political experience as the deputy field director of San Diego, Riverside & Imperial Counties for the No on Prop 8 campaign and field director for Alliance for a Better CA/Jerry Brown for Governor. Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts in cinema-television from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2005. She returned to her hometown of San Diego to receive her Bachelor of Science in media arts from Platt College in 2009.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy is a Reporter and Social Media Director for San Diego LGBT Weekly. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he was honorably discharged in 2008 due to the discriminative “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Having faced institutional discrimination and bullying, Will became an activist. In 2008 He became involved with the Log Cabin Republicans and later the Chapter President for San Diego. In 2012 Will Rodriguez-Kennedy became a Democrat, citing that he could no longer in good conscience support the Party Platform after anti-gay language was reapproved in the State Convention in San Francisco. He is now a member of the Democrats for Equality. Amongst his other civic roles he serves as an appointed member of the San Diego County Veteran’s Advisory Council, the Board Secretary of the San Diego LGBT Pride’s Board of Directors, and Veteran Chairman of DODFEDGLOBE.