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Young Professionals Council Academy Graduates


 YPC Academy 2017 class

Note: The 2017 class is currently in session from Feb. 11 - April 29, 2017.


 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 MilitaryPress.com. 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: linkedin.com/in/luislegaspi.

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.