Meet 2021's Impact Makers to Watch

2021 was the sixth year that Impact-Makers to Watch shined its spotlight on the individuals in L.A. County who are making a positive impact on their communities and who are expected to take their contributions to new heights in years to come.

On February 3 we saluted this year’s Impact-Makers To Watch during a virtual celebration that featured video profiles of each honoree. Also on the agenda: a special tribute to the late Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, whose love for our city knew no bounds and has inspired others to work for positive change in their community. The tribute included remarks from U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others. Watch the full celebration.


Congratulations to all the 2021 Impact-Makers to Watch!

Andrew Acedo, Events & Outreach Director at NewFilmakers

Meet Andrew

Andrew Acedo has been a part of the non-profit organization NewFilmmakers Los Angeles since graduating from UCLA 5 years ago. He has passionately advocated for the arts, artists, diversity and inclusion. He has brought together hundreds of community organizations to celebrate culture through cinema, including Outfest, LA Skins Fest, Indian Film Festival Los Angeles, Women in Film, NALIP and more. While at UCLA, he taught a course about the lack of access to higher education in the Pilipinx Community and currently serves as a counselor for UCLA’s largest non-profit organization called UniCamp, where he leads groups of kids from urban areas in a week-long camping trip in the mountains. He also serves as a Script Reader for the International Screenwriters Association (ISA), where he reads, scores, and gives feedback for script submissions from writers around the world.

Andrew will be spearheading all of NFMLA’s diversity programming in 2021. This includes InFocus which elevates films centered on women, Latinx and Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Disabilities and more. The over 120,000 NFMLA constituents in the greater Los Angeles film community and Filmmakers and Artists from around the globe will champion diversity and inclusion. Andrew’s goal is to give a platform to films by hidden talent around the world. Andrew believes that NFMLA gives him the opportunity to do just that.

Kome Ajise, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments
Meet Kome
Kome Ajise is the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization. Mr. Ajise has three decades of experience in regional planning and transportation, most recently as the Director of Planning at SCAG. In less than two years as SCAG executive director, Mr. Ajise has led the organization through the tenuous adoption of Southern California’s long-term Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, Connect SoCal. He’s led the development and adoption of the region’s methodology to distribute its challengingly large Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation. Most recently, over the summer, Mr. Ajise has committed the organization to fight racial inequity in the region. All of this while leading his organization through the pandemic while ensuring continuity of business.

Under Mr. Ajise’s leadership, SCAG has identified five opportunity areas it plans to address in 2021. One opportunity is to implement a resolution passed by SCAG’s Regional Council that affirms its commitment to addressing longstanding issues related to equity and social justice in planning. He will also lead plans to accelerate the implementation of Connect SoCal which outlines more than $638 billion in transportation system investments through 2045 targeting innovation in emerging sectors to stimulate job growth and housing production, focusing on economic inclusion, public health, and equity and social justice. Through SCAG, he will also guide the region’s efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on data sharing and collaboration. Using SCAG’s Regional Data Platform, an analysis tool available for use in local planning, as well as economic reports and analysis will help SCAG facilitate better planning at both the local and regional level, helping to collectively move the region towards a more sustainable future.

Robert Boller, Director of Programs, Project Angel Food 

Meet Robert
Robert Boller, the Director of Programs for Project Angel Food, has a 23-year legacy of providing nutritious food and love to people living with critical illness. He has driven new models of programs, implementing landmark partnerships with the State and businesses. In 2020, he ensured that the agency responded to the pandemic and that services ran non-stop which led to 40 percent growth and an ability to deliver masks, supplies and 3 weeks of shelf stable food, while also adding meal delivery service for people with COVID.

Mr. Boller is launching an entirely new set of services beyond the core program of home-delivering healthy meals to people living with critical illness. He has led the development of a suite of programs to improve clients’ overall well-being such as “wellness checks” to spot any marked changes or deterioration in a client’s health or circumstances and to work with the client and their health care team to make sure that they get appropriate help.

In 2021, as the technological backbone for Project Angel Food, Mr. Boller is leading the implementation of a new client relations management system that will more effectively provide nutritious meals and ensure health improvement for more than 2,300 medically vulnerable clients. In addition, his leadership has led to a new Telephone Angels program connecting clients with caring volunteers to reduce social isolation especially during the pandemic.

Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion – Flatiron Construction – Southwest Division

Meet Giovanna

Dr. Giovanna Brasfield serves as the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Flatiron and is the highest ranking African-American of the $5 Billion Company. She assists in meeting contractual requirements on current and upcoming project pursuits that engage women, diverse businesses, local workforce, and youth. Dr. Brasfield is an advocate, leader, and change agent within the construction industry and is passionate about inclusion of others within construction and construction-related trades. Dr. Brasfield has been working to strengthen inclusion for the LAX Integrated Express Solutions (LINXS) Automated People Mover (APM) project as its Inclusivity Manager and has created an internal strategy to increase overall diversity and inclusivity by attracting potential employees, recruiting & retaining employees, improving culture, and strengthening business strategy.

Intentional inclusion and culture championed by Dr. Brasfield will impact the communities in Los Angeles, but across the region by partnering with community-based organizations and allies to prioritize connecting individuals completing re-entry programs with more than a job, but a meaningful career opportunity. Her work will also impact the business community, workforce, youth, and young adults by giving opportunities to those who are often overlooked or underserved.

Julee Baber Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, Woodcraft Rangers 

Meet Julee
Julee’s commitment to creating positive impact in the lives of those she serves guides her decisions at the helm of Woodcraft Rangers. Julee anticipated both the digital divide and the subsequent potential loss of connectivity with Woodcraft Rangers youth and envisioned an SMS-based caregiver support platform called BIRCH and coalesced the team to create content, build infrastructure and liaise with communications partners to deploy its first messages by April. Since then, BIRCH has sent over 1 million messages, including at-home enrichment activities and trauma-informed parent support to over 8,000 families.

Julee is focused on post-COVID strategies for digital learning and focusing on highest need students. Under Julee’s leadership, the LA City Out-of-School Time Provider Coalition has broadened its network of support and has developed key metrics to help inform advocacy efforts and government decision-making for 2021 Measure J budget allocations. Julee’s impact will reach the 14,000 Woodcraft Rangers youth and hundreds of thousands of low-income families, primarily of color, living in Los Angeles County connected through her coalition leadership.

Dr. Rita Burke, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California

Meet Rita
Dr. Burke is a founding member of the Children-in-Disasters Working Group and has coordinated with Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and Save The Children to produce a training film to inform emergency responders and employees at day care centers about the needs of the smallest children. She continues this work with monthly meetings that coordinate both public and private agencies dedicated to safety of children during emergencies.

The needs of children, who make up 25% of our population, are not universally understood and the youngest victims are often overlooked in emergencies. As the Principal Investigator for the Children-in-Disaster Working Group, Dr. Burke will examine the gaps in preparedness for families with children who have access and functional needs. She will also oversee a grant funded to examine the role of faith-based organizations in disaster preparedness.

Calvin Chan, Major Gift Officer, Union Station Homeless

Meet Calvin
Calvin Chan has increased the number of high net worth donors, average gift, and donor retention at two of the largest homeless service agencies in Los Angeles County. He has served on the city of Alhambra’s Housing and Community Development Citizens Advisory Committee, and utilized the stand-up comedy and storytelling stages to amplify his philanthropic messaging. Calvin Chan has seamlessly transferred his experience from the financial services sector to the nonprofit world to dramatically increase high net worth donor engagement for the largest homeless services agency on the west side, and now the largest homeless services agency on the east side.

Calvin will advance innovative solutions to end homelessness and connect high net worth donors to these transformational fulfillment opportunities. Through his advising the homeless services sector will receive engagement and resources from a more engaged and inspired philanthropic community.

Jacquil Constant, Executive Director, Filmmaker, Cinema Professor

Meet Jacquil

Jaquil founded the nonprofit Haiti International Film Festival (HIFF) in 2015, which is the premiere platform that showcases quality films in Hollywood, California and is a niche film festival that specializes in portraying the humanity of Haitian culture through curation of amazing film from the Haitian Diaspora such as short films, documentaries, and feature films. Through Jaquil’s leadership, the festival showcase positive images of Haitian culture through film and art.

The Haiti International Film Festival launched the Haitian Filmmakers Mentorship Program in 2021 through a partnership with Haiti Tech Summit. The Haiti Tech Summit is the largest tech hub in the Caribbean Region for emerging entrepreneurs. The film festival is planning to showcase amazing Haitian Films on August 13th, and 14th, 2021 at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Also, the festival is planning to expand to Haiti on November 14, and 15th, 2021 at Rev Cinema in Petionville, Haiti.

Fran de Leon, Actor, Writer, Director, Team Building Facilitator 

Meet Fran
Fran’s work is varied, but at her core, she is an arts advocate and artistic collaborator. While, Fran shines a spotlight on rich local culture subject matter and social awareness, her work straddles education, arts advocacy and the human experience. She is well known in the Los Angeles circle of performing arts, and her contributions to the performing arts landscape zigzags the United States. She is known for being present, outspoken at the most poignant times, and one who uses art as a way to make change.

The performing arts are projected to be the last to rebound and reopen in post-pandemic America. Fran’s project “Valor” will continue its development in part with Center Theatre Group (CTG). In response to the need for streaming content during a time when gathering is not possible, Fran has formed Top Seed Productions, a producing company focused on the creation of online shows and streaming events. With local plays and arts pivoting to online presentations, and youth education shifting to zoom, the number of people who will benefit from Fran’s arts creation, contribution, and advocacy will likely be greater than when people would be gathering in a theatre or classroom with a set number of seats. Her work resonates with the Los Angeles arts scene.

Jasmine Elbarbary, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment
Meet Jasmine
As the Chief Sustainability Officer for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Jasmine works with a wide-range of stakeholders to implement the City of Los Angeles’ Green New Deal. Jasmine helped launch the “Green New Deal Tool Kit” for neighborhood councils to accelerate sustainable action in communities. Jasmine strengthens the advocacy of neighborhood councils, helping to save trees from removal, improving the air quality, and championing policies promoting environmental justice. Jasmine is a key intraocular and a valuable resource, facilitating community partnerships and building capacity within environmental organizations. Jasmine actively works to empower young Angelenos, channeling the voices of generation Z, by teaching students the skill to effectively navigate the city’s legislative process.

In 2021, Jasmine will help to train an army of smart, capable, environmental stewards by creating a space where collaboration thrives within the neighborhood council system. Jasmine will teach neighborhood councils effective advocacy skills and how to promote environmental justice in communities disproportionately affected by its impacts, focusing the 1,800 neighborhood council board members and the 2 million millennials and Gen Zs in the City of Los Angeles.

Glen Granholm, Vice President Of Business Development at ETC Building & Design, Inc.

Meet Glen
Glen is in the business of community resilience. Glen has long played a significant role in helping families, schools and organizations become more resilient to major earthquake. Glen has been instrumental in helping a vital community institution, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, successfully receive a significant FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program grant (over $600,000) for non-structural retrofit that will allow the Food Bank to function after an earthquake and continue to serve Angelinos when food resources are needed most.

Along with moving the LA Regional Foodbank retrofit forward, he will also be part of The California Office of Statewide Healthcare Planning & Development’s (OSHPD) implementation of the first ever pre-approval (OPM) for a fastening system that the International Code Council evaluated. This will shorten time frames and ease costs involved in securing items in hospitals. Glen is working with the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup (CREW) in developing an effective retrofit and readiness methodology for non-structural elements in all schools in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. These efforts should benefit other geographic regions and sectors as well. Glen will work with the Earthquake Country Alliance to help non-profits access grant money for earthquake retrofits and train new retrofit experts who can perform essential seismic anchorage of furniture and equipment.

This impact will improve regional resilience to major earthquake. All sectors are interdependent in ensuring regional recovery from a major earthquake and Glen’s expertise will support major universities, life science companies, and hospitals in developing engineering-based earthquake bracing protocols, creating a more resilient Los Angeles region.

Adjoa Jones, Infant and Maternal Health Racial Equity, Public Health Advocate, Leader, Convener

Meet Adjoa
Adjoa has served as a public health professional for over 25 years, providing education and awareness for women, men and youth of color to ensure equitable health and social services throughout L.A. County and our nation. Adjoa’s most recent work is as visionary co-creator of the first South Los Angeles/South Bay African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Community Action Team, developed to improve the pregnancy and birth outcomes for pregnant/parenting Black women, birthing persons, infants and their families by creating strategies and interventions to save the lives of Black moms and babies. This is inclusive of ending structural and systemic racism in our health care systems through policy change and partnerships between community and government. Her vision and development of AAIMM CAT has now been replicated by other health leaders in three other regions in L.A. County. Additionally, the first CAT helped to launch a larger AAIMM initiative which is now Countywide.

The work of the AAIMM CATs will further be expanded throughout Los Angeles County with a focus on race, equity and inclusion first beginning in the womb, through inclusion of women and birthing persons reproductive justice. Further, the work of the L.A. County AAIMM initiative will continue to focus on several strategies, including expansion of Doula services, with a focus on policy (e.g. AB 2258 – Doula Medi-cal Expansion Bill). The overall goal will be to support of uplift women, birthing persons and their families through work locally, statewide and nationally.The initial benefit of Adjoa’s continued work will impact those served throughout Los Angeles County, then will expand to all Mothers, birthing persons, infants and their families as the pregnancy and birth outcomes of the target demographic is improved.

Eli Kaufman, Executive Director at Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Meet Eli
Eli is dedicated and has a passion for making Los Angeles more connected, livable, and more mobile for everyone whether on a bike, on foot, or on a scooter. His enthusiasm inspires hope and enables people to see that utilizing alternatives modes of getting around is doable. Through his leadership, Los Angeles will achieve mobility equity and become a “15-Minute City” which is a global movement reimagines urban spaces to ensure that essential needs are no farther than a 15-minutes trip by foot, bike and transit.

Eli and his team’s goal in 2021 is to transforming access to schools, medical care, public open spaces, nutritious food, affordable housing and employment. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) is committed to scaling each of their programs to supplement those in existence, including Metro BEST and various advocacy campaigns that support the growing community of people benefiting from an improved lived experience by riding bikes. Eli has worked to change the transportation landscape of Los Angeles to be more bike, pedestrian, and transit friendly while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions for a healthier, more equitable and sustainable place to live for everyone.

Kris Larson, President & Chief Executive Officer at The Hollywood Partnership 

Meet Kris

Kristopher “Kris” Larson arrived in Hollywood in early 2019, charged with guiding the organization that was known at the time as the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance into a new era. With the merger of two business improvement districts, the organization undertook a strategic planning process, which resulted in the “Hollywood in Focus” 5 year plan. Following that, a rebranding effort culminated in the new name, website, and mission statement for the organization. Throughout the pandemic, Kris has continued to serve as a strong leader, always forward-thinking. He has pushed for the organization to become truly community-focused, inclusive, and vital.

Given the economic crisis, this year Larson has fast-tracked the launch of The Hollywood Partnership’s economic development program, with an emphasis on supporting the storefront economy. The program aims to help the District’s existing businesses survive, and when things open back up, also help recruit new businesses that better serve the neighborhood. Additionally, Larson has worked with the Hollywood 4WRD coalition of social service providers to assist the group in formalizing its own strategic blueprint, to address the homeless crisis in Hollywood. Not only will these programs help businesses recover, anyone who holds a place for Hollywood in their hearts will benefit from the work Larson is piloting.

Jeffrey Lee, Community Caretaker | Public-Private Partnerships Builder

Meet Jeffrey
Jeffrey has been an impact maker in numerous capacities and leadership positions he holds in the community. As an advisory board member for the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, Jeffrey ensures that the quality of life for the San Gabriel Valley citizens is maintained and elevated through his work on the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Board. Sustainability, equity, and economic development are also important to Jeffrey, which he pursues through his work as a planning commissioner for the City of Temple City. His leadership in helping the city consider the historically overlooked or undiscussed items inspires those that he works with. In his work at Southern California Edison, Jeffrey advocates for the communities that are most in need and creates strong partnerships resulting in stronger and more resilient communities.

As Jeffrey continues his work in 2021 in the community engagement and corporate giving group at Edison, look out for Jeffrey to make an even bigger impact in helping our communities adopt sustainable and economically vibrant policies. His work with the nonprofit world, local government, and at SCE reflect his passion to champion clean energy policies. Jeffrey is also active in the API community where he is taking on a larger role as a community leader. Jeffrey has often spoken about the common goals and policies of many of our ethnic communities. Jeffrey is a bridge builder between groups, specifically with regard to the African American/Black and Latino Communities.

Thomas Lee, Executive Director, Friends LA

Meet Thomas
Thomas is a leader of Friends of the Children – LA, a non-profit that identifies at-risk children and dedicates resources to provide mentors who support them through their entire childhood. He has an empathetic approach to his leadership style and is also deeply connected to the policy, politics, and environment of the industry. Using his power of convening to navigate paths that forge strategic partnerships and coalitions of support.

Thomas has established the Black Male Initiative that will reach hundreds of youth in 2021. He has been working closely with the L.A. County Chief Executive Office and the County Office of Child Protection on identifying funding for this pilot program that supports black boys in foster care between the ages of 4 and 6 whose parents were in foster care and live in Metropolitan LA, South Los Angeles, the surrounding Inglewood area, and the Antelope Valley.

Patrick MacFarlane, Government Relations Manager at Child Care Resource Center

Meet Patrick
Patrick MacFarlane is an emerging leader in early childhood education. He effects change locally and statewide in his role as the Government Relations Manager for the Child Care Resource Center and through his appointment to the State Legislature’s Early Childhood Policy Council Parent Advisory Committee. Patrick was also elected as the Vice President of Administration of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats. Patrick’s work with the Child Care Resource Center and State Legislature’s Early Childhood Policy Council Parent Advisory Committee serves working families here in Los Angeles and statewide. Pre-pandemic, the Child Care Resource Center had a waiting list of 29,074 families desperate for childcare support for their 52,231 children.

As the economy rebounds, Patrick’s work will be critical for working families who need access to care and desperately-needed subsidies. Childcare providers continue to safely support working families as schools and employers evolve their policies to reflect a worsening pandemic and vaccine distribution. Patrick’s work ensures that the child care industry survives the pandemic with adequate support from government and by making sure that communities most impacted by COVID have the resources needed to recover.

Caine Monroy, Gen-Z Entrepreneur

Meet Caine
Caine made his entrance as an impact maker when, as a 9 year old boy, he built an arcade out of cardboard from his dad’s auto shop. His first customer was Nirvan Mullick, a filmmaker was blown away by the creativity and ingenuity of Caine’s Arcade, which included a homemade claw machine made out of a s-hook, yarn and a cardboard box, and Caine crawling inside the cardboard boxes to manually distribute the tickets when a player would win a game. Nirvan wanted more people in the community to experience Caine’s Arcade so he planned a surprise flash mob for Caine where hundreds of people showed up to play. The flashmob, and Caine, received news coverage that reached the front page of Reddit and Caine quickly became an internet sensation.

Caine continues to use his imagination to invent and create today. Inspired by Caine’s innovation and the wave of cardboard creativity that boomed after the virality of the Caine’s Arcade video, a non profit, was born to “find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship.”

In 2021, Caine will release his first book.

Hilary Norton, Chairwoman, CTC & Executive Director of FASTLinkDTLA

Meet Hilary
Hilary Norton brings a deep understanding of the needs of diverse stakeholders to her work in reimagining transportation and mobility in the 21st Century. With more than 28 years of experience in public policy, community development and transportation, she uses her expertise, compassion, and conviction to direct innovative public policies that meet community needs while addressing critical climate priorities. In her roles as Chairwoman of the California Transportation Commission and Executive Director of FASTLinkDTLA, she is leading initiatives that will improve transportation across communities in California for generations. Under Hilary’s leadership, the CTC recently approved a 2 Billion Dollar initiative for 56 new transportation projects throughout California to reduce traffic, improve goods movement, increase transit service, and invest in bicycle and pedestrian improvements, while also creating more than 100,000 jobs.

Hillary’s leadership on these projects will move California towards greater transportation system connectivity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote a healthier lifestyle through more public transit, walking and biking. They will also improve efficiency in commerce and allow Californians to better access jobs, healthcare, and entertainment destinations. These large-scale transportation improvements will make life healthier and wealthier for twelve million Angeleno, forty million Californians and provide a model for the rest of the country. This impact will be multiplied by the many generations to come whose lives will be easier due to her work.

Sasha Renee Perez, Mayor at City of Alhambra

Meet Sasha
Sasha Renée Pérez is an educator, community organizer, and policy advocate who has spent her career championing the needs of underserved communities across California. She led a statewide campaign that successfully secured $97 million dollars to increase college access and college affordability for all California students. During the same time, she was elected to her local neighborhood council and worked on issues such as neighborhood beautification and transportation. She has continued her work on pressing policy issues, led statewide campaigns, and educated constituents from across California on how to effectively fight for policies to improve their community. In the last 10 years she has played an important role in passing historic legislation that increased healthcare access, expanded government transparency, and provided protections for victims of violent crimes.

On November 3rd, 2020, Sasha was elected to Alhambra’s City Council, making her the youngest woman to serve in the city’s history and the youngest female mayor in San Gabriel Valley history. As she fulfills her term as Mayor, she has committed to increase opportunities for small business owners, and implement policies to encourage affordable housing development.

The performing arts are projected to be the last to rebound and reopen in post-pandemic America. Fran’s project “Valor” will continue its development in part with Center Theatre Group (CTG). In response to the need for streaming content during a time when gathering is not possible, Fran has formed Top Seed Productions, a producing company focused on the creation of online shows and streaming events. With local plays and arts pivoting to online presentations, and youth education shifting to zoom, the number of people who will benefit from Fran’s arts creation, contribution, and advocacy will likely be greater than when people would be gathering in a theatre or classroom with a set number of seats. Her work resonates with the Los Angeles arts scene.

Alexandra Ramirez, Community Leader

Meet Alexandra
When COVID hit Northeast Los Angeles, Alex mobilized staff to organize a food distribution program to meet residents’ most basic, immediate needs. She managed an effort to recruit over 150 volunteers and recruited more than 30 partners from organizations managing food, housing, basic needs, and income insecurity programs. What began as a program to distribute food evolved–with her leadership–into a regional, resident-led food and resource operation. Her vision and approach to this work have made it possible for residents to design and implement solutions to problems hindering their success.

Alex will guide LA Mas’s community development work and establish the organization’s position in the community as a key, consistent stakeholder committed to transformational, inclusive change in a time of resource scarcity and economic uncertainty. Through collaboration with key resident leaders, Alex will complete drafting a theory of change document that seeks to upend traditional power dynamics and ensure residents are equipped to meaningfully participate in impacting their own futures. An example of this work includes the Northeast Los Angeles Mercadito and Community Response, a well-organized food hub that is set to transform into a regional and resident-led services access center, reaching hundreds of individuals and families.

Genevieve Riutort, Deputy Director and Chief Development Officer at Westside Food Bank

Meet Genevieve
A big part of Genevieve’s current work has been taking leadership in envisioning Westside Food Bank’s cooperative community role in post-COVID LA. To that end, she is the leader of an ongoing working group on food security with the Westside Coalition on Housing, Hunger, and Health. This work involves marshaling a wide range of stakeholders who are identifying current and future food assistance needs, while also assessing and understanding the emergence of new, positive community responses to the current and likely sustained local need. Genevieve is seeing the challenges and the opportunities emerging from the COVID experience and how this will change how local food insecurity will be addressed in the future.

Genevieve will continue leading the Westside Coalition’s working group on food security in developing useful data and a narrative that will guide how cooperative efforts will better address local food insecurity. 260,000 people who are food insecure on the Westside of LA County will benefit from Genevieve’s work in 2021, and her leadership will spread these innovative solutions to some of our community’s most pressing issues.

Enrique Robles, District Director at U.S House of Representatives

Meet Enrique
Enrique has shown an exemplary level of leadership, mentorship, and coalition building. As District Director for Congressmember Judy Chu, he oversees the day to day operations of the office and staff. In this role, he works closely with each staff member to develop their respective policy and program portfolios. Additionally, he has mentored interns by helping to develop their skill sets to prepare them for their next role. Many of his former interns are currently working for prominent elected officials across California. The policy portfolio he covers is extensive but his most remarkable accomplishments is helping establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Veterans Health Clinic in the San Gabriel Valley. From coalition building to stakeholder engagement meetings, he worked tirelessly on Congresswoman Chu’s behalf to make these projects happen.

In the new legislative year, Enrique will be working closely with the Congresswoman, staff and colleagues to develop strategies for outreach and programs relevant to the constituents of the 27th Congressional District. Additionally, he will continue working with local stakeholders and cities on issues related to the Veterans Health Clinic in the San Gabriel Valley as well as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Enrique’s work mentoring staff and supporting district programs will improve the lives of Representative Chu’s San Gabriel Valley constituents.

Elianne Rodriguez, Operations Manager at Bixel Exchange SBDC

Meet Elianne
Elianne has been a pillar of strategy, strength, and care for underrepresented communities and an advocate for small businesses and education in technology for years. It is only in the difficulties of 2020 that many of the true mission focused problems solvers have been able to shine. She has moved the needle significantly for Bixel Exchange businesses, but also worked toward scaling out financial, business, and technical assistance advising during COVID. In addition to the professional accomplishments in economic development she has continuously worked to be an advocate in the room for the underserved and underrepresented. She’s a true heroine at heart, pushing for care, empathy while driving to support businesses, employees, and prosperity for all Angelenos.

Elianne will reach hundreds of thousands people in the wider LA small business community by leading efforts to offer tech training and in-language financial literacy solutions to underrepresented founders in tech, youth seeking opportunities, and small businesses and their employees.

Teresa Roman, Community Leader with Accion Comunitaria

Meet Teresa
Teresa is a community leader who has been supporting working class and immigrant families in Cypress Park for the last two decades. She has worked with local schools and nonprofit organizations like Mujeres de la Tierra and the Children’s Institute to ensure that the most vulnerable people in her community receive the support and services they need. She serves on her Neighborhood Council and collaborates with the local Tenants Union to support families who are facing displacement. During the pandemic, Teresa formed the grassroots organization, Accion Comunitaria, to provide food staples and produce to 200+ families weekly. Her contribution has inspired community members to form their own food distribution programs in Highland Park, El Sereno and Elysian Valley.

As food insecurity continues to increase, Teresa plans to expand her existing food program by partnering with local nonprofit organizations LA Más and Food Forward to provide more fresh produce to hundreds of residents through multiple weekly food distributions. In addition, Teresa is building partnerships with other organizations to develop a community garden and urban farming initiative to support families in the Cypress Park area.

Maria Salinas, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Meet Maria
Maria is the 1st woman CEO in the 133 year history of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and the 1st Latina. Ms. Salinas is an appointee to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Commission on the Future of Work and named to his Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force. She was appointed to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100, a distinction reserved for the top 100 Chambers across the country. She represents the Los Angeles business community in state- wide policy initiatives with the Coalition of Regional Economic Association Leaders (R.E.A.L.), she is a member of the Board of Directors of Mobility 21, a regional transportation effort, and an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti to the MEXLA Commission, a foreign policy initiative between Mexico and Los Angeles. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Music Center, Pacific Council, UnidosUS and Southern California Leadership Network among others. She launched OneLA, and was instrumental in the creating and distributing the COVID-19 Fund.

Natalie Samarjian, President & CEO of Coro Southern California

Meet Natalie
Natalie is committed to social justice, human rights and transformative leadership. moves her mission, community and world forward with vision, courage and a firm commitment to equity and justice. As the CEO of Coro, she has transformed the organization, growing it from a one-program organization to one with a portfolio of programs and partnerships. She also maintains a firm commitment to service, serving her community through board service, mentorship and civic commission service.

Natalie has deepened her human rights work this past year, by developing programming to elevate the profile of public servants who are committed to human rights. Natalie’s work through Coro benefits hundreds of emerging civic leaders across Southern California (and beyond, as Coro’s reach has grown to a national audience in our new virtual environment). Through her work with Emerge California, more Democratic women who are running for elected office will be prepared to succeed and lead, and her LA City and LA County commission service will benefit residents who reap the benefits of her policy impact.

Amber Sheikh, Managing Senior Associate at Thurlow/Associates

Meet Amber
As a non-profit consultant, Amber Sheikh has an expansive knowledge of the City’s history with homelessness and housing. She utilized this experience to lead the L.A. City Council District 15 Working Group on Homelessness — made up of all neighborhood councils in CD15, community leaders, and advocates — to push for policy and housing solutions in the City of L.A. With her leading this group, they have identified over 900 temporary beds, and 1,200 permanent supportive housing units in three years. Amber understands the need to balance solutions that will positively impact those living on the streets as well as those living adjacent to the unsheltered, and she seeks solutions that are practical and sustainable for residents of the 15th District.

She, along with the CD15 Working Group, will soon see groundbreakings for almost half of their permanent supportive housing projects in CD15. They will celebrate the opening of a Project HomeKey, a Pallet Shelter, and other housing solutions. In 2021, 90% of the 2400 unsheltered residents in CD15 will have their needs supported and met largely due to her efforts.

Raygena Smith, Youth Advancement Director for LINXS

Meet Raygena
Raygena dedicated her time to educate, invest in, and train students in High Impact Areas through strategic partnerships and STEM Construction- related careers. Throughout her years of holding leadership positions in California she has created educational programs for 200 +students. As the LAX Integrated Express Solutions (LINXS) Youth Engagement Coordinator, she strives to educate, empower, students, ensuring that they are well equipped and encouraged to apply for not only STEM and Construction Related careers but find purpose in their journey.

Raygena has partnered with many school districts by hosting Industry presentations geared to various Career Technical Education and STEM Pathways. Through programming, students of all ages from local schools learn about the Automated People Mover (APM) project and are guided through age-appropriate workshops and activities designed to introduce them to STEM concepts and construction career trades. She has hosted youth summits, and has held or participated in a total of 100 plus youth outreach events throughout Los Angeles and worked with community partners to conduct workshops for parents, teachers, and community members.

Raygena will take The Automated People Mover Project to more schools in 2021, which will hold a lasting impact on the students of today by offering scholarships, summer internship opportunities and supporting career fairs. She will help establish a pipeline of construction and engineering professionals that will build Los Angeles’ future.

Ben Stapleton, Executive Director, USGBC-LA

Meet Ben
Ben is a recognized sustainability leader, who has extensive experience leading impactful sustainability organizations and environmental conservation initiatives aimed at protecting the environment and tackling climate change — from founding JLL’s Cleantech Practice Group to his key role in developing the globally-respected Los Angeles Clean Incubator (LACI). At US Green Building Council-LA (USGBC-LA), he has envisioned and launched programs to expand the tent of those contributing to a sustainable built environment. “Sustainability for all” is his focus, as demonstrated by the Healthy Building Alliance and the new Landscaper Certification Program. The Net Zero Accelerator demonstrates his business mind: how to bridge the crucial gap for building technologies between innovation and market adoption. Ben is that rare mix of ‘vision’ and ‘practical’. He believes in community, as reflected in initiatives he champions, the team he assembled, and the deft manner in which he led a major pivot to impactful online education, training and workforce development during this COVID year.

Ben has been very focused on bringing the education and engagement in sustainability for the organization to those who haven’t traditionally had access. Ben will take the Sustainability Fundamentals education to 500 students in 2021, the Green Landscaper Certification will serve 150 students in 2021, and the Green Building Corps will add 20 additional members in 2021. Additionally, Ben envisions assisting another 20 innovative technology startups through the Net Zero Accelerator, expanding USGBC-LA membership to 500 new members with a focus on diversity and underrepresented groups, and more.

Kameale Terry, Co-Founder & CEO at ChargerHelp

Meet Kameale
Kameale is co-founder of ChargerHelp!, the first and only on-demand repair app for electric vehicle charging stations that not only fills a key gap in the adoption of electric vehicles but also effectively upskills historically underrepresented communities to connect them with jobs in tech. Beyond her day job, Kameale also has been leading and mentoring a cohort of underrepresented youth at Los Angeles Clean Incubator (LACI) to support their careers in cleantech. Her creativity and commitment to both sustainability and equity has and will impact a new cohort of cleantech professionals.

In 2021, ChargerHelp! will make significant strides in the workforce development sector and contribute to America’s economic superpower to create jobs rapidly. In an essential step forward, The U.S. The Department of Labor officially approved an O-NET code for ChargerHelp!. This code is the official identification for occupational information used by students, job seekers, and businesses. Because of this, ChargerHelp! now has the ability to create more job opportunities for certified technicians.

Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director, LISC-LA

Meet Tunua
Tunua Thrash-Ntuk is the Executive Director of Los Angeles Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). With nearly two decades of experience in affordable housing, community development and neighborhood revitalization policy, Tunua has led LISC LA since 2015 to uplift communities. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, LISC has worked with small business owners and nonprofit organizations from impacted communities to distribute $100 million in grants through the Los Angeles COVID-19 Regional Recovery Fund. Under Tunua’s leadership, LISC LA developed toolkits for affordable housing owners and local governments in Southern California to navigate the economic stress brought on by the pandemic. Tunua Thrash-Ntuk is committed to serving diverse BIPOC communities, working closely with Angelenos on sustainability, economic development, affordable housing and more.

In 2021, Tunua’s priority for LISC LA is uplifting Black homeowners, small-business owners and communities throughout the region through Project 10X, and the Black Economic Agenda Los Angeles 2021. As an Impact Maker, Tunua hopes to help the 8% of Black residents in Los Angeles bridge the wealth and opportunity gap – whether it be through growing healthy communities or helping Black homeowners generate lasting equity. But her work doesn’t end in 2021, as the next decade of Project 10X through LISC LA will help lay the foundation for racial equity and justice in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Wilson, Director of Enterprise Programs at Chrysalis

Meet Elizabeth
Elizabeth has been a respected leader in the social enterprise field for over 16 years, providing hundreds of transitional job opportunities to individuals experiencing homelessness and other economic barriers. In her current role as Director of Chrysalis Staffing, she manages a team that oversees placement of clients in temporary and permanent roles with Chrysalis hiring partners.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth quickly shifted the focus of Chrysalis Staffing to industries with growing job opportunities. While many Staffing clients had previously been placed in food service and hospitality jobs, job opportunities were now primarily found in the janitorial and healthcare fields. Because of this shift, Staffing has seen a 75% increase in job placements through partnerships with the statewide initiative, Project Roomkey and other hiring partners. This growth represents vital employment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Elizabeth led Chrysalis Staffing through a time of unprecedented growth in 2020 and she’s not planning to slow down in 2021. Project Roomkey sites are anticipated to remain open through at least the middle of 2021, providing much needed jobs in a time of increased unemployment rates. When the Project Roomkey initiative winds down and Project Homekey sites are launched, Elizabeth’s team is ramping up plans to continue partnering with both the City and County of Los Angeles to meet staffing needs. To assist with this continued growth Elizabeth is overseeing a digital transformation of her department. With these upgrades the team will be able to increase overall efficiency, leading to more clients and businesses served, projecting the placement of nearly 600 clients in 2021.

Dan Witzling, Executive Director of the American Cancer Society, Los Angeles/Central Coast
Meet Dan
As Executive Director of the American Cancer Society, Los Angeles/Central Coast and an engaged Advisory Board Member of the Healthy Air Alliance, Dan Witzling actively seeks to educate communities across SoCal on the impacts of unhealthy air and dangerous pollutants in the air we breathe, as well as other unexpected impacts on their health based on where they live. His work has emphasized the inequities present for low-income and communities of color living near transportation corridors, who are exposed to harmful pollutants from petroleum fuel vehicle emissions. Dan’s dedication to California’s next generation is also evident in his years of service with the Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Dan is relentlessly working to save lives by helping more people engage in wellness behavior while supporting research to find cures by translating scientific data to reach diverse audiences, particularly vulnerable populations since they recognize that ZIP code is a higher cancer risk factor than genetic code. This year, he will continue to advance action on social determinants of health and work on the issues that impact all Angelenos.