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2018 Next Generation Fellowship Highlights California’s Emerging Justice Leaders

The 2018 Next Generation Fellows come together with CJCJ and MILPA facilitators in Sacramento, CA.

The 2018 Next Generation Fellows come together with CJCJ and MILPA facilitators in Sacramento, CA.

The Next Generation Fellowship (NGF) is a leadership development and policy advocacy training for formerly incarcerated or justice-involved individuals from across California. Our program supports emerging leaders in 1) advancing racial justice and cultural healing, and 2) influencing state and local government through policy advocacy. The fellowship focuses on the movement to end mass incarceration with an emphasis on promoting healthy, safe communities.

This year CJCJ and Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement (MILPA) were proud to bring together 15 justice reform leaders for the 2018 fellowship. We facilitated three 2-day sessions in Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles. On January 15, 2019 we organized a graduation ceremony for the fellows and our LA-based partners. This was an opportunity for the fellows to reflect on their experiences and highlight their future vision for safe and healthy communities. We congratulate all of our 2018 Next Generation Fellows, who are listed below.

Rena Alspaw

San Diego, CA | San Diego Mesa College

Rena is a hard-working SDSU student, majoring in Social Work, with a goal of specializing in “Community Corrections Case Management” (Criminal Justice). She has been a guest speaker at various events, with the objective of giving hope to individuals waiting for parole as well as those paroling after decades of incarceration. She has a deep understanding of the uphill battle that rehabilitation is and this inspired her to obtain her certification as a drug counselor and dedicate her career to the service field. In the future, as a social worker, Rena plans to support community members and create policy change through advocacy.

LaVell Baylor

Culver City, CA | Freedom 4 Youth

LaVell is a socially engaged artist, writer, activist, abolitionist and policy advocate. She advocates for justice reform fueled by her belief that none of us are free until we are all free from discrimination, mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement. In addition to NGF, LaVell is a 2018 UCLA Beyond the Bars Fellow and a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, InsideOut Writers, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and CUT#50. She is currently the Deputy Director of Freedom 4 Youth where she works to partner UCSB students with youth in the juvenile justice system. LaVell’s passion for making the world a better place for children and humanity is the driving force for her hard work and plans to use justice reform to make her goals a reality in the future.

Louis Gutierrez

Salinas, CA | MILPA

Louis is a father, mentor, and advocate for change. He believes that the old concept of locking people up and keeping them isolated in a cell with no outlets to improve themselves does not work. His lifetime goal is to see the justice system overhauled and improved. Currently, he works to inspire, educate, and ultimately give hope to others by sharing his personal story. In the future, Louis would like to share his story with policymakers, corrections leaders, community members, and advocates in the hopes of empowering change. He firmly believes that the future of true criminal justice reform rests in the hands of people who have experienced it firsthand.

Lucero Herrera

San Francisco, CA | Young Women’s Freedom Center

Lucero works to change the narratives of young women and girls who have been impacted by the justice through reform. Rather than having people speak on behalf of women and girls impacted by the system, she wants to help them share their own stories and unique voices as they the experts on their own lives. She currently serves as a community leader in San Francisco’s Reentry Council. In addition, she is a research organizer at the Young Women’s Freedom Center and is working on a research project for women and young girls who have been impacted by foster care and the justice system. In the future, she plans to continue building strong voices to fight against our oppressive criminal justice system.

Edgar Ibarra

Watsonville, CA | MILPA

Edgar strongly believes that reform needs to take place on every level of the justice system, including the hearts and minds of those who hold key positions of power within our government. He is currently a community college student dedicated to justice reform, and plans to transfer to a four-year university in the coming year. He is working towards gaining a deeper understanding of the legislative process as well as the ways in which research is conducted in order to end mass incarceration. While at the same time building relationships with like-minded people in order to achieve victories that will reform the justice system

Terah Lawyer

Oakland, CA | Impact Justice

Terah believes our current justice system does not heal our communities but rather continues to monetize and dehumanize people, which creates a toxic experience on top of an unfortunate circumstance. She is a spokesperson for the Drop LWOP campaign where she advocates for prisoners and shares her personal testimony to influence policies. In the future, Terah hopes to own a business that will assist formerly incarcerated individuals with the startup of their own business. Her passion lies in encouraging others to reach their fullest potential and teaching them how to use the pitfalls of their past toward their future success.

Jenifer Leonesio

Sacramento, CA | Project Rebound

Jenifer, a recent graduate from Sacramento State University with a passion for criminal justice reform, sees education as the key to transforming her own live and the lives of others who have faced similar challenges. She believes that incarceration tears down the physical and mental well-being of people directly impacted and disrupts vital human connections within their families and communities. In addition, Jenifer believes the systemic racism that is built into the very core of the justice system needs to be confronted and dismantled. Jenifer is working on gaining an even deeper sense of others’ experiences in order to advocate for justice-involved people in a holistic and practical way.

James Martinez

Davis, CA

James works towards reforming the justice system because he believes that it is perpetuating racial inequality and racial injustice in every sense of its existence. Throughout his life, James has witnessed many injustices and developed a deep desire to pursue justice on behalf of the disenfranchised. Now, he has taken it upon himself to be a part of the solution. He is currently working on pursuing higher education with the goal of obtaining a law degree. In the future, James would like to use his degree to bring change to a broken justice system.

Cualnezca Tonantzin Miranda (Tona)

Sacramento, CA | Native Vote Project

Cualnezca (Tona) is an indigenous woman who comes from the Blackfoot, Yaqui, Chichimeca Mexica people, raised by the vibration of La Cultura Cura. She is committed to serving her community and creating a better system for future generations to come. She is determined to address the systems that have failed indigenous communities and those in need since the creation of them. Today, she continues the work that her elders within her community have started with a focus on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Tona works to form culturally-based pathways to postsecondary education and encourages youth and communities to be more vocal for policies that will directly affect them. In the future, she hopes to foster partnerships between her community and justice reform organizations to continue creating a bridge for the next generation of reformers.

Juana Ochoa

Los Angeles, CA | Amity Foundation

Juana is passionate about the ways in which the physical environment has an impact on people’s health and well-being. She works to move communities toward adopting and developing sustainable urban agriculture and community gardens as a way to revitalize local neighborhoods. She supports community members returning home by providing platforms where they can develop critical consciousness and breakaway from personal and structurally oppressive cycles. In the future, she plans to bridge health, education, and employment by developing opportunities in the green sector for people in reentry. 

Katrina Ruiz
Merced, CA | Youth Leadership Institute

Katrina’s drive to reform the justice system is fueled by recognition that it fails people of color and school-age youth. She recognizes that individuals who, despite their best efforts in challenging circumstances, must battle a number of challenges including discrimination and poverty during reentry.  In the future, she hopes to use her education, experiences, and knowledge from NGF to push for justice reform locally and nationally. Her long-term goal is to write and endorse legislation to ensure justice-involved people are not persecuted.

Watani Stiner

Oakland, CA | Root & Rebound

Watani hopes to change the system through the art of storytelling with its power to challenge and shape the narrative. He partners with various organizations and schools to help young people understand their personal narrative and change it for the better. Watani’s own powerful experiences with activism and incarceration uniquely position him to support and understand the youth that he serves. In the future, he hopes to aid marginalized and criminalized youth in further understanding the complex issues that affect them by hosting healing spaces where they can begin to

Somdeng Danny Thongsy

Oakland, CA | Asian Prisoners Support Committee

Somdeng (Danny) is an active community member who is passionate for changing the harsh criminal justice system. In the past, he has participated in advocacy and criminal justice reform efforts with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus as a fellow. Additionally, he has been actively involved in reentry work as a member of the Asian Prisoners Support Committee. In the future, Danny plans to continue to collaborate with partners who are doing similar work and continue to share his experience with others to raise awareness of issues that he and members of his community face. 

Tré Vasquez

Santa Rosa, CA | North Bay Organizing Project

Tré is a youth organizer who is dedicated to building power within young people of color around political issues including the school-to-prison pipeline, justice reform, and educational inequities. He has made it his life’s work to organize young people to build a better future for communities by empowering them to understand and influence policymaking. In the future, he hopes to pass the skills he has learned through NGF on to the youth he serves. In all that he does, Tré works to create a sense of community through healing practices.

To learn more please contact nextgenfellowshipcal@gmail.com or (415) 621-5661 x. 103 with questions.

Related Links:

Voices of 2018 NGF Fellows

August 2018 Juvenile Justice Information Exchange Op-ed on Next Generation Fellowship

Keywords: Brian Goldstein, MILPA, Next Generation Fellowship

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