The California Forward Young Leaders Advisory Council — an eager group of young leaders dedicated to creating an equitable and sustainable California by influencing policy driven conversations — welcomes 16 new members to their second cohort this year.
Member of the first cohort, Radha Carollo, shared,“the Council brought together young minds with fresh ideas and gave them a seat at the table. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with my peers to advance inclusive policy solutions and look forward to continuing the process of building an equitable California with our new members.”
After an influential year with the inaugural cohort, the Council has expanded their efforts to continue hosting impactful conversations with policy makers, by creating a second cohort with plans to continue elevating young people’s voices in these spaces.
We enthusiastically present and welcome the following new members:
Abigail Mighell is a recent graduate of the University of California, Davis where she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and history in June 2021. Originally from the Coachella Valley, she is dedicated to building a more resilient and sustainable California through her policy focus areas of health and environmental policy.
“I look forward to exercising my own interests in health, environmental, and economic policy while collaborating with such a well-rounded group of my peers in the Council to educate and work toward a more inclusive and successful California,” she said.
Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza began her work in higher education as a student at Modesto Junior College where she first served on the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. She is currently in her last year at UC Berkeley, earning her bachelor’s degree in geography and political science and serves on the University of California Board of Regents.
Regarding her work with the Council, Atsilvsgi Zaragoza shared “Inequity persists across many institutions, I want to expand my work outward. I especially can’t wait to be a part of a driven team again. We get so much done when we can pair our strengths.”
Alexander Walker-Griffin has served in numerous leadership roles from his two-terms as student body president at Contra Costa College to his contributions on the Board of Directors for the Hercules Education Foundation. Walker-Griffin was appointed by Governor Brown to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and was one of the founding members of Calbright College.
In November 2020 he was elected to the Hercules City Council. He is a soldier in the California Guard and an avid skateboarder.
Brian Lin is a rising senior at Encinal High School in Alameda. Having been involved in local and state-wide advocacy work, he has a strong passion for youth and leadership, specifically around student representation. Lin will be serving his third term as the student board member for Alameda Unified School District for the 2021-22 school year.
“I believe that student voices are crucial to the success of a school district,” Lin says. He is excited to join the Council and looks forward to working with other young leaders to build a better California for all.
Chelsea Acevedo is a first-generation college student at the University of California Irvine.
In June 2022 she will be receiving a bachelor’s degree in criminology, law, and society with two minors in humanities and law, and political science.
Through the Council she aims to further regional and cultural representation in public policy and ensure that all Californians regardless of their background can use their voice to shape policy and social change.
Colm O’Reilly Fitzgerald is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in legal studies at University of California, Santa Cruz. Fitzgerald is proud to be a resident of Stockton and of his Irish roots. He credits his upbringing with instilling in him a strong passion for social equity work. Fitzgerald served in the Student Senate for the Community Colleges and he was appointed to serve as a member of the California Community College Board of Governors.
Fitzgerald shared “The Young Leaders Advisory Council is an opportunity for me to utilize my voice to ensure the light of opportunity for all Californians becomes brighter still.”
Eduardo González recently graduated from Riverdale High School and will be attending Fresno State’s Smittcamp Family Honors College as one of its 50 selected scholarship recipients.
At Fresno State, he will be double majoring in agriculture business and political science with hopes of attending law school afterwards.
González shared that he “can’t wait to not only learn more but create change as well!”
Isis Morfin is a current student at Hartnell Community College. She is working towards earning an associate in arts for transfer (AA-T) degree in psychology and administration of justice. After earning her AA-T, Morfin will pursue her bachelor’s degree at one of the California State University campuses.
Morfin looks forward to contributing her skills and experience to help motivate other young adults to take action through policy and build an equitable state where all Californians have the opportunity to succeed.
Jazmine Chism is currently a rising sophomore at UCLA pursuing her degree in human biology and society with an emphasis in bioethics and public science policy. She is passionate about healthcare and education access.
By joining the Council, she hopes to further her advocacy and truly equalize opportunity for underserved communities. Chism shared, “I hope to learn more about the nuances of public policy so that we improve the livelihoods of generations to come.”
Joshua Ochoa is currently serving as the Associated Students President at San Francisco State University, and earning his master’s degree in public administration.
Ochoa believes “we must all be and fight for the change that we want to see in the world.”
At SFSU, Ochoa has served students on the Associated Students Board of Directors by advocating for expanding basic needs initiatives, tuition-free public college, and equitable access to public transportation. He is motivated to fight for working-class issues through writing public policy, people-centered urban planning, and a constant push for advocacy and activism.
Krystal Mae Raynes is a Filipina first-generation college student. She is currently earning her bachelor’s degree from California State University, Bakersfield. Raynes has held multiple campus leadership positions from 2018 to 2020. Recently, she served as the social justice and equity officer with the California State Student Association from 2019 to 2020. Currently Raynes serves as the California State University’s 2020-22 Student Trustee.
She is excited to use her experience to help inform her work with the CA FWD Young Leaders Advisory Council.
María Dolores Castillo works to amplify student voices and increase resource accessibility through her leadership as the vice president of diversity and inclusion through the Student Union Assembly. Castillo is a third year student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is double majoring in politics and legal studies.
Castillo expressed that the Council has provided a space where she has been able to work with other folks who are passionate about making major differences for communities all over the state. She also credits the organization with providing opportunities for her to contribute to new spaces and policy discussions.
Mark Borges (he/him) joins the Young Leaders Advisory Council as a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly). He earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental management and protection. While at Cal Poly, he served a variety of roles in the university’s student government program including chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors and President.
Borges shared, “I am excited to work with CA FWD staff as an opportunity to build strong coalitions to solve the challenges of tomorrow.”
Nicole Crawford graduated from Inderkum High School and will be attending UCLA to study political science and sociology. She has worked as the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for her College and Career Readiness program at her high school.
Crawford expressed “I believe that the Council is a community in which we are challenged to engage in the vulnerable discussion of how we can achieve equity for the future. I look forward to the opportunity to learn and build bridges with those around me to create radical and sustainable change in California.”
Sandy Mekany is a third-year undergraduate student at San Diego State University majoring in political science and minoring in sociology. Growing up as a daughter of Iraqi refugees and witnessing the ongoing struggles of the SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) communities, her work is centered around providing economic and social support services to immigrant populations.
Through her work at the Council, she hopes to portray the importance of empathy in public policy. “At the end of the day, we are all human beings. We are all deserving of the same rights and privileges, regardless of the different backgrounds we come from,” she said.
Sauntharya Manikandan recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine where she earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology, law, and society and psychological sciences with a minor in digital information systems.
“I am passionate about working with people to create solutions through research, education, and outreach, so the Council is an opportunity to not only learn about public policy but also become a better advocate for my own community alongside other young leaders,” she says.
The Council supports intergenerational solution building to help solve the most pressing issues facing the state. Learn more about the new members at cafwd.org/ylac.
Ashley Anderson is a second-year student at the University of California Los Angeles. She is currently fulfilling the preliminary requirements to declare neuroscience as a major and minor in African-American studies.