Our twenty RISE Fellows for the 2016 program year represent some of San Diego’s best and brightest community leaders, activists, practitioners, and agents of social change. They have demonstrated their experience in and commitment to a variety of issues affecting urban communities across San Diego, including education, urban planning and redevelopment, food justice, and gang violence prevention.

Nadia was born in Mexico where she studied business in tourism. She began dancing Mexican folkloric dances at the age of five and came to
Continue Reading...
the U.S. fifteen years later to follow her dream of creating her own ballet folklórico program. After six years as an instructor in San Diego and Oakland, she established Ballet Folklórico de San Dieguito & El Tapatío at the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista and the Encinitas Community Center. She has also supported the Folklórico and Mariachi Association (FAMA) at the University of San Diego since 2012. As a volunteer and participant in programs such as the Resident Leadership Academy, she has achieved two important goals: becoming a member of the Linda Vista Anchor Board and becoming a RISE Fellow. It is her hope that these programs will give her the opportunity to continue impacting not just her neighborhood, but San Diego and beyond.
Dree was born in Bakersfield, CA and raised in Dallas, Texas. In 1998, a career advancement with the information technology department at
Continue Reading...
Cardinal Health brought her family to San Diego. Three years later, she followed her passion for people and moved from corporate America to a community-based environment where she began her nonprofit service with Bayview Community Development Corporation. She went on to utilize her information technology background to create basic computer classes for the indigent population at St. Vincent De Paul Village. Deciding to live the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and wanting to do more, Dree created San Diego Black Professionals (SDBP), a family-friendly networking group that serves as the “African American Welcome Wagon” and a resource for people moving to the area by providing the San Diego experience from a black perspective.
Born in Fullerton, CA, Sara’s parents moved their family back to their home country of Honduras when she was three. They lived in San Pedro Sula
Continue Reading...
for over six years where she and her sister further developed their native language, absorbed the culture, and learned the realities of life in a third-world country. Upon their return to California, her family moved to Riverside where her parents still reside. Sara found her passion for Latin America’s rich history and literature as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego. Graduating from UCSD was not easy: she leaned on the support programs and friends available to her, and this is why she believes in supporting students on their educational path. She is grateful to those who supported her, believes in paying it forward, and has dedicated her career to working with educational equity programs.
Terence was born in Albany, GA. He grew up in a military lifestyle and moved every two- to three years before settling in San Diego as a teenager,
Continue Reading...
where he graduated from Mira Mesa High School and attended San Diego State University. Terence joined the San Diego Police Department in 1996. Having worked many different assignments for the organization throughout his nearly twenty-year career, he currently serves as a lieutenant in the Gang Unit. Terence is married and has two children, a 24-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter. He loves sports and works out daily, is very laid back, and enjoys staying home and relaxing.
Stephen helps young people get and stay employed by coordinating youth training opportunities for CONNECT2Careers with the
Continue Reading...
San Diego Workforce Partnership. He has previously provided support to student leadership programs in California schools and performed academic research on online classrooms and social policy. Stephen’s academic background includes coursework at Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker School of Management and School of Educational Studies, and a degree in organizational behavior from Pitzer College. Since 2009, his work has reached over 32,000 youth.
Yessica is actively involved in the San Diego community and has focused her efforts on promoting diversity and inclusion and improving
Continue Reading...
the health and well-being of those in need. She teaches for the School of Arts, Communication, and Social Sciences at Southwestern College and is a past board member of MANA de San Diego, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower Latinas through education, leadership development, community service, and advocacy. She is also a former mentor for Hermanitas, a nationally recognized one-on-one mentorship program, and she holds active leadership positions on STEAM-related initiatives.
Blake was born and raised in San Diego. His first job after graduating from high school was working for Spring Valley Day Camp where he
Continue Reading...
discovered his passion for working with kids and making a positive impact in his community. Having been involved in youth development for over eight years, Blake understands the demand for positive leaders to help guide and shape the next generation and is an advocate for empowering our youth to take control of their own futures. He is excited to embark on this adventure with the RISE Urban Leadership Fellows Program.
Jesse became a first-generation college graduate in 2010 when earned his BA in kinesiology from Chico State University and an MA in
Continue Reading...
postsecondary educational leadership from San Diego State University in 2012. Since then, he has dedicated his entire career to working with organizations and institutions that alter the educational outcomes for young people. He has worked for transformational organizations, such as Reality Changers, that help inner-city youth become the first in their family to go to college. After graduate school, he went on to work for South Bay Community Services, one of the largest multi-social service agencies in San Diego County that touches the lives of more than 50,000 families each year. Recently, he joined the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to help launch a new initiative called the East County Educational Alliance, which guarantees one tuition-free year of college to qualifying East County students.
Born and raised in San Diego, Joseph graduated cum laude from Alliant International University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in communications
Continue Reading...
with an emphasis in marketing and public relations and a minor in psychology. He currently works as the marketing and engagement specialist at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation where he discovered his passion for working to engage and empower youth to become the social innovators and future leaders needed to impact long-term, positive change in their communities. Joseph is looking forward to learning and growing while participating in the RISE Urban Leadership Fellows program.
James is a native San Diegan who attended public K-12 schools, completed the International Baccalaureate diploma at San Diego High School
Continue Reading...
in 1999, and was an Aaron Price Fellow. After graduating from Stanford in 2003, he pursued graduate studies in Krakow, Poland where he lived until 2005. From 2005-2014, he lived Seoul, Moscow, and Istanbul, working for many years in journalism, before turning his professional focus to work at the intersection of education, philanthropy, and social enterprise. Currently, James is a co-founder at Impact San Diego, an organization that educates and accelerates social entrepreneurs in the San Diego-Tijuana region. He chairs the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) in San Diego and serves as co-lead of LRNG – an education technology platform for digital badging – in association with Fab Lab San Diego. James is a 2016 Fellow of the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA). He previously served as program director at the Education Synergy Alliance.
Tristaca is the founder and executive director of NERDS RULE INC where, since 2011, her vision has provided opportunities for youth and teens
Continue Reading...
dealing with bullying, suicide, domestic violence, and low self-worth. She also serves as a mentor and advocate for mental health awareness and works with organizations on adoptions, foster care, probation, and public education. Tristaca is a motivational speaker, writer, director, and facilitator for the Resident Leadership Academy, building community residents to reduce childhood obesity and increase physical activity and public safety. She is the creator of a new program, “A Better Me,” that will develop, strengthen, empower, and create change for those who desire a strong foundation on which to build an empire. Tristaca enjoys traveling, teaching, and making new friends.
Richard is an assistant sheriff with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the first African-American appointed to this position in the
Continue Reading...
department’s history. He is an integral part of its Executive Management Team and is responsible for overseeing the Detention Services Bureau, which is comprised of seven jail facilities, a complex network of support services, and over 1,700 employees. With an average daily population of approximately 5,600 and a budget of $290 million, the San Diego County jail system is one of the largest local detention systems in the country. Richard is also the founder and senior pastor of Perfecting Grace Church in Spring Valley, where he has served since 2012. He is on the board of directors of Toward Maximum Independence and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biblical studies from Southern California Bible Institute. Richard is proud to be a product of the southeastern San Diego community.
A passionate advocate for educational equity and a pragmatic leader, Allison is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology
Continue Reading...
from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a master’s in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School. It was her earlier work as a Teach for America corps member in New York City’s public schools and a founding teacher at KIPP Bridge College Prep in Oakland that lead Allison to graduate study: frustrated by the limited impact of one school, she set out to learn how to think about the success and scalability of thriving systems. Allison is passionate about education because she loves children and justice. She is thrilled to be leading this work to ensure that our democracy delivers on its promise for those who live in America’s Finest City.
Carla is responsible for growing Ocean Discovery Institute’s highly successful model in urban communities both locally and nationally. Her work
Continue Reading...
began in the community where she grew up, City Heights, where she works to engage 14,000 more young people awaiting opportunities at the Living Lab, a science education center that will enable students to define their aspirations as the next generation of science and conservation leaders. She uses her knowledge of the community, her perspective as a former Ocean Discovery student, and her fluency in Spanish to build meaningful relationships that are critical to this growth. She is also leading efforts to explore the replication of Ocean Discovery’s model in the Chesapeake Bay region through a partnership with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association. Carla is a first-generation college student and holds a BA in politics and Latin American and Latino studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Mayra is the instructional coach and dual language program coordinator at Epiphany Prep Charter School, a high-performing K-8 school she
Continue Reading...
co-founded. As a first-generation college student, Mayra felt that it was her responsibility to help others realize their dreams. In 2010, she became a Teach for America Bay Area corps member and had the privilege of teaching in a first grade Spanish bilingual classroom. In 2013, Mayra returned to her hometown of San Diego to open Epiphany Prep where she has served in various roles such as teacher and associate principal. She graduated from Brown University in 2010 with a dual degree in international relations and ethnic studies and received her multiple subject teaching credential and master’s in elementary education from Loyola Marymount University. She is currently pursuing an administrative services credential through the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES).

Natasha is a native of San Diego and attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. She is a registered financial assistant with

Continue Reading...
Commonwealth Financial Network and holds both a Series 7 and 63 license. She has worked in the financial services industry for ten years servicing a client base of roughly $250 million. Natasha is also a contemporary ballet dancer and choreographer who has been dancing professionally for fifteen years and choreographing for ten. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from San Diego State University and just completed her final requirement to obtain her master’s degree in leadership from the University of San Diego.

Lauren grew up on a ranch in New Mexico where she was immersed in nature and well-acquainted with 16-hour manual labor work days. She moved
Continue Reading...
to San Diego in 2005 and received a BA in literature and English education from Point Loma Nazarene University and an MA in peace and justice studies from the University of San Diego. Her volunteer and work experience includes: 24/7 volunteer work in a Thai orphanage; working with women recovering from sex trafficking at Rahab’s Rope in India and Generate Hope in San Diego; developing and teaching a human rights curriculum in villages to formerly enslaved children with International Justice Mission; working in a slum befriending children; bathing, dressing, feeding, holding, and singing to children with severe mental and physical disabilities at Home of Hope, a homeless shelter for the destitute and dying; and working with teens experiencing co-occurring drug abuse, mental health diagnoses, and recurring histories with juvenile hall at The Bridge group home.
Maggie is the policy specialist for Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network) and serves as the organization’s primary advocate and liaison at
Continue Reading...
the federal, state, regional, and local levels of government through coalition work, advocacy and education, and direct lobbying. Working with residents in San Diego continuously increases her fervor for social justice through civic engagement and she dreams of a civically-engaged San Diego where all community members, especially new Americans, are uplifted to vote and become leaders of their communities. Prior to her current position, she taught hands-on environmental and marine science education to students in all eleven elementary schools in City Heights. Maggie received her bachelor of science in environmental systems at the University of California, San Diego.
Samuel is currently the assistant director for the 21st Century China Program at the University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Policy &
Continue Reading...
Strategy where he manages communications, events, and development initiatives to promote policy-relevant research and constructive discourse on U.S.-China relations. Prior to moving to California, he held roles in advocacy, community engagement, and media relations in Massachusetts government and legislative affairs; in education and immigration policy arenas, he coordinated a flagship conference, produced policy recommendations, and built diverse coalitions. Samuel is a graduate of Gordon College (BA) and the University of Massachusetts Boston (MS) and has completed advanced studies at Tufts University and Harvard Kennedy School. He is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and AAPI Progressive Alliance and has published articles on urban development, leadership, and Asian American affairs. Samuel is married to Amanda; they have a toddler daughter and are expecting their second child this fall.
Troy was born and raised in College Park, GA and is a recent graduate of the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education
Continue Reading...
Sciences (SOLES). He directed and produced a documentary that focuses on the leadership patterns of Black men who are accepted, well liked, and thought of as prominent figures in communities where criminal behavior is present. His research interest is identity development used as a tool for crime prevention.