Allen HernandezExecutive Director
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A second-generation resident of Fontana, Allen spent his childhood in and out of the emergency room because of his inability to breathe normally. Allen’s parents, a small landscape business owner and casino housekeeper, would retreat to Lytle Creek, away from the smog, when Allen’s lungs failed him.
His career in environmental justice began as an organizer for the hotel workers’ unions UNITE Here Local 11 and Local 226, where he led hunger strikes and walk-outs to put power back in our hands. Then he joined the Sierra Club, often working hand in hand with CCAEJ to bring our voice to decision-makers and demand clean air and equity.
Allen holds a Master’s of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a Certificate in Leadership, Organizing and Action from Harvard University. While he has given lectures and keynotes across the country on environmental justice and community organizing, his work building community power has always been in our community. Read more about Allen here.
Cindy NewmanChief Financial Officer
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Cindy has been with CCAEJ for twenty years. She started working with Penny Newman, CCAEJ’s founder, as a teenager. She spends her free time with her husband, Shawn, her kids Ashley (27) & Logan (22) — plus her numerous “fur babies.” Cindy wears many hats at CCAEJ from accounting to human resources and much more.
Italia GarciaDirector of Civic Engagement
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Italia Garcia was born in Mexico City and immigrated to Riverside, CA at the age of ten. She attended Riverside City College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Riverside. Italia joined Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice on January 2017 and serves as the Civic Engagement Coordinator. She has been a vocal and passionate advocate of social justice issues and has led numerous successful civic engagement efforts throughout the Inland Valley. Italia enjoys spending her free time gardening, watching movies and playing soccer.
Hakan JacksonData Scientist
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Hakan Jackson was born and raised in Southern California. Upon graduating high school, he joined the United States Air Force as a Biomedical Equipment Technician. During his 12 year service, Hakan obtained an Associates in Applied Science in Biomedical Equipment Technology from the Community College of the Air Force and a Bachelor of Science in Social Science from University of Maryland University College. After honorably discharging from the Air Force, Hakan attended Boston University where he earned a Master of Business Administration.
At CCAEJ Hakan serves as Information Technologist, Cartologist, and Data Scientist. For fun, Hakan enjoys: podcasts, audiobooks, video games and bringing down systemic racism and the patriarchy.
Josephine YoungCommunity Empowerment Coordinator
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Josephine Young joined CCAEJ in March 2016 as the Community Empowerment Coordinator, where she works to develop curriculum for each of CCAEJ’s leadership programs and coordinate the Boards & Commissions Program. Prior to joining CCAEJ, Josephine became engaged with social and environmental justice organizing while working with the Student Sustainability Collective at the University of California, San Diego, a commission of student government geared towards fostering a comprehensive understanding of sustainability that recognizes the political, economic, and social contexts in which environmental harm occurs. She has also worked with several non-profit organizations throughout Los Angeles and San Diego on issues of education and economic justice.
Josephine holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Environmental Systems from the University of California, San Diego. She lives with a rescued doggo and on her free time enjoys drinking coffee, watching too many TV shows, hiking, climbing, eating chocolate and ice cream, and pondering how to dismantle the systems of patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, and racism (through memes).
Ericka FloresSan Bernardino Community Organizer
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Ericka has been with CCAEJ since 2009 when she became involved in issues surrounding the Westside of San Bernardino, where she lives. She became the recipient of the Jan Misquez Memorial Fellowship in 2013 and works along residents of the Westside of San Bernardino to tackle battles against the fueling station at Omnitrans, diesel pollution from the BNSF intermodal facility, and brings support to other surrounding communities including the Bloomington warehouse metropolis. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the California State University, San Bernardino. During her free time, Ericka enjoys trying new foods, learning about different cultures and hanging out with her dog, Popcorn.
Esther Portillo-GonzalesPrograms Manager
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Esther Portillo-Gonzales returns to the Inland Valley with 16 years of community organizing experience that has enabled her to work on environmental justice, immigrant and worker rights issues with diverse communities in California, New York, and Texas. She is the daughter of migrants from El Salvador and was born and raised in the Pico-Union area in Los Angeles, the gateway for many migrants from Central America and Mexico. Her family moved to Inland Valley and were part of the mass displacement of residents from Los Angeles pushed out in late 1980’s. In the Inland Valley she worked on campaigns to eliminate Perchlorate contamination from drinking water, she also led electoral campaigns to increase voter tourout in low-income communities of color. In 2011, she was the Research Fellow at Race Forward and worked on the groundbreaking report, “Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of the Immigration Enforcement and Child Welfare System”. She has written for NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) and Dailogo: an interdisciplinary journal published by the Center for Latino Research at DePaul University.
Esther was also awarded the Petra Foundation fellowship, which recongnized her local and international human rights work. She is incredibly happy to return to the Center for Community Action and Environmenal Justice, as one of the most longstanding social justice organizations in California and the Inland Valley and for its continued committment to improving the quality of life via environmental justice struggles.
Jean KayanoAssociate Director
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Jean Kayano, is the Associate Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ). After 30 years of extensive experience in the nonprofit world to help with organizational change and management work – she has finally discovered at CCAEJ her passion for social and environmental justice work. Although her skill set revolves around organizational administration; human resource; and fiscal oversight – her greatest joy revolves around leadership building – working alongside community residents and staff who fight for the right to live in a healthy, toxic-free and sustainable environment. Jean’s work at CCAEJ also includes managing all the various program elements. She enjoys working within team and feels grateful to engage with others in this life-changing work!
Michele HassonPolicy Manager
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Michele Hasson is the Policy Manager for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. Michele directs efforts that support CCAEJ’s legislative, public policy and political agenda to create safer, healthier, toxic free places for residents of California’s Inland Valley to live, work, learn and play. CCAEJ’s work is grounded in “place”–communities are not simply groupings of buildings filled with consumers, customers, or clients whose behavior is studied, managed and manipulated by powerful outside forces. CCAEJ works alongside Environmental Justice communities to advocate for: improved planning, investment, policy and legislation in Air Quality, Land Use, Goods Movement and Transportation.
Michele was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico to ex- pat parents she is seamlessly bilingual and bicultural, Michele has over 9 years of experience in policy advocacy; she began her career under the auspices of the United Nations working for equitable frameworks for Financing for Development, Control Arms and Gender Justice. Michele has a BA in Spanish Literature from the University of San Francisco and an MPP in International Development and Cooperation from Mexico’s Nacional Council on Science and Technology at the Institute Mora. Since August of 2011 Michele has called Southern California her home, where she has put her advocacy skills to use working alongside environmental justice communities and organizations in the Inland Valley.
Graciela LariosJurupa Valley Community Organizer
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Graciela Larios, better known as Chela, joined Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in 2008. She has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Riverside. Her efforts as a community organizer are in the Inland Valley primarily in the city of Jurupa Valley and San Bernardino, only an hour away from the Los Angeles area. During her time with CCAEJ she has been closely involved with the community; conducting and organizing community meetings and programs regarding environmental justice, health and civic engagement. Her passion towards the community in the Inland Valley grows every day as more and more industry moves in and destroys the beautiful green rural area the Inland Valley once was. Chela spends her free time listening to music, drinking coffee, eating pan dulce and hanging out with family and friends