Juan Gomez of the Tap Pilam, Coahuiltecan Nation is a movement comrade, surf brotha, and barrio scholar. He is the Co-Founder and Director of Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement (MILPA). His work is based on integrating cultural healing into racial justice frameworks that build next generation leadership, and infrastructure. Additionally he routinely provides strategic consulting to other initiatives, where he co-designs healing-informed capacity building, strategic design, and fund development efforts. Juan gained valuable experience by serving as a health equity fellow with The California Endowment working on Boys and Men of Color. Through MILPA, Juan continues to support youth and young adults through Rites of Passage programming that promotes cultural healing, civic engagement and efforts to end the school to prison pipeline. Mr. Gomez was raised by his grandparents Amelia and Ampelio in Watsonville, CA.
JOHN PINEDA, Leadership and Learning Coordinator
John Pineda is a proud father of 6 children. One of the original co-founders of MILPA, Born in Salinas raised in Greenfield. Mr. Pineda served as the Supplemental Instructor for the Academy for College Excellence (ACE) at Hartnell College. In 2013 he was chosen alumni for the prestigious Health Career Connection internship program. Through his role at MILPA he has built up the curriculum and training metrics that MILPA will be sharing with the field through training, technical assistance and capacity building. John is also a part of the NOXTIN Juvenile Justice Health Equity Fellowship that is looking at reform beyond the current system led models. His passion is working with former offenders and system impacted youth using La Cultura Cura.
ISRAEL VILLA, Program and Policy Coordinator
Israel Villa is a visual artist, intellectual and social justice advocate. He is transitioning back into the community after having spent most of childhood and adulthood within systems of detention and incarceration. Israel is a natural “change-maker” and has been using his background, and heritage as a means to leverage his enthusiasm towards youth justice policy and systems change. Israel hopes to continue his education with a focus on the intersection of race, place, violence, gender, and masculinity.
DESTINY VILLA, Youth Leadership and Program Assistant
Destiny has been thriving against all odds overcoming school expulsion and putting herself through community college (Hartnell College). Currently, she is focusing on social work and policy advocacy in hope of transferring to a four year university. In 2014 she was employed as a Student assistant with the Academy of College Excellence at Hartnell College. She was recently awarded a prestigious 2015 Health Career Connection internship from UC Berkeley. At MILPA she is looking to focus on issues impacting Girls and Women of Color. Along with her current accomplishments, Destiny has been trained as a facilitator of “Xinachtli”, which is a Rite of Passage that prepares young women for womanhood. Destiny Villa is currently building and training up youth leadership voice and expertise. She is a recent alumna from the Santa Clara County Latina Coalition. Destiny went to Everett Alvarez High School and is a resident of East Salinas.
TINA CURIEL-ALLEN, Communications Specialist
Tina Curiel-Allen is a Xicana/Boricua, Artivist and Poet working at MILPA as a Communications Specialist, where she will be integrating her lived experience, passion and vision towards designing communication and marketing strategies for MILPA. At the same time Tina attends UC Davis majoring in Sociology and English. She is the co-founder of Beyond the Stats: a collective at UC Davis of formerly incarcerated and system impacted students formed to help each other navigate the UC system, while thriving both academically and personally. Her previous incarceration, addiction, and recovery informs her activism. She edits multiple zines that focus on documenting particular experiences that are often ignored or overlooked. Tina brings a passion for writing as a place for self-discovery, documentation, and transformation to MILPA, as well as over a decade of experience mentoring both men and women, facilitating workshops, and running groups. Self-determination, compassion, service work, and reflexivity are her guiding principles. This sister loves vegetarian food, thrifting, and cats.
ELIAS GONZALES, Program and Events Coordinator
Elias (Eli) Gonzales is the Program and Events Coordinator at MILPA. Along with his career long service to youth and communities of color. Eli is the proud father of Eliana Isabella and Elias Frederick. He was born and raised in Watsonville, CA, and raised by his mother and stepfather. Mr. Gonzalez attended Cabrillo College and CSUMB after being expelled from high school and attending various continuation schools. He brings 15+ years of non-profit experience and working collaboratively with various county and community-based agencies. In 2001, with the inception of AB109 he supported Santa Cruz County in developing employment programming and collaborative processes. His cultural background and street experience gives him a unique skill set to serve the most impacted. Since 2006 he has been involved in La Cultura Cura and has mentor many youth of color in El Joven Noble. He sits on the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission and is a Joven Noble Facilitator.
Cristian Franco Jr, Justice Policy and Program Assistant
Cristian Franco Jr is a Justice Policy and Program Assistant at MILPA. He has extensive experience in the public health sector facilitating and running group workshops. He has been working with youngsters in several capacities for over 10 years. Mr. Franco is looking forward to taking it to the next level. He will use both his lived experience in the system, along with his field expertise to push for policy and systems change. His focus will be on building bridges between different communities, advocating for ending the school to prison pipeline, and building leadership for the next 7 generations. He will accomplish this through base building and healing informed leadership approaches. Cristian spends his free time organizing youth sports and coaching.
Alexis Magdaleno, Lead Prop 47 Specialist
Alexis Magdaleno is the Lead Prop 47 Specialist at MILPA. He provides record reclassification and clearing services to the South Monterey County population. He was born Acámbaro Guanajuato in Mexico and migrated to the US at the age of 5 with his family, where he was raised in Soledad CA. As a teen he was directly impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline, witnessing many of his close friends and family members being expelled or suspended, sent to continuation schools, and sent to juvenile hall. Alexis barely scraped by without getting caught up. Yet his determination led him to study Political Science at UC Berkeley where he received his BA in Social Welfare. While at Berkeley, he was an active member of the Underground Scholars Initiative and helped outreach to nearby community college students who were formerly incarcerated. Now he is back in his home community making positive changes. Alexis spends his free time with his wife and family, and enjoys learning about history and politics.
Jazzlyn Rodriguez, Student Research Assistant
Jazzlyn Rodriguez, Student Research Assistant
Hey y'all my name is Jazzlyn (Jazzy) Nikole Rodriguez. I’m 18 yrs old, the oldest of 6 children and I was born and raised here in East Salinas. I graduated from the Monterey County Home Charter School May of 2018. I attend Hartnell Community College where I am pursuing my A.A. in Sociology. My mother raised me on her own after my father passed away. I’ve been at MILPA since I was about 15 or 16 yrs old when I was still attending a public school. At that time I had started to fall behind in my school work and eventually stopped going to school. At the sametime I started losing friends and family to the streets it started getting tougher but through the midst of it all I was offered an internship at MILPA where I participated in one of the first youth cohorts. While at MILPA I was and am encouraged to continue my high school education, pursue a higher education and stay close to the fire. I eventually branched out to other orgs working with BHC and National Compadres Network for a Xinachtli YPAR Project. I also worked on the No SRO’s campaign. I hope to continue to make spaces for youth in my community to come together and create racial equity for mi gente, as well as others in my community. I also hope to pass down my teachings to my siblings and those around me.
Edgar Ibarra Gutierrez, Youth Leadership and Program Assistant
Edgar Ibarra Gutierrez is the Leadership and Program Assistant at MILPA. Edgar was born in La Mesa, CA but was raised in Watsonville, CA for the majority of his life. He’s been navigating the youth and adult justice system for many years. It was while incarcerated that he had the opportunity to educate himself on his culture, heritage, y tradition. He also read books that politicized him and helped him look at his community and situation from a critical perspective. Edgar does this work because he understands that our youth and community as a whole need reflections of what self-determination and empowerment look like. Edgar is currently a Cabrillo College student pursuing his A.A. in Bilingual Bicultural Studies and hoping to transfer out next year to a University. This young brother is an asset to our cadre and to his comunidad.
EVA CASTRO, Program Assistant and Cultural Educator
Eva Castro is an organizer, artist, and activist currently working as a Program Assistant and Cultural Educator at MILPA. She was born in San Jose, CA and raised in the Bay Area. Ms. Castro first attended college focusing on Architectural Drafting and Design and Engineering. Her plans include continuing to pursue her degree in engineering studies and to create a program for young women of color specializing in science and mathematics. Eva was raised around cultural traditions and has traveled to various Native reservations throughout her lifetime learning about her personal background and indigenous ways. Sister Eva has been an Aztec Dancer for more than 25 years with Calpulli Izkalli. Her passions include reading and researching about spiritual sciences, native philosophy, and natural medicines and hopes to promote positivity and internal growth in communities. Eva is a proud single mother to Ocelotl.