Juan Gomez is a Raza/ indigenous surfer, Co-Founder and Director of Programs and Innovation at MILPA. Simultaneously, he serves as Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor with the National Compadres Network. Prior to that he was an inaugural health equity fellow with The California Endowment. He served on statewide and national initiatives that advanced boys and men of color strategies focused on healing and culturally based frameworks. Mr. Gomez is fervent on ensuring community leadership is at the table, not just on the menu, when discussing policy and systems change. His main area of focus is developing Next Generation infrastructure, leadership and analytics for organizations and movement building. Juan was raised by his grandparents 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.
DARIO SOTO, Youth Leadership & Program Assistant
Dario Soto is a Youth Leadership & Program Assistant who will focus on developing leadership skills and professional acumen, while being exposed to cross cultural healing, racial justice coalition building and promoting youth and young adult civic engagement. His youth and young adult experiences have inspired him to overcome many obstacles towards his personal and social transformation. He has been directly impacted by the school to prison pipeline yet seeks to positively impact youth and young adults. Mr. Soto is currently a Hartnell College student majoring in Sociology. Dario strives to support youth of color in developing a cultural awareness and life skill set that will allow them to address the racial justice implications of our times. Dario is a proud father of three.
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.
Louie Gutierrez, Program Assistant and Community Liaison
Louie Gutierrez is a Program Assistant and Community Liaison for MILPA. Born and raised in East Salinas, Louie brings a unique background and skill set that is culturally relevant and allows him to engage with community in meaningful ways. Louie is proud to be part of the local Salinas Skate Jam events, Co-facilitate El Joven Noble, and serve as a youth mentor. As a youth mentor, he runs nature trips that involve camping, beach excursions, and hikes. He also takes our youth on college tours, and is frequent at organizing events. Mr. Guitierrez is also a member of The Alisal Leadership Academy, the Alisal Vibrancy Plan, and is a NOPAL Fellow.
Sergio Diaz de Leon MBA, Justice Policy Associate
Sergio Diaz de Leon MBA is a Justice Policy Associate, with MILPA. Mr. Diaz de Leon received his Masters of Science in Business Analytics from Saint Mary's College and is looking to bring his lived experience and expertise in dealing with youth justice, data trends and diverse community affairs to MILPA. He will lead MILPA in developing next generation infrastructure, data sets, and analytics, while focusing on movement building forensics and trends. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors for Bay Area Wilderness Training. Sergio is a racial equity emerging leader. Born and raised in Salinas, CA. He is a proud father, and an avid San Francisco 49ers fan.