JUAN GOMEZ, Director of Programs and Innovation
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.
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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.
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RENE CASAS, Program and Policy Coordinator
Rene Casas is a Program Coordinator and Strategy Analyst with MILPA who earned his Criminal Justice BA degree from California State University Chico. Mr. Casas has worked tirelessly to address issues that hinder the upward mobility of boys and men of color. His background is grounded in multi-generational organizing following in his fathers’ footsteps. While at the United Farm Workers Foundation he was a community outreach coordinator. Mr. Casas has learned restorative practices and techniques from a variety of sources but credits his personal growth and development to the teachings of La Cultura Cura. Recently In 2015 Rene was awarded the prestigious National Juvenile Justice Network Fellowship where he will spearhead a community level up approach to youth justice policy and systems change. As part of his role at MILPA he coordinates logistics for the National Alianza on Latino Youth Justice (NALYJ).
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GEORGE VILLA, Program Assistant and Community Liaison
George Villa is a personal fitness trainer and former firefighter turned social justice advocate. He is currently pursuing a dual career as fitness instructor and juvenile justice advocate. In 2014 George became part of NOXTIN Juvenile Justice Health Equity Fellowship cohort. He will be focusing on getting coaching up on the platform strategies and details of current system led reform.
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ISRAEL VILLA, Program and Strategy Assistant
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.
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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.
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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.
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DAVID JOHNSON, Program and Health Equity Assistant
David Johnson is a recent Salinas transplant that graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a B.A. in Political Science in August of 2015. Although he is new to this type of work, he has embraced it fully. He brings a diverse array of experiences to the table ranging from his childhood spent in the Southwest to his youthful years living in California. He hopes to utilize his knowledge to further the cause of social justice in the greater Salinas region in addition to advocating towards a positive health narrative to increase the overall health outcomes of Salinas residents.
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