Young Professionals Network Leadership Council

The role of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) leadership board is to develop the next generation of Latinas who are committed to electing Latinas to office. To that end, the YPN identifies and prepares exceptional young leaders under the age of 35 to support the efforts of Latinas Lead California. 

Felipa Penaloza, Chair

Born and raised in Orange County, Felipa Peñaloza is a Senior Account Executive at GrassrootsLab, a California-based political consulting firm, where she works with a wide array of clients, aiding with political campaigns and other legislative efforts. Since she joined the firm in 2015, Felipa has worked on ballot measures, council and mayoral races, supervisorial races, legislative races, and a governor’s race, for candidates across the political spectrum. That same year, Felipa helped compile the data and analysis for “The Politics of Prosperity,” a report in conjunction with the California Legislative Latino Caucus and the Leadership Institute California, which took a look at Latino political representation at all levels.

Previously she worked for the American Diabetes Association in Orange County where she managed the bilingual Passport to Health/Pasaporte a La Salud health program, partnering with community organizations and health experts to host educational workshops across the County targeted to the high-risk Latino population. Felipa graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a specialization in Public Relations and a minor in Sociology.

Ashley Olmeda, Vice Chair 

Ashley Olmeda is a proud first-generation, Mexican American from Alhambra, California. She currently works as an environmental scientist under the scope of stormwater quality for Los Angeles and Ventura counties. She obtained her BA in Government from Smith College and MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. She treasures her family and is the eldest of four children. Her hobbies include traveling, exercising, exploring boba spots, and enjoying the Harry Potter series.

Janet Fernandez, Director of Professional Development

Janet Fernandez is an Account Supervisor at Elevate Public Affairs. As a dynamic and accomplished public affairs professional, she leads and coordinates strategic initiatives for diverse clients in both the private and public sector. Her expertise in communications, coalition building, and community relations has earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor in issues at the local, state, and federal level. Prior to joining Elevate, Janet gained experience working in political and ballot measure campaigns at Grassroots Lab. Fluent in Spanish, Janet bridges cultural divides and engages diverse communities effectively. Janet is proud banana slug, having earned a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Beyond her role at Elevate, she’s an advocate for the empowerment and advocacy of Latinas, serving as the Director of Professional Development for the Latinas Lead Young Professional Network Board. Her community involvements encompass diverse organizations, including her participation in the 2023 HOPE Leadership Institute, the 2020 CORO Women in Leadership, and the 2019 Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Leadership program.

Danielle Guillen, Political Director 

Danielle learned the power of community and education growing up in the Inland Empire. Her parents worked tremendously hard to transfer her to an elementary school outside of her neighborhood school. It was this small act of attending a better elementary school that affected the entire trajectory of Danielle’s life. She would not realize how impactful her parents' decision was until she was accepted into Yale University.

As a first-generation college student at Yale University, Danielle realized her family was not alone in their struggle to access equitable educational opportunities. Her desire to extend equitable education opportunities to families, like her own, led her to become a secondary teacher on the Navajo Nation where she experienced firsthand the barriers low-income rural families face to accessing high-quality education.

In her role as the Director of Organizing and Policy for  Los Angeles Unified Board District 5, Danielle intimately understood the state of education in the second-largest school system in the United States and the urgency to make sure that half a million children have access to equitable education

In her current role as Director at a national nonprofit, she works with elected leaders, executive directors,  and community organizers across the nation to ensure that students have access to an equitable education. She enjoys hikes, yoga, and essential oils.

Carola Sanchez, Director of Engagement

Carola Sanchez is the first to admit that the trajectory of her life and career hasn’t been a straight line. She graduated from Fullerton Community College and worked in many educational roles for Alhambra, Long Beach, and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Carola graduated from California State University of Los Angeles and became a certified public-school teacher, because she wanted to provide STEAM exposure and opportunities to students in low-income areas. Carola believes that students in all areas, poor or rich, deserve rich opportunities to be able to thrive. After working in many areas and seeing the injustices in education, she pursued a master’s in public administration from California State University of Long Beach. During graduate school and after, Carola worked at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) for the for Office of the CEO and Board Relations, Policy, and Research. She assisted the Women and Girls Governing Council, Aging and Disability Transportation Network, the Office of Equity and Race, and the Community Advisory Council. Carola is currently a Grant Administrator/ Senior Housing Analyst for ICF and the California Department of Housing and Community Development- Division of Federal Financial Assistance.

Carola’s life commitment is to always give back to communities and to help communities grow and prosper. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Peruvian immigrants. Carola grew up in Orange County and the Inland Empire and lived in many locations in LA County. She enjoys art of all kinds, classical and indie music, biking, reading, and running with her Aussie, Mocha.

Karen Coronel, Director of Fundraising 

Karen Coronel is a proud Ecuadorian-American from Queens, with a deep passion for politics, civic-tech, and social good. Currently, she works as a Project Manager for a Latina-owned fintech start-up.

Karen has worked across various industries and functions, including government, nonprofit, consulting, and tech. She is a self-described "deep generalist" with a passion for using technology to drive social good and help underrepresented communities.

Karen is also a dedicated volunteer and community builder. She serves as a Lead Organizer at Hack for LA a nonprofit that brings together technologists and civic leaders to create digital solutions for social impact. She is also a founding board member of Women of Color for Progress, a political action committee that supports women of color running for office in New York City.


Alexandra Leal Silva, Director of Communications 

Alexandra is a proud first-generation Latina American who is passionate about serving her community. Alexandra is the Southern California Fellow for IGNITE National, a nonpartisan, non-profit dedicated to igniting the political fire in every young woman. As a fellow, Alexandra organizes events for the Southern California regions and works to create & sustain college chapters throughout the Southland. Aside from being an IGNITE Fellow, Alexandra is the Operations & Development Associate at California Common Cause. In this role, she helps lead various projects designed to outreach to communities, cultivate small-donor donations, and keep the internal operations of CCC running smoothly. One of her proudest accomplishments is co-creating and hosting “Democracy Is”, a podcast dedicated to exploring Democracy issues throughout California and how it affects communities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History of Public Policy & Law from the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UCSB, she served as the co-chair of Lobby Corp, mobilizing hundreds of students in advocacy & lobbying campaigns. Her team assisted in passing California Senate Bill 24, which ensured access to reproductive healthcare for all CA university students. She also worked as a Basic Needs organizer and managed to raise $20,000 for COVID relief during the start of the pandemic.

Yaritza A. Gonzalez, At-Large 

Yaritza A. Gonzalez Rodriguez (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Inglewood, CA to Mexican parents from Guadalajara, Jalisco, and is a proud role model to her two younger sisters. In 2016, Yaritza earned her B.A. in Geography with a minor in Public Policy from Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Currently, Yaritza works as a paralegal in the Community College Project at theCentral American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, CA, where she provides legal services to students and staff in Community Colleges across Los Angeles, CA.

Yaritza will be starting her M.A. in Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles this fall. She ultimately plans on becoming a licensed attorney to help eradicate the systemic injustices that hinder underrepresented communities like hers from thriving in society. Yaritza is also the Founder of an organization called ING Fellowship, whose goal is to inspire, nurture and guide youth in Inglewood, CA, to organize, mobilize and address different issues that affect the Inglewood community. In her free time, Yaritza enjoys mentoring and volunteering, in addition to hiking throughout Los Angeles with her huskie: Oreo.

Jessica Lopez, At-Large 







Monica Medina, At-Large 

Monica was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. She serves as the West Coast Program Manager at IGNITE where she empowers young women to use their political power to help their community. Prior to IGNITE she was at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) providing professional development opportunities for Latino Elected Officials. She also volunteers with America Needs You, an organization serving first generation college students. As a daughter of immigrants and first-generation student herself, she understands the importance of giving back to students. She is passionate about mentorship, advocating for her community and social justice. She holds a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Anthropology from UC Irvine. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, rollerblading, and spending time with friends and family.

Since joining YPN she’s enjoyed the opportunity to connect with like minded individuals who want to see Latinas in office. She enjoyed getting to canvas on behalf of Latinas Lead and learn more about what is happening in the world of politics. She hopes to continue to empower and amplify the voices of Latinas looking to make a difference through her role in the YPN board.  

Diana Ponce, At-Large 

While at UCLA, she served as the UCLA Student Risk Education Committee Vice-Chairperson, UCLA Community Programs Office Student Association Health Caucus Representative, and External Chair for Latinx Chicanx for Community Medicine at UCLA. As External Chair for LCCM, she founded Aspire Learn Mentor Achieve (LCCM-ALMA), a collaboration with a non-profit in Santa Ana to support a K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) based higher education pipeline program. Her work experiences, combined with her life experiences, have inspired her to work with communities of color to enact collective power among community members to create the changes needed in our communities. 

Her mission is to work with underserved communities to create positive changes. She previously worked as a Community Organizer in Santa Ana, CA, working with a group of residents on a community-based participatory research project centered on community safety, housing affordability, and environmental justice. There she met with local organizations and city officials to advocate for the needs of the community. 

She is currently pursuing a Master in Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with loved ones. 

Mayra Valdez, At-Large 

Mayra Valadez was born and raised in Pacoima. Mayra works at Actum, supporting various leading nonprofit, government, and business clients. Her professional background is as an organizer, and she has worked at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), DCCC, and CA State Assembly. She currently serves as the President of the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, an organization she has been a part of for the last five years. As someone who has been interested in joining the YPN for several years, she regrets not getting involved sooner!




Paola Fernandez, Chair Emeritus

Paola Fernández is a cross sector professional serving as a Government and Public Services Senior Consultant for Deloitte Consulting, LLC where she supports federal agencies in developing performance management solutions. She recently took on the role as a DEI Program Manager for the firm, leading professional development programming that advances and retains diverse Manager level practitioners.

She has cross-industry experience, previously serving the City of Los Angeles within the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, and conducting economic development research with Inclusive Action for the City. She is passionate about empowering women, and she serves as the Chair of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) of Latinas Lead CA, working to develop the next generation of Latinas who are committed to electing Latinas to public office. 

Paola is the proud daughter and granddaughter of Ecuadorian immigrants and was born and raised in LosAngeles, CA. Paola earned her bachelor's degree (B.A.) in International Relations and Social Entrepreneurship and a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) from the University of Southern California. She is also an alumna of American University’s Women & Politics Institutes WeLead Program.