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.
Paola Fernandez, Chair
Paola Fernández is a public sector professional serving as a Government and Public Services consultant for Deloitte Consulting, LLC where she supports federal agencies in developing performance management solutions. She began her career as a public servant in the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti under the Chief of Operations where she produced signature city events, such as the Mayor’s State of the City Address and 2017 Inauguration. Her passion for economic development led her to pursue policy positions to understand the policy development and implementation process in Los Angeles. While in graduate school, she served as a policy and planning intern for Los Angeles Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and as a policy fellow for economic development non-profit Inclusive Action for the City.
Paola earned her BA in International Relations and Social Entrepreneurship and Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Southern California. She is also an alumna of American University’s Women & Politics Institutes WeLead Program.
Anais Duran, Vice Chair
Duran serves as Government Affairs Strategist for First 5 LA, a leading independent public grantmaking and early childhood advocacy organization. Anais helps First 5 LA build relationships with state and federal legislators and educates them on the importance of early childhood development.
Prior to moving back to California, she worked at the Raben Group, a Washington D.C. based lobbying and public affairs firm. As Senior Associate, Anais worked on a wide range of issues, and over the years she developed an expertise in developing and managing advocacy projects on Capitol Hill. Her portfolio at Raben also included third-party engagement, coalition building, and lobbying. Some of Anais’ clients included the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the PACE Center for Girls, Compassion & Choices, and the LA Area Chamber of Commerce.
For many years, in her own capacity, Anais has helped mobilize advocates around reproductive health issues. She is an alumni of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Developing Leaders Program.
Anais is also a recent alumni of Southern California Leadership Network’s (SCLN) Leadership L.A. fellowship. SCLN equipped her with gaining the knowledge, skills, and connections necessary to make a real impact on long-term and trending issues central to California’s future.
A native of Los Angeles County, Anais received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, triple majoring in feminist studies, sociology, and Spanish. She is a proud sister of Lambda Theta Nu Sorority Incorporated.
Griselda Ortiz, Vice Chair
Griselda serves as the District Director for CA Assemblymember Luz Rivas in the San Fernando Valley. Prior to joining Team Rivas, she served as the Director of Community Engagement for U.S. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez where she had the opportunity to spearhead the member’s immigration and 2020 Census efforts. Griselda began her legislative career as an intern in the California State Assembly.
Griselda is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was born and raised in the Inland Empire. Growing up in a disproportionately underserved community, Griselda became interested in public service and ensuring that our political system is representative of our communities. She received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Master in Public Policy from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Griselda lives in SELA with her pug, Luna.
Cristina Correa, Director of Operations
Cristina Correa is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. Born and raised in a predominately Latinx working-class neighborhood in Long Beach, CA, Cristina learned from a young age the importance of hard work and perseverance.
A first-generation college graduate, she obtained a dual B.A. in Political Science and French from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Cristina has dedicated her career to ensuring that people who are often overlooked have the tools and resources they need to succeed. After college, she joined the California State Assembly where she worked to bridge the gap between the legislature and the district’s constituents. Cristina currently works with candidates to create and execute customized digital fundraising programs and build campaigns with small-dollar donor support.
In her free time, Cristina enjoys spending time with family, reading, baking, and traveling to new places.
Dulce Ramirez, Political Director
Dulce Ramirez is a first-generation college graduate and the proud daughter of immigrant parents raised in Southeast Los Angeles. Dulce's humble upbringing, adversities, and love for their community allow her to believe in justice and freedom fervently. Dulce’s lived experiences have continuously guided their work in ensuring positive changes and equity, inclusive of the many factors that continue to disenfranchise and oppress historically marginalized communities.
Dulce's impact as an organizer and activist led her to pursue a career in policy and government. She currently serves as a Legislative Aide for Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes in our States Capitol. They cover a large portion of her policy portfolio. She provides expert analysis and advises the member on Aging & Long-term Care, Business & Professions, Education, Health, Human Services, Immigration, Veteran Affairs, Wildfire Prevention, and Transportation issues, among other policy areas.
Some of her prior experiences include the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, the U.S. Senate, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, President's Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence, the U.S Department of Education under the Obama Administration. Dulce also served as the 17-18 Speaker & Chair of the Social Justice and Equity Committee at the California State Student Association (CSSA), where she was elected system-wide to serve on behalf of more than 480,000 students in California.
Dulce graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration with a minor in Sociology with an emphasis in education and gender.
Yaritza A. Gonzalez, Director of Fundraising
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.
Carolina Hernandez, Director of Professional Development
Sharon Velasquez, Director of Engagement
Sharon J. Velasquez is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college graduate. She is passionate about advancing equitable economic development inclusive of communities of color, as well as consumer and small business protections. A policy advocate, Sharon has extensive experience working with state and federal legislators, financial regulators, and the private sector around increasing investments in formerly redlined communities. In 2018, she helped pass California Senate Bill 1235, the nation’s first truth-in-lending act for small businesses. Sharon has spoken about community reinvestment at numerous conferences across the country and has been published on platforms including Shelterforce, Capitol Weekly, and the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy.
Sharon is currently a dual MBA and Master in City Planning candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Committed to advancing diverse and representative leadership, she currently serves as a Senator at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Sharon obtained her B.A. in English Literature & Public Affairs from UCLA, and is an alumna of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality and New Leaders Council.
Ana Gomez, At-Large
Ana was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles and Inglewood. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Master of International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy where she concentrated in Latin American politics. She currently serves as a Legislative Deputy in the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti. Prior to joining the Mayor’s office, Ana served as a Field Representative for Council District 1 overseeing the communities of Westlake and Pico-Union, and as Civic Engagement Coordinator for Proyecto Pastoral in Boyle Heights. Ana is committed to increase city resources for underrepresented communities and is passionate about diversity, immigration, and homelessness. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and is a classic literature and film fanatic.
Danielle Guillen, At-Large
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.
Farah Velasquez, At-Large
Farah is a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Driven and inspired by her family and LA and Inland Empire roots, Farah is focused on social impact, entrepreneurship, and economic equity. Her background includes experience within the education, legal, nonprofit, and corporate spaces. Currently, she is a Community Finance Fellow for Mission Driven Finance, an investment firm completely in alignment with her own goal of creating inclusive, transformative, and liberating change.
Farah obtained her B.A. in English Literature from UCLA, minoring in Chicanx and Labor & Workplace Studies, and most recently she completed her MPA with a Finance concentration at USC. She is also an entrepreneur, specializing in microblading and microshading semi-permanent tattooing techniques. In her free time, Farah enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and her Frenchie puppy, Luna.
Kathleen Ledesma, At-Large
Born and raised in Northern California by a Cuban single-parent household, Kathleen learned about the determination that is needed to succeed over social and economic obstacles. As a child of a refugee from a communist dictatorship; political activism and civic liberties were predominant values and were never to be taken for granted. In 2015, she lost her mother after a long battle with an illness. In honor of her mother’s memory, through community and political involvement she has made it a mission to help the lives of immigrant low-income single parents.
Kathleen is currently a Landscape Architect for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and a member of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union. She obtained her B.S. in Landscape Architecture with a minor in Marketing Management from Cal Poly Pomona. In 2005, she studied Landscape Architecture in Santa Chiara Centro di Studi in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy. She is an alumna of the Southern Californian student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA), Sigma Lambda Alpha Landscape Architecture Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society, and Kappa Delta Sorority. In the future, Kathleen hopes to use her skills as a Landscape Architect to improve the lives of families in low-income communities, creating safe public spaces for them to strive and be proud of.
Abigail Mejia, At-Large
Diana Ponce, At-Large
Diana Ponce is a South Los Angeles native with roots in Guanajuato, Mexico. She received her B.A. in Chicana/o and Central American Studies with concentrations in Transnational Border studies and Law, Labor, and Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to duo-minors in Public Affairs and Labor & Workplace studies.
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.
Felipa Penaloza, At-Large
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.
Jessica Lopez, At-Large
Anabel Cuevas, At-Large
Anabel is the proud daughter of Mexican Immigrants and was born and raised in South East Los Angeles. Growing up in a mixed-status household she quickly learned the importance of advocating for undocumented immigrants. At a young age, her parents instilled in her the value of hard work and education. After attending Long Beach City College Anabel transferred to California State University Los Angeles where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Political Science. After college Anabel worked on various political campaigns before going on to work for the Immigration Legal Services Department of the International Institute of Los Angeles, where she assisted asylum seekers in their legal cases. The stories of what these asylees endured continue to fuel her passion to advocate for changes in the broken immigration system. Anabel currently serves as a Field Representative for Congresswoman Linda Sánchez where she covers immigration, Latinx issues, women's rights, foreign affairs, and redistricting. In her free time, Anabel enjoys cheering on the best team in the MLB, the Dodgers, hiking with her beagle Marc, and keeping up with the LA food scene.
Ashley Olmeda, At-Large
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.