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
Born and raised in Northeast Los Angeles by Ecuadorian parents, Paola learned from an early age the power of diversity and community. Her parents taught her the value of truth, perseverance, and education. In May 2017, Paola lost her mother after a difficult battle with breast cancer. Despite this tragic loss, her mother continues to inspire and fuel her in pursuing a career in public service. Paola is currently pursuing her master’s in public policy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. Her interests include political leadership and the intersection between philanthropy and government. A double Trojan, Paola completed her bachelor's degree in International Relations with dual minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Spanish at USC as well. In 2015, Paola joined the staff of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, working across the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Office of Public Engagement, the Office of Legislative and External Affairs, and, most recently, under the Chief of Operations. She was a key member of the staff that produced the Mayor’s annual State of the City Address, the 2017 Mayoral Inauguration, the White House Regional Convening on New Americans, and the Civic Youth program. Serving her community and working with young women is one of Paola’s true passions. In addition to her work with Latinas Lead California, Paola serves as a mentor and advisor to Las Fotos Project, a nonprofit organization based in Lincoln Heights. When Paola is not at USC football games or running with the Boyle Heights Bridge Runners, you can find her visiting museums, planning her next excursion, and learning about the rich history of Los Angeles.
Elizabeth Lopez, Co-Political Director
A first-generation college graduate of Scripps College and the University of Southern California, Elizabeth is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, growing up in Glassell Park, a community in Northeast Los Angeles. She has led the development of human service teams with the successful implementation of evidence-based practices in public housing and underserved communities of Los Angeles, leading a charge in extensive policy development and project analysis centered on community development, public safety, and juvenile and criminal justice reform. Currently, Elizabeth serves the LA Mayor’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) Office as a Senior Regional Program Coordinator, designing and advancing youth development and crime reduction efforts within the City of Los Angeles, establishing strategic partnerships to further leverage resources for young people and communities, and uplifting community voice in the development of all efforts within the GRYD Office. While developing and creating connections between youth, families, communities with public and private partners, Elizabeth strives to raise capital in the communities she supports, ensuring healthy and safe environments in which youth, adults and families can thrive. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys connecting and volunteering for her alma mater Scripps College, taking on a new running challenge, and spending time with her family.
Griselda Ortiz, Co-Political Director
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.
Yaritza A. Gonzalez, Director of Fundraising
Yaritza Gonzalez is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was born and raised in Oxnard, CA and Inglewood, CA--with her parents always reminding her and her two younger sisters that education was key in life.
In 2016, Yaritza graduated from Dartmouth College, and she returned to Inglewood, CA to serve her community. Today, she advocates for immigrants' rights as a Paralegal at the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, CA. Years from now, she hopes to be the first in her family to attend law school. Yaritza wants to one day be a licensed attorney to help eradicate the systemic injustices that hinder underserved communities from thriving in society.
Yaritza is also the Co-Founder of the 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, she enjoys mentoring and volunteering, in addition to walking her dog: Oreo.
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.
Sharon Velasquez, At-Large
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 in 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.
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 first hand 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 Velasquez is a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Driven and inspired by her LA and Inland Empire roots, Farah’s focus is on social innovation and enterprise, as a means to bring about socio-economic equity to disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. A small business owner, (specializing in a semi-permanent tattooing technique called microblading/microshading), she is also interested in entrepreneurship, economic development, and social impact.
Farah is currently finishing up her last year at USC’s Master of Public Administration program, where she is the 2020-2021 Graduate Policy and Administration Community (GPAC) President. She obtained her B.A. in English Literature from UCLA, minoring in Chicanx and Labor & Workplace Studies. While at UCLA, Farah served the Latinx student body as an academic peer counselor and mentorship program manager. As a participant in Justicecorps, Farah also provided free and low-cost legal assistance to under-served communities in the Los Angeles area. After graduation, Farah explored roles within both the nonprofit and corporate sectors. These include creating, organizing, and facilitating a community development center within a Section 8 housing organization that served and supported a largely immigrant population, and most recently, navigating legal liabilities and monetary settlements for an automotive Fortune 500 company.
In her spare time, Farah enjoys traveling with friends, off-roading in her Jeep Wrangler (named Luna), and spending time with her family and their 7 dogs.
Kathleen Ledesma, At-Large