Maria Cazares

Maria Cazares

Maria Cazares

Maria Cazares

Youth Organizer Kern

(She/Her/Ella) 

Maria aspires to build community within our youth, and families, while also enhancing civic engagement and wellness for the minority groups in our distinct regions. Maria is passionate about advocating for black and brown student’s rights for any and all social injustices they may face, including education, LGBTQIA+ community, low-income, English language learners and foster youth. She strives to provide hope and opportunity to all students of color and continue uplifting their voices.

Prior to joining DHF, Maria studied at California State University of Fresno, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. While attending Fresno State, she worked with JUMPSTART Americorps, educating preschool students in under-resourced communities and preparing them for Kindergarten. After Maria graduated, she continued working in education with the Boys and Girls Club in Kern and then with Equality California Americorps. With EQCA, she served as a student mentor where she was able to support central valley LGBTQIA+ students and allies.

As a first generation, Mexican-American daughter of immigrants, Maria understands the obstacles and inequity our communities face. She will continue to be an adult ally and provide the necessary tools and training to support the well-being of our youth and families, as they become leaders in our community too.

 

Monica Valdez

Monica Valdez

Monica Valdez

Monica Valdez

Wellness Coordinator

Monica has worked years with individuals and families helping them through difficult life challenges with positive results. She has a passion to help others utilize their strengths, gifts, and talents to promote optimum health and wellness for themselves and their families. Monica worked many years assisting people with the strengths-based approach and natural empathy to guide them in their healing process and life journey, building their self-efficacy and encouraging them to use their voice for fair and equitable treatment.

Monica decided that she needed to increase her capacity to help others, so she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She immediately attended the University of California, Bakersfield to then obtaining her master’s in social work. She began her work with the Dolores Huerta Foundation, as an intern in the Youth Program. Monica led healing circles, one-on-one counseling, provided resources, collaborated work with youth, teaching self-care/healthy coping skills. She participated in cultural actives, and civic engagement events, and held virtual wellness retreats with the youth, youth intern’s and youth organizers. This was a defining moment for her, as she quickly found herself called to her purpose, her heart was stirred to stand in solidarity with all constituents of the program for the youth and families.

Monica is committed to advocacy for the social justice, freedom and equitable opportunities to fulfill their goals and dreams in life. Monica is completely focused on the betterment of all youth and their families as their ally in peace, justice, freedom, cultural respect, and holistic wellness.

Virginia Espino

Virginia Espino

Virginia Espino

Virginia Espino

Youth Program Associate

As a Youth Program Associate,  Virginia Espino strives to inform and educate the youth to create a positive change in their communities and schools. Because Virginia and her family immigrated from Mexico to California when she was only 4 years old, she became aware of many social injustices at a very young age not only in her community but nationally. Some of the issues she is passionate about include immigrant rights, education equity, and gender equality. 

 

While pursuing her Bachelor degree at California State University of Bakersfield (CSUB), she was fortunate enough to find work at CSUB Educational Talent Search (ETS) program. As an ETS mentor, she worked with underserved and socially disadvantaged youth in Kern High School District. She originally planned on becoming an archaeologist to study the culture in her native country of Mexico. However, she found a great sense of fulfilment and enjoyment in mentoring first generation youth like herself and decided to pursue a career in education and mentoring. She has continued encouraging and mentoring youth in Kern High School District (KHSD), Bakersfield City School District (BCSD), and The Boys and Girls Club of Kern. 

 

When Viginia has some free time, she enjoys reading about ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica, sketching, painting, and spending time in the great outdoors. She especially enjoys teaching her daughter Emmaline about her Mexican heritage and traditions.

 

Victor Camacho

Victor Camacho

Victor Camacho

Victor Camacho

Youth Organizer

Victor is a youth organizer that will work to increase civic engagement with underrepresented youth and families in Tulare County. Victor develops and encourages relationships, resources, students, and community members to strengthen on-ground organizing while keeping organization values and principles of nonviolence and civil rights.

Victor worked at ExpresArte Wellness Collective, creating and facilitating curriculums for the programs as the program director, such as the Home-Grown Therapist Fellowship, The People’s Fridge, and Community Garden, and helped develop the curriculum for the Black Youth Empowerment program. A personal experience that motivates Victor to be in this line of work is due to his family always giving back to the community and helping in community events when possible. Victor is also proficient and finds peace in guided meditations, he strongly believes in centering yourself whenever possible. He also has experience in minor dog training and was a black belt that is currently not in training.

Anahi Plasencia

Anahi Plasencia

Anahi Plasencia

Anahi Plasencia

Youth Organizer

As a Youth organizer for Tulare County, Anahi Plasencia seeks to empower youth and their families by providing the tools and education necessary to organize communities so they can become active leaders in economic and social justice and make a positive impact on their lives and their communities. At DHF, Anahi is proud to work with youth with different backgrounds to inspire them to become future leaders in their communities.

Before joining DHF, Anahi worked with the community providing computer repair services. She has worked with youth for the last two years. She mentored youth in her church and provided them with the tools necessary for success. Anahi is one of seven children. As the daughter of a farm worker, she saw and overcame the financial struggle many of our community youth and lower-income students face. As a first generation college student, Anahi seeks to give youth an opportunity to achieve their dreams and fight for change.

Anahi holds a Bachelor Degree from California State University, Fresno in Computer Science. In her free time, Anahi loves to help the community with any computer need. She loves to build computers and to fix electronic devices. She also has an interest in game programming.

Ricardo Fonseca

Ricardo Fonseca

Ricardo Fonseca

Ricardo Fonseca

Youth Organizer

Ricardo Fonseca is a Trans Latinx Youth Organizer in Kern County with the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Within their time working at DHF, Ricardo has focused on developing and co-creating spaces for youth empowerment through political education workshops, community building, and youth-led programming. They hope that by giving youth the necessary tools and resources to think critically and engage in social justice practices, the youth will continue to advocate and uplift their communities. As an abolitionist, Ricardo truly believes that we can dismantle the current systems and mechanisms of oppression, and create another world where BIPoC lives are centered and celebrated.

Being born and raised on the East Side of Bakersfield (occupied Yokuts land), Ricardo learned early on about systemic injustices on local, national, and global levels by witnessing firsthand the clear divide in Bakersfield that perpetuates violence onto the most vulnerable communities. By experiencing these systemic injustices, they understand the critical need to create and sustain community-based resources to youth and families in order to build new equitable systems that are accessible to everyone. Ricardo believes that these new equitable systems can only be created if we collectively engage in a trickle-up social justice praxis–which prioritizes the liberation of the most marginalized first, thereafter ensuring the liberation of all other marginalized groups.

Ricardo hopes to engage in long-lasting community work that uplifts, centers and celebrates the lives and experiences of Trans and Queer BIPoC youth. Ricardo received a B.A. in Sociology and Chicanx Studies from UC Santa Barbara. They have cancer sun and cancer moon signs, so catch them at the beach in their free time. Ricardo also enjoys playing video games (Fortnite, Pokémon, and Mario Kart), dancing/singing (terribly), and learning about Trans and Queer narratives.

Elisha Mendoza

Elisha Mendoza

Elisha Mendoza

Elisha Mendoza

Youth Organizer

As a youth organizer Elisha works with youth at a middle and high school grade level where she provides them with tools and resources to be leaders in their community. In 2018, Elisha started off as a Youth member with the foundation where she gained a lot of experience from being involved in the community while working on different campaigns and community projects in relation to voter outreach, civic engagement and social advocacy. Elisha’s passion for social justice is fueled by knowing what kind of power and energy the youth can bring to their community when they organize together.

Elisha hopes to be able to delve into work that supports and engages the youth in her community. Elisha is currently working towards her B.A in Chemistry. Elisha also enjoys playing video games and engaging in local community events during her free time.

Gabriela Fernandez

Gabriela Fernandez

Gabriela Fernandez

Gabriela Fernandez

Youth Program Manager

Gabriela works in the Youth Program where she teaches students in middle school and high school how to make systemic change on a local, state, and federal level. The young people she works with are passionate, care for their community, and are provided a safe space for them to engage and make changes they want to see in their communities. She has worked on a variety of different campaigns since working with the Foundation. Some of her biggest accomplishments was being the lead person in gathering over 3,000 signatures to turn into the Kern High School board to express that the community didn’t want teachers to have guns on campus as well as working on the campaign to pass Proposition 30 to get more funding for our schools.

Gabriela became a volunteer when she was 11 years old with the DHF because she realized their focus was to organize communities to improve their lives. She has previously worked on campaigns such as Leticia Perez, Willy Rivera, and Measure J among others. After working on a variety of different campaigns that taught her the importance of door knocking and listening to the community with an open mind in order to work together to make changes. She has always been motivated to fight for immigrant rights because she was raised in a mixed status family. Becoming an advocate for her community has been a tremendous part of her. The students she works with are a constant reminder that we need to work with every generation in order to expand our work.

She loves going to the gym and having a clear mind before coming into work every day in order to have the energy and good mindset.

Maria Romero

Maria Romero

Maria Romero

Maria Romero

Youth Program Director

Maria has been an educator for over 20 years with experience as a paraeducator, Education Specialist, high school teacher, club advisor, and facilitator. The colonized education system and the misguidance Maria experienced in schools is what fuels her to foster a more safe and honest educational space for youth where their life experiences are used to harvest their brilliance so they not only heal and transform themselves but their communities as well.

She has made youth and education justice her lifelong passion and has a wide range of abilities and accomplishments related to the success of youth, especially those that have been marginalized by the current education system and by society as a whole, primarily youth with emotional and mental health needs. 

As Youth Program Director and co-creator of the Liberated Youth for Empowerment (LYFE) program, she is currently supporting 4 teams across the Central Valley with their youth-centered campaigns: lifting up the LGBTQ2+ community in Fresno County; supporting the unhoused community in Tulare County; pushing for healthier and culturally relevant meals in Kern County schools and advocating for more green spaces and access to meaningful retail options in California City. 

Outside of education and activism, Maria loves to read, hike, sew, cook, listen to music, and spend time with her family, and stays close to the indigenous teachings, teachers, and ceremonies of her ancestral lineage.

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