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Los Angeles Office
Northern California Office
|Jamila Iris Edwards
Northern California Director
Senior Policy Associate
Policy and Communications Associate
Senior Policy Associate
Health Program Coordinator
Kim Brettschneider is the Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund-California. Kim leads the Los Angeles and Northern California offices in the effort to ensure all children have health coverage, end policies that push children out of school, and guarantee our juvenile justice system rehabilitates youths. The California team also provides youth programs including Freedom Schools® during the summer for over 600 children, a college and career ready program for high school students who receive CDF’s Beat the Odds® scholarship, and a Young Adult Leadership Training® focused on organizing communities. In total, Kim has served eight years at CDF in various roles.
At the Wonder of Reading, Kim was the development director, serving on their leadership team as they expanded their comprehensive literacy programs. Prior to this, she held an interim role overseeing the Conservation Corps of Long Beach’s charter high school with about 200 at-risk young adults, and after-school programs, serving almost 1,000 students. During the beginning of her career she received several fellowships to expand health and education services for the Pomona Day Labor Center, designed an education rights training for Public Counsel, and analyzed giving patterns for Southern California Grantmakers. At Pomona College, she received her B.A. in sociology and focused on public policy. Currently, Kim is a board member and mentor for Operation Jumpstart.
Contact Kim Brettschneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-355-8791.
Michelle Newell is a Senior Policy Associate for the Children’s Defense Fund's Los Angeles office. Through her policy and advocacy work, Michelle specializes in education and juvenile justice reform, and particularly the overlap in the two fields. Michelle uses research, policy analysis and coalition work to advocate for systemic reform that keeps youth out of the juvenile justice system whenever possible – particularly around ending punitive school policies that contribute to the school to prison pipeline – as well as works to reform the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles and California to ensure that we are providing rehabilitative environments that meet the needs of our youth.
Prior to working for CDF-CA, Michelle received her Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she wrote her master’s thesis on juvenile reentry in LA County for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Before receiving her graduate degree, Michelle worked to make our education system more equitable. She completed the Education Pioneers graduate fellowship, worked in research and evaluation for the Long Beach Unified School District, and taught fourth grade through Teach for America. Michelle received her B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley and lives in Los Angeles.
Contact Michelle Newell at email@example.com or 213-355-8790.
Angélica Salazar is a Policy Associate in the Children’s Defense Fund’s Los Angeles office. Angie focuses on advocating for policies that benefit vulnerable children and youth, particularly system-involved youth, and helps move them toward a pathway of school success and productive adulthood. Angie monitors and promotes reforms in national, state, and local education policies, especially at the intersection of juvenile justice and education.
Angie previously worked at the Children’s Defense Fund’s headquarters in Washington DC and monitored federal legislation and national policies in juvenile justice. Prior to joining the Children’s Defense Fund, Angélica was a middle school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for three years, where she became committed to working to ensure public systems meet the needs of California’s children and youth. Angie earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations and urban policy and planning at the University of Southern California, master’s degree in elementary education at Loyola Marymount University, and master’s degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Contact Angélica Salazar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-201-0831.
Lorena Sanchez is the Health Program Coordinator at the Children's Defense Fund's Los Angeles office. Lorena works closely with two school districts in Los Angeles County on a school-based outreach initiative that identifies uninsured students and links them with health care coverage. She also supports the work of the 100% Campaign, a collaboration to ensure that all of California's children gain access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage.
Lorena brings a combination of community and government affairs experience, having worked in the public and private sectors for more than 8 years. Prior to joining CDF, Lorena served as Senior Associate at Diverse Strategies for Organizing Inc., a private communications consulting firm where she was the lead project manager for clients such as LACCD, City of Los Angeles, SEIU-UHW, The Nielsen Company, and PhRMA. Lorena also served as Field Deputy for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and was a student worker for Ret. California State Senator Richard Polanco.
Lorena also brings academic and practical knowledge in the field of planning and community redevelopment. She has worked for the City of Huntington Park’s Community and Planning Department and for the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. In addition, Lorena has worked extensively with diverse groups throughout L.A. County, having worked for non-profit organizations servicing low-income communities. She has continued working along the side of non-profits at various capacities throughout her career.
On her free time, she volunteers at her local YMCA where she is a spinning instructor and also serves as Board Member at the South Central Family Health Center and the Huntington Park Community Health Center, where she supports quality healthcare access for the insured and uninsured. Lorena is a native of Boyle Heights. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from California State University, Los Angeles and is currently a thesis candidate at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona.
Contact Lorena Sanchez at email@example.com or (213) 201-0830.
Saira G. Soto is the Program Director for the Children's Defense Fund's Los Angeles office. In this position, Saira oversees the Beat the Odds Scholarship program and provides operational support for Freedom Schools® in California.
Saira has always been committed to environmental and social justice. Prior to joining CDF in 2011, she spent time studying poor water quality, general access to water, and its impact on the health of migrant farm worker communities. During this time, her exposure to the harsh working conditions of this population, as well as the constant workers' rights violations, inspired her to pursue a career in the labor movement. Additionally, Saira spent seven years as a Community Outreach Coordinator with the Service Employees Union, Local 721, advocating alongside public service providers and advocates for the preservation of public service programs for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Saira was born in Durango, Mexico and has lived in East Los Angeles since the age of seven. She received all her formal education through the public school system. In 2003, with the support of the CDF Beat the Odds® program and other scholarships, Saira graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Environmental Systems-Environmental Chemistry.
Contact Saira G. Soto at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-355-8793.
Joanna Flores is the Program Associate of Youth Programs at the Children's Defense Fund's Los Angeles office. As the Program Associate, Joanna strives to provide advocacy, guidance, case management and mentorship for the current Los Angeles Beat the Odds (BTO) award recipients, as well as establish and maintain lines of communication with past recipients. Joanna works closely to address the students’ needs by coordinating college counseling sessions, leadership workshops, cultural and educational activities, college applications and tours, SAT preparation courses, and general preparations for the Los Angeles Beat the Odds Awards Gala.
Joanna’s previous work was with Peace Over Violence, a non-profit organization dedicated to building healthy communities free of domestic, sexual and interpersonal violence. As the Rape Prevention Education Coordinator she worked in partnership with youth, parents and professionals in order to help youth develop and maintain healthy and violence-free relationships.
Joanna grew up in Long Beach where she was a part of a non-profit mentoring organization, Operation JumpStart, throughout her high school years. OJS is a community based program that is dedicated to assisting disadvantage youth to succeed academically and in life. Operation JumpStart inspired her work to provide mentorship and educational resources to disadvantage youth. Joanna graduated with her bachelor’s in Sociology and in 2009 she became the first OJS graduate to become a mentor.
Contact Jonna Flores at email@example.com or 213-355-8788.
Hanif Houston is a communications associate for the Children’s Defense Fund's Los Angeles California office. Hanif coordinates media appearances, produces content for CDF-CA’s website, manages its social media platforms, and advises on Legislative communication strategy.
Hanif has dedicated himself to a career in advocacy work for disadvantaged populations in California. Prior to joining CDF-CA, he worked in the California State Legislature as a press secretary, legislative specialist, and policy adviser for the Senate Committees on Education and Labor and Industrial Relations. In 2012, he developed and successfully negotiated through the Senate and Assembly two bills designed to improve the educational experiences of California's homeless youth and children in foster care; both bills were signed into law by Governor Brown. He has also taught at-risk youth in after-school programs, served as a panelist at college recruitment events for minority high school students, and written for progressive publications.
Hanif received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied perceptions of race in the turn-of-the-century American novel. Additionally, as a 2011-2012 Capital Fellow at the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, he has researched and written on a broad range of public policy topics, including K-12 education, child-welfare, public safety, revenue and taxation, and transportation.
Contact Hanif Houston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-201-0833.
Caroline Kim serves as the Development Associate for the Children’s Defense Fund's Los Angeles office. Caroline oversees all of CDF-CA's grant administration and fundraising activities, and supports coordination between the statewide and national offices.
Caroline brings to this position a passion for social justice and a strong background in program evaluation, student-focused development, and outreach strategy. Caroline began her career aiding nonprofits, international organizations, and universities in developing strategic relationships, implementing marketing and outreach plans for fundraising events, and consulting on sustainable community-centered development projects both nationally and abroad. Additionally, she spent several years supporting first-year and non-traditional student transitions to college. Caroline is committed to leveraging her extensive Los Angeles-based networks to advance educational and health opportunities for youth locally and around the world.
Caroline received her Bachelor of Arts in Diplomacy and World Affairs from Occidental College and a Master's in Public Administration and a Certificate in Public Policy with an emphasis in Organizational Development from the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. Caroline is a native of Los Angeles, and is an avid supporter of local social enterprise and arts communities.
Contact Caroline Kim at email@example.com or 213-355-8791
Northern California Office
Jamila Iris Edwards is the Northern California Director of the Children’s Defense Fund. Jamila manages the Oakland and Sacramento-based offices, represents the goals and mission of CDF in Northern California, and leads CDF California’s policy and advocacy agenda around children’s access to quality health care.
Jamila is a former sixth grade teacher and has spent the last 10 years in the health care and public health policy and advocacy field. Prior to joining CDF, Jamila worked for the statewide trade association representing community clinics and health centers.
Jamila is a board member for Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN), a local nonprofit working to empower parents to transform schools so that all children can have access to an excellent education. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. She resides in Oakland, with her son Reile, and is an avid fan of all Oakland sports teams.
Contact Jamila Iris Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-663-3780.
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky is a Policy and Communications Associate in the Children’s Defense Fund’s Oakland office. Through her policy work, Michele advocates to ensure that every child in California has access to quality health care and that California children are protected in the state budget. Michele leads CDF-CA’s policy analysis, relationship building and advocacy work on state budget, Healthy Families, Medi-Cal, and federal health policy, and helps coordinate California’s children’s health coverage coalition. Michele also manages and directs strategy for CDF-CA’s communications efforts.
Prior to joining the Children's Defense Fund, Michele worked on advocacy and communications for Preschool California, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to quality early learning for California’s children. Michele served as a Dukakis Fellow in Colorado Governor Bill’s Ritter’s office, where she worked closely on issues of homelessness and childhood hunger. Raised by community organizers in inner-city Denver, Michele is a lifelong social justice activist and an avid proponent of public schools.
Michele has a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. During her time at Harvard, Michele co-founded the Massachusetts Cradle to Prison Pipeline Coalition, which brought together community and policy leaders to focus on challenges facing at-risk children and youth, starting with reforming school discipline policies. Michele is currently serving as a Leadership Institute Fellowship Team Fellow at Hands On Bay Area, where she helps create opportunities for people to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities.
Contact Michele Stillwell-Parvensky at email@example.com or (510) 663-1294.
Serena Kirk joined the Children’s Defense Fund's Northern California office as Senior Policy Associate in April 2012, working to ensure all California children have access to quality health care. Serena serves as an advocate in Sacramento, fighting to protect and expand children’s health programs in the state capital, through the state budget process and as California implements the Affordable Care Act.
Serena spent five years representing community clinics and health centers, who are providers of care to poor and vulnerable populations, serving first as Senior Advocate for the state trade association, then as Executive Director for a seven county regional network. Her areas of focus have been increasing diversity in the health workforce, state budget issues, school based health centers, farm worker health and grassroots mobilization.During one of the nation’s most charged presidential elections, Serena served on the Executive Committee for Sacramento for Obama and represented Congressional District 5 (Matsui) as an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Serena received her undergraduate degree in Communications from San Diego State University and studied International Communications at Tianjian University in China, and International Politics, at Oxford University in England.
Contact Serena at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 219-6415.
Kisha Jackson joined the Northern California office as the Office Administrator in June 2012, after almost a year of working as a volunteer and administrative consultant.
For the past 12 years, Kisha has worked for nonprofits in the Bay Area and Sacramento in a variety of functions, including serving as the Executive Manager of the California State Conference of the NAACP, where she managed civil rights issues with their 52 branches and 37 youth and college divisions. Kisha also has extensive experience in working with Food Banks. She managed projects for the California Association of Food Banks, the statewide trade association for California’s food banks, as well as oversaw agency services at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland.
Kisha attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA and is a California native. In addition to serving underserved populations, Kisha is passionate about the Oakland Raiders and has been a season ticket holder most of her life.
Contact Kisha at email@example.com or (510) 663-2984.