California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Staff

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Strela Cervas

Co-Director

Read Strela’s bio
Contact Strela at: scervas [at] caleja.org

Amy Vanderwarker

Co-Director

Read Amy’s bio
Contact Amy at: amy [at] caleja.org

Tiffany Eng

Green Zones Program Manager

Read Tiffany’s bio
Contact Tiffany at: tiffany [at] caleja.org

Diana Vazquez

Policy Advocate

Read Diana’s bio
Contact Diana at: diana [at] caleja.org

Cassie Gardener Manjikian

Fund Development Manager

Read Cassie’s bio
Contact Cassie at: cassie [at] caleja.org

Kay Cuajunco

Communications Associate

Read Kay’s bio
Contact Kay at: kay [at] caleja.org

Strela Cervas, Co-Director


Strela.300I coordinate the Energy Equity program, new Civic Engagement program, and Organizational Development work for CEJA. I help communities across California chart their own vision of a clean energy future, and empower people to speak for themselves and to develop their own policies, bring local renewable energy to the hardest hit communities, and unite communities of color voters across California.

My husband says that I blame the eradication of the banana seed as the root of all environmental degradation. Part of my passion in environmental justice started when I visited a Dole banana plantation in the Philippines and witnessed that not only were the bananas genetically modified, but the workers and poor local communities were being sprayed overhead by toxic pesticides. I then learned that deforestation and heavy fossil fuel development rapidly led to health impacts and climate change in the Philippines and in other Global South countries and low-income communities. This experience propelled me to a life-long commitment to social justice work.

I became an organizer with the Pilipino Workers’ Center for 8 years in LA where I worked on a broad range of issues. I organized low-wage Pilipino caregivers to fight for meal breaks and wage theft, taking on intimidating attorneys. I also helped launch the first California Household Worker Bill of Rights campaign along with other women leaders from other organizations. Today, I am honored to sit on PWC’s Board of Directors.

I had asthma as a young kid and allergies so bad that it forced my parents to give away my first dog. I realized through my social justice work that asthma and allergies are connected to living next to toxic sites and pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

I joined the California Environmental Justice Alliance in 2008 determined to fight for communities who are suffering from asthma and other health issues because of environmental injustice. I am most inspired when community leaders are empowered enough to take on corporate polluters.

I am a mom to the smartest kid on the planet, Iskra, I need a daily dose (sometimes two) of quality coffee, I sneak chocolate treats into my office, get into nature when I have the chance, and binge watch cooking shows and NBA basketball.

Contact Strela at: scervas [at] caleja.org

Amy Vanderwarker, Co-Director

amyheadshot.300I manage the Climate Justice program at CEJA. When I realized that you could link “justice” and “the environment,” I found my fight in life. Since starting this work in 2004, I have crisscrossed the state to support on-the-ground struggles for healthy places to live, work and play. From Calexico on the border of Mexico to the Klamath Basin at the border of Oregon, I have learned much and been inspired by the amazing work of every day people fighting for their health, way of life, clean air, clean water, and against new prisons (yep, they are an EJ issue too!)

Since joining CEJA in 2010, I have helped develop our Green Zones program, found the best coffee shops near the Capitol building, live Tweeted for the first time, coordinated our first major Community Congreso with over 150 community leaders, and looked at way more state statute than I ever imagined.

Outside of work, I engage in compulsive extracurricular activities. These include: making art, particularly screenprinting, organizing in my neighborhood in Oakland, and outdoor pursuits like backcountry skiing, white water kayaking and running. I have been known to spend hours sewing small felt animals for the many kids in my life and do actually maintain a giant spreadsheet with all the California native plants we have growing in our garden.

Contact Amy at: amy [at] caleja.org

Tiffany Eng, Green Zones Program Manager


Tiffany.300As the Green Zones Program Manager, I work with CEJA to lift up the amazing work that groups are doing across the state to transform polluted and neglected areas into healthy, resilient, and vibrant neighborhoods. I first joined CEJA in 2016 because I love the fact that Green Zones are proactive, people-led plans that holistically combat environmental injustices while providing all the resources and opportunities that our communities need.

I see environmental justice as an important lens through which we can analyze the world around us and find solutions. While my hometown of Oakland, CA informed my politics and fueled my love for these neighborhoods, it also taught me hard lessons about institutional power and marginalization. Yet I love the fact that our people continue to shine, create their own visions of home, and organize to win.

In 2015, I completed my Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley where I focused on environmental planning and policy, water justice, and equitable economic development. Before going back to school, I served as a Youth Organizer, a Co-Director, and a Policy Director for over nine years with AYPAL: Building API Community Power. I have also worked with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), the Women’s Policy Institute (WPI), Community Youth Center (CYCSF), and Community Bridges Beacon in the Mission District.

When I’m not working on Green Zones legislation or coalition priorities, you can find me backpacking through the Sierras and promoting socially inclusive green spaces, reading people’s tarot cards, watching the Golden State Warriors win more games than ever before, and continuing my lifelong art and photography practices.

Contact Tiffany: tiffany [at] caleja.org

Diana Vazquez, Policy Advocate


As CEJA’s Policy Advocate, I am responsible for representing the interests and perspectives of our member organizations in front of the legislature, governor’s office, agencies, and environmental advocates. I provide analysis of administrative policies, legislative proposals, and state budgetary proposals that impact environmental justice communities throughout California.

Before joining the CEJA team, I worked as a Policy Advocate for Sierra Club California in Sacramento and previously worked as a Legislative Assistant for Assembly Member Ed Chau and former Assembly Member Mike Eng, where I provided analysis and recommendations on legislation and policy proposals. I am also a proud first generation college graduate from the University of California, Davis where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies and went onto to receive a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Mostly importantly, I continue my activism and community involvement by participating in organizations that advocate for the betterment of marginalized communities. Some of my current and past volunteer experiences include working with organizations like -the Association of Raza Educators, Ethnic Studies Now- Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Latina Leaders Network, New Leaders Council, California Latino Capitol Association, and the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

During my spare time, I love attending music festivals, visiting art collective spaces, organizing campouts and just simply hanging out with family and friends, while enjoying some delicious food and wine.

Contact Diana: diana [at] caleja.org

Cassie Gardener Manjikian, Fund Development Manager

Cassie.300As CEJA’s Fund Development Manager, I work to raise our annual budget and impact advancing California’s environmental health and justice movement, through grant-writing, reporting, tracking, and maintaining and developing new funder relationships.

My environmental and social justice career began in 2006 when I graduated from UC Davis with a major in Sociology and minor in Women’s Studies, and joined the Sierra Club in Washington DC to advance global sexual and reproductive health and rights and sustainable, healthy communities. In this role, I partnered with reproductive justice and environmental justice stakeholders and the growing international youth climate movement to jointly pioneer effective grassroots campaigns. In 2010, I left to intern with two of these partners in Ethiopia and Mexico during a solo backpacking trip to 6 continents. I witnessed first-hand the vast, urgent need for locally-based climate justice solutions, and returned to the U.S. invigorated with a new life mission – to advance policies and programs that improve community health and climate resilience.

I joined the Liberty Hill Foundation while earning a Master of Public Health degree at UCLA, and put my ideals into action – advancing the Clean Up Green Up campaign to create Green Zones in three toxic hotspot LA communities. After graduation I became a half-time Research and Policy Analyst at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, to develop a similar Green Zones Campaign. In 2013 I left LA to be with my fiancé in Sacramento, where I managed community asthma education programs at Breathe-California, before returning to LA in 2015.

I have traveled to 39 countries, and enjoy any outdoor activity where I can learn something new and be creative. I love skiing, camping, hiking, biking, meditating, singing, dancing, doing arts and crafts, practicing Spanish, learning Armenian, and spending time with my amazing husband Garo.

Contact Cassie: cassie [at] caleja.org

Kay Cuajunco, Communications Associate

Kay.300As the Communications Associate at CEJA, I work to uplift the voices and solutions of communities on the frontline of struggles for environmental justice across the state whose leadership paves the way for healthy and resilient communities for us all. I coordinate our statewide communications strategy with our member organizations, develop creative messaging, write and design campaign reports and action alerts, maintain our website, manage our online presence on social media, and produce videos and other creative media.

I am deeply committed to reclaiming my connection to the land as a granddaughter of rice farmers in the Philippines. My passion for environmental justice is inspired by both this and my upbringing in the shadows of pollutive military facilities in National City, CA where I first experienced the realities of urban inequalities and environmental racism. However, it was not until I further connected the impact of war and militarism on our environment as an anti-nuclear student organizer at the University of California, Santa Barbara that I began to feel empowered to take action. I now recognize that we have no other choice but to take action for the clean and healthy communities we all deserve.

While pursuing my masters at San Francisco State University, I was a Green Your City Fellow at Bay Localize where I worked on media and communications for urban agriculture and local clean energy campaigns in Oakland. I have also organized with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on the Campaign for Fair Food as a national steering committee member of the Student Farmworker Alliance. Most recently I have been a creative resistance trainer and co-coordinator of The Ruckus Society’s Arts Core and have facilitated trainings and art builds for the Climate Justice Alliance’s Our Power Campaign in Richmond, Detroit, and New York. I am also currently a filmmaker with Survival Media Agency, a global media network dedicated to climate justice.

Outside of CEJA and organizing, my favorite places to be are behind a camera, in the kitchen, in the garden, on my bike, or on long hikes to natural hot springs.

Contact Kay: kay [at] caleja.org