California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Staff

Gladys Limon

Executive Director

Read Gladys’ bio
Contact Gladys at: glimon [at] caleja.org

Katie Valenzuela

Policy and Political Director

Read Katie’s bio
Contact Katie at: katie [at] caleja.org

Melissa White

Development Director

Read Melissa’s bio
Contact Melissa at: melissa [at] caleja.org

Yadira Hernandez

Finance and Administration Director

Read Yadira’s bio
Contact Yadira at: yadira [at] caleja.org

Diana Vazquez

Policy Manager

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

Tiffany Eng

Green Zones Program Manager

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

Jose Torres

Energy Equity Program Manager

Read Jose’s bio
Contact Jose at: jose [at] caleja.org

Neena Mohan

Climate Justice Program Associate

Read Neena’s bio
Contact Neena at: neena [at] caleja.org

Mabel Tsang

Civic Engagement Program Manager

Read Mabel’s bio
Contact Mabel at: mabel [at] caleja.org

Cassie Gardener Manjikian

Special Projects Manager

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

Brittny Anya

Operations Manager

Read Brittny’s bio
Contact Brittny at: brittny [at] caleja.org

Denise Forrest

Grants Manager

Read Denise’s bio
Contact Denise: denise [at] caleja.org

Gwen Chang

SOMAH Outreach and Curriculum Manager

Read Gwen’s bio
Contact Gwen at: gwen [at] caleja.org

Isa Flores-Jones

Communications Associate

Read Isa’s bio
Contact Isa at: isa [at] caleja.org

Alexis Sutterman

Program Fellow

Read Alexis’ bio
Contact Alexis at: alexis [at] caleja.org

 

Gladys Limon, Executive Director

Gladys has over 15 years of experience in legal, policy, and community-based work for environmental justice and civil rights. Having joined CEJA in 2017 as its first Executive Director, Gladys brings a deep connection to CEJA’s members and partners.

Gladys has extensive experience working on behalf of immigrant communities, including as staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF), where she litigated cases concerning anti-immigrant laws, racial discrimination, and the rights of low-income immigrant workers.

Most recently, Gladys worked as an attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, one of CEJA’s core members, on successful high stakes environmental justice matters including the shut down of Exide’s battery smelter that for decades polluted surrounding communities with dangerous levels of lead and arsenic, resulting in one of the most serious environmental catastrophes in California.

Gladys also helped lead the work of the Standing Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-LA) coalition alongside our partners at PSR-LA. Gladys brought an unprecedented environmental and civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Youth for Environmental Justice against the City of Los Angeles challenging the rubber-stamping of oil drilling projects in neighborhoods, resulting in the City’s issuance of a robust administrative guidance policy that provides environmental and anti-discrimination protections. Gladys was also a lead attorney representing CEJA in the fight to defeat the Puente Power Plant in Oxnard, a fourth dirty fossil fuel plant proposed in a disproportionately impacted community.

Contact Gladys at: glimon [at] caleja.org

Katie Valenzuela, Policy and Political Director

As Policy and Political Director, Katie will work to scale the power of the Alliance by advancing CEJA’s Building the EJ Voice in State Policy, Civic Engagement, and Electoral programs. As CEJA’s primary policy and political strategist, she will guide our team in developing and implementing an integrated, cohesive power-building strategy for systemic change through impact policy to improve the health and well-being of environmental justice communities.

Katie Valenzuela comes to CEJA with 10 years of public policy and environmental justice experience. She most recently served Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia in key roles, first as the principal consultant for the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change, and then as Capitol Director. A community organizer for 20 years and a proud resident of Sacramento since 2008, Katie helped start the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition, was one of the first Sacramento representatives on California’s AB 32 Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, and is co-chair of the Sacramento Community Land Trust. Katie is passionate about racial and environmental justice, and spends a great deal of her personal and professional time helping elevate the voices of communities of color that are most impacted by climate change. Katie was born and raised in Oildale, California, and holds a Bachelors and Masters degrees in Community Development from U.C. Davis.

Contact Katie at: katie [at] caleja.org

Melissa White, Development Director


I am CEJA’s Development Director. In the 1990s I taught English in Oakland, San Francisco and Japan, where my youngest student was four and my oldest was 84. In the late 1990s I became an organizer within the SF Bay Area and national LGBTQ community. These experiences led me into fundraising. I have raised money for immigrant and refugee services, breast cancer advocacy, LGBTQ behavioral health services, LGBTQ youth development, youth organizing around educational justice, and environmental health and justice.

My interest in environmental health and justice is personal and political. My mother and all of her siblings died of cancer after growing up in the 1930’s in a small Central Florida town very close to citrus agriculture and industrial facilities. I don’t know of any family cancer in the generations before or after theirs. I always wondered if exposure to pesticides or other toxic substances in their youth played a role in their deaths. This experience caused me to pay close attention to health issues, and I learned to see through an environmental health and justice lens while working at Breast Cancer Action.

Before joining CEJA, I fundraised for 5 years for a CEJA member organization – Communities for a Better Environment. As CEJA’s Development Director, I work to strengthen the culture of giving and receiving within and around CEJA.

In my free time, I like to wear high-visibility gear and ride my bicycle in LA. I also meditate, do yoga, and read.

Contact Melissa at: melissa [at] caleja.org

Yadira Hernandez, Finance and Administration Director


As Finance and Administration Director, Yadira is responsible for overseeing the fiscal management and administration of CEJA’s infrastructure.

She ensures that CEJA has operational controls, financial administrative and reporting procedures, financial systems and human capital in place to ensure long-term sustainability, operating efficiency, and build capacity. Yadira is constantly challenging herself to find ways to translate, narrate and socialize finance as an organizing tool. She searches for opportunities to advance organizational culture through innovation, with a passion for building successful and motivated teams that collaborate and contribute to a culture of interconnection.

With over 10 years’ experience in nonprofit management, Yadira brings a broad range of experience in accounting, finance, and human resources to her work at CEJA. Serving in a wide range of leadership and management positions, she has worked in various nonprofit fields including immigrant rights, fiscal sponsorship, affordable housing and environmental justice. In addition to her finance career she has served on multiple boards of directors for various nonprofits organizations.

Yadira was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised in Northern California. When she is not busy working in an Excel document, she enjoys spending time with her two children and husband.

Contact Yadira: yadira [at] caleja.org

Diana Vazquez, Policy Manager


As CEJA’s Policy Manager, 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

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

Jose Torres, Energy Equity Program Manager


As the Energy Equity Program Manager, I work to ensure California’s energy policies are focused on building a more equitable economy and the Energy Democracy working families and communities of color deserve.

Before CEJA, I was a Legislative Analyst for the California Energy Commission’s Office of Governmental Affairs and worked at the California State Assembly and Senate. My career in the Capitol started as a California Senate Fellow in the Office of Senator Alex Padilla. Outside of the Capitol, I’m also a Co-­Founder and Vice President of the Latinx Young Democrats of Sacramento, was a New Leaders Counsel Fellow, and previously served on the board of the California Latino Capitol Association. Before my career in policy, I participated in the McNair Scholars Program researching the economic benefits of vegan diets for Latinxs and was a grassroots and community organizer with Students for Quality Education, M.E.Ch.A., and other student advocacy groups.

I’m proud to come from a working ­class immigrant family that continues to drive my passion to fight for progressive values. In my free time, I like to screen write social and political dramas. When I’m not writing, I also like to hike, and listen to live music.

Contact Jose at: jose [at] caleja.org

Neena Mohan, Climate Justice Program Associate

As CEJA’s Climate Justice Program Associate, my goal is to ensure the needs and experiences of environmental justice communities are uplifted and are used to shape California’s climate policies. My hope is that we can lead the way in creating an equitable and just transition that addresses historical and current harms to marginalized communities, while also mitigating the impacts of climate change on our planet and its inhabitants.

My perspective is in part shaped by my experiences growing up in a South Asian immigrant family in a small town in the High Desert/Inland Valley of Southern California (the ancestral home and unceded territory of the Yuhaviatam / Maarenga’yam people). As a graduate of UC Berkeley with Bachelors of Science degrees in Environmental Sciences and in Conservation & Resources Studies, and a minor in LGBT Studies, I am also shaped by student organizing experiences in queer/trans people of color and environmental justice spaces. I was also the Conference Manager for the first ever Student of Color Environmental Conference at the university level in the state. During my undergraduate years, I had the opportunity to work with Earthjustice and National Parks Conservation Association to uplift diverse voices and share critical narratives. I got exposure to the state policy world as a Summer Associate on the Environmental Equity team at the Greenlining Institute, and was also a fellow at Alameda County’s Office of Sustainability, where I worked on climate adaptation, resilience, and equity issues in local government. In my free time, I like to create and give workshops on environmental and climate justice issues, and have done so for various conferences, retreats, and trainings.

When I’m not advocating for climate justice, you can find me learning electric bass guitar, supporting other social justice organizations, writing poetry, traveling in nature, and meditating in the sun. I also enjoy exploring various decolonial, ecological, feminist and queer of color theories, and am on a journey of (re)discovering and (re)defining my relationship to land, institutions, other beings, and myself. My guiding light is the interconnectedness of all things, and I hope my efforts in this work help bring about more healing, freedom, and love in these connections.

Contact Neena at: neena [at] caleja.org

Mabel Tsang, Civic Engagement Program Manager


As Civic Engagement Program Manager for CEJA and CEJA Action, I work to build the political power, self-governance and self-determination of EJ communities and communities of color burdened by health, economic and environmental impacts. I build the bridges of accountability between California’s elected leaders and voters, manage ballot measure campaigns, and expand democratic participation for environmental, racial and social justice by centering and including members of our community who have been historically barred from voting. I’ve successfully led the campaign to beat down Proposition 70 which preserved critical public funds to fight climate change.

I became an organizer because of my mom. I found myself in the social justice movement in hopes of making the world a better place for her and others like her. Despite health problems ranging from heart disease to asthma my mother worked as a waitress and a care-taker which brought me into organizing at United Food and Commercial Workers alongside Walmart workers with Organization United for Respect at Walmart, for retail workers’ rights, human dignity and respect in one of the largest commercial global polluters. This brought me to work for San Francisco Rising, an alliance of six Asian, Black, Latinx grassroots working-class immigrant, youth, and people of color base-building organizations across San Francisco, to build the political power to elect progressive candidates and pass bold ballot measures for necessary resources and changes in our community when elected officials would not or could not. I brought my experiences to Asian Pacific Environmental Network a member of CEJA to lead a campaign to contact 30,000 voters, the largest Asian Pacific American direct voter contact efforts in California. I carry these invaluable lessons forward into CEJA’s Civic Engagement and Electoral programs to build the infrastructure of political power and decision making for the future we are building today.

Outside of electoral politics and organizing, I am a current fellow in LeaderSpring’s LEADStrong women of color cohort. I can be found meditating and teaching yoga, taking trips to some of the most beautiful places, and writing books for children of color so they can see themselves in this world.

Contact Mabel: mabel [at] caleja.org

Cassie Gardener Manjikian, Special Projects Manager


Cassie.300As CEJA’s Special Projects Manager, I work to raise our profile and impact by project-managing our 2 annual publications (the EJ Scorecard and EJ Agency Assessment) and 4 annual events (the Congreso, Spring Lobby Day, CEJA-wide retreat and Staff Retreat).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. I joined the Sierra Club in Washington DC to advance global sexual and reproductive health and rights and sustainable, healthy communities, while partnering with the growing international youth climate movement. In 2010, I left to intern with two of these projects in Ethiopia and Mexico, during a solo backpacking trip to 6 continents. There I witnessed first-hand the vast, urgent need for locally-based climate justice solutions. I 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 LA environmental justice 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 the city of Commerce. In 2013 I moved to Sacramento and managed community asthma education programs at Breathe-California, before returning to LA and joining CEJA in 2016.

In my free time I enjoy running, hiking, cooking, traveling, speaking Spanish, learning Armenian, and spending time with my amazing husband Garo and 3 sons Razmig, Avo and Zaven.

Contact Cassie: cassie [at] caleja.org

Brittny Anya, Operations Manager


I manage the operations for the amazing work CEJA does across the state. I enjoy managing operational systems because it is the engine that keeps CEJA running. I like exploring various productivity tools and to-do lists to maximize and increase our productivity. I’m passionate about building resilient communities that are most impacted by systematic injustices that plague our world. I came to CEJA because the folks at this organization work tirelessly to promote environmental awareness to improve the health of our communities.

 

Before joining CEJA, I did some community organizing around social justice during my time at Fresno State with Black Students United and through my sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Additionally, I’ve spent a lot of time working in the social work field with youth and families providing direct services, program management, and administrative support.

During my free time, I can be found listening to music. I love music especially anything from 90’s R&B, Hip Hop, and Jazz. Music keeps me centered and energized to get through the days whether I’m feeling up or down. When the weather permits, I like to spend time at the beach on the sand listening and watching the waves because it’s so calming.

To sum up my life, I would say that I am a continuous learner with a desire to continually gain new knowledge for self-improvement and make positive impacts on the world.

Contact Brittny: brittny [at] caleja.org

Denise Forrest, Grants Manager.

 

As Grants Manager, I manage and support diverse aspects of CEJA’s development work while raising CEJA’s annual
budget. I am responsible for the day-to-day management of the grants program, including grant tracking, reporting, and drafting. I play a key role in developing CEJA’s individual donor fundraising program.

I come to this work with a sincere belief in the power of people and devote myself to vocations that uplift, connect, and empower communities to create real, positive change. In the ongoing human project to liberate all peoples, my contribution has largely been in grassroots EJ, food justice, and LGBTQ+ community organizing.

I am a recent transplant from Philadelphia where I earned Master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Environmental Policy and Nonprofit Leadership. In my spare time I enjoy hanging out with my brilliant partner Sean, reading everything from philosophy to pulp romance, playing D&D and video games, and snuggling my roommate’s dog, Starla.

 

Contact Denise: denise [at] caleja.org

Gwen Chang, SOMAH Outreach and Curriculum Manager

As the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Outreach and Curriculum Manager, Gwen will work in alliance with community-based members to create culturally-appropriate curriculum and a strategic vision that supports the work of community organizers in educating tenants, property owners, job trainees, and community partners about SOMAH. Gwen is excited to be working and learning alongside a team of organizers across California to implement a landmark solar program that brings solar technology and job opportunities to frontline communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.

Before joining CEJA, Gwen was a Workforce Development and Volunteerism Solarcorps fellow with GRID Alternatives in the Bay Area. During her fellowship year, Gwen managed the public volunteer program, built partnerships with community organizations, and provided hands-on solar job training with cohorts of trainees from around the Bay Area. She saw first-hand how accessing the green jobs and providing economic opportunity can uplift individuals, families, and communities. She is passionate about serving communities and fighting for environmental and economic justice because of the love she feels for her own family and resilient immigrant communities around the world.

Outside of work, Gwen enjoys hiking, knitting, and ceramics.

Contact Gwen: gwen [at] caleja.org

Isa Flores-Jones, Communications Associate

As Communications Associate, Isa works with CEJA members and partners to amplify local and regional struggles through  state-w
ide media campaigns.

Originally from Sacramento, Isa completed her B.A in History and Literature from Harvard College, where her work with the fossil fuel divestment campaign brought her into allyship and coordination with local community-controlled cooperative finance such as the Ujima Project. As a 350.org Climate Justice Fellow Isa joined a cohort of youth organizing fellows to develop their strategic organizing skills. From fending off InfoWars reporters to knocking doors to conducting training webinars for hundreds of new organizers, Isa is committed to the practice and processes of equitable, just, and transformative storytelling.

Isa has developed her communications and research skills through her time contributing to national press outreach with the Sunrise Movement Press team and contributing research to Latin American corporate accountability watchdog PODER. She approaches her work with a belief in the power of community-controlled resources and collective decision-making and is grateful for the opportunity to join CEJA members in this struggle.

 

Contact Isa: isa [at] caleja.org

Alexis Sutterman, Program Fellow

Alexis Sutterman graduated from Chapman University (‘19) with a major in Political Science. In the past several years, she has been involved in several efforts to pursue peace for her local and global communities. As a research assistant at Chapman’s Earl Babbie Research Center, Alexis has worked closely with two professors on their research on development assistance in post-conflict societies in East-Central Africa and indigenous environmental movements in Latin America.

In addition, Alexis has been very engaged in Orange County politics. As a NextGen California fellow, a Fund Her intern, and the president of Chapman University Young Democrats, Alexis has registered young people to vote, informed others about local measures, and worked on several campaigns to get progressive candidates elected into office. On campus, she has organized a Rock the Vote event, a walkout against gun violence, and a march to city council to protect CA SB-54 (sanctuary city status in Orange). Alexis has also travelled to Israel/Palestine as a member of the Olive Tree Initiative organization to practice conflict analysis/resolution and international peacebuilding. Inspired by this trip, she wrote her senior thesis on the crisis in Gaza, and used decolonial frameworks to envision a peaceful future for Palestinians in the region.

In the next year, Alexis plans to explore opportunities to pursue climate justice on both an individual and societal level. Blending the frameworks of deep ecology and decolonial theory, she seeks to learn strategies of developing ecological consciousness in oneself, one’s community, and one’s political and social institutions. She hopes this will enable humans to enact a different world-view that connects us back to the planet and to each other.

 

Contact Alexis: alexis [at] caleja.org