Meet The Team


Organizing Team

Our Organizers are a group of Pin@y volunteers from the South Bay Area. Composed of community members, student leaders, young adults, and families from a range of experiences and vocations, our volunteer Organizing Team meets monthly to develop LEAD Filipino’s programs such as Awareness in Action, Fly Pinays, and our various policy advocacy initiatives and campaigns. The Organizers develop strategic collaborations, community outreach, and identify critical issues that LEAD Filipino works to address year-round. If you have any questions, please reach out!

The organizers meet the second Sunday of each month from 4PM-6PM via Zoom conference calls.

Angelica Cortez

Angelica “Gel” Cortez, MPA, is a public policy professional, community organizer, and nonprofit founder.  Under her leadership, LEAD Filipino has grown to serve hundreds of community members through its year-round programs including the Annual Fly Pinays, Awareness in Action, and the co-formation of the Filipinx Policy Steering Committee. Her background includes working in local and state government and for policy advocacy organizations in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles Areas.  She’s currently a Director at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and in this role has supported regional infrastructure campaigns, including Santa Clara County’s Measure B Campaign, the 9-County Bay Area’s Regional Measure 3, and the passage of Senate Bill 50 in 2018, resulting in billions of dollars invested in public transportation projects and initiatives in the greater Silicon Valley region and statewide.  Angelica currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club and the Advisory Board for UC Davis’ Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. She has been recognized for her human service and advocacy work with Filipinx and Asian Pacific Islander communities by NBC Bay Area, Asian American Recovery Services, and the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women. Angelica holds her BA and MPA and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.
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Daniel Lazo
Design & Branding

Daniel has always had a profound love for San Jose and Filipino community.  Born and raised in the diverse Silicon Valley, he continues to grow his identity as a Filipino American entrepreneur in the arts, graphic design and fashion.  During high school, he served as a president for Piedmont Hills’ Filipino Parent Student Association for two years, and a core member of the Filipino Youth Coalition (FYC) for three years.  He currently attends San Jose State University where he is working toward his BS in Advertising.  Continuing his social, political and creative involvement in college, he is an active member of Akbayan SJSU and Anakbayan Silicon Valley.  Through LEAD Filipino, his goal is to give back his knowledge and creativity to the community.  Feel free to get to know him on Twitter @dinomandaniel.

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Jay Page
Education Team

Jay is the Co-Director for our Awareness in Action Program.  She played a key role in the curriculum development of our “Coalition Building & Student Led Movements” class this past summer, where she invited two seated Commissioners to speak to our students about Public Service.  Born in Pasay City and raised in Milpitas, Jessica has always been proud of belonging to two vibrant cultures.  Because her family comes from one of the least colonized parts of the Philippines (Kalinga), she has a love for learning about pre-colonial histories of the Philippines and other countries.  She likes to study how Pilipino culture interacts with the mental wellness of Pilipino-American youth and women.  From high school outreach to advising in state prison, she’s long been passionate about advancing her community.  She holds two A.A. degrees from Mission College and a B.A. in Psychology from UC Davis.  Jessica is working toward her MSW to become a counselor for young Pilipinos and similarly underserved youth.

Kevin Suarez
Civic Engagement Team

Kevin Suarez; a San Jose native, attended De Anza College and San Jose State University, earning his Bachelor of Science in Economics in December of 2018.

Since 2017, Kevin has heavily involved himself with civically engaging the Filipino-American community. He has worked with organizations such as the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA); as a member of their youth program’s Inaugural EPYC class, and as the 2018-2019  Finance Chairperson for NCPASA: the Northern California Pilipinx Student Alliance. 

Kevin currently serves as a member of LEAD Filipino’s Civic Engagement Team. Kevin helped assist with the planning and execution of LEAD Filipino’s 2018 Voter Guide, the 1st Filipino Policy Symposium in coordination with the Bulosan Center in 2018, and served as a Team Captain during the 2019 Filipino Advocacy Day. Kevin hopes to further leverage his career interests in Economics, Finance, and Public Policy in the service of the Filipino-American community.

Vanessa Carr
Civic Engagement Team

Vanessa Carr is a Silicon Valley native who currently serves as Governor Gavin Newsom’s Los Angeles Regional Coordinator for External Affairs. She is the proud daughter of a Filipina immigrant and an Army Veteran. Growing up in an interracial family and among other communities of color, Vanessa found her passion for advocating for issues relating to equity, social justice, and economic opportunity. Her passion for community-driven leadership and advocacy has led her to work for various organizations and elected officials like LEAD Filipino, Congressman Ro Khanna, and Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. As a newer resident to Los Angeles, her work with organizations like the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats and the Los Angeles County Young Democrats are particularly exciting as she gets to bring in diverse, young, and talented activists to help advance progressive policies and elected leaders in the region. Vanessa received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Santa Clara University. If she isn’t organizing her community or ensuring that this state remains a California for all and not just some, she’s usually hanging out with friends or planning her next vacation. 

James Binauhan
Education Team

James remotely oversees our Linguistics and Philippine centered material which empowers our leadership programs and workshops.  Through L.E.A.D, he has led workshops on the influences of Spanish Colonization in the Philippines and Regional & Colonial Mentalities in the PI.  He received his B.A., Asian Studies and Masters of Public Affairs from USF. James‘ interaction with the Filipino-American community includes: interning at the Philippine Consulate General, Bayanihan Center, and West Bay. He also worked as an outreach coordinator at the Pilipino Senior Resource Center. In 2013, James was given the opportunity to engage with Filam community leaders and orgs in Socal with his involvement with APIEquality-LA. During his tenure at USF, James conducted societal and cultural studies in the Philippines as a Fulbright scholar. His volunteer experience in the Philippines galvanized him to embody social justice. Currently, James works at Salesforce and resides in Oregon. James has also helped in establishing a Filipino/Filipino American employee resource group at Salesforce. His goal is to incorporate the value of social justice and social awareness with his career in tech, by working to bridge corporation entities with communities members.

Jenna Edra
Fly Pinays Team

Jenna Edra is an Intellectual Property Case Assistant at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP and an Immigration Clinic / Citizenship Workshop volunteer with Asian Law Alliance. Her previous volunteering and internship experiences have included work with YWCA Silicon Valley, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Assemblymember Evan Low’s District Office, Santa Clara County Superior Court’s Restraining Order Help Center, and the United States Probation Office. Passionate about understanding the intersectionality of different social issues and helping diverse communities, Jenna has always enjoyed cutting across sectors and challenging herself in new settings. An alumna of San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, she intends to further her education by pursuing a Juris Doctor degree.

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Ian Crueldad
Civic Engagement Team

Ian Crueldad grew up in East San Jose, CA. He was raised by a single mom. After being bullied in high school, Ian grew a passion for helping others. He did not exactly know how to pursue his passion at first, but after volunteering on his first campaign, Ian realized that he wanted to help people through politics. Ian has worked on local campaigns, non-profits, and other government institutions. He also has been involved in the democratic party through being an officer of local democratic clubs as well as being a state delegate. The issues he has worked on over the years include the environment, housing, education, immigration etc.. Through scholarships, Ian studied political science and eventually graduated from the George Washington University in 2015.  Also having a passion for business, Ian was able to receive investments for his first company, which he started before graduating from college. On his free time, Ian likes to read philosophy, volunteer in the community, and simply getting to know others.

Katrina Figueroa
Civic Engagement Team

Katrina graduated from San Jose State with a major in Political Science and minor in Human Rights. While in school, Katrina interned for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group where she first met Angelica Cortez and started to get involved with L.E.A.D. Currently, Katrina serves as both a Civic Engagement and Voter Registration organizer for L.E.A.D Filipino. She also works as an office assistant at Levine Bagade and Han LLP. Katrina’s personal  immigration experience to the U.S. drives her own passion of becoming an aspiring immigration attorney. Throughout her professional career, Katrina hopes to further help others during their own immigration journey.

Katie Mendoza
Fly Pinays Team

Katie, originally from Carson, CA, attended San Jose State University and received her B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Child and Adolescent Development. She is a sister of Kappa Psi Epsilon where she found her interest in learning more about her culture and found a love for working with the Filipino Community as well as advocating for womxn empowerment. After attending the 2nd annual Fly Pinays Leadership Summit as a workshop facilitator, it inspired Katie to get more involved with the Fil-Am community and eventually drew her to intern with LEAD Filipino in 2018. She served as the Co-Mentee Director for L.E.A.D’s 2019 Fly Pinays Conference and now serves as an organizer on the Civic Engagement Team. Katie also works with Filipino Advocates for Justice in Oakland assisting with their immigration work. Because of her work through LEAD, Katie decided on pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at San Francisco State in hopes of promoting diversity and inclusion through her community work.

Celeste Francisco
Education Team

Celeste (They/Them/Theirs) is a non-binary Pinay/x, born and raised in the Bay Area. Attending school at San Francisco State University, Celeste currently holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.A. in Asian American Studies. During their time at SFSU, Celeste’s involvement in Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP) as an educator teaching middle school and college students, motivated them to seek community closer to their home of Fremont, CA. Their introduction to L.E.A.D was as a participant of the Spring Training Program in early 2018, and later joined L.E.A.D’s Education Team as an Organizer that same year. During summer of 2019, Celeste was a part of Awareness in Action’s expansion to the East Bay, teaching the first cohort in Union City, CA. In the near future Celeste wants to help launch programming centered on the Pilipinx LGBTQ+ community.

Michelle Nelmida
Education Team

Michelle was born and raised in Union City, CA. She educates the youth and community members in the Bay Area through the Awareness in Action Program. Michelle is currently a B.S. Candidate in Health Sciences, Community Health at Cal State East Bay with the aspiration of blending her interests in advocating for health equity, social justice, and education. From being active in PASA CSUEB and later beginning her involvement with LEAD Filipino through the Spring Training Program, Michelle had soon found a loving and growing passion for serving the Fil-Am/Filipinx community. Previously, Michelle had served as NCPASA’s (Northern California Pilipinx Student Alliance) Human Resources Chair and now serves as the Internal Chairperson, where she is able to spread resources and mentorship while bringing unity between Fil-Am collegiate organizations across Northern California. Through LEAD, Michelle assists in other organizers’ projects while focusing on keeping Filipinx hxstory alive and emphasizing the importance of Ethnic Studies.

Eleaine Reyes
Fly Pinays Team

Eleaine first became involved with LEAD Filipino after participating in the summer Awareness in Action Program. Driven by her passion for community outreach, activism, and spreading social awareness, she found herself being involved with both LEAD Filipino as an organizer, and Akbayan SJSU as a cabinet member (PCN Coordinator). As an organizer, she has assisted with the planning of LEAD Filipino’s Fly Pinays Leadership Summit as the Assistant Program Director in 2019. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in Communication Studies with a minor in Sociology at San Jose State University.

Jeren Penalosa
Education Team

Jeren is a second generation Filipino American from Union City, California. He is currently a first year in his Master/Credential program at the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis in Urban Education & Social Justice. He graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in the Social Science Teacher Preparation Program with a double minor in Asian American Studies and Sociology as of December 2018. Jeren is currently teaching 8th grade Ethnic Studies in San Francisco and hopes to teach high school ethnic studies at a public school in the Bay area. His goal is to help make history be seen through a social justice perspective and to foster individual growth for each and every student he works with. He has been involved with LEAD since 2018 first as an intern, then in the Spring Training Cohort, and lastly as part of the Education Team to bringing Filipina/o/x American Experience to the community!

Alan Gouig
Civic Engagement Team

From San Leandro, CA, Alan Gouig now stands as a recent graduate from San Jose State University, having received a B.S. in Business Management and Administration, with a minor in Hospitality Hotel and Restaurant Management. During his time at SJSU, Alan had joined AkbayanSJSU, a Filipino-American based organization. From being Akbayan’s KAAMP (Kuya Ate Ading Mentorship Program) Coordinator ’18 – ’19, Alan had served over 1,000 members, standing as San Jose State’s largest student ran mentorship program.Through KAAMP, Alan had deepened his love for his Pilipinx identity and discovered his passion for community building. From participating in both L.E.A.D’s Awareness in Action Leadership Program, as well as the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute’s (APALI) Civic Leadership Program, Alan quickly discovered his deep passion for civic involvement. Present day, Alan organizes on L.E.A.D’s Civic Engagement Team with the hopes of further serving, connecting, and engaging the Fil-Am community to the world of civics at large. Aside from L.E.A.D, Alan works as the Hiring Manager at Tea Lyfe Drinks in East San Jose, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for the Southern University Neighborhood (SUN) Resident Association.

Karen Manalac
Education Team

Originally from Union City, CA, Karen later moved to San Jose to pursue a degree in Public Health with a minor in Child and Adolescent Development from SJSU. Outside of school, she works as a behavioral specialist for children with autism in the South Bay region. Combining her longtime passion for helping people and learning more about her culture, Karen strives to educate a deeper cultural awareness in others while continuously learning more about herself along the way. Karen got involved with LEAD Filipino through AkbayanSJSU and joined the Awareness in Action program during her second year of college. Currently, Karen works as an organizer for both the Awareness in Action program and the Fly Pinays committee. Through these two programs, Karen hopes to share her passion with others by raising awareness about the Pilipinx culture, its history, and the importance of individual and collective identity. Upon graduating from SJSU, Karen hopes to learn more about the effects of representation in healthcare; more specifically towards the Filipino population. 

Marissa Martinez
Fly Pinays Team

Marissa Martinez is a creative writer and youth development coordinator born and raised in East San Jose. Her involvement in LEAD Filpino began as a participant in Awareness in Action. She has led the efforts in the Fly Pinays Leadership Summit as the Program Director in 2019-2020.

As a second generation filipina-latina, Marissa writes about identity and growing up in her plays and spoken word poetry. In her youth development work, she teaches workshops on storytelling, script-writing, poetry, and acting. Marissa also runs a theatre company called More Más Marami Arts, dedicated to creating new work and empowering our community to tell our stories. She has had the pleasure of working with Bay Area theatre companies like Bindlestiff Studio, the Playwrights’ Foundation, and TheatreWorks.

With a B.A. in English and Theatre Arts from Santa Clara University, Marissa is committed to sharing stories and creating more inclusivity in our world.

Gabriel Cenizal
Civic Engagement Team

Gabe currently resides in East San Jose, CA. He joined LEAD in the Winter of 2020 after receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Organizational Studies with a minor in Technology Management from the University of California, Davis. He is also currently involved with the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and is helping elevate its leadership pipeline initiative, Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC), as well as supporting its national executive leadership uplift the organization’s advocacy and civic engagement efforts.

As a member of the Civic Engagement Team of LEAD, Gabe hopes to support local and state-wide Pilipinx Americans by helping tackle the inequities they face, as well as deconstruct these systemic issues and guide innovative reform and action. He values social justice, mentorship, and youth empowerment and applies these in his work to inspire future generations to be ground-breaking and acknowledge their potential.

Because of Gabe’s experiences in his community work, he has aspirations of pursuing a joint MBA/JD and becoming a Public Sector Consultant in the future.

Board of Directors

LEAD Filipino’s Board of Directors are pivotal to the direction of our organization.  They provide guidance and stewardship, while offering hindsight (and insight) that informs the strategic and programmatic paths taken by our Organizers. The Board is composed of a small group of Filipin@ professionals who have proven histories of organizing, engaging, and inspiring young Pin@ys in the San Jose/Silicon Valley and Greater Bay Area communities. Most currently, our Board is helping our organization successfully file as a 501c3 nonprofit corporation!

Aurelia Bailey
City of San Jose

Aurelia is a San Jose resident and received a B.A. in Sociology from San Jose State University.  She worked several years in the nonprofit world, for the Filipino Youth Coalition (FYC) and Asian American Recovery Services (AARS) just to name a few.  She also worked briefly for Santa Clara County Juvenile Probation with the Milpitas Police Department.  15 years ago, she started working for the City of San Jose, Parks Recreation Neighborhood Services (PRNS) leading and creating various programs such as the Safe School Campus Initiative, Youth Programs, and Anti-Graffiti and Litter Program.  She was also able to create and design the Youth Obesity Prevention Initiative that promotes physical and nutritional standards implemented in all youth camps and after school programs.  Aurelia is currently working with the City of San Jose’s Housing Department, managing the Place Based Initiative Program in several neighborhoods.  Her work addresses various neighborhoods’ needs and looks to create “Clean, Safe and Engaged Neighborhoods”.  When Aurelia is not working with families to improve their quality of life, she loves running around town, exploring restaurants, and site the Bay Area has to offer.

Razelle Buenavista

Razelle is the Managing Director of Clinical Services for Asian American Recovery Services, a program of HealthRIGHT 360.  She oversees the operations of Santa Clara County and East Palo Alto programs.  Razelle attended San Jose State University and the College of San Mateo where she studied Social Work and Addiction Studies.  For nearly two decades, Razelle has served Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino communities as a social worker and youth advocate.  Most notably, she has been an advocate for gender responsive services, and has taken the lead in coordinating the annual SISTER-to-SISTER:  Celebrating Asian & Pacific Islander Women of Tomorrow Leadership Conference.  In 2011, Razelle was recognized for her work with girls by the Asian American Women’s Alliance and Congressman Mike Honda.  In 2016, she was awarded as an “Innovator for Change” by the New Leaders Council.  Razelle is often invited to speak on various topics, including:  Filipino community issues, effective outreach strategies, girls and gangs, and substance abuse among youth.  Her work has led to the development of the Teens Teaching Teens Handbook, and various culturally and ethnically specific programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Razelle is an active member of the City of San Jose’s Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force Technical Team, Behavioral Health Contractors Association of Santa Clara County, Innovative Partnerships, Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits’ Leadership Team, and has dedicated countless hours to volunteering at several Bay Area programs.

Tony Santa Ana
De Anza College

Once upon a time, I was a De Anza student finding my way. As a community organizer, artist, educator, and globe trotter, I seek to contribute to humanity. I am an Intercultural Studies part-time instructor teaching “Intro to Pacific Islander History and Culture.” My research interests include education, critical pedagogy, youth studies, global citizenship, indigenous rights, spirituality, ethnic studies, Hip Hop, Pin@y scholarship, transformational education & experiential learning. As I come full circle, I found my way back to De Anza hoping to inspire the next generation. Come to my class and experience fun, interactive, and thought provoking classes!

Dr. Jennifer Briscoe

Dr. Jennifer Briscoe (“Dr. B”) is the Administrator for Telecare’s Partners in Wellness Program that provides adults with a diagnosed mental illness with supportive and intensive mental health, nursing, psychiatric and housing services to the top 3% of the highest utilizers of emergency mental health services in Santa Clara County. Jennifer is also a licensed Marriage and Family therapist. Currently, Jennifer serves on the Commission on the Status of Women for Santa Clara County and in 2018 was awarded Commissioner of the Year. Jennifer is a 2017 New Leaders Council Silicon Valley Fellow and has served on the Executive Board since 2018. Lastly, she is an Advisor for LEAD Filipino and participated in the first ever Filipino Advocacy Day in Sacramento in April 2019.  Jennifer holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Health Sciences from California State University, Hayward, a Masters of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and a Doctor of Education degree in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University.

Vern Caruz
Stipe Elementary

Vern is the Principal of Stipe Elementary School in the Oak Grove School District.  Vern has spent the last fifteen years of his educational career focusing on socioeconomically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse communities.  He believes that schools are centers of their communities.  While schools primarily provide academic guidance, they also ensure that student’s basic needs are met, including social and emotional care while at school.  Prior to his current tenure, Vern held positions as a teacher where he presented at multiple conferences in employing Exercise Physiology instruction within the Physical Education Curriculum.  Previously as Academic Dean and Assistant Principal, his area of focus was the implementation of Early College High School programs and transformational Small Learning Communities.  Vern received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Kinesiology from San Jose State University, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the Principal Leadership Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

Alexandria Chu

Alexandria (Alex) Chu is a Program Manager responsible for designing and consulting on mobility programs across Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Prior to relocating to the Bay from her native New York City, Alex worked in Financial Services, focusing on investment banking compliance. As an alumnus of the leadership development organization, Prep for Prep, she had firsthand experience of the impact of access to opportunity and information. This drove her to establish free after-school computer science programs across the Bay, become the Filipino Googler Network’s (FGN) K-12 Global Lead, and fly across the U.S. with Google’s CS First and Grow with Google programs to teach coding to students and adults. When Alex is not working or volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.