Dr. Angelica “Gel” Cortez
Founder & Executive Director
Dr. Angelica “Gel” Cortez (she/her) is a strategist, civic innovator, and cultural worker voted as a Silicon Valley 40 under 40. Since 2015, she has grown LEAD Filipino to serve thousands of local students and families, established regional and statewide coalitions, and developed major campaigns to advance FilAm concerns and representation. Her background includes politics, public policy and nonprofit administration, where she has worked for legislators and civil rights groups across California. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Sacred Heart Community Service and the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Her contributions have been recognized by NBC Bay Area, featured in Philippines and Malaysian news media, and studied in academic literature. She currently resides in Eastside San José.
Program Manager & Lead Designer
Camille (she/her/hers) is a second-generation Pinay born and raised in the Bay Area. She graduated from San Jose State University last spring with a degree in Management Informational Systems. During her time at SJSU she was heavily involved with AkbayanSJSU, where she was introduced to L.E.A.D Filipino’s Annual Fly Pinays Leadership Summit. She later joined the Awareness in Action Program (AAP) in 2019 where she became motivated to be more involved with the organization and joined the Fly Pinays Planning Committee for the 3rd Annual Summit. Beyond her work with L.E.A.D Filipino, Camille is a visual designer. She hopes to combine her passion for community and design to create solutions that will help her address inequity, accessibility, and inclusivity. Camille supports our organizational calendar, partnerships, and collaborations in addition to leading our Redistricting and Stop Asian Hate listening sessions.
Mar (she/her) serves as LEAD Filipino’s Project Coordinator, supporting our major local initiatives and statewide coalitions. She is originally from the Bay Area and currently resides on unceded Ohlone Land. Her hobbies and interests include plants, mushrooms, reading, poetry , photography, hiking, baking, and cooking.
Awareness in Action Apprentice
Jerred Cayabyab (he/him) graduated from San José State University with a BS in Civil Engineering, and is preparing to begin his new job in the Engineering Department for the City of Burlingame. During his time in college, Jerred was an active member of Akbayan SJSU where he served as a cultural director and liaison for their Pilipino Cultural Nights. Apart from work, he enjoys playing basketball and volleyball with his family and friends. This past summer, Jerred graduated from the Awareness in Action Program (AAP), which sparked his interest in civic engagement. As an AAP Apprentice, Jerred is looking forward to becoming more involved with LEAD Filipino, creating new friendships, and giving back to the community.
Queermmittee & Education
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. Celeste leads our organization’s Queer Summit and Queermmittee activities.
Daniel Lazo (he/they) was born, raised and educated in Eastside San José. He started his community organizing in high school through the Filipino Youth Coalition, a gang-prevention program for Filipino youth; and SMASH Academy, a STEM-intensive summer program for BIPOC students. He graduated as summa cum laude from San José State University (SJSU) in 2018 and earned his BS in Advertising with a double minor in Asian American Studies and Event Planning. In 2016, Daniel became one of the founding organizers for LEAD Filipino, a 501c3 nonprofit to increase Filipino American civic participation, grassroots leadership and community action. Daniel is currently LEAD Filipino’s Marketing Director and Scholarship Director. He also works on public relations and other communication projects for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, where he started as a recreation leader. Each step of the way, Daniel’s vision holds true — to give back to his community that has given him so much.
State Policy & FIERCE Coalition
From San Jose, California, Gabriel Young, is a fourth-year Philippine-American undergraduate honors student at The George Washington University, studying Political Science — focusing on Public Policy — and International Affairs. Gabriel strives to be a man for and with others through serving the AAPI community through multiple ventures. Currently, Gabriel interns for the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, organizes with LEAD Filipino and the FIERCE Coalition as its Local and Statewide Policy Director, and organizes with the National Federation for Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) EPYC program as an administrator. At GW, Gabriel serves as a student government senator and the President of the Philippine Cultural Society. Gabriel plans to serve others as a Public Interest Attorney to fight against social-injustice and eventually hold higher office where he can serve the wider AAPI community by developing and advocating for socio-economically equitable policies and laws. Gabriel is a Star Wars fanatic who loves to chat, eat, watch movies, read, and play video games. Isang Bagsak!!!
Regular Guest Speaker
“The Dishonorable” Lendyll Capitulo is a regular guest facilitator at our Policy, Politics, and Puto (PPP) Roundtable Talks. Our PPP is a safe space for conversations around Fil Am involvement in policy organizing, cultural identity, economic justice work, and political ideology. Lendyll earned his BA from New York University (NYU) and MBA from Stern.
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.
Jenn Cayanan graduated with a BS in Public Health and a minor in Asian American Studies from San Jose State University in the Fall of 2019. Jenn currently works at Heluna Health for the California Department of Public Health. Jenn has been organizing with LEAD Filipino since 2017, primarily through Fly Pinays and Awareness in Action, Lola’s Scholarship, and is excited to be a director for the Community Health Initiatives. Her passion and love are deeply rooted in serving the Filipinx/a/o American community through organizing with LEAD Filipino, Fil-CHA, and as co-founder of the Pilipinx American Public Health Conference.
Community Health Outreach Intern
Maleina Aguinaldo (she/her/hers) was born and raised in San Jose, California. She attended high school at Evergreen Valley High School and is currently pursuing a BS in Biology at the University of San Francisco. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her big family and playing volleyball. She hopes to one day become a physician and serve her Filipino community through her passion for public health, advocacy, and the sciences.
Community Health Outreach Intern
Residing from the East Bay, Peter John “PJ” Ligutan(he/him) is a first-generation third-year student who is majoring in public health at San Jose State University. He was raised by Filipino immigrant parents who are both deaf and is formally known as a CODA(Child of Deaf Adults). While being raised in the Deaf community and primarily living in Deaf culture, Peter has combated discrimination, language barriers, and a struggle with identity. His adverse childhood experiences have taught him leadership, advocacy, and an understanding of the need for equity in his community. Furthermore, this motivated Peter to uptake the field of community health and strives to reach equitable access to necessary resources in his community. Peter is deeply involved in Akbayan, a Pilipinx-American organization at SJSU, where he was reintroduced to his culture and uncovered more of his Filipino roots. Akbayan also opened other pathways and organizations such as LEAD Filipino to where he is today. As Peter learns more about his community, his culture, and himself, he continues to rapidly grow and flourish as an individual and a leader.
Brandon Gagante is a Filipino American storyteller born and raised in San Jose, who uses he/him pronouns. At the University of San Francisco (USF) He is a 4th-Year Entrepreneurship Major, the co-founder of Spaces In Between, an official poetry student organization on campus, and host of Lyricist Lounge, the student-centered open mic on campus. When not writing, he’s exploring the city, fawning over San Francisco’s variety of animals, or working on the next project.
Civic Engagement Team
Ian 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.
Civic Engagement Team
Vanessa Carr currently serves as Governor Gavin Newsom’s Senior Regional Coordinator for External Affairs in the Los Angeles Regional Office. Growing up in an interracial family and among other communities of color, she found her passion on issues related to equity, social justice, and economic opportunity. Her dedication to community driven leadership and advocacy has led her to work with organizations like LEAD Filipino and elected officials like Rep. Ro Khanna and Asm. Adrin Nazarian. A Santa Clara University graduate, Vanessa was born and raised in the Silicon Valley and resides in Los Angeles today.
Civic Engagement Team
Kevin Suarez is a San Jose native, attended De Anza College, and San Jose State University, earning his Bachelor of Science in Economics in December 2018. Since 2017, Kevin was heavily involved with civically engaging 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 Chair 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 and in 2018, served as a team captain during the 2019 Filipinx Advocacy Day in Sacramento. Kevin hopes to further leverage his career and interests in Economics, Finance and Public Policy in the service of Fil Am community.
Civic Engagement Team
From San Leandro, CA, Alan stands as a proud graduate from San José State University, with a B.S. in Business Management and Administration (Class of 2019). Upon graduation, Alan deepened his community work by engaging in various Filipinx/API serving organizations. In recent years, he joined LEAD Filipino as a Civic Engagement Organizer, worked as a Public Policy and Advocacy Intern with UC Davis’ Bulosan Center for Filipinx Studies, and most recently, stood as an EPYC Ambassador with the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). True to his heart, Alan loves looking for new ways to strengthen the pipeline of Filipinx Americans into the world of civic engagement. Additionally, Alan enjoys serving his local community through his role on the Transportation Equity Task Force for the City of San Jose, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for the South University Neighborhood (SUN) Association. Outside of work, Alan is also a proud boba aficionado, news junkie, and AMC A-list Stubs Member.
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.
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.
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.
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 Akbayan SJSU 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.
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.