Getting to Know Our Fellows: Michelle Tabajonda

TruEvolution

Fellow: Michelle Tabajonda

Michelle Tabajonda is the Public Policy Fellow at TruEvolution. In 2018, she received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from UC Riverside. Her hometown is Palmdale, California. Michelle’s interests include hiking and photography. She plans on pursuing further education in public health and continuing to work in community health.

What are you looking forward to working on as a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow?

I am looking forward to giving back to my communities through the nonprofit I was matched with. TruEvolution has been doing wonderful work for the LGBTQ+ community, people living with HIV, and youth. They address health inequities through education and prevention as well as treatment, which is something I have been passionate about all throughout college. I am looking forward to contributing to this work, specifically addressing health disparities through public policy and advocacy.

 

What drew you to the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship?

I was actively involved in the Inland Empire during my undergraduate education and it had become a home to me, fostering my passion to serve the marginalized populations here. There is a lot of unmet need here and I wanted to continue social justice work here even after college. This fellowship was an opportunity to do so while learning from great leaders in the nonprofit sector and in public policy.

 

What are you looking forward to learning about the nonprofit sector in the IE? What do you think are the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations?

I am interested in learning how nonprofits operate, especially within an area that is underserved and underfunded such as the Inland Empire. I think one of the most pressing needs for nonprofit organizations in this region is gathering and maintaining support to do the important work that we do. Other needs would include addressing social determinants such as housing, transportation, food security, and other basic needs.

What is a little-known gem about the Inland Empire that you could share with others? What would you share about the Inland Empire with those not familiar or know little about the region?

The Inland Empire is on Native land, originally belonging to the Tongva, Serrano, and Cahuilla tribes. One of the first Navel orange trees in California was planted here in Riverside. The California Citrus State Historic Park is here in Riverside, where you can hike and try the fruit.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years? What are your future career plans after this Fellowship?

In 5 years, I plan to have my Master’s in Public Health. Some areas within public health that interest me include community health, health education, social and behavioral determinants of health, and health policy. After this fellowship, I plan to continue working in community health and advocating for health equity.

Getting to Know Our Fellows: Rubyd Olvera

Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective

Fellow: Rubyd Olvera

Rubyd Olvera is the Community Engagement and Outreach Fellow with the IE Immigrant Youth Collective. Rubyd is a recent UC, Riverside graduate with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Policy. She considers the Coachella Valley as her home and was raised there since her and her family immigrated to the United States. She is passionate about helping lead undocumented youth in their pathway to higher education, civic engagement, and advocacy for immigrant communities. She enjoys reading memoirs about various strong woman, including Sonia Sotomayor and Dolores Huerta who have lead justice efforts. She also enjoys learning how she can improve her leadership skills as well as running.

What are you looking forward to working on as a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow?

As a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit fellow I am looking forward to working directly with my community and being able to facilitate the process of providing resources including, DACA renewal information, know your rights workshops, and higher education information. As an undocumented student I understand what the impact these resources have on me. Having the privilege of sharing these opportunities and resources with youth and their parents is very empowering for many of them. Community empowerment; Empowers me, especially the undocumented youth who are our leaders of tomorrow. I am also excited about learning about the nonprofit sector and taking on new projects that have the potential to have a direct impact on my community. Specifically, I look forward to developing programming for youth as many times they often get told the wrong information or are discouraged from attending higher education altogether, just as I was by my counselor. Just as important is the opportunity to learn how to engage and organize my community.

What drew you to the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship?

Better question yet, “What didn’t draw me into the UCE CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship”? Everything about the IE Nonprofit Fellowship drew me in. Three objectives that brought my attention the most included the fact that fellows would be placed in non-profit organizations. Nonprofit organizations helped me by providing me resources despite my legal status. They shared resources about going to college and since then I knew that I wanted to be able to provide the same resources in some capacity in the future. My involvement with my community has always been rooted in those who helped fight for my currents rights as an undocumented youth and I hope to fight for other youth to have the same opportunities and more. Especially considering the current political administration. The second point that drew me in was its placement in our region. With scarce resources for one of the largest homes to many undocumented community members I understood the importance of these organizations. The last objective that drew me into the fellowship was the opportunity to participate as an undocumented youth and be at forefront of these projects. Given the current political climate I felt it was important that fight for my rights and not be placed back into the shadows.

What are you looking forward to learning about the nonprofit sector in the IE? What do you think are the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations?

I am looking forward to learning more about the challenges and opportunities that exist within the non-profit sector in the Inland Empire. Especially now that we see our challenges as opportunities to grow and connect with other organizations who are facing similar struggles. I am excited to be able to dive into the nonprofit world and absorb as much as I can so that I can be a better resource to my community. I believe that some of the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations is funding and receiving tangible local support by some of our elected officials who have the power to bridge our community needs. With so much rhetoric going on every day of our lives especially for those in marginalized communities who are affected directly it is very difficult to ensure that we are meeting all our community needs. Lastly, I believe we must ensure that we uplift the voices of those being directly affected by the current political climate.

What is a little-known gem about the Inland Empire that you could share with others? What would you share about the Inland Empire with those not familiar or know little about the region?

A small gem about the Inland Empire I would share with others is the beautiful view you can get at 1,332 ft. elevation with curious creatures that will often accompany you. There is no other place like Mt. Rubidoux! If I could share something to someone who isn’t familiar with Inland Empire is that it is important to get involved in our local community efforts and learn more about the large immigrant population that helps our region thrive.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years? What are your future career plans after this Fellowship?

In 5 years I envision myself nearly completing law school or graduate school and pursuing a career in either immigration, policy, education, or social services. I want to be able to understand the issues my community faces and learn what we can do to help improve them. My future plans after this fellowship includes continuing to work with an organization that help provide resources to marginalized communities and developing the skills that will help me get there. Most importantly my future career plans involve giving back to the community that helped me fight for my rights.

Getting to Know Our Fellows: Lizzette Capul

Glocally Connected

Fellow: Lizzette Capul

Born and raised in Riverside, Lizzette Capul recently graduated with a degree in Public Policy from University of California, Riverside. She focused on social issues and health policy while earning her degree. Currently, Lizzette serves as the Public Health Community Organizer Fellow at Glocally Connected. Connected to the local community, Lizzette hopes to continue to serve in the Inland Empire, the community she proudly grew up with. In addition to her interest in the local community, Lizzette is an active member of Toastmasters International, an organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders and volunteers at the Riverside Community Hospital.

What are you looking forward to working on as a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow?

I look forward to working with the Afghanistan refugee community in the local area and the volunteers of Glocally Connected. As the organization’s Public Health Community Organizer Fellow, I am responsible for organizing public health workshops and class sessions that will educate the refugee women we serve. Education on public health practices in America will help them transition to a life in the United States. I especially look forward to organizing these sessions because I have the opportunity to connect with the Glocally Connected team, volunteers, health educators, and public health partners and better understand how different people’s backgrounds and experience contribute to a community experience. Organizing these sessions requires research and communication, skills I look forward to developing.
There are many public health practices that differ between Afghanistan and America, in addition to the cultural differences. Although I am not familiar with the cultural traditions or health practices of Afghanistan families, I am very interested in learning from this community and broadening my world view. Learning more about the community Glocally Connected serves will allow me to become more aware of the issues that affect the refugee community locally and globally.

 

What drew you to the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship?

As I was completing my undergraduate degree, I realized the bulk of my experience had been working in local government, specifically an internship in the Riverside Mayor’s Office. Within my internship, I had the opportunity to chair the Purple Cities Alliance, which is an initiative to encourage the cities of Riverside and Corona to be more dementia friendly. This initiative brought together government agencies, medical providers, non-profits organizations, and other related providers to work cooperatively to educate the public about dementia and its impact. While working alongside many entities, I had come to appreciate the commitment non-profit organizations bring to the table and community, as well as the positive impact they share with those they work with. This encouraged me to consider the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship. I found this Fellowship program appealing because it would allow me to broaden my experience and explore the nonprofit sector. Additionally, I was drawn to the program because it would allow me to gain a professional experience within the nonprofit sector after graduation.

 

What are you looking forward to learning about the nonprofit sector in the IE? What do you think are the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations?

I look forward to learning about the many nonprofit organizations that reside in the Inland Empire and the communities they serve and represent. The Inland Empire is unique as it made up of two very large counties in California. The communities within these counties are so diverse, from location, ethnic groups, socioeconomic status, and many others. There has to be a community can who support these populations, which I do see throughout the Inland Empire. As I continue this Fellowship program, I see many nonprofits in the Inland Empire overlap with one another in some ways. As a result, they support one another and refer the people they serve to the resources and services of other organizations, making the nonprofit sector a more united community.
There are many needs in the Inland Empire, many of which relate to health in some way. I find that the concerns that relate to public health demanding in this area. It is important to consider both the physical and mental health of any person and what factors may challenge them from having a quality healthy lifestyle. I see many organizations who offer some type of health services, whether physical or mental health services, but it could be challenging for people to afford or connect with these services. Making these health services more accessible and affordable is a would be a pressing need in the Inland Empire. Transportation to these services could make it difficult, not realizing the unhealthy environment they live in may prevent them from seeking help, or they avoid seeking help or education due to cost of services. Any combination of these factors are often reasons why a person does not seek the services existing organization already provide. What the nonprofit sector needs to provide are opportunities to help get these people to where they need to be, such an affordable transportation service, child-care, or educational workshops.

What is a little-known gem about the Inland Empire that you could share with others? What would you share about the Inland Empire with those not familiar or know little about the region?

Something special about the Inland Empire I would like to share with others is the California Citrus State Historic Park. As soon as I step out of my car, I could smell the fresh air filled with the scent of orange blossoms. Located on a hilltop in Riverside, you can view the mountains and one of the last orange groves in the area. The California Citrus State Historic Park preserves the enriching landscape of the citrus industry, which is unique to Southern California. During a visit to the California Citrus State Historic Park, you will be able to learn the importance of the citrus industry’s role in development of California many years ago. There is plenty to see and do here, such as fruit tasting, guided tours, and any of the park’s scheduled events throughout the year. There is a rich history in the Inland Empire and stopping by the California Citrus State Historic Park is the place to be to get a taste of it.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years? What are your future career plans after this Fellowship?

I am interested in continuing my education in the coming years. In 5 years, I hope to be in a Master’s Program or have completed one by then that is related to public health. Hopefully, with a background in policy and public health I will be able to apply it to a position that addresses these areas in my local community, the Inland Empire. Furthermore, I highly value the path I have taken to develop my leadership and communication skills and intend to continue my involvement in Toastmasters in the future and apply these skills to the work I do in the community. My future career plans after completing this Fellowship consist of a career opportunity where policy and health overlap and I can further develop my professional experience.

Getting to Know Our Fellows: Rubi Becerril

OneFuture Coachella Valley

Fellow: Rubi Becerril

Rubi Becerril serves as the Community Impact/Alignment Project Fellow at OneFuture Coachella Valley. She was born in Mexico and grew up in the city of Desert Hot Springs. She attended College of the Desert and earned an Associate’s Degree, with academic distinction, in Sociology. She transferred to California State University, San Bernardino, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 2016. Rubi is the first in her family to complete a college degree. Her future goals include obtaining a Master’s Degree in Counseling, so that she may positively impact local students pursuing a college education. She enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and reading.

What are you looking forward to working on as a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow?

As a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow, I am looking forward to working along the OneFuture Coachella Valley (OFCV) team to achieve the goals of our Regional Plan for College and Career Success 2.0. The goals of this region-wide plan are to increase high school graduation rate, college readiness, career readiness, post-secondary completion and to help local students secure meaningful employment. My role as Alignment Coordinator will allow me to learn about our alignment process, which is the backbone that supports the progress made by each group that is involved in our Regional Plan. As Alignment Coordinator, I am looking forward to developing and implementing a thorough training process for all our team members and team co-chairs so that we continue using the appropriate procedures to support student success in our valley.

One particular goal of my project will be to assist the Palm Springs Unified School District to launch a Desert Hot Springs City focused Alignment Team on reducing chronic absenteeism for DHS students. This is something important to me because I am a native of this city. I am excited to be able to be an active participant in this city-wide effort to improve students’ academic success and help the community at large. I hope that my work will have a lasting impact in the city and in its students. Another goal of my project as a Fellow will be to support the development of an OFCV Alumni Alignment Team. I am looking forward to this part of my work because I am an alumna of OFCV as I received their scholarship and student services throughout my five years of college. By helping the development of this team, I will be helping our alumni increase their leadership skills which will be used to further support the long term goals of the Regional Plan.

What drew you to the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship?

I learned about the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship through a colleague. As I learned about the Center for Social Innovation and its goals and vision for the Inland Empire, I felt inclined to apply for the Fellowship program. I saw this Fellowship as a way to get more exposure to the non-profit sector and to gain professional development. More importantly, I decided to apply to have an opportunity to contribute to my community by working with an established non-profit organization.

What are you looking forward to learning about the nonprofit sector in the IE? What do you think are the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations?

I am looking forward to learning how non-profits operate and how they are able to make change happen in our region. Although I have worked for non-profit organizations before, I am looking forward to learning more about the way they are structured and how they determine their goals and assess their progress. I am looking forward to learning and experiencing how each person’s role and work contributes to the mission and values of the organization. I think that our region has unique needs that are being addressed throughout the area through the tireless work of invested non-profits. I think that some of those needs are access to health care for all, immigrant advocacy, environmental justice, access to education, among many others.

What is a little-known gem about the IE that you could share with others? What would you share with those not familiar or know little about the region?

The Inland Empire has many great places to enjoy. Personally, one of my favorite places in our area is Idyllwild. Although I love the heat we experience in the Coachella Valley, it is nice to get away every once in a while and catch a fresh breeze in Idyllwild, which is a short drive from us. I visit once a year every summer and it is something I look forward to every year. I enjoy the scenery, the fresh air, the quiet nights, the little family-owned shops and their offerings as well as the residents, who are always welcoming and friendly. I would definitely encourage anyone visiting the Inland Empire to take a trip there and see for themselves this beautiful place.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years? What are your future career plans after this fellowship?

In five years, I picture myself working with students either at a community college or at an education-oriented organization to provide them the tools and the support to go into higher education. After completing this Fellowship, I plan to continue working in the Coachella Valley as I go through the process of applying to graduate schools to pursue a Master’s Degree in Counseling. My goal is to begin graduate school in the 2019-2020 academic year. Although I have a plan and a vision of where I want to be in the next couple of years, I know that life will take me exactly where I am supposed to be – I am open to the many opportunities that will certainly come my way.

Getting to Know Our Fellows: Sky Allen

Warehouse Workers Resource Center

Fellow: Sky Allen

Sky Allen is a Policy Fellow at the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. Raised in Upland, California, Sky is a recent graduate in Business Administration with a concentration in Management and a minor in Ethnic Studies at University of California, Riverside. Sky’s interests include the performing arts, fiction novels, and spending time with family and friends.

What are you looking forward to working on as a UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellow?

From regularly driving past semi-trucks on the freeway to knowing someone who works in a warehouse, nearly everyone in the Inland Empire is exposed to the logistics industry in some way. I am excited to work as a fellow with the Warehouse Worker Resource Center because doing so allows me to better understand my own community and gives me the opportunity to work to better it. In the past three weeks alone I have been challenged in new ways and learned so much about warehouse work and the local economy. I look forward to conducting research surrounding urban planning and fair labor standards as well as facilitating community discussions that help cast light on how the upcoming midterm election affects workers and community members.

 

What drew you to the UCR CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship?

Post-graduation I want to focus my time and energy on local government and organizing in my immediate community, so I was very much intrigued by the idea of being placed in a nonprofit organization. During my undergrad I was a business major, so while my studies gave me a better picture of the institutional/for-profit side of organizations, I really wanted to gain hands on experience of the not-for-profit and understand on a personal level why that is significant in its own right. Additionally, I believe culturally the United States values independence and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” to a fault at times; no one accomplishes greatness independently and we are all products of our environment. To me, nonprofits helps to ensure that environment is productive and inclusive, and that is exactly the kind of community I want to have a hand in cultivating. The CSI IE Nonprofit Fellowship gave me the opportunity to do exactly that while also compensating me for that labor.

 

What are you looking forward to learning about the nonprofit sector in the IE? What do you think are the most pressing needs in the region for nonprofit organizations?

I am looking forward to learning more about how nonprofit sectors function in the Inland Empire as an entity in its own right. When I have studied or learned about nonprofits and organizing and the like I often hear about Los Angeles County when it comes to southern California, but to unite the Inland Empire and provide the region its own agency is refreshing and empowering as well. I look forward to learning how nonprofits mingle with each other and how coalitions and alliances are formed and sustained. In regards of the most pressing needs, I think it can be difficult limiting the needs to two or three because the region is so large, but I do believe issues regarding education, healthcare, employment, criminal justice, and the environment are always important. I believe it is always important that communities fight to ensure human rights are available to everyone, including women, people of color, the LGBT community, disabled people, and immigrants. I think there are particular battles people in SoCal have to fight and nonprofit organizations, regardless of their individual priorities, have to be aware of those fights and in some way work to conquer those as well.

What is a little-known gem about the IE that you could share with others? What would you share with those not familiar or know little about the region?

For people who are not familiar with the region I typically share that the Inland Empire neighbors Los Angeles and Orange County. San Bernardino itself is not only the largest county in California but the largest by total area in the country, so coupling it with Riverside produces a very large and dynamic region.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years? What are your future career plans after this fellowship?

My career plans are still tentative, I am allowing myself to learn as I go and keep an open mind, however, within the next five years, I do see myself having gone back to school to complete a Masters in Public Administration. I know I want to work in public service and I want to stay working in southern California because this is where I grew up and this is where I know best. Beyond that the future is beautifully unknown: I may stay in the nonprofit sector, I may work on a political campaign, I may even run for office myself one day!

UCR Center for Social Innovation Welcomes Associate Director Michelle G. Magalong

This week, the Center for Social Innovation at University of California, Riverside welcomed our new Associate Director, Michelle G. Magalong. Michelle received her BA in Ethnic Studies and Urban Studies and Planning at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and MA and PhD in Urban Planning at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Her research and professional experience is in community development, historic preservation, and public health in underrepresented communities. She also serves as Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation, a national volunteer-run organization.


We sat down to learn more about Michelle and what she’s excited about in the work ahead:

What are you looking forward to working on at the Center for Social Innovation?

I love the notion that social innovation is about ideas and solutions that create social value—as well as the processes through which they are generated. For the Inland Empire, this allows various stakeholders — from community leaders to elected officials, scholars to entrepreneurs — to think outside of the box at the possibilities of leveraging the region’s assets while address needs and issues. At the Center for Social Innovation, we have the opportunity to explore and collaborate on issues critical to the region and its diverse communities regarding civic engagement, economic mobility, immigrant integration, and leadership and entrepreneurship.

What drew you to the Center for Social Innovation?

As an urban planner, I have been intrigued by the social, cultural, and economic landscape of the Inland Empire. There is such great diversity in terms of communities, industries, and services across the region and I am drawn to exploring its rich and complex assets and needs. The Center allows me to utilize both my academic skills and nonprofit experience to explore and analyze these issues while engaging and collaborating with partners within UCR and across the region.

Can you share with us a notable project or experience you have worked on in the Inland Empire?

In my work in historic preservation, I worked with local historic preservation groups to stop the demolition of a historic structure in Rancho Cucamonga. China House was built around 1919 and slated for demolition in 2011. With it being the last remaining structure to a once-thriving Chinese community in the city, we fought to save it. The campaign caught national attention as it was named on the list of 11 most endangered sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2011. All the media attention and community support helped save China House, which still remains intact today. It was amazing to see the power of local groups fight to save such an important place.

What is a little known gem about the Inland Empire that you often share with others?

One of my favorite places to visit is the California Citrus Historic State Park in Riverside. During my first visit, I got a tour of the citrus groves by a docent and learned about the history of the citrus industry in the region, the contributions of owners and laborers alike, and how Riverside’s parent Washington navel orange tree is the mother to millions of navel orange trees. It’s a wonderful state park to visit and learn about the history of the Inland Empire. On your way out, you can pick up a bag of the most delicious navel oranges at the citrus stand.

“Michelle with Megan Suster, California Citrus State Historic Park staff and UCR Department of History PhD candidate.”

In addition to being a frequent visitor to this park, I recently sat on a advisory group with California State Park staff and UCR public history scholars on fostering community engagement, telling inclusive histories of the region, and bridging connections between past and present. In this process, I got a chance to learn from and interact with community leaders, public historians, and conservationists about the great work they all do in telling their histories in and contributions to the Inland Empire.

Where would you choose to live: by the ocean, in the mountains or in the desert?

It’s great to live in the Inland Empire as I can say that it’s easy to access all three. On the weekends, I frequent places like the Crystal Cove State Park and beach for a hike on the trails, Joshua Tree National Park for stargazing and camping, and Mount Baldy for hiking and snowboarding.

Photo Credit: Les Talusan