Staff

GSA Network Staff

 

Jerssay Arredondo, Southern California Regional Organizer

Jerssay is a self-proclaimed undocumented, unafraid, and unashamed queer Latino immigrant. He was born in Mexico City and raised in Phoenix, AZ. At a very young age Jerssay witnessed the injustices faced by his immigrant, trans, and queer community. Such injustices influenced him to want to do something and change the hearts and minds of people. Jerssay began organizing with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and pushed for in-state tuition and the federal DREAM ACT, and helped create visibility for the UndocuQueer community throughout Arizona. In 2013 he joined the United We Dream Network and led the network’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) as the project’s national coordinator, helping the network grow capacity by building and organizing queer trans youth, parents, families and allies around immigrant and LGBTQ issues. In 2014 Jerssay co-founded The Queer Network, a local organization, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a national LGBTQ Latin@ organization.  Also, Jerssay is passionate about food, culture, dance, music and fashion.

     
  David Bracamontes, Administrative and Events Coordinator

Born and raised in Los Angeles, David now calls Northern California home. His organizing, planning and activism began as a student leader with the MultiCultural Center (MCC) of Humboldt State University.  After earning a degree in Communication as well as working in sexual assault prevention education and alcohol and other drug prevention, David returned to the MCC as the Program and Outreach Coordinator.  The role solidified David’s passion for planning and organizing that contributes to authentic positive social change. In 2007 David transitioned his work to residential housing programs in the college and university settings working with The Art Institute of California, Humboldt State and San Francisco State Universities. David’s personal and professional passions combined when he became a founding member of the Eureka Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Currently David serves the Bay Area as a member of the San Francisco Sisters. David is thrilled to join the GSA Network team where the organization’s mission aligns with his personal passion.
     
  Ginna Brelsford, Finance and Administrative Director

Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Ginna is thrilled to have brought her administrative talents to GSA Network. Having been raised to advocate for social justice, Ginna became fully immersed in her activism while at Smith College where she was President of the Native American Women of Smith, sat on the Smith College Civil Rights Board and was a member of PRISM, the queer students of color alliance.  While working at MassEquality in Boston, MA during the height of the same-sex marriage debate, Ginna embraced her passion for queer advocacy and nonprofit operations combining both to fight for social justice one spreadsheet at a time. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, Ginna worked at the Nonprofit Finance Fund and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water before she found her home at GSA Network. When not at the GSA Network office, she can most likely be found feeding her rugby habit while playing for the 13-time National Champion Berkeley All Blues.
     
  Hilary Burdge, Research Manager

Hilary is from Seattle, Washington, but has lived and studied throughout the United States, Central America, the Middle East and Europe.  In the Middle East, she studied the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and worked with the Women’s Center for Legal Aide and Counseling in Ramallah, Palestine.  She also lived in Spain where she attended the European Peace University to study International Peace and Conflict Studies.  In the United States, Hilary has organized against white nationalism in the Northwest; and for women’s reproductive rights.  In 2007, Hilary graduated with an MA in Liberal Studies.  Her graduate research relied on queer theory, feminist theory and critical race studies.  In her current position as Research Manager, Hilary is working on a number of research initiatives including discipline disparities that disproportionately affect youth of color, LGBTQ youth and youth with disabilities.  Hilary currently lives in San Francisco with her rescued pit-bull, Betty-Lou.
     
  Christopher Covington, Southern California Local Community Organizer

As a proud product of Long Beach, California. Christopher Covington has dedicated his life to a future where all students who have historically been marginalized, made invisible, and unheard are uplifted and empowered to challenge and deconstruct the systems of oppression. As a multi-racial, gay young man of color growing up in poverty he was determined that he would not be boxed in by the limitations others placed on him. His dedication and determination to advancing issues and creating real systems change led him to begin organizing his community. He is honored to have grown from organizations such as the California Conference for Equality and Justice, Khmer Girls in Action, Every Student Matters Campaign, The California Endowment and the National Dignity in Schools Campaign. He specialized in building true partnerships between students and members of City Councils, School Boards, California State Legislature and the U.S. Department of Education on issues of inclusion, working families, school to prison pipeline and restorative justice that led to major policy wins.
     
  Alexander De Leon, Queer Youth Justice Organizer

Alexander is a Los Angeles native with an investment in the civil rights movement, with an emphasis on queer identities.  His introduction to racial and economic justice was organizing on the buses and schools for the now amended municipal code 45.04, a daytime curfew law hindering targeted youth, with the Labor Community Strategy Center. He passionately believes justice with empowerment in working class communities of color is needed, as illustrated in the intense symptoms present and in view of the everyday steps in the re-imagining of a better safer tomorrow. In his role as a GSA Network’s Queer Youth Justice Organizer, Alex works to intensify the presence of GSA Network in East LA, South LA, and Long Beach through sustained site visits and relationship building. In addition, he co-leads and expands our Queer Boys and Men of Color fellowship working closely with those fellows in preparing their schools’ GSA club’s engagement in school discipline and education justice campaigns. When not organizing he enjoys dancing, site seeing, and art expressions demonstrated through media, paintings, and individuals themselves.
     
  Jill Marcellus, Communications Manager

Very much a product of New York, Jill moved to San Francisco in 2011 to join Gay-Straight Alliance Network, where she empowers and amplifies queer and ally youth voices to create change.  Prior to joining GSA Network, Jill fought for a more inclusive media landscape at the Women’s Media Center.  In addition to media-training women scholars, journalists, and other experts, she worked with girl activists at WMC to fight sexualization in the media, and campaigned for fair coverage of women candidates during 2010’s “man up” midterm election season.  A writer of sorts, she blogged for the Wall Street Journal’s “Hire Education” about her post-college job search, and reported and conducted research for findingDulcinea.com.  Jill earned her BA in English from Barnard College and studied at Oxford University, choosing the unusual Victorian literature route to social justice work, feminism, and queer activism.
     
  Courtney Mummert, Northern California Program Coordinator

With her roots firmly planted in Modesto, California, Courtney comes to GSA Network with five years of experience working for social justice, with youth development programs being her chosen vessel for inspiring change. Before relocating to the Bay Area, Courtney was surrounded by Evergreens and a beautiful community in Seattle, Washington, where she had the pleasure of working for two rad youth-serving organizations. Courtney facilitated girls’ groups and youth employment programs, helped plan two youth-led social justice conferences, developed programs in the King County Juvenile Detention Center, and supported youth and volunteers in one-on-one mentoring relationships. Courtney has a BA in Community Studies with an emphasis in Sex, Gender, and Sexuality from UC Santa Cruz. Courtney continues to personally explore her identity as a white, cisgender, queer fat femme and is thrilled to be a part of an organization that engages in organizing around issues at the intersection of LGBTQ identities and other oppressions. On her off hours, Courtney enjoys landscape and abstract photography, dancing, exploring FATshion, and hanging out with nature in the California sunshine. Courtney also likes country music – a lot.
     
  Filiberto Nolasco, California Policy Manager

Filiberto Nolasco's vision of social justice and advocacy is drawn from his experiences seeing poverty and inattention first hand having grown up in a working class immigrant community outside of Los Angeles. Filiberto has followed his interest in advocacy and justice work towards supporting mostly indigenous Maya from Guatemala to seek political asylum, organizing workers so they could bargain collectively to defend their rights and defending access for higher education. Filiberto also bring extensive experience as an organizer and advocate passing legislation such as SB 259. Filiberto is excited to expand the scope of GSA Network’s youth-driven model and the capacity for youth to organize and fight for campaigns they believe in.
     
 

Rhina Ramos, Director of California Programs

Rhina Ramos was born in El Salvador, and arrived in the US at age 14. Since very early in life, Rhina learned that justice is only attainable by a lifelong commitment to defend human rights.  Being an immigrant, Rhina experienced first hand the pain of invisibility. Her professional life includes being a labor rights lawyer, a social justice organizer and trainer. Fueled by her dream and passion to fight for social justice, Rhina graduated from Hofstra University School of Law in 1995. She led the legal department at a workers’ center in Long Island, New York, where her team recuperated over half a million dollars in unpaid wages and benefits owed to immigrant workers. During her 19 years of work in the non-profit sector, she has worked tirelessly for education justice, ending mass incarceration of people of color, labor rights, immigrant rights, domestic violence prevention, environmental justice and international solidarity. She served as the Director of Programs at The Ella Baker Center (EBC) for two years as part of their Executive Team.  At EBC, Rhina had the opportunity to support the work on local, statewide and national campaigns to end the mass incarceration of youth of color including the Books Not Bars Campaign. She holds a Masters in Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Rhina became an ordained minister by the United Church of Christ (UCC) in May 2012. Since December 2011, she created and is leading the first Latino Immigrant Open and Affirming LGBTQ UCC congregation of Northern California. She currently serves on the board of two non-profits that do environmental justice and LGBTQ Advocacy in El Salvador, EcoViva and ALDES (Legal Assistance for Sexual Diversity in El Salvador).

     
  Alan Ratliff, National Network Manager

Alan was born in Honolulu, Hawai'i to a military family. Inspired by his Filipina mother's immigration story, his Midwestern father's involvement with workers’ unions, and his own experiences growing up in southeastern Virginia, Alan developed a passion for racial, economic, and social justice. Working to empower youth in communities of color and LGBT communities through programming, community organizing, policy and research,  Alan served as the Youth Programs Manager at the Asian Community Development Corporation, worked as a Policy Fellow with MassEquality and the Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth and was the LGBT Outreach Coordinator for the Ohio Democratic Party.  Alan received his Bachelors in Political Science and minor in Asian American Studies from the Ohio State University, his Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Northeastern University and his Masters of Public Policy in Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University. His graduate research focused primarily on the impact of policy on youth with intersectional identities. While not at GSA Network, Alan enjoys playing volleyball and hanging out with his pug Bibingka.
     
 

Mustafa Sullivan, Director of National Programs

Mustafa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and moved to the Bronx eleven years ago. He has been a lead organizer and director of Sistas and Brothas United youth organizing program for nine years. He is a founder of the Urban Youth Collaborative and the Leadership Institute high school. In April 2010, he joined the Alliance for Educational Justice as the National Campaign Organizer but was also a founder of AEJ in 2008. He continues to work tirelessly to build an ongoing national movement of youth leaders to reinvent America's schools! He is also very active in his community and leads an intergenerational group focused on queer liberation in the Bronx. Outside of his organizing work he has been writing for over ten years on plays, poems, and short stories that show people the power they have inside. He believes the world can change using three ingredients: love, light, and revolution. He uses tools to build the next generation of our movement’s leaders using compassionate agitation, fearless strategy, carribean black gay muslim warrior wisdom, and tells moving stories of suffering, sacrifice, and ultimate triumph.

     
  Laura Valdéz, Deputy Director

Laura was born and raised in El Paso, Texas on the U.S. – Mexico border. Her social justice framework embraces the intersection of multiple oppressions, and is rooted in her life experience as a daughter of Mexican immigrants, migrant worker and queer Chicana. As a National Urban Fellow, she earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the City of New York's Bernard M. Baruch College, School of Public Affairs. She has over 17 years of leadership experience in nonprofit administration, public policy and grassroots organizing. Laura is a human rights activist who brings a broad range of skills with her passion for social change including significant volunteer and community involvement. Over the past fifteen years, she has served as a board member or active volunteer in twenty-five organizations. She currently serves on the board of StreetSide Stories and Parent Leadership and Action Network (PLAN). In 2001, she had the special honor of being an official delegate to the World Conference against Racism, Homophobia and other Forms of Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa. She was also chosen as a LeaderSpring Fellow, Class of 2009, completing a two-year, on-the-job leadership training program for nonprofit executive directors in the San Francisco Bay Area.
     
  Ronnie Veliz, Southern California Program Manager

Ronnie Veliz, born in La Libertad, Peru and raised in the San Fernando Valley of California, is a queer migrant of faith who advocates and organizes for youth empowerment, racial justice, and LGBTQ liberation. Ronnie joined the GSA movement while attending LA Valley College in 2007 and has a degree in Psychology and a background in public education. From his student activism to contributing to the passage of the FAIR Education Act, conversion therapy ban, and the TRUST Act, Ronnie has built coalitions with LGBTQ students, immigrant youth, and youth with disabilities in communities of color. Ronnie has led several grassroots campaigns for health and public safety across California and mobilized thousands of youth and parents with the campaign Pathway to Citizenship in Bakersfield. He has previously served as a counselor at Bienestar; teacher assistant at LAUSD; health educator at Instituto Familiar De La Raza, and has led grassroots campaigns to help release undocumented queer youth from immigration detention centers.
     
  Christopher White, Director of the Safe and Healthy LGBT Youth Project

Chris was raised in Odessa in the desert plains of West Texas, where “real” men played football or worked on oilrigs. Growing up as an effeminate, smart, gay boy and inspired by the determination of his teen parents, he has chosen a life-long career of activism, advocacy, and research with regards to LGBT rights and sexual/reproductive health and rights, particularly for young people.  Chris earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and went on to earn an MA from New York University in human sexuality education before returning to UT for his doctorate in health promotion.  He was the cofounder of the Gay Youth Media Project, a collaboration between OutYouth Austin and the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, and his research has focused on preparing teachers and others who work with young people to meet the needs of LGBT youth.  He was most recently the Director of Education and Training at the National Sexuality Resource Center at San Francisco State University and is adjunct faculty in the Human Sexuality Program at Widener University.  When he’s not striving to promote the health and well being of young people, Chris can usually be found at a dance class, riding his bike, or exploring the Bay Area.
     
  Geoffrey Winder, Senior Manager, Racial & Economic Justice Programs

Geoffrey Winder is a youth organizer with over 10 years of experience in the GSA student movement. Geoffrey entered youth organizing by starting and leading the GSA club in high school. He continued his activism at GSA Network as a youth trainer and member of the Youth Council and then the Board of Directors. As the Anti-Racism Initiative Coordinator in 2001, he examined the effectiveness of GSA clubs in schools and communities of color. His political lens has been formed through his deep involvement in the GSA and queer youth movements; as well as organizing in the global justice, housing rights, labor rights, prison abolition and anti-war movements for over a decade. He studied politics and history and holds a bachelor’s degree in Change Theory and Globalization from New York University's Gallatin School for Individualized Study. In 2011, as GSA Network's Racial and Economic Justice Manager, and currently as the Senior Manager for Racial and Economic Justice Programs, Geoffrey continues deepening GSA Network’s educational justice analysis and alliances to ensure the needs of LGBTQ low-income youth of color are represented in national school reform efforts.
     
 

Benson D. Wong, Interim Executive Director

Ben Wong has spent the past two decades in the fields of youth development, after school programming, and community organizing. From 2001-2009, Ben was the Director of the landmark San Francisco Chinatown Beacon Center, serving thousands of youth and families with out-of-school time programs and services. During the latter part of that period, he also served as the Deputy Director for Community Educational Services (CES).

Prior to the Beacon Center, Ben was an Associate Director and Youth Program Coordinator with the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, a Crime Prevention Specialist with San Francisco SAFE, and a Project Director with Chinatown Youth Center. He has been the Chair/Member of the Juvenile Justice Commission, and President/Member of the Delinquency Prevention Commission .

Ben holds a B.S. in Business Information and Computing Systems, and an M.S. in Counseling, Marriage & Family Therapy from San Francisco State University.

     

 

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