Cristina Flores is the current Program Associate for Homies 4 Justice (H4J) where she incorporates poetry and writing as part of her cultural strategy to develop trauma-informed
programming for systems impacted youth at CURYJ. She became involved with CURYJ in the summer of 2017 as an H4J intern. She is from East Oakland and believes that young people of color should be at the table making decisions to dismantle the criminalization and incarceration they are facing. Cristina has been an organizer since the age of 13 and has worked with Life Skills Advisory, The Xicana Moratorium, 67 Sueños, and Causa Justa | Just Cause. Cristina is currently a college student majoring in Ethnic Studies, while also receiving Communication and Media Training through CURYJ.
Daniel Mendoza serves as a DevLabs Fellow and Community Organizer at Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ). He first became involved with CURYJ as a participant
in the Warrior’s Circle, a positive manhood development program based at Dewey Academy in Oakland, CA. Through his participation in the CURYJ Warrior’s Circle he was recruited as a core group of youth leaders for a community based participatory research project led by CURYJ which culminated in the foto-novella report Forgotten Voices: Youth Solutions for Oakland. Daniel was charged and convicted with a felony strike two weeks after his 18th Birthday and was incarcerated for approximately two years. Since his release he has continued to work with CURYJ as a staff member helping to manage CURYJ’s social enterprise, La Cultura Cultural Arts Café and as part of the program team for Homies 4 Justice, a paid internship for systems impacted youth. Daniel was recently the recipient of the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award from the Marguerite Casey Foundation.
Since 1993, George Galvis has promoted restorative justice and healing to transform lives. Galvis is the Co-founder and executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
(CURYJ, pronounced “courage”). He draws from personal experience and his indigenous roots to help young people, particularly those involved in the criminal justice system, become community leaders for positive change.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Galvis was exposed to profound domestic violence and drug abuse at a young age and experienced racial targeting and systemic violence growing up in his neighborhood. Seeking protection and belonging, he turned to gang involvement and street life. At 17, George was incarcerated and charged with multiple felonies related to his participation in a drive-by shooting. George broke the cycle of violence many incarcerated young men face by investing in his own leadership potential and that of other young people in his circumstances. Galvis’ experiences led to his life commitment as an advocate and organizer for elevating the power of young people most affected by criminalization and violence.
Galvis holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies and a Master’s in City Planning from UC Berkeley where he was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow. He has conducted and published extensive, primary research on alternatives to gang violence utilizing culturally and spiritually based approaches.
Galvis advocates for at-risk youth, prisoners and formerly imprisoned individuals with children. As a board member of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Galvis helped create All of Us or None, which fights for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and families. He has led statewide advocacy efforts to transform punitive school and juvenile justice policies that disparately impact youth of color and has developed traditional rites of passage programs as healthy alternatives to gang violence. He also serves as the co-Director of the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ), a broad coalition working collectively to end youth incarceration, youth treatment as adults, and build community capacity for alternatives to incarceration that empower young people in California.
Galvis was a leader of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition, which became the first community organizing effort in the nation to fully defeat a gang injunction in 2015. In addition, George has sponsored numerous state youth justice legislation and is a co-author of California’s Proposition 57 passed by voters in 2016. He has been a keynote speaker and presenter at schools, lock-down facilities, universities and conferences throughout the country and abroad, including the United Nations. George has been recognized by the Bay Area News Group & Comcast as a Hometown Hero and is a recipient of the 2013 California Peace Prize from The California Wellness Foundation.
George’s greatest achievement is his family. He is a loving husband to Catalina Garzon Sandoval and proud father of three beautiful daughters and wombyn warriors in the making Mikaela, Ayacaxtli, and Quillari. His daughters and family inspire him every day to be a better man.
Lead Participatory Defense Coordinator
J Vasquez is the Lead Participatory Defense Coordinator at CURYJ where he empowers people facing charges, their families and communities to positively impact the outcome of cases
and transform the landscape of power in the court system. At 16 years old, J was tried in adult court and sentenced to 31 years to life. He was confined for over 25 years. While in prison, J earned six associate degrees with honors, created self-help curriculum to help his peers turn their lives around, co-founded a youth offender mentoring program and served as a staff writer for the prison newsletter. J is currently a full-time student at SF State University where he is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Criminal Justice. J is an avid runner who enjoys spending quality time with family. His self-proclaimed greatest achievement is breaking away from the gang-mentality. “The worst prison I ever did time in was the prison within my own mind.”
DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION
Joan Benoît responsible for finance, human resources, and operations. Under her leadership CURYJ has implemented operations and human resources systems that have allowed
CURYJ to double the staff and increase impact. Joan has finessed the financial systems to be compliant with auditing and funder requirements as the budget has grown by a third.
Joan is an enrolled member of the Chippewa of the Thames, First Nation and has over 20 years of experience in non-profit administration including 13 years as an Executive Director of the Native American AIDS Project. As an advocate working towards social change for marginalized communities, her work has been focused primarily on economic justice and the elimination of health disparities on local, regional and national levels. She has developed and implemented health and social justice programs within Native American communities, integrating traditional Native approaches with western interventions to create effective and innovative programming to meet the needs of the most at-risk populations in American Indian communities. Joan has lived in Oakland for over 25 years and is deeply rooted in Oakland’s culture and communities. She and her partner are proud parents to their 4 year old son and is Auntie to the children in her community. Joan’s work, vision, and impact are aimed at creating and sustaining a community that is whole and cares for all of its members.
José Luis Pavón
José Luis Pavón is a Life Coach advocating for systems impacted youth and developing their leadership skills to resist racism and poverty. He engages the youth he serves in intersectional
organizing, helping them access policy makers and social movements. José Luis has been a Chicano community organizer for over twenty-five years. During that time he has worked on campaigns that focus on educational justice, police accountability, immigrant rights, union organizing, economic justice, multi-racial solidarity and opposing the mass incarceration of youth. Additionally, he has done extensive social service around youth empowerment, youth development, violence prevention, crisis intervention, non-profit management, and youth employment; specializing in working with high need young men of color. He has experience as an educator teaching La Raza and Ethnic Studies, as well as doing academic support for high need students in English and Mathematics. José Luis is currently completing his senior year at San Francisco State University, where he will receive a B.A. in Economics with an emphasis on solutions to poverty, labor unions and Latin America. He is a proud father of three children, an artist, musician and a lifetime Aztec dancer in the Mexica tradition.
Digital Design Associate
Through CURYJ Juan has excelled as a youth organizing intern and now most recently a tech fellowship he was awarded through CURYJ with Devlabs Ventures. He is a Bay Area native born in San Francisco
and relocating to Oakland at the age of four. Growing up in Oakland he has had multiple encounters with police and at a young age was placed in community based programs to help keep him out of trouble, through these programs he found a passion for helping others who needed it. Some of the programs that have inspired him the most have been through Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ). Juan first became involved with CURYJ as a participant in the second summer Homies for Justice (H4J) cohort, a program designed to help formerly incarcerated and systems impacted youth. During his time in the program he learned and developed skills in policy, such as lobbying and bill implementations. Additionally, he learned how to organize, event management, and above all different types of cultural healing. Juan now 18 years old is on the right track and hopes to keep pursuing his passions in college and helping his community thrive.
Interim Associate Director
Lauren comes to CURYJ through Venture Leadership Consulting, and is currently the interim associate director. She has worked recently at a variety of non-profits to assist with interim leadership needs,
including East Bay Agency for Children, Project ReConnect, and the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League. Lauren is trained as an attorney, and is the former interim managing attorney of the Youth Justice Project at Bay Area Legal Aid, and former director of the Statewide Education Rights Project at Public Counsel. Throughout her career, she has worked in direct legal services, impact litigation, and local and state legislative and policy advocacy. All of her work has focused on utilizing a variety of advocacy tools to improve outcomes for systems involved young people and to break down the school to prison pipeline. Lauren was a deputy public defender and the director of the Legal Educational Advocacy Project (LEAP) at the Juvenile Division of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and began her legal career at Legal Services for Children, a non-profit civil legal services organization in San Francisco, where she was a senior staff attorney and director of the Education Project.
Lauren earned a JD from Stanford Law School, a BA in Public & International Affairs from Princeton University. She was a founding board member of the Roses in Concrete Community School, a charter school in East Oakland. She lives with her family in Berkeley, but part of her heart remains on the East Coast, where she was born and raised.
Linda Sanchez is the Program Manager overseeing the Homies 4 Justice and Dream Beyond Bars programs. She provides programmatic support around curriculum development,
grant management, and mentorship to systems impacted youth. Linda is committed to providing capacity building and professional development to the Program staff who are systems impacted themselves.
Born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised in Anaheim, CA Linda most recently served as the Program Director of 67 Sueños, a youth leadership development program for Undocumented/mixed status youth. At 67 Sueños Linda achieved a 100% retention rate, cultivated critical relationships with foundations, expanded community collaborations, and groomed former participants to lead the program after her departure. She is a UC Berkeley graduate where she received a dual degree in Political Science and Chicano Studies. Her accomplishments while at UC Berkeley include advocating for and winning the first Undocumented Student Reserouce Program and co-founded the first and only UC Berkeley student housing for undocumented students. In 2015 she started her own social enterprise, Fuerza Indigena, to socially and economically uplift the voices of indigenous communities in California. Her experiences of being undocumented and indigenous propels her to be deeply rooted in community advocacy and social justice. She brings to CURYJ a wealth of experience in youth organizing, program management, grant writing, social entrepreneurship, and curriculum development.
Community Organizer & Life Coach
CURYJ Community Organizer, is a fifth generation Oaklander who is very passionate about creating a better Oakland for young people by developing programs that help them realize their potential
for leadership. As a defendant in the Fruitvale gang injunction, he became an outspoken leader in the Stop the Injunctions Coalition and plant-based continued to advocate against policies that criminalize youth of color. Mike has spoken to local radio outlets, media, and testified at the state capitol before the State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and served on the Youth Policy Task Force for the Alliance of Boys and Men of Color. He was also a panelist a the Beyond the Bench conference where he directly shared his experiences with Judges, Prosecutors and others in Law Enforcement to give them an opportunity to learn what the impact of certain judicial practices have had on the health and success of boys and men of color.
As a community organizer for CURYJ, Mike helped to year-long mural block parties and a community garden project in Oakland’s Fruitvale District where he has lived his entire life. Mike also conceptualized and initiated the Aztlan Beautification Movement, which involves youth in creating murals of Oakland community history and culture.
SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR
Miguel is the Senior Policy Director, working in state-wide coalitions to craft legislation and mobilize community support of laws to reduce criminalization, incarceration, and police brutality.
Miguel led CURYJ in policy wins like AB392, raising the standard in California for law enforcement’s use of force. CURJY is also active in proposed legislation such as SB284, AB656, and wins like Proposition 57 and SB1421. Miguel started with CURYJ as the Regional Organizer, bringing together membership with ally organizations such as Oakland Rising, Justice Reinvestment Coalition, and FICPM. He is a thought leader in criminal justice and has been a speaker for Columbia University and the ACLU.
At 16 years-old, Miguel was tried and sentenced in adult court to a 45-year double-life term under Proposition 21. Miguel was the managing editor or the San Quentin News, under his leadership the operating budget grew 3,000% and he managed a staff of 35 writers. He developed programs to offer mentorship and youth development, wrote culturally responsive curriculum and launched trainings across four institutions that are still active today. Miguel advocated to end the policy of trying youth in adult courts and the sentencing of youth as adults for life terms. In addition, Miguel organized forums with fellow incarcerated peers, Human Rights Watch, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and legislators to help pass Senate Bill 9, 260, 261, and Assembly Bill 1276.
Rosie Santiago is an East Oakland native with strong ties to her community. After many years of enduring poverty, childhood trauma, discrimination, and almost a third of her life incarcerated,
she then returned to her community after receiving a degree in Social & Behavioral Science from Feather River Community College. Through her role as a life coach at CURYJ, Rosie hopes to bring the passion she has for aiding and assisting young people from her community to overcome oppression and injustice. Like many of the CURYJ staff, Rosie’s upbringing in East Oakland gave her a firsthand understanding of the issues that many urban cities face, but also the resilience that youth possess in facing those challenges head-on. Prior to CURYJ, Rosie focused on young women who lost their children to the system, suffered from substance abuse, and mental health disorders. Although she loved being a support system for those women, she realized her calling was with youth. As Rosie puts it, “Our youth hold the key, they are our future leaders, without them, we won’t have a future.” Her beliefs in healing, higher education, transformation, and leadership building are the key components she emphasizes in creating change in the youth and our society. In addition to life coaching and organizing, Rosie facilitates the Women’s Warrior Circles where she engages young women to tap into themselves and discover the amazing potential they possess.
Youth Justice Program Associate
Xochtil Larios is a 18-year-old full-time college student and 2018 recipient of the California Endowment 2018 Youth Award, as well as a Peer to Peer Fellow and Bay Rising Communications Fellow.
Xochtil is a community activist and youth leader born and raised in South Hayward. She has endured being a youth in the county’s juvenile system since she was 12 years old, which entails both foster care and juvenile detention centers. It was during her longest lock-up, 200+ days in the ACJJC, that she reached deep into her soldier’s heart of strength, resilience, and perseverance to eagerly grab any of the tools available to triumph. During that time she was acquainted with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and quickly plugged herself in. Since then she has traveled coast to coast working as a youth researcher and thought leader on alternatives and diversions from incarceration.