H4J Program Associate
Brianna Sanchez is an intern for the Homies 4 Justice (H4J) program. She was born in San Francisco but was raised in Oakland, She is currently a high schooler and hopes to bring the knowledge she learns at CURYJ
and apply it to her community and future. Brianna will one day become a lawyer and help the communities that she grew up in. As a young person herself, she believes that all young people should have a second chance instead of being put in a position where they have to fight for their lives.
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.
Dream Beyond Bars Coordinator
Daniel Mendoza the founder and coordinator for the Dream Beyond Bars Fellowship that meets weekly to conduct participatory research, leadership development, and juvenile justice advocacy.
In the first cohort Daniel and the fellows worked in collaboration with Urban Peace Movement to publish the Dream Beyond Bars report, a study on the impact of youth criminalization and community based solutions to incarceration in Alameda County.
In 2018 Daniel was a Movement Technology Fellow with Oakland Rising and Devlabs Ventures, he now leads data collection and digital organizing at CURYJ. Daniel received the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award from the Marguerite Casey Foundation in 2016.
Daniel has grown at CURYJ in different positions starting as a participant in Warrior’s Circle, a facilitator for Homies 4 Justice, and as the manager for the La Cultura Cura Cultural Arts Café. During the Warrior’s Circle Daniel helped to produce a foto-novella report Forgotten Voices: Youth Solutions for Oakland, that illustrated the realities of violence, trauma, and resilience that Oakland youth face.
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
Juan is the lead illustrator, graphic designer, and mural coordinator at CURYJ. He is responsible for the social media strategy for the Dream Beyond Bars and Homies 4 Justice programs. Juan leads media justice,
branding, and storytelling workshops with the CURYJ fellows and interns so that they are producing their own content and using their voice for healing and policy change.
In 2019 Juan received certification from the Joven Nobles Facilitator Training by The National Compadres Network. Was also featured on the Craft Industry Alliance podcast at The New England Quilt Museum. In October 2019 he was a guest lecturer at the Stanford Masters of Law Program course, Youth and Law Policy, presenting on the school to prison pipeline. In 2018 Juan was a Dream Beyond Bars Fellow and helped to create the first participatory research report created by systems impacted youth on criminalization and community based solutions to incarceration in Alameda County. In 2018 Juan completed a nine month Movement Technology Fellowship with Oakland Rising and Devlabs Ventures, where he applied software engineering and computer technology skills to CURYJ processes and communication.
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 in need. 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. He also learned community organizing skills, event management, and different cultural healing practices.
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
Mike is a CURYJ co-founder and certified life coach that manages the Life Coaching Team for adults and for youth. Mike takes pride in the successes the people he has served
have achieved —like getting off probation, finding permanent housing, and securing good employment. Mike founded the Life Coaching program and was the only life coach for two and a half years until he began recruiting and training other life coaches.
Mike also runs the Community Healing Program where he oversees the regranting program, coordinates with community stakeholders, and builds capacity for local organizers in the San Antonio and Fruitvale Districts. Mike launched and oversees the Aztlan Beautification Movement that includes community mural projects, the Reclaiming Cinco de Mayo block party, and the Fruitvale Community Garden.
Mike has lived in the community his whole life and is responsible for a lot of the outreach and base building at CURYJ. He facilitates activities inside juvenile hall and teaches ethnic studies in Oakland high schools and continuation schools. As an organizer, Mike understands the power of mobilizing locally and he takes it upon himself to organize activities that connect current participants and CURYJ alumni.
In 2018 Mike facilitated a workshop on Restorative Justice at Columbia University in New York. 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 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.
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. Mike co-founded CURYJ when he was 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.
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.
Ricky Ricardo is a youth leader in progress. As a fellow with the Dream Beyond Bars (DBB) program Ricky is impacting his community and building professional and leadership skills for his future.
Ricky has taken a lead in the participatory research program investigating different juvenile justice facilities in Northern California. In October 2019 he was a guest lecturer at the Stanford Masters of Law Program course, Youth and Law Policy, presenting on the school to prison pipeline. He is part of the media team for DBB and organizes community events. Ricky is focused on making change for all the youth in inner cities throughout California.
Rosie Santiago is a professional life coach and an East Oakland native with strong ties to her community. She provides youth and adults services and mentorship for navigating the criminal justice
system, professional development, higher education, and overcoming oppression and injustice. She holds a Certification in Social Work with an emphasis in substance abuse and dual disorders from Merritt College. Rosie applies her beliefs in healing, higher education, transformation, and leadership building to her work as the lead facilitator for the Young Women’s Healing and Empowerment Circle at CURYJ.
Rosie is a leader in the field of formerly incarcerated women’s empowerment and has been a guest speaker at UC Berkeley, The Belong Symposium, and in Juvenile Hall.
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. 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 and young adults. As Rosie puts it, “Our youth hold the key, they are our future leaders, without them, we won’t have a future.”
Youth Justice Program Associate
Xochtil Larios is a 20-year-old full-time college student and 2018 recipient of the California Endowment 2018 Youth Award as a Community Champion. She served as the youngest Fellow
of the Peer-to-Peer Initiative through the Community Justice Network for Youth Program of the Burns Institute. She is also a vital youth commissioner on the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission.
Ms. Larios is an accomplished and relentless community activist and leader. She works in the trenches of local grassroots mobilizing, the laboratory of regional program development and execution, and the progressive planning of national restorative justice reform.
As CURYJ’s Youth Justice Program Associate, Ms. Larios brings her own innovative Youth Transformation Curriculum to detained juvenile offenders, co-Facilitates Women Warrior Circles for healing and empowerment, and a respected researcher and advisor in Dream Beyond Bars justice system transformation recommendations.