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Posts by: "Wendy Ortiz"

California Walks, the California Bicycle Coalition, and the California Center for Civic Participation are very excited to introduce our very first cohort of Walk & Bike Youth Leaders! After a competitive search, we selected roughly a dozen youth ages 14-23 to participate in our inaugural program as an opportunity to engage new voices in walk and bike advocacy.

Over the summer, Cal Walks and CalBike staff trained youth on ins and outs of advocacy, engineering and design principles for walking/biking, how to conduct a walk/bike audit in their own communities, and strategies for communicating their active transportation needs through PhotoVoice and VideoVoice—equipping these leaders with tangible skills to make a difference in their hometowns and for all Californians.

Representing a diversity of communities from across the state—including Sacramento, Contra Costa, Kern, Los Angeles, and Orange counties—the enthusiasm, creativity, and passion of these youth for advancing an intersectional approach to walking and biking safety in their communities have completely blown us away! We can’t wait for them to show everyone what they got at the California Bicycle Summit next week in Sacramento, where they will be sharing their experiences with the program during a breakout session on Wednesday, October 4, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Get to know our participants below, and if you’re at the California Bicycle Summit next week, don’t hesitate to say hi!

Barbara Perez, 16; Bakersfield, CA
Barbara attends Golden Valley High School in Bakersfield, CA. Within the last few years, she has worked with multiple organizations such as Greenfield Walking Group, Building Healthy Communities, California Walks, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation to improve the overall safety of the diverse communities around Bakersfield.
Zelia Gonzales, 18; Sacramento, CA
Zelia attends Sacramento City College and works for Councilmember Jay Schenirer in the City of Sacramento. In high school, Zelia spoke on a variety of platforms advocating for youth and access to alternative modes of transportation including the America Walks, New Partners for Smart Growth, and California Walks conferences. Currently, her roles included teaching other activists skills and providing infrastructure support for movements through Sacramento’s Sol Collective.
Marlene Mendoza, 18; El Monte, CA
Marlene recently graduated from South El Monte High School and is seeking to make the entire world a better place one step at a time. In the fall, she will be attending the University of California, Riverside.
Kelly Ma, 17; Westminster, CA
Kelly will be completing her senior year of high school this fall. In her free time, she loves traveling, spending time with family and friends, and watching crime shows! Most of all, she enjoys service. She has a strong passion for community service, and loves to give back to her school and community.
Edwin Ruiz, 16; Santa Ana, CA
Edwin is a youth representative for a group called Youth for Active and Safe Communities (YASC) in the Youth Empowerment Network (YEN) at a local nonprofit organization named KidWorks. As a skateboarder for eight years, he has noticed the need for more skating spaces for the youth. He strives to advocate for more safe infrastructure for safe skating. In the past, he has visited skateparks in other cities, conducted a confidence skating course, and created an event for International Go Skate Day.
  Andrea Garcia, 18; El Monte, CA
Andrea is actively working to help her community and change it for the better. Her motto is to always think global, but act local.
Omar Vargas, 23; East Los Angeles, CA
Omar is an East Los Angeles native and college graduate from Denison University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology. He was on the planning committees for both the Summit of Ohio Latinx (SOL), the first summit for Latinx college students in Ohio, as well as The Nest, an alternative dining experience created with a focus on entrepreneurship and student autonomy. A TEDx talk giver, he has given presentations at national conferences and has been acknowledged for his contributions in the communities he has been a part of. Currently, he is an Urban Futures Lab Fellow with Public Matters where he is working on community and cultural economic development projects around Los Angeles. Omar’s interests are in public health and urban planning, seeking to impact the world through his attention to detail and spontaneous ambition.When not working, Omar spends his free time exercising and pursuing personal interests. He is currently learning front-end web development, reading, running, cycling, and being a better person each day.
Nancy Hernandez, 22; Richmond, CA
Nancy is originally from Richmond, California. She is a recent graduate of Pitzer College, where she majored in Environmental Analysis. She loves bicycling and is committed to increasing safer access to bicycling in working class communities of color. In her spare time, Nancy also enjoys creative writing, making jewelry, and learning how to code.
Jocelyn Cuevas, 17; Bakersfield, CA
Jocelyn attends Golden Valley High School and was instrumental in helping Kern County secure over $5 million in grant funding to install sidewalks, gutters, and road improvements in her unincorporated community of Rexland Acres. She is an advocate for change and a leader in her community.
  Jason Alvarez, 18; Bakersfield, CA
Jason is a long-time youth advocate working with multiple organizations such as Greenfield Walking Group, Building Healthy Communities, and California Walks over the years. With Cal Walks, Jason has facilitated VideoVoice trainings to help his peers voice their needs.
Diana Cuevas, 14; Bakersfield, CA
Diana is 13 years old and works with the Greenfield Walking Group in Bakersfield, California. She started working with the Greenfield Walking Group to improve sidewalks and overall safety on the streets.

We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting our new team members over the past few weeks! This week, meet Wendy Ortiz, our Community Engagement Coordinator, based in Orange County. Earlier, Miha Tomuta and Austin T.D. Hall introduced themselves. 

Wendy Ortiz, Community Engagement Coordinator

No matter how you get around, whether you traverse by foot, mobility aids, car, bike, or public transit, issues regarding safety, and infrastructure impact your ability to explore the world with ease. As a car driver, bicyclist, and runner, I understand that safety can be built-in to our infrastructure by allotting the resources for it and experiencing the environment through multiple transportation options. The seeming universality of walkability and transportation issues is my motivation for working with California Walks to create safe, healthy, and walkable communities for all. In my role as the Community Engagement Coordinator, I hope to be a source of support for communities working together to enact changes that meet the transportation needs for their particular environment.

Preceding my employment with California Walks, I worked at Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where I authored a policy report on the intersections of climate change and inequality in the context of the California drought [PDF]. I highlighted the unique and disproportionate challenges faced by California’s low-income and farming communities and put forth recommendations that were community driven. As a community organizer with the Texas Hunger Initiative, I engaged a multi-generational, cross-cultural community in establishing an organizing coalition concerned with high rates of poverty, poor healthcare access, environmental justice issues, youth education and economic prosperity. Additionally, I worked with urban gardeners participating in an alternative gardening program aimed at reducing their food insecurity. I also graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

In my personal time, I enjoy making things. I’m a wood worker, leather worker, poet, and a plant forager. I walk and bike through my neighborhoods looking for medicinal herbs, plants, and trees to gather from to create medicine. Ultimately, I want people to be emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally well, so I spend a lot of time learning how things are made so that I may be as useful as possible.