Just Communities envisions an
equitable and inclusive Central Coast where all people are connected, respected, and valued.
Just Communities advances justice by
building leadership, fostering change, and
dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.
Just Communities offers cultural competency training to organizational leaders, education seminars for the general public, leadership training institutes for students and teachers, and customized consultation to local agencies for diversity and organizational change initiatives. Just Communities consciously works with people from a diverse cross-section of the community along the lines of race, income, gender, sexual orientation, age, and religious affiliation.
Our expertise in human relations uniquely positions us to serve people and organizations in the education, health care, non-profit, government, and business sectors. The breadth of our vision statement to "ensure that all people are connected, respected, and valued" does not limit our service to a single constituency. Whether we are training health care providers on cultural competency, facilitating a diverse collaboration of service providers to address youth violence, or empowering at-risk teens as leaders in their schools, Just Communities continues to bridge differences among those of diverse backgrounds and cultures to strengthen the local community and advance social justice.
Dr. Andrea Medina
Director of Just Communities International
Andrea was born and raised in Yucatán, México, surrounded by the Maya culture. The values of dialogue, hard work, social justice, morals and courage were woven in her upbringing in the community. At age 16 she migrated to the U.S. As an English learner and first generation college student, she pursued her Bachelor's degree in Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Santa Bárbara, as well as a minor in Anthropology.
As a genetics researcher, officer, and active member of various student associations and community organizations, Andrea became an avid educator, focused on creating better opportunities and providing support for more students of color to pursue a career in the STEM fields. She has created and implemented culturally relevant scientific curricula in California, taught and directed multi and intercultural education programs in schools and community centers throughout México for over twelve years and has worked with students, parents, teachers, school districts and the community at large in both homes, in both countries.
Andrea earned her Master's Degree with highest honors at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mesoamerican Studies. After living and working with families and schools in several indigenous communities throughout Mesoamerica, she decided to focus her Ph.D. research on the scientific processes behind traditional medicine and healing.
She is a strong advocate for education, science, peace, history, and social justice, and truly enjoys learning and participating in the exchange of knowledge everywhere she goes. At Just Communities, Andrea is the Director of Just Communities International, created NepanTiahui, our on-going Culturally Relevant Curricula Design Program and Manages and Co-Directs the Institute for Equity in Education (IEE).
Ana Huynh was born and raised in Michoacan, Mexico. She came to the US at the age of 10 and quickly became passionate about her education. She was the first in her family to graduate high school and attend community college. Although she has faced many setbacks in her education, she recently received an Associates Degree in Business Administration and Economics from Santa Barbara Community College (SBCC).
Ana continues to be passionate about education and is working tirelessly to motivate, empower, and encourage those facing the same adversities she did. She has taken it upon herself to learn how the public education system works and strives to take this learning and create more opportunities for underrepresented students and families.
Ana first got involved with Just Communities when she participated in the Parents for Inclusion, Diversity, and Access (PIDA) program in 2013. This program inspired her to become more involved with Just Communities and she has been contributing to the organization ever since, including in her new role as PIDA Program Manager. Ana is also the Just Communities Office Manager.
Ana enjoys family time with her husband and daughter.
Development & Communications Specialist
Fabiola was born and raised in Santa Barbara. As a teenager, Fabiola benefited from her involvement in local non-profit youth organizations. In 2008, Fabiola participated in Just Communities’ Community Leadership Institute (CLI).
Fabiola earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chicana and Chicano Studies, with a minor in Education, from the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently working on completing her Master’s program in Chicana and Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge.
In December of 2015, Fabiola founded Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara, a grassroots community coalition that empowers youth and community members to come together, take action, and work towards improving our schools. Fabiola advocates for creating and supporting accessible community spaces for social justice organizing and is a board member for the Lower Westside Community Center’s El Centro. As a scholar and grassroots community organizer, Fabiola has been able to bridge her studies and leadership skills to better serve the Santa Barbara community.
To recharge Fabiola enjoys cooking with her partner and gardening.
Jarrod Schwartz is the founding Executive Director of Just Communities Central Coast. Jarrod served five years as the Program Director for the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) St. Louis, MO Region where he was responsible for the design, implementation and evaluation of NCCJ St. Louis' overall program strategy designed to foster equity and inclusion throughout the St. Louis community.
Jarrod left St. Louis to launch a new NCCJ office in Santa Barbara, CA to serve the communities of California’s Central Coast, which he directed until it became Just Communities. Jarrod is an educator and consultant with over 20 years of experience working with schools, businesses and communities to develop, implement, and evaluate organization and personal development programs. He holds a Master’s Degree in Organization Development from American University and the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. He is an Associate of the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, and an Adjunct Faculty Member for Antioch University.
His personal and professional mission is to foster social justice and build community through transformative educational experiences for individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. Jarrod lives in Santa Barbara with his partner Alana and their beautiful twin daughters, Sydney and Alix.
Karen Hernandez was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California through elementary school. Then she and her family moved to Ventura, California where she attended De Anza Middle School and graduated from Ventura High School. Karen continued her education at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), receiving her Associates Degree in Liberal Studies, and her Bachelor’s Degree, also in Liberal Studies, from Antioch University.
Karen has been involved in the community through her passion for dance. From the age of five to the age of 20, she participated in the local Santa Barbara fiestas as a Folklorico dancer, performing all throughout the city. For the last 10 years, Karen has been dancing with a local Danza Mexica circle. Through this group, Karen helps her community to appreciate its cultural heritage.
Karen continues to live in Ventura, where she enjoys spending time with friends and family.
Lena Moran is a native of Mexico City, Mexico and was raised in Santa Barbara, California where she moved to at the age of six. She attended local schools Franklin Elementary, Santa Barbara Junior High, Santa Barbara High and Santa Barbara City College.
Lena holds a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies from Antioch University Santa Barbara, where she did research on the topic of children who are used as interpreters. Lena completed her Master's Degree in Education with an emphasis on Social Justice and Leadership, also at Antioch, with her thesis focusing on the creation of an evaluation system of interpretation and translation services in school districts. Lena is also a graduate of the Antioch University Women & Leadership certificate program, where her experiential leadership project focused on increasing language access across the Central Coast.
Lena has a passion for language justice and has utilized her skills in various capacities, from starting a Young Interpreters Club, to providing interpretation at assemblies, conferences and meetings and translating a variety of documents. After being part of the Language Justice Network for three years, Lena joined the Just Communities team in Spring of 2015 and she currently manages the Language Justice Initiative and the In School Youth Programs. Lena is also licensed trainer for The Community Interpreter International, a program of Cross Cultural Communications.
Lena lives in Ventura County and loves spending time with her partner Eddie and her son Antonio.
Development & Communications Manager
Melissa Patrino joined us in May 2018 as the Just Communities’ Development and Communications Manager. Melissa is responsible for grants, individual giving, communications and marketing. She recently relocated to Santa Barbara from Napa, California, bringing over 13 years of experience in working with Latino members of the community, most recently as the Executive Director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center, where she had oversight of the activities conducted at the organization, along with managing the organization’s financials, grants and reports. In addition, her passion for politics led her to work for Congressman Mike Thompson D-5, as a field representative and case worker for seven years.
Melissa is a graduate of the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership Institute, and she served on the Board of Directors for the Napa Valley Community Foundation from 2009-2014, where she chaired the Community Programs and Grants Committee. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara County Immigrant Legal Defense Center, and the Foundation for Girsh Park, in Goleta. Melissa holds a Master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Politics and Anthropology from Brandeis University. She is bicultural and bilingual (English, Spanish). She was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of eight.
Youth Program Coordinator
Mitzy-Sarahi Perez was born and raised in Santa Barbara. In 2013, she first began her work with Just Communities as a student participant in the Community Leadership Institute (CLI).
Mitzy earned her Bachelor's degree in Sociology with a minor in Chicano/a Studies from the University of California, Merced. While living in the Central Valley, she was heavily invested in youth work, by facilitating for a local youth group, helping establish a community tutoring/mentoring program and organizing the first Raza Youth Conference at UC Merced. This conference welcomed 120 high school students and their families to learn about college preparedness and various cultural workshops.
During her last year, she spent time conducting research and working with Zapoteco and Mixe indigenous teachers and leaders to better understand indigenous bilingual education in Oaxaca, Mexico. She is especially interested in non-traditional and culturally relevant education. She spent the rest of the academic year continuing this research interest in the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
Mitzy lives in Santa Barbara and enjoys spending time with her friends and family.
North County Youth Organizer
Zulema Aleman is a Cal Poly Alum whose coursework focused around social psychology, along with gender, queer and ethnic studies. With this knowledge she was able to be heavily involved in organizing for education equity as both a student and staff. This past year she served with AmeriCorps VISTA supporting undocumented students at Cal Poly through direct student support at the Cal Poly Dream Center and through educating the campus community about the undocumented immigrant community.
“I’m excited to join Just Communities as the North County Youth Organizer because our youth are the future, and I am eager to empower them, share my knowledge, and learn from them as well.”
South Santa Barbara
Isabel “Izzy” Huerta
North Santa Barbara /
San Luis Obispo Counties
Leola Dublin Macmillan