Gente Unida Board of Directors
Peter Schey Esq.
President and Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and its Casa Libre/Freedom House program. Mr. Schey oversees the implementation of the policies and programs of CHRCL and Casa Libre as well as all litigation of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.
Andrés Porras Gutiérrez
I greet you from Tijuana, Mexico, in the last corner where our homeland ends, and Latin America as well. It is a huge city, with many contrasts, and which has been shaped for decades mainly by people who come from other places, many of them as migrants or refugees, with whom I currently work, both directly and through shelters or associations that collaborate. I also work at the La Salle Training Center, where a team of 80 volunteers give about 140 free courses to 900 young people and adults of all socioeconomic levels, mainly from low-income backgrounds. Through the La Salle Center, we try to contribute as much as we can to people in mobility situations.
Mitchell Simkovsky was born in San Diego and raised in Poway, California. He graduated from Poway High School and went on to double major at Chico State in both Accounting and Theater Arts. He has been married for 19 years and together, along with his wife, is raising two teenagers. For many years, Mitchell worked backstage and designed the lighting effects on many theatrical productions around San Diego County. At the same time, he was performing Accounting and Tax Preparation services on the side. Then, in 2007, he moved to working full time as an Accountant and Tax Preparer. In 2015, he and his wife opened up A&M Taxes, Inc, specializing in Bookkeeping, Tax Preparation for both business and individuals, Quickbooks training, and year-end tax planning.
In 2010, she began focusing on the needs of seniors and received a degree in Gerontology from the University of Massachusetts. She served as the director of the Humboldt/Del Norte Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Volunteer Center of the Redwoods from 2012 until 2019.
In the summer of 2019, she visited shelters in Tijuana as a volunteer in response to the humanitarian crisis due to US immigration policies. Since then, she has been spreading community awareness and securing donations to support migrants waiting at the border. She has visited several shelters in Tijuana and Mexicali, bringing art supplies and guiding art projects with migrant children and their families.
She is currently funded by the California Arts Council to work with young language learners and senior volunteers on a special writing and illustration project in Humboldt elementary schools.
Elvira is a first generation Mexican American Social Work student and has worked with the Disabled Population, Autism, and Behavioral Health System for the last 4 years. She received her Bachelors in Language Teaching from the Autonomous University of Baja California in Ensenada Mexico in 2018. After completing her undergraduate internship in San Diego pursuing teaching credentials, she became aware of environmental factors that weren’t addressed in the school system and decided to shift her career path towards Behavioral Health and Advocacy. She is now an advanced Social Work Master student at California State University San Marcos and is expected to graduate in Spring 2023. Elvira is passionate about applying Human Centered Design processes and Cultural humility in combination with holistic evidence-based practices to engage historically underserved populations, particularly the Latino community in the US and the trans- national Latinos who are active members of both sides of the US-Mexico border. One of her long-term professional goals is to be involved in International Social work to promote wellbeing and preventative policy on both sides of the border.
Sarah Bella Mondragon
Sarah Bella Mondragon is a multimedia artist, activist, and digital storyteller. She has over 20 years experience producing multicultural, international educational events including exhibitions, conferences, parades and outdoor festivals. Sarah works as a freelance project manager, arts administrator, and web media designer for several local nonprofit Arts organizations, including Aesthetics Inc., Aztlan Arte and Mundo Gallery. Working with Gente Unida and Enrique Morones, she produces the podcast Buen Hombre, Magnificent Mujer focusing on interviewing local and international human rights activists, artists and leaders.
Sarah grew up in the neighborhood adjacent to Logan Heights, Golden Hill, supporting local nonprofit arts and environmental organizations by bringing different groups together to share resources and find common ground. Sarah Bella Mondragon and her partner artist Mario Torero live part time in Brasilito, Costa Rica as resident artists/teachers collaborating with local arts and health community initiatives. Sarah speaks Spanish and Portuguese, is an avid spoken word poet and Capoeira Brazilian Martial Arts teacher.
Currently with Gente Unida she is producing, “Our Walls Speak/Nuestros Muros Hablan”. “Our Walls Speak!: is a multi-media multi generational virtual and live symposium and street exhibition celebrating Chicano Art Muralism in Logan Heights through live and virtual panel/community discussions, artist and elder interviews and storytelling, a downloadable neighborhood mural walk/drive through Logan Heights, community and youth mural art workshops and spoken word movement performances.
“Our Walls Speak” was inspired by the struggles of local veteran Chicano artists Mario Torero, Sal Barajas, and Salvador “Queso” Torres to negotiate with San Diego City Schools to prevent the further destruction of their murals at Memorial Junior High School. “Our Walls Speak” is sponsored by The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture in partnership with Gente Unida, The Centro Cultural de La Raza, The Chicano Park Museum and the Logan Heights CDC.
Jesus Nebot is a renowned filmmaker, social entrepreneur and human rights activist who speaks internationally on issues related to environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. Originally from Spain, Jesus studied drama in Madrid, and eventually made his way to Venezuela where he became well known and loved as a telenovela star. Nebot’s eventual emigration to the United States created a crisis in self identity and 180 degree turn in the direction of his career and life mission as he found himself a homeless actor and producer in Los Angeles. Nebot recreated himself as a social entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker and producer who now uses the arts to create awareness and social change.
After receiving his B.A. degree with honors from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in Madrid, Jesus completed his training at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York on scholarship from the Spanish Government. He then became internationally known for his starring roles in the top-rated television series’ “LA LOBA HERIDA” and “DIVINA OBSESION,” distributed by Warner Brothers International in 29 countries. Seeking to expand his career Jesus came to the United States in 1995 where he was granted the green card as a “person with extraordinary ability in the arts.” In 2000, Jesus launched his own production company by the name of Zokalo Entertainment with the intent of making films that were socially relevant and thought-provoking. Zokalo’s first production was the critically acclaimed feature “NO TURNING BACK” picked up for distribution by Universal after its successful theatrical release in Europe and in the United States. Nebot’s recent acting credits include guest-starring roles in the Fox EMMY WINNING SERIES’ “NYPD BLUE” and “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.” His website provides information on all of his projects, www.JesusNebot.com
Nebot’s mission has always been to inspire personal and social healing and transformation through his speaking engagements, training seminars and artistic endeavors, including writing, producing, directing and acting.
Gente Unida Advisory Board
Juan Rosas – Juan Rosas has been an educator for more than 20 years. He also dedicates his work to advocate for immigrants and to encourage widespread community involvement, addressing social injustices experienced by migrants. Juan runs Gente Unida in San Bernardino, at which they advocate for undocumented students by presenting at local districts, schools and local universities, advising undocumented students and families on how to attend colleges and universities.
As president and chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Paul F. Chavez has spearheaded the impressive expansion of the organization his father founded in the 1960s. The Foundation has grown and adapted into a successful group of social enterprises that support hundreds of thousands of Latinos and working families, inspiring and transforming communities from rural to urban areas throughout the Southwest and across generations.
One of eight children of Cesar and Helen Chavez, Paul has spent his entire life with the farm worker movement. Prior to his work with the Cesar Chavez Foundation, he served with the United Farm Workers of America as a union organizer, contract negotiator, political director, lobbyist in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and director of marketing operations. He was also a personal assistant to Cesar Chavez.
Paul earned an A.A. degree in negotiations and collective bargaining at the Fred W. Ross Labor Education Center’s School of Collective Bargaining.
Josefina Lopez is an award-winning Screenwriter/Playwright/Novelist and Performer who co-wrote the screenplay to the Sundance Audience Award winner, Real Women Have Curves. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of CASA 0101 Theater Art Space in Boyle Heights, where she presents plays, film festivals, teaches and empowers a new generation of Latino and women writers.
Clare graduated from Columbia University in 2013 with a Masters in Public Health. At Columbia, Clare worked in the Population and Family Health Department on the Getting Ready for School project and on SKIP!, the toddler physical activity intervention in Early Head Start. Clare has held research positions with Harvard Prevention Research Center, Boston Medical Center, and New York University in addition to health education roles with Harlem Children’s Zone and the New York City Department of Health. Clare also completed a Dietetic Internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and has practiced clinical nutrition focused on diabetes and womens’ health. Clare is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Public Health at UC San Diego and has deep interest in developing equitable, cost-effective familial interventions targeting social-emotional development and childhood obesity.
Erica Alfaro is a business owner, keynote speaker, Latino Education Advocate and the Vice-president of Toastmasters. An Educational organization that promotes the skills of communication, public speaking and Leadership. Erica often speaks to middle school, High school, community college and undergrad students across the country. Her story made headlines all over the world when her graduation pictures went viral.
Franciscan Friar Adolfo Mercado
Education truly transforms individuals, families, and communities. Schools serve as catalyst or agents of change, and Adolfo finds it exciting to be a part of this process. This is a value his family cultivated in him and relied upon to move away from laboring as migrant farm workers. Adolfo’s earliest memories are playing in the tomato fields while his family worked harvesting tomatoes in the fields of Woodland, (Yolo County) California. As a student at Christian Brothers HS, Adolfo saw the power of education and started working as a tutor. Time at Kresge College at UC Santa Cruz (B.A., Anthropology) was even more impactful, although the year at UNAM in Mexico City was transformational. He taught in a classroom briefly, but realized that he wanted something faster paced and moved into non-profit programming. After a detour working for the Roman Catholic Bishop in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, he returned to education. For 12 years he served
as the Executive Director of Breakthrough Sacramento at Sacramento Country Day School and now works for the California Charter School Association. Adolfo is a proud native of Sacramento and is eager to see Sacramentans own their power as residents of the capital city of the 6th largest economy of the world. He also volunteers with Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, Sacramento Stonewall Democrats, and the Latino Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento.
In 2018, I resigned from my position as Regional Director for Advocacy with the California Charter Schools Association to begin formation to become a Franciscan Friar. In August of 1998 I joined as a postulant with the Franciscan Friars. The postulancy was at Saint Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, MD. After a year there, volunteering at a day center for folks experiencing homelessness, and deepening my relationship with God, I was recommended to move on to the novitiate. That was in Santa Barbara, at the old mission. Thanks to God, and some hard work, I professed first vows on the 2nd of July 2020. This year was supposed to be an immersion year and I was hoping to go to Morocco, the Philippines, or Mississippi. Because of the pandemic, it was best to begin studies at the Franciscan School of Theology, affiliated with USD. I am completing a Master of Divinity concurrently with a Master of Theological Studies. Gente Unida has been part of my settling into life in San Diego.
Hugo Castro is a courageous humanitarian who has worked for decades to protect the lives and well being of migrants on both sides of the US Border.
He has worked in shelters in Tijuana, and has been a guide, friend and advocate for many in their times of need. Hugo is an American Citizen born to migrant farm working parents. Hugo’s life was greatly influenced by the lives and work of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. It is fitting that this interview that allows us to take a look at his many accomplishments and trials falls on this day.
Hugo’s spirit is indomitable, it is our hope at Gente Unida that his message touches your heart as it has ours. Please share our new podcast with your friends and family. BuenHombre.org and MagnificentMujer.org
Michelle Onong McCurdy
Michelle McCurdy is currently serving the diverse student body at San Diego City College as a nurse practitioner in their student health clinic where she has provided primary care and health education for the last six years. In addition to her passion for maintaining the physical and emotional health of her students, she is extremely concerned and dedicated to addressing injustice and inequality at its root. She was selected for Mid-City CAN’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Training program and completed it in the fall of 2019. She has worked as a volunteer for Jewish Family Services helping at their refugee shelter and provided medical care in Tijuana through Bridges to Healing International. She is also an active member of multiple local groups involved in critical causes such as Doctors for Camp Closure (D4CC) and Moms Demand Action (SD4GVP).
Her nursing career began when she joined the U.S. Navy after graduating with her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After earning her masters in nursing at the University of San Diego, Michelle served on the San Diego Chapter board of the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) as president-elect, president, and past president where she advocated for autonomous nurse practitioner (NP) practice legislation. Through her father’s work with a non-profit organization, Michelle was privileged to spend her childhood growing up in several countries, namely, the Philippines, India, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia, with intermittent visits to Sabah, Malaysia where her mother was born and raised. She has been happily settled as a San Diego resident since 1997 where she and her husband are raising their three children and four cats.