Michael Centeno, Executive Director, has been a consistent Tia Chucha’s volunteer since the space opened in 2001 organizing a weekly film series, then moving to the role of Centro coordinator when the non-profit was established in 2003. In 2006 Michael moved on to work for The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as other youth development organizations such as the Youth Policy Institute and Youth Speak Collective, eventually making his way back to become part of the board of directors for Tia Chucha’s. Under the umbrella of Youth Speak Collective, Michael co-founded Media Solutions, a social enterprise which pairs youth with mentors to produce video and photography services for other non-profit organizations and businesses. Michael has over 10 years experience in multi-media production with an emphasis in film production and is passionate about media literacy in underserved communities. In 2015 Michael was officially hired on as Development Director for Tia Chucha’s. In February of 2018 the Board of Directors voted him in as Executive Director. Contact info: [email protected]
Melissa Sanvicente, Associate Director, began volunteering at Tia Chucha’s in 2002 as a Sylmar High School student, became a staff member over fifteen years ago, and recently was Tia Chucha’s Program Director for 5 years. Recently she was promoted to Associate Director. She has previously helped organize our annual literacy Celebrating Words Festival, holiday marketplace Winterlandia, and fundraising Gala celebrations. It is her connection to Tia Chucha’s as a youth that helped her reignite her love for the arts and her passion for music, dance, and indigenous spirituality. Melissa practices Mexica indigenous drumming, dance, and song for the past 14 years, as a member of Kalpulli Xochiyaoyotl. She is a graduate of Ethnomusicology at UCLA, with an emphasis on Mexica indigenous song and dance. She is a member of HOODSisters, an all womyn and womyn identified mural arts collective, and completed the 2017-2018 ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Fellowship Program of Arts for LA focused on advocacy training and leadership development. Contact info [email protected]
Rebecca Liliana Gomez, Trauma to Transformation Director, started off attending Tia Chucha’s Centro’s events, and as a student of the Son Jarocho classes. She was fortunate enough to work for Tia Chucha’s as a Program Assistant in 2015, and as a member of the board of directors after. Currently, she is the Program Director for From Trauma to Transformation. From Trauma to Transformation, is a project with the purpose of changing the narrative by which society views mass incarceration, and the people impacted by it. Besides her commitment to Tia Chucha’s vision, Rebecca is driven by social justice, the power of the arts, ancestral knowledge, and h[x]rstory. She received her degrees in Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and Chicana/o Studies. She is a lifelong student of the world, and appreciates critical reflection and practice toward imagining and creating a better world. Contact info: [email protected]
Andrea Lopez, Program and Social Media Coordinator, is a Northeast San Fernando Valley native and has been connected to Tia Chucha’s since 2012. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz where she received her BA in Psychology and a minor study in Education. During her undergraduate years, Andrea was involved with UCSC’s Social Psychology research department, interned as a multiliteracy and arts education mentor with Corre La Voz, and was a Project Grad Ambassador among other work. After returning to her community from her undergrad, she worked as a youth art instructor for local nonprofit Youth Speak Collective. In 2018, Andrea joined Tia Chucha’s team and has worked on developing the Centro's programming and community engagement through social media since. In 2019, Andrea led Tia Chucha’s Great Streets Challenge Project, an initiative by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti focused on building transformative street infrastructure and community engagement. Andrea is passionate about the arts as she enjoys writing music, making art, and reading! Contact info: [email protected]
Mayra Zaragoza Young Warriors Director, is the Founder and Program Director of Tia Chucha's Young Warriors Youth Mentoring Program. She began her career in youth development in 2007 at the age of 16. Still a high school student, Mayra established the Young Warriors under the umbrella of, Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore with the help of co-founder and known author Luis J. Rodriguez. Young Warriors was created to meet the needs of the young people living in the low-income communities of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. The need being a safe, judgment-free space, in which young people from all walks of life could coexist, learn from each other, create self-expressive art, mature and contribute to the betterment of their community. Mayra has recently received her Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Chicano/a Studies along with two minors; one in Writing and Rhetoric and another in Recreational Management, from the California State University of Northridge. She is ready to train the next generation in following the Young Warriors mission of helping young people understand their individual: mental, emotional and physical needs through the practices of proper mentoring in order to achieve the Young Warriors vision; which is to empower a generation of community leaders that live a balanced, purposeful and wholesome life. Contact info: [email protected]
Karen M. Ugarte, MSW (She/her(s)/Ella), Bookstore Manager, Karen received her undergraduate degree from CSUN in Gender and Womxn’s Studies and Chicanx Studies in 2015. Her previous experience includes supporting and advocating for survivors of intimate partner violence, families and individuals experiencing homelessness, LGBTQIA+ individuals across the lifespan, and providing mental health services to children, youth, and families in the San Fernando Valley. Karen was Tia Chucha’s 2019-2020, Macro Social Work Intern. As a graduate student her research focused on giving voice to the experiences of LGBTQ+ Latinx womxn. She is an advocate for narrative, art, and creative expression as vital sources of community healing and care. She graduated in May 2020 from CSUN’s Master of Social Work program, with aspirations to continue working with and serving the community of San Fernando Valley. Contact info: [email protected]
Angie Castro, Bookkeeper, has been a part of the Tia Chucha's family for many years. She's a published TC Poet and ongoing member of our womyn group In The Words of Womyn. She's volunteered countless hours over the years on the TC Committee for our annual Literacy Festival "The Celebrating Words Festival". Angie is dedicated community organizer. She is the founder of Valentines Mission an annual collection of winter necessities for the local homeless. She is also the co-founder of the San Fernando Cultural Arts Collective where she uses her event coordinating skills to bring Educational Arts for all. Yearly the Collective offers a Free Annual Dia De Los Muertos event at San Fernando Park. Apart from her dedication to Tia Chucha's, Angie's has 13 years of experience in accounting. For most of her career she was a Collector and an Accounts Receivable Specialist and is now currently serving as our bookkeeper. Contact info: [email protected]
Gabriela Cortes (She/They) began their journey at Tia Chucha’s through the Young Warriors program in 2016. With no prior knowledge or experience working with and among community, both Tia Chucha’s and the Young Warriors (YWs) have served as a gateway into learning about grassroots organizing, spiritual + ancestral teachings, and the power in collective work. Through the Young Warriors, Gabriela has participated as a volunteer, youth mentor, and is still engaged in pursuing the goal of bringing back the Tia Chucha’s Cafe alongside some of their peers. They are a graduate from the California State University of Northridge, with a BA in Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies. They currently serve as an assistant to the Bookstore and the Young Warriors Mentoring Program. As the programming assistant for the YWs, Gabriela works alongside their mentor Mayra, in order to cultivate a healing, learning, and arts-based environment for and with youth. They aspire to cultivate intercultural and intergenerational dialogue, transformative justice, and communal empowerment, specifically within the Northeast San Fernando Valley. In their free time, Gabriela enjoys cooking, getting crafty, and spending time w/ their plantitas! Contact info: g[email protected]
Luz Rodriguez, Creative Director, a Graphic Designer and Artist, has been part of the Tia Chucha's family since 2008, beginning as a volunteer, then transitioning to a staff member in 2009. During that time, she provided her skills in graphic design and marketing, and arts administration for Tia Chucha's off-site programming with El Nido Family Source Center. In 2014, she pursued new challenges in the freelance world, providing these skills to various local arts and culture nonprofits and organizations. She is currently working with the Department of Cultural Affairs at the Lincoln Heights Youth Arts Center since 2016, providing the center with her design and arts administration expertise as an Arts Associate. She’s returned to her Tia Chucha's family, assisting with the center’s graphic design projects. She recently completed the 2020 Arts for LA ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Fellowship Program. When Luz is not working on designs, she enjoys painting, caring for her plants and fur friend, Fonzie, the cat. Contact info: [email protected]
Karina Ceja, Celebrating Words Coordinator, is a Queer Xicana artist and grassroots community organizer raised in Pacoima, CA. via Michoacán. Mx. She began her work with Tia Chucha’s in 2008 as a program coordinator and over the years has also taken on roles as events coordinator, key volunteer, board member, and currently on her 3rd year as Project Coordinator of the Celebrating Words Festival, the longest running arts and literacy festival of the San Fernando Valley. A graduate from the [email protected] Studies Department at Cal State University, Northridge, and full-time student activist with MEChA, Ceja went on to co-establish the collective home of El Hormiguero, the HOODsisters womxn mural collective, and Bikesanas del Valle, all grassroots efforts focused on mutual aid, creativity and self-determination for the most marginalized communities. She is deeply committed to the work of Tia Chucha's and believes in the healing and transformational power of the arts. When she's not working for TC, she is running her own handmade jewelry and art business, Brown Grrl Fly. Contact info: [email protected]
Rocket García (She/Them/Theirs) Bookstore Assistant, was Tía Chucha’s Grants and Fundraising Intern for Fall of 2020. They obtained their internship through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture program. Rocket has been volunteering for Tía Chucha’s since Fall of 2018 and joined the Young Warriors Mentoring Program in 2019. Tía Chucha’s has helped Rocket reconnect to their indigenous roots and be part of a community for the first time. Rocket’s been deeply involved in From Trauma to Transformation and is committed to changing society views on mass incarceration and facilitating growth and healing in affected communities. Their background is in visual and performing arts: earning two AAs in Theatre Arts and Communication Studies from LA Mission College in Spring 2020. They’re currently pursuing their bachelors in Communication Studies and Political Science at CSUN. With their degree, they hope to continue working on social change, and community organizing in the San Fernando Valley. In their spare time, Rocket loves cooking, drawing, writing, gardening and reading. Contact them on instagram @rocketgarcia or through email: [email protected]
Joseph Rodriguez (He/Him), Bookstore Assistant, was brought onto the Tia Chucha’s team in the Summer of 2021 through the LA County Arts Intern Program. Having nurtured a strong passion for social justice and the humanities throughout highschool, he hopes to use his role at Tia Chuca’s to help anybody and all on their path of knowledge and self realization. Joseph is currently attending Pierce College with the plan to transfer to a 4-year university and obtain a degree in Political Science. Labelling himself as a learner for life, Joseph believes that the first step in creating significant change for any community is to educate its people as it’s only then they are able to truly understand their capabilities. Contact info: [email protected]
Brian Reyes (He/Him) is a Bookstore Assistant and was brought onto the Tia Chucha’s team in October 2021. He is a part of Circulo Ajolote a community-based group in North Hollywood Park, CA of traditional native dancers from Central Mexico who practice Danza Azteca or Danza Mexica. In addition, he attends Los Angeles Mission College with plans to obtain a degree in Computer Science. He enjoys and has a passion for working with technology and would like to share his previous experience and knowledge in Stagecraft technology, website development, and computer science with the San Fernando community and anyone willing to learn. His goal is to meet new people; learn and grow alongside them. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, playing chess, spending time with his girlfriend,and learning new programming codes. You can get into contact with him regarding website development or to just say hi on Instagram @spooky_reyes or through email: [email protected]
Jackie Garcia (she/her/ella) is Tia Chucha’s 2022 Summer Arts Bookstore Intern. She was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University where she majored in American Studies and Latin American Studies. At Wesleyan, she wrote her honors thesis on Indigenous migrant women’s narratives within film, literature, and organizing efforts. She has previously worked mentoring students in college access programs and has been involved in domestic work organizing efforts. Throughout her time in college, she co-found Wesleyan’s Rebel Eaters Club, a group dedicated to body/self acceptance and combating diet culture, as well as Wesleyan’s POC Comedy Collective, a group where comics of color explore sketch, improv, and stand-up comedy. Since returning to Los Angeles, she hopes to find ways to get involved in her SFV community again and explore/support San Fernando Valley’s thriving art/music scene. Jackie loves going to concerts, watching films, and reading! Contact info: [email protected]
Yadira Barrales (she/her/ella) is Tia Chucha’s 2022 Summer Arts Programs Intern. She is an East Los Angeles native and is new to working in the San Fernando Valley. She is currently taking a gap year and is in the process of transferring to another school, where she plans on pursuing a double major in History and the Visual Arts. Yadira is extremely passionate about giving back to the community and has worked with other non-profit organizations in the past. Currently, she is working with NavCal, which is an organization that aims to give first-generation, low-income students around the Bay Area the necessary resources to succeed in highschool and college. Yadira engages in all different forms of art like drawing, making jewelry, and baking. She looks forward to discovering more about the San Fernando Valley and its community!
Victoria Chavez (she/her/ella) is Tia Chucha’s 2022-2023 Macro Social Work Intern. Victoria received her undergraduate degree from CSUN in Central American Studies and Psychology and graduate degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies from New York University. As a graduate student, her research focused on intergenerational trauma in El Salvador. Victoria is dedicated to giving back to the community and has prior experience with immigrant workers, unaccompanied minors and immigrant families. Victoria has gained experience while working in various organizations like, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the International Rescue Committee, the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). When not working or studying, she enjoys running, ceramics, and traveling.