Patricia Jovel (PJ) Flores is Orange County Environmental Justice's new Project Director, and is excited to lead the organization in confronting the many environmental issues disproportionately affecting Orange County's marginalized communities. PJ was raised and currently lives in Santa Ana, California. She began organizing as a student at UC Berkeley, where she worked to bring student power to bear in support of campus labor organizing and the local prison abolition movement. After graduating, PJ returned to Santa Ana, where she organized with Colectivo Tonantzin, a local grassroots organizing collective, to fight wage theft and defend the rights of day laborers and domestic workers in Orange County. Currently, she helps coordinate the Tierras Comunitarias Coalition to ensure public lands in Santa Ana and Garden Grove are put towards community needs such as public parks and open space, in addition to organizing alongside Acjachemen and Tongva activists to Protect Puvungna and other sacred sites in Orange County. In her free time, PJ is a storyteller and musician, and is currently working on a novel centering trans femmes and two-spirit people in the fight for liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. In all her work, PJ is dedicated to building bridges between local Indigenous communities and communities of color in defense of the water, land, and air that we all call home.
Keila Villegas (she/her pronouns) is OCEJ's Community Organizer since July 2020. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Environmental Studies and an emphasis on political science in 2019. She grew up and currently lives in Santa Ana, CA. After learning and being constantly exposed to the reality of climate injustice and people of color always cornered to receive the lower end of the stick, she wanted to turn those emotions into action. Her passion is rooted in prioritizing the well being of our neighbors through community stewardship & leadership. Overall, Keila is passionate about establishing progressive environmental justice while acknowledging its intersectionality with the world around us by creating spaces and opportunities for community leaders to thrive.
Redistricting Campaign Organizer
Kayla Asato (she/they) is OCEJ's Redistricting Organizer as of April 2021. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii learning about the effects of pollution, climate change, and environmental racism from war, so moving to Orange County to see similar racial injustices in our soil, water, and air really sparked that passion in making sure justice comes. Kayla enjoys bridging feminist, critical race/ethnic studies, queer, and international relations theories to practice at the local level in the fight for justice. She enjoys doing curriculum work, power mapping, coalition building, and inspiring people through deep canvassing/positive imaginary work most of all in organizing. She graduated from Chapman University in 2018 with a passion for organizing around issues and electoralism. Since graduating, she has been working on nonprofits and electoral campaigns nonstop, and is thrilled to join OCEJ as the redistricting organizer.
Meet the Advisory Board
Julie, Advisory Board Chair, currently serves as the Director of Development at Environmental Charter Schools in the Los Angeles South Bay/South LA area. In her role, she works to develop and build partnerships while overseeing fundraising, marketing, grants and communication activities. Julie has more than fifteen years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising, youth development, and community arts, particularly in Orange County. She currently serves on the board of the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), the Steering Committee of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and organizes with VietUnity-SoCal and the Việt Solidarity & Action Network. Julie is committed to developing powerful youth, promoting artistic expression as a way to nurture community, and building strategies for change within communities of color. She has taught at the National Academy of Social Sciences in Vietnam, has been honored for her community leadership by the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and was awarded Best Advocacy Voice by New American Media (NAM). Julie holds a B.A. in Sociology and Asian American Studies and a minor in Education from UCLA.
Oscar Teran, Esq. is Director of Career Development at Western State College of Law in Irvine and prior to that was a legal aid attorney with a focus on representing migrant farmworkers in rural communities. As a lawyer and an educator, Oscar is interested in using law as a vehicle for social justice and in empowering students--particularly those with identities that are underrepresented in the legal profession--to discover authentic and fulfilling ways to practice law. Oscar has also taught courses in diversity, equity, and organizational leadership in the Masters of Leadership Development Program at Chapman University. In his free time, Oscar enjoys spending time with his partner, watching artfully made movies, and taking long drives on twisty roads.
Ray Hiemstra, Advisory Board Treasurer, has spent the last 17 years at Orange County Coastkeeper working to preserve, protect, and restore coastal and inland water quality and habitat. As Associate Director of Programs his work includes water quality advocacy and policy development, Marine Protected Areas, species and habitat restoration and water and sediment monitoring. Ray is a member of numerous committees and workgroups including the Port of LA/Long Beach Harbor Safety Committee and Newport Bay Management Committee. He is a lifelong resident of Orange County and spends his spare time working with the Sierra Club and community groups or outdoors with his family and friends.
Connie McGuire, PhD, Advisory Board Member, is Director of Community Relationships with the Community-based Research Initiative of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at the University of California, Irvine. She works on Research Justice oriented projects in a variety of settings including in the struggle for Environmental Justice. She is a cultural anthropologist and a Latin Americanist by training and teaches community based participatory research methods course in UCI's undergraduate Community Engagement Minor. Connie has trained in and works as a coach and guide in several mindfulness-based practices including yoga, meditation and Hakomi, a mindfulness-based, somatic method for assisted self-study.