2016 SEERS Fellows

From left to right, the 2016 SEERS Fellows: Josefina Alvarado Mena, Tomás Alvarez, Rajasvini Bhansali, and Jered Lawson. 


Josefina Alvarado Mena     |      Tomás Alvarez     |      Rajasvini Bhansali     |      Jered Lawson


1. Name:

Josefina Alvarado Mena (full bio here)

2. Hometown:

Oakland, CA, USA

3. Organizational affiliation:

Safe Passages

4. Organizational overview and your role:

Josefina Alvarado Mena has led Safe Passages for the past twelve years as the Chief Executive Officer. The mission of Safe Passages is to disrupt the cycle of poverty by engaging youth and families to build and drive a continuum of services that supports student success and community development. Currently, Safe Passages serves over 4,000 children, youth and families residing and attending schools in the most impoverished communities in Alameda County. The programs and services are woven together to serve the entire age continuum of children and youth, from birth to college/career, including economic self-sufficiency strategies for youth and families. 

5. Why do you do the work that you do? 

My parents raised me with a strong sense of social justice. Growing up as a Latina in Oakland, I experienced first hand the tremendous inequities many of our children and youth still experience today. This experience drove me to become a civil rights/education lawyer. I learned quickly that to create different outcomes, we must create different and innovative solutions. My professional career is focused on creating and sustaining innovative solutions that create self-sufficiency for families.

6. What you hope to achieve at Stanford? 

I hope to spend my time at Stanford researching and learning about new models of sustainability for social change organizations. I also would like to take this opportunity to explore new relationships and reflect on my professional and organizational trajectory.

7. Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself!

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument”- Reinhold Niebuhr

8. Social media or multi-media: 

Videos on Safe Passages website: http://safepassages.org/videos/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SafePassages/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/safepassages_ca 


1. Name:

Tomás Alvarez (full bio here)

2. Hometown: 

Oakland, California, USA

3. Organizational affiliation:

Global Institute for Hip-Hop Therapy

4. Organizational overview and your role 

“Hip-Hop Therapy” is a modern form of therapy that utilizes community-defined strategies, along with proven therapeutic techniques, to improve the mental health and wellbeing of individuals. The popularity of Hip-Hop Therapy has gained mainstream support ushering in a new opportunity for movement building and systems change. The Global Institute for Hip-Hop Therapy is a soon-to-be social venture at the epicenter of health and hip-hop whose mission is to radically transform how mental health and wellness are promoted in marginalized communities. Phase one of new institute includes a project called the “Hip-Hop Therapy Exchange”. This undertaking will seek to (1) map the field of Hip-Hop Therapy, (2) conduct a field-wide needs assessment, and (3) weave an impact network of cross-sector partners to take the field as a whole to new levels. This project will be led by Tomas Alvarez III, a Hip-Hop Therapy pioneer and social entrepreneur.

5. Why do you do the work that you do?

In 2004, I had a vision to transform the way mental health services are administered to young men of color. My passion for this work is fueled by a deep commitment to social justice and desire to eradicate the mental health disparities that plague communities of color. I decided to pursue this work because I was tired of seeing mental health systems repeatedly fail poor people and I believe with the right support all youth can thrive regardless of their circumstances, especially our boys and young men of color. 

6. What you hope to achieve at Stanford? 

While at Stanford I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience with students, building connections with faculty to explore collaborations, auditing some classes and networking at various events focused on social entrepreneurship. I will take advantage of the resources available to me to start two new projects. The first project entails authoring a book on the role of hip-hop and Hip-Hop Therapy in helping youth overcome trauma and other mental health challenges. The second project involves designing and launching my next social venture, a Global Institute for Hip-Hop Therapy.

7. Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself!

“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves. Every one of us has the capacity to lead.” - Simon Sinek

8. Social media or multi-media: 

Twitter:

@tomasalvareziii

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNavHWM3fBY

http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/17/us/cnn-heroes-alvarez/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDfefn_01aM


1. Name:

Rajasvini Bhansali (full bio here)

Nickname: Vini

2. Hometown: 

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

3. Organizational affiliation: 

International Development Exchange (IDEX) 

4. Organizational overview and your role

IDEX identifies, evaluates, and grows the best ideas from local leaders and organizations to alleviate poverty and injustice around the world. IDEX connects a passionate and engaged network of supporters to the visionary leaders and organizations creating lasting solutions to their communities’ most pressing challenges.

Since its founding in 1985, IDEX has supported more than 500 grassroots, community-led projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Annually, IDEX’s partners build the power of approximately 1.2 million people in impoverished communities, including marginalized women, small farmers, indigenous communities, low-income urban residents, sexual and ethnic minorities, and youth.

My role is as the Executive Director, to lead on strategy, innovation and partnerships.

5. Why do you do the work that you do?

I think of where I come from. Rajasthan – that sand dune, camel-filled land many tourists know for its ornate palaces, bloody royal histories, colorful clothes, and delicious food. Rajasthan – the land of the lowest female literacy rates in all of India, highest rates of child brides, shocking rates of female infanticide and domestic violence, with very few Rajasthani women in positions of social and political power. These are my people – the pastoralists, nomads, small businessmen, hustlers of the desert, and the non-violent, anti-authoritarian, liberation-focused Jains.

I credit my culture and family, for raising a strong, resilient, self-assured woman who, at 40, can only remember the immense lessons of patience, kindness, interconnectedness, joy, culture as power, and passion. My internal world resonates in a rhythm of music and dance that is as deeply embedded as the desire to be useful, because where I come from, “I” is always an “we” and that cultural legacy lives on, in me and in the work and in the life I craft. Read more by clicking below:

http://www.how-matters.org/2013/01/27/leading-from-love/

http://www.idex.org/blog/2015/12/10/what-i-love/

http://aapip.org/our-stories/conversation-with-25-leaders-in-action-rajasvini-bhansali

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDNCgcw08xo

6. What you hope to achieve at Stanford?

I hope to contribute meaningfully to the SEERS program while also learning, making new connections and utilizing my time on the Stanford campus on reflection and writing about global civil society.  

7. Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself!

"I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people."  - Eduardo Galeano

"When I dare to be powerful -- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."  - Audre Lorde

8. Social media or multi-media: 

Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/idex.org

Twitter:

@rajasvini

@IDEX

Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/IDEXorg


1. Name

Jered Lawson (full bio here)

2. Hometown: 

Pescadero, California, USA

3. Organizational affiliation

Pie Ranch

4. Organizational overview and your role:

Pie Ranch cultivates a more healthy and just food system from seed to table, through food education, farmer training, and regional partnerships. Every bite of food we take has consequences -- whether it nourishes or contributes to disease; whether it builds soil or mines it; whether it creates living-wage jobs or exploits those that bring you that food. I feel quite fortunate to have co-founded and currently co-direct an organization that is building food and farm relationships that have health and justice as organizing principles.

5. Why do you do the work that you do? 

Growing up in the congested, polluted, violent, and angst-ridden metropolis of Los Angeles, I wanted to find a way to work in the world that would contribute to reversing such outcomes of our industrial society and found sustainable agriculture and food systems as a way to do that. Food and local farming bring people together to accomplish one of the most basic necessities of living healthfully on this planet. If you take good care of the soil, water, and plants, and animals and the people that tend them; you, your family, friends, community around you have lots of great food to eat now and for generations.

6. What you hope to achieve at Stanford? 

I hope to be a sponge and soak up all of what such an esteemed institution has to offer - incredible colleagial discourse, research into our hypotheses and assumptions of how we can change our region’s food system; networking with the food and farm-focused projects already underway on campus; and deepen our relationship with the campus-dining.

7. Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself!

My kids like it when I crack my nose, just as others crack their knuckles. Kind a gross, I know. Feel free to ask me to give you an example. I love to surf, play music with our family, make yummy meals and build things.

8. Social media or multi-media: 

Personal Facebook

Pie Ranch Facebook

Twitter(though I’m not an active tweeter)

Film Links:

Eat Pie

Teach Pie

Share the Pie

The Whole Pie

About our project with Google Food

About Kale from Seed to Table

 

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