Tony Hoang is the Executive Director of Equality California and Silver State Equality and a veteran of the LGBTQ+ equality movement. The son of Vietnam War refugees and the first person in his family to attend college, Tony is a proud first-generation immigrant who grew up understanding the marginalized intersections of sexuality, gender, race and immigration status. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Tony moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. During college, he interned with the Pacific Council on International Policy and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor before joining Equality California as a field intern in 2009, beginning his long career with the organization.
Tony went on to serve as Equality California's Database and Volunteer Manager, Director of Operations, Chief of Staff and Managing Director prior to his selection as Executive Director-designate in 2021. During that time, Tony played a pivotal role in the passage of groundbreaking civil rights legislation in California, Nevada and Washington, DC, implementation of statewide public education campaigns and the election of hundreds of openly LGBTQ+ and pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot. Tony helped usher in a dramatic expansion of Equality California’s budget, staff, programming — especially the organization’s political work and efforts to advance racial justice — and growth to over 900,000 pro-equality members across the country.
Tony serves the City of Los Angeles as a Commissioner on the Innovation and Performance Commission. He also sits on the boards of Equality Federation, the national movement builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for LGBTQ people, and DTLA Proud. He is a member of the Center for Asian Americans United For Self Empowerment (CAUSE) Leadership Network and the Pacific Council on International Policy and serves as a mentor for the USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Mentoring Program.
Tony received a BA in International Relations at the University of Southern California with minors in Political Science and Natural Sciences. An avid concert-goer, cook, cyclist and traveler, Tony lives in Downtown Los Angeles with his husband Ian, an attorney.
Sunitha Menon (she/her/hers) is the Managing Director of Operations of Equality California and Silver State Equality. She is responsible for setting a vision for and leading the organization’s human resources, talent management, development, and programmatic functions.
As a first-generation queer person of color, Sunitha has seen how inequalities and discrimination have affected the health, safety, and well-being of marginalized communities. She has spent her career working to support these communities and address inequalities through direct action, support services, and education. Sunitha has worked in the non-profit space for over 20 years, and has focused the past ten years on organizational strategy and growth, staff development and culture building, and sustainability. Prior to joining Equality California, Sunitha founded and managed the consulting services department at RAINN, which provided tailored solutions to the ways in which sexual violence impacted organizations of all kinds.
Sunitha received her Bachelors in Sociology from UMASS Amherst, and her Masters in the Science of Social Work, from Columbia University. In her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family (especially her nieces and nephews), international travel, hiking, and doing anything by the ocean. Sunitha lives in Long Beach with her wife, a Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain, and their beagle-mix.
Tom Temprano is the Managing Director of External Affairs of Equality California and Silver State Equality. He oversees the organization’s political affairs, strategic communications and media relations, state and federal legislative advocacy and impact litigation.
He joined Equality California as the Political Director in February of 2022 and led the organization’s successful work in the 2022 election cycle, which included record numbers of candidate endorsements and political spending. He is San Francisco based and prior to joining Equality California he served as the Chief of Staff for San Francisco District 8 Supervisor, Rafael Mandelman. Tom also served as an elected member of the San Francisco City College Board of Trustees for 5 years. He previously served as a President, Co-President and PAC Chair of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and is a former board member of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.
Tom received a BA in Political Science from San Francisco State University. He is a passionate basketball fan and enjoys exploring California with his Chihuahua mix Valerie.
Theresa Carlisle is the Director of Human Resources Director and Administration for Equality California responsible for all human resource functional areas, including benefits administration, talent acquisition, and retention, compensation and performance appraisal, leadership development, and workforce culture.
Prior to joining Equality California, she was the US People and Culture Manager for Denmark-based Linkfire, Inc., a music industry technology company. Theresa has over twenty years of people and culture experience in the healthcare, behavioral health, and imaging industries. She graduated from Antioch University with a BA in Business Management. Theresa loves Major League Baseball and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named McKenzie.
Jorge Reyes Salinas is the Communications Director for Equality California and Silver State Equality, based in Sacramento. He was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He is a graduate of Cal State Northridge, where he received a Master's Degree in Communication Studies and Bachelor's degree in Journalism. As a student at Cal State Northridge, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the CSU Board of Trustees. Jorge recently served as Senator Monique Limón's Communications Director. Before that, he served as an Assembly Fellow in the office of Assemblymember Kevin Mullin and as a District Representative for Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg. Jorge lives in Sacramento with his Chihuahua Terrier named Chanel and, in his free time, enjoys dancing, eating Hot Cheetos, and ordering Starbucks holiday drinks.
Sarah Morrow An serves as Development Director at Equality California, overseeing all fundraising strategies and initiatives for the organization and its subsidiaries. A recent transplant from the New York City area, Sarah has over 10 years of professional development experience including serving as Director of Development at Housing Works Inc., as well as Vice President of the Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe. Prior to Housing Works, Sarah worked at the Metropolitan Opera during their record-breaking 2011-2012 season. Sarah graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Communications, Sociology, and with a concentration in Marketing from the Wharton School. Sarah has served proudly on the boards of Housing Works and the West Village Chorale, and was an avid volunteer at the Museum of Modern Art. Sarah now lives in Miracle Mile with her opera-singer husband and two lovable (but exhausting) toddlers.
Craig Pulsipher is the Legislative Director for Equality California responsible for leading the organization’s state policy, budget, and administrative advocacy work. Prior to joining Equality California, Craig served as the Associate Director of Government Affairs at APLA Health in Los Angeles where he oversaw statewide HIV and health care policy, legislation, budget, and political strategy. During his time at APLA Health, Craig led a multi-year campaign to reform California’s outdated HIV criminal laws, helped pass groundbreaking legislation to expand access to HIV treatment and PrEP, and spearheaded the formation of a new statewide coalition to end the HIV, STD, viral hepatitis, and overdose epidemics. Craig received graduate degrees in Public Policy and Social Welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Valerie Ploumpis is National Policy Director for Equality California and Silver State Equality, based in Washington, DC. She is a political expert with more than two decades of experience in issue-advocacy campaigns, grassroots education and mobilization, coalition building, lobbying and media outreach. Past co-chair of two LGBTQ+ organizations, OutRight International Action and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Campaign Board, she now serves on the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of U.S.-based human rights and LGBTQI advocacy organizations. Prior to joining Equality California, she was a principal at Burnside & Associates and a senior legislative and policy advocate for several international trade organizations in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA in international relations from Mills College and an MA in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. A parent of two 20-somethings, Valerie enjoys swimming, hiking and board games.
Shay Franco-Clausen is Political Director for Equality California and based in the Bay Area. An award winning public advocate, speaker, political strategist and former elected official, her fingerprints can be seen on seventeen pieces of transformative legislation, amongst countless successful campaigns. Notable among these accomplishments is her pivotal role in extending the statute of limitations for felony domestic violence survivors, advocating for the rights of foster youth, preserving endangered open spaces, and championing the restoration of voting rights for individuals on parole. Shay has spent the last 14 years serving on countless local, county and state boards, political action committees and commissions, centered in criminal justice, LGBTQ and reproductive rights, and gender based violence and environmental protections.
Shay earned her Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy and Law from Mills College and Executive Leadership in State and Local Government Program from Harvard Kennedy School, solidifying her status as a forward-thinking leader with a global perspective. Shay Franco-Clausen, alongside her wife Yolanda, have raised 3 remarkable children and her personal journey is a testament to her unshakable determination and the profound impact of her advocacy. The impetus to Shay's advocacy can be felt in her powerful mantra, "I am just trying to be the woman I wished I met at 14," a reminder of her unwavering dedication to shaping a brighter, more equitable future for all.
Erin Arendse is the Program Director at Equality California, leading the organization's programs aimed at reducing disparities in LGBTQ+ health and well-being, empowering LGBTQ+ leaders, and increasing civic participation within the LGBTQ+ community. She also oversees the organization's grants fundraising strategy. Prior to joining Equality California, she was the Senior Manager for Grants and Compliance at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and worked as a freelance and volunteer grant writer for a number of organizations. She graduated from California State University Long Beach with an M.A. in English and is a former English professor.
André C. Wade is the state director for Silver State Equality. In this role he leads legislative, fundraising and political efforts in the state of Nevada. With a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Public Administration, André has worked in human services for nearly 25 years in a variety of public and nonprofit contexts working on issues such as developmental disabilities, child welfare, youth experiencing homelessness national policy advocacy, diversity, equity and inclusion, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. André has served on several boards and committees focused on LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion such as the Human Rights Campaign’s Advisory Council for the All Children’s All Families program. Andre is a two-time appointee to Governor Sisolak’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization for the State of Nevada. A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, André is a certified yoga instructor who loves spending time with his partner, Jorge, traveling to new places and having interesting experiences attending concerts, and sneaking in time reading, writing and spending time with loved ones.
Aldo Macias Arellano (he/him/his) is the Executive Manager/Board Liaison at Equality California. In this capacity, Aldo provides administrative support to the Executive Director and acts as the primary administrative liaison for both Equality California and Equality California Institute’s Boards of Directors, Board of Advisors, and Executive Director’s Council.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Aldo migrated to the United States at a young age and was raised in unincorporated East Los Angeles. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, marking the beginning of his dedicated journey in public service. Aldo's diverse career spans various sectors, including immigration, HIV/STD prevention, mental health advocacy, public education, and civic engagement. Aldo's commitment to public service blossomed further following his completion of the Equality California Comcast Fellowship program in 2012. Aldo currently resides in the City of Pico Rivera, where he serves as a Commissioner within the Sister City Commission.
Melissa Stone is the Associate Director of Events and Sponsorships for Equality California. She oversees logistics for all fundraising events, including six Equality Awards, works with board members and major donors on event fundraising strategy, and manages event major corporate giving. Prior to joining Equality California, Melissa was the Associate Director of Special Events at Park Avenue Armory in New York City where she was responsible for executing over 50 events annually and working with board members, major donors, and corporate donors on 6-7 major benefit events per year. Before that she was the Events Associate at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. While living in New York, Melissa served on the UCLA Tri-State Alumni Network board including two years as President.
Melissa holds a M.A. in Museum Studies from NYU and a B.A. in History with a minor in Art History from UCLA. Melissa lives in Los Angeles with her husband and adorable infant.
Jesse Finley Reed is the Associate Director of Marketing & Communications for Equality California and Silver State Equality based in Los Angeles. Passionate about LGBTQ+ rights, he is looking forward to helping to advance the organization’s communication and strategic goals. Prior to joining EQCA, he was the Creative Director at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, overseeing the implementation of an organization-wide rebrand, as well communication materials for a capitol campaign and location expansion in the neighborhoods of West Hollywood and Boyle Heights. He received his MFA from Yale University School of Art and his BFA from Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and was a recipient of a DAAD Stipendium to research and produce a body of artwork investigating LGBTQ+ history in Berlin, Germany. Jesse is also a documentary filmmaker and artist, having exhibited his work at film festivals and galleries, both nationally and internationally. His first feature film, ALL MAN: The International Male Story, premiered in 2022 at Tribeca Film Festival.
Joel Gemino is an Associate Program Director, focusing on leadership and empowerment programs, and anti-violence resources. Prior to joining Equality California, Joel oversaw Youth and Family Services at The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, where he developed mentorship and peer support programs for Queer and Trans youth. In this role, he also trained hundreds of educators throughout the Greater Long Beach area on creating safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth. Before The Center, Joel worked in special education at Chaffey High School, where he also had the honor to serving as staff advisor for the GSA club. He received his BA in sociology from Pitzer College. In his spare time, he enjoys designing enamel pins, rewatching Buffy, and quoting Muppets Take Manhattan.
Mallery Jenna Robinson (she/her) is an Associate Program Director at Equality California. She is an AfraCarribean Binary Transgender woman as well as a Transgender and HIV healthcare advocate for Los Angeles and the State of California. She brings a wealth of experience in education, training, and advocacy work specific to transgender and gender nonbinary/non-conforming people. Her first role in advocacy began as the Engagement Specialist and Service Navigator for the Transgender Health Program, where she focused on client case management, including linkages to care, PrEP and PEP services, STI screening, and HIV testing. Mallery also managed several successful programs providing clothing, food, and essential delivery services supporting the trans community. She proudly organized events to create safe spaces for the trans community, including Come OUT and Pose, ValenTrans Day, and the T-Report Red Desk Diaries panel discussion dedicated to National Transgender HIV Testing Day.
Previous to this work, Mallery spent five years teaching science and history to eighth graders as a middle school teacher in Florida. Mallery is the creator of A Hateful Homicide, a true crime, and investigative journalism podcast covering hate crimes/violence of the transgender, gender non-binary/non-conforming, intersex, and two-spirit community members. Mallery received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and History Education at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and is currently working on her Master of Social Work at California State University of Los Angeles.
Michelle Castillo is the Administrative Manager for Equality California. She assists with ensuring effective and professional day-to-day infrastructure operations, and provides support in finance, human resources, technology and general administration. Prior to joining Equality California, Michelle was the Administrative/Operations Manager for Crossroads, a nonprofit project that raised funds to preserve democratic principles in Israel, and the Corporate Services Manager for Navigage, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community where she managed diverse small business functions. Michelle holds a BA in Broadcasting from California State University of Los Angeles and an MBA from University of Phoenix. She is an avid supporter of community gardens, Griffith Park and her pups Nick and Willie.
Jasmine Pantoja is the Communications Manager at Equality California Institute based in Los Angeles. She is responsible for crafting strategic communications for all programmatic and grant-related aspects. Jasmine grew up in the Central Valley where she obtained a BA in Communications from California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). Jasmine brings a wealth of experience as the Dolores Huerta Foundation’s former Communications Coordinator and CSUB The Runner Newspaper's Business Manager. In her spare time, you can find Jasmine watching a live band perform and spending time with her family.
Shane M. Stahl is the Communications Manager for Equality California, helping to develop messaging and strategic communications planning to advance the organization's larger mission. Prior to EQCA, Shane was the Digital Communications Manager for Freedom for All Americans, the national bipartisan campaign to pass comprehensive LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections like the Equality Act at the federal level. During his tenure, Shane helped usher in historic pro-equality victories at the ballot box in places like Massachusetts and Alaska, as well as legislative wins in New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York among others. Additionally, he was part of the team that helped to deliver the first-ever successful House vote on a comprehensive LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination bill. Outside of work, Shane is a published author and entertainment critic and accomplished stand-up comic and actor.
José Morales is the Donor Relations Manager and assists the Associate Director of Donor Relations and Development Director with Equality California and Silver State Equality's Individual Giving program and general fundraising initiatives. Prior to Equality California, José worked for Lambda Legal as a program coordinator based in Chicago and led community outreach and education programs, and assisted their development department with major events and donor relations across the Midwest. He also has an extensive background working in the field of immigrant justice, serving as a paralegal for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s youth division, which provided legal services to immigrant children held in detention facilities during the Trump administration. José received his bachelors of arts from the University of California, Berkeley in rhetoric and legal studies as a Regent’s and Chancellor’s scholar. He then pursued a graduate fellowship at Yale University, where he underwent intensive doctoral-level research and training in political science, and later attended a masters program in the social sciences at the University of Chicago. In addition to his passion for social justice and scholarship, José enjoys international travel, physical fitness, supporting local artists, and writing poetry.
Bianca Sy (she/her) is the Events Manager for Equality California, supporting the organization's events, programs, and fundraising efforts across California and Nevada. She is responsible for cultivating highly engaging experiences that will help build lasting connections with sponsors and stakeholders, as well as highlight the impact of the organization’s work to support the LGBTQ+ community. Prior to this, she was the Program Manager for the Asian Business Association, orchestrating numerous events celebrating the accomplishments of minority business leaders in Los Angeles, and creating a platform for minority & diverse entrepreneurs to expand their network and foster business growth.
She started her career at sea— spearheading the execution of entertainment and events on cruise ships. The nature of her work led her to become an avid traveler, exploring more than 35 countries to date. After 4 years of cruising, she decided to return to California, her birthplace, and establish roots to pursue her passion for planning special events.
Alexandria Hughes (Allie) is the Grants Manager for Equality California Institute, responsible for all aspects of grant prospecting, proposal writing and grant management. Prior to their work in the Californian non-profit sector, Allie lived in Leeds, England. During their time in ‘the North’ Allie worked in academia as a social policy teacher and PhD researcher, as well as in the community as an independent-living assistant and disability rights advocate. Allie holds their B.A. and M.A. in Sociology and Social Policy from the University of Leeds. In their spare time Allie can be found spending time in nature with their kid, at queer DIY events, and trying to keep their houseplants alive.
Beatriz Baez is a Program Manager at Equality California, focusing on the OUT Against Big Tobacco Program in the Central Valley. Prior to joining Equality California, Beatriz worked in the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs working with students and supporting their development and retention through higher education. She received a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz in Politics and Latin American and Latino Studies and a MA from CSU Fresno in Higher Education, Administration, and Leadership. Beatriz resides in the Central Valley with her cats and enjoys reading, gardening, and Netflix originals.
Eric Hernandez is a Program Manager at Equality California, focusing on the Out Against Tobacco Program in Los Angeles. Before joining Equality California, Eric worked in the field of Mental Health Policy, advocating to increase behavioral health access for underrepresented communities in L.A. County. He received his B.A. in Political Science from San Jose State University and an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of California, Irvine. Eric currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Los Angeles Human Rights Campaign, where he is responsible for the organization's local digital engagement strategy. In his spare time, Eric enjoys traveling, coffee, and concerts.
Jessica Munger is the Program Manager at Silver State Equality where she implements programs to empower and advance the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community in Nevada. Jessica hails from rural northern California (the ancestral lands of the Maidu people) and studied Political Science at Humboldt State University. Jessica’s roots are in community organizing: prior to coming to Silver State Equality she spent nearly a decade working on the campaign to pass the 28th amendment to the US Constitution to resist corporate power and big money in politics. Jessica has also worked on state and local campaigns regarding local democracy and sex worker rights. She proudly serves on the boards of Move to Amend and Democracy Unlimited. Jessica has a background in ballroom dance and creative movement, she’s a home bread-baker, live music enthusiast, and first-time parent!
Jorge-Armando Diaz is the Program Manager for the Nosotros VIHviendo program at Equality California, supporting and building the long-term capacity and effectiveness of non-profit and grassroot leaders who are leading HIV-stigma reduction projects or programming to support individuals living with HIV in California and Nevada. Jorge-Armando is a Latinx leader in Los Angeles for over 15 years, focusing on addressing shame and stigma associated with HIV, homophobia and issues related to culture and LGBTQ identity in the Latino/Latinx community.
Jorge-Armando holds a B.A. in Human Services from California State University of Fullerton and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He enjoys being a writer for Adelante Magazine, a Latino LGBTQ magazine where he addresses a wide variety of issues impacting the Latino/Latinx LGBTQ community through his articles.
Wendy Anguiano is a program manager at Equality California, primarily responsible for assisting with the LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Training. Wendy has previously volunteered at LGBTQ+ nonprofits and worked in higher education within student affairs, focusing on LGBTQ+ centers. She holds a Dual BA in Women and Gender Studies and English from California State University, Fullerton, and a Dual MA from Claremont Graduate University in Applied Gender Studies and Community-Engaged Education and Social Change. Originally from Los Angeles, Wendy is excited to be back! In her free time, Wendy enjoys eating vegan ice cream and going to karaoke with all her friends.
Adrielle Welch-Brooks is the Senior Associate of Database Operations for Equality California. Her primary responsibilities involve maintaining database integrity and generating processes that help ensure the effectiveness of Equality California's relationship to its supporters.
Andrew Giang is a Senior Program Associate at Equality California who works on education programs. Prior to joining Equality California Institute, Andrew worked as a consultant, writer, editor, educator, and community representative for underserved communities in Los Angeles, California, and Wahiawa, Hawai'i. His work has consistently addressed inequity and school climate issues in Title I schools, establishing recognized after-school programs and lasting partnerships that positively promote education and public health in the local community. Andrew holds a M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University as well as a B.S. in Biopsychology and B.A. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Alexandra - Grissell Gomez (Ale) is the Senior Program Associate with the LGBTQ+ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Institute at Equality California. She primarily supports curriculum development and facilitation of LGBTQ+ DEI workshops for healthcare workers and homeless service providers. Prior to joining the team, Ale worked at the Williams Institute. Ale considers themselves a bridge between institutions and activism, with their queer and trans work drawing from community, scholarship, and political engagement. Their experience ranges from facilitating Gender 101 for the Oaxaqueño Youth Encuentro, to providing personal testimonio as a panelist for the “LGBTQ Parenting 2020: Lessons from the Front Lines & Challenges Ahead” at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. Ale holds a B.A. in Psychology from California State University Long Beach, and an M.A. in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University.
Julz Goff is a Senior Program Associate at Equality California working on education programming. Prior to working with Equality California, they worked as a college admissions consultant and ESL teacher, and as an intern with Equality California's AmeriCorps program. Their work has focused on bridging gaps in sexual health education, preparing students for the next steps on their educational journey, and providing a supportive environment for students of all backgrounds to be themselves. He is frequently found in the yoga studio or dancing under the stars with his dog, Bella, and his cat, Pumpkin. Julz holds an M.S. in Sexual and Reproductive Health from The University of Sydney and a B.A. in Chemistry from Princeton University.
Kae Hodge (they/them/theirs) is a Senior Program Associate working on projects related to reproductive justice, reducing barriers to healthcare access, and leveraging community input for actionable solutions to the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. They were previously working as a Program Associate on the Los Angeles OUT Against Big Tobacco program at the Equality CA Institute. Kae has experience in social science research, journalism, community organizing, and political advocacy. They have worked with organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and NextGen America. Kae graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor's degree in English literature and political science, and a minor in journalism.
Cindy López is a Civic Engagement Associate located in San Diego, focusing on mobilizing members and volunteers to support Equality California’s endorsed candidates in San Diego County. Cindy works to register, engage, and mobilize voters in local, state, and national elections. She also works to organize pro-equality community members in support of pro-equality priorities in San Diego as well as recruiting volunteers and organizing around various events, actions, campaigns, and programs. Prior to joining Equality California, Cindy was an Area Director for the teachers’ union, San Diego Educators Association, where she worked on revamping the voluntary funding structure of the union’s PAC to support locally endorsed candidates and measures from the standpoint of educational issues. She previously served as a Teach For America corps member and taught bilingual elementary education in her childhood neighborhood.
Cindy holds a B.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University, and an M.Ed. with emphasis in Equity, Policy, Organization, and Leadership from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She enjoys trips with her daughter, Darla, to Balboa Park's museums and the San Diego Zoo, and is also an avid Latin music performer.
Samuel Turley is a Civic Engagement Associate located in Palm Springs with a focus on recruiting volunteers, organizing events and taking action to support Equality California’s endorsed candidates. Samuel works to register, engage, and mobilize voters in local, state, and national elections. He also works to organize pro-equality community members in support of pro-equality priorities in Palm Springs as well as recruiting volunteers and organizing around various events, actions, campaigns, and programs. Before joining Equality California, Samuel worked for the California State Assembly as a Field Representative and Case Manager, where he represented the Assemblywoman at events, met with local organizations, and assisted constituents with state agencies. Samuel received his B.A. in Political Science last year from Long Beach State. In his spare time, he enjoys working out, reading alternate history and spending time with his partner and family.
Arie Abija (she/her/hers) supports the development team in administering and producing fundraising and donor engagement events as an Events Associate for Equality California. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Arie moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California where she received her B.A in Theatre as well as a minor in music production. During her time at USC, she worked as a student coordinator for USC Visions and Voices, an arts and humanities initiative that hosts over 100 yearly events for the USC community and residents of South Central. In addition to organizing events with Visions and Voices, Arie executive produced various personal projects to uplift underrepresented voices. Some of her projects include BIPOC & Queer songwriters showcases; art therapy workshops for survivors of sexual assault; Black professional artist panels; and hyper-pop concerts. Arie can be found outside the office at the gym, in the woods camping, or writing electronic dance music.
Nicholas Phillips is a Grants Associate for Equality California Institute, supporting all aspects of grant prospecting, proposal writing, and grant management. Driven by compassion and empathy, he takes pride in advancing education about and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Particularly, he advocates for reducing disparities in LGBTQ+ health and well-being. Nicholas is also a passionate cook and creative writer. He and his partner Michael are art and nature enthusiasts and can be found exploring the golden coasts of Southern California. In his spare time, Nicholas is writing a book and furthering his studies in English.
Bri Schmidt is a Program Associate for Silver State Equality working on bringing SSEQ'S programming to the Northern Nevada region. A born and raised Reno native, Bri comes from a background of education and crisis services, giving a unique connection to the community around them. As a part of the LGBTQ+ community, they are excited to help the Northern Nevada community get engaged and make a difference in their future. In their free time, Bri enjoys a variety of nerdy activities like video games and comic books. They also know way too much about aquariums and will talk about their fish for hours.
Mario Woolfolk is a Community Health Worker Program Associate for Silver State Equality working on public education and advocacy programs. Mario has spent his career in public service and education working in youth programs, school administration, and public health. He joins us from the Southern Nevada Health District, where he worked in HIV services with the Ryan White Program and provided support on the First Response Team for COVID-19. Mario is excited to have a personal connection to the work he is doing and help bring equality to individuals within the LGBTQ+ community. He also enjoys playing softball and has been studying the Japanese language (はじめまして / Nice to meet you!).
Li Arnee is a dedicated Community Health Worker in Las Vegas, Nevada, working on a per diem basis with Silver State Equality. Li is a multifaceted individual with a successful entrepreneurial background, a commitment to social justice, and a significant presence in the LGBTQ+ community. His journey began at the Los Angeles Job Corps, where he earned a license as a vocational nurse. Li's thirst for knowledge led him to complete seminary classes at the Pacific School of Religion and graduate from Antioch University's Bridge Program.
Li has been a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice for many years. He currently serves as the Pastor and founder of U.R.G.E (Urban Rainbow Gender Emergence Ministries). Additionally, Li is an active member of various advocacy networks, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Black Trans Advocacy Coalitions (Btac), and Trans People of Color (TPOC). His impact extends to founding Alpha Omega Nu, Inc. fraternity, and co-founding Divine Transitions and Divine Warriors, two ministries dedicated to the well-being of individuals with Trans experience.
Li's aspirations are rooted in creating a more accepting world. He envisions his ministry, advocacy work, fraternity, and support groups as vehicles for individuals of Trans experience to lead authentic lives without the fear of rejection from their families, society, or even God. Li resides in Las Vegas, is happily married, and takes pride in being the father of two twin boys.
Yoshi Castro (she/her/hers) serves as a community health worker at Silver State Equality, where her responsibilities include disseminating information about Mpox, COVID, and health inequalities pertinent to the LGBTQ+ community. Residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, Yoshi is not only a community activist but also a prominent leader within the trans community, particularly for individuals of color. As an Afro-Latino trans woman, she has successfully established various groups supporting trans people of color and has been a vocal advocate for those incarcerated, leading her to join the fight at Silver State Equality in 2012.
Throughout her career, Yoshi has held roles as a trans program manager, worked in HIV services, and specialized in transgender healthcare as a nurse. In addition to her advocacy work, Yoshi is a member of the ballroom community, spreading a positive message about the black and brown queer community. As the reigning Miss Trans Pride Las Vegas, she wears many hats and, quite literally, many shoes as a legendary fashionista. Yoshi's multifaceted contributions extend to the entertainment realm within the drag community, reflecting her commitment to the diverse aspects of her identity and work.