2020-2021 Civic Action Fellows
“I have worked as a math tutor for several years, and always wished I could do more for the students from lower socioeconomic communities that really needed extra academic support. This Fellowship is a great way to get involved with underserved youth who can truly benefit from extra support through learning computer science. It’s also a great opportunity to serve the community with a team that shares the same vision and goals.” -Aaliyah Kirby
Aaliyah is one of the four Lead CA Fellows who enjoys listening to true crime podcasts in her free time. She is currently majoring in Applied Mathematics and loves to make art through drawing, painting, and henna.
Say hello to Lead CA Fellow, Joshua Lawson. Josh began serving as a mentor when Cyber Spartans was a pilot program that exposed underprivileged youth to STEM education. When asked why he chose to return and serve as a Fellow, Josh stated, “I want to help close the education gap in my community. I really value computer science knowledge as a computer science major, and want to help others have access to the knowledge I was blessed with.”
In his free time, Josh likes to go for a run or study Japanese.
Fun Fact: Josh placed 3rd in a Hackathon.
“Through the CA Fellowship program I hope to act as a pillar within my community by educating, mentoring, and fostering growth in our youth” -Mercedes Mansfield
Mercedes is currently a first year graduate student pursuing a M.S. degree in Occupational Therapy.
Fun Fact: Mercedes has a sister named Porsche. They were both named after cars!
“I dropped out of my cohort for my Bachelor’s program in the wake of a PTSD and depression diagnosis, and felt lost. My saving grace was a volunteer position as a Literacy Tutor, and a part-time position as an after school educator before COVID-19 left me unemployed like so many others. When I felt like I had nothing to give, these positions in the community gave me purpose. When I saw the posting for the Lead Fellow position, I envisioned feeling a similar sense of connection that I did before. I’m in this to make authentic connections with people in this program that last beyond the service year. Getting to see glimpses of personality from the children is a bonus.” -Kelli Sexton.
Kelli is an undergraduate student majoring in Communicative Disorders & Sciences.
Meet our CA Fellow, Alexis Ahumada. Alexis is from Sacramento and is currently working on his BS degree in Software Engineering. When asked why he joined the CA Fellowship, he stated that he wants to pursue his passion of helping the members of his community and to gain new friends. In his free time, Alexis enjoys watching Netflix or YouTube videos.
Meet Tasneem Alsharif, an CA Fellow. Tasneem is currently pursuing a BS degree in Public Health. A fun fact about Tasneem is that she started college at the age of fifteen! When asked why she chose to be a member of a civically engaged program, Tasneem said:
“Being civically engaged involves making a difference in the lives of various individuals within the community. I hope to learn how to assist individuals of distinct backgrounds and needs. During my service year, I hope to develop awareness of my community and to understand how to best support them. Being part of the CA Fellowship allows me to make a positive difference within my community.”
Runpu (Barry) Bai
Meet our CA Fellow, Barry Bai. Barry is from Palo Alto and is currently pursuing a BA degree in Theater Arts with a minor in Architecture. While being a full-time student, Barry also runs a guitar coaching company that helps young adults learn how to play the guitar. Barry believes that being involved in a civically engaged program will allow him to become an outstanding leader.
Meet Camille Barker, a CA Fellow. Camille is from Redwood City and she’s working on a BS degree in Industrial Technology and Computer Science. When asked why she joined the CA Fellowship, Camille stated, “One of my favorite quotes by Brazilian lyricist and novelist, Paulo Coelho, goes ‘It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.’ If I can play even the slightest role in helping someone achieve their dream, I would have gained more than what I had hoped to accomplish as a CA Fellow. We can all make a difference when we care for each other!”
Amrit (Amy) Batth
Meet Amy Batth, a CA Fellow. Amy is from a small town near Modesto and is pursuing a BS degree in Public Health and BA degree in Chemistry. She is passionate about fashion and beauty, because they are a form of self-expression. Since 6th grade, Amy has been an active member of her community, she likes to give back to those in need. When asked why she joined the CA Fellowship, she stated “During my service year, I am looking forward to giving children opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
“Do or do not, There is no try” is CA Fellow Alex Belarmino’s favorite quote! It’s a simple lesson in commitment and giving something your all. Alex is from Anaheim, only 5 minutes away from Disneyland. Yes, he can hear the fireworks from his house. Alex is currently pursuing a BS in Business Management and Information Systems. During his year of service, Alex looks forward to “making a difference in our community, especially to the younger minds.”
Meet Tristan Castaneda, a CA Fellow. Tristan loves playing Yugioh, which is a trading card game. Before shelter-in-place, Tristan worked at the Children’s Discovery Museum. “I loved working in an organization that supported the entertainment, curiosity and education of children throughout the community. The CA Fellowship provides an opportunity for me to have a rewarding role in serving the community and I hope to gain more leadership experience working with my cohort and underserved youth.”
Say hello to our CA Fellow, Christina Castillo-Mendez. During her year of service, Christina is most excited about, “introducing 3rd-6th graders to computer science and various careers in STEM.” She is most passionate about becoming an active member within her community and helping others.
Kirstian Ian Chavez
Meet CA Fellow Ian Chavez. Ian began his journey with CCLL as a mentor for the Cyber Spartans pilot, teaching underserved youth computer programming. When asked why he chose to return and become a Fellow, Ian stated, “I chose to continue in the program because of the goals and ideals behind its creation. Providing information and opportunities in STEM for underserved youth is an inspiring and heartwarming cause. Teaching and mentoring is a passion of mine and if I am able to open doors that were previously closed for these students, it gives me all the more reason to continue with this program. Although I would have preferred to be in-person, this online version is definitely an experience.”
A fun fact about Ian is that he can play eight instruments!
Say hello to our CA Fellow, Mharidhen Chea. Mharidhen hails from Stockton and loves collecting socks. A fun fact about Mharidhen is that she is barely tall enough to not need a booster seat when she drives.
Mharidhen said “A favorite quote of mine comes from the anime Haikyuu!. ‘If you’re going to hit it, hit it until it breaks,’ which I believe represents my passion and my drive to complete my goals and give what I love 110%.”
“Connecting with youth and facilitating the learning process allows me to help strengthen the next generation of college students. When I was their age, I remember looking up to visitors from other colleges and listening to what they had to say. My aim is to be that voice and show them they have what it takes. In addition, I hope to gain an understanding of how students learn and utilize coding programs such as SCRATCH. In turn, this will complement my career goals of becoming a Human Factors Specialist.” -Christopher Conetta
Chris is currently a graduate student in the Human Factors and Ergonomics M.S. program. He’s passionate about nature and loves to skateboard around town to discover new places.
Zuleima Bernave Diaz
“I chose to be a part of the CA Fellowship because I wanted to be a resource of which underserved students would be able to have while exercising my ability to become a better leader and mentor. Being part of a civically engaged program is one of the highest honors, as resources and efforts are made to create an environment where students are supported in identifying solutions to better the community. I hope to make even a little change such as seeing kids, teens, or adults feel gratitude from my contribution which is most touching and inspiring.” - Zuleima Bernave Diaz
Zuleima is from Soledad, CA and is currently majoring in Sociology with a minor in Legal Studies.
Meet our CA Fellow, Lalitha Donga! Lalitha is currently studying computer science. When asked what she’s passionate about, Lalitha mentioned, “Computer Science, education, and mental health. I hope to use Computer Science to improve the wellbeing of others. I also want to inspire future students to join STEM fields and value their education.”
“I aspire to become a teacher, so this program spoke to that side of me and I knew I had to give it a try. Overall, I am most excited to be a part of a program that has such a great cause behind it, providing children with computer science and sparking that interest is just incredible.” - Valeria Echeverria
Valeria is from Richmond, CA and a first year Psychology major working on her B.S. degree.
Say hello to CA Fellow, Ariel Escobar. Ariel is pursuing a BA degree in Political Science International Relations in hopes of becoming a college professor in Ethnic Studies. She is most passionate about public speaking and helping others. Ariel also enjoys crystals, working out, meditating, and painting.
Say hello to our CA Fellow, Kevin Feaster. Kevin is currently an undergraduate student studying Mathematics. His goal as a CA Fellow is to remind students that no matter what they look like or where they come from, they can work and do anything they set their minds to.
“I chose to be a part of the CA Fellowship because I value the opportunity to invest my time and energy in helping communities. We all can see that there are parts of our community that need support, either because the current challenges we face are undermining existing systems, or because a communal need has never been addressed or corrected. I hope that, through this experience mentoring children and participating in other community initiatives, I can be part of the solution, even in a small way.” -Annie Finch
Annie is from Scotts Valley, CA and is currently working on her Master of Library and Information Science degree. Fun fact: When Annie was 2 years old, she had approximately 46 assorted pets and farm animals such as cats, goats, chickens, horses, dogs, and pigs.
CA Fellow, Marley Harr, is from San Fernando, CA and is currently working on her B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. Marley is particularly passionate about community welfare and helping at-risk youth.
Fun fact: Marley listens to all genres of music. Yes… even Country.
“I chose to be a part of the CA Fellowship because one of our major aims is to work directly with underserved youth in STEM subjects, which is of great interest to me. As a child, I was inspired to become a biologist by a middle school science teacher. With this program, I hope to evoke that same interest in STEM subjects in the next generation that my middle school teacher did for me.” -Anna Heasley
Anna is from Volant, Pennsylvania and is working toward her master’s degree in Marine Science at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories through San José State University.
Fun fact: Anna is a SCUBA diver!
When CA Fellow, Charlene Ho, was asked to explain what it means to her to be a part of the CA Fellowship, she said, “Being a part of a civically engaged program pushes me to step up, and take action to uplift the community around me. I believe that everyone is responsible for doing their own part to enact change, no matter how small that action may be.”
Dancing, snowboarding, skiing, hiking, and swimming are among Charlene’s favorite hobbies. Charlene is currently a cheerleader at SJSU and pursuing a degree in Business Administration.
CA Fellow, Johnson Hsiung’s journey with CCLL began as a mentor for the Cyber Spartans pilot, teaching underserved youth computer programming back in the days when it could be done in person. While reflecting on his remote mentoring journey this year as a CA Fellow, Johnson stated, “Implementing a kit model is a lot more challenging for me than teaching in person. We have to rely solely on the content to keep the youth engaged, so it has been a ride developing kits to be as exciting as it can be. Although how we are achieving our goal is different than expected, I am sure the hard work we have put in is impacting the kids.”
Johnson is from Santa Clara and is currently studying Computer Science at SJSU.
A fun fact about Johnson is that he has always wanted to master singing and quarantine has provided him with a lot of time to practice.
“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody” -Brad Montague is CA Fellow Maryam Idris’ favorite quote. Her passion for global healthcare equity, social justice, as well as programming, and learning make her the perfect candidate for providing underserved youth with computer programming and STEM education.
Maryam is from San Jose, CA and is majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Political Science.
Abdessamad (Samaad) Kajjaj
“I chose to be part of the CA fellowship because of the enormous support and effort this program encompasses to assist local communities and provide learning outcomes for less privileged youth. As a Fellow, I have the opportunity to give back to the community and assist upcoming students in achieving their ultimate goal and exhaust their full potential. In addition to contributing to a civically engaged program, I get to share knowledge with youth that I’ve accumulated over the past years in college and professional work. I always look forward to working with these brilliant students who are building their knowledge to be next CEOs of Silicon Valley.” -Samaad Kajjaj.
Fun Fact: Samaad is fluent in 3 languages. Samaad is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Cybersecurity.
Sukhvir (Sukhi) Kaur
Meet our CA Fellow, Sukhi Kaur. She is working on a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Systems Physiology. Sukhi loves to hike and is passionate about uplifting others by being their support system.
Fun Fact: Sukhi has never broken a bone.
Monique Kohlstadt, a CA Fellow, is pursuing a B.S. in Pre-Med Psychology with a minor in Chemistry. When asked what it means to her to be a CA Fellow, Monique stated, “The CA Fellowship tackles an extremely relevant problem that our community is currently facing: some children simply do not have access to STEM education enrichment programs. I am honored to be a part of a program that is civically engaged.”
Fun Fact: Monique had 9 guinea pigs when she was 10 years old.
Meet our CA Fellow, Alexa LeBlanc. Alexa is pursuing a B.A. in Economics with a double minor in Business and Psychology. When asked what she is passionate about, Alexa stated, “I am passionate about my education. I always want to do the best I can in every situation I face and prove that my education is important.”
Fun Fact: Alexa is a first generation college student.
Xianglin (Sam) Lu
Meet Sam Lu, an CA Fellow. Sam moved to the U.S. from Kaiping, Guangdong, China. He is currently working on his B.A degree in Marketing. In his free time, Sam enjoys reading, gaming, and investing.
Fun Fact: Sam is fluent in 3 different dialects of Chinese.
Say hello to our CA Fellow, Flavio Lucana. Flavio is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Economics. He is passionate about equitable economic policies, public housing, and self-awareness.
When asked why he chose to be a part of the CA Fellowship, Flavio stated, “Underrepresented youth in the U.S need support and a leader to guide them through an ever-growing intricate world.”
“I chose to be a part of the CA Fellowship because I wanted to continue my participation in the Cyber Spartans program, which eventually became a part of the CA Fellowship. The program gives back to underprivileged students aspiring to pursue careers in STEM; I wanted to be a part of their learning journey.” -Tiffany Maninang
Tiffany is from Sacramento and is pursuing a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She’s passionate about environmentalism and is a classically-trained pianist.
Meet our CA Fellow, Kathy Nguyen. Kathy is from San Jose and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with a specialization in Exercise and Science. She’s a big fan of Pokemon and collecting Pokemon cards. When asked why she joined the CA Fellowship, she stated that she wants to pursue her passion of being an active and engaged member of her community
Say hello to our CA Fellow, Joseph Nguyen. Joseph is currently working on his B.S. degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems.
When asked what he hopes to accomplish throughout his year of service, Joseph mentioned, “I hope to further develop my understanding of what civic action is and to understand some of the struggles children might have adjusting to the technology that is thrown at us every day.”
Fun Fact: Joseph has never broken a bone.
“Chris is my name and helping others is my game” -Chris Padua
Throughout his high school and college career, Chris has always found a way to participate in community organization and programs in order to give back to his community.
Although Chris is majoring in Forensic Science, his passion for storytelling influenced him to pursue a minor in Creative Writing as well.
His favorite hobbies include reading Comic books on Wednesdays, Comic book release days, and playing narrative driven video games.
Meet our CA Fellow, Cielo Pano. Cielo is from San Jose and is majoring in Applied Nutrition and Food Science. Cielo’s favorite hobbies include baking and decorating desserts. She joined the CA Fellowship in hopes of developing new leadership skills while strengthening the skills she has already developed in her lifetime.
Fun Fact: Cielo means “Sky” in Spanish.
From Sunnyvale, CA, our CA Fellow, Brittany Prock, is passionate about helping others and partaking in social justice movements.
Fun Fact: Brittany has a tattoo of her favorite quote “There’s no right way to be.” It’s always important to remind ourselves that there is no right or wrong way of living - it’s only a difference of perspective.
Brittany is an undergraduate student, pursuing a B.S. degree in Business Administration, Marketing.
Meet CA Fellow, Samar Robleh. Samar is from San Jose and is a 3rd year undergraduate student studying Public Health with a concentration in Population Data Science.
When asked why she joined the CA Fellowship, Samar said, “As someone who’s in a STEM major, I want to encourage and inspire youths to recognize that they belong in those spheres as well.”
Meet our CA Fellow, Junu Shrestha. Junu is a graduate student studying Public Health. She moved to Newark, CA last year from Nepal. Her favorite hobbies include listening to music and watching movies.
CA Fellow, Kianna Vargas, is a Psychology major with a double minor in Spanish and Human Rights. She is most passionate about social justice issues, especially when it comes to women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform.
Kianna’s favorite hobbies include traveling and watching new shows and documentaries on Netflix.
“Through creating a positive environment, I hope to foster the youth’s interest for STEM and for the world, so they can push for anything they desire to achieve, despite any barriers they may face.” -San Vu
San is a second year Computer Science major and is passionate about self development.
Fun Fact: San can play a new song on the piano simply through listening to the original song.
Meet our CA Fellow, Feyza Yazar. Feyza was born in Ankara, Turkey and is an undergraduate student, studying biomedical engineering.
When asked why she joined the CA Fellowship, she said, “ Helping children in my community is a responsibility that I have deemed necessary for myself, as I also have had the assistance of mentors when I was younger. This is my way of paying-it-forward for all of the afterschool programs I was able to attend and the coding that I was able to learn thanks to other college students.”
Fun Fact: Feyza has moved 11 times in her lifetime.