About the RCP
Assistant Omar Arauza grew up in Riverbank, a small town located in California's Central Valley. He is a first generation college student pursuing a degree in Justice Studies with a concentration in Criminology. Prior to the Record Clearance Project, Omar interned for the Crime Strategies Unit at the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office. Omar enrolled in RCP Spring 2019 to empower people who have not traditionally had access to information about their rights. He feels a sense of urgency about flaws in the United States criminal justice system and plans to work for legislative reform in the area. Omar speaks Spanish. He graduated in May 2020
Mentor Diana Carreras has spent the last 25 years advocating for those in recovery from addiction, mental health conditions and other trauma. She has 33 years of sobriety and is a former client of RCP. For the last 20 years, she has given free swim lessons to traumatized children. Since 2015, Diana has been a peer mentor at Recovery Cafe in San Jose, facilitating classes in trauma recovery and running peer support groups. In 2017 she was trained by the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) to serve as a mentor for NAMI's recovery programs. As a motivational speaker since 2015, Diana has shared her story of recovery from drugs, trauma, and homelessness to give hope and illustrate the power of resilience. Diana is excited to guide people on an individual level as they prepare for their futures. She speaks fluent Spanish.
Cesar Alejandro Gonzalez grew up in Panorama City, a small neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. He is a first-generation college student pursuing a degree in Justice Studies with a double minor in Human Rights and Legal Studies. The Record Clearance Project has rekindled and solidified his passion for law. He plans to attend law school and hopes to create a similar program in his own community. Cesar feels a sense of urgency to address what legal scholars term “invisible punishment;” the collateral consequences that are imposed for having a criminal record. He believes that having programs like the RCP can significantly reduce recidivism rates and give individuals the opportunity to put their past behind them. Cesar speaks fluent Spanish.
Lead Mentor Victoria Kirschner had her record expunged in 2011, and has been volunteering as a motivational speaker with the RCP ever since. After decades of addiction, Victoria began living a life of sobriety in August 2002. She has sponsored other women in recovery and been the manager of a recovery home. She is active in her church and community. Victoria has worked in the transportation industry for years. She enthusiastically embraces her work as a guide to people moving from custody to create their own, individual stories of success.
Administrative Coordinator Jesse Mejia enrolled in RCP as a student in Spring 2018. Jesse is a first-generation college student who transferred to SJSU from Hartnell Community College with an AS-T in Administration of Justice in Fall 2016. Jesse majored in Justice Studies and graduated Spring 2019 with plans to attend law school. He hopes to work on expungement law after law school and take this experience back with him to Monterey County. Jesse grew up speaking Spanish.
Mentor Darlene Montero has mentored child-welfare-system-involved parents who suffer from substance use, mental illness, incarceration, and homelessness, for seven years following her own experience navigating the court system to reunify with her child. Through this journey, she has over ten years in recovery from substance use. She continues to help others who struggle with the disease by sponsoring women and being in service to a recovery program. Darlene has more than 17 years experience supporting people in the community who experience mental illness and substance use as a mentor, case manager and administrator. She has served on the Santa Clara County Foster Youth Task Force and the California Parent Leadership Team; she is a Nationally Certified Parent Leader. In the summer of 2020, the RCP represented Darlene in court to expunge her record. She has volunteered to speak in a fundraising campaign and to incoming RCP students. She is excited to work with clients to become self-sufficient after incarceration.
Volunteer Attorney Subba (Shaun) Naidu, Jr. began working on expungement law with RCP Director Peggy Stevenson when he was a summer student at the Stanford Community Law Clinic in 2005. Shaun has supervised RCP students’ work and helped train students for almost a decade. He is the author of many of the RCP's materials. He has a JD from University of Iowa Law School and a BA from UC Berkeley.
Program Manager Cindy Parra grew up in San Jose and joined the Record Clearance Project as Program Manager at the beginning of July 2019. Cindy is leading the RCP's Path to Expungement program in which former clients are hired as peer mentors to connect people leaving custody with needed services as they move forward in their lives. She teaches Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) classes to clients, as she has in jail and in the community since 2016. MRT, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, helps individuals evaluate their moral decision making and learn to make positive choices. Cindy was a student with the RCP in 2012 and a frequent volunteer at Speed Screening advice sessions after she graduated. The second in her family to pursue higher education, Cindy graduated from SJSU in Fall 2012 with a BS in Justice Studies and recieved her Masters of Social Work from SJSU in Spring 2019. Cindy speaks fluent Spanish and has volunteered as a Spanish interpreter at immigration and workers' rights advice clinics held by Santa Clara Law School's Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center.
Assistant Ruben Souza joined RCP in Fall 2019. He is a first-generation student from Oakland majoring in Justice Studies with a minor in Political Science. His involvement with the Record Clearance Project has solidified his desire to continue studying law and become an attorney. He speaks Spanish and looks forward to further serving his community. Ruben graduated in May 2020.
RCP Project Director attorney Margaret (Peggy) Stevenson has taught students to provide legal services to low-income clients since 1994, including 12 years of teaching Stanford and Santa Clara law students in community-based clinics. She began teaching at SJSU in 2007. Peggy received the CSU Chancellor's Award for Faculty Innovation and Leadership in Fall 2018 for her work in establishing the Record Clearance Project. She also has received the SJSU Equity and Diversity Outstanding Faculty award, SJSU College of Applied Sciences and Arts; SJSU Service Learning and Community Engagement and other university and community recognition. Prior to teaching, Peggy was a legal services attorney for 10 years and clerked for a federal judge following UCLA Law School, where she earned her JD. She has a BA from Stanford University. She speaks Spanish.
Project Assistant Michelle Taikeff enrolled in RCP as a student in Fall 2017 and has been involved with the program ever since. While majoring in Justice Studies at SJSU, Michelle played on the University's women's water polo team and served on the executive board of the Student Athlete Advisory committee. She was a member of the Criminal Justice Honors Society at SJSU and a President's Scholar. Working the with RCP has enhanced her passion for providing legal aid to those in need. Michelle graduated from SJSU in Spring 2019 and plans to attend law school.
Assistant Jordan Velosa joined RCP in Spring 2019. Jordan grew up in Jackson, New Jersey, and is the first in her family to attend college. She graduated from SJSU in May 2020 with a B.S. in Justice Studies, and minors in Forensic Science and Political Science. Participating in RCP has led Jordan to decide to attend law school in the future, and work in either expungement law or child welfare.