We’re proud to announce our tenth annual Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) class. Thirty-four women from across California have been selected to participate in this year-long intensive program. WPI provides an opportunity for women to develop the skills necessary to create public policy that reflects the needs of California’s women and their families. The participants, called fellows, will have the opportunity to bring their hearts and minds to the state legislative process and continue advocating on behalf of their communities.
“I can’t wait to dive into the nitty-gritty of shaping and moving policy,” said Kaile Shilling, one of our new fellows and coalition director at the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles. “I applied to WPI so that I could learn the concrete skills of how to read and write legislation, give testimony and build coalitions around change on a systems level. This is critical work for my organization in the coming years.”
The WPI curriculum is experiential and does a great deal more than simply help fellows understand how bills become law. Rather, it helps fellows understand how the legislative process really works by offering training, real policy experience, mentorship, and fellowship.
“Then, we unleash the imagination of the participants to dream and create a government truly ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’” said Marj Plumb, WPI Director. “Ultimately, we see WPI as a way to help develop a public policy system that is community-based and community-driven, that is not just responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable people, but is created with their needs at the center of the process.”
Fellows are divided into teams that focus on specific issues. Three of this year’s teams were developed in partnership with The California Endowment, Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Initiative. The fellows on the three BHC teams come from 13 BHC sites and include two Healthy Youth Development teams and one Health Reform Implementation team. The other three teams are focused on Criminal Justice, Reproductive Justice and Domestic Violence.
This is a big year for us because it’s our 10th year of running WPI. Over the past nine years, we have trained 247 grassroots women leaders. Our fellows have helped pass 16 legislative bills. And over the years, our fellows have worked on over 50 bills.
This year we’re building on WPI’s success by launching an advanced budget advocacy training program, which consists of WPI graduates and women nonprofit leaders already experienced in the state legislative process. This new team will focus on restoring public funding for programs and services for California’s low-income women, children and families, which have been cut significantly in the last five years.
“With the addition of our new Budget Advocacy Team, we are demonstrating the potential of WPI to significantly improve the lives of women and girls across California,” said Judy Patrick, Foundation president and CEO. “As California grapples with its structural deficit and legislators make decisions around whether or not to cut lifeline human services, it is more important than ever that women and grassroots leaders are actively thinking about and shaping the policies and laws that govern our lives for years to come.”
Below is a list of our 2012-13 policy teams and fellows:
Budget Advocacy Team
Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Jennifer Kim, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Books Not Bars
Grace-Sonia Melanio, Community Health Partnership
Catherine Porter, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative
Phoebe Seaton, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Criminal Justice Team
Cheauvon Brown, Justice Now
Jolene Forman, ACLU of Northern California
Tamiko Johnson, Alameda County Public Health Department
Alba Mercado, The Women’s Foundation of California
Lisa Pedersen, The Art of Yoga Project
Vonya Quarles , Starting Over, Inc.
Domestic Violence Team
Virginia Ballantyne, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence
Krystle Contreras, Central California Family Crisis Center
Colsaria Henderson, Family Violence Law Center
Jacquie Marroquin, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
Laura Segura, Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres
Reproductive Justice Team
Sierra Harris, ACCESS Women’s Health Justice
Celina Keshishian, California Family Health Council, Inc.
Mari Lopez, Vision Y Compromiso
Nayantara Mehta, Alliance for Justice- West Coast
Healthy Youth Development Team #1
Carmen Burgos, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc.
Amber Talburt, Wild Rivers Community Foundation
Jocelyn Vargas, Raices Cultura
Cheryl Whittle, Department of Social Work Education- CSU Fresno
Debbie Wood, Bakersfield City School District
Healthy Youth Development Team #2
Coreen Aguilar, Resources for Independence, Central Valley
Kaile Shilling, Violence Prevention Coalition
Alice Yang, Stone Soup Fresno
Health Reform Implementation Team
Mirna Flores, Center for Employment Training
Nomsa Khalfani, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center
Adriana Moreno, OneOC- Children’s Health Initiative of Orange County
Jeanette Torres, Latino Health Access (SABHC)