September 26 2018




Since the inception of The California Endowment, young change-makers have been essential in organizing communities across California toward improved health outcomes. They fight for safety in their schools, healthy food in their stores, and clean air in their neighborhoods. By now, the adage is almost a cliché. Our young people are not just leaders of tomorrow; they are our most powerful transformative leaders of today.

The TCE Youth Awards provides all of us with the opportunity to recognize the incredible work our young leaders have undertaken, and to reward them for their efforts, which all too often go unacknowledged. After an extensive and highly competitive deliberation process involving a Selection Committee composed of six members of our very own President’s Youth Council as well as nine adult civic leaders—we have determined our winners from an overall pool of 231 nominees.

In our final selections, we prioritized criteria that The California Endowment values in its daily operations: leadership, innovation, sustainability, and impact in each nominee’s work to build healthier communities, and a healthier California.”

The program on October 20th will recognize a diverse set of sixteen young groundbreakers and two youth-led organizations. You will find the complete list of award winners below.

Please join me in congratulating each of these winners whenever and wherever possible. More about each winner’s efforts will be shared on our TCE Youth Awards Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles over the coming weeks.


Dr. Ross


2018 TCE Youth Awards Winners

Community Champion Award Winners (By Site)


Boyle Heights – Gabriela Claro is a co-founder of an art collective that makes space for young women artists with hopes of changing the male-established hierarchy in the arts. It provides a safe space for young women to practice art without Euro-centric perspectives.

Central Santa Ana – David Celedon is dedicated to dismantling the school to prison-to-deportation pipeline and offering guidance in the journey to self-healing. As a formerly incarcerated youth, he has firsthand knowledge of the devastating effects of a punitive system.

City Heights – Paw Wah is an advocate for transportation justice and a member of the City Heights Community Action Team (CAT). She also co-founded the Karen Organization of San Diego County, aimed at identifying problems and solutions beyond transportation justice.

Coachella Valley – Simon Moore visits middle schools to discuss suicide awareness. His efforts span three years of media campaigns, assemblies, symposiums, speakers, and student-led leadership modeling.

Del Norte – Avi Critz is dedicated to fixing issues of gender inequity, gun violence, and environmental protection. Since coming out four years ago, Avi has become a community advocate for LGBTQ youth using organizing, public speaking, video, radio, and mentoring as tools for change.

East Oakland – Xochtil Larios is dedicated to fixing the broken youth justice system. Using her personal experience with the Alameda County Youth Justice System, she leads other young people to find solutions to youth incarceration.

East Salinas – Xitlaali Castellanos is an organizer focused on activating her community to vote and make their voices heard. Her tools have included determination, hard work, and a love for her community to empower others to do the same.

Fresno – Danyeal Escobar has worked towards addressing the inequalities and discrimination that those experiencing homelessness in Fresno face. Given her lived experience, her greatest tool has always been using her voice to humanize an issue that many think about abstractly.

Long Beach – Spencer Lara is a powerful leader from Long Beach who inspires other young people to mobilize, talking to decision-makers to ensure they support policies for all students, regardless of race or immigrant status.

At-large (unaffiliated) – Tahara Reynolds is committed to achieving improved community health in low-income communities. She is spreading awareness about the negative impacts of consuming sweetened beverages and menthol/tobacco products targeted to youth and communities of color.

At-large (unaffiliated) – Jacqueline Martinez is committed to eliminating the education and opportunity gap for low-income black and brown youth. Jackie has worked with teachers to create a mentoring program, started a financial literacy program for low-income families, and sits on her school’s governing board.

Richmond – Jahiem Jones is committed to dismantling systems of oppression that continuously impact lives of black and brown communities. Working closely with peers and adult allies, Jahiem has worked towards redefining and creating safe spaces for youth inside Richmond schools.

Sacramento – Yeshahyah Yisrael is bringing healthy food education and inclusive, accessible self-care workshops to young people in Sacramento and beyond through hosting community poetry, music, and art events combined with hands-on food justice and self-care workshops.

South Kern – Chyna Patz is a committed leader in the fight for educational and LGBTQ justice in Kern County. She fights for inclusion and acceptance of young people through her involvement in campaigns, campus advocacy, civic engagement, and legislative advocacy.

South LA – Nallelli Cobo uses the power of her voice, lived trauma, public speaking, policy advocacy, toxic tours, and social media to advocate for the right to health, clean air, and environmental justice.

Merced – Guadalupe Reyes Calderon creates opportunities for young people to advocate for increased youth investment by the City of Merced. Her work has created a youth culture of activism and organizing. Most recently, her efforts have focused on building equity for girls of color in the community.

Healthy Communities Award Winner


Schools LA Students Deserve is dedicated to fixing the racist and classist practice of “random wanding and metal detector searches” in Los Angeles Unified School District. These random metal detector searches for weapons contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and damage the health of the school community by breaking trust between the school staff who carry out the searches and criminalizing students.

Healthy California Award Winner


Comite Civico Del Valle empowers disadvantaged communities through education on civic engagement, advocacy, policy, and environmental justice. This organization encourages youth leadership through the Youth Environmental Health Internship (YEHI), which focuses on preparing high school students around the Imperial County to become leaders in environmental health.

Brandon Harrison Visionary Award Winner


Tisha Ortiz is a student at Cal State East Bay who uses the experiences of her traumatic childhood to help drive changes in public policy that will improve the health and safety of California’s foster children. Tisha has been instrumental in achieving policy wins, including testifying in front of legislators to champion a bill that curbs overmedication of foster care youth. She has worked with the National Center for Youth Law for four years and hopes to be a lawyer.


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