2017-2018 Program Staff

Aaron Gallardo – Co-Executive Director

ProfessionalProfileAaron currently works as a Client Audits Administrator at Warner/Chappell Music publishing.  He received his BA in Music with an emphasis in Industry Studies at the California Polytechnic University, Pomona where his senior project was an ethnomusicological study on the Fil-Am rondalla and how it, along with other facets of culture nights, serve as the main cultural education for Fil-Am youth.  Aaron has worked with the Association for the Advancement of Filipino-American Arts and Culture (FilAm ARTS) to help plan the Festival of Pilipino Arts and Culture (FPAC), with the Filipino Cultural School (FCS) as a music teacher, and served as a Co-Director of Mentees and the Positionality Pillar Coordinator for Lakas.  His hobbies include cooking, Broadway musicals, dancing to 90’s and 2000’s slow jams, and sitting in traffic on the 405 South on a Friday afternoon.


Ryan Dalusag – Co-Executive Director

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARyan Dalusag graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a minor in Business Administration. He has also received a Masters Degree in Social Work, clinical concentration. He currently works as a psychiatric social worker in an acute psych hospital. As a member of Katipunan, the Filipino organization at UCR, he found his passion for serving the FilAm community. Ryan strives to make an impact in the Fil-Am community, empowering the youth to become leaders, as well as to spread awareness and understanding on mental health issues.  He has been a part of the Kuya Ate Mentorship Program in San Diego, Filipino Cultural School in Cerritos, and has served as a staff counselor with Lakas Mentorship Program. In his free time, he enjoys watching reruns of Friends and HIMYM, rock climbing, and grabbing a bite to eat with friends.


Director of Mentors – Abby Saavedra

AbbyAbby Saavedra graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology (emphasis in Biology) and Human Development. She is currently a first-year Master’s of Science candidate in Clinical Psychology at California State University, Fullerton. She is an aspiring scholar-activist who believes that the community and service-based learning are central to her academic and personal identities. Her research interests include Asian American and Filipino American mental health, positive youth development, intersectionality, and academic self-efficacy of students of color. Her goal is to someday become a college professor in Psychology and/or Ethnic Studies, with a service emphasis on mentoring students from communities underrepresented in higher education, particularly students of color — but until then, she loves eating, taking pictures of her food, fashion, taking pictures of her outfits, napping (often), concerts, and spending quality time with family and friends.


Co-Director of Mentees – Andrea Mackey


Andrea Mackey recently graduated from Scripps College with a degree in Neuroscience and aspirations to become a physician. Her drive to become a doctor evolved founding the Filipinx organization on campus, Kasama, building the Claremont Colleges Southeast Asian Coalition, and continuing the mentorship-tutoring program STEP (Saturday Tongan Education program) as an intern in the Asian American Resource Center. She aims to combine her Filipinx and Pacific Islander networks with her health connections in order to challenge inequalities and underrepresentation in healthcare. She has been to summer corgi beach day 3 years in a row, has scuba dived in Iceland, was Quidditch Captain at her school, and can quote the entire Cornetto Trilogy.


Co-Director of Mentees – Lauren Higa


Lauren Higa graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in June 2017 with a dual bachelor’s degree in Asian American Studies and Psychology. While still a gaucho, she was an active member of Kapatirang Pilipino and explored her multiethnic identity through a ten-month study abroad program in Japan. After graduation, she visited the Philippines for the first time as a member of Kaya Collaborative’s fourth cohort of summer fellows. Lauren continues to look for opportunities to explore her relationships with her homelands, to empower her communities at a person-to-person level, and to learn a lot! She likes learning so much that, in the near future, she hopes to study both social work and Asian American studies at the graduate level. In her free time, Lauren likes to take naps; gawk at pretty stationery; eat Korean barbecue; and play with her wrinkly pug Bruno, her grandma’s black lab Gumbo, and any other dog she sees.


Director of Curriculum – Brandon Pham

Headshot BP

Brandon Pham graduated from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies. Before attending college, Brandon was involved in a mentorship program called H.O.P.E, that contributed immensely to his interest in working with youth. Brandon studied education and teaching while in college, he hopes to apply what he’s learned to impact student growth and development. He currently works as a tutor/facilitator in an after school program and is working towards obtaining his Credentials to teach. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and trying different types of delicious food.


Pillar Coordinator: Self-Awareness – Celeste Banaag

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 12.17.58 AM.pngCeleste graduated from California State Polytechnic University Pomona with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus in Management and Human Resources. During her undergrad she was a part of Barkada, the Pilipino American Studies Kollective, the Latino Business Student Association, and the Asian and Pacific Islander Mentorship Program. Throughout her involvement, she learned the importance of mental health, social justice, and creating a dialogue among people of color. Celeste hopes to pursue a Master’s in Higher Education in the near future. During her free time, Celeste enjoys eating out with friends, binging Netflix, and going to the beach.


Pillar Coordinator: Filipino-American Studies – Sarah Miralles

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Sarah Lynn Miralles received her BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of San Diego and an MA in Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. The primary focus of her research was how Fil-Am youth created counterspace through HipHop dance. Now she teaches Asian American Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Sarah has a passion for teaching, learning from, and growing with youth as they develop their critical consciousness. Her hobbies include eating ice cream, fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight, and teaching people how to bodyroll.


Pillar Coordinator: College Preparation – Dustin Domingo

DOMINGO PICWith 8 years working in education, Dustin’s professional experience includes preparing students for advancement throughout various levels of K-12 education as well as undergraduate and graduate level education. He is currently the Director of Credential Services at Brandman University. As a lifelong learner, Dustin is currently studying Organizational Leadership in Brandman University’s Doctor of Education program. Outside of these professional and academic roles, Dustin dabbles in music. Over the years he has been fortunate enough to perform at various venues and weddings, as well as participate in vocal and instrumental competitions. Most recently, Dustin performs as member of acappella group, Fourty4B, based in Irvine, CA.


Pillar Coordinator: Positionality – Ann Dela Cruz

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Ann Dela Cruz graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelors degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management. She was born and raised in the Bay Area but recently moved to Southern California. Ann fell in love with her Filipino culture originally through dance with Kaisahan of San Jose. As she entered San Jose State, she continued dancing and held multiple leadership positions with Akbayan, the Filipino organization on campus; cultural chair, PCN coordinator and President. Since graduating and moving 400 miles from home, she continues to dance with Kawayan Folk Arts. Ann strives to keep her culture alive through every step she takes in life and is extremely proud to wear her culture on her skin. In her spare time, she loves experimenting with makeup and skincare. Her most frequent makeup tip she shares with other Filipin@s is to embrace their brown and golden skin! This will be Ann’s second year with the Lakas mentorship program and hopes to empower other and provide a constant reminder that self-care is hella important.


Pillar Coordinator: Leadership – Raffy Natividad

IMG_8810Raphael Natividad graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Public Health Policy and Education Sciences. He joined Kababayan at UCI during his first year of college with hopes of expanding his knowledge of the FilAm community. He not only gained a deeper appreciation for his culture and heritage, he gained a network of amazing friends. During his time in college, he discovered his passion to serve and empower students to reach for their dreams. He hopes to continue to work with students in programs such as Lakas, to help his fellow Pilipinx-Americans achieve their educational and occupational aspirations. He currently works at a software e-learning company providing technical support, and at UCI’s School of Education as a Research Assistant. He hope to pursue a Masters in Public Health in the future to focus his efforts to improve health and educational outcomes in the Asian-American community. If he’s not working or sleeping, Raphael likes to read books (currently reading Game of Thrones), watch anime, or ride his bike to nearby parks.


Administrator – Nicole Punsalang


Nicole graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Medical Emphasis. She is currently pursuing her dream to become a medical doctor. Nicole is actively involved as a hospital volunteer and on the Leadership Team, as an Assistant Director for the COPE Health Scholars program at Riverside Community Hospital since 2014. On top of these responsibilities, she works as an Emergency Department Scribe in San Bernardino Hospital. As a team player in various leadership positions and extra-curricular activities, she is beginning to learn and put into practice the importance of health education, promotion, and prevention to an individual’s overall wellness and health in the medical environment. Nicole’s ultimate long-term goal is to aid in educating and guiding individuals towards a healthy, successful life through health education and promoting awareness. Despite her busy schedule, she manages to enjoy reading books, hiking, and watching her favorite TV show “The Office”. After her recent fascinating travel from Japan to Europe she now begins to learn how to cook and taking food adventures when time permits.


Co-Staff Counselor – Joseph Navales

image1Joseph Navales graduated from the University of California Riverside (UCR) with a bachelors in Political Science: International Relations and a minor in Peace and Conflict studies. He attended Western State College of Law, and currently works as an immigration attorney in Irvine. He was the Vice-President of the Vietnamese Student Association and worked for the Academic Resource Center at UCR where he developed his passion to help students and those in need. On his spare time Joseph volunteers for Asian Americans Advancing Justice as well as travel, go to the gym, and eat great food.


Co-Staff Counselors – James Golfo


James Golfo is a native of Rancho Cucamonga and currently in his second year of law school at UCLA. He holds a Bachelor’s in Global Studies from UCLA and a Master’s in Education from Loyola Marymount. Prior to law school, James worked as a special education teacher at public middle schools in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, staying active, digging for vinyl records, and cheering on his beloved Los Angeles Lakers.


Co-Staff Development Coordinator – Kent Paris

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 12.41.22 AM

Kent Paris graduated from UC Riverside with his Bachelors in Biochemistry and a Masters in Secondary Education. He is currently a high school science teacher and aims to inspire future scientists. Kent aspires to change what it means to be a teacher. He wants to show others that teaching goes beyond the classroom.



Co-Staff Development Coordinator – Arianna Dela Rosa


Arianna Dela Rosa graduated from the University of California, Davis with a major in Managerial Economics and a minor in Business Fashion. Joining the FilAm community at Davis, specifically serving as Mga Kapatid’s Cultural Chair and BRIDGE Pilipinx Outreach and Retention program’s Administrative Coordinator, Arianna grew a passion for community work and empowering the youth. She aspires to achieve higher education with an MBA or a Masters in Public Policy. Her goal in life is to be a social entrepreneur and create a business that serves underrepresented communities. When she’s not working, you can find her reading a book at a coffee shop, going to free local events, or making music!


Support Staff – Jacob Janairo

IMG_2776Jacob Janairo is born and raised in Chino Hills, CA. This will be his fourth year involved in Lakas Mentorship Program. In previous years with the program, he served as a mentor and the Director of Mentees. He completed his undergrad career at the University of California, Riverside in 2015. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. He is currently working as a Behavior Specialist with the Institute of Behavioral Health. Jacob is a very easy going person and in his spare time, he goes to the gym, plays basketball, eats, watches TV, and eats some more.


Support Staff – Veronica Velasquez

977467_10151436181411697_487035925_oVeronica Velasquez is currently a second year Doctor of Physical Therapy Student (SPT) at Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona. She is the first undocumented/DACA student in WesternU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, concentrating in Allied Health Professions, and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Veronica was a founding board member and previous Vice President of the CSUSB Coyote Dreamers. Veronica is eager to mentor and guide young students into higher education. She aims to better healthcare for the underinsured, uninsured, and minorities.


Support Staff – Rodrigo Lim

17196993588_abff890c76_z.jpgRodrigo is a graduate from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a Bachelors degree in Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology. Rodrigo joined Lakas Mentorship Program in 2012 as a mentor and continued on as a staff member thereafter. He believes that all people have the potential to be great and do great things in life. Lakas provides a means to which he can help the youth realize that potential early. Rodrigo currently works as a software engineer at a telecommunications company. Aside from that, he loves all things superheroes, to dance, watching TV shows, and going to concerts.


Support Staff – Rosemarie Enriquez


Rosemarie Enriquez graduated from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) with a Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies and Ethnic Studies.  She is currently in the Masters of Communication Studies program at (CSUF) with an emphasis in Intercultural Communications.  Rosemarie is also a staff member at CSUF where she works with incoming freshmen in the office of First Year Experience.  She hopes to one day work with international students at CSUF and guide them in their transition process. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit, Running, and traveling, but does not mind trying new things!


Support Staff – Nader Esmael

21733234_1320745444701075_946104354_nNader Esmael is a fourth year Cal Poly Pomona student pursuing his undergraduate degree in Mathematics. He has been a part of the Filipino community at CPP through his involvement in PASK and Barkada. He also has been a part of the LAKAS Mentorship program for two years now going into his third. His love for sports, especially American football, remains unrivaled to none. He is always ready to play no matter what the conditions. Nader manages two jobs as a tutor at JL Academy and a C&E Services Assistant at his school. His positive and quirky attitude drives him towards greatness and is never-ending. Nader hopes to pursue his Master’s and teaching credentials, whilst living a career in the world of sports. In his spare time, you’ll either see him working out, playing ball, or online “skilling” in Runescape.


Support Staff – Valencia Lauran


Valencia Lauran graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. She aspires to work in the medical field and is currently working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Room. Throughout college, she was part of the Filipino Student Organization, Katipunan, and also worked as a high school AVID tutor. Experience as an AVID tutor aspires her to help young students obtain a higher level education. During her spare time, Valencia loves to discover new music, go camping, hiking, running, traveling, and spending time with her dog.


Support Staff – Terrence Diaz

IMG_8730-14.jpgA software engineer by trade, Terrence learned to recognize that technology has a social responsibility that cannot be ignored and uses his STEM background as one of many ways to approach community and activist spaces. This mindset drove him to get his B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd College, switching from a Concentration of Economics to one of Asian American Studies. After being deeply involved in volunteer and Filipino orgs at a predominately white college, Terrence became inspired to uplift the presence of Filipinos and Filipinx-Americans in everyday society, but especially in STEM. Now, as a support staff member on the Lakas team, he loves the empowerment him and his fellow staff members provide for Filipino youth in Los Angeles county, where he grew up most of his life. In his free time, you can catch Terrence perfecting his pass in volleyball, reading a visual novel, escaping real life through video games, figuring out why his code won’t work, or bragging about the fact that he’s from LA. Did we mention he’s from LA?