Adriana Cortes Luna, Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6571) has been involved with the agency since 2003 as a student promoting BRIDGES campaigns at Loara High School. Adriana works with students, parents, teachers and administrators in high schools across Orange County to improve school climate and make safe, inclusive and equitable schools for all. She has worked in the Washington, D.C. where she directed national conferences and training programs across the country. She was also recently based in Beverly Hills, California where she managed and set up campaigns for women’s rights in Florida, Oregon, New Mexico and California. Adriana has co-chaired the alumni board for Young People For a project of People For The American Way based in Washington, D.C. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from California State University, Fullerton.
Alfonso Clarke, Dispute Resolution Program Director, (714-480-6572) graduated from the University of Southern California, in 1993, with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Alfonso oversees all of the operations of the Dispute Resolution Program, which provides no to low-cost mediation services to Orange County resident on community matters as well as to civil litigants in Orange County courts on post-filing matters. He facilitates basic and advanced mediation trainings and has served on many panels and advisory groups in the areas of dispute resolution, mediation, conciliation, human relations, intergroup/interethnic relations and peace building. Alfonso has been with OC Human relations since 1997 and has been a mediator for nearly 20 years.
Alison Lehmann Edwards, Deputy Director, (714-480-6573) has been involved with the organization since 1998. She works closely with the CEO and is responsible for all operations including staff development, strategic planning and human resources needs. Alison also serves as a program director for the BRIDGES program and the Community Building Team. She also has served as a youth leadership coordinator with the week-long Youth Leadership Institutes. Alison has experience in violence prevention and has served on numerous advisory boards for the Anaheim Police Department and Violence Prevention Coalition Orange County. She has a passion for leadership and has served as a leadership trainer and speaker. Alison earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Ethnic Studies and American Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned her Masters of Arts in Cultural Studies from Claremont Graduate University.
Antonio Benitez, Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6586) grew up in the Oak View neighborhood of Huntington Beach, CA and graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Latin American Studies.While in college, Antonio became aware of his agency and advocated for social justice issues through his involvement in student groups MEChA de SDSU and UFW San Diego Support Committee. Upon moving back to Orange County, Antonio worked as a substitute teacher for several years and as a student advisor for a local non-profit after school program. He believes strongly in empowering youth as positive agents of change by raising their awareness through culturally relevant education and training. Antonio continues to work with the residents and youth of Oak View, a culturally rich neighborhood that’s historically been underrepresented, by helping them advocate for issues like ethnic studies, renter’s rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice.
Barbara Hunt, Assistant Director of Partnerships, (714-480-6574) joined the OC Human Relations’ staff in 1996 after serving as a volunteer. She worked on the Dispute Resolution Program for 5 years as a mediator and mediation trainer and created the Common Ground Community Program. She then moved to the Community Building Team as a Senior Human Relations Specialist dealing with issues involving community conflict intervention, human relations awareness training and education, and worked with residents throughout the county to empower grassroots leaders and develop diverse leaders. She has served in her current position as Development Director since 2007. Her journalism background led her to OC Human Relations where she was able to have a more hands-on approach to creating a safer, more inclusive and respectful community where everyone has a voice.
Don Han, Senior Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6576) has been with OCHRC since 2001. He is the manager of the Police Community Reconciliation Program. This program works in collaboration with the OC Sheriff’s Department to address low-level complaints against OC Sheriff’s personnel. The program has also been utilized by city police agencies across Orange County as a way to enhance Police Community Relations. Don responds to reported hate crimes and hate incidents in the county and coordinates the release of the annual hate crime report. He earned a Sociology Degree from Cal State Fullerton in 2001 and is a former Human Relations Commissioner for the City of Santa Ana. He is a Certified Mediator and speaks Lao and Thai.
Edgar Medina, Community Capacity Building Coordinator, (714-480-6577) has been with OC Human Relations for more than 10 years. He coordinated and conducts the Parent Leadership Institute and designs community building models for organizational interventions as well as community/parent leadership curriculums. Edgar is fluent in Spanish and has a heart for empowering the disenfranchised residents in the community. He provides support for community-police dialogues, researches funding for community building initiatives that support the empowerment, and provides technical assistance to various neighborhood groups. He earned his degree in Political Science from the University San Cristobal de Huamanga in Peru and has a degree to practice law there. He did his post graduate studies at the National Institute of Public Administration in Madrid, Spain, and earned a Master’s in Public Administration from California State University, Fullerton.Joyce Sanchez, Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6580) has been working for OC Human Relations since June, 2009. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, Joyce worked as a mediator with our Dispute Resolution Program providing mediation services to the community and at court. She has also worked with youth, engaging and motivating high school students through our Skills for Success program to improve their grades and work toward a higher education. Currently, Joyce works on the Community Building Team empowering low-income residents to increase their civic engagement and building bridges between them and service providers. Her focus is on Police Community Dialogues to build better working relationships between police officers and residents. In addition, Joyce teaches five classes per year at the Sheriff’s Academy on culture sensitivity.
Julie Vue, Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6596) graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Civic & Community Engagement. Julie is part of the BRIDGES Program and works with students, parents, teachers and administrators in high schools across Orange County to improve school climate and make safe, inclusive and equitable schools for all. She has also worked with opportunity youth in various capacity to build necessary social and job-readiness skills to prepare for the workforce and post-secondary education. Julie has a strong interest in community building and youth empowerment for gender, sex, race, ethnicity, and class justice.
Karla Estudillo Trujillo, OC Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6579) graduated from UCLA where she majored in International Development Studies and double minored in Latin American Studies and Anthropology. As an undergraduate, she focused on organizations that promoted health equity, community empowerment, education accessibility, community service, and cultural celebration. After graduation, she spent a year in Medellín, Colombia where she served at Fundación Viento Fresco as the Community Relations Intern aiming to empower families in an under-resourced, high-violence, low-income barrio through child care and nutrition, adult parenting classes and counseling, youth activity and education outreach, and streamlining of sanitation systems. Karla’s role at OC Human Relations is to work as the Community Building Initiative Lead in the ABC neighborhood in the effort to reduce crime, a community which she feels mirrors her own upbringing as the proud daughter of Mexican-born immigrants. She is committed to empowering others and taking action to better the social determinants of health within communities through community-led efforts, outreach, and education. She is also devoted to increasing education access, immigrant rights, environmental preservation, ethical consumerism, and social justice.
Kathy Shimizu, Court and Community Mediator, (714-480-6581) has been involved in conflict resolution and advocacy Since January 2000. In 2007, Kathy received her Master’s Degree in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peace Building from California State University, Dominquez Hills. In addition, Kathy has participated in multiple mediation-specific trainings focusing on facilitative mediation skills, divorce mediation skills, and court-connected family mediation skills. Kathy also received training as a Relationship Enhancement trainer for the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement (NIRE) and has been trained in domestic violence and child advocacy. Kathy has convened and mediated hundreds of mediation cases in a variety of settings including divorce and other family matters, small claims, unlawful detainer, civil harassment, community neighbor-neighbor disputes, juvenile victim-offender, and employee relations. A credentialed teacher prior to becoming a mediator, Kathy has utilized her teaching expertise to develop trainings in the areas of child advocacy, basic mediation, communication skills, civil harassment mediation, and divorce mediation. Most recently, Kathy has developed and implemented an extensive in-court practicum designed to provide mediators with real-life opportunities to refine skills in a structured, mentored setting.
Kristian Vallee, OC Human Relations Bookkeeper, (714-480-6583) first worked with OC Human Relations in the late 2000’s as the Camp Director for the BRIDGES program at the Bearpaw preserve. He has also worked as a Junior High school teacher in Orange County for 6 years. Kristian has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Irvine and a degree in Accounting from Irvine Valley College. He is passionate about economic and social justice and in building positive community relations. Kristian welcomes the responsibilities of playing a supporting administrative role in helping OCHR to grow and continue its positive effect on spreading awareness, teaching students to make their voices heard, and fostering a community in Orange County that is inclusive and safe for all its citizens.
Marco Ortega, Bilingual Office Assistant, (714-480-6575) is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine where he majored in Criminology, Law and Society and minored in Conflict Resolution. Marco received his mediation training at UCI and then proceeded to intern in the Dispute Resolution Program with OC Human Relations. Marco has received training to handle small claims, civil harassment, unlawful detainer and divorce cases and also has crisis intervention training. He formerly interned with the CSP Juvenile Diversion Program where he assisted in giving first time juvenile offenders alternative punishments to going through the legal system within the Anaheim, Irvine, and Huntington Beach police departments. He has successfully mediated a wide variety of conflicts in both English and Spanish including disputes between neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, and strangers.
Melisa Montano Ochoa, Human Relations Specialist, (714-480-6578) is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Linguistics. Throughout her undergraduate career, she became highly involved on campus and in the community through M.E.Ch.A. de CSUF. Being the first to graduate from college in the U.S., Melisa was able to successfully finish her education Cum Laude. Today, Melisa uses her story and experiences to help motivate younger generations to pursue higher education and go above and beyond society’s expectations. She has participated as a speaker in various student panels, leadership retreats, and keynote addresses at several events within the Cal State Fullerton community and at her old high school, Southwest High School. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Spanish with a concentration in Latin American Literature.
Melissa Morgan Director of Partnerships, (714-480-6582) joined the OC Human Relations team in 2014. She believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect; and is motivated by a sense of urgency to eliminate bias in schools, communities, minds, and hearts. Melissa grew up in the southern region of the U.S. and graduated from the University of North Florida. Upon graduation, she served as a Rotary Cultural Ambassadorial Scholar of Good Will in Merida, Venezuela. Melissa has a long history of involvement in human relations and has worked with civil rights organizations throughout Southern California, as well as with a national youth-serving nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC. She has experience in leading external relations and communications initiatives, diversity education, community-police dialogues, violence prevention, youth leadership development, intergroup/interethnic relations and hate crime education. She is passionate about social justice, peace, nonviolence, and community building. Melissa is an artist, educator, volunteer, ally, youth advocate, mom and peacemaker at heart.
Norma Lopez, Commission Director, (714-480-6594) joined the OC Human Relations team in late 2014 and became Commission Director in 2016. She serves as executive support staff to the Human Relations Commission and leads the Community Building Team. Mrs. López has found that her purpose is unremittingly rooted in the idea that one must “help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours”. Consequently, Norma was able to find purpose as she took a leap into the realm of community organizing, social justice, and leadership development by joining the Peace Corps after completing her undergrad work. Through this journey, she discovered an unending source of fearlessness that has allowed her to follow the path less traveled both professionally and personally. Mrs. López is passionate about bolstering emergent change agents and is stimulated by building meaningful relationships that have enriched and expanded her worldview. Norma is bilingual and bicultural with Salvadoran cultural roots. She earned a Bachelor’s in International Studies from University of La Verne and a Master’s in Public Administration from Baruch College – The City University of New York (CUNY).Peko Gomis, Senior Community and Court Mediator and Intern & Volunteer Liaison, (714-480-6584) was born and raised in Senegal, West Africa. Peko graduated from University Caen, Normandy, France, with a BA in Languages with a concentration in English and Spanish. Peko attended the Basic Mediation training in April 1998 at OC Human Relations and volunteered hundreds of hours before joining the staff in December 2001. While working with OC Human Relations, Peko has mediated over one thousand cases in court and community settings in a period of ten years. For more than five years, he has been a co-trainer of OC Human Relations’ Basic Mediation Program, which is a 40-hour training that teaches new mediators how to mediate conflicts in the community and in court. Peko is fluent in Spanish, French, Mandjacque, Wolof, Diola, Mandingue, and Creole.
Rusty Kennedy, CEO, Executive Director, (714-480-6585) is the founding CEO of the non-profit OC Human Relations Council, established in 1991. A community organizer by training, Rusty started his work with OC Human Relations in 1977 as a human relations specialist. In 1981 he was promoted to the position of Executive Director of the OC Human Relations Commission. The fundamental framework of OC Human Relations’ Community Building, Mediation, and BRIDGES programs are empowerment strategies rooted in grass roots organizing, diverse leadership development, and creative conflict resolution.
Sara Babadi-Sharif, Human Relations Specialist, is a member of the Dispute Resolution team. Sara deals with court and community mediation, and also conducts mediation certification trainings. Sara became involved with OCHR because she enjoys bringing people together, and believes it is important to give back to the communities in Orange County. Sara was raised in Orange County, and attended the University of California, Irvine, where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Passionate about the law, Sara attended Whittier Law School where she received her Juris Doctor. Sara has practiced law for over four years with experience in Civil and Business Litigation, Family Law, Bankruptcy and Transactional matters. Sara is also very involved with community organizations such as Laura’s House where she assists victims of domestic violence. In addition to her legal background, Sara has experience in various leadership roles including a background in banking and management, as well as leading non-proit organizations and large student organizations.
Sheri Wingate, Office Manager, (714-480-6587) has been with OC Human Relations since 2005. Sheri is responsible for preparation of staff payroll and other staff related reports; management of the agency benefit packages (which includes Workers Comp, health insurance, Flexible Spending and a 401k plan); QuickBooks accounting tasks (check writing and deposits); maintaining office operations including equipment and facility issues; ordering supplies; preparing reports, letters and memos; and, database support and supervision of the Office Technician. She frequently acts as a liaison between OC Human Relations and our neighboring County agencies. Sheri has an AA in Human Services, along with certificates in Purchasing and Office Administration, and has worked almost exclusively in the Office Manager/Administrator capacity throughout her work life in both the non-profit and private sectors.