Board of Directors
The Youth-Led Board of Directors provides strategic and valued oversight over GENup. Our Board of Directors draws on their vast experiences in community organizing, grassroots activism, student agency/student voice, and education policy to better direct the growth and development of GENup.
Rana Banankhah is a senior at Modesto High School in the International Baccalaureate program. She was appointed by Governor Newsom to serve as the sole Student Board Member on the California State Board of Education, representing 6.3 million public schools students, for the 2021-2022 term.
In addition to serving on the State Board of Education, she also serves as the Student Board Member to Modesto City Schools. In her district, she is a student representative on her district’s LCAP Committee and Wellness Committee, as well as a member of her district’s Student Advisory Council and Interhigh Council. She is also a Community Columnist in her local newspaper, The Modesto Bee, and writes Opinion-Editorials about issues relevant to young people. Furthermore, she founded her school’s literary magazine club, which empowers students to have their voices heard through their writing and publishes their work through Kindle Direct Publishing. This past year, Banankhah spent much of her time in quarantine working on congressional, mayoral, and senatorial campaigns in swing districts.
Believing that education is a stepping stone to equality, Rana hopes to use her platform to advocate for change. On the State Board, she fights for the student voice and student agency in an effort to create equity in the California education system.Seeing the positive impact GENup has made in the last couple of years, Rana is excited to be apart of the GENup family and looks forward to working closely with GENup to create real, tangible change for all of California's 6.3 million students.
Rana also serves as GENup's legislative advisor.
Brenna Pangelinan is a junior Brown University and a proud graduate of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. Pangelinan was the Student Board Member on the California State Board of Education (2020-2021) and was the Student Board Member for the Sweetwater Union High School District from 2018-2019. She was the Associated Student Body President of her school, and had been a strong advocate for social emotional learning through the founding of the Eastlake High School Mental Health Task Force. Pangelinan has also been involved in nonprofit work as a Champions Council Member for the Nothing But Nets UN Foundation Campaign, which raises money to send insecticide treated bed nets to malaria endemic countries and advocates for federal support of programs such as the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund. She is also an outspoken leader and community organizer in her area and often fights for student representation, student voice, and student agency on the California State Board of Education.
Frances Suavillo was born and raised in the Philippines, where she was first exposed to the urgency for equity in education. Ever since she moved to the United States in 2010, she has dedicated her academic journey to fighting for student representation and student voice. She became a student-leader in her community and on her school site, Carson High School. She was the editor-in-chief for her complex yearbook for two years in a row. She was the president of the California Scholarship Federation and Share the Love, a club she founded that helps the homeless in the Los Angeles area. She served as the sole Student Board Member for the Los Angeles Unified School District in her senior year, 2019-2020, representing over 600,000 students. She used her platform to speak up for students and make sure that student voice was present at the table when decisions concerning student life were being made. She was fortunate enough to study at Harvard University for a summer program and saw the need for socio-economic representation in prestigious universities, further fueling her passion for the fight for equity in education. She is now a junior at Stanford University.
Zachary Patterson was first elected to represent the students of San Diego Unified School District in October of 2019. He is the first student to ever be elected to the Board of Education, holding the title of Student Board Member. Zachary is currently a sophomore at University City High School in District A. Zachary has been a life-long student of San Diego Unified. He started his education at Curie Elementary, followed by Standley Middle School, and now University City High School. Zachary has always been a student leader serving in student council for three years in elementary school, followed by civic participation and leadership in middle and high school. Zachary’s goal is to ensure that all students feel they have the resources and support necessary to be successful students and individuals in school and beyond. In addition to his work on the Board of Education, Zachary is a cross-country runner who enjoys hanging out with friends. He participates in multiple clubs on campus including California Scholarship Federation, and Casas de Luz- a club which builds houses for impoverished families in Mexico. Zachary is a part of YMCA Youth and Government, and is a frequent representative of San Diego Unified to the Student Advisory Board on Education. He serves as the current student member of the San Diego Unified Council of PTA’s. Zachary hopes to attend a four year university with a major in political science. One day he hopes to again represent the people of San Diego as an elected official.
Zachary invites all education stakeholders to advocate for the change they want to see in their education system.
Gema Quetzal is a proud Salvadoran-Mexican community organizer from East Oakland, CA and current freshman at Stanford University. Gema was the former Student Board Member, appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California State Board of Education (SBE) to represent all 6.2 million students in the state for the term of August 2018- July 2019. Gema served as the sole Student Member on the State Board. Gema is the first Latina Student from Oakland to ever be appointed to this position in California. Gema also served as the Student Director on OUSD’s Board of Education and All City Council Student Union during the 2017-2018 school year. Gema speaks out for justice for all students and has organized students multiple times to participate in student-led marches on immigrant rights and for equitable education for all. In the summer of 2017, Gema was accepted into and attended the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute. Every summer since, she has stayed involved with the ACLU. Gema plans to continue community organizing in her community and hopes to become a civil rights lawyer in the future. Gema believes in equal and equitable access to opportunities for all California students and has been a righteous champion for education equity throughout her life.
Andre Mirzayan's family was constantly moving from country to country, before they finally found a home in the Golden State. His father was born in Iran, had to flee the country after a revolution, lived in cold-war era West Germany, went to an American military school, in which he constantly dealt with prejudice from other students and teachers because he looked so different from everyone else around him. Because of the history of Andre's family, he feels incredibly lucky to be able to go to a public school in the United States, and grateful for everything he's had growing up. During his upbringing, he didn’t question much of our political system, much of our social structure, or much of our education system. But after joining Youth and Government, a program through his local YMCA, he began to see what activism was, and he began to see what he wanted to fight for. After two years in the program, in his junior year, he decided to run for youth governor, the highest position in the program. Over three separate conferences, he watched as 36 candidates were slowly narrowed down to 6, then 3, then 2, then 1. And in Sacramento, the capitol of our state, he watched a massive jumbo-tron, as three thousand five hundred high school students chose the single person they wanted to represent them, as the face of the program. And he saw his own picture, staring right back at him. Working to improve the lives of others has always been something Andre has strive to do, but in that moment, he realized that this is something much larger than myself. Andre fights for and wants to ensure that we can put in place changes that benefit students, teachers, and the future of California students. He is an advocate and a leader at heart.
Arlene Campa as early as fifth grade, was student body president of her elementary school and showed State Senator Ed Hernandez around her school, asking for more funding for arts education. She has always felt an emotional attachment to her community and knew it was her job to give back to it. Arlene was raised in a large, Latinx household where her brothers and she were taught to share everything, so she figured that she should use the resources she had to uplift the people who uplifted her when she was younger. Arlene has performed her poetry at the United Nations 73rd General Assembly as an ambassador of the “United Voices of Peace” project which distributed 55,000 physical copies of an artistic zine with her work in it nationwide and implemented a peace curriculum that is taught in over 10 countries to 20,000 youth. She is also the ACLU of Southern California’s inaugural Arts Justice Fellow and worked to ensure that all students across California are receiving an equitable and complete arts education in the mandated sectors: visual arts, dance, music, media arts, and theater. She is practicing visual artist and has taught workshops for various institutions including LACMA, Self Help Graphics, and within her local school district. She is currently a student ambassador for Create CA, the statewide campaign launched by the California Department of Education and other partners to raise awareness and fuel public dialogue around K-12 arts education in California. She believes education is the stepping stone for social reform and is extremely excited to sit on GENup’s board of directors and support its efforts in educational advocacy.
Jessica Riestra grew up in Santa Ana, Orange County and is currently attending Sacramento State! She currently serves as the Director of March for Our Lives California. Her prior positions include being the Western Recruiter for College Democrats of America while at the same time serving as the Secretary for the Refugee and Immigrant Caucus at College Dems, the field organizer for the California Democratic Party 2018, President of the Orange Coast College Democratic Club 2018, President of the Inter-Club Council of Orange Coast College, and Vice President of Communications. She has also served as the legislative advocacy field director for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and the event coordinator for the National Women's Political Cacus of OC.
Jessica is working to pursue her Masters in International Relations while getting a doctorate in Chicano Studies. She is always extremely outspoken and active in whatever community she resides in and knows from firsthand experience the importance of a fair, equitable education system.
Josephine Cureton currently serves as Chair of the San Francisco Youth Commission, where she focuses on justice issues and community engagement. The San Francisco Youth Commission is the oldest youth commission in all of California, and serves as a model commission for all other youth commissions across California. As the Chair, one of her faculty campaigns include Vote16, a historic measure to lower SF's voting age to 16 for all local elections. In her free time, she also volunteers for progressive political campaigns, and is the Western Regional Director for the Empowerment Collective, the youth behind the California Youth Empowerment Act (AB 1858). This historic act will create California's first ever statewide youth commission. Josephine was also the recipient for the prestigious Cameron Impact Scholarship, winning a full-ride scholarship for all four years of her undergraduate career. At Lowell High School, she was involved in her school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program, serving as Battalion Commander and competing with the Lowell Exhibition Drill Team. She is a product of San Francisco’s public schools and will matriculate at Yale University in Fall 2020.
Jack Greenspan is a senior at Scarsdale High School. He currently serves as the National Chairman for the National High School Democrats of America.
Jack began getting involved in activism in eighth grade, volunteering on the Bernie Sanders campaign. From there, he's been involved in many other political campaigns, from his local mayoral race to the 2020 election. He's been very involved with the High School Democrats of America, starting out as the New York Political Director in his freshman year and ultimately serving as the National Chair of the organization.
In his free time (which there seems to be progressively less of), he enjoys playing the guitar, watching The West Wing and Psych, and taking road trips. He's very passionate about improving the state of public education, and he's excited to serve as a board member for GENup.
Bhargavi Garimella is a freshman at Harvard College, where she concentrates in neuroscience. Bhargavi is particularly passionate about public health and the intersection of social justice and neuroscience. In the past, Bhargavi has collaborated with the Santa Clara County of Education on various education-focused research initatives. She currently serves as a Board Member at Redefy. Prior to that, Bhargavi was a member of Redefy’s Executive Board for two years, garnering extensive experience in building a network of youth activists.
She was a key member of the team that orchestrated the #BurstYourBubble campaign, which reached thousands of young people from Nigeria to the Philippines and inspired them to take action in their communities. Her work on this campaign culminated in the Privilege and Perspective Conference in New York City in collaboration with Eighteenx18, a social justice platform founded by Yara Shahidi. Bhargavi also led the creation of a social justice education workshop in order to create a platform and foundation for social justice and cultural awareness in the classroom –– this has been in collaboration with the National Association for Bilingual Education and the My Name, My Identity Initiative.
Joshua Camarillo recently finished his first term as a Student Board Member for the Fresno Unified School District, California's third largest school district. In that capacity, he served as the district's Student Board Member during his Junior year and is looking to run for a reelection. Fresno Unified is a one of the most racially and socioeconomically diverse school districts in CA, but has issues when it comes to communication and equity. Joshua has recognized this problem and during his term, he has advocated for the inclusion of student voices in all district policies and said that "student voice should be at the forefront of all decisions that the district makes"
He has advocated for the creation of various student groups and district student task forces and is a vocal proponent of student leadership in Fresno Unified. Joshua believes that student voice is crucial and understands that students are the beneficiaries of the decisions that are made in the district. Joshua is a strong proponent of social and emotional learning and is looking to help create a program that would help students receive the resources that they need. Aside from his educational endeavors, Joshua loves to challenge himself physically, being both a varsity water polo player and swimmer. He also serves as the Associated Student Body Secretary. All of these characteristics and accomplishments are reflective of the type of outspoken and servant leader that Joshua is. He is deeply rooted in the belief that every student has the potential to be a leader and that once they realize the power of their voice, students can unite to make everlasting change to our system.
Maya Howard is a rising senior at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento, CA. She is currently serving as the first-ever student member of the State Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission. After realizing her love for social action work her freshman year, she became heavily involved in local and state organizations that serve the causes she is passionate about. She began exploring this as a member of the Youth Advisory Committee to the Sacramento Women’s March. Maya then became the primary youth representative of Sacramento for Women and Girls, a grassroots organization working to establish a Sacramento Women’s Commission. When a Blue Ribbon Commission was established to further that process, Maya became its primary youth member as well as the Co-Chair of its Youth Advisory Ad Hoc Committee.
In 2019 she became the first-ever youth representative on the Sacramento Jewish Community Relations Council, where she helps to lead advocacy for ally-ship and intersectional efforts. This year Maya also helped to re-establish the Sacramento Sisterhood Salaam-Shalom Teen Chapter as its co-chair. The Sisterhood aims to create unity and friendship among young Muslim women and young Jewish women. She recently began working as part of the Justice2Jobs Coalition, a grassroots criminal justice reform organization. She often engages in other projects as they present themselves, as well as works to kick-start new and meaningful programs. She hopes to attend a four-year university after graduating and is committed to continuing her work as an advocate for student voices in social justice spaces.
Julianna Garcia is a junior at John F Kennedy Middle College High School in Riverside County. She will be serving as the student member of the State Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission for the 2021-2022 school year. Julianna is a part of the national organization, Diversify Our Narrative where she serves as the Director of Fellowships. As well as one of the Co-Lead’s for her local chapter due to seeing the lack of a diverse curriculum in her own school district. She is also very involved in her high school as an executive member of the Associated Student Body, Dance Team, Go Green, and Baking Club. Being a proud
daughter of two Colombian immigrants she is also part of her school’s Latinx Student Union. Julianna is expected to finish over 70 college units and 6 Associate’s Degrees by the end of her high school career. Julianna is a leader of her community and hopes to amplify the voices of her peers and their educational concerns. She is excited to begin her work with GenUp to invoke equity in California’s education system.
Jason Wu is a proud and lifelong resident of Montgomery County, Maryland. Currently, Jason serves
as the 35th Student Member of the Maryland State Board of Education, and he is incredibly honored
to represent the diverse 900,000+ students of Maryland in pursuit of a world-class education that
prepares students for life beyond high school.Jason has been an active member in student government and student advocacy since the 6th grade,
where he began advocating for student rights and student freedoms on behalf of his peers. He previously
served as Central Divisional Liaison & Environmental Affairs Coordinator on the Maryland Association
of Student Councils (MASC), Deputy Chief of Staff & Special Issues Director & Educational Policy Deputy for the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR-SGA), and Vice President & Special Elections Deputy on the Montgomery County Junior Councils (MCJC). At the local level, he’s testified for the distribution of funds towards improving school infrastructure and renewable resources, and promoted pedestrian safety on school grounds. In 2018, he lobbied at the Maryland General Assembly for the passing of HB 251, a bill that would mandate consent to be taught in public school health classes. In 2018, he also served as a Task Force Member on the Maryland State Department of Education’s (MSDE) High School Graduation Task Force, working alongside the state superintendent and state board of education members to review current credit requirements, assessment requirements, and diploma options for secondary school students to provide recommendations for the State Board of Education.
Frank Velez has been a proud resident of Belleville, New Jersey for over 17 Years, having grown up in the
Cherry Blossom Capital of America, and graduating from Belleville Public Schools in 2019. Frank is currently a sophomore at Fordham University in New York City, and is now serving in his first term as Board Trustee on the Belleville Board of Education.
Frank has been involved in politics as early as when he was seven years old, believing that only with real
political change can we truly better the world around us. Motivated by a strong desire to represent families
with special needs like his own, as well as the students of the district that had never felt they had youth representation on the Board, he ran for the Board of Education in the 2020 General Election.
Soon after he won, he pledged to be a trustee who will hear everyone out—regardless of whether or not he received their vote in the election; excited to deliver upon the mandate given to him by the voters. Frank works everyday with fellow board members and the superintendent to continue to bring about the greatest opportunities and educational progress for the children, families, and teachers of the Belleville Public Schools District for as long as he holds office as a Board Trustee.
Lastly, he is ready to bring that spirit of determination and vision of real progress to the national stage with fellow colleagues at GENup!
Jasmine Nguyen is a junior at Stanford University majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a concentration in Politics, Public Policy, and Equity. She is a proud first-generation student and daughter of Vietnamese refugees.
She is the Founder and Co Executive Director of Diversify Our Narrative, a national youth-led racial justice organization that pushes for equitable, long-lasting reform within our school districts (public, charter, and private). The centerpiece of this movement is around the concept to #DiversifyOurNarrative through the books, curriculum, and teaching practices we engage in. DON's students work with local school boards, school administration, and their educators to spearhead tailored resolutions/reform addressing the complex issues of more-inclusive curriculum, teaching pedagogy, racial equity, educational disparities, etc.
DON has now logged over 40 million views on instagram and proudly organizes 400 + chapters across the nation. They have grown to over 220k instagram followers, 6000 + organizers, 800 + school districts, and 40 million + social media impressions.
Jasmine's work has been featured in Times Magazine, Bloomberg News, Axios, Vox, and the Washington Post.
Zaid Fattah is a Sophomore at Yale University studying economics / international relations and is a proud member of GENup's youth-led Board of Directors.
He was appointed by Governor Newsom to serve as the sole Student Board Member on the California State Board of Education, representing 6.3 million public schools students, for the 2020-2021 term.
Zaid is exceptionally vocal about the education policy within his community, serving as a student representative on his district Local Control and Accountability Plan Committee and school Site Council. Fattah is the president and co-founder of a chapter of Paper Airplanes, a global non-profit organization that provides free online English language instruction to refugee youth. He is the president of Monte Vista’s Muslim Student Association and a co-president of Monte Vista’s California Scholarship Federation. Fattah is a co-vice president and nationally-ranked competitor on Monte Vista’s award-winning speech and debate team, as well. This past summer, he placed 9th in the nation in his speech event, Program Oral Interpretation, at the NSDA National Speech and Debate Tournament.
Believing that education is a stepping stone to equality, Zaid hopes to use his platform to advocate for change. On the State Board, he fights for the student voice and student agency in an effort to create equity in the California education system. Seeing the positive impact GENup has made in the last couple of years, Zaid is excited to be apart of the GENup family and looks forward to working closely with GENup to create real, tangible change for all of California's 6.3 million students.
Alexander Walker-Griffin passion for civic engagement started at the age of 10, and by 13 years old he was working on statewide campaigns. In college, he held a variety of leadership roles, ranging from president of Community Organizing and Political Action to student government. Alex was a two-term student body president of Contra Costa College. Under his leadership, he successfully started the college’s first free breakfast, school supplies, and bus pass program. Simultaneously, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to represent 2.3 million students as a member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. His proudest achievement being the lone student to vote to make community college tuition free for the first two years. He would go on to serve as one the founding members of Calbright College, the nation’s first 100 percent online community college.
Alex has gained a variety of experience in numerous public policy roles. He served as an intern to Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), served as an aide for the Richmond City Council, and several other organizations. Recently, he served as the Chief Lobbyist for March For Our Lives California, in which he successfully advocated for stricter gun violence restraining order, such AB 2617, by Assemblyman Gabriel.
Alex is the Mayor of Hercules, his hometown. In his two years on the council he has passed and started a variety of initiative such as the Hercules Small Business Grant, Hercules Small Business Rental Relief Program, and the Hercules Community Gift Card Program. During his first budget season, he led the charge to allocate funding for swing sets for children with disabilities. Additionally, he introduced and then passed the Hercules Equal Pay Ordinance, to combat pay discrimination, and the Hercules Electrification Ordinance, requiring new development to be 100 percent electric. He also serves as a CalGuard Army officer. Alex is a graduate of Contra Costa College and received his BA in Politics from Saint Mary’s College of California. Currently, he is pursuing his masters through Johns Hopkins.
All Board related inquiries should be directed to email@example.com