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Meet the 2018 Irvine Leadership Awards Recipients

It’s my privilege to share the recipients of the 2018 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards. At a time when so many challenges seem intractable, these individuals and organizations offer hope and inspiration with their deep resolve to create real change in our state.

Each year, The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards recognize exemplary individuals and organizations that demonstrate innovation and effectiveness in improving people’s lives. This year’s leaders are tackling difficult and complex challenges, with proven records of success that point towards a better future for all Californians.

I hope you will take the time to learn about their breakthrough solutions to some of California’s critical issues: affordable housing, civic engagement, homelessness, immigration, safe drinking water, and youth development.

And if you know a leader (or leaders) putting an innovative solution to work for the people of California, consider nominating them for a 2019 Leadership Award. Nominations open today.

The 2018 recipients are:

Kim Carter, Time for Change Foundation

Abused as a child and addicted to crack cocaine by age 17, Carter cycled in and out of prison and homelessness, unable to retain custody of her daughter and facing stigma and discrimination from potential landlords and employers. Fortunately, six months of treatment with housing in San Bernardino County gave her the chance to rebuild her life. Carter then started Time for Change Foundation to ensure that mothers facing homelessness in San Bernardino get the same opportunity. The nonprofit helps women on their path to self-sufficiency, through affordable housing, employment assistance, financial planning, family reunification, life skills, and drug rehabilitation. Since 2002, the organization has helped more than 1,000 women reach self-sufficiency, with 98 percent remaining in permanent housing.

Susana De Anda and Laurel Firestone, Community Water Center

Unsafe tap water can be found across California, yet the San Joaquin Valley is affected disproportionately – with more than half of the public water systems that do not meet safe drinking water standards located in the region. Through Community Water Center, De Anda and Firestone educate affected communities, train residents to engage with local and state leaders, and prepare residents to hold decision-making roles in their local and regional water systems. The organization’s effort to put communities most affected by unsafe drinking water on the forefront of change is working. In 2014, CWC was instrumental in helping designate nearly $700 million in state funding to meet the water needs of disadvantaged communities.

Christina Fialho and Christina Mansfield, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Immigration detention facilities in California detain approximately 5,000 individuals each day – most without access to legal representation, family, or community support. Some face solitary confinement, rape, assault, and inadequate medical care. Fialho and Mansfield created the nation’s first immigration detention visitation network, which monitors the conditions within detention centers, provides legal counsel, and connects incarcerated immigrants to community members and other sources of support. The organization played a key role in advancing California’s Dignity Not Detention Act, which strengthens rules governing for-profit detention facilities in the state and improves oversight of all facilities.

Oscar Menjivar, TXT: Teens Exploring Technology

Growing up in South Los Angeles, Oscar Menjivar saw many young men in his neighborhood involved with local gangs and violence. A mentor led him to a career in computer information systems, and now he teaches young men and boys of color in South Los Angeles to become leaders in technology – and in their communities. At TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, students learn computer programming, entrepreneurship, and public speaking, while developing their discipline, confidence, and critical thinking. TXT has a positive effect on educational attainment and career paths of youth, with 100 percent of participants graduating from high school.

Teresa Smith, Dreams for Change

Working at a social service agency in San Diego, Teresa Smith witnessed growing numbers of people facing homelessness, using their cars as a last refuge. Yet some programs offering assistance view cars as liabilities, not assets – and encourage residents to get rid of their vehicles. Smith created Dreams for Change and its Safe Parking Program centered on the importance of helping people retain and build assets. Its parking program provides individuals living in their cars with a free, safe place to rest overnight, coupled with services to help people get back on their feet and avoid homelessness. The results are promising, with nearly two-thirds of its clients gaining stable housing within six months, on average.

Anthony Thigpenn, California Calls

With California’s democracy and decision-making not fully reflecting the growth and diversity of its population, Anthony Thigpenn is focused on what motivates people to act: each other. Under his leadership, California Calls pioneered Integrated Voter Engagement, where local volunteers and organizations build long-term relationships in communities through neighbors, families, and friends. Their efforts are paying off: California Calls partnered with 30 organizations across the political spectrum to make California’s ballot propositions process more accessible and inclusive, and the organization played a critical role in developing and advancing Proposition 30, adding critical funding for California’s schools and social services.

We applaud the innovations and impact of these leaders, and look forward to finding and recognizing others like them in the years to come.