Coro Lead SoCal
Cohort 1

We’re thrilled to announce our 1st Lead SoCal Cohort!

Simone Berry
Senior Program Manager, The Phoenix LA
Simone is the Senior Manager of Programs at The Phoenix. In this capacity she oversees programs and development in Los Angeles and the Bay area. In addition to this, she leads the organization’s diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts. Simone has worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years and is passionate about advocating for historically left out communities and sports and movement. She is on the advisory board of Howard University’s Alumni Committee, is a member of Emerging Practitioner in Philanthropy, and volunteers with the city of Los Angeles.

Amanda Bettinelli
Assistant United States Attorney, Environmental & Community Safety Crimes Section
Amanda M. Bettinelli has served as a federal criminal prosecutor for over twelve years and is a senior prosecutor in the Environmental Crimes and Community Safety Division. AUSA Bettinelli has also served as a STAR Drug & Reentry Court prosecutor for over ten years.  In addition to her many roles serving women and children in the community via non-profit and philanthropic work and bar association committee work, she also does pro bono volunteer work on behalf of foster youth. The Lead SoCal program provides a unique opportunity to be inspired, to learn, to grow as a leader, and to meet other leaders motivated to serve and help create positive change in our community.

Cassandra Chase
Coordinator, Empowerment Congress
Cassandra Chase is a business strategist and social entrepreneur who works to provide marginalized groups the opportunities and access they need to succeed. Cassandra currently serves as the Coordinator of the Empowerment Congress. The Empowerment Congress is a distinctive and deliberate national model of civic engagement built on the core principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability, and intentional civility. In addition, she is the owner and managing director of Chase Consulting Group and co-founder of Read Lead, an organization that provides literacy and leadership training for youth and young adults.

Mariela Gomez
Field Representative, California State Assembly, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (AD 32)
Mariela Gomez is a Field Representative in the California State Assembly. In this role, she provides state resources to diverse populations by engaging with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Her work is driven by a passion to advocate for equitable and just public policies. She graduated from California State University, Bakersfield with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Masters in Public Administration. She recently joined the Kiwanis Club of Arvin-Lamont as President-Elect to empower youth from disadvantaged communities. As a first-generation Latina and Central Valley native, Mariela is excited to participate in Coro Lead SoCal. She is eager about collaborating with other civic leaders to discover new ways to drive positive change.

Annette Kelly-Whittle
Managing Partner, Whittle & Associates
Annette Kelly-Whittle is a workforce development professional and grant writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in business. Annette has worked in public services in various leadership capacities for over 16 years providing workforce development services to job seekers and businesses. She is a passionate advocate for economic opportunity for underserved populations and vitality in economically distressed communities. Throughout her public service career, she has addressed difficult social problems facing the community’s low-income residents, including the challenges of incarceration, youth and adult unemployment, and poverty. She has personally been engaged in policy development, program development, and program implementation of several community intervention programs. Annette oversaw the workforce programs and business services divisions at the City of San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency for 10 years before transitioning to workforce development consulting. Annette provides workforce development services in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties.

Eli Lipmen
Director of Policy & Programming, Move LA; Adjunct Professor, American Jewish Committee
Eli Lipmen (he/him) is the Director of Programming and Development for Move LA, a coalition-building nonprofit that led the campaign for transformative public transit funding in Los Angeles County. Eli raises funds for Move LA’s annual budget and organizes campaigns to create affordable housing, fund public transit operations, address climate change, and clean California’s air. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at the American Jewish University’s School of Enterprise Management and Social Impact, the first socially conscious MBA program in the U.S. Mr. Lipmen was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, overseeing 99 local Neighborhood Councils throughout the City of LA. He was elected for a third term as Commission President and has worked to pilot online voting, expand voting eligibility to youth, and promote more participation in the largest grassroots democracy system in the country. He lives with his partner and three kids in West Adams.

Jason Lombard
Owner, The Lombard Circle
Jason Lombard is a Public Affairs/Community Outreach professional working in both public and private endeavors. Jason has worked on everything from commercial developments to multi-cultural, multi-agency facilitation. Originally from Seattle, WA, Jason has become one of the active faces of LA County by becoming one of the most trusted sources for information. In 2012 he was elected Board member of the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council (ECWANDC) a seat which he presently holds. He was a member of the planning team for the Endeavour Space Shuttle move, along with his role on the Community Taskforce which negotiated the agreement with the California Science Center. He has been recognized for his work by many community organizations and in 2011 formed “The Lombard Circle.” Jason also does work as a Strategic Advisor in Police Accountability for the City of Seattle. Having played collegiate basketball for the University of Washington, Jason still participates in basketball leagues. He also enjoys spending time with family, travel, reading, and politics.

Maggie Ronan
Senior Manager, United Airlines, LAX Station Operations
Maggie is an aviation professional with experience ranging from Airport Operations to Marketing. She currently serves as Senior Manager of Station Operations for United Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport. In this role, Maggie drives United’s operational strategy and is responsible for the integrity of the airline ranging from long-term planning to day-of execution.  Throughout Maggie’s 9 years with the company, she has developed a passion for community engagement and identifies strategic partnerships within the community to “connect people and unite the world” on a local level. Maggie also serves on the Board of Directors for the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, working together to promote business and enhance the vitality of the community.  Maggie resides in Playa del Rey with her new German Shepherd puppy Finnegan. She looks forward to meeting inspiring people during her time in the Coro Cohort and working together to support and improve social issues in the Southern California region.

Mayra Salazar
Director of Advocacy & Stakeholder Relations, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools
Mayra Salazar is a change agent with over 17 years of experience building innovative and transformative programming. Ms. Salazar has led organizational change through thoughtful strategic planning and coalition building. She has extensive experience in people management, leadership development, fundraising, and operations. As a mission-driven leader, Ms. Salazar’s professional career has been focused on the nonprofit and education industries. She has worked with communities of color both in the United States and Latin America. As a first-generation Latina, she fundamentally understands the need for system change to address racism and bias in the workplace. Mayra credits her passion for education to her parents, both Mexican immigrants to the United States.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and her Masters of Public Administration from California State University in Los Angeles. Ms. Salazar resides in Los Angeles with her husband.

Nathaniel VerGow
Deputy Chief of Systems, Los Angeles HomelessServices Authority
Nathaniel VerGow is the Deputy Chief of Systems for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority where he is responsible for the Los Angeles Continuum of Care’s homeless rehousing system. Most recently, he has led the county’s response to COVID-19, providing interim housing to more than 8,000 highly vulnerable individuals across Los Angeles County. He has a Master of Public Health degree and has been working at the intersection of housing, behavioral health, and public health for more than 15 years in Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Shirley Vilca
Director of Development, Prism
With over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, Shirley’s diverse background includes case management work with refugee and incarcerated youth, working for education equity through community organizing and policy, partnering with educators and school boards to deliver LGBTQ+ literature to classrooms across the country, and even volunteering as a crisis counselor for LGBTQ+ youth. Currently, Shirley is the Director of Development at Prism, a 100% BIPOC run and led nonprofit news outlet that centers on the people, places, and issues underreported by the national media. Outside of her professional career, Shirley also volunteers as a Bilingual Wish-Granter with Make-a-Wish Los Angeles. Shirley earned her Bachelor of Arts from the Evergreen State College, where she focused on music theory and visual arts, and a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Antioch University. She credits the social justice focus of both institutes for her commitment to systems change work.

Christina Villegas
Founder & CEO, Mariposa Development
Christine Villegas has been a Real Estate developer with prior experience in politics on both sides of the aisle at the local, state, and federal levels.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from USC, a Bachelor’s in Community Studies from UC Santa Cruz, and an AA in Criminal Justice from Santa Ana College.  Christine has also been a Planning Commissioner and is the Chairperson for the Building Industry Association of Southern CA’s Housing Affordability Committee, among other civic engagements. Christine is the founder of Mariposa Development, whose mission is to develop high-quality affordable housing, neighborhood retail, and services to California’s working-class neighborhoods.  Her mantra – start with the end in mind – focuses her efforts to create functional environments where services and operations are tantamount and financially feasible. Her experience in real estate development ranges from acquisition, predevelopment, finance, construction, and lease-up resulting in the completion of approximately 1500 affordable housing units. Just as the real estate development industry evolves to become more innovative, so does she.

Alex Visotzky
Associate Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority
Alex Visotzky is the Associate Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the lead administrative entity for the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LA CoC). There, he directs a team that advances federal, state, and local policies to reduce homelessness and advance housing affordability in the LA CoC. Prior to joining LAHSA, Alex worked for Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County, where he advocated for local and state policies to advance equitable land use, affordable housing, and affordable homeownership. He has a BA from Oberlin College and an MPP from the Price School of Public Policy at the University Southern California, where he worked as a research assistant to Raphael Bostic, former Secretary for Policy Development and Research at HUD under President Obama.

Ming Zheng
Audio Visual Google Meet Specialist & SnapAsia ERG Lead, Snap Inc.
Ming is an Audio Visual Tech at Snap. Since the beginning of Covid, he has been building a hybrid working environment and video conferencing technology while everyone is working from home. Ming’s other role is the SnapAsia ERG Chapter lead here in LA, connecting communities with his personal values in action: compassion, integrity, and perseverance. He would like to have a systematic understanding of the issues and solutions facing our communities, as well as develop a framework and combat these issues as a DEIB leader, e.g. uprooting discrimination.