Meet the 2023 Fellows

We would like to announce the 65th class of Coro Fellows in Public Affairs, one of the longest-running leadership development programs in the nation.

Tali Braun
University of California, Santa Barbara
B.A. Political Science
An LA native, Tali Braun graduated with High Honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Tali credits learning about the prevalence of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election with awakening her interest in public service to help her fight against democratic backsliding. She began her path early on in her undergraduate career by delving into her own Soviet heritage and founding her university’s Russian Club designed to explore all former Soviet Union nationalities. She then plunged into the depths of journalism and secured a position as an op-ed columnist for UCSB’s Daily Nexus newspaper and later as an editorial assistant intern at a Czech newspaper during her studies in Prague. After Coro, Tali plans to attend law school and further explore the new sets of challenges to First Amendment law and threats to the public brought about by the media and the Internet.

Ariana Cervantes
Queen Mary University of London
BSc Global Health
University of Oxford
MSc Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology
After living in the United Kingdom for five years, Ariana Cervantes is excited to be back home in California. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she has had a longstanding interest and devotion to cultivating supportive, just communities. During her undergraduate, she researched the motivational role of hope in academia and led a workshop series on Non-Violent Communication. Before her master’s, she worked as a Teaching Assistant, inspired by the works of bell hooks and Paulo Freire. At the University of Oxford, Ariana researched the evolutionary origins of individual and social identities, fascinated by how culture and social structures shape our understandings of ourselves. Deeply curious about social movements and dynamics, Ariana was a Fellow in Oxford’s Global Leadership Initiative, leading discussions on leadership and character development in an international cohort. Motivated by her love for discourse and communication, she trained and volunteered as a Bereavement Supporter during her time at Oxford. She is honored and excited to participate in Coro and looks forward to actively engaging in change and growth with and for the communities of Los Angeles.

Amir Ebtehadj
University of California, Berkeley
B.A. Global Studies, Persian Literature and Language, & Middle Eastern Studies
Amir Ebtehadj recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Global Studies, Persian Literature and Language, and Middle Eastern Studies. During his time, Amir focused on unifying the multicultural Middle Eastern community through advocacy. As the Executive Director of the Middle Eastern and North African Recruitment and Retention Center, Amir coordinated the community to rally on issues of representation, treatment, and access to institutional resources. He secured long-term funding for groups and campus spaces designed to support marginalized students. Amir continued his study of the Middle East as an Ibrahim Leadership Fellow, where he collaborated with experts in policy making and conflict resolution. Working with experts, he coordinated various discussions with local businesses, diplomats, and NGOs in the Persian Gulf region. After Coro, Amir intends to use the experience gained to pursue law school and explore further the role of community development and advocacy concerning policy making.

Siena Fay
Stanford University 
B.A. International Relations
Siena Fay’s passion for public service ignited in Los Angeles County, where he was born and raised. He served as a Senate page for Barbara Boxer before attending Stanford University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. Siena is dedicated to tangibly improving the lives of Californians and spent his undergraduate career lobbying Senators for climate justice, researching international human rights law, and working to expand the legal protections of transgender Americans and asylum seekers at the Transgender Law Center. During the 2020 election, Siena worked as a researcher for the Stanford-MIT Healthy Election Project and developed a vote-by-mail guide as a tool for state governments. Before coming to Coro, Siena used his background in International Relations to conduct research at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, studying the effects of climate change on Middle Eastern Countries. Through Coro, Siena hopes to continue serving Californians at the local level while pursuing his goal of one day running for public office.

Saman Haddad
University of California, Los Angeles
B.A. Public Affairs, Minors in Labor Studies & Urban and Regional Studies
Growing up in San Bernardino, California, Saman learned firsthand that upward mobility is too often stratified by income. Fueled by a desire to support the development of his hometown and strengthen pathways to economic mobility for low-income community members, Saman joined the inaugural cohort of undergraduate students within the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). During his time at UCLA, Saman pursued research opportunities surrounding voter access, food insecurity, and education, which furthered his passion for public service and low-income community development. Additionally, Saman worked as a Coordinator for the UCLA Bruin Ambassadors Program, where he increased access to opportunities in higher education among high school students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2023, Saman will continue his education and advocacy work at Yale Law School. As a Coro Fellow, Saman is excited and grateful for the opportunity to develop as a public servant under the mentorship and guidance of Los Angeles community leaders.

Luis Huerta
University of California, Riverside 
B.A. Political Science
Luis Huerta is a Los Angeles native and developed a passion for public service at an early age. Luis was a youth leader at South Los Angeles’ Community Coalition where he learned about the importance of civic engagement and people power. He graduated from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and contributed immensely to the student body by serving the Associated Students of UCR. Taking the lessons learned while at Community Coalition, Luis led efforts to bolster UCR’s voter registration, public safety, and advocacy efforts state-wide. At the peak of COVID-19, he hosted the Student Empowerment Digital Conference which educated participants about policies related to the pandemic. Upon graduation, Luis joined Los Angeles’ Eighth District as a Legislative Aide which allowed him to assist with policymaking and event planning that strengthened the South Los Angeles community. Through Coro, Luis wishes to expand his policy interests and build a community of future leaders that will advance meaningful policy for all.

Sophia Kownatzki
University of California, Berkeley
B.A. Peace and Conflict Studies, Minor in German
A Los Angeles native, Sophia has taken an interdisciplinary approach to her studies, lifestyle, passions, and perspectives. At UC Berkeley she pursued a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, focusing on international relations and diplomacy, and a minor in German. Those core subjects were supported by her additional background in history, environmentalism, and social justice. Following graduation, Sophia has spent the last three years as a public servant, applying her varied educational background to the local level within the City Manager’s office of Sierra Madre. Working within local government, she has seen and played an active role in the creation of tangible and meaningful changes through public service and policy, particularly supporting vulnerable people and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before, during, and following the Coro fellowship, Sophia’s aims are to create meaningful connections and find creative and dependable solutions to improve the lives of others.

Haley Martinez 
Scripps College
B.A. Politics
A native of Sacramento, California, Haley Gronert Martinez recently graduated Cum Laude from Scripps College with a degree in Politics and received Cum Laude honors for her thesis. Haley was actively engaged in her college community at Scripps College, serving as a student representative on the Scripps College Strategic Planning Committee and as a residential life Community Coordinator. While at Scripps, Haley interned for Claremont Mayor Jed Leano, where she focused on affordable housing, working closely with the San Gabriel Valley Housing Trust. Haley ultimately served as campaign manager for the Mayor’s reelection campaign. She also worked for Winning Margins, a political consulting firm committed to elevating the lived experience of underrepresented community leaders, community organizers, and candidates. Her political experience also includes work at the state and federal level, where she interned for State Senator Bob Hertzberg, the California Association of School Business Officials, and was a Voter Contact Fellow for a congressional campaign in Alaska. Haley is interested in working on the most pressing issues for the next generation of Californians, including equitable housing and transportation opportunities for all, environmental justice, and gender equity.

Nathan Shapiro
Case Western Reserve University
B.A. Sociology and Religious Studies
At Case Western Reserve University, Nathan developed a passion for public service and building inclusive communities. He graduated cum laude where he studied Sociology, Religious Studies, and Constitutional Law. Nathan applied his coursework while on the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning’s Executive Council by creating and leading service events and social justice-focused educational programs for fellow CWRU students. In the summer of 2020, Nathan applied for and was selected to the “For A Better CWRU” Task Force’s Racial Justice and Sexual Misconduct Committees. He engaged in cross-disciplinary collaboration by writing policy proposals, which were presented to the University’s Board of Trustees. His experience on the committees inspired him to run for President of his fraternity on a social justice platform. After being elected, Nathan created and organized initiatives such as the “Delt Giving Circle,” the “What Is A Man?” program, and “A Conversation About Race in America based on the film American Skin.” One of his main realizations as a member of the Sexual Misconduct Committee was that the culture of toxic masculinity had to be addressed. Thus, he co-created and became the President of a new campus organization called “Masculinity Mondays CWRU”. The organization was open to all members of the campus community and held discussions in hopes of redefining what it means to be a man. Nathan’s collegiate experience has inspired him to seek a career in public service, and he’s beyond excited that Coro will be the first step on his journey.

Sam Solemnidad
University of California, Los Angeles
B.A. Political Science and Asian American Studies
Born and raised in Richmond, California in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sam moved down to Los Angeles to gain a degree in Political Science and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, Sam developed a passion for community empowerment through politics and civic engagement throughout her undergraduate years. In conjunction with her studies at UCLA, Sam was not only an active student leader through her positions in student government and her role as one of only four Undergraduate Representatives on the Student Fees Advisory Committee, but she also participated in a multitude of internships, fellowships, and leadership roles that truly expanded her knowledge and skills in political empowerment and community engagement. From her work in the nonprofit sector focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander civic engagement to internships in Los Angeles city government, the United States Senate, and the White House Initiative on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders, Sam has worked tirelessly to gain relevant experience and knowledge that can further her goal of advocating for the  rights and needs of historically underserved and marginalized communities like her own. Most recently, Sam completed an internship with the California State Assembly. As a Coro Fellow, Sam hopes to broaden her horizons further and learn about all the avenues of change that exist in the field of public affairs so that she can help bring positive change for all communities, in Los Angeles and beyond.

Nicolas Zevallos
Yale University
B.A. Global Affairs and Economics
Nicolas Zevallos is a first-generation Mexican- and Peruvian-American from Los Angeles who is passionate about advancing economic opportunity for all. Most recently, he worked at the Bridgespan Group as a strategy consultant, where he focused on increasing capital to BIPOC investment funds, developing strategies for nonprofit organizations, and improving impact measurement for foundations. Prior to that, he was selected as a Princeton in Latin America fellow, working in Bogotá, Colombia as an Impact Associate for Global Partnerships, a $100M+ impact investing fund that works to expand opportunity for people living in poverty. Nick graduated from Yale with distinction in May 2019 with degrees in Global Affairs and Economics. On campus, he served as Student Life Policy Director of the Yale College Council and Chair of the New Ideas Fund–a student government initiative he co-created to allocate money towards innovative student projects that emphasize community building. Nick is excited to join the Coro Fellows cohort to explore how different sectors and institutions can collaborate together to advance change.