MICOP Board of Directors
Attorney with GLASS LAW GROUP
Biography: Monica Fairwell is an attorney that represents injured workers against insurance companies. Monica is proud to serve as an advocate for workers. She enjoys her volunteer work with several organizations throughout Ventura County. Monica attended UC Santa Barbara for her undergraduate degree in Political Science. She then attended Pepperdine University School of Law. While in law school, Monica studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Monica also enjoys playing soccer and spending time with her two daughters.
Rafael Vasquez, PhD
Chief Behavioral Scientist, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Los Angeles, CA
Biography: Biography: Rafael Vásquez, Ph.D. in Education from Claremont Graduate University, is a second generation Zapotec from Guëzh Bac (Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca). For over a decade he has collaborated with various Indigenous immigrant non-profit organizations on issues of educational access, civic engagement, and cultural expression. His research addresses social factors that shape Latino and Indigenous Mexican students’ education and examines how educational institutions influence these student’s experiences, resulting in a co-authored book chapter titled Zapotec, Mixtec, and P’urhépecha Youth: Multilingualism and the Marginalization of Indigenous Immigrants in the United States. He has published many journal articles and has taught Indigenous, Chicana/o, and Ethnic Studies at the high school level and at various national and international universities such as the University of New Mexico and the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca. Rafael has been interviewed and quoted in various media outlets including La Opinión and the New York Times.
Melissa Mesinas, PhD
Rustin Fellow at Whittier College
Biography: Melissa Mesinas is a second-generation Zapotec from Santiago Zoochila, Oaxaca and part of the Oaxacan diaspora living in the United States. Melissa received her Ph.D. in Education from Stanford University. Her research focuses on the cultural nature of development and learning. She is interested in the social and cultural contexts of learning, especially the ones of Indigenous Latinx communities. Melissa has worked closely with Oaxacan children, adolescents, and parents in California for over 10 years. Her work appears in journals such as the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, and Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education. Melissa works closely with local Indigenous communities and districts on educational opportunities, the preservation of arts and culture, and intergenerational learning.
Teacher, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Oxnard School District (OSD)
Biography: Arturo Lopez is a 6th Grade Bilingual Teacher at Cesar Chavez K-8 in the Oxnard School District. He was raised in Goleta, California in a family of 7. His parents immigrated from Jalisco and Guerrero, Mexico. He is a graduate of the College of Ethnic Studies, Raza Studies Department, at San Francisco State University, with a Minor in English Literature. He received his teaching credential after completing the Bilingual Education for Social Transformation (BEST) program at SFSU. He has worked with a wide range of youths, in a variety of roles since 2006. His travels have taken all over, from Mexico and Central America to Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal. Culture, identity and resistance are at the forefront of his work in and out of the classroom.
Program Supervisor for the Ventura County Farmworker Resource Program
Biography: Israel Vasquez was born in Santa Maria Yucunicoco, Oaxaca, Mexico and Immigrated to California when he was three years old. Vasquez studied Agricultural biotechnology at Washington State University. After College, Israel began Working with the County of Ventura Agricultural Commissioner office's where he developed the first Mixteco pesticide fieldworker safety. Israel is also one of the founders of the Oaxaqueño youth Encuentro (OYE ) and the Tequio Youth Group. Israel currently works as a program supervisor for the Ventura County Farmworker Resource Program where he supports and serves Farmworkers and indigenous communities.
Teresa Figueroa Sanchez
Biography: Teresa Figueroa Sanchez is a third generation immigrant from the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, who arrived in Santa Maria, California, in the early 1980s. For a brief period, she picked strawberries in the family's sharecropping plot, but she soon decided to go to school. She attended Allan Hancock College until she transferred to UC Santa Barbara. In 1987, she obtained her bachelor's degree in sociology and anthropology, her master's degree in cultural anthropology in 1991, and her doctoral degree in 2002. As a professional anthropologist, she has taught courses on Mexican and Chicano farm labor, migration, and labor unions and cooperativism at her alma mater. As a public intellectual, she is interested in the political economy of advanced agrarian capitalism, Latinx immigration, and Mexican women and labor. Thus, she organizes her autonomous ethnographic research projects in California, and publishes her findings in academic journals. In her free time, she enjoys swimming during the summer and fall seasons when the water is not cold. She loves visiting her family and friends in her patria chica: La Mixteca.
Founder and Owner of Rooted in Nature Therapy,
Los Angeles, CA
Biography: Jenny Lopez is the founder and owner of Rooted in Nature Therapy. She is also a co-creator of the Nurture in Nature (NIN) project, in community with other mental health colleagues. She was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and migrated to Southern California as a 4-year-old. She was an undocumented youth until the age of 9. She received a degree in Psychology & Social Behavior with a minor in Urban & Regional Planning from UC Irvine. She later earned her Masters's degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California
Executive Director, Community Action of Ventura County
Biography: Susy Lopez-Garcia is a Ventura County native, having been born and raised in Oxnard to immigrant parents from Yatzachi El Bajo, Oaxaca. She attended Oxnard High School and then earned a BA in Liberal Studies and Spanish from California State University, Northridge. After graduating, she began working in the nonprofit sector. In 2014, Susy moved back to Oxnard and began working at Community Action of Ventura County (CAVC), conducting Cal-Fresh & Medi-Cal outreach while completing her Master of Public Policy & Administration from California Lutheran University. She now holds the position of Executive Director for CAVC, whose focus is to establish pathways out of poverty. Susy lives in Oxnard with her husband, son, daughter, and three dogs. In her free time, she enjoys reading, attending local events, and trying new food spots.
Affiliations listed for identification purpose only.