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Welcome New Staff!

Dear Friends,

This summer has been a season of transition for us here at Just Communities and while we say goodbye to old friends we welcome three new members to our team. I am very glad to introduce Andrea Medina-Ramirez, Nayra Pacheco, and Samuel Duarte who have all come on board this summer. I also want to announce that Aliz Ruvalcaba-Ventura is back from maternity leave and in a new role! You can learn more about their new positions below.

Please join me in welcoming Aliz, Andrea, Nayra, and Sam to the Just Communities family!

Jarrod Schwartz

Executive Director

Andrea Medina-Ramírez

Andrea Medina.jpg

Program Coordinator

Andrea was born and raised in Yucatán, México, surrounded by the Maya culture. The values of dialogue, hard work, social justice, morals and courage where woven in her upbringing in the community. As a first generation college student, she pursued her Bachelor's degree in Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Santa Bárbara, as well as a minor in Anthropology after only 6 years of having moved to the U.S. As genetics researcher, officer and active member of various student associations and community organizations, Andrea became an avid educator, focused on creating better opportunities and providing support for more students of color to pursue a career in the STEM fields. She has created and implemented culturally relevant scientific curricula in California, taught and directed multi and intercultural education programs in schools and community centers throughout México for over twelve years and has worked with students, parents, teachers, school districts and the community at large in both homes, in both countries. Andrea pursued her Master's Degree at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mesoamerican Studies - graduating with the highest honors and winning a national and international award for her dissertation and its application to the rescue of traditional Mayan agricultural techniques and sustainability in México. After living and working with families and schools in several indigenous communities throughout Mesoamerica, she decided to focus her Ph.D. research on the scientific processes behind traditional medicine and healing. She is a strong advocate for education, science, peace, history, and social justice, and truly enjoys learning and participating in the exchange of knowledge everywhere she goes. Andrea is happily married and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Samuel Duarte


Language Justice Network Coordinator

Samuel Duarte was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to farmworker parents who migrated to the United States when he was 7. Samuel was inspired to social justice work by the non-violent resistance movements, including the farmworker movement.

His experiences include serving as a school community liaison in rural communities, educating and guiding children of migrant workers toward higher education, interpreting and advocating for social justice

and change.

More recently, he served as the Project Coordinator for the THRIVE Guadalupe Collective Impact Project, where he helped bridge the gap between the education system and parents in order to create an engaged partnership for the benefit of future generations. As an extension of this work, writing poetry is an important practice in his life. His work has been part of various anthologies and venues, and is the founder of the 100,000 Poets for Change in Santa Maria, which unites artists worldwide to promote peace and sustainability.

Samuel became involved with the Language Justice Network with the belief that language access is critical to building collaboration, engagement and in fostering cultural understanding and equity. He holds a BA in Sociology and lives in Santa Maria with his wife Jessica, and two boys, Kael and Kaleb.

Nayra Pacheco


Program Coordinator

Nayra was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico until the age of 6 when she moved to Santa Barbara to live with her father. She attended Harding Elementary, La Cumbre Jr. High, and San Marcos High School- then went on to study History of Public Policy with an emphasis on Environmental Studies for her Bachelor's Degree at UC Santa Barbara.

Growing up in the Westside of Santa Barbara, she has experienced the hardships that many families, workers, and students in this city still face today.Much of her work in the community has been focused on organizing and advocacy around issues of social justice including: immigrant rights, defending civil liberties, creating accessible pathways towards higher education for all students, and fighting the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.

As an undocumented youth in high school and college, she learned the strength that can be created when communities are organized and unified for a larger cause.She was eager to become part of groups like UCSB IDEAS that fostered youth-led advocacy and mentorship. Understanding that the immigrant rights movement spans across into many issues such as discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, and economic status, she began learning the importance of teaching intersectionality as a way to organize within all social justice movements. In the summer of 2012, she was selected to be part of the first cohort of students to participate in the Dream Summer National Internship, hosted by the UCLA Labor Center to build bridges between the labor and immigrant rights movement. It was in Los Angeles where she began working with high school youth in areas of Gardena, Compton, and Inglewood to address the barriers to higher education that existed within their community. Since then, Nayra has continued to be an active member of her community in Santa Barbara by using her own experience to connect with the families and students she works with now.

Alíz Ruvalcaba-Ventura


Project Specialist

Alíz was born and raised in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Science from I.T.E.S.O. (Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente) with an emphasis on TV Media and Photography from UPR (University of Puerto Rico). In 2006 she moved to Santa Barbara to pursue her career in Media and worked for Univision (Spanish TV Newscast) as a producer and reporter until 2010 when she focused on her photography business. After becoming a new mom at the end of 2010 and inspired by her own baby, she specialized in newborn photography.

After moving to Santa Barbara and working with the Hispanic community locally, she realized how effortless it was for her to have various employment opportunities and travel abroad due to her legal status. Her privilege was the key factor that forced her to utilize her abilities and strengths to try and help others that were not as lucky. Alíz will be working as our Project Specialist and handling all Just Communities internal translation, interpretation as well as serving as our Spanish media liaison.

Alíz is passionate about being a mom, her love to travel and photography remain a huge part of her life. When she travels she loves to capture beauty, traditions, people, and culture of the area with her camera. She loves art and helps coordinate the live performances for Viva el Arte Santa Barbara. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband Henry and their two children Leonardo Sebastian and Padme Valentina.