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                                                      SPEAKER BIOS
                                                         Youth Forum

   Derrick Ayson
has been devoted to increase Youth
  Engagement & Leadership Development in California
  and across the US. Graduate of YouthBuild San Joaquin,
  Derrick was the first student from his program to be
  elected to a National Youth Council. He later relocated
  to Boston, Massachusetts where he was hired on as the first
  YouthBuild Alumni VISTA to work at YBUSA's Headquarters.
  He currently is serving his 3rd year on the Young Leaders
  Council (YLC) as the current Vice President. Derrick has
  Emceed multiple YouthBuild USA conferences & facilitated
 workshops. Currently, Derrick is an employee of the YouthBuild Charter School of CA as the Counselor / Registrar of the Compton YouthBuild Site. His mission is to continue to be the voice of the young people. Derrick is known by his peers as creative, passionate, and a breathe of fresh air. Furthermore, he has a beautiful spirit & an amazing personality! "The dream is free but the effort is sold separately" - Derrick Ayson

  Irvin Barragan Ponce was born February 20th, 1991.
  Irvin Barragan is a YouthBuild graduate from the San
  Gabriel Irvin Irvin Barragan Valley Conservation Corps
  (S.G.V.C.C.) YouthBuild located in the city of El Monte.
  Irvin Barragan has been a member of the Corps since ' 09.
  Irvin is the first born generation in his family to attend and
  graduate high school. He is also a very proud parent of a
  beautiful little girl named Angelleen. His mother came to this
  country after her father was assassinated by the rival political
  party in his very own home. She sought refuge here in America with only 20$ to her name. Growing up was tough, his father was a chronic alcoholic living on the streets and his single mother struggled to make ends meet on welfare. As a child he strived to make his mother proud, to give her everything she gave him back twice fold. He did great in Elementary School getting straight A’s and even received a scholarship for having one of the highest test scores in the state.

As he started hitting his adolescence he became socially aware of his situation. He started caring less about his family and more about his personal image. He was desperate for attention. He started hanging out with individuals who had similar backgrounds as himself and picked up a few bad habits, this lead him to be transferred out of public high school. After being kicked out he stopped attending school and sought ways to provide income for his family. Since no one wanted to hire a high school drop out with no work experience he used innovative ideas to put food on the table. He sold anything he could get his hands on from drugs on the streets to flowers on the freeway. This lead him to getting tickets that he could not afford to pay and multiple visits to Juvenile Detention Centers.Besides all the gossip and shenanigans, one word stuck in his head: YouthBuild. It was a program that guaranteed you help getting your high school diploma, paid job training and helped place you into college. Upon Release he went to his local YouthBuild program in El Monte California and enrolled. During his time in YouthBuild he was elected onto the national Young Leaders Council. He earned his High School Diploma in June 2010 and also countless certifications in the construction field. Upon graduating he landed a great job in Minnesota where he moved to in 2011. He manufactured windows for Anderson Renewal Windows. After his first encounter with a snowstorm he quickly had second thoughts about his new ecosystem. Once he returned back to California he steadily worked his way up from a cashier to Manager of Shipping and Receiving at Sears Outlet in 2012. Volunteering led him to getting a marketing job for the program under the Community Liaison Title. He can honestly say He loves waking up every morning to go to work, He was given a career not just a job. He is now a member of the new Council called the California State Alumni Council in which they advocate and are the voice of YouthBuild Graduates in California. To this day his life continues to be a struggle but there’s a difference now. Back then he didn’t know how to approach life’s problems; he thought he had to go through life learning on his own. As his mentor would tell him, “We may not be rich financially, but we are rich in resources and family.”

   Tracy Zhao is a Michigan transplant to Southern California.
  She graduated from Pomona College in 2013, where she
  studied Asian American Studies and Psychology. As a
  student, she was involved with organizing dining hall workers
  on campus, Asian American student organizing and leadership
  development, and sexual assault and domestic violence
  advocacy. She works with API Equality-LA, a grassroots civil
  rights organization that works in the API community for LGBT
  equality, on the Steering Committee and as a co-chair for the
  Fundraising Committee. She is part of a volunteer coalition of
activists and community organizations that host Summer Activist Training (SAT), an annual 4-day training program in Los Angeles for young API activists and organizers to gain skills in community organizing and direct action campaigns. She is also a volunteer staff member for Tuesday Night Café in Little Tokyo, an Asian American community arts space.  She is currently working as a research associate at UCLA.



  Stephanie Nitahara, PSW Regional Director:
  Stephanie Nitahara is a graduate of the University of
  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a Bachelors of
  Science in Community Health –Planning and Administration,
  with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently the Pacific
  Southwest Regional Director for the Japanese American
  Citizens League (JACL). In 2007, she attended the JACL
  Youth Conference held at Santa Clara University and has
  since been involved with the JACL in multiple leadership
  roles. Stephanie served as the Midwest District Council
  Youth Representative on the National Youth/Student Council
  (NY/SC), as well as the Midwest District Governor on the JACL's
National Board. Now working in Little Tokyo, Stephanie is involved with multiple youth and advocacy leadership programs which include: staffing the JACL National Youth/Student Council, JACL Youth Leadership Summits, the Nikkei LGBTQ Initiative, and the API Incarcerated Community Support program. Stephanie is excited to continue empowering current and emerging leaders in the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

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