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Our People

Meet the team members from our staff and board who contribute leadership and guidance to Long Beach Forward. Our dedicated team of organizers, strategists, and builders reflect the same identities, cultures, and lived experiences as the communities we organize with. 

Staff

Antonio Hernandez

Community Organizer

Ariel Halstead

Administration and Operations Director

Cindy Guardado

Parent Organizer

Diana C. Martinez

Communications Manager

James Suazo

Executive Director

Khalil Zeigler

Development Manager

Kimberly Lim

Community Organizer

Leakhena Ou

Parent Organizer

Marlene Montañez

Associate Director

Nubia Flores

Associate Director

Peter Madsen

Operations Coordinator

Rachel Nolin

Accounting Coordinator

Cesar Armendariz

Chair

Kathleah Pagdilao

Vice-Chair

May Lin

Secretary

Devante Lindsey

Treasurer

Andrew Hausermann

Board Member

Katie Balderas

Board Member

Lilia Ocampo

Board Member

Max Norris

Board Member

Kimberly Lim

Community Organizer

Kimberly Lim (She/Her/Hers) grew up the majority of her life in central Long Beach’s Cambodia Town neighborhood. She attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School where she was involved in many extracurricular activities, one being a youth organizer at Khmer Girls in Action (KGA). Through her involvement at KGA, she was able to take part in a multitude of campaigns advocating for racial, social, gender, and economic justice in her community. A few campaigns to highlight would be the Every Student Matters Campaign, which she helped advocate for the implementation of Restorative Justice Practices, in place of the harsh disciplinary policies that contribute to the school to prison pipeline ideology. In addition, Kimberly also helped with securing wellness centers on school campuses and has been involved in the Invest in Youth Coalition .

Kimberly  received her Bachelor’s degree from California State University of Long Beach, where she majored in Sociology with a concentration in Interaction and Group Relations. Throughout her college years she has worked as a canvasser during campaign seasons, partaking in integrated voter engagement work. She was also a member of a Co-Ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, which allowed her to perform community service at a local, state, and national level. She is currently a Youth Advisory Council Member for the City of Long Beach, representing Council District 1. 

Her passion for service and love for her community continues to grow as she now holds the position of Community Organizer at Long Beach Forward. She hopes to continue connecting and mobilizing her community to thrive and be healthy regardless of systemic barriers.

Nubia Flores

Associate Director

Nubia Flores (she/her/hers) is Associate Director at Long Beach Forward, where she helps guide community and coalition work, while also supporting community leaders and partners within the Best Start Central Long Beach (BSCLB) network to create the best possible community for young children and their families to thrive.

Her leadership braids parent organizing, public school advocacy, and work with school communities. Inspired by her son who is a student in special education programs, her focus of work has been centered in our Long Beach public schools, advocating that they do indeed serve ALL kids while also engaging ALL parents, teachers, and community members as partners to ensure our kids have a path to success in the classroom and beyond. An experienced parent organizer, parent advocate, and educational leader, she has a proven track-record of creating equitable change in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD).​

Nubia carries over a decade of experience in communications and has been a part of Long Beach Forward since 2020, where she’s served as a Lead Parent Organizer, then a Communication Strategist, and now our second Associate Director. She carries 11 years of experience in parent advocacy and community organizing in our schools. She has worked with parents and LBUSD leadership on initiatives like the Inclusion Resolution that set our standards for our schools on including and representing students with disabilities. She’s partnered with community advocates to write the Disability History Resolution, and has been part of the team that helped write LBUSD’s district-wide Equity Policy. Nubia has worked alongside parents in PTAs, school site councils, and at the district level in the Community Advisory Committee where parents advise on policy in special education.

Nubia believes in the promise public schools make – to provide all kids a quality public school education, regardless of their zip code – because she has seen the impact such an education had in her own life. She attended public schools throughout her childhood and earned a BA degree from UC Santa Barbara where she majored in Political Science and Film. She enjoys spending her time reading, running/walking in her neighborhood of North Long Beach, gardening, cooking with her son, and watching movies… a lot of movies.

Ariel Halstead

Administration and Operations Director

Ariel Halstead (she/her/hers) serves as Administration and Operations Director for Long Beach Forward, where she leads People and Culture work, and provides administrative and logistical support in order to ensure effective and efficient operations within the organization’s multiple initiatives and campaigns.

She identifies as a strong Latina woman who is passionate for social change for a healthier and equal opportunity for all residents. She brings with her years of working with low-income families and communities of color with different non-profit organizations within Los Angeles County area. Ariel obtained a Masters in Public Health and Graduate Certificate in Latino Health and Nutrition Studies from California State University, Long Beach.

Cindy Guardado

Community Organizer & Parent Organizer

Cindy Guardado (she/her/ella) is currently a Community Organizer and Parent Organizer. She is a proud first generation Latina of Central American immigrant parents. Currently, Cindy is a student at California State University, Long Beach majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Before becoming a student at California State University, Long Beach, Cindy was a student and Corps member for the Conservation Corps of Long Beach. During her time at the Conservation Corps of Long Beach, Cindy was an intern for the Long Beach City Hall and Long Beach Environmental Service Bureau office. After graduating from the Conservation Corps of Long Beach in 2015, Cindy started attending Long Beach City College and obtained her Associate of Arts Degree in Psychology and Sociology in 2019. During her time at Long Beach City College, Cindy was part of both the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and worked as a student assistant receptionist for both the Human Resources and CalWORKs offices.

Cindy has been an active parent volunteer for the Long Beach Area Council, Scouts BSA since 2015. She has taken many roles as parent volunteer, but the one she most enjoys is the annual Thanksgiving Drive her son Juan puts together to be able to provide a warm meal to the less fortunate in Skid Row and being able to provide school supplies for children in need. Cindy has also been a volunteer for Long Beach BLAST since the Fall of 2017. As a first generation Latina, Cindy is passionate about helping her community and those around her. When the pandemic first began, Cindy made an effort to help her community by translating documents, helping community members fill out applications and forms, and making appointments for community members to get tested for COVID-19, and purchased masks for those that needed them the most. During her free time, Cindy enjoys hiking, cooking, baking, and spending uninterrupted quality time with her son Juan.

Diana C. Martinez

Communications Manager

Diana Carolina Martinez (she/her/hers) is the Communications Manager where she supports narrative change and values-based messaging, assists with culture of philanthropy communications, and also manages communications for multiple campaigns, initiatives and collaboratives such as the People’s Budget Long Beach, Anti-Surveillance Coalition, Healthy Long Beach, and more.

Diana is a first-generation Latina with a love for storytelling, photography and traveling. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach as a major in Journalism and Public Relations with a minor in American Studies.

James

Selected Media

Long Beach Post: Organizing Communities During a Pandemic Live Chat

KLBP – Let’s Cope: A Moral Statement of Priorities: The People’s Budget

Palacio Podcast: James Suazo Credits His Family for Mission as a Community Organizer

James Suazo

Executive Director

James Suazo (he/him/his) serves as Executive Director where he collaborates with the organization’s Leadership Team and Board of Directors to guide community-centric fundraising, organizational administration, staff development, and strategic planning. James is an avid reader, writer, artist, organizer, and abolitionist who identifies as queer, Latinx, and Indigenous (Jicarilla Apache).

James’ passion for social change began growing up in Santa Ana, California where he started organizing bus riders throughout Orange County in 2008. Since then, he has worked for elected officials in local government; managed electoral campaigns; and organized with students, community-based groups, and labor unions throughout Orange County, Los Angeles County, and Long Beach. James has also learned from, trained, and mentored organizers locally and nationally as part of his commitment to building a better world.

James first joined Long Beach Forward as the Hub Coordinator for Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach in 2014 and played a key role in helping sustain and grow multiple collaboratives, develop the undergraduate internship program, and build up the strategic communications arm of the organization. As the organization grew, James stepped into the Associate Director role for three years to oversee the organization’s multiple initiatives, campaigns, and collaborative efforts, including the organization’s rebranding efforts from the Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach Hub Organization to Long Beach Forward. James was selected by the Advisory Board to serve as Executive Director beginning January 2021.

Living in Long Beach since 2011, James also organizes locally with the Long Beach chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and Long Beach Queers for Palestine. James approaches organizing as liberation work and enjoys teaching and sharing organizing strategies as a way to build movements and move hearts and minds. James graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Education with an emphasis in Language and Linguistics and a minor in Comparative World Literature. He currently serves as a voting member of the Organizing Rooted in Abolition Liberation and Empowerment (ORALE) Advisory Board and the Long Beach MemorialCare Community Benefit Oversight Committee (CBOC).

Khalil Zeigler

Development Manager

Khalil Zeigler (He/Him/His) serves as Development Manager, nurturing relationships with individual donors, being a leader in the fundraising efforts, and being a steward of Long Beach Forward’s Culture of Philanthropy.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Khalil graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in English Writing. For the past few years, he has spent his time working as an advocate for the arts and independent filmmakers of color. During this time, he curated, produce, and marketed over 150 free and educational arts programs, including a virtual Pan-African film festival in 2020.

He is a new resident of Long Beach, spending his time balancing work, life, and pursuing his MBA at Chapman University. During his free time, he enjoys reading poetry and fantasy fiction, running, video games, and anime.

Leakhena Ou

Community Organizer
Leakhena Ou (she/her/hers) was born in Cambodia, she moved to Long Beach in 2017. Now she serves as Community Organizer for Long Beach Forward in support of Best Start Central Long Beach.

Marlene Montañez

Associate Director

Marlene Montanez has 16 years of experience in grassroots organizing, civic engagement, and leadership development in immigrant rights, workers justice, land use, and youth ministry. As a community organizer she has a background in popular education, coalition building, and political strategy.

Marlene has been on the forefront of creating systemic change by growing labor and community partnerships. Her role in organizing several successful policy campaigns led to the passage of groundbreaking policies that include a living wage for Long Beach workers, the passing of Measure WW, and the Long Beach Justice Fund. She prides herself in nurturing a number of interns and fellows that are now organizers throughout the county and state.

Marlene migrated with her family from Zacatecas, Mexico at the age of three and was raised in south central Los Angeles and Fillmore, California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Women Gender Sexual Studies and Political Science from California State University, Long Beach. During her time at CSULB she was co-chair of FUEL, and contributed to the passage of the California DREAM Act. She participated in the first cohort of Dream Summer and interned with the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition in 2011, and the CLEAN Carwash Campaign in 2012. In her free time, she loves gardening and reading.

Melissa Morgan

Communications Director

Melissa Morgan (she/her/hers) serves as Director of Communications for Long Beach Forward. Since moving to Long Beach in 2001, she has focused her professional and personal work in areas related to diversity and inclusion, civil rights, racial justice, economic equity, education, and youth-serving initiatives, primarily in communities across Southern California.

Melissa is unapologetically Black and believes that race and income should not determine one’s future in Long Beach. Her passion for social justice and equity come from her roots as a biracial person growing up in the South, where she engaged people in community service and leadership development to build relationships and empathy for others’ experiences.

Melissa graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, she served as a Rotary Cultural Ambassadorial Scholar of Good Will in Merida, Venezuela, before making California her home. She has worked at the Anti-Defamation League, Orange County Human Relations Council, the Heart of America Foundation, the City of Long Beach Human Dignity Program, and the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion. She currently co-leads B-Well, a Black-centered mental health and education volunteer collaborative.

Melissa is a graphic designer, a creative, a youth advocate, a learning ally, and the mom of two awesome daughters. Melissa enjoys thinking out of the box, creating art, facilitating dialogue, public speaking, laughing, connecting people, giving voice to the unheard, and amplifying important messages.

Peter Madsen

Operations Coordinator
Peter Madsen (he/him/his) is proud son, uncle, nephew, and cousin. He received his B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and a Certificate of Achievement in Commercial Music. Before joining Long Beach Forward, he organized senior renters living in Section 8 developments in Long Beach, and served as a team trainer in the service industry. Peter provides administrative and operational support to the team at Long Beach Forward to ensure our programs, campaigns, and community partners are well equipped for success.

Rachel Nolin

Accounting Coordinator

Rachel Nolin (she/her/hers) recently joined Long Beach forward as the Accounting Coordinator. She works with the team in an administrative capacity to oversee their financial reporting needs as they look towards growth in the future, and helps contribute to the organization’s multiple initiatives and campaigns in a supportive role. She’s also serving as the Accounting Coordinator for The Nonprofit Partnership, an affiliated organization that Long Beach Forward partners within a variety of areas including the annual Long Beach Gives Fundraising efforts and the Best Start Program. She was raised in Los Angeles before moving to Las Vegas, where she received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Accounting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and her CPA license in the state of Nevada. She returned to Southern California in 2018 and settled in Long Beach to be close to family.

She has spent the last decade working within different corporate accounting and auditing roles within Las Vegas and Southern California, most recently working as an auditor at a CPA firm in Long Beach focused on not-for-profit audits. During her free-time she enjoys reading, yoga, and doing anything by the water, as well as spending time with her family and pets. She is a life-long feminist and egalitarian who’s invested in living in a diverse community, and is excited to support Long Beach Forward however she can in their mission to help create a more equitable and inclusive Long beach.

Board Member Name

Board Member

Bio

Andrew Hausermann

Board Member

Andrew Hausermann (he/him/his) has worked as a volunteer and professional community and labor organizer for the past 15 years. He currently works as an organizer and representative with UFCW Local 324, organizing workers in the growing cannabis industry in Long Beach and beyond. Prior to working at Local 324, he has led organizing and electoral campaigns from non-profit organizations in Orange County, CA and New York City that have resulted in policy and electoral changes around issues ranging from living wage standards, funding for education, criminal justice reform, equity in recovery from natural disasters, and protections for immigrant and refugee communities. Andrew lives in the 8th District in Long Beach and is proud to support the amazing work that Long Beach Forward is advancing in our city.

Cesar Armendariz

Chair, Board of Directors

Cesar Armendariz (he/him/his) was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and came to the United States at age 10 with his parents and siblings in 2000. Cesar went to public schools in Buena Park and Santa Fe Springs where he credits his parents and teachers for his academic success and is particularly grateful for the support he received from his English Language Development teachers. After graduating high school, Cesar continued his education at Biola University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a Master’s degree in Education. Cesar began his teaching career in 2010 at Downey High School where he continues to teach, advise a number of student-led clubs, and serve on the Downey Unified School District Human Relations Council to oversee the implementation of a district-wide equity plan. After marrying his college sweetheart in 2015, Cesar and his wife moved to Long Beach to begin a new life together. Their favorite activities include taking their kids to the Long Beach parks, libraries, beaches, and restaurants. Cesar’s journey into community organizing began in 2016 when he participated in BHCLB’s People’s Planning School at MLK Park, which gave Cesar organizing tools and knowledge of Long Beach neighborhoods, city politics, community organizations, and grassroots organizers. Cesar used this knowledge to lead a community group known as Brand New Congress, which eventually became Our Revolution Long Beach. As the founding chair of Our Revolution Long Beach, Cesar helped organize and host dozens of community events, legislature visits, and advocacy trainings from 2016 to 2020. As a member of the Board of Directors, Cesar will continue to invest in the community by supporting LBF’s vision of making Long Beach a place where everyone is safe, connected, and healthy. His passion for the education and well-being of children will be at the forefront of his commitment to our community’s health.

Devante Lindsey

Treasurer, Board of Directors

Devante Lindsey (he/him/his) was raised in North Long Beach and now resides in Central Long Beach. Devante earned his bachelor’s degree in Health Science and certification as a Certified Health Education Specialist at CSULB and his graduate degree in Nursing with a focus as a Clinical Nurse Leader at the University of San Francisco. Devante is now a Registered Nurse at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. Throughout his six years in school, Devante worked and volunteered with many organizations including Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach as a Health Career Connection intern. Devante also volunteered and later worked at the Lestonnac Free Clinic in Orange County and traveled to South Africa with One Heart Source for two weeks to provide community care and school education. Devante sees the Long Beach community as his family and home, and hopes all residents can have the opportunity to feel the same. Devante strongly believes in empowering our community and is honored to be a part of Long Beach Forward as a member of the Board.

Katie Balderas

Board Member

Katie Balderas (she/her/hers) is a Long Beach resident of 20+ years, a passionate public health professional, and currently serves as Director of Population Health Management for CalOptima Health, a managed care plan for low-income residents in Orange County. She previously served as the inaugural Equity Officer for the City of Long Beach, establishing the first municipal Office of Equity in Southern California focused on advancing racial equity and reducing health and social disparities. Katie has also worked for the LA County Department of Public Health on tobacco prevention policies, maternal and child health, and housing policy as a social determinant of health. She graduated from Long Beach State with her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in public health. When she’s not working to advance health equity, Katie is spending time with her husband and managing the chaos of her two adorable boys.

Kathleah Pagdilao

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors

Kathleah Consul Pagdilao (she/her/siya) is a queer, Pilipina educator, facilitator, and writer who believes in the power of building connections across differences to transform communities. Since 2016, she has worked in social justice youth development at California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), a nonprofit committed to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism. She now serves as CCEJ’s inaugural Director of Learning and Leadership, overseeing organizational learning and leadership development and training adults in topics such as Racial Justice and Gender Justice. Trained as a teacher, Kathleah’s interests and experiences span many fields from conducting research at a progressive K-8 school and co-authoring articles including “Transnational Children Orchestrating Competing Voices in Multimodal, Digital Autobiographies” (Teachers College Record) to coordinating an oral history project in rural Colorado. After growing up in six different cities around the world, Kathleah is grateful to call Long Beach home and to learn and work alongside community-centered leaders, including her fellow classmates of both the Leadership Long Beach Institute and The Nonprofit Partnership’s Emerging Leaders Program. She is also a three-time graduate of Cal State Long Beach, having earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and M.A. in Education with the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education Program. A proud daughter to immigrants, Kathleah is wholeheartedly invested in community and brings a collaborative spirit to her work. She attributes her deep love of learning to her parents who taught her the value of education. A loyal and introverted Aquarius, Kathleah is a compassionate leader who enjoys connecting over shared stories, experiences, and laughter. In her spare time, Kathleah seeks new foodie and outdoor adventures, enjoys musicals and soccer matches, and spends time with her family including her husband and their pup Charli Rey.

Lilia Ocampo

Board Member

Lilia Ocampo (she/her/hers) was born in Cacaluta Guerrero, Mexico. Lilia graduated at age 17 and paid for her schooling by teaching kindergarten. She studied social work in Acapulco Guerrero Mexico. Lilia migrated to the United States in 1988 with her one year old daughter, following her husband who had migrated six months earlier. She has lived in Long Beach for the past 35 years and raised her seven children. Lilia’s initial community work after migration was supporting parents’ access to public services. She has been an advocate for asthmatic children and language access, parent advocacy in Long Beach Unified School District, different parent committee and parent teacher associations. Lilia volunteers in her children’s classes, and was able to get a high school diploma and Microsoft Certificate.  Once she learned more English, and began to support the community with interpretation and childrens reading comprehension. Lilia has been an active leader with BHCLB and Long Beach Forward since the early beginnings of the organization and has participated in multiple leadership programs, campaigns, committees, and projects. 

Max Norris

Board Member

Max Norris (he/him/his) was born and raised in California, spending his first ten years in West LA followed by time in Walnut Creek. Being of mixed ethnic, class and religious backgrounds, Max never really fit into either his families’ respective traditions nor the communities. On his wedding day his father spoke of a distinct sense of injustice that developed in Max early. Max was introduced to Howard Zinn books by a high school history teacher, leading Max to question everything around him. This curiosity and distrust of authority led to a Political Science degree at the University of Oregon, mostly out of a personal need to unlearn all of the history he had voraciously devoured early in life despite it being utter white supremacist nonsense. After engaging cynically with the corporate world after graduation, Max returned to school earning a law degree, from what is now known as University of California, San Francisco College of the Law. Max was focused on establishing himself in a career advocating for workers rights, and was able to get hired by the California Labor Commissioner, then the Honorable Julie Su, to serve in her Legal Department right out of law school in 2012, where he works to this day. The job with the Labor Commissioner brought Max to Long Beach, which quickly became his new home. Max met Amanda in Long Beach in the summer of 2013 and they married at Recreation Park in Long Beach on April Fools Day 2017. As Max acclimated to Long Beach he began getting more and more involved in local organizing. Max is passionate about building a better world and believes that that starts where you are with the people around you. Since 2018, Max has been an adviser to Long Beach Residents Empowered (“LiBRE”) a Long Beach housing justice project and is proud of his work supporting and growing its staff. Long Beach Forward has always been at the center of Max’s organizing world in Long Beach, and he was honored to accept a position on the Long Beach Forward Board of Directors in 2022.

May Lin

Secretary, Board of Directors

May Lin (she/her/hers) is a community-rooted researcher and educator who supports transformative change led by communities of color. She has been a part of the Long Beach organizing ecosystem since 2014, when she began working with the youth-led organization Californians for Justice (CFJ). As a CFJ research fellow, May supported on the ground youth organizing and conducted collaborative research uplifting their campaigns. Currently, May is an Assistant Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Cal State Long Beach, where she teaches classes on Comparative Ethnic Studies, contemporary Asian American issues, Asian American gender and sexuality, and an internship program where students work with local Asian American & Pacific Islander community-based organizations. May is also a board member of Khmer Girls in Action and an active member of the Long Beach People’s Budget Coalition. A proponent of research justice as one prong of movement building, May continues to conduct collaborative research with organizations including YO! Cali and Center for Empowered Politics. Previously, she was a graduate researcher with USC’s Equity Research Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at the Social Movement Support Lab in University of Denver’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality. There, she helped develop defunddata.org as part of efforts to support organizations pushing localities to divest from criminalization and invest in human thriving. She draws from a longer background in youth development, grassroots media, graduate student unionizing, and grassroots organizing resisting gentrification in New York City and Los Angeles.

Antonio Hernandez

Land Use Community Organizer

Antonio Hernandez (he/him/his) was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles (to Mexican-immigrant parents). He moved to Long Beach to attend California State University, Long Beach and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chicano and Latino Studies in 2020. His passion to serve communities of color stems from witnessing the aspirations and talents around him growing up, yet not enough resources to support them. Antonio is a former mentor, and alum, with USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative, guiding high school students to pursue higher education as first-generation college students. Antonio currently serves with Greater Long Beach Mutual Aid to provide families food security in response to the pandemic.

Antonio studied abroad at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain, where he built upon his passion for distinct cultures and foods. He believes that food is a gateway into cultures and builds community.

¡Adelante!