Here. They. Come. Calafia’s 23-24 Fellows!

yli is My Story

Calafia is yli’s statewide youth policy journal that amplifies the narratives of young people on topics and issue areas important to them and their communities. Each year, Calafia Fellows are selected from across yli’s offices to develop and produce a youth-led policy ‘zine. Along the way, they are mentored by experienced reporters and learn the steps to producing a variety of different kinds of content. Check work from previous years here.

This year’s Calafia Fellows are an exceptional bunch. Here are their stories.

Mia Bulnes, a 17-year-old from Honduras, has navigated the challenges of leaving her family to pursue an education in America. She hopes to be the first in her family to attend college. In chasing these opportunities, she not only works twice as hard but strives to be a good role model for her younger siblings. She has lived in several states, ranging from California, Missouri, and Florida. Mia actively participates in various support programs within the Latino community, endeavoring to make a difference!

Gabby Ochoa grew up in a small, beach town in Pacifica by the coast. Filled with the beauty of nature, Gabby found herself going on runs and walks with her family. A major formative force of her upbringing was her family – her parents, brother, and dog. Together they hiked and went on frequent nature walks at the coast. In her free time, Gabby enjoys painting and working out as she finds peace in both activities. Overall, the coastal outdoors bore a huge presence in her childhood, shaping Gabby in that she now hopes to attend college by the beach, to be near her beloved landscape.

Iris Lopez, a first-generation Mexican/Guatemalan American, grew up in the Bay Area harnessing the power of photography to amplify diverse voices in her community. Now a third-year college student, she is pursuing Media Studies and Art History. She hopes to further refine her unique visual narrative with the skills she learns at Calafia. As the eldest daughter, she carries the aspirations of making her family proud while deepening her connection with her cultural roots!

Maggie grew up in Glendora and is a junior at Glendora High. Throughout her formative years, she has been shaped by her pastimes playing field hockey and reading non-fiction, which developed her interest in philosophy, ethics, and religion and the ways they tangibly affect communities. Religion and spirituality are major interests of Maggie’s as she grew up in a markedly nonreligious household. As a teenager, she decided to go to youth groups and became interested in exploring spirituality. Her experiences developed what she wants to pursue in college as she wants to major in comparative religion and ultimately teach.

Creating runs deep for Alexis Zungia, who has over 10 years of training. She recently graduated from Fresno State with a degree in graphic design. Alexis has grown up in the Central Valley near and in Fresno. She enjoys graphic design primarily but also uses her art training to create fuller stories. She hopes to use her skills for advertising and product design in the future.

Jesse is currently a high school senior who grew up being home schooled in rural areas. Because of this, he grew up having a close connection to his family and nature. He has moved from Colorado, Vermont, and now is currently located in Three Rivers, CA. He has learned so much about life and the world around him through his life experiences.

Introducing the Senior Fellows…

In 2022-2023, we did something really special that revolutionized our program: we instituted a Senior Fellowship, inviting two youth fellows from our 2021-2022 fellowship, to come back to co-design and co-facilitate the entire program.

This year, Clarissa and Adamari will be serving in this role, and we are excited to announce that Katelyn and Nancy – our Senior Fellows from last year – will be returning for a third year with Calafia. They will be taking on a special, independent project, reporting on a topic of their choice and creating their own 9-month curriculum to produce and distribute the final project.

Born in San Bruno, California where she’s lived her whole life, Clarissa has developed into a passionate and driven individual. Identifying as half Mexican, a quarter White, and a quarter Chinese, her backgrounds have been transformative to who she is today. Growing up, she and her sister both felt like outsiders as they didn’t feel as if they could connect to the family on either side of their parents fully. But Clarissa eventually came to a place of realization, determining that she could embrace both cultures and connect with others that were multiracial and had undergone the same experiences. Now, she loves being able to carry her grandparents and ancestors stories from both cultures.

Adamari Cota is from the Eastern Coachella Valley. Throughout her high school years she was introduced to certain programs where she learned about many forms of expressions through art and writing.  Her narrative offers a sense of self-expression and a voice for her community. She participated in Calafia to learn more about journalism and how to incorporate it into her narratives.

Nancy’s pronouns are she/her, she’s 20 years old, and she has already graduated high school. She has been involved in many youth advocacy efforts, one of them being a leadership program. Something exciting that she got to experience and share with others is that, one second she was joining these programs now she’s leading them! This is a big step for her as she was once a shy person and sometimes it was hard to communicate, but she has grown out of her shell little by little, and she’s not shy any more. Her involvement helped her in many ways, such as gaining more confidence and being even more of a creative person. She loves crafting, painting, and storytelling.

Katelyn Chang is a second year senior fellow with Calafia excited about continuing her passion for journalism and activism in her community. Growing up in San Francisco, she recognized the diversity and liveliness that the city has to offer. Now a freshman in college, Katelyn hopes to expand upon her interest in storytelling and both amplifying and sharing others’ voices. She aims to apply her background and personal stories through journalism to empower and connect with others.