Jesse Ornelas

Jesse comes to yli with a ton of life experience. As a youth, Jesse was incarcerated and involved with the system until he was 18. As an adult, he was once again caught in the grips of incarceration. 

Jesse has several years of experience in grassroots organizing in Merced County. As a Brown Beret, Jesse focused his work on the Anti-Police Brutality component of the Chicano Movement, and migrant children caged in ICE concentration camps. Jesse is passionate about his community and this passion has led him to run for public office a couple of times. He has sat on the School Board of the Weaver Union School District as a trustee and is currently serving as a city councilmember for the City of Merced.  

Jesse is the Program Manager of the Merced office and also co-leads the Moving Forward program, where he participates in three different cohorts. He utilizes the El Joven Noble curriculum and also adds his own sabor, to make sure the young people’s involvement in the program is transformational. The program provides character development and cultural healing, and ensures that the most vulnerable youth in the Merced community are confident in who they are. Ultimately, they are prepared to speak truth to power and can create impactful change in Merced and beyond.