Persist 2020: Women's Political Engagement Conference

OCT. 23 | 5–9 P.M.
OCT. 24 | 9 A.M–2 P.M.

This conference strives to prepare women for engagement in the political realm.



The UC Riverside Women’s Resource Center and the Conference Committee welcome you to the fourth annual Persist: Women’s Political Engagement Conference at UCR. The 2020 agenda will bring you closer to visionary female leaders and their allies! We're hoping that a day spent surrounded by powerful messages from politically-active women will inspire you to persist with your goals of getting involved in the political realm. Whether you're interested in running for office, working for an elected official or non-profit, becoming a lobbyist, media professional, consultant or activist — this conference is designed to enlighten you and empower you to get engaged in the political arena. Come get the tools you need to create the change you want. #PersistUCR




DAY ONE: Friday, Oct. 23

  • Welcome - 5–6 p.m.

    An introduction to Persist 2020 from Denise Davis (Director of UCR’s Women’s Resource Center), Jacque Casillas (Vice Mayor of City of Corona), The Honorable Holly Mitchell (Senator 30th Senate District), Christine Victorino (Associate Chancellor), Elizabeth Romero (AVC of Government and Community Relations) and Supermajority.

  • Keynote Speakers - 6–7 p.m.
    • Opening Speaker: The Honorable Ling Ling Chang (Senator 29th Senate District)
    • Closing Speaker: Jess Morales Rocketto (Civic Engagement Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Founder, Supermajority)
  • Workshop: The Politics of Partying: Undocumented Artists Creating Nightlife Political Spaces Through Music and Art with Cumbiatón - 7–7:45 p.m.
    • Moderator: Isabela Perez (Graduate Student Association (GSA) Diversity and Academic Liasion (Dial) Representative, UCR)
    • Panelists: Sizzle Fantastic (Director and Resident DJ, Cumbiaton), Normz La Oaxaqueña (Co-Founder and Production Manager, Cumbiaton), Funky Caramelo (Marketing Lead and Resident DJ, Cumbiaton), Julio Salgado (Resident Illustrator, Cumbiaton), and Paolo Riveros (Resident Photgragher, Cumbiaton)
  • Music: Day One Persist 2020 After Party - 7:45–9:15 p.m.

    Turn up your speakers and groove with Cumbiaton, an intergenerational cultural movement which utilizes music and art as a vessel to heal and uplift oppressed hood communities.

    • Tune in via IG Live: @ucrpersist or @cumbiaton_la
    • Music by: Sizzle Fantastic (Director and Resident DJ, Cumbiaton) and Funky Caramelo (Marketing Lead and Resident DJ, Cumbiaton)

DAY TWO: Saturday, Oct. 24

Mentor Café is open to UCR students only. Please check your email for a message from WRC that includes instructions for connecting to the Mentor Café.
  • Nelowfar Ahmadi (she/her) (Field Organizer, Nevada Democratic Party)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Nelowfar Ahmadi

    Hello! I’m a First-generation Afghan American from Moreno Valley. I received my Bachelor of Arts in public policy from UCR and will begin my MPP here this fall. I spent my gap year working on the presidential primaries for Warren for President. I’m now working as a Field Organizer for the Nevada Democratic Party. I’m passionate about environmental justice and anything related to Central/South Asia. In my spare time, I love cooking, making art, and spending time with my family. 

  • Jewel Patterson (she/her) (Youth Organizer, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Jewel Patterson

    Jewel joined C.O.P.E. in 2016 where she designed and launched grassroots organizing and leadership development program for Black youth. As an Inland Empire native, her passion for community organizing was sparked as she witnessed the stark contrast in access to equitable programs and resources from city to city. So much so that she dedicated her college career to researching Black people’s experiences with and responses to inequity. During that time, she volunteered with Community Based Organizations to provide various resources, services and civic support to underserved communities. She graduated from the University of Redlands, Johnston Center for Integrative Studies with a Bachelor of Arts in black personhood: activism, arts & Africana studies. Currently, Jewel is attending California State University, San Bernardino to receive her master’s in counseling. As a Black, queer, feminist community organizer, her work continues to focus on serving traditionally marginalized communities in the Inland Empire by using therapy and artivism.

  • Aurea Bolaños Perea (she/her) (Southern California Fellow, Emerge CA)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Aurea Bolaños

    As the Southern California Fellow for Emerge CA, Aurea focuses her efforts in recruiting women to apply to ECA, create programs and training's to better support the program members, as well as work as a resource for women who are interested in running for office. Aurea has dedicated her career to advocating for the political empowerment of women – specifically Latinas. Her background is in local, statewide and nationwide grassroot organizing, activism, and academia. 

    At UC Merced, she held positions such as the Campus Organizing Director and Voter Registration Coordinator where she advocated for the importance of involving students’ voices within all university decisions. While studying at D.C., she worked for the National Organization for Women (NOW) and implemented the need of the feminist agenda to include immigrant rights. While finishing her Master’s in Political Science, she presented some of her original published work called “Latinas in Congress and the Racial-Gendered Context of their Bill Co-Sponsorship” where she was recognized for being one of the few papers that studies the political behavior and might of Latinas in Congress, as well as being one of the few scholars that understands the Latina identity within the realm of politics.  Aurea has worked with congressional members such as Juan Vargas (D-51), and Jim Costa (D-1) to support the needs of the Latinx community in Southern California and the Central Valley. 

    In addition to her academic and campaign work, she has consulted with national organizations, think-tanks, and universities in ways to improve the political engagement of young Latinxs and women. While Aurea has served in committees promoting gender equality in politics in Chico, Merced, and San Diego, she is most proud of opportunities that allow her to meet trailblazers one-on-one and empower women of color to find their political voice. Aurea currently lives in San Diego. She spends most of her time checking out new coffee shops with her 10-year old schnauzer, Daisy, and reading a good book. 

  • Lesly Figueroa (she/her) (Environmental Policy Advocate, Eastern Coachella Valley)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Lesly Figueroa

    Lesly, a longtime resident of the City of Coachella, works as an focusing on issues like affordable housing, water and wastewater infrastructure, air quality, active transportation, and land-use planning. She pursued a degree in Urban Studies and Planning at UC San Diego as a first-generation student where she was elected Student Body President. 

  • Dr. Samarah Blackmon (she/her) (Program Manager, UCR Financial Wellness Program)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Samarah Blackmon

    Samarah spent more than 10 years working for programs dedicated to providing college access, retention, and success for underrepresented students of color.  Specifically, Samarah’s work as an educator focuses on helping students explore how race, gender, and class intersect to shape the educational experiences, outcomes, and opportunities of students of color. It is in utilizing an intersectional frame that Samarah helps UCR students explore and understand the depth to which financial issues are related to their academic success, professional opportunities, and their mental health and wellness overall. 

    Additionally, she served as the associate director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA. While there, she taught several courses that focused on the retention and success of Black students at UCLA, including teaching "Sister-to-Sister" — a course centered on Black women's retention, for six-years.  

    Beyond Samarah’s professional experience, she deeply believes in empowering underrepresented students, and girls and women of color, through thoughtful, creative, and socially conscious programming that supports students in finding health, wellness, and personal success. Samarah completed her doctoral studies in the Urban Schooling Division of the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS). Her dissertation examined the college preparatory pathways of Black female high school students in a community-based organization. In addition to holding a Ph.D. in education, Dr. Blackmon holds a master’s in public policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Washington in Seattle.

  • Esméralda Vazquez (she/her) (Senior District Representative for Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes)
    Persist 2020 Speaker Esméralda Vazquez

    Esméralda Vazquez is a First-Gen Latina, born in Los Angeles, CA. Raised humbly by her parents, who although did not have material wealth, instilled Esméralda, and her five siblings, with humility, love, and empathy. In her early years, her family relocated to the Inland Empire. 

    Though confronted with a lack of resources, and numerous obstacles youth of color face growing up in the inner-city, Esméralda graduated and transferred from Crafton Hills College, before she transitioned to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where she received her Bachelor of Arts in public policy — thanks to the support of her family, mentors, and peers. As a student, she served in multiple leadership capacities, including Student Trustee on the San Bernardino Community College District Board of Trustees, and was honored as a Congressional Woman of the Year. She used her voice to advocate for students locally, statewide, and nationwide. She also played a foundational role in the creation of the first “Elect-Her Conference” in our area, meant to encourage young-women to run for office. 

    While at UCSD, Esméralda worked as a resource counselor to assist underrepresented and non-traditional students at the university. Her work transgressed to the greater San Diego area, where she mentored students at underserved middle schools, and high schools. Additionally, Esméralda also Co-Founded the “Women in Politics Association” at UCSD—driven to empower young women to get involved in policy making. She helped establish a communicative-pipeline between elected-women, and students. 

    Connecting with her strong roots and community in the Inland Empire, Esméralda was led to Co-Found an organization that successfully educated youth in the Inland Region on civic engagement, and policy, with the goal of stoking the innovative, compassionate, and knowledgeable youth civic leadership in our society. 

    Esméralda is now the Senior District Representative for Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes. She oversees multiple issue areas for the 47th district, such as Education, Public Safety, Social Justice, LGBTQ+ issues, & Women’s issues. Esméralda’s ethos lies with empowering and uplifting the community, especially the youth, through a civic engagement education. Her educational journey is not over, as she is constantly learning and connecting with others; she hopes to challenge us all to break cycles and break barriers within ourselves, and our communities. As she continues to stay engaged in her work, Esméralda’s hope is that the world beyond the region produces new change agents that lead, not with individualism and greed, but with heart and humility.

Break Out Sessions are open to all Persist attendees. Access links to each session are provided in the descriptions below.
  • Organizing for America’s Worker: Women in Labor Unions
    • Moderator: Ellen Reese (Professor of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies, UCR) 
    • Panelists: Ana Cabral (Union Organizer/Representative, UFCW 1167), Kathleen Brennan (President, Teamsters 1932), Cheylynda Barnard (Executive Board Member & Regional Vice President, SEIU 721), Maria Coronado (Special Representative, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters) 
    • Zoom Access Link: ucr.zoom.us/j/96885674511
    • Webinar ID: 968 8567 4511
  • Raising Future Voters

    Join UCR student organization R’Kids for a workshop on engaging young children in civic and political participation.

  • Civics 101 with Women in Public Service

    Join the Office of Congressman Mark Takano for a workshop that covers basic information about how federal, state, and local government work and ways to engage your community.

    • Presenters: Melanie Ling (Caseworker Manger, Office of Congressman Mark Takano) and Tiffany Alvarez (Field Representative, Office of Congressman Mark Takano)
    • Zoom Access Link: ucr.zoom.us/j/93843744248
    • Meeting ID: 938 4374 4248
  • Mi Familia Vota: Women of Color Leading Campaigns in the lnland Empire

    Join Riverside Coordinator of Mi Familia Vota, Janet Bernabe, for a dialogue on the importance of community involvement and pushing for social, economic, educational, and political equality.

    • Presenter: Janet Bernabe (Riverside Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota)
    • Zoom Access Link: ucr.zoom.us/j/96069096981
    • Meeting ID: 960 6909 6981
  • Running for Office 101 #THISISEMERGE

    This session will provide an overview of Emerge California that includes our work to recruit, train and support Democratic women who want to run for office.

DAY TWO: Saturday, Oct. 24, continued



Resource Fair is an opportunity to discover organizations that support and bring awareness to important causes. Browse each organization’s websites and bookmark your favorites.

  • Mi Familia Vota

    Janet Bernabe (she/her/hers)
    Mi Familia Vota’s mission is to build Latino political power by expanding the electorate, strengthening local infrastructures, and through year-round voter engagement. We are also training the next generation of leaders by opening opportunities through our Youth Development Programs and through our Mi Familia Vota work. We are strategically located in states with some of the highest Latino population counts but have worked to identify and serve communities where Latino participation in the electoral process is lacking. We advocate year-round on critically important issues that affect our community in the fields of immigration, voting rights, the environment, workers’ rights, education, and health care.

  • Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center

    Yovana Valerio (she/they)
    The Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center is committed to providing culturally responsive support and services to survivors of sexual assault and their families and to providing community education to achieve awareness and the prevention of all forms of sexual violence.

  • Office of Assemblymember Jose Medina

    Carmen Cuevas (she/her/hers)

  • The University of California District of Columbia Program (UCDC) and The University of California Center Sacramento Program (UCCS)

    Jessica Quintana (she/her/hers)
    The University of California District of Columbia (UCDC) program allows students to continue their studies and gain valuable on-the-job experience while interning and living in Washington, D.C. The UCDC program is open to all majors and hosts extraordinary internship opportunities in every field.
    If you are interested in public policy in California, consider UCCS as your opportunity to combine coursework and professional experience while living, interning, and attending classes in Sacramento. The UCCS program is available year-round and is open to all majors!

  • NARAL Pro-Choice California

    Gina Moore (she/her) and Bex Whitehead (she/her)
    NARAL Pro-Choice California is the leading grassroots pro-choice advocacy organization in our state, and we believe that every woman should be able to make personal decisions about the full range of reproductive health options. NARAL Pro-Choice California works to protect every woman’s right to access the full range of reproductive health options, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice California is the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

  • Women’s March Inland Empire

    Irene Stewart (she/her) and Jenn Carson (she/her)
    We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, women of all faiths or non-Faiths, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

  • Emerge

    Melanie V. Ramil
    Emerge California trains Democratic self-identified women leaders to run for elected office — and WIN.



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Denise Davis (Director, UCR Women’s Resource Center)

Mark Dunn (Administrative Assistant, UCR Women’s Resource Center and LGBT Resource Center)

Monique Pierce (Program Coordinator, UCR Women’s Resource Center)

Katie Estrella (Program Coordinator, UCR Women’s Resource Center)

Special thanks to UCR HUB Events Staff and UCR Student Affairs Marketing and Communications.




To check out Instagram posts from previous year's conferences, visit #PersistUCR


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