Rafael Vazquez works as an outreach coordinator for Santa Rosa Junior College’s Extended Opportunity Programs & Services department. This SRJC department serves economically disadvantaged students by providing counseling, funding, and other support services to help prepare them for success at SRJC. Rafael is also a part-time faculty member in the Humanities & Interdisciplinary Studies departments at SRJC.
Rafael donates of his own time and money volunteering with programs addressing the needs of troubled youth in our community. He serves as a mentor to several young men with the objective of connecting them
with positive alternatives. Rafael is the president of the board of directors at Humanidad Therapy & Educational Services. He previously was a board member of another non-profit since 2003, but began volunteering in 1997. Rafael worked with a program where he communicated with 286 inmates in prisons within the United States. The program provided books to inmates as funding allowed.
Rafael immigrated to Santa Rosa from Oaxaca Mexico at the age of 15 to live with his brothers while he attended Santa Rosa High School. In addition to earning his associate degree, Rafael has completed five SRJC certificate programs: Law Enforcement, Corrections, Children & the Justice System, Laws of
Arrest, and Juvenile Counselor. He earned his BA degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology from Sonoma State University. In 2010, Rafael earned his Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Sonoma State University.
Claudia Cendejas is one of three Co-Founders and past Interim Executive Director for Humanidad Therapy and Educational Services. Claudia has BS in Psychology and Spanish from Sonoma State University. She has a Master’s Degree, in Counseling Marriage Family Therapy from San Francisco State University.
Claudia has a passion in helping the Community and has served different roles within the agency and throughout the community. Claudia has worked with migrant students providing instructional tutorial services. She has worked as a Parent Educator and has provided developmental services to support children and their families. She also has a background in providing Counseling Services to individuals, couples, families and groups. Currently Claudia is working as a Social Service Worker for the County of Sonoma, working with pregnant or parenting teenagers.
Ms. Shiels proudly serves as the Superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD). SVUSD serves the city of Sonoma and the unincorporated Valley area between Glen Ellen and the Napa County border. She works alongside the proud and hardworking staff over 600 employees who educate and nurture nearly 4000 students across five elementary schools, two middle schools, and both a comprehensive and continuation high school. The school district is excited to be moving forward several key bond projects, including improvements to classrooms, greater technology, and pool and athletic fields. The first year of her tenure, new board members and staff met to update the district mission, vision and core beliefs. This work, once through the final vetting and after final board approval, will serve as the North Star for decisions in the district regarding student success. District work will begin to focus on using data to problem-solve together, having the best instruction in every classroom and strengthening the system to meet every student where they are.
Previously, Ms. Shiels served a statewide organization as the Director of Education for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), where she worked closely with districts. As a Sonoma County resident, she traveled the state to support and champion districts seeking to improve outcomes for those historically underserved. Post-fire, it was clear it was time to reinvest personal effort and attention to the local community she values so much. She feels privileged to be able to serve students and families of the Valley.
She has over 20 years of public education experience at the administrative and classroom level. She also had the opportunity to serve as the Superintendent of Santa Rosa City School (SRCS) District for four years. Her proudest career highlights include empowering district culture shift to restorative justice for the entire school community and intentionally creating inclusive community and organizational cultures.
As a Santa Rosa resident for nearly a decade, she has been a strong supporter and partner of a community working together. She believes that public-private partnerships across the county to ensure community health, economic vitality, and educational attainment at all organizational levels. She is a proud member of the Valley community and looks forward to working together on behalf of each and every student. The future of the Valley is in SVUSD classrooms right now.
Veronica Vences currently serves as Director of Development at La Luz Center heading an internal development team and overseeing community engagement programs.
Veronica was born and raised in Sonoma County where her parents settled to work in agriculture after emigrating from Mexico. Her family background has played a significant role in fostering her commitment to help individuals reach their full potential as well as to value the importance of collaborative and equitable economic community development. Veronica received BA degrees in both Economics and Urban Studies from San Diego State University. After graduating, she worked with the County of Sonoma’s Human Services Department. She subsequently received a master’s degree in applied Economics from San Jose State University. Her dedication is around serving the community and blending the use of data that guides effective evidence-based decision making, and, as a result, leads to fair economic development and healthier communities. She and her husband are both committed to serving through non-profit work and being active participants in the community. In their spare time they love to travel and volunteer.