Guiding this year’s 2022 Smart Justice Spark Grants funding cycle, which opened on November 21, 2022, are a team of directly impacted scholars, advocates, and justice reform champions, who will provide feedback on the cycle’s applications and grant-making process: 

  • Nohealani Casperson, Undergraduate Student, Cal State Fullerton
  • Fabian Garcia, Director of Government Relations, Homeboy Industries
  • Martin Leyva, Program Coordinator, Project Rebound CSUSM
  • Gail Yen, California Policy Director, Root & Rebound 

Together, they will leverage their combined decades of lived experience to help ensure that the solutions chosen to advance in the 2022 cycle will have a positive, scalable impact on justice impacted scholars.

Nohealani Casperson
Undergraduate Student, Cal State Fullerton

Nohealani CaspersonNohealani Casperson is a student at California State University, Fullerton, where she studies Human Services. Since her release in 2016, Nohealani has worked towards change and transformation, beginning with her time at Cypress College where she assisted with the development of Peer Mentoring, Recovery meetings, Sidewalk talks, resource fairs, and presentations–all the first of their kind at Cypress. 

Nohealani was also instrumental in establishing the launch of the LIFE program at Cypress College thanks to her work to help obtain the innovation grant from Shasta College. The following year, the team submitted their first proposal and established a panel for National Conference on Higher Education in Prisons (NCHEP) and the creation of the Formerly Incarcerated, Currently Incarcerated & System Impacted Student (FISI) caucus for community college students in California (2020). The FISI caucus  began in 2019 at the Leadership Institute for California Community Colleges Serving Formerly Incarcerated Students, a statewide partnership between the California Community Colleges Chancellors’ Office, the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and Underground Scholars at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Having been an Underground Scholars Ambassador for three years, Nohealani sits on the Rising Scholars Advisory Committee and is a member of the Smart Justice Think Tank.

Fabian Garcia
Director of Government Relations, Homeboy Industries

Fabian GarciaFabian Garcia is the Director of Government Relations at Homeboy Industries where he provides strategic guidance on policy and advocacy issues critical to the organization’s mission. Fabian manages the strategy for acquiring government grants and contracts and has secured grants from all levels of government, he also oversees the Voter Engagement and Civic Education efforts.

Prior to transitioning to Homeboy Industries, Fabian served as Senior Regional Program Coordinator for Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administrations.  As the Senior Regional Program Coordinator, Fabian played an instrumental role in the development of the City’s Gang Prevention, Gang Intervention, Re-entry, and Tattoo Removal Programs.  He also provided regional oversight of contracts between the City of Los Angeles and community-based service providers, which included providing technical assistance, training on model fidelity, advising on budget management, and developing community and law enforcement partnerships.

Fabian earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in Chicano Studies with a Minor in Philosophy and an emphasis on Ethics and Public Policy.  He has worked for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).  Fabian has dedicated himself to empowering communities and creating opportunities for closing the equity gaps.

Martin Leyva
Program Coordinator, Project Rebound

Martin LeyvaMartin Leyva is the Program Coordinator for Project Rebound at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). He is also a current student in the Joint Doctoral Program at the University of California, San Diego / CSUSM in Education. Martin holds a Master of Arts in Sociological Practice, a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts/Psychology from Antioch University, and is a CAADE Certified Drug and Alcohol Treatment Counselor.

Martin has a strong passion for social justice and human rights issues. His current research examines Cellblock Intellectualism or how knowledge happens in informal spaces in non-traditional academic ways. Martin has led training on Best Practices for Working with Formerly Incarcerated Individuals, Emotional Intelligence, and Spiritual Self Care. He is well known for his abilities with gang intervention/prevention and mediation skills, as well as for helping those with drug and alcohol issues. 

Gail Yen
California Policy Director, Root & Rebound 

Gail YenAs Root and Rebound’s California Policy Director, Gail Yen develops and executes the organization’s policy and legislative agenda. She also analyzes state laws and correctional policies that impact currently and formerly incarcerated people.

Prior to joining Root and Rebound, Gail served as the Senior Policy and Research Analyst at California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, where she managed the organization’s policy agenda and analyzed state, regional, local, and intergovernmental higher education and workforce policies. Gail also served as the Health Policy Associate for Children Now, where she was responsible for conducting bill analysis and analyzing health budget and policy proposals. She started her policy career as an Assembly Fellow in the California State Legislature, where she worked in the office of Assemblymember Richard Gordon to staff legislation, implement policies, and analyze a wide range of issues in education, public safety, and child welfare.

We look forward to welcoming the 2022 Smart Justice Spark Grantee cohort, based on the community advisors’ recommendations, in the coming weeks.  

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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