Youth in Action Awardees
Jazzmin Mercado graduated Cum Laude from The University of California, Long Beach with a BA in Sociology. Her passion for social justice stems from her experience of being raised by her low-income immigrant grandmother. It also stems from her hardships as a young Latinx woman. Through these difficulties, she had firsthand experience of the day to day marginalization that her community faces. However, motherhood made Jazzmin dream of a different type of society for her children to grow up in.
Therefore, she decided to use these experiences as a catalyst for social change. This need for change drove her to the internship program at the Korean Resource Center. At KRC she was grounded on how to navigate different social spaces to understand the complexity of different communities so that she can best serve them. She was also given the opportunity to maneuver around the political sphere to advocate for justice.
Jazzmin aspires to continue her work by receiving a M.A. in Organizational Leadership in hopes of creating her own organization that deals with issues of domestic violence. A quote she turns to for inspiration is by a music artist named Atmosphere. The excerpt reads, “As I look across the sea I smile at the sun. While it feeds the weeds the nutrition they need. The people still breathe, the city still bleeds. I’m going to love it to death and keep planting my seeds.” So long as her community is faced with injustices, Jazzmin will continue to use her voice for advocacy.
Hansol Sarah Choi is a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton with a Child and Adolescent Development major and Mathematics minor. During college, Hansol worked at GEAR UP for five years where she got to work with low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students of color. She was also involved with campus organizations such as Child and Adolescent Studies Student Association (CASSA), where she volunteered to work with children, adolescent families, and Co-Operation (DREAM Co-Op), where she advocated for undocumented students in the community.
Upon graduating, Hansol continued to work with GEAR UP as a Budget Analyst Assistant. Currently, she is also an intern with the Korean Resource Center, where she used to volunteer during college. She joined the Leaders of the New School program to do something about all the injustice happening around her community and to train herself on how to defend and organize for positive change. With the program, she has gained more leadership and organizational skills. This has given her the opportunity to work with so many different people from various backgrounds and identities through canvassing, phone-banking, text-banking, and registering voters. As a young woman of color, this program taught Hansol that she could make a statement and bring a positive change to her community. She is changed forever and wherever she goes, she will always remember to fight for the folx who are marginalized.
Joelle is deeply passionate about growing an utilizing her own power and agency to be a voice and fight for the rights of all marginalized communities. Before KRC, Joelle’s passion in social justice work/research was focused mainly on the rights of women; women as survivors of sexual assault and abuse, women of color, women of the LGBTQ+ community, and the intersections of all those identities in relation to the oppression and violence against women’s bodies.
She is an actor/advocate in the internationally renowned social justice performance troupe, called InterAct. InterACT presents and performs interactive scenes on different social justice issues, mainly sexual assault prevention and inappropriate pursuit/stalking, but also on mental health, sexism, racism, and homophobia. With InterACT, she performs for college campuses, women’s shelters, juvenile detention centers, and military bases across the country and around the world.
Joelle is grateful for her experience in KRC and how it has further helped her grow in her journey of social justice work but also her personal growth as an individual. KRC has empowered her and given her the tools to further find her own voice and help create the change she wants to see in her own community. As someone who identifies as a queer women of color, who is also a survivor of abuse and sexual assault, she understands the feeling of being silenced. She has had to fight for her life and find the strength to share her truth, and will continue to fight for herself, the communities she represents, and use her voice and privilege to help the communities she does not represent. She is honored and humbled by this recognition and will carry the work, the knowledge, but mostly importantly the memories and the heart of the people of KRC with her as she continues her passion of creating a better world, a world where all humans are accepted and equal.
Hyewon Choi and Christina Kang are two young, strong activists and advocates pursuing a change in the youth and community. Hyewon and Christina have been active with KRC for about 3 years now, and have had the great honor of being socially aware and involved in many of the social justice issues going on in society. The two were able to participate in a broad spectrum of activities starting from learning to play pungmul to actively shouting their lungs out during rallies. Not only have they gone up to total strangers and encouraged them to vote, but they developed a fondness for leadership and making a change. With the incredible and hardworking staff at KRC, they were also able to join the path to improvements and see progress being made.
In addition, they couldn’t stand the emptiness of a high school group that was on hiatus, so they decided to implement Leaders of the New High School (LNHS) at the KRC LA. On August 31, 2018, they achieved their dream of coordinating their very first event as a committee. In honor of the returning bikers with the Journey to Justice Bike Tour, they planned a welcome party for all their remarkable efforts. As leaders, they are still both working in a committee group to bring back the empowerment of youth and hopefully expand as they continue their journey. Their goal is to not stop here but reach further to continue an establishment that will have a positive impact in society. Thanks KRC for helping build the platform of our future!
We can do it. Si se puede. 할수있다!
Sarah Hansol Choi
Christina Kang and Hyewon Choi
Community in Action Awardees
Resilience Orange County
Resilience Orange County (ROC) was created in 2016 from the merging of RAIZ (est. 2011) and Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color (SABMoC, est. 2013). RAIZ since its inception worked to address the crimmigration system, which is the intersections of the criminal and immigration systems, and the impact that its had on our communities. RAIZ stopped over 20 deportations with its “Free The People” deportation defense model and changed policy locally around crimmigration.
SABMoC led in addressing the school to prison to deportation pipeline in Santa Ana and throughout the county by changing the policies that the Probation Department used to send youth to immigration officials and by creating a culture in the Santa Ana Unified School District that promotes and adopts restorative justice practices.
Since merging ROC has been successful in building youth organizing and political power in the county with its programming, organizing and youth voter engagement efforts. In 2017 ROC was able to advocate along with local partners to create the strongest “Sanctuary City” policy in the country, to successfully remove I.C.E. out of the Santa Ana jail, and to create a city fund that provides legal representation to Santa Ana residents in immigration proceedings. This past year in partnership with KRC we created a movement to #DefendSanctuary that has made Orange County and California ground zero in the fight against Trump.
The California Endowment
The California Endowment is a not-for-profit, statewide foundation with the mission to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. They don’t focus on prescriptions because health does not only happen in a doctor's office - it also happens in our homes, schools, and communities.
They focus on fixing broken systems and outdated policies, ensuring the balance of power is with the people. They don’t focus on the individual, they focus on the larger community as an ecosystem of health. They work with citizens and elected leaders to find lasting solutions to impact the most people we possibly can.
The goal is simple: First, change the way people view health—from the notion that health happens in the doctor’s office to a belief that health happens where you live, work, learn, and play. The California Endowment calls this “narrative change.”
Second, integrate smart solutions in communities across the state. They do this by working with our partners and grantees to fundamentally change “the rules”—laws, policies, and systems—that impede health in our communities. They’re changing the narrative around health to ensure health and justice for all.
Mariko (Mari) Ryono has dedicated the last nineteen years of her life to community organizing for social change, working with such organizations as Cooperative Economics for Women (CEW) in Boston, la Asociación Andar in Costa Rica, SCOPE in Los Angeles, and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV) in California. At SCOPE, she was an Organizer and then Lead Organizer. At Mobilize the Immigrant (now Power California), she was the first Director of this multi-racial, statewide alliance.
Since 2005, Mari has maintained a consulting practice supporting groups in a variety of ways with a focus on individual and team coaching, strategic thinking, and organizational development. Mari is a student and practitioner of Forward Stance and mind-body-spirit practice. She has a particular interest in supporting leaders of organizations, alliances, and movements who are advancing racial and gender justice and who are open to their own transformation.
Mari first met the Korean Resource Center and NAKASEC families when she was an organizer at SCOPE. Mari would go on to work in partnership with many of the KRC and NAKASEC team members over the years. Since 2014, she has had the honor of serving as an organizational development consultant to KRC through the Orange County Civic Engagement Table. Mari has always been inspired by how the grassroots leaders, board members, and staff of Korean Resource Center embody the founding principles of the organization: Live Right, Know Your Roots, Live Strong, Live Together.
Mari graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Sociology and Women's Studies at Harvard. She was born and raised in Southern California where she currently lives with her husband, two sons, and mother.