Wonderful Fellows

Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellow – 2019

Benny Corona is pursuing a Master in Public Policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School. Benny was born and raised in the Central Valley’s Lindsay, CA. He grew up accompanying his parents to work as a farm worker on school breaks. By the age of 13, Benny had the capacity to double his family’s income in the fields.  In 2010, Benny enrolled into UC Berkeley as the first person in his family to attend college. In 2015, he graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology with highest honors for his thesis work titled, “The Growing Voices in the Courts: Free Legal-Services and Immigrants Accessing Justice”. 

In the past few years, Benny has worked as a farm worker, community organizer, community development specialist, and political campaigner. His work is focused on the issues of humane immigration reform, environmental advocacy, and water access. His contributions include working in a director role of a nonprofit whose staff produced 8,200 voter registrations, programming the first community air monitor in Kings County’s Avenal, CA, and managing the grant application and implementation of 3.3 million in funding for wastewater infrastructure in Kern County. 

After obtaining his Master in Public Policy, Benny is committed to continuing his service to Central Valley communities and to helping solve some of the region’s most pressing public policy issues.

Manpreet Kaur Sandhu is pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She was born and raised in Bakersfield and carries her Central Valley roots with great pride and affection. She is a proud alumna of Bakersfield’s public schools, completing her undergraduate degree at UC San Diego in Political Science and Ethnic Studies with a minor in Law and Society.

Manpreet founded the Jakara Movement’s Kern County chapter, becoming the first community organizer in the region and creating a forum for long-neglected Punjabi Sikh youth voices to be valued, amplified, strengthened, and organized.

She helped register hundreds of new voters, penned op-ed pieces in the Bakersfield Californian, worked to reform school district policies, advocated for greater language access through state legislation, and has been a primary driver in preparation for Census 2020 in Kern County. She has opened new vistas for the Punjabi Sikh youth of the region through championing immigration rights, educational justice, neighborhood empowerment, youth leadership, community organizing, and civic engagement. Inspired by the rich tradition of social justice in the Valley, Manpreet seeks to emulate a commitment to advocacy, activism, and organizing, in building the legacy for the Sikh Punjabi community of California.

Empowered by Kern County and the Central Valley,  upon graduation Manpreet is eager to return home bringing back with her the lessons learned to better inform policy and decision-making.

Samantha Santamaria is pursuing a Master of Social Work with a focus in health, mental health and disabilities from Columbia University, in New York City. Samantha was raised in the small town of Lindsay in Tulare County. She went on to pursue her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, which she completed in 2016.

During her time as an undergraduate student, Samantha served as a health educator for socioeconomically disadvantaged schools that lacked health education. She also partnered with an anti-trafficking organization to develop a 44 lesson girls’ empowerment curriculum which is now being used in 5 high risk counties as a trafficking preventative tool.

Samantha’s experiences range from working with inmates at San Quentin Prison, day laborers is Oakland, California, and disadvantaged youth with mental health issues. Her international work experience includes working in Nepal to help develop a project that provides counseling, rehabilitation, skills development, and vocational programs to victims of sexual exploitation.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree. Samantha took on the role of an administrator for a group home/shelter for commercially sexually exploited children in Bakersfield, California. She plans to return to the San Joaquin Valley upon completing her master’s degree with the hopes of addressing mental health access barriers in the community.

Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellow – 2018

Jenna Chilingerian is pursuing a Master’s in Community and Regional Planning, with a specialization in Community Development and certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Oregon. Jenna received her B.A. in Political Science from University of California, Los Angeles in 2013, where she also minored in Civic Engagement.

In July 2014, Jenna chose to return to the San Joaquin Valley after working for a series of nonprofits in Cleveland and Washington, D.C. She served as Program Manager for the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State for nearly three years where she managed the Community and Regional Planning Center, as well as the San Joaquin Valley Housing Collaborative.

In February 2017, Jenna joined the Downtown Fresno Partnership as a Program Manager to support economic development and community engagement within Fresno’s central business district, while serving as the Executive Director of the organization’s nonprofit entity, Downtown Fresno Foundation.

After graduate school, Jenna plans to return to the San Joaquin Valley to further her career in place-based community and economic development. She’s particularly passionate about “place making” and “public space activation” and would like to do her part in facilitating better public space, design, and use to promote greater economic development in Valley communities.

Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellows – 2017

Nanki Bhullar, B.A. (Double Major) in Women’s and Gender Studies (concentration in Power, Rights and Society) and Philosophy (Emphasis: Ethics and Prelaw) at Santa Clara University. She will be a candidate for concurrent Masters in both Social Work and Public Health at UCLA.

Nanki was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and moved to Fresno, California when she was two weeks old. Although she attended college in northern California, her heart remains deeply connected with the San Joaquin Valley as a Sikh American daughter of immigrant almond and raisin farmers dedicated to Valley agriculture.

Upon graduation from UCLA, she plans to return to serve the community with the knowledge gained through her graduate studies.

Irene Calimlim, is currently a candidate for a Masters in City & Regional Planning, as well as a Master in Public Health & City Planning at UC Berkeley.  She is projected to graduate in June 2019.

Currently, Irene is an intern with the Greenlining Institute’s Bridges to Health Program where she is investigating community benefit investments from hospital systems and how to increase opportunities for girls and women of color. She is also a Roselyn Lindheim Awardee, given for her Masters project aimed at increasing the capacity of local residents to better advocate and integrate place-based initiatives and investments into  Stockton’s low income communities.  Irene is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, helping mentor and inspire others from first-generation/underrepresented backgrounds advocate for social justice.

Irene graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Human Biology focused on health in underserved communities.  She has worked in rural India with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project, as well as in Stockton with Fathers & Families of San Joaquin and Reinvent South Stockton Coalition.

Upon graduation, Irene will work in city planning with an eye toward improving public health in the Central Valley.

Randy Villegas, B.A. Political Science (Emphasis: American Politics) at CSU Bakersfield. He will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Politics at UC Santa Cruz.

Prior to arriving to Bakersfield, Randy’s family lived in a small apartment in Santa Ana, California. While growing up in Bakersfield, Randy has mentored youth, been a percussions instructor to several high schools and middle schools, written several op-ed pieces for the Bakersfield Californian and worked as an activist on behalf of vulnerable communities.

Randy will be the first member of his family to graduate from college. Upon graduation, he wants to return to Kern County and the Central Valley to make a positive impact.

Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellows – 2016

Gilbert Felix, is currently working toward a Masters in Public Policy at University of Southern California. His projected graduation date is June 2018.

In the Summer of 2017, Gilbert interned with the Office of Community and Economic Development at California State University, Fresno.

A Central Valley native, Gilbert earned his undergraduate degree in political science from California State University, Fresno. Prior to attending USC, he worked for elected officials at the state and local government levels throughout the Central Valley. Additionally, he has worked in community and labor organizing, political campaign management, and philanthropy.

Gilbert is dedicated to returning to the Fresno area after graduation to focus on regional economic development and serve in elected public office.

Edgar Garcia, is currently enrolled in the Masters of Public Policy (School of Social Ecology) program at UC Irvine.  He is projected to graduate in June 2018.

He interned in the Summer of 2017 with the City of Modesto’s Community and Economic Development Department.

Prior to graduate school, Edgar served as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the California State Student Association (CSSA), representing over 460,000 California State University (“CSU”) System students, acting as the spokesperson and lead liaison on higher education legislation that impacts CSU students.  He has also interned in Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Legislative Affairs, working directly with legislative secretaries on education, public safety, and transportation policy issues.

Edgar graduated with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice from CSU Stanislaus in Turlock, California. He is originally from Firebaugh, California.

Following graduation, Edgar hopes to be a City Manager to help develop a more effective and equitable community in the Central Valley.

Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellow – 2015

Kristine Williams, Master of City Planning at UC Berkeley, graduated in May 2017.

Upon graduating, Kristine has accepted employment as a Program Officer for Central Valley Enterprise Community Partners.

Kristine Williams was the first Wonderful Public Service Fellow and graduated in May 2017 with her Masters of City Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Kristine is now the Central Valley Program Officer for Enterprise Community Partners, a nationwide nonprofit organization that seeks to expand sustainable, affordable homes though investment and advocacy work. With Kristine’s help, Enterprise recently opened an office in Stockton to better serve the housing needs of the San Joaquin Valley. She currently focuses her work on expanding the impact of the state’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program in the Valley. You can learn more about the work Kristine at enterprisecommunity.org. You can reach Kristine at kwilliams@enterprisecommunity.org.