Maria Alonso In September 2014, Maria Teresa Alonso found herself celebrated at a regional health collaborative meeting in San Bernardino. People cheered for her work in organizing the Huerta del Valle community garden, and for her commitment to local food and health. Someone in the audience said they wished there could be a whole room full of Marias—a room full of Marias might make change in our region possible. Maria’s leadership has grown in concert with Huerta del Valle and in response to her family’s health challenges. Huerta del Valle was the result when her son’s ADHD and her husband’s diabetes drove her to seek healthy food, only to find it miles from her community and at a prohibitive price. Maria started Huerta del Valle with a handful of Pitzer College students, 10 Ontario families, and a will for change. She built what is now a thriving, 62-family community garden, urban farm, and tax-exempt nonprofit for which she is now executive director. Little by little, she says, she is learning—English, computer skills, what it means to lead with heart. She thinks, “If I can do this, you can too. If they can do it over there, I can do it here too.” She is passing on this confidence, drive and values to other members of her community through innovative programming and the vision of “a garden every mile” for her community and others in the region. Huerta del Valle, Maria says, is about growing leaders and a community as well as food.
Susan Phillips Susan A. Phillips has studied gangs and the US prison system since 1990. Phillips received her Ph.D. in anthropology in 1998 from UCLA, where she taught for four years before coming to Pitzer College. Her first book, Wallbangin: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A., was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1999. Her second book,Operation Fly Trap: Gangs, Drugs, and the Law, was published in July 2012, also by Chicago. Phillips was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow in 2008, and received a Harry Frank Guggenheim research grant in 2005 to fund her fieldwork. Previous to that she was a fellow at the Getty Research Institute from 1996-1997, during the scholar year on Los Angeles. Phillips is interested in theories of violence, in the relationship between gangs and the state, and in utilizing academic writing and scholarship toward criminal justice reform. She currently directs community-based research programs in Ontario, California for Pitzer College and is a member of the Environmental Analysis field group, where she contributes curriculum on urban studies.
Arthur Levine Has been working in urban and community agriculture since 2008. Originally starting as a student in New York City he built a strong knowledge of community gardening and the necessary organizing required to not only start them, but maintain them. From 2008-2011 Levine worked summers organizing youth service learning trips to New Orleans to learn and educate about the systemic racial and environmental justice challenges from the events of hurricane Katrina and the recovery/revitalization process. Spending extended time at Our School at Blair grocery, a Growing Power ROTC, Levine was not only able to train in sustainable urban agriculture, but was also able to learn how urban farming can be applied as a tool for education, public health, economic development, and organizing. Levine studied at Pitzer College and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and while finishing he BA also collaborated with Pitzer in Ontario, Maria, Alonso, and the city of Ontario to launch Huerta del Valle. Arthur's work at HdV has resulted in the large urban composting operation, the development of a working urban farm, the development of the community garden and he is currently working with a team to develop educational programming at the farm.
Evette De Luca Ms. De Luca has led within the public and non-for-profit sector for 15 years. Throughout her career she has directed dynamic teams of multi-sectoral professionals committed to humanistic, systems-level approaches to such social issues as community violence, homelessness, food insecurity and community health disparities. Currently a Executive Director of Partners for Better Health, Ms. De Luca has expertise in building and facilitating broad-based partnerships and strategies across multiple cities and communities in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. As the former Director of Civic Engagement & Community Transformation for Reach Out, she designed and led the Center for Civic Policy & Leadership, an innovations project funded by The California Wellness Foundation that accelerated strategic and collaborative advocacy and policy efforts between government, private and public agencies in the Inland Region. Ms. De Luca was also the Executive Director of Latino Health Collaborative (LHC), a coalition of more than 40 health-based, government and non-profit organizations that convenes the Healthy San Bernardino Coalition. In 2011 the Southern California Public Health Association conferred this coalition with its award of excellence for its Environmental Scan of the City of San Bernardino’s built environment. Prior to LHC, she served as Executive Director of Foothill Family Shelter, a transitional housing continuum of care with wrap-around health, support and financial services. While there, she and her agency won the 2007 Bank of American Neighborhood Builder award. She led all aspects of a comprehensive housing and support program that included a housing continuum of care, drop-in center, wrap-around support services and financial education/savings programs. She also increased the agency’s annual revenue by 39% during her first three years as Executive Director. Additionally, she supervised and motivated a staff of eleven to ensure high performing outcomes related to housing, employment, financial and health goals; this team implemented an innovative IDA savings program for homeless families resulting in average family savings of $3,000. Under her leadership, her team established a dental health program partnering with local dentists and Kaiser Foundation. She also implemented an HMIS data system to increase productivity, creating effective data systems for contract compliance, contract allocation plans and billing procedures. She specialized in developing lucrative funding relationships with individuals, resulting in the creation of a $50,000 annual family trust held by the Shelter, contracts with First 5 San Bernardino, FESG, HUD, Kaiser Foundation, Verizon Foundation, UPS, Weingart Foundation, Edelstein Foundation and more. Established housing partnerships with the City of Montclair/Montclair Collaborative.
Ms. De Luca has also worked as director of children’s programs and development director for The Jenesse Center, a nationally recognized domestic violence intervention and housing program located in Los Angeles. Ms. De Luca is a board member of Incredible Edible Community Gardens and Serving Proud Industries. She also serves on the Loma Linda Medical Center Community Benefits Administrative Council and the San Bernardino Food Policy Council, and has served on the San Bernardino County Emergency Food and Shelter Program board and the San Bernardino Community Hospital /St.Bernardine Medical Center Community Benefit Council. Ms. De Luca is also a seasoned grant and technical writer. A former fellow of the Multicultural Alliance/AmeriCorps, she received a BS from UCLA in History. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Social Impact from Claremont Lincoln University.
John Bridge John Bridge began his career in energy law while he was in law school, when he took the position of law clerk for a Fortune 500 energy company. His primary role was handling power and gas procurement contract negotiations, as well as regulatory issues impacting the company's trade floor. John tailored his law school experience to complement his interest in energy companies and commodities trading. Today, he works with energy companies to help them achieve commercial goals and obtain favorable regulatory outcomes. John's broad experience in the energy industry is the result of having advised a long list of diverse clients on commercial and regulatory issues, including gas and power marketers, natural gas pipeline and storage companies, electric utilities, an independent system operator, energy industry organizations, and foreign governments. John's achievements started early, while he was still a student. He received the Faculty Award for highest performance in Securities Regulation, Investment Management Regulation, The Business and Regulation of Fund Investors, and Representing Business Clients. He also served as executive board member and the notes chair for the UC Irvine Law Review, and he co-founded the UC Irvine Law & Economics Society. As a UCI law student John worked extensively in the development and incorporation of Huerta del Valle through UCI's CED Clinics. He now acts as legal council for the board.
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Our mission is to cultivate an organization of community members to grow our own organic crops. Through growing our food we work toward sustainable community empowerment and health: creating meaningful work, building lasting skills and developing strong relationships within the city of Ontario. “Growing change in the Inland Valley."