Meet the Rural Organizing Fellows!

We are excited to introduce you to our Rural Organizing Fellows! They will begin their work with us in October, joining ROP leaders, member groups, and allies at the final event of the Sheridan to NORCOR: journey to demand an end to detention and deportation on Saturday, October 6th in The Dalles. We hope they’ll meet many of you there!

Rural Organizing Fellows

Sahla Denton– Cottage Grove, Lane County

Sahla is active with Cottage Grove Community United and has been active in organizing against white supremacy and canvassing local businesses for support.

“My favorite things here in Cottage Grove are my job at the library and our family friends. I’m excited to learn from and meet new people during the fellowship. My family history and current events inspire me to be involved in social justice. In my free time, I like to journal, read sci-fi books, and watch movies with my sister.”

Brenda Flores – Stanfield, Umatilla County

Brenda has lived in Stanfield all of her life except for the four years she spent getting her degree at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. She is a first generation college graduate and was involved in MEChA and CAUSA and Unidos at WOU.  She wants to bring the lessons she learned about organizing in Monmouth to her hometown.

“Some things I like about Stanfield are that it’s a small town so no dealing with traffic and I have my friends and family close. I’m excited to meet new people and to be able to grow as a leader and activist! I’m also excited to bring more awareness in this area. My family has always inspired me to do social justice work. When I’m not working I like to spend time with my family, watch Hulu, and go out to eat with my boyfriend.”

Gabriela Garcia – Hood River, Hood River County 

Gabriela has lived in Hood River for 18 years and has worked as a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) project coordinator with CAPACES Leadership Institute advocating for DREAMers in the gorge community. She is a DACA recipient and she plans to stay in the community and continue to build connections with undocumented youth and other immigrants.

“I love my community and all the wonderful people that are a part of it. I’m excited to meet more people that are passionate about social justice and helping their community and learning new skills along the way and learning more about myself. I believe what inspires me to do social justice is my own community and family. They are what make me thrive. The things I enjoy in my free time are heading to the river with my five-year-old and enjoying the sun – also spending time with my family and younger brothers.”

Maria Mejia-Botero – Culver, Jefferson County  

Maria is finishing her final year of high school and her first year of college at Central Oregon Community College this year. She works part-time as a lifeguard and is active with the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition. She’s a co-founder of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Culver High School and during her junior year, she organized a Walk-Out for School Safety. She is a DACA recipient.

“I’ve been living in Culver (population: 1,000) in Jefferson County for almost 12 years. I love how we frequently get stunning sunsets over the Cascade Mountains and how the sky is large with millions of stars. Culver is unique for having a large Latinx community despite its small population. I’m excited to be a part of the Fell owship because it’s a unique chance for me to carry out a project I’ll be passionate about with the support of a larger network of amazing people that will help me see it through. For one, I come from a family of immigran ts, and have personally seen that although this country is full of opportunities, not everybody has an equal access to opportunities. Socioeconomic status, access to resources, education, cultural background, ability, citi zenship, race, gender, sexual orientation, and more all affect what kinds of opportunities for success and quality of life are available to a person. I see it in my town, I see it in my family, and I see how it affects me. The one thing I CAN do is use my own privileges and resources to open up more opportunities for others. I LOVE stargazing while on the hammock on my patio cuddled in at least 3 different blankets. I also spend a lot of time laughing at memes and cat videos on Tumblr.”

Juan Navarro – Corvallis, Benton County  

Juan grew up in Stayton in Marion County, is a DACA recipient and is the first in his family to graduate from high school and obtain a university degree.  He is a graduate of Western Oregon University in Monmouth where he helped organize a student-community coalition to get the city council to pass a welcoming resolution and is now a graduate student at OSU and helping a student-led effort to start a Dreamers Resource Center on the campus.

“I currently live in Corvallis, Oregon. One of things that I love is the calmness that this city provides. I am excited about improving my organizing skills and looking forward to bonding with the other fellows. I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with the respect and dignity that we ourselves expect. This inspires me to do my part in making this dream into a reality. I love to dance some Salsa and Bachata. I love a good hike and I’m very into poetry.”

Courtney Neubauer – Klamath Falls, Klamath County  

Courtney grew up in Klamath Falls and graduated from Willamette University.  In high school she volunteered at the Klamath Crisis Center and while at Willamette she was director of Students for Feminism and a member of the Queer Student Union. In Seattle, she worked for two years on a campaign to bring long-term care funding to Washington State and she traveled across the state giving presentations, meeting with local leaders and activists, and running social media campaigns. She is excited about returning home to rural Oregon and organizing in her hometown.

“Klamath Falls is full of so much history and natural beauty. It’s also on the cusp of so many innovations including the Blue Zones project, the Klamath Tribes’ fight to save the sucker fish, Sky Lakes’ new Collaborative Health Center, and playing host to Oregon Tech’s ‘Girls got STEM’ program. I’m so excited to learn from and listen to both the other fellows and the Klamath community. I ground my social justice work in relationships, and I’m motivated when I meet new people who challenge my way of thinking. I’m inspired by learning new ways of doing things, and the insight that comes from an open ear. I love to hike with my dog, garden, bake bread, and play with design technology. I’m passionate about following the news and am working to educate myself on international politics!”

Briana Spencer – Pendleton, Umatilla County  

Briana is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and has lived on the reservation most of her life. She is an IT specialist for the tribe and she also works as a waitress. She has been deeply involved in tribal activities and learning about her own culture and tribal governance.

“I live in Pendleton and I love the community. I’ve seen the community pull through numerous times to assist local businesses, causes, and people.  I’m excited to bring new ideas back to my community and hopefully make a change. My mother inspires me. She’s been involved since before I was born and seeing her in action is inspiration itself.  I love to hang out with my cat and 2 dogs.”

Zachary Stocks – Astoria, Clatsop County  

Zachary grew up in Virginia and moved to Astoria from Seattle. His career is in museum education a nd programming and he is excited about finding ways to promote social justice through the arts and cultural organizations and build on ROPs work to connect local libraries and museums to organizing throughout Oregon.

“Astoria is a town I love for its history and natural beauty, and its friendly, hard-working people. I’m ready to create meaningful opportunities for rural Oregonians to come together, exercise their democracy, and work together to promote justice in their communities. I’m inspired by unwavering faith in the United States and my compassion for all people. My favorite things are road trips, good books, spending time with my partner Ginger, and our cat.”

Jaylyn Suppah – Warm Springs, Jefferson County

Jaylyn is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and works there as a community planner. She is also an elected member of the Education Committee of the Tribe.  She has been involved in community organizing and leadership activities in Warm Springs since she was a teenager and wants to put her energy into programs to develop more young leaders in her community.

“I live on the Warm Springs Reservation. I love the culture and tradition of our community, I love the rivers, the traditional foods we have, I love the people and how our community comes together. I am excited about this fellowship because of the opportunity to meet others with similar interests as me, to learn and grow in my own journey while gaining skills to add to my toolbox. The landscape of our country, the experiences of my people and others being marginalized, the hope for equitable education, historical trauma and healing are some of the many reasons I do social justice work. I enjoy spending time with my two awesome kiddos, traveling, hiking, having family dinners, reading and cooking.”

Rossy Valdovino-Torres – Madras, Jefferson County

Rossy graduated from high school a year early by finishing two years in one and is now enrolled in Central Oregon Community College.  She helped start the local Human Dignity Group when ROP staff visited Madras and she’s part of the Jefferson County Teen Book Club and she volunteers at the library.  She is a DACA recipient.

“One of the many things that I love about living in Madras is that everybody seems to know most of the members of our community. Central Oregon is absolutely breathtaking with all of its adventurous views. I am so excited to be part of such a great team. I am excited to learn many skills and get to know so many great humans. But most importantly, I am excited to use the knowledge I gain from the fellowship to help my community and the people living within it. So many things have inspired me to do social justice work, from being raised by my parents to being out in the world and discovering the inequity of the society we live in. The morals that my parents raised me to have inspired me to stand up not only for myself but for the people who are scared to. Being a member of society and realizing everything wrong within our worlds, makes me want to fight for what is just and equal for everybody. I love to attend the Jefferson County Teen Book Club meetings and reading books. I love to go exploring places and adventuring in the outside world.”

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