Ben Austin, Executive Director
Ben has served as the Executive Director of Parent Revolution since its founding in April 2008. In his role at Parent Revolution, Ben invented, implemented and scaled California’s historic parent trigger law. He has dedicated much of his career to fighting for a California where every child can get a great public education. This service includes being a proud board member of Student Matters, the group that won the landmark case Vergara vs. California.
Prior to founding Parent Revolution, from 2006-2008, he helped run the successful campaign to transform Locke High School from the most violent and lowest performing high school in Los Angeles into a college preparatory model of reform today. Ben has also served as a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles under Mayor Richard Riordan from 2000-2001, where he helped craft the mayor’s education reform policy; as well as Senior Advisor to Rob Reiner and First 5 California from 2002-2006, where he invented and launched LAUP (Los Angeles Universal Preschool), a $600 million first-of-its-kind high quality preschool program serving over 10,000 low-income children every year. Ben was also appointed to the California State Board of Education in 2010.
Ben worked on five different Democratic presidential campaigns from 1992-2008, and served as the communications director for the 2000 Democratic National Convention host committee. Ben served in the Clinton White House in a variety of roles, advising the President and First Lady on politics, as well as traveling with the President and First Lady to over a dozen different countries around the world.
He was born in New York City, grew up in Greenwich Village, NY and Venice Beach, CA. He graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in 1991 and graduated cum laude and on law review from Georgetown Law School in 1998. Ben is a member of the Aspen Institute's tenth class of Aspen Pahara Fellows and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tracy, and their two daughters, Fiona and Eloise, who attend their neighborhood public school.
Gabe Rose, Chief Strategy Officer
Gabe has been with Parent Revolution since April 2009, and has helped guide the organization through its rapid growth over the past two and a half years. His passion for transforming public education comes from his belief in social justice as well as his personal experience attending a failing elementary school while growing up in New Haven, Connecticut. His history of progressive activism includes founding a statewide student advocacy organization for same-sex marriage equality and serving as president of the Bruin Democrats organization during his time at UCLA, where he also served as student body president for the school’s 25,000 undergraduates his senior year. Before joining Parent Revolution, was he was selected for and completed the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs program in Los Angeles, a national experiential leadership-training program, during which he worked with organizations ranging from a Democratic State Senate campaign to Local 416 of the Reinforcing Ironworkers Union. He grew up in both New Haven and the Bay Area in California, but has lived in Los Angeles for the past seven years.
Alison Laslett, Chief Operating Officer
Alison Laslett serves as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Parent Revolution. For twenty years, she has worked in leadership positions, unifying organizations into efficient, effective working teams. Alison was the COO for Communities for Teaching Excellence, an education reform project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the Gates Foundation. She has also been the contracts negotiator and manager for Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, one of the largest private agencies in Los Angeles serving over 6,000 emotionally disturbed children. She honed her operations expertise as a business consultant, working with companies from Florida to Maine to Mexico. She is dedicated to social justice and believes access to education is an equal right. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College.
Jody Edwards, Chief Financial Officer
Jody Edwards was raised in North Carolina. Her mother Marie Buoniconti is a Registered Nurse. Her dad Joseph is a retired Master Sergeant. She is a graduate of University of North Carolina where she received her B.S. degree in Business Administration. Jody is proud to be our Chief Financial Officer. She has over 20 years of experience in accounting and management within a vast array of industries. Among the companies she has worked with, those whose purpose has been to benefit children have been her love. She has a great passion for children, is active in her community, and has a strong commitment to instilling community and family values. She is dedicated to helping bring all children the opportunity for success they deserve. Jody is a soccer coach, and has been a board member for both American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and the Vocal Music Association (VMA). Jody also heads up VMA’s arts program fund raising at John Muir Middle School in Burbank, CA where she lives. Jody is married to Robert Heap – combined they have seven children.
Ken Fujimoto, Organizing Director
Ken Fujimoto comes to Parent Revolution from a 25 year career as a Lead and Senior Organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the largest and oldest leadership training and organizing institute in the country. He has organized with ten different IAF projects in three different states during his career; he was the lead organizer (chief executive) or senior organizer in nine of those projects. Most recently, he was the organizer for the Inland Empire Sponsoring Committee (IESC), the IAF project in that region. His organizing career began with the United Farm Workers where he mobilized for boycotts, organized representation elections, and negotiated contracts; he then migrated to Mississippi to work with his friend and mentor, the late Jim Drake (later an IAF organizer as well), to found the United Woodcutters Association, an effort to create a voice for rural, Southern woodcutters. He has also worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Los Angeles with Local 99 (classified workers) and in San Diego as a Political Coordinator with a county employees local, as well as leading Neighbor-to-Neighbor -- an effort to end the war in El Salvador -- in Southern California during the height of the civil conflict in that nation. He is divorced with an adult daughter (Aiko Anya) and a grade school son (Kenji Xavier). He is a native Californian born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. Across California he has lived and worked over his career in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, the Imperial Valley, the North Bay, Fresno, and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including Richmond, Oakland, Santa Clara and Contra Costa Counties. He is presently re-locating to the Los Angeles area.
Taneen Jafarkhani, General Counsel
Taneen received her B.A. from UCLA and her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). Prior to Parent Revolution, Taneen was an associate at Bingham McCutchen in San Francisco. Taneen has also served the San Francisco Public Defender, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Santa Monica Self-Help Legal Access Center, has represented asylum seekers through the California Asylum Representation Clinic, and has externed for the Honorable David O. Carter (U.S. District Court: Central District).
Sandra Perez, National Director
For over two decades Sandra Pérez has been dedicated to social justice for underserved communities through civil and human rights advocacy. Sandra is the daughter of immigrants and was the first in her family to attend college thanks to educational initiatives such as Head Start and Upward Bound. Besides working on Field and Latino Outreach for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) West and as the Western Regional Director for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) and the Political Director for PowerPAC.org, Sandra has previously served on local, statewide, national political and non-partisan electoral campaigns. Sandra attended the University of La Verne majoring in Political Science and Public Administration. Sandra is married with two daughters in public schools, is active in her faith community, her children’s school site council, and social justice organizations.
Leslie Ivie, Grants Manager
Leslie Ivie has served as a fundraiser since 1999 helping nonprofit organizations such as the Liberty Hill Foundation, National Immigration Law Center, Japanese American National Museum, and Inner-City Arts achieve their missions. She has also served as a trial attorney with the Law Offices of Los Angeles County Public Defender; a volunteer with the ACLU of Southern California Reentry Initiative (ABC^2) and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, South Los Angeles Community Economic Development Unit; and as a USC Board Fellow with the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. Leslie graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School, received her B.A. from Smith College, was a Riordan Fellow at UCLA Anderson School of Management, and earned her J.D. from Chapman University School of Law. She learned the value of education from her mother who was a civil rights lawyer, her father who earned a doctorate in education to improve educational opportunities for low-income communities and from the legacy of her grandfather Dr. Charles R. Drew a surgeon and medical researcher who improved blood preservation processes and fought against racial discrimination.
Mehul Patel, Communications Manager
Mehul is currently the Communications Manager for Parent Revolution. Prior to joining Parent Revolution, Mehul was an Organizer and Communications Specialist for SEIU ULTCW in Los Angeles. Primarily organizing low-income nursing home workers from Chatsworth to Chula Vista, at SEIU ULTCW Mehul focused on leadership development, contract negotiations for union members, and empowering low-income workers through education of their rights and protections. Mehul also believes in the power of digital art and media as a tool to inspire, organize and mobilize for social change. A native of Grayson, Georgia, Mehul attended the University of Georgia, where he fell in love with Athens, GA and began his service in local and national Democratic politics by working on the Obama Campaign and congressional, legislative and statewide races in 2006, 2008 and 2010. As the son of immigrant parents, the values of diversity, tolerance and justice were deeply instilled in Mehul’s upbringing, resulting in the choice of his current work at Parent Revolution. When not busy fightin' the good fight, Mehul enjoys reading, cooking and finding peace at the BAPS Temple in Chino Hills, CA.
Adrienne Wallace, Press Secretary
As the daughter of a teacher and a social worker, Adrienne was bound to work for social justice. Adrienne's been an activist since Kindergarten where she organized a campaign for better snacks. Since then she has worked in the Reproductive Justice Movement and in the Educational Justice Movement both as a teacher and as a student and parent advocate. Adrienne earned her BA from Mount Holyoke College and her MA from Yale University. She used her graduate work to help build youth centered anti-violence programs in Latin America. Prior to joining Parent Revolution Adrienne was an Education Pioneers Fellow in Los Angeles.
John Yi, Regional Advocacy Director
Before John came on board of Parent Revolution he lived in Moscow, Russia as a Fellow for the Alfa Fellowship Program. There he interned as a Russian bank and at a law firm. Before that he lived in Washington, DC where he worked for the national Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA). At the TSA he focused on issues regarding disability health and education policies, advocating for parents and children suffering from the debilitating neurobiological disorder. John has worked both on and outside of Capitol Hill and is passionate about all things public policy and the process of making policy. As a Korean-American and coming from a family of immigrants, John is committed to pushing for equal and universal access to quality education through is work at Parent Revolution.
John received his Masters degree at Georgetown University and his Bachelor degree at the University of Michigan. He is a brother of Pi Alpha Phi.
April Popescu, Regional Advocacy Director
April is currently a Regional Political Director at Parent Revolution. Her primary role is to pass education reform legislation nation-wide. She focuses on: New York, Virginia, South Carolina, Missouri, Idaho and Colorado. Prior to joining Parent Revolution, April worked at a Los Angeles based Political Consulting/ Public Affairs firm where she focused on local government, and community/media outreach associated with key local issues. For the past two years April has served on the Board of The New Leaders Council, Los Angeles Chapter as well as the Los Angeles County Young Democrats (LACYD). Prior to moving to Los Angeles, April worked with the California Political Director for Organizing for America (OFA). Through the Fall of 2008, April assisted the California State Director and Los Angeles Field Director on the Obama for America Presidential Campaign. April holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a Specialization in American Politics from the University of California Berkeley.
Mary Moran, Regional Campaigns Director
As a product of public schools and a former public school teacher, Mary is passionate about education reform and is excited to be working with parents to improve our schools. She has a long history of advocating for social justice and opportunities for children of color in marginalized and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods worldwide. Born in Los Angeles, Mary moved to the Bay Area, where she earned her B.A. from San Jose State University, double-majoring in African American studies and Sociology. She later earned her Master’s in Education and teaching credential from Mills College. The International National Voluntary Service Training program selected Mary to be a Scholar Activist with where she worked on education and public policy issues on both the Navajo Nation and in Jamaica. Her international service continued in Tanzania where as a Research Assistant she examined the link between wellness and economic development. Returning to the U.S., Mary worked with Catholic Charities to help open small autonomous schools and demand higher quality education opportunities for children on the East Side of San Jose. She was also appointed to the Strategic Planning team and helped commission Catholic Charities' 5- year sustainability plan. Most recently, she dedicated herself to youth in East Palo Alto, CA teaching them to identify issues in their community and be agents of change.
Henry Jones, Jr., Regional Campaigns Director
Henry Jones was born and raised in the MIGHTY Mississippi Delta (Clarksdale). He always had a passion for social justice; however, while attending Tennessee State University, he changed his outlook on life. Ten days after graduating college, Henry began union organizing at Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Since then he has worked tirelessly organizing communities around issues such as environmental justice, education reform and equal housing, most recently serving as the Organizing Manager/Campaign Manager at Stand for Children Tennessee, leading grassroots campaigns around school board elections, Universal Pre-K efforts, and school funding. For a young man, he is an OG organizer, dedicating over 12 years to movement building, coaching and developing other organizers with no signs of slowing down on Organizing and working on his Doctoral Degree in Community Development at the University of Central Arkansas with dissertation plans to focus on community organizing for political accountability, Henry currently serves as a Regional Campaign Director for Parent Revolution. He resides in Memphis, TN with his wife, Shanika and son, Henry III aka Lil Chubbs.
Grette Leon-Fernandez, Regional Campaigns Director
As the daughter of a teacher, Grette León Fernández's focus on education has always been extremely important. Grette struggled first-hand with the disparities in public education system and the lack of resources as a teenage immigrant to the US. This experience served as inspiration and motivation for Grette to work towards educational equity for all students. For the past several years she has worked in impoverished neighborhoods in California's Inland Empire trying to raise the education opportunities for children by working with immigrant, working poor and homeless families. Grette's goal is to continue empowering families so that new generations of children have better access to a good education. Grette is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside.
Shirley Ford, Director of African American Affairs and Community Partnerships
Shirley is an original member or our first small staff and has the distinction of being one of the Los Angeles Parents Union’s founders along with former staff member Mary Najera and current Parent Revolution board member Karen Robinson. Shirley is a dedicated, outspoken leader on behalf of education reform and parent’s rights, and her leadership on these important issues is recognized throughout California and nationwide. Shirley is a preeminent organizer, who played a central role in our campaign that lead to the successful passage of LAUSD’s Public School Choice Resolution. Her tireless efforts were also instrumental in the narrow passage of California’s Parent Trigger law – the first in the nation. Shirley serves in a variety of roles for Parent Revolution, including Senior Organizer and Director of African-American Affairs. Her passion for parent’s rights and quality public education comes from her own experience raising her boys. Two of her sons, Robert and Hamid, were given the opportunity to attend Green Dot public schools and are now both are enrolled in college, the first in their family to do so. Shirley has seen firsthand that great public schools are possible and that all children can learn, and is passionate about empowering parents to obtain great schools for their children, especially children in under-served and historically marginalized communities. Shirley is not only the mother of three wonderful sons, but also a proud grandmother of two.
Aida Rodriguez, Deputy Organizing Director
Aida Rodriguez joined Parent Revolution in 2012. Aida has demonstrated a strong commitment to empowering under served communities through advocacy and education. Aida earned a Political Science degree from UC Berkeley and later obtained her law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Aida lived for two years in Guatemala and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and Africa. While in college Aida spent a summer in Peru doing research on the country's underrepresented and minority communities. During law school she interned at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and at the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. After law school she worked at the State Bar of California and volunteered at the ACLU's Prisoner's Rights Project. In addition to her work for Parent Revolution, Aida serves as a Board Member on her neighborhood residents' association and at an East Los Angeles community center dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for low-income families by providing essential education, social, and health and wellness services.
Maria Alvarado, Organizer
Maria has been with Parent Revolution since March 2011. She is a long-standing parent activist and is currently Chairperson of Lynwood Save Our Schools (LSOS). Television news reports of the Parent Trigger campaign in nearby Compton, CA inspired Maria to start coming out and volunteering to help the parents of McKinley Elementary, and months later, she wound up joining the Parent Revolution organizing team to dedicate herself full-time to organizing parents throughout LA County to improve their schools. Maria wants all low performing schools to be transformed so that every student receives a high quality education. She has been an active parent since being frustrated with Lynwood school district administrators who were unresponsive to needs of parents and children. She became an active member of the district’s Special Education, Budget, Boundary, Discipline and Safety and other committees. A result of this involvement, Maria was elected President of LSOS, serving from 2006 to 2008. Under her leadership, LSOS successfully held a Special Education Fair, which included over 20 community organizations and over 200 people in attendance. As an advocate for parents and students, Maria has organized and empowered parents to become more involved in the education of their children. She is committed to helping parents develop their own leadership abilities and capacity. She has also assisted parents resolved numerous problems by serving as either a mediator or a representative.
Krystleblue Santos, Organizer
Krystleblue Santos was born and raised in Los Angeles, California; she is the first-born daughter of immigrant parents. Her family’s indigenous roots originate from the Yaqui or Yoeme tribe, which originally lived in the Rio Yaqui region and coastal areas of Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico. Krystleblue attended public schools all her life, from Lynwood Unified Schools to the University of California at Berkeley. She was the first in her family to go to a four year University. Krystleblue went to Berkeley in the summer of ’04 and graduated in ’09, with a B.A in Ethnic Studies and a minor in Political Economy. She has been working as an academic tutor/mentor since she was 15 years old. Her most memorable experience working as an educator is having 80% of the students she tutored in the AVID program at Lynwood High continue their education at institutions of higher learning. One of her goals is to help shape the future of Los Angeles via a shift in perception and local accountability. This change includes highlighting the area’s positive examples; specifically, changing misunderstood public opinion of its educational institutions. In 10 years Ms. Santos sees herself being part of an educational, cultural and socioeconomic shift in Los Angeles. Krystleblue’s ultimate goal is to empower those in her own family to pursue their dreams and aspirations through education.
Leili Davari, Organizer
Leili Davari was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She completed a BA in Political Science and Foreign Languages (Spanish) at New Mexico State University then continued her studies at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse to participate in a summer intensive fellowship program to study Farsi. Later that same year, Leili attended the University of Texas, Austin to begin her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. She completed her MA in 2008 then decided to travel to Israel and begin her volunteer work in social justice. In Israel, she volunteered to mentor and teach English to both Arab and Jewish at-risk children. After four months of living in Israel, Leili moved to Los Angeles where she continued her pursuit of social justice as a Jeremiah Fellow with Bend the Arc Organization followed by the Community Organizing Fellowship (COR). As a COR Fellow, she worked to organize immigrants and domestic workers for comprehension immigration reform and for the CA Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers at the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). This year, Leili has been accepted as a Global Jewish Fellow for the American Jewish World Service Organization.
Danielle J. Lafayette, Organizer
Danielle J. Lafayette, born in Los Angeles California, a graduate of Dorsey High School and a graduate of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, believes in serving her community. She is focused on the community as a whole, with a major passion for the quality of human life. Youth, Social and Developmental Justice is a major concern and lack thereof for underserved parts of Los Angeles. As a Gang Prevention and Youth Development Specialist, Community Activist, community organizer, and Group Facilitator she has a passion for connecting Community and school programming, she is able to tackle the overall problem as it arises. Danielle Lafayette has past experience working with The Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development program (GRYD) as well as The Mayor’s Office of Summer Night Lights Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program. Her most recent position with Girls & Gangs as the Case Manager, Community Based Program and outreach Coordinator showed her that our problems starts with our education system. Her major purpose in this role is to reverse the school to prison pipeline by giving workshops with an emphasis in social development. Danielle Lafayette currently serves as the Chair of Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council; in this role she organizes the community around issues that impact their lives and community. She collaborates with many businesses, organizations and community leaders, creating a Youth Development collective in Leimert Park for the Leimert park vision 20/20 initiative among many other things in South LA. Danielle is an advocate for change especially as it relates to empowering people to make a change for the next generation. Danielle has two young sons and her goal is to provide them with the best community possible while keeping them intact with their culture.
Ramon Malta, Accounting Clerk
Born and raised locally in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park, Ramon is a product of the Los Angeles inner city school education system. Ramon received his Bachelor degree from the University of California, San Diego and has plans to complete his Certified Public Accountant (C.P.A.) certification process by early 2015. Ramon has volunteered in various outreach programs in Los Angeles and San Diego that educate and motivate low income students to pursue a higher education. He's also worked at a local San Diego charter school as an accounting clerk working with the finance manager and assisting in keeping the finances accurate. Ramon loves to travel during his spare time and loves being able to discover different cultures that one would not normally see here at home.