Our Team

 
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Fernando Rejon, Executive Director

Fernando Rejón serves as the Executive Director after helping to build the Urban Peace agenda for a decade. He established the organization’s Urban Peace Academy as a platform to certify gang intervention workers, train law enforcement on the role of gang intervention and implementing relationship-based policing approaches, and engage public sector leaders on violence reduction strategies. He works to improve community safety by enhancing organizational capacity and supporting four key project areas: 1) the Urban Peace Academy, 2) Training and Technical Assistance, 3) Smart Justice, and 4) Prevention Initiatives. UPI currently supports cities throughout the nation to implement strategies to reduce violence, ensure police accountability, and develop policies to end mass incarceration and increase community-level investment for public safety.

 Fernando has over 15 years of experience working in non-profits with a lengthy background in community organizing and program development. He has worked with probation youth, organized and fought for environmental justice, and worked to build bridges between indigenous communities in Mexico and people of color in the United States to fight for justice. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Communication Studies from the University of San Diego and a Master of Arts degree in Chican@ Studies from California State University, Northridge.

 
 
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JOsh Green, Esq. Criminal Justice Program Manager, Staff attorney

Josh Green leads UPI’s legal advocacy work that focuses on reforming overly punitive criminal and juvenile justice systems, as well as the CalGang database and the Los Angeles County Probation Department. He co-leads the Ramona Gardens Safety Collaborative to build the capacity of residents and community-based organizations to increase community safety and develop the necessary resources to address the needs of families in the housing development. In addition, the Criminal/Juvenile Justice Reform work focuses on supporting and developing policies that meaningfully address the needs of residents in high violence communities. Previously, Josh served as the Equal Justice Works Fellow at Advancement Proejct, sponsored by Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP and Edison International. As a fellow, Josh developed and implemented a program to minimize the negative consequences of civil gang injunctions in Los Angeles communities and to provide representation to individuals who believe that they have been wrongly added to a gang injunction and/or who have made the choice to leave a gang and wish to remove themselves from injunction enforcement. Prior to his work as a fellow, Josh graduated from Harvard Law School where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice.

 
 
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Gil Espinoza, Senior Associate, prevention programs

Gilberto Espinoza works with government agencies, law enforcement, schools, and community stakeholders to achieve a collaborative and comprehensive solution to violence in South Los Angeles.  He coordinates the Watts Latino Leadership Institute, Watts Regional School Safety Collaborative, and supports efforts to advance a Watts Regional Strategy to reduce violence. Previously, Gilbert worked with Advancement to promote community safety initiatives.  He is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles.

 
 
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eric lam, Coordinator, Strategic initiatives

Eric Lam coordinates UPI’s technical assistance strategic initiatives.  He develops and conducts community safety assessments that include community surveys, focus groups, interviews, data and research analysis with a variety of stakeholders.  Eric also supports the development of infrastructure for gang prevention and intervention services, relationship based policing initiatives, as well as UPI’s technical assistance services for communities across the country. Prior to his work with the Urban Peace Institute, Eric Lam was a Senior Human Relations Specialist with the Orange County Human Relations Council. He has extensive experience working in low-income housing and in diverse communities throughout California and New York developing and implementing social and educational services and change. Eric is a proud Vietnamese-American and has also been involved with the Asian Pacific Islander Youth Collaborative in Orange County.  He holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Urban Studies & Planning from University of California, San Diego as well as a Master of Arts degree in Sociology of Education, Education Policy from New York University.

 

 
 
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sean garcia-leys, esq., staff attorney

Sean Garcia-Leys works to address the overboard targeting of communities for gang suppression. Sean leads our community lawyering services and direct legal services. He litigates gang injunction cases on behalf of individuals wrongly accused of active gang participation, provides direct legal services for individuals seeking removal from gang injunctions or gang databases, and seeks judicial and legislative means to end counter-productive and unconstitutional gang suppression strategies. Before joining the Urban Peace Institute, Mr. Garcia-Leys worked for over a decade as a public high school teacher in Watts and Lincoln Heights. Before that, he worked as a labor union organizer. Sean holds a J.D. from UC Irvine School of Law.

 
 
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caitlin kosec, development and communications manager

Caitlin Kosec oversees UPI’s fundraising and communications initiatives to ensure a robust foundation of support for the organization. Throughout her career, Caitlin has worked to improve community safety, advance education reform, as well as improve direct services available in low income communities. Caitlin previously served as a Grants and Communications Manager for Interfaith Community Services in San Diego County, and supported violence reduction strategies as a Development Manager for Advancement Project in Los Angeles. Caitlin holds a Masters of Public Policy degree from Johns Hopkins University.

 
 
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jacob albert, training administrator

Jacob Albert leads the coordination of the Urban Peace Academy’s Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy. He coordinates trainings to promote the personal and professional development for gang intervention workers, as well as leads various practitioner, service provider, academic and subject matter expert tables. Jacob’s passion for developing alternative approaches to combating community violence arose from his five years as the Associate Director of Employment Services at Homeboy Industries. Previous, he worked with Friends Outside, City University of New York, VOA Crosswalk Homeless Youth Shelter, PEN America Center, LA’s Best, and Lennox School District; freelance writing for Lonely Planet Publications, The NY Press, and The Inlander Weekly; along with teaching positions in China and South Korea. Jacob holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the City College of New York and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Loyola Marymount University.

 
 
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Tim Shugrue, Manager of Finance and operations

Tim Shugrue manages financial reporting and operations for the Urban Peace Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience as an accounting and human resources professional. Tim has significant prior experience working for nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and law firms in accounts management and financial reporting.  Previously, he served as a Finance Manager for Advancement Project. He also works with the Police Assessment Resource Center, a non-profit organization providing oversight and counsel with respect to police accountability and recommended practices, where he serves as an Accounting Manager and Human Resources Manager.