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She Makes History Awardees 2023

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She Makes History Awardees Biography

Neeta_Merchant She MAkes History Awardee

Founder & CEO Neeta Merchant Wellness

Neeta Merchant

She is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant, Wellness Coach, and a Laughter Yoga Teacher. Her own health struggles after a major accident led her to the holistic approach to good health and wellness. She loves to connect with nature, cooking, and rehab original recipes to healthy versions; and has dedicated her life to helping people cultivate healthy relationships with their bodies and food. She empowers and educates her clients to use food and lifestyle changes to support their bodies, mind, and spirit and achieve overall wellness. Her values are to work with clients in a thoughtful compassionate way. Her motto is to Live a Joyful Life

AnabellaBonfa She Makes History Awardee

Business Litigation Attorney

Anabella Bonfa 

She is a business litigation attorney with Wellman & Warren LLP which specializes in trade secret disputes and business breakups.  She joined her firm at 17 years old, working through high school, college, and law school before passing the bar.   She considers her best strength as an attorney her eye for detail, advocacy skills, and most of all, her ability to be a good hand holder for her clients.   She provides good support for clients going through an emotional crisis in litigation and finds ways to work out legal issues that are a win for all parties.

Lara Sinanian She Makes History Awardee

Financial Planner

Lara Sinanian

My name is Lara and 5 years ago God opened the door to be an independent agent/ broker as a Financial Planner and Market companies like Pacific Life, Nationwide, Prudential, Transamerica, Fidelity, and more. Representing 140 Financial companies and 80 Banks.

I took the opportunity because I saw the need for Financial Literacy, Guidance, and the importance of proper planning so NO FAMiLY Gets LEFT BEHIND.

I saw the importance of not losing money because we all work hard for our money, saw the importance of saving in the right places for our future to be able to afford healthcare, to be able to retire and enjoy life and not outlive our money. Instead, our money outlives us and leaves a legacy and generational wealth.

My goal is to help people achieve their financial goals, have peace and sleep without thinking about bills, create generational wealth, and empower everyone.

Trez Ibrahim She Makes History Awardee
Evolutionary Strategist, Master Success Coach, and Spiritual Catalyst. 

Trez Ibrahim

Trained in Neuro Change Solutions, Emotional Release, Energy Work, and Business and Organizational Development, she has been working with some of the most prominent business owners, executives, entrepreneurs and organizations in the world for over 30 years to help them reach massive levels of success. 

She has authored 4 books, worked with fortune 50 companies and is an international transformational thought leader. 

She believes that to be truly Full-filled, you need to be living at a 10 in every area of your life. . . having the career that makes you jump out of bed each morning, making the money that supports your desired lifestyle, having the free time to enjoy your life, being in optimal health to get through your day with energy and vitality, and having supportive loving relationships with deep and meaningful connection.

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Sharon Westafer She Makes History Awardee

Retired Nurse, Humanitarian, and

Sharon Westafer

Sharon is a 5th generation Californian who was born and raised in Auburn. She has degrees in social work and nursing and is a retired registered nurse. A dual member and past president of the Stockton and Long Beach branches of the American Association of University Women, as well as serving in most positions on the boards of each, she is also a member of the CA Online branch and has served on the National Fund (now Development) committee. As a director on the California State Board for six years, she chaired the Fund committee, and was the Fellowship and Grant recipient scheduler from 1999 to 2018. Sharon also serves on the board of a local Friends of the Library group.

Working with her husband in his medical practice before they retired, she was a strong advocate of health insurance for everyone as she believes that availability of health care is key for individuals to lead productive lives.

While she believes that women have made great strides in working toward equality in all areas of their lives, the work is far from completed as evidenced by recent news in the political arena, as well as on the international front. Sharon is a forceful advocate for equality for women in all areas of their lives, including health care, education and equal pay for equal work.

In her spare time, Sharon enjoys reading, crossword puzzles, travel, cooking and gardening.

Shamine Linton She Makes History Awardee
Founder/President of Sharia’s Closet

Shamine Linton

Shamine believes that "Together we can make this world a better place one action at a time, one day at a time, and one bag at a time." As the Founder/President of Sharia’s Closet, Shamine drives the company’s vision, strategy, and growth as it provides creative and unique solutions to help individuals in need. Sharia’s Closet is a tax-exempt non-profit community clothes closet that provides free customized care packages for all people who are in need of emergency clothing or have a lack of professional attire for interviews and/or the workforce. Sharia’s Closet provides for all populations in need including victims of natural disasters, human trafficking, domestic violence, refugees, and individuals who are unemployed, injured, disabled, or homeless. Our work is truly a labor of love. We focus on providing a “boutique-style” environment, treating every client with dignity and respect. We value inclusivity and serve all members of our community. When Shamine’s not working on Sharia’s Closet, she works with an organization that specializes in Early Childhood Education. Her sincerity shines through her work ethic and humility. She possesses all the passion and skills necessary to not only help community members but also connect with them in the process. Shamine uses her leadership skills to identify volunteers’ strengths and empower them to advocate for their communities. Shamine’s ability to adapt and resilience will ensure that Sharia’s Closet continues to grow and expand. "I live my life with purpose. I have been happily married to my husband Shane for over 23 years. We have a 22-year-old son, Shamari, who is serving in the US Air Force, and a 13-year-old daughter, Sharia, whom the organization was named after. Lastly, Maxie, our Maltese mixed puppy rounds out my household. I believe that community means taking care of each other with good intentions regardless of background or circumstances.

Sharia’s Closet 6244 El Cajon Blvd Ste 5
San Diego, CA 92115
Cell: (619)549-6102
Phone: (619)808-4979
Fax: (619)550-0688


Jas Kaur She Makes History Awardee

CFO & Founding Partner at Singh Automation and Singh Vision Systems

Jas Kaur

She is responsible for financial planning, management of financial risks, record keeping, human resources, financial reporting, taxation, sales, and marketing. Jas has Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Western Michigan University and Master's in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University. Jas has 10 years of professional experience in banking, financial planning, management, product development, and marketing. Member of Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, Women Minority Board, National Charity League, Social Media Chair at the Greater Chamber of Irvine, Ambassador at the Greater Chamber of Irvine, and member of Sikh Center, Orange County. Proud mother of 2 teenage daughters, placed 2nd and 3rd place in the NPC bikini competition 2021, and publisher of two kids' books.

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Roya Javaherchi She Makes History Awardee
Co-Founder of Sweet Saffron LLC, Brand: Dateolate 

Roya Javaherchi

 I grew up in a family and a culture where sweet treats were always the primary reason for family and friendly gatherings! Both my grandmothers were incredibly talented bakers and they excelled at making homemade pastries and confections of all kinds!

After high school, I decided to study food science and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science Engineering. Next, I accepted a position at Golestan-Kayla Company, a well-known producer, manufacturer, and distributor of saffron, tea, dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate.

I’ve always dreamt of owning my own business, and I’m an entrepreneur at heart. With a strong admiration for my “pastry chef grandmothers” and “sweets” childhood memories combined with my new educational experience. I knew that someday I would pursue my dream of owning my own business and one that involved dates or “Nature’s Sweet!” because we always used to have and still have dates at our home since my mom is diabetic.

In 2013, when I immigrated with my husband to America, I immediately began college and began working to complete my master’s degree and in 2018 I graduated with a degree in accountancy. But I never ever forgot my dream.

In June 2019, I finally decided to pursue my passion and my close and long-held dream. I quit my stable and predictable job and the company was born! The company’s mission is to produce delectable, delicious, and healthy alternatives to unnatural, sugary products. We create quality, ancient and natural confections.

Tina Rizk She Makes History Awardee
Customer Service and Fashion Model

Christina Rizk

 As a Senior Service Customer Representative at Pacific Premier Bank, I am responsible for providing exceptional support and solutions to customers, and I take pride in going above and beyond to ensure their satisfaction. Outside of work, I love to pursue my passion for modeling. It allows me to express my creativity and showcase my unique personality through fashion and beauty. I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing photographers and brands, and I am constantly seeking new opportunities to collaborate with other talented professionals. As a wife and mother, family is a top priority for me, and I am committed to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In my free time, I enjoy spending quality time with my loved ones, exploring new places, and trying new things. If you're interested in following my modeling journey, please feel free to connect with me on Instagram at [Tina.rizkk]. Thank you for taking the time to learn a bit more about me!

Mayor Khan She Makes History Awardee
Mayor of Irvine

Mayor Farrah N. Khan

Mayor Farrah N. Khan made history in November of 2020 becoming the 23rd Mayor of Irvine. She not only received the highest number of votes for the position of Mayor in the city’s history, but also shattered glass ceilings as the first woman of color to hold the position, and the first Muslim woman to lead a large city in the United States. 


Mayor Khan grew up in northern California and began her career in the biotech and innovation industry as a regulatory manager focusing on streamlining complex products and international research. She and her family moved to Irvine in 2004 where her two sons have had the privilege of attending Irvine schools since Kindergarten. She and her husband also serve as Legacy Partners with the Irvine Public School Foundation.


Mayor Khan is focused on ensuring that the City of Irvine is a leader throughout Orange County and California when it comes to innovation and technology, maintaining a healthy environment, combating climate change, and protecting the health and wellness of Irvine’s diverse communities. In her short time as Mayor, she has initiated several new strategies leading to Irvine becoming the first City in Orange County to spearhead COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics in local neighborhoods and senior centers, passed HERO pay for frontline grocery workers, created a new committee focused on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and adopted a resolution with strategies to support achieving carbon neutrality by 2030

Victoria Philips She Makes History Awardee
Nonprofit Consultant 

Victoria Philips

I am a Nonprofit consultant with extensive experience in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, and board development. I have a passion for creating vibrant nonprofits that are strategically led to best achieve their mission and goals. My expertise includes fundraising, donor relations, strategy planning, organizational development, and digital marketing strategy. My goal is to help your nonprofit be the best it can be so it can do what’s important: make an impact on your community or cause! I'm an expert at making nonprofits thrive. I've worked with several nonprofit organizations and helped them to maximize their donations, and increase the reach of what they do by providing custom systems tailored to each organization's needs I am passionate about pushing results. With 12+ years of experience in nonprofits, I can put my skills to work for you and your organization. I have more than a decade’s worth of industry-specific knowledge from educational training all the way up to consulting across various nonprofits - this means that I always know what it takes to get great outcomes when working with nonprofits like yours. My expertise is backed by passion - after all, there's nothing better than seeing someone reach their goals through hard work! I am a certified international non-profit professional, and member of the International Honor Society Nu Lambda Mu, with extensive experience in global NGOs across Asia, Europe North America, and Africa. My diverse work experience has taught me to use fundraising strategies that will ensure any charity can raise the funds it needs in a way that is most effective. I am happy to coach new start-up nonprofits on how best to fundraise for their cause, and help them find success with more money raised sooner than they thought possible!

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Jutta Gamboa She Makes History Awardee
Irvine Rotary Club President & Founder of Irvine Democratic Club

Jutta Gamboa

Jutta transferred from the University of Cologne, Germany, graduated with an M.A. in German literature and a minor in Film Studies from UCI in 1987 and has been teaching at the college level, at other educational institutions, and privately ever since. She is passionate about teaching because it provides an opportunity to not only share her native language but also enrich the hearts and minds of mostly young adults in matters of literature, culture, and world knowledge.  

While she raised her five children with her husband Jesús of 25 years, she got involved in many philanthropic endeavors. During those years, she started to give back and served on executive and advisory boards for the Waldorf School of Orange County and The Pacific Youth Symphony Orchestra. Later, she was asked to co-chair ‘Entertainment’ at the Multicultural Fair at Sage Hill School. Never one to say no, she did. The following year she co-chaired ‘Food,’ providing two food booths - a German and a Spanish one together with her husband, which they continued for thirteen years until their last child had graduated. During those years she also co-chaired the entire event for one year which draws thousands of visitors from the community.  

Jutta is passionate about sports. She plays tennis and now also pickleball, swims in her pool and the ocean, hikes and bikes on trails and in the mountains. She loves to ice- and roller-skate and skis in wintertime. Always an advocate for outdoor activities in nature, she co-authored the book “Active in Orange County. A guide to outdoor activities and exercise in nature,” which sold in all bookstores of OC where she held numerous book-signings. She is also a member of a hiking group that started eleven years ago.   

Looking for more artistic creativity, she and her husband joined the Irvine Fine Art Center and excelled in ceramic sculpture. The two of them sold their art pieces at numerous local art markets and donated their works to fundraisers as well, for example to Agano for Kenya supporting children’s education in Kenya.  

Together with her husband and a friend, she founded an organic produce and products distribution business, ZucchiniXpress, which was sold successfully after 5 years. 

In 2016 her second ‘career’ began as she got very concerned about the political outlook of the country and world. She co-founded an activist group, “Imagine Action OC”, which focused on community education, activism and on the environment. She is a founding member of OC Clean Power and helped to facilitate a feasibility study for Community Choice Energy in Irvine, which was approved in Fall of 2018 by the City Council.  

She and her husband joined the board of the Democrats of Greater Irvine as Fundraising Chairs. From 2019 to 2021, she served as Chair of the whole organization for one term. While involved in politics, she yearned for her community service years and found a home at the Irvine Rotary Club where she served first as Program Chair, then as International Chair, after which she accepted the position of President Elect. She will start her year as President on July 1st of 2023. Her pet project at Rotary, which she initiated, is assembling ‘Welcome Home Baskets’ for graduates of a program designed by Mercy House to help housing insecure people move into their own apartments. She also initiated a partnership with the Rotary Club of Muthaiga North in Kenya. Her last major project per request by Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan was a winter coat and blanket drive for Turkey and Syria. With the help of the entire Rotary district encompassing 46 clubs, a full cargo plane left for Turkey, 2 shipping containers for Syria and 35 shipping boxes for Mexico with excess clothing. It was a massive endeavor and a huge success. 

In May of 2022 she and some fellow Democrats realized there was demand for more Democratic clubs than just one for the 62,000 registered Democrats in Irvine and co-founded the Irvine Democratic Club which she has been chairing ever since. She will have her hands full leading IDC and preparing for an election year, and also serving as President of the Rotary Club of Irvine.  

If you would like to get involved, please reach out to her at or at   

Jane Niemeier She Makes History Awardee
Co- President of AAUW San Diego, Humanitarian, and Philanthropist

Jane Niemeier

She had an unusual childhood in that she lived in many states as well as spent four years in Brazil and ten summers in Gabon, Africa, due to her father’s work in mining and construction. She developed an interest in languages and became a French teacher after obtaining a B.A. in French Education from Purdue University and an M.A. in French Literature from Indiana University.  After teaching French in secondary school for 34 years, she and her husband retired and moved to San Diego. At that time, Jane became active in the American Association of University Women because of their mission to break through barriers for women and girls through education, research and advocacy.  She has served as president of the La Mesa-El Cajon Branch, the San Diego Branch and as co-president of AAUW California from 2018-2020.  She currently holds four offices with the La Mesa-El Cajon Branch and is co-president of the San Diego Branch.

Laurel Adler She Makes History Awardee
Documentary Filmmaker, Director, Producer & more

Laurel Adler

Laurel is a faculty member at California State University Long Beach, where she teaches in the College of Health and Human Services.


Laurel has a second career as a documentary filmmaker. Her landmark film, “SHOSHOLOZA”, depicting the struggles of post-Apartheid South Africa’s rural villages received numerous international awards. Her award-winning film, “The Harder Way”, showcased 3 Chinese self-made millionaires, who had failed the Chinese national exams, and were deemed as not “smart enough” to be a success. Her 2017 film, ATOUSA, about an Iranian woman forced into an arranged marriage, has won numerous honors. Laurel’s most recent films, “Paradise Unfound,” “Iron Chain Last Hope,” and “Split Feather,” have all been hailed as important human stories coming out of their native Hawaiian, African, and American Indian roots.


Laurel Adler is also the Director of “The NewsFest – True Stories International Film and Writers’ Festival.” The film festival is one of her favorite events, as she gets the opportunity to showcase and promote talented new artists. Laurel was originally trained as an actor but discovered she preferred to have more control over her work than being an actor allowed. That’s when she became a Director and Producer.


Laurel also produces her own local LA television show, “Morning Shorts,” which features the winning NewsFest films of the year.


Laurel is also a visual effects artist, having worked on several Hallmark Hall of Fame films, including Visual Effects Producer for Hallmark’s, “A Dog Named Christmas.” She also worked on two seasons of the AOL web series “Little Women Big Cars” (2012, 2013, Michael Eisner’s Vuguru Productions).

Tamara Peterson She Makes History Awardee
Real Estate Agent 

Tamara Peterson

 I have been an active member of the real estate industry since 2011, when I brought my administrative management skills to a local real estate investment firm. My exposure to both residential and multi-family redevelopment provided me the foundation in which to see the value & long-term income opportunities within each property and I have brought those skills to my own real estate business. With a passion for service, and a strong knowledge of real estate market trends, I provide my clients with a customized boutique real estate experience designed to serve their needs. Whether it's purchasing a first home or the 5th addition to a real estate portfolio, I meet the demands of my clients with diligence and joy and I carry the values of hard work, transparency, integrity, and outstanding client service into everything I do. When I'm not helping my clients achieve their real estate goals, I can be found with my family hiking in the mountains, swimming at the coast, or relaxing at home with a good book. I'm native to San Diego County and I love living here with my husband, our 3 boys, and our energetic border collie mix rescue pup.

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Lacey Taylorcole - She Makes History Awardee

Director of Operations for a PE Backed Dermatology Company

Lacey Taylorcole

I oversee the clinic operations for 42 clinics. I have been doing this for almost 4 years. What makes me unique is I have proven my worth and smiles and moved up the leadership ladder quickly. I am outgoing and persistent, I speak up when others won’t.

Bella Samul She Makes History Awardee
 Founder of Bella Lending

Bella E Samel

Since 2005, Bella has made dreams come true by helping borrowers achieve creative financing and real estate goals. Her strong communication skills and attention to detail guide clients to desired results with consistency and organization throughout the entire process from introductions to funding.

With the flood of information in today’s world, it is easy to get overwhelmed and misdirected. She specializes in simplifying the complex. Bella is passionate about protecting her clients to ensure they can make informed decisions.

No matter where you are on your journey, Bella can help you build a personal road map for your mortgage needs.

I’m here to answer any questions.


Feel free to reach me at:

Phone: (949)436-8686

Serena Li She Makes History Awardee
Living Benefits life Insurance Agent

Serena Li

I am a dedicated Living Benefits life insurance agent with a passion for helping individuals and families protect their financial futures. When I was 1 year old, my mother suffered with cancer, so I understand the pain & stress of major illnesses and the importance of planning for the unexpected. With 10 years of experience in the industry, I am committed to delivering exceptional service and building long-term relationships to ensure my clients' ongoing protection.

Lynn Summers She Makes History Awardee
Farmer, Entrepreneur, and Owner of Summersprep LLC

Lynn Summers

He has volunteered with San Bernardino County Master Gardener, and Master Food Preserver where she shares Research base knowledge of food growing and preserving with the community through education. She believes in the integrated approach to the food web, which uses the whole product to reduce as much waste as possible.
Before she started Summersprep, she retired from Kaiser Hospital where she worked for 30 years as an emergency room tech (EMS) and Safety Officer plus a Shop Steward and Union Organizer with the United Steelworkers. There she was FEMA trained and honed her skills in federal, state, and local regulation on emergency processes and how to prepare for disasters.
Lynn has turned her EMS skills and her passion and certification as a San Bernardino County Master Food Preserver and Master Gardener into a fully integrated business that brings together farming, preserving, and survival skills. She is a county fair blue ribbon winner for her jams and jellies and teaches regular classes in gardening and preserving and small husbandry and teach at the local community garden.
She is the VP of the newly rebuilding of Rialto Chamber, a participant in the Caravanserai Project’s SEED Lab for social entrepreneurs, and is currently studying entrepreneurship at California State University, San Bernardino, and Permaculture Certification Program through Cal State San Bernardino in the Desert.
Lynn and her husband have made it their life’s mission to teach and empower the community in self-resiliency as a lifestyle.

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Janelle Guerrero She Makes History Awardee
Global Educator of Abbott Published Author
Veteran, US Army

Janelle Guerrero

Janelle is from the Midwest, specifically outside Chicago on the northwest border of Indiana. She moved to CA in 2005 after finishing her Kinesiology BS and MS at Indiana University. She is very well-traveled and multi-cultured, lending a global perspective to important conversations about progressive change. As a Californian, her home is Redlands. She served two years as commissioner on the City of Redlands Human Relations Committee (2020-2022) and invests a great deal of time in culturally significant events that center around engaging the community in inclusive ways. Janelle is a single mama with a career and nonprofit, she dances salsa and writes poetry. She is a published author.
Janelle’s career is quite extensive. She served in the US Army as a medic, which began her medical career. Her move to CA allowed her to work as a clinical therapist in cardiopulmonary rehab at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Eight years later she was offered a role with Loma Linda University as an educator. She founded/directed the Cardiac Electrophysiology Technician program (CEPT). She maintained this role for 4 years before being hired by St.Jude Medical (now Abbott) as a Field Clinical Engineer. Janelle is a mapper and medical device certified and covered all of the IE as a clinical rep for four years. This role allowed much insight as to how local hospitals serve the community and how they meet the high acuity levels of patients in the IE.
A brief sabbatical on the heels of the pandemic allowed her to connect more to the community and its needs, which is why she and Kai founded STN as an organization on Aug 14th, 2020. Janelle initiated and was the lead on it becoming a nonprofit. She also had a brief bout as a West Coast Distributor for a Women’s Clothing line, which helped her gain an appreciation for local vendors. Janelle graduated from the IEWBC program for women entrepreneurs & was a fellow of Caravanserai’s Seed Lab alongside Kai. In November 2021 she was selected by Abbott for a Global Education role with the EP Institute, where she currently serves as the primary Curriculum Architect.
Janelle’s role as CEO of STN is everything operational, overseeing and guiding many business-led decisions, establishing contracts, coordinating events, and engaging leaders and potential sponsors/investors. She is action-driven, so she serves with a committed heart and leads with a relationship focus. Janelle’s main focus as an abolitionist is creating safe spaces of collective care and empowerment for women and youth.

Ramya Harishankar She Makes History Awardee
Award-Winning Artistic Director of the Arpana Dance Company (ADC)

Ramya Harishankar

She is an Award-Winner Artistic director of the Arpana Dance Company (ADC), a premier school of Bharata Natyam in California celebrated 40 years in 2022. Recognized as a ‘Distinguished citizen’ and Wall of recognition honoree (2022) by the city of Irvine, she is also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award (Soorya Foundation, 2022), Kala Seva Bharathi (Bharat Kalachar, India 2012) and the Helene Modjeska Cultural Legacy award (Arts OC 2007), the countywide arts organization.

Recipient of several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Harishankar is a 2-time National Endowment of the Arts Choreographic Fellow. Her solo career has taken her all over the world, performing extensively in India, Asia, Europe, Australia, and N. America.  

For her dedicated commitment and constant efforts, she has been recognized as one of the icons of Indian dance in the US. She co-created a nonprofit in 1989 to bring Indian classical dance to SoCal which morphed into the Ektaa Center in 2004 serving the greater community. As perhaps the first artiste of Indian origin in the area her contributions have been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally and added color and depth to the cultural landscape of SoCal.

Mariam Tariq - She Makes History Awardee
Chief of Staff  | Mayor Farrah N. Khan | City of Irvine

Mariam Tariq 

Mariam Tariq is an Irvine native who turned her passion for social justice into a career in public service. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors in Political Science in 2018. Since then she has served as Council Executive Assistant for Councilmember Farrah Khan, Finance Deputy for Dave Min for State Senate, Member of the Youth Advisory Board for Congresswoman Katie Porter, APAICS Fellow in the Office of Congresswoman Judy Chu, and is currently Chief of Staff to Mayor Farrah Khan.


She is a founding member of Irvine Democratic Club and supports their mission to create awareness on local issues and advocate for Irvine’s vulnerable communities. She also serves on the Board for the Islamic Center of Irvine (ICOI) Young Professionals in an effort to create a safe space for professional development and community engagement for Muslims. Her vision is to make Irvine a more inclusive and welcoming community.

Taja Marbley She Makes History Awardee
Career Coach 

Taja Marbley

Hi everyone, my name is Taja, and I am born and raised here in San Diego. I have worked with individuals experiencing homelessness for the last 17 years. I currently work as an advocate for one position and I work as a career coach for another. I am 34 years old I am currently updating my master's degree in social work. I believe that God gives us all blessings and resources and we have to share those with everybody and show his love at the same time. Thank you so much for reading my bio

Caelie Fish She Makes History Awardee
Climate Action Corps Fellow with Tree San Diego

Caelie Fish

Caelie is a California Climate Action Corps Fellow with Tree San Diego, a non profit focused on urban greening and environmental justice. Her professional interests are in ESG, impact evaluation and communications in the field of biodiversity conservation. She continues to expand her expertise in social innovation to better understand how businesses, governments and non profits can work together to make the human experience a more sustainable one.

Bernice Corona  She Makes History Awardee
Broker. Investor

Bernice Corona

As an entrepreneur, my greatest blessing has been the ability to work from home while raising my three children, who are now adults. Along my journey, I've come to understand that aiming for significance is more important than success. While I'm grateful for my numerous achievements in sales, banking, and real estate, what truly fills me with joy is having managed a real estate brokerage where I helped agents, loan officers, and staff members achieve their dreams. I've built lifelong relationships with clients and have helped both buyers and sellers in times of financial hardship. Additionally, I'm now investing in real estate myself.

However, the most important aspect of my life is my faith in Christ, which I've shared with those I've come across in the marketplace. It's been incredible to see God work in the lives of the people He's placed in my path. Spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren, is also one of my greatest joys. When I have some personal time, you'll find me playing chess, tennis, or dancing. Taking a drive down Highway 101 and admiring the ocean is also a fantastic way for me to reflect on life.

As a woman, I believe in leading with love and serving others. I have so much more I could say, but I wanted to leave you with this note. 

caroline She Makes History Awardee
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lead- Caravanserai Project

Carolina Rosas-Saavedra

Carolina is a startup mentor and business advisor with more than 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship.


Carolina is passionate about business model innovation and the application of complex business theories and strategies into the day-to-day operations of early-stage startups, “small” but powerful (as she always likes to highlight) businesses, and nonprofit organizations.


She has a strong background in research and innovation as a Molecular Biotechnology Engineer with a master's in Biological Sciences from the University of Chile. Carolina is also a former panel reviewer for the Chilean National Agency for Research and Development and a former Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialist at the hub of technology APTA (Andes Pacific Technology Access) in Chile, where she mentored entrepreneurs and connected with several tech-based companies across the country.


Carolina is the founder of Vitrotech SpA and co-founder of Klein Biotecnología Ltda, two Chilean start-up companies actively focused on consulting services and translational research respectively. Carolina has been Director and Co-director of several R&D and innovation grants as a result of her fundraising skills and business acumen.


She worked for 3 years as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of California Riverside. In this capacity, she mentored entrepreneurs and supported the development of small businesses and scalable start-ups in the Inland Empire. Carolina was also responsible for outreach activities to promote entrepreneurship within the faculty and student base at UCR.


Nowadays, Carolina is the Senior Lead of Business Innovation and Research at Caravanserai Project, a hybrid social impact venture where she supports several businesses in Southern California.

Emily Jacobs She Makes History Awardee
Executive Vice President San Diego Housing Commission

Emily Jacobs 

With 25 years of experience in the affordable housing industry, Emily Jacobs oversees a diverse property portfolio, multifamily and single-family lending, real estate development, and acquisitions for the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC). She also leads a team of professionals in Acquisitions, Development, Loans and Grant Programs, Rehabilitation, Portfolio Management, Property Management, and Real Estate Budget and Finance. Her experience includes real estate development, asset management, property management, and resident services. Ms. Jacobs has a strong background in the development and oversight of tax credit and bond-financed developments. Prior to her current role, she served as the Vice President of SDHC’s nonprofit affiliate and development arm, Housing Development Partners. Prior to joining SDHC, Ms. Jacobs worked for nearly seven years for Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation, a San Diego nonprofit developer, overseeing company and portfolio operations. She also worked for several years as a real estate development coordinator for a national nonprofit developer in Central California. Ms. Jacobs holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from Humboldt State University and a National Tax Credit Compliance designation.

Vicki Estrada She Makes History Awardee
President and Founder of Estrada Land Planning

Vicki Estrada

Vicki Estrada is the President and Founder of Estrada Land Planning.  Her responsibilities include running the office, land planning, urban design, and landscape architecture for a variety of projects including community planning, master-planned communities, infill, parks, and streetscapes for public and private entities.  She is particularly skilled in providing community facilitation services and strives to make all of her projects sustainable, context-sensitive, unique, and responsive to community and client needs.  Vicki understands diverse community values, natural values as well as the creative and technical aspects of design.  Reconnecting with the natural aspects of a site is a key objective for each of her projects.  She is known for developing design solutions that lead to consensus on difficult issues.  Vicki is fluent in Spanish.

Melissa Northway She Makes History Awardee

Financial Services Professional

Million Dollar Roundtable Member

NAWBO – OC President 

Melissa Northway, MDRT

How many people do you know who has taught English as a second language in Japan; started a campaign to bicycle across Vietnam to fight poverty; served as a champion for women in business; portrayed the first woman to become a dentist in the United States; worked in international cosmetics; sold medicinal mushrooms; written a series of acclaimed children’s books; run a blog called Dandelion Women; and made their living as a financial services professional and insurance agent? If you were at Chico State in the late ’80s and early ’90s you might have met such a person. Her name is Melissa Northway, and yes, these are just some of her credits. She’s also mom to Kate, an aspiring musician, and wife to Lou for over 25 years.

Melissa is fearless, and her strong entrepreneurial spirit has motivated many of her choices. When she came back to the United States after studying abroad, she started exploring companies she thought might be successful in Japan.


“I’m open to trying new things even if I’ve never done them before,” said Melissa. “It’s important to push ourselves.”


Combining her love for business and exploration, she moved into the import-export market with cosmetics and skin-care products. Then she met someone who was knowledgeable about medicinal mushrooms, for which there was a huge market in Japan. Just like that, another one of Melissa’s business ventures took off.

While her focus is on insurance and retirement planning, Melissa says “my reward is helping people get their plans together and feel secure.” She especially wants to help young women with goal setting, particularly as an offset to the financial constraints that have traditionally been put on women. “People don’t recall that until the law was changed in 1988, women weren’t able to sign a business loan without a man,” she observed.

Helen Woo She Makes History Awardee
R & D Tax Credit and the ambassador of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce and RBN

Helen Woo

Helen Woo, An Excellent R & D Tax Credit and the ambassador of the Irvine chamber of commerce and RBN. She is also a single mom and a member of the Filipino American Chamber of OC. She always goes the extra mile for her clients and has an excellent referral program for her business-to-business connection. She is always juggling a million things at a time which makes her an incredible woman.

Sartteka Am Ab Nefer- She Makes History Awardee

Sartteka Am Ab Nefer

I was born and raised here in Sunny San Diego and though I have traveled often, I only lived outside of San Diego for three years when I moved to Denver after my undergraduate studies. I attended Grossmont Community College where I studied Psychology with an emphasis on Human Sexuality and Child Development. I transferred to San Diego State University with a major in Psychology and minors in LGBT Studies and Women’s Studies. While doing my undergrad, I was a McNair Scholar and spent much of my time doing research in Sexuality Education, Intimate Partner Violence, and Psychology. I did an internship with San Diego Family Justice Center, Dress for Success Program, and License to Freedom. After my graduation, I moved to Denver for a bit, where I did internships at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Gender Identity Center of Colorado. Ultimately, the cold, and the desire to connect with the community, brought me home. I was accepted into San Diego State University’s Women’s Studies Master’s Program and moved back to San Diego. I elevated my edible gardening from a few potted porch plants and a tower garden to a plot at Mt. Hope Community Garden. One plot turned into three and before you know it, I was adding “farmer” to my bag of tools and participating in the conversation around sustainability, regenerative agriculture, food justice, and environmental justice and bringing my kinda-radical intersectional views to the tables and spaces I occupied. I worked as an Associate and credentialed substitute teacher for about three years after my MA and started to study birth work in my spare time. I became a certified doula with For the Village and began supporting families during their prenatal period, birth, and postpartum. I have a passion for learning and believe in holistic, traditional healing, so I decided to add to my toolbox by taking certification training programs such as Grandma’s Hands Herbal Postpartum Healing from the Black southern perspective, The Nafsa Project School traditional Moroccan postpartum healing, Milk Magic Educators from Nurturely and a Childbirth Education from Birthing From Within. I became a Climate Ambassador for Environmental Justice and started an organization called P.H.A.T.C.R.O.P.S. an acronym for Providing Healthier Alternatives to Communities Reclaiming Our People’s Sustainability and I took a permaculture design certification program with San Diego Sustainable Living Institute. If all that wasn’t enough, I run a spiritual-based home business, Asha Nia, where I handcraft gemstone jewelry and other spiritual tools, and an organization called Resilience Building Knowledge which focuses on safety, rescue, and defense training in our communities. Where do I plan to go from here?? Well, one goal of PHATCROPS is to establish local food forests in communities living under food apartheid and to continue to educate folks on the significance of growing their own food and collective permaculture. Asha Nia would love to have a brick and-mortar to showcase the jewelry and spiritual crafts we make with enough room for a yoga class. I will continue to work with For the Village while also building up my birth work business Nefer Het Ankh which translates to Beautiful House of Life, where I offer full-spectrum doula services, childbirth education, and lactation education classes as well as some traditional cultural birth and postpartum practices such as the Hamam bath (traditional practice in Morocco). Nefer Het Ankh will one day become a holistic birth center. My love for learning will only push me to continue from here.

Gail Young - She Makes History Awardee
Financial Coach/Hydration Specialist

Gail Young

From a Catholic nun to a financial coach entrepreneur, I must say, it sparks interest in people by asking me a lot of questions! I have two businesses, I help people as a 1) Financial Coach and a 2) Hydration Specialist. The financial coaching came over eight years ago when I left the Catholic order of Sisters in 2014. They gave me my old car and $6000! How long does $6000 last in California?! I heard in my spirit that “you better learn something about money, or it is going to manage you.” I was blessed to find an entrepreneur at the time- my new business partner, Mike, who had lost his left leg and his right eye in the Afghanistan war, he was building his business in the financial services industry! Mike was helping people save money, get out of debt, and plan for retirement. How many people do you know who need financial education these days? So I was encouraged and got my State license in 2015. I began receiving valuable financial training in this industry. I reach out to friends and social media, along with meeting people through networking. Mike soon went off to disability retirement, but my other business partner Karlo, the CEO of Innergy Financial, gave me an opportunity in this business 8 years ago and I am grateful to him to share to clients this valuable information about life insurance, buying/sell agreements, and indexed annuities! (What they don’t teach in our schools!) What makes me unique in this business? I am a people person who cares! For me, it is all about building long, lasting relationships. I find that my client’s problem is solved by asking questions and really learning who is my client. Making sure my clients are satisfied with their policies are managed; along with meeting with clients every year for their annual reviews and maintaining contact through calls, emails and texts is the key to great business relationships. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they see the finished complimentary financial plan that will give them hope again to succeed and live their dreams! As a Hydration Specialist, I’m with an amazing company that is in 23 countries. I started just drinking the alkaline, ionized water that my high school friend gave me and I noticed a huge difference in my body. I always say to folks, “if you don’t have your health, how can you do your business?” And if it made a difference to me, why not help others feel better too because the root cause of sickness and disease is dehydration! Stay hydrated and financially fit, everyone! For more information …Email Gail at Or to find out more about this water, please see the link.

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Urban Design and Drafting Services- San Diego & OC 

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