Rachel O’Leary was born in Eagle Rock into a family of nature enthusiasts and tree lovers. She spent a large part of her childhood climbing the crape myrtle and avocado trees in her backyard, and she traces her love of trees to those formative moments.
Rachel has worked with City Plants for five years and holds a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of Southern California. Rachel has managed two large grant programs for City Plants — one planting trees in parks and the other working on the first step of an Urban Forestry Management Plan for the City of Los Angeles. Rachel is a graduate of the Municipal Forestry Institute, Class of 2017.
In her spare time, Rachel enjoys discovering new and unfamiliar pockets of LA, experimenting with cyanotype sun prints, hiking, and yoga. She is honored to have the opportunity to work to expand access to green space in the city she calls home.
Elizabeth Jauregui grew up in the heart of Los Angeles in Boyle Heights. Raised in a diverse community, she understands firsthand the impact and importance of trees in low-canopy neighborhoods. She is a loving mother of two children and enjoys event planning, music, and adventuring throughout the city with her two little cubs.
With a background in commercial banking for more than 10 years, Elizabeth handles finances for the City Plants program, grant administration, and program operations. She acts as a liaison between the City Plants program and LADWP, and she enjoys working with community groups to organize tree adoption events throughout the City of LA. Elizabeth is invested in growing a green Los Angeles for the next generation. Elizabeth is a graduate of the Municipal Forestry Institute, class of 2017.
Jimmy Perez was born and raised in the City of Los Angeles. Growing up in an underrepresented community, Jimmy became aware of the lack of environmental science in public education. This inspired him to participate in organizations working with communities on environmental issues. In high school, Jimmy interned for the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program and taught the importance of planting native plants to both elementary students and their parents.
Jimmy attended UC Santa Cruz and earned a BA in Environmental Studies. In the summer of 2017, Jimmy began working as City Plants’ Program Assistant. He now ensures that the program runs efficiently and effectively by assisting constituents and handling administrative tasks. In his free time, Jimmy enjoys hiking one of the beautiful trails found in the Los Angeles National Forest.
Veronica Garcia grew up in a Central Los Angeles neighborhood fittingly named Mid-City. Growing up in a culturally diverse area where access to green space was very limited, Veronica realized how often social and environmental issues are intertwined and wished to be able to make a difference in her community, as well as other communities in urban areas, by helping address and solve these issues.
Veronica is a senior at the University of Southern California where she will be graduating with a BS in Environmental Studies and a minor in Urban and Sustainable Planning the coming spring. In January of 2020, she joined City Plants as an intern and later became a Program Assistant, where she now works directly with constituents. Veronica is working on growing a green thumb by gardening in her backyard in her spare time, and encourages others to do so as well.
Cindy Chen was born and raised in LA County. Her interest in the environment began when she took AP Environmental Science in high school and has taken many environmental courses during her educational career. Over the years, she has become interested in environmental policy and justice and wants to use GIS to visualize the areas in need of better policies.
Cindy earned her B.S. in Environmental Science at UC Riverside in 2018. She is currently enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, to obtain an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.A. in Geography. Cindy started her work with City Plants as a GIS Intern as part of the SEED Scholar Program at CSULA and is happy to continue her work with City Plants as a GIS Specialist, working on urban forest tree equity mapping. In her free time, she enjoys adventuring to cities to try new foods and boba drinks.
Check out some of Cindy’s work as with the Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholars (SEEDS) Program through Cal State LA and the Mayor’s Office here.
California Climate Action Corps Fellows
A long-time LA resident, Leonardo completed his undergraduate studies at Cal State University, Northridge in Communication Studies. During his time with City Plants, Leo will be supporting the new Commonwealth Nursery in Griffith Park, aiding in the growth of the nursery and a workforce development program for tree care, propagation, and maintenance alongside the LA Conservation Corps.
Monica Paderanga was born in Los Angeles and has split her time between the San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino County areas. Her cultural connection with nature has inspired her to help preserve and grow LA’s green spaces. Monica graduated with a Master of Urban & Regional Planning from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2020 and obtained her B.S. in Public Health at California State University, Los Angeles in 2017. She is passionate about creating a safe, healthy, and equitable built environment that can be celebrated and enjoyed by all.
Kimberly Guo was born and raised in Montecito Heights, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles. She attributes her love for plants and the outdoors to her parents, who have green thumbs and took the family camping during summers. After graduating from Yale with a BS in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Kimberly worked in the Bay Area doing habitat restoration, volunteer management, and environmental education. Her curiosity about implementing environmental justice and equity led her to return to graduate school at University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. As a CA Climate Action Corps Fellow, Kimberly is excited about building equity into the Urban Forest Management Plan. She is also grateful for this opportunity to deepen her sense of place in Los Angeles. In her free time, she enjoys finding new places to hike with her dog, reading with her cat curled on her lap, and cooking.
Bryce grew up in the misty foothills of the Northern Cascades where the forests of western Washington meet the Pacific Ocean. He graduated from Occidental College with a BA in Environmental Biology where he modeled the effects of anthropogenic stressors on bumblebee species distributions throughout Southern California, developed environmental education materials in northeastern Madagascar, and researched the survival of a legume species in neotropical Costa Rica. As a proud member of the Potawatomi Nation, he aspires to incorporate local knowledge and community outreach to affect social and political change. Through his work with City Plants, Bryce hopes to amplify communal voices throughout low canopy neighborhoods of Los Angeles to help meet the urban greening needs of Southern California.
University of Southern California Internship Program
Kathleen Verendia was born and raised in the City of Los Angeles. She spent most summers of her childhood in nature, camping her way throughout the US. Kathleen grew up near the Port of Los Angeles, an area of LA that is heavily affected by air pollution from port transportation. Her awareness of environmental service inequity in Los Angeles, mixed with her nature filled childhood, led her to become passionate about environmental justice initiatives. Kathleen is a Junior at the University of Southern California where she will be graduating with a BS in Environmental Studies. In August of 2020, she joined City Plants as an intern, and has continued her internship work into the spring of 2021. She assists with social media, community outreach, and environmental education. In her free time, she enjoys windsurfing and water coloring with friends.
Brianneth Rocha has lived in Los Angeles County her entire life. She has loved growing up in LA, since the beach, the mountains, and lakes are a short ride away. She was introduced to the importance of environmental protection in her academic career when she took AP Environmental Studies. Her fascination with the environment began through her family trips to national parks and forests. Being a traveler and adventure seeker gravitates her toward outdoor activities. Her appreciation for nature has strengthened more as she goes camping several times throughout the year. In her trips she has experienced numerous biomes in various states. She has observed that regulation and environmental preservation laws greatly differ across regions. It made her aware of the need for environmental advocacy and public awareness. She is pursuing a BA in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Sustainability, Energy, and Society at the University of Southern California (USC). She is currently a senior in her undergraduate studies and is also currently earning an MA in Environmental Studies at USC. She is a National Dell Scholar, USC Latino Alumni Association Scholar, and a Special Congressional Recognition recipient. After graduation, she plans to work in environmental policy and sustainability.