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.
Community Organizing Manager
Cristina Basurto (she/her/ella) grew up in a 3 square mile city in Southeast Los Angeles, where 97% of the population is Hispanic/Latinx, and the afternoons were filled with the sounds of the novelas playing on tv and children’s laughter in the street. When her children were young, she would take them to tree planting volunteer events. She credits these volunteer events for giving her children their voice and helping them connect to the world around them. Her passion for urban forestry came from seeing the social and health benefits trees brought her children on the autism spectrum. She wanted to help other families that lived in park-poor, and low-canopied communities like hers also benefit from trees.
Cristina is ISA Certified Arborist, a Street Trees Seminar Board Member, and has worked in urban greening for the last 17 years. She has supervised crews and led community groups in Southeast, South, and Central Los Angeles in planting and caring for trees in historically underserved low-canopied neighborhoods. In the spring of 2021, she mentored four of local leaders in the Tree Ambassador – Promotor Forestal pilot program. Currently, she works with the City Plants team on developing and implementing new and innovative community engagement programming to plant and care for trees along streets and on private property in historically disinvested neighborhoods. She is passionate about connecting grassroots efforts and learning from the communities around her to equitably grow Los Angeles’ urban forest.
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.
Community Engagement Coordinator
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.
Bryce Lewis-Smith (he/him) grew up in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and on the rocky shoreline of the Salish Sea under the canopy of Western Red Cedars and Big Leaf Maples. His passion for urban ecology, environmental justice, and community building led him to City Plants to work on the Tree Ambassador. Here Bryce hopes to work with communities to increase access to the benefits of a greener Los Angeles while helping fight against green gentrification. As a Potawatomi guest on these lands, he strives to build collaboration and amplify local Indigenous voices in conversations around land stewardship and urban greening.
Bryce earned his BA in Environmental Biology with a minor in Urban Environmental Policy from Occidental College and is currently a master’s student studying Environmental Justice and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington.
California Climate Action Corps Fellows
Aleah Watkins was born and raised in Fresno, where the great sequoias meet the rich farmlands and cascading foothills of the central valley. She graduated from Long Beach State with a BS in Health Science and community health education where she participated and trained in cultivating effective interventions in response to pressing community needs as well as creating educational material representative of the unique needs of diverse populations. Health is an all encompassing word that includes the impact ones’ physical environment has on an individual’s and a community’s well-being, something Aleah is very passionate about. Through her work with City Plants, Aleah hopes to improve the overall well-being of Angelinos by aiding in urban greening work and increasing shade canopy in frontline communities.
Amaiya grew up in Compton, the Hub City of Los Angeles. Her interest in environmentalism and sustainability began in elementary school. Every week she took home pounds of used paper to put in her recycle bin for city haulers to pick up every Tuesday. During her 4th year of undergraduate studies at the University of California, Irvine she took a class trip to Costa Rica. The exposure to biodiversity and natural landscapes fortified her love for caring for the planet. After graduating with a B.A. in English she decided to continue her education, this time focusing on environmental and sustainability studies. She is currently earning her A.S. in Recycling and Resource Management and also several certificates in Sustainability and Systems Technology from Santa Monica College. Her long term goals are to earn a Masters in Sustainability Leadership and travel the world to move communities towards zero waste. This is her second term as a AmeriCorp California Climate Action Corp Fellow.