2018 Core Crew

Marc Chavez, Program Director/ Founder, A graduate of the University of California, San Diego, Marc created InterTribalYouth.org and Young Native Scholars 17 years ago. Establishing partnerships with top universities, tribal organizations and communities, Marc aims to provide world-class educational opportunities to youth and indigenize the educational experience. Marc leads in curriculum design, programming, partner collaborations, and fundraising. In addition to California's flagship programs, has began international programs in Panama, 10 years running, and developed cultural exchanges with Hawaii and Jamaica. Marc is an avid surfer and spends much of his time with nature. Learn more about the Founder . . 

Manny Lieras, Asst. Director and Summer Coordinator, A graduate of San Diego State University, Manny has over 15 Years working as Indigenous mentor and program coordinator for rural & urban youth. Manny has created an extensive network with California and national tribal leaders to combat issues within American Indian education, land rights, fishing and hunting rights, Indian Child Welfare, Tribal gaming, and sovereignty. A well known artist and singer in American Indian drum circles, Manny is also the producer of Injunuity , a mix of animation, music, and real thoughts from real people exploring our world from the Native American perspective. Injunuity has aired nationally on public broadcasting. Manny assists InterTribalYouth leadership, fundraising and crowd sourcing for Native Like Water. #chiefboat #Mannpower


Kiana Maillet, Assist. Director San Diego Coordinator, is from the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and a graduate from the Universities of California State San Marcos (CSUSM) and San Diego State (SDSU). Kiana has a background in Social Work, Child Development, Mental Health, and Education.  She is currently a doctoral student in a joint program through UC San Diego and CSUSM studying Educational Leadership.  She has worked and volunteered with children and families for over 20 years and currently teaches at multiple colleges.  She loves outdoor adventures, is a great mother and loves to learn from others.

Mālama ʻia kākou!

Mālama ʻia kākou!

Ilima Choy, ITY Curriculum Specialist 
Ilima Choy is from Kona Hema on the island of Hawaiʻi.  An educator for almost 20 years, Ilima specializes in designing and developing culturally responsive curriculum and programs. She also mentors educators in teaching practices grounded in traditional ways of knowing and doing. These skills are reciprocally applied to mathematics, chemistry, biological and social sciences. Over the progression of her career, she has worked with learners of all ages in various settings from the classroom to community enrichment programs.  Sharing the ways of my kupuna (elders/ancestors) through moʻolelo (story) and tradition is her passion.  Making connections and strengthening our identities build the foundation to heal.  

Noemi Jara: Youth Mentor, Organic Partnerships: Noemi is a descendant of the Naayeri/ Cora people of Nayarit, Mexico. Earning two bachelor’s degrees in Medical Anthropology and Sociology, she is now in her second year of Graduate School at Cal State San Marcos. Her research explores engagement of “At-Risk” Youth in Education, Suicide Awareness, Prevention, Early Intervention, Sustainable Agriculture, Organic Farming, and Food Sovereignty. She holds lead positions with several non-profit organizations, including indigenous organizations, across North County San Diego and has worked internationally. Noemi organized a series of cultural workshops called “Talleres con la Comunidad: Rumbo a la Guelaguetza” at Cal State San Marcos with the Coalition of Indigenous Communities of Oaxaca (COCIO) and CSUSM Anthropology, that lead up to the annual Guelaguetza festival that hosts 4,000 Mexican-indigenous people from the region and beyond. She volunteers her time as a mentor in her community and leads a citizenship and literacy classes for elders. Second year student, in the Masters in Sociological Practice Program at CSUSM, her thesis is on the aging experiences of Mexican indigenous elders. Her aim is to publish a oral "herstory" book that documents ancestral knowledge and teachings of elderly indigenous women.


Marcus Lopez, Resident Youth Mentor is Chumash and Chicano, residing in Santa Barbara, and grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He is a Captain of the Chumash Tomol's (plank canoes), an educator, a mentor, a community activist, a singer, a dancer and a jack of all trades. He has a B.A. in Political Science from UCSB and he is currently working on his Masters of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Social Justice writing about indigenous curriculum.

at home on one of the many caribbean islands of guna yala indian reservation

at home on one of the many caribbean islands of guna yala indian reservation

Olo Villalaz, Resident Youth Mentor, represents the Gunayala Nation and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests. He is Guna Indigenous, fluent in Spanish, Guna Language and speaks english. He holds a degree in Mathematics and Business Administration. For the past 8 years, he worked with different indigenous organizations, adolecents and children of Panama. Olo is currently a board member of the Gunayala Youth Congress. Giuseppe has participated in different conferences and meetings of the United Nations and Indigenous Peoples world-wide. He has worked with InterTribalYouth.org for several years hosting international exchanges and coordinating visits between the Peace and Dignity Journey,  Hokulea World Wide Voyage, and Four Words International. Olo is highly respected by many indigenous leaders and groups in Panama.

Susie Gallo, Resident Youth Mentor: Susie was introduced to ITY-Native Like Water during her time in high school and "because of this amazing program I now attend one of the top universities in the nation", she says. Susie is going into her third year at San Diego State University, majoring in Criminal Justice. Susie is very involved with organizations on campus. On her off days, she loves to spend her time staying active whether it's playing a sport or simply enjoying nature itself. After she receives her bachelors in Criminal Justice, Susie plans on pursuing a career in the Navy as an officer. Susie takes great pride in her indigenous roots and also where she comes from. She loves doing outreach programs and working alongside with indigenous communities. 


Miztlayolxochitl Aguilera, Resident Mentor, comes from the Tongva People (Los Angeles) of the San Gabriel Mission and the Mexica people of Mexico. She was born and raised in Southern California. She is a second year student at California State University, Puvungna (Long Beach) earning a double major in Human Development and Chicano and Latino Studies, as well as a certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Cultures. She is a paddler of a traditional Tongva plank canoe, a danzante, and a student leader.

Ilima fighting her way to the top

Ilima Lei MacFarlane, Mentor, Presenter is a 2014 graduate from San Diego State where she majored in Cultural Anthropology and ran the Pacific Islander Student Association. She went on to receive her M.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a focus on indigenous issues. Originally from the island of O’ahu, this Native-Hawaiian has always dreamed of becoming an educator. However, her life took a slight detour when she began a successful a career as a professional MMA fighter. Now 6-0 and World Champion Bellator MMA Flyweight, Ilima still continues to bring awareness to indigenous issues with hope and determination. In 2018, Ilima Initiated "The Iliminator Scholarship" providing young females a fighting chance at opportunities in education. 

Larry "Moto" Banegas, Native Like Water "Honored Elder"
Papa Moto is the President and founder of Kumeyaay.com. He served as a member of the Tribal Council for the Barona Band of the Kumeyaay for many years. Larry is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach with BA in Speech and Communication. He also has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from San Diego State University. He was raised on the Barona reservation and teaches Kumeyaay culture and tradition to the community. He has taught California Indian history and traditional knowledge at D.Q. University at Sycuan and presently sits on the AIR Programs Board. Moto joined ITY's inaugural "Native Like Water" California-Hawaii Delegation in 2015. Moto is committed to guiding the youth back to the ocean. Moto will also take part in ITY's traveling multi-media art exhibit: "Native Like Water" in 2016. All appreciate his guidance, vision, musical gifts and song.

unity energy

Jerome Gross; Mind, Body, Spirit, Yoga: Jerome has been in private practice as a Hypnotherapist since 1995 and has been teaching yoga for 15 years and with ITY for over 13 years. As Founder / Director of the Effulgence Academy, Jerome teaches this specialized mind-body-wellness routine at fitness centers and holistic health centers as well as to individual clients since 2002. Mr. Gross also taught physical education for two years and developed programs for San Diego City School's Race and Human Relations and Health Integration Program. Students are presented with the tools and strategies to develop positive qualities and highest potential physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Jerome has studied and experienced native traditions, making it relative cultural needs and personal success. The specific tools and strategies taught in the mini lessons will culminate into a routine that Jerome developed for the San Diego Public Schools and in private practice as a spiritual counselor and therapist, called the Process of EFFULGENCE™

Jeffery L. Jackson, Self Defense Martial Arts: , "Gentle Warrior Approach" to Self-Defense. Executive Director of the BRIDGE, Native American Chaplin and former National Champion, Jackson practice is based in meditation, respect, protection of yourself and family.


Ron "Sol" Funk, Outfitter and Chef (San Diego): Ron is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and has traveled the globe tasting spice and sharing the love of cooking and fin art. He is Native Quechua of Ecuador and German. He spends most of his time in a three story bamboo house he built himself. He is an avid surfer, traveler, fine artist, and restauranteur. He has served as executive chef on sail boat charters in Alaska and Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Ron has served InterTribal Youth for over 5 years.

Desmond Davis, Intern Program Support and Outfitter Assistant. Desmond is 18 years old and of the Pomo, Wintun, and Wailaki Nations.  Desmond recently graduated from high school and attended InterTribal Youth's programs for two consecutive years at the top of his class. Desmond is passionate, determined, and humble. He will be attending University of California Santa Cruz in the fall and majoring in Marine Biology.  His study is inspired by his fascination, respect, and curiosity about the ocean and its many inhabitants.

Stan Rodriguez' ,  Traditional Tribal Gaming Curriculum and Culture.  Stan is from the Ipay Kumeyaay Nation of Santa Ysabel Reservation, in San Diego. Stan has played a crucial role in the cultural revival going on in San Diego and in sharing the Kumeyaay Culture with government and municipalities needing cultural understanding. Stan is an instructor of the Kumeyaay language and culture at Kumeyaay Community College and receives a continual stream of invites to speak at universities, schools and communities across the state of California.

ThE man and myth, Cliff repping for Na kama kai, oahau HawaiinI

Clifford Kapono, Youth Mentor, Indigenous Science (Hawaii and San Diego)
Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry at UC San Diego Chemistry.  Cliff is embodiment of "Native Like Water" in the flesh and soul. Sharing Indigenous Science and bridging university education with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Cliff travels the world to provide equity in the world of science. At UCSD, Cliff studies the health of ocean reef. One of the great accomplishments of Cliff is his mentorship and service with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Hokule'a Traditional Sailing Vessel.  Cliff is an avid surfer, waterman, and artist with a successful practices of sovereignty and cultural ways. Cliff led the 2015 Inaugural InterTribal Youth's Exchange with Hawaii's Na Kama Kai Program. Please visit some of Cliff's video portraits on our video page.

Caroline Collins, Writing Instructor (MCLW) San Diego: Holding an MFA, Caroline is a third year Communication doctoral student at UC San Diego whose research interrogates the intersectionality of cultural memory, identity, and media especially as they relate to particular notions of ‘citizenship’ and human rights.  She is currently working on her qualifying papers, several educational activism projects, and a research based documentary. Caroline and her team at La Clase Magica has developed a culturally relevant writing curriculum for InterTribal Youth. More here 

Norma Contreras, Art integration Class, Norma utilizes art to help download the emotional thoughts and feelings. Creating art is a glimpse into the soul and minds of the creator. It is beautiful when one creates an art piece that comes deep within. Norma has been utilizing art for over 20 plus years. She started her business Healing Hearts in 2010, after being certified as a Leader by “A Window Between Worlds, Los Angeles, CA”. She then volunteered her time traveling to local reservations assisting children, women and men of the native community. She has worked with behavioral health, cancer patients, and trauma victims. Norma believes if we start with our youth, our native adult community members will strive. She received her Associates Teaching Certificate in 2012 through Palomar College. Currently Norma is pursuing her Bachelors in Psychology and American Indian Studies Art classes. Norma is contracted as a Cultural Arts Facilitator for the Indian Health Council working with the Behavioral Health department. Norma and her art piece, “The Shattered Heart Plate” were featured in the book, “You look a lot like me.” in 2013. Norma’s goal is to assist in helping as many native communities as well as train and mentor new and upcoming Cultural Art Facilitators. Her motto, “My heart is happy.”

Trisha "Mama T" Gonsalves, Assistant Coordinator, Hawaii: Outfitter & Nutritional Wellness
Mama T is a passionate advocate of using sustainable practices to grow food organically and use food as medicine. "Ancient ways in modern days" is her motto. She was brought to Hawaii 11 years ago from San Diego on a singing tour.  She quickly fell in love with the islands, the people, and the Aloha way of life, and feels very blessed to call Hawaii home. She teaches classes throughout the islands and has a regular cooking segment on a morning television program.  Mama T has a background in early child development and directed inner-city youth programs in San Francisco and San Diego. Her passion is to teach healthy ways to eat and live and advocates that choosing native foods free of pesticides or processed with chemicals is imperative for sustainable health.

joe photo.jpg

Joe Meadows, Panama Afro-Indigneous Partnerships and Initiatives "A Living Heritage” Joe represents a livity of ancient Caribbean-American tradition and practice which gave root to the founding of One Love Panama; a company that reflects respect to the land, its creatures and people. Humble by nature, Joe hails his Jamaican-Panamanian and African-Native American ancestry as a force in his life’s path. Joe’s maternal great-grandmother arrived in Panama from Jamaica via Limon, Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro, as a contributing founder to the first Afro-Caribbean communities of faith in respected areas along Central America’s Caribbean Coast.  These towns are famed for unprecedented up-liftment of Afro-Caribbean peoples along the trail of Marcus Garvey. Joe continues in tradition, currently directing cultural projects in Cacique, Colon on the Caribbean
Coast and Organic Farms on the Pacific Islands of Panama. 


David Streamer, Youth Mentor  David is Cahuilla, born and raised on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. Graduating with a B.A. and  Masters Degree in the American Indian Studies department at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2018, David plans to attend law school in the fall. David has a passion for health and wellness and work as a personal trainer. He plans to work for his community upon completing college and bring his skills back to help heal the physical and mental health problems which our Native people face. 

Jules Jackson, Volunteer Recreation Class Support
As an undergrad Jules founded the Native American Student's Association at Villanova University where she served as the Student Government Association's Diversity Chairperson and was also a United States Marine Option Midshipmen and Division I Track & Field athlete. As an Indigenous Right's Activist she has helped to protect 68 acres of her Nanticoke ancestral burial grounds and spent over a decade coaching youth athletics and working in environmental protection. As Secretary for the international organization Surfrider Foundation's Delaware Chapter Jules works to protect her local waterways linking through her Tidewater People's heritage and is incredibly excited to connect to Native Like Water. Jules is currently taking a Sustainable Development course through Columbia University and is applying for Fall 2016 Law School Admission.

Ecology is a reflection, picture of ourselves. Andrew on location

Ecology is a reflection, picture of ourselves. Andrew on location

Andrew Pittman, Media Production, is the co-founder and Owner of A & K Video. He has been active with videography and video editing since the age of 13. He is a Cahuilla Native from the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation in Warner Springs and feels a strong connection between his ancestral roots and his passion for video work. Andrew also currently works for his tribe's Environmental Department. He creates maps, organizes an annual Earth Day, and loves protecting his tribe's resources.