Update: The 2014 SEJ Application is out! Download the application today. Be sure to submit no later than Feburary 28, 2014 to qualify.


The Students for Economic Justice Program (SEJ) is an intensive 6-week program that gives students organizing training through political education, skills building and hands-on, in-the-field experience working on campaigns for economic and social justice. With guest presenters and partners from a variety of civic engagement and social and economic justice organizations around the County the program gives interns exposure to the broader social and economic justice community in San Diego.

All students with an interest in making a difference in their community are encouraged to apply.

SEJ 2013

Overall Goals

  • To provide future leaders and organizers with a critical perspective on organizing for social and economic justice
  • To learn lessons from past social and economic justice movements
  • To continue developing the culture of best practices within community activism and organizing
  • To develop new organizers and strengthen the pipeline of students and  community organizing in economic justice


Our SEJ student interns receive invaluable career-building experience when they are partnered with a local organization also working on progressive issues during the program. Past interns have worked with a wide variety of partners including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), Equality Alliance, A Better San Diego, Maximizing Access to Advance our Communities (MAAC), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Building upon the connections they made during the program as well as their work with partner organizations, SEJ alumni have gone on to work for San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, Alliance San Diego, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the City of San Diego, San Diego Education Association (SDEA), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.


CPI launched the SEJ program in 2000. After a brief hiatus, CPI recognized the importance of building new young leaders and decided to re-launch the program in 2011 with six interns. Since then, there have been seven graduating classes of interns.

Photos & Videos

SEJ 2012 Graduates

SEJ: A Path to a Life of Service

Highlights from the 2012 Program

2013 Interns

Daniela CondeDaniela Conde’s roots can be traced back to Puebla, México her birthplace. She has been highly influenced by the revolutionary womyn in her life and attributes much of her concientización to her single-mother, womyn activists, mentors, and professors. Daniela is an empowered student of color at the University of San Diego. She is majoring in Ethnic Studies and English; she will pursue graduate school and eventually receive a master’s in Education and a PhD in Ethnic Studies or American Studies. As a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a McNair Scholar, and a graduate of Reality Changers, Daniela is committed to contributing back to her transnational community through educational empowerment, community organizing, and interethnic/racial solidarity work. She was a Spring 2013 Organizing Intern for the Center on Policy Initiatives. Daniela is a member of many organizations on campus, has held leadership roles in MEChA, and will be the co-chair for the Association of Chicana Activists for the 2013-2014 year. Her service includes mentorship for young men and women at a Juvenile Detention Facility, immigration activism, and organizing conferences for first generation college students. Daniela is also enamored with learning languages and traveling, by the end of 2014 she will have traveled to more than 23 countries. Daniela is in love with life and is a believer in the transformation of this world; she is passionate about education, immigration, social justice, economic and political self-determination, revolution, and womyn empowerment. Daniela hopes to become a community organizer, an artist (painter/poet), and professor one day.


Janine DavisJanine Davis is an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego majoring in Political Science. She first became interested in working with local communities when she volunteered for Manna Food Bank in San Bernardino by assisting in preparing and distributing food packages for low-income families and the homeless. Recently, she has interned at the Center on Policy Initiatives by engaging in event planning and fundraising. This experience further exposed her to the importance of community organizing, while also giving her insight into the culture of nonprofit organizations and their participation in local government. On campus, she has kept busy by writing for campus publications and attending the annual in University of California Student Association conference where students directly lobby legislators in order to increase the accessibility of higher education. She applied for the SEJ internship in the hopes of learning more about the challenges facing San Diego and how community organizers are taking on these issues through action and empowerment. She believes this experience will help prepare her for a career in community organizing dedicated to advancing economic and social justice.


Paulene de Mesa

Paulene De Mesa is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego where she majors in Political Science with a minor in Sociology.  Beginning from her volunteer work in high school as President of Key Club, she developed a love for reaching out to the people and trying to make a change.  This drive for change translated to her choices at UCSD where she is affiliated with the Community Law Project (CLP), which encourages volunteer work and guides students to a path in the field of law.  She also joined the Youth Success and Outreach Program (YSOP).  This program lets students volunteer at foster youth homes every week to make a difference in their future.  With her experience in volunteer work and leadership, she aspires to become either a family lawyer or a foreign service officer for the United States.  After she graduates, she hopes to take a break from schoolwork and visit the Philippines for a bit.  Afterwards, she can then decide her path as a graduate student.  She chose to apply to SEJ to gain a better understanding of her city of San Diego and to learn from current community leaders to make better changes for the working people.  In her spare time she enjoys outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and swimming with friends.


Eric Henson

Eric Henson is an undergraduate Urban Studies and Planning major at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Prior to transferring to UCSD, his full exposure to community organizing occurred when he was introduced to the captivating teaching and literature of a sociology course titled, “Social Problems” at San Diego City College. The course engaged in problem-posing discussions on societal stigmas and dilemmas of class, race, gender and disabilities, and how to pursue collective action in order to address such issues. Through the curriculum, he joined the campus-activist group “Education for All” (EFA) that educated student-peers and parents on the budget cuts from Elementary to Higher Education. The group worked on regional to state-wide scale with various activist groups to revive the California Masterplan for education. It led him to the opportunity to deliver a speech on International Worker’s Day 2010 about the history of California’s tax structure that has caused the vast increase of tuition that has affected the children of migrant workers. The intersection of different activist groups that worked collectively with EFA led him to develop an interest for neighborhood organizations, and working with them throughout Southeast San Diego, such as the Bay Terrace Community Association, and the People’s Produce Project of Southeast San Diego, where attended meetings and watched students from San Diego State University survey vacant land to be used in coordination with Southeast San Diego residents. These life occurrences spawned his interest in the history of  how communities and cities develop or decay, which directed him to the field of Urban Studies and Planning. He is looking forward the conscious framework of tools that the Center on Policy Initiatives will provide him to add perspective to his vision as a community organizer and social worker.


Cristian Murguia

Cristian Murguia is a Southwestern Community College Student, transferring soon to San Diego State University. He grew up in Tijuana and would commute every day to go to school in San Diego from kinder through high school. During his Junior year of high school he moved in with a friends family that was very politically involved in the community and he first started to get involved in activism. Since high school he has been juggling both work and school full time while also trying to stay active in his community. He claims himself lucky to have been a part of the “No on 32″ campaign last fall, and more recently Lorena Gonzalez’s Assembly race. He is excited to have been chosen as an SEJ intern because he has seen the accomplishments of past SEJ interns and is excited to learn from the CPI team.





John Reid

John Reid is an undergraduate at San Diego Mesa College who will be transferring to UCLA in the fall as a sociology major. During his time at Mesa he founded a student organization called B.E.A.T. (Bringing Education and Activism Together), which was dedicated to promoting awareness about current political issues and encouraging students to take action. For the last two years John has been an intern with the American Federation of Teachers local 1931, during which time he has worked on various political campaigns, participated in voter registration drives, and helped set up and run the Mesa College Workers’ Rights Center. John was attracted to the SEJ internship because he has a passion for social justice and he believes that in order to turn ideals into action it is necessary to have a firm grasp of the fine art of organizing. He expects SEJ to help in that regard, and he hopes to use the knowledge he gains to participate in building the movements for economic democracy and environmental justice. In his spare time, John enjoys rollerblading and singing karaoke.

Zarai Santos

Zarai Santos is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University where she studies sociology with an emphasis on child development. She first heard of the CPI intern opportunity while enrolled in a Working and Society Sociology class at SDSU. With the help of the SEJ Summer Internship program, Zarai hopes to aid diverse communities gain knowledge on economic and social justice issues.  In the future, Zarai hopes to inspire “non traditional” students into pursuing higher education.






Margarita Vargas Patron NEW

Margarita Vargas Patron attends the University of San Diego. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Biology. As a first generation, studious daughter from an immigrant working class, she has always been told to make something of herself. That something took the shape of a career in the health field as a doctor; however, as the years at USD went by, she began losing interest in the pursuit of this career because it seemed unlikely that in the future she would be able to pursue ambitious plans towards fighting for social justice. For that reason, she is very excited to be a part of SEJ summer internship program to become exposed to the struggles of San Diego and ways to help so those skills and knowledge can be used later in life. In the future, she plans on attending graduate school. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, family time, helping her community, and reading books, especially from authors Isabele Allende and Brandon Sanderson.


And meet our internship coordinator….

Nancy - Coordinator

Nancy Madrid grew up in Hemet, Ca and moved to San Diego a few years ago to attend the University of California, San Diego. Nancy has BA degrees in Sociology and Latin American Studies, and is a graduate of the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies MA Program at UC San Diego, with a thesis titled “What Keeps Us Here is the Love We Have For Our Students: Solidarity Among Low Wage Immigrant Workers and Students at the University of California, San Diego”. Nancy works as a Teaching Assistant at UC San Diego in the Dimensions of Culture Writing Program, where she facilitates undergraduate discussions regarding issues in U.S History focused on race, class, and gender. Nancy is very involved in the San Diego community, including the organization Justice Overcoming Boundaries where she serves as the Immigration Task Force Co-Chair and Leadership Council Member. Nancy is highly active in local and national efforts supporting comprehensive and humane immigration reform.


2012 Interns

The Students for Economic Justice Summer Internship Program is a project of CPI which aims to build stronger capacity for community organizing in San Diego. Team SEJ 2012 consists of an amazing batch of educated, activists that are ready to give back to their communities. Check out their bios below.

For more information on the SEJ program, click here.

Not pictured: Jasmin Griffin (scroll down to view a photo of Jasmin).

Zainab Badi is an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego where she studies International Studies-Political Science. On campus, she works as the Director of Civil and Human Rights at the Student Sustainability Collective, an organization that seeks to educate students about the intersections of environmental and social sustainability and create policies to make UCSD more sustainable. She aspires to one day work in education reform to make a higher education accessible to all students. Zainab plans to either attend law school or pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration after she graduates. She chose to apply to the SEJ internship because she felt that she was getting too entrenched in a UCSD bubble and wanted to gain exposure organizing around campaigns in an off-campus environment. She hopes to gain a better understanding of the “real world” through this internship and is very happy to have an opportunity to work on progressive policy campaigns in the San Diego area. Zainab, an avid reader, particularly enjoys the works of Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn. Along with reading, Zainab also enjoys biking, learning guitar, making brownies, and learning languages in her spare time.

Kristian Castro hails from the University of California San Diego majoring in Communication and minoring in Management Science. Through his volunteer work Kristian has come to understand how marginalized communities struggle to find access to higher education. He first discovered his passion for making higher education more readily accessible after attending a statewide conference, hosted by the University of California Student Association. More recently, he concluded an internship with EMPOWER San Diego, a group seeking to promote community empowerment through civic engagement. Meanwhile, on campus, Kristian has served as the Chief of Staff for the Office of External Affairs on behalf of the Associated Students at UCSD. In the new school year, Kristian will serve as the VP of Finance for the Asian and Pacific-Islander Student Alliance. As a CPI intern, Kristian looks forward to developing a deeper understanding of San Diego politics and other issues pertinent to San Diego communities. After graduation, he plans to continue working to develop leadership and greater access to higher education in his community. In his spare time, Kristian watches movies and practices martial arts.

Mirna Cruz, a Chicana, wom[y]n of color, grew up in the communities of Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, Golden Hills, and San Ysidro. She is motivated by her mother,  a strong wom[y]n whohas struggled to live in the U.S. At age 13, she participated in the student walkouts against H.R. 4437 also known as “The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005”. In 2009, alongside her mother and AFSCME Local 3299, she protested to demand fair wages, stop layoffs, and fair treatment for the UCSD Workers. For many years she volunteered at the Golden Hill Recreation Center and Casa Familiar in San Ysidro. While attending Mission Bay High School she became active in Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan and was part of Café en la Calle, Colectivo Zapatista, Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC), and Project YANO. Currently she attends San Diego State University with a double major in Social Work and Spanish, and was the Vice-Chair of a student organization called Association of Chicana Activists. Her goal is to work with youth that have been incarcerated in the Juvenile Hall system. She aspires to help youth realize their college potential. In participating in the SEJ summer internship program, looks forward to gaining hands-on experience working in campaigns for economic and social justice that she can later bring back to her community. In her spare time she enjoys dancing, playing basketball, spending time with her loved ones and helping out her community.

Nancy Cruz, a recent UCLA graduate, double majored in Sociology and Chicana/o Studies and minored in Labor and Workplace Studies. Nancy came from working-class immigrant community. For as long as she can remember, her mother worked seven days a week to provide for her family. In working towards a better future for all, Nancy has worked with Youth Action Network, Cafe En La Calle, Collectivo Zapitista San Diego and helped found the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC). While at UCLA she became active in the Los Angeles labor movement, working with organizations such as the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), CLEAN Carwash Campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Student Worker Front. Additionally, she worked at the Labor Center on development of a social justice curriculum with the goal of creating spaces of reflection and action. In the future, Nancy plans to work towards a doctoral degree in education in order to change the educational system at an institutional level through the development of curriculum that is student relevant and facilitates critical thinking. In participating in the SEJ program, she hopes to gain knowledge about the specific needs and struggles of workers in her hometown. Her hobbies include traveling, getting to know people, engaging in critical discussions and dancing.

Manuel Enriquez’s parents emigrated from Mexico. As a first generation San Diegan, he is the first in his family to graduate from a four-year University. Manuel attended San Diego State University where he earned bachelor’s degrees in Chicana/o Studies and Sociology, and minored in French. He was apolitical until his third year at SDSU where his Chicano/studies courses opened his eyes as it relates to critical consciousness and self-identity. At that time, he joined the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.), and Association of Chicana Activists (A.Ch.A.). Through A.Ch.A., he gained leadership skills by helping members schedule study hours, overseeing the annual Chicana/Latina High School Conference, and coordinating scholarships. By participating in SEJ he hopes to learn additional organizing skills that he can share within his community. In the future he hopes to become an educator and motivate youth to be self-determined with aspirations for a higher education. Manuel enjoys playing the drums, the guitar and soccer.

Abigail Rosas currently attends San Diego State University. Born in Mexico, she lived there for eleven years and moved to City Heights in middle school. Upon entering High School she encountered opportunities to volunteer at her middle school. She thrives in academic environments and is passionate about education. For her SEJ is the “opportunity of a lifetime to have a closer impact in the working community of San Diego. It is an opportunity to see on a deeper level what it is to fight for causes that affect every person in the community; it is the chance to become part of something bigger than [her]self.” She looks forward to the opportunity to make an impact on many lives through SEJ. Upon completion of college, she would like to begin her own organization that will connect both parents and students.

Jasmin Griffin is an EARN intern participating in the SEJ program. She is an undergraduate student at Howard University where she is studying Economics and has minors in Math and Political Science. While at Howard, Jasmin has shaped the community by helping to organize her university’s first Relay for Life, the proceeds from which went to the cancer center of nearby Howard University Hospital and its patients. Jasmin has also worked with Mayor Gray’s administration in Washington D.C. and with a green building consulting firm to encourage responsible, environment-friendly development. Jasmin has a passion for learning and growing as a person and hopes that this internship will teach her as much as possible about community organizing.


And Meet our Internship Coordinator…
Mark Leo was born in Baguio City, Philippines, and moved at age 2 to San Diego, which he calls his hometown. He received his undergraduate degrees in History and Asian American Studies from UC Santa Barabara and his Master degree in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University where he wrote his thesis (In)visible Within: Igorot Filipino Americans.  Prior to graduate school and working with CPI, Mark worked with the San Diego County Office of Education at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility serving “at risk” youth.  In his spare time, Mark is involved with BIBAK San Diego a social organization comprised of the five major tribes of Indigenous Igorot Filipino Americans, where he teaches Igorot youth the folk dances and folkways of his unique Filipino Igorot heritage.  He devotes his time to mentoring youth, and encouraging young people to stand up and voice their opinions.

2011 Interns

Cassie Purdy

Cassie Purdy is from the foothills of Northern California where she grew up with herparents and three older siblings. She developed a passion for socialjustice issues through her experiences throughout high school. Cassiewas able to put those passions into practice when she moved to San Diegofor college. It was here that she participated in an urban immersionprogram and became involved with the International Rescue Committee andtheir Food Security Department. Cassie also got involved on her campusthrough the peer education program and Sustainability Department. Shealso studied abroad in Morocco where she studied Arabic and Human Rightsissues. Cassie Purdy is 20 years old and is currently studying at Point Loma Nazarene University to receive her Bachelor’s degree in SocialWork. She hopes to eventually receive her Master’s and continue workingin ways that combine her passions for environmental and social justice issues.


Jose Rodriguez

Jose Rodriguez is an incoming student to San Diego State University and a graduate from City College where he co-founded a school organization called Bringing Education and Activism Together (BEAT) to create a forum for art, music, and political expression. In addition, he was the co-chair for the San Diego City College MEChA organization, which aims to empower Chicanos in the United States. In the future, Jose will educate and motivate more people to take part in the political process.


Julio Cesar Rivera

Julio Cesar Rivera is a student at San Diego State University majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Latin American Studies. A life-long resident of San Diego, he is committed to bettering the community. Seeing the plight of low-income people, particularly amongst communities of color, has given him the drive to make a difference. In early 2011, Julio began working with Feeding America through their SNAP Outreach program. Through that program, he worked across San Diego County assisting disadvantaged families apply for and receive food stamps. He plans on receiving his BA in 2012 and continuing to work on social justice issues on a wider scope.


Matthew Yagyagan

Matthew Yagyagan recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a dual major in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. As a Golden Bear, Matthew was committed to social justice as a student organizer with the Pilipino American Alliance, the Berkeley Multicultural Community Center and Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education (CalSERVE), a progressive coalition of under-resourced students. He organized against budget cuts and tuition hikes that plague public education across California, mobilized Census participation in low-income communities in Oakland, and advocated for diversity and inclusion in higher education. Matthew’s institutional experience includes internships at Chula Vista City Council, the district office of Congressman Bob Filner, and most notably, on the Hill with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He is also a Front Line Leaders Academy Fellow with People for the American Way. Matthew was born and raised in San Diego, CA.


Richard Griswold

Richard Griswold was born in Fresno, California in 1990. He has moved many times in his life, living mostly in the Central Valley, before landing in San Diego in 2008. Earlier that year, Richard began his community activism and was heavily involved with the local “No on Proposition 8” campaign in Fresno. He gained an understanding of the injustices and inequalities that surround many people across the nation. Since, he has reached out to other affected communities of injustice, discrimination, and harassment. His hopes are that any one person does not have to feel isolated or alone when faced with the obstacle of intolerance. Richard lives in Mission Hills with his partner, Dan, two dogs, and one cat. Here in San Diego, Richard attends National University in the Bachelor’s in Sociology program. His ambitions include attending graduate school in Political Science.


Timothy Bolin

Timothy Bolin moved from his home town of the Coachella Valley to San Diego to pursue an advanced degree in sociology. He will be starting his second year at San Diego State in the master’s program. Before coming to SDSU Tim received a BA in sociology and philosophy at the University of Redlands. Tim believes his work at State and CPI have helped him develop his political interests. He’s interested in the improvement of the lives of working people.



For a printable copy of this flyer, please click here.