Our Founders

Elena Nourrie 2022.jpeg

elena Nourrie

Executive Director

Co-Founder

Elena Seymana Nourrie (Hopi, Cherokee and Chicanx) was born and raised on traditional Tongva territory. Thanks to the teachings of her mother and grandmother, Elena has a deep personal commitment to advancing social justice and equity for Native Americans in order to strengthen tribal peoples' right to self-determination. Elena reciprocates these teachings to her young son, Kekoa, so that he may continue to strive to honor our ancestors.

 

Her evolving career roles reflect her values for learning, growing, and building community. She has worked in multiple professional capacities within local K-12 districts including in elementary and high school special education classrooms. She has also held several roles within private academic success sectors and with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, an international scholarly society. Elena has also served in the Native American community of Los Angeles through professional roles with Torres Martinez Tribal TANF, the Native American Student Center at Cal Poly Pomona and with California Native Vote Project. She now serves as Co-director of Education and Community Engagement for Indigenous Circle of Wellness.

Elena completed her bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in Education and a minor in Psychology at Cal Poly Pomona. She also earned her master's degree in Higher Education with an emphasis in Student Affairs from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Elena’s capstone research focused on fostering a sense of belonging among American Indian/Alaska Native students in higher education to advance the visibility, equity and inclusion of Native American students.

elena@sssisterproject.com

Melissa

melissa alcala

Project Director

Co-Founder 

Melissa is Naakáí Bilagáana born for Honágháahnii Kinyaa'áanii Naakáí-dine’é, In this way, she is a Diné (Navajo) woman. She was born and raised on Tongva land, in Northeast Los Angeles, known as Lincoln Heights. Melissa has worked with scholars at different grade levels (K-12) and in different educational settings and capacities, including that of Torres-Martinez Tribal TANF. Melissa completed her B.A degree in English with a minor in Theatre Arts and Dance. She received her M.A in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction in the Urban Setting. Melissa’s Master’s thesis was written on how to develop culturally responsive curriculum and instruction in literacy for urban Native American students, as well as how to bring cultural understanding and awareness to all educators serving Urban Native American students. Melissa currently serves as an English high school teacher in the Huntington Park area and acts as the Co-director of Education and Community Engagement for Indigenous Circle of Wellness. As the co-instructional leader for the English Department and advisor for her school’s “Culture Committee,” Melissa strives to decolonize the curriculum by including various indigenous voices and writers to the literary canon, by lending an indigenous perspective to viewing and understanding the world, and by providing a safe communal space in the classroom that is reflective of our traditional core values. She strives to reverse the disproportionate representation of people of color in the educational field by finding ways to maintain teacher retention and support all stakeholders to advocate, spread awareness, and bring social justice topics to the forefront of their schools. It is Melissa’s hope and dream that one day her very own children, Mariel and Gavin, will grow up to receive a public education that is conducive to equity, access, and inclusiveness, where they can see themselves in their teachers, and continue to change the trajectory of education as we know it.

melissa@sssisterproject.org

Monique Castro

Monique Castro is a proud Diné (Navajo) & Xicana woman, born and raised on the ancestral homelands of the Tongva People (aka Los Angeles). She’s a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, business owner, consultant, educator, and advocate. Her professional experience expands over thirteen years, specifically within the Native community, supporting efforts in various roles and capacities (from volunteering, providing clinical training, to developing new curricula). Monique has and continues to work with numerous social service organizations, higher education institutions, and Tribes throughout California and nationally to achieve wellness for all our communities.

 

In 2017, Monique founded Indigenous Circle of Wellness, a thriving psychotherapy private practice located in South East Los Angeles where she and her team provide mental wellness services to adults, children, teens, couples, and families. She established Indigenous Circle of Wellness in response to the need for more healing spaces and psychotherapists supporting Native/Indigenous and People of Color on their wellness journey. Monique earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from California State University of Los Angeles (CSULA) and Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU).

monique@icowellness.com

Monique Castro

Co-Founder