Our Founders

Elena Nourrie 2022.jpeg

Elena Seymana Nourrie (Hopi, Cherokee, Mexican) is a mother, community member, advocate, social justice educator and consultant with over 15 years of experience in education and community-based settings. Elena has held leadership roles within several Native American organizations, elementary and high school special education, private academic success and research sectors, and higher education. She is also a co-founder of two non-profit organizations, Native American Pathways based in Hoopa, CA and So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project based in Southeast Los Angeles. Her work integrates Indigenous core values with emphasis on interconnectedness, kinship, and culturally-rooted, community-driven responses to support the contemporary visibility, equity, and inclusion of Native Americans. Elena earned her bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in Education and a minor in Psychology at California State Polytechnic University, 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@sssisterproject.org

elena Nourrie

Executive Director

Co-Founder

Melissa

melissa alcala

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.

Project Director

Co-Founder 

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