Co-Founder, Project Director
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.
Wildflower Robles-Ontiveros is a Gabrieleño and a descendant of the people of Huchiminga who was born in Los Angeles and raised in Baldwin Park, CA (Unceded Gabrielino-Tongva land). She has an Associate's Degree in English Literature from Mt. San Antonio Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Cal Poly Pomona. At Cal Poly, Wildflower has been involved with the Native American Student Center and served as a Social Justice Leader for the NASC. Wildflower intertwined her twin passions of social justice work and literature when she established an Indigenous Book Club on campus. There, she highlighted works by Indigenous authors and provided students with a safe place to reflect, explore, and discuss Native literature as they also related these works to their own sense of being. Outside of this role, she was also nominated to serve on the Associate Vice Principal/Dean of Students search committee at Cal Poly Pomona where she had the honor of advocating on behalf of Native students, staff, and faculty. Wildflower is now taking on the role of Recourse Coordinator at SSSP and is excited to use this new opportunity to continue to support and uplift her community.
Valerie Cabral (She/They) is from the Three Affiliated Tribes: Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara from her maternal side, and Chicanx on her paternal side. Growing up as an urban-Native, Valerie learned to navigate cross-cultural settings by balancing her cultural practices while existing in non-Native spaces. In high school, as Valerie attended multiple Native retreats, started her journey as a Jingle dress dancer and Sundancer, it would soon spark her passion for social justice and mental wellness. Soon after, she joined the Indigenous Circle of Wellness team as a youth volunteer and was offered an administrative assistant position that she still maintains. Today, Valerie also serves as the project assistant for So-oh Shinálí Sister Project which includes fulfilling administrative tasks, assisting with event programming, serving as a point of contact, and supporting the team members in their roles. Valerie is currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Holistic Healing. Upon completing her Master’s and licensing, she hopes to become a wellness provider and serve the Indigenous community in Los Angeles County.
Bridget Garcia Vera (Latinx and Chicanx) was born in Veracruz, Mexico and was raised in Tongva Land (Los Angeles). Being dacamented, she has been able to continuously advocate and fight for her community and for undocumented folks by volunteering in various local organizations within Los Angeles. Bridget's parents have taught her that in life nothing comes easy and working hard towards one's goals comes with dedication and passion. Being instilled with this mindset, she pursued her education by attending East Los Angeles College where she obtained two associate degrees in Chicana/o Studies and Psychology. Transferring to Cal State LA, she was able to complete her bachelor's degree in Mexican American Studies in 2018. She immediately pursued her masters degree in Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, graduating in 2020. She now serves as the Operations Manager at Indigenous Circle of Wellness and within the So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project non-profit where she is able to service the Native community of Los Angeles.
Bridget garcia vera
Lauren (Tongva/Chumash) is a neuro-diverse Indigenous creative and scientist who serves as the Operations Assistant for So’oh-Shínalí Sister Project. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University in Environmental Studies with a minor in Studio Art. She then pursued a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems and Science from CSU Long Beach, where she used her artistic abilities to broaden conventional norms in cartography and data visualization. From a young age, Lauren used art as a way to process significant and challenging life events. This led to a passion for emotional literacy, healing, and wellness. She uses different art forms to convey her thoughts about understanding our emotions, the role they play in our actions, and how facing them and greeting them with acceptance can lead to profound healing and self-love. Lauren addresses these ideas in her children’s books; believing that if children are given the tools to grasp their emotions at an early age they will be given a strong foundation for the entirety of their life.
Xochilt is a non-binary person who identifies as Xicanx. Preferred pronouns are: They/Elle/Ellx. They have a Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from CSU-Long Beach, allowing them to be multifaceted in diverse areas of digital media content creation and online marketing. Their core values align with So’oh Shinali Sister Project’s mission which is to continue aiding efforts in anti-colonial work by providing Indigenous based education through community programming. Xochilt contributes to SSSP by developing social media content that is consistent with the non-profit's identity. They aspire to become a documentary filmmaker.
Dria (she/hers) is Diné, born and raised on Tongva Land. She is currently working towards completing her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at California State University of Los Angeles. She is also receiving her Certificate in Youth Agency Administration, which specializes in non-profit organizations dedicated to youth. Dria contributes to the So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project’s mission and vision in her position as Volunteer Coordinator. She is passionate about servicing Indigneous communities and helping our organization grow.