Melissa Jones, MPA
She is passionate about creating the conditions that increase quality of life and makes life more fair for more people. Her work focuses on the intersection of social determinants of health, social inequity, and well-being.
Her experience includes work in municipal government and non-profits, in the Bay Area’s large and small cities. Melissa is an active community member in Oakland and also serves on the Association of Bay Area Government’s Regional Planning Committee, which advises on regional planning issues.
Before joining BARHII, Melissa served as Senior Program Officer at Boston Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), where she launched and ran Boston LISC’s Resilient Communities Resilient Families (RCRF) Initiative. The initiative works to ensure that residents of Boston’s Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan neighborhoods benefit from the rising tide of transit and other public investments. During her tenure, RCRF engaged several thousand residents and non-profits in neighborhood planning. The program has invested millions of dollars to fund affordable housing, leadership development, Family Financial Opportunity Center programs, and a local entrepreneurship pipeline program to ensure residents’ financial lives are improving. She was awarded the LISC’s President’s award in 2014 for her work on comprehensive community development.
Melissa has additional experience funding and implementing programs focused on community economic development, family financial stability, education, and civic empowerment. Specifically, she has served in youth empowerment organizations, as Program Specialist for the City of Alameda, and as Program Analyst for the City of Oakland’s Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. Early in her career, she served as Director of Professional Development for Partners in School Innovation where she trained staff to support school reform efforts in San Francisco Unified, San Jose Unified, and Oak Grove Unified school districts.
Senior Executive Assistant and Office Administrator
Tracy supports the Executive Director and the staff at BARHII through a variety of tasks that help to ensure efficient, organized, professional delivery of high-quality programs, services, and events. She began her career on the clinical side of healthcare as a CNA and went on to obtain her Practical Nursing license. While working on the clinical side of healthcare, her employers recognized that she had talent on the administrative side of operations, thus beginning her transition to program coordination and project management. Tracy has worked for over 20 years supporting physicians and executives for organizations such as Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, John Muir Healthcare, and Dignity Healthcare in San Francisco.
A natural born advocate for the underserved, Tracy created a small non-profit organization that helps girls in the community through various means such as facilitating donations to buy school clothes for girls in foster care. Her passion for helping others makes her proud to be a member of the BARHII team. Tracy is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration while also studying for the Project Management Professional Exam to become a Certified Project Manager.
Matt Vander Sluis
Director of Policy and Planning
He brings over 15 years of experience shaping inclusive public policies and plans at the local, regional, and state level. Matt is adept at policy analysis, advocacy strategy, network building, trainings and facilitation, public communications, and non-profit management, with a robust network of relationships with agency leaders, elected officials, NGOs, and community-based organizations across California.
Prior to joining BARHII, Matt held multiple roles at Greenbelt Alliance, where he led the organization’s efforts to promote equitable, sustainable development patterns across the Bay Area, ultimately serving as Deputy Director from 2017 to 2019. Matt also managed the global warming policy program for the Planning and Conservation League, a statewide nonprofit in Sacramento, where he helped craft new climate policies and developed a statewide training program to foster healthy, resilient cities for all.
His work has been covered by a variety of media outlets, including the Atlantic Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and KQED’s QUEST. In 2017, he was named one of the East Bay’s “40 under 40” by Diablo Magazine. Matt graduated from Stanford University in American Studies in 2003.
Special Projects Director
Leads efforts to create a national health equity legislation to build capacity to address racial health inequities experienced by communities of color. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Public Health degree at UC Berkeley. She received her Masters of Public Health from The University of Memphis and Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami. With seven years of community health experience, Andrea implemented various evidence-based nutrition and physical activity programs in community settings ranging from youth to older adults. Along with program implementation, she co-facilitated a community of practice focused on addressing the root causes of health disparities in Memphis through policy, systems, and the built environment. Andrea's areas of interest are addressing health inequities through community-centered, people-centered approaches including human-centered design thinking as a tool for community organization and capacity building.
Impact Manager of African Americans and Pacific Islanders
Born in Oakland, he grew up between Berkeley and El Cerrito, California in the mid 60’s and early ’70s, where he witnessed first-hand the Berkeley riots of 1967 and 1971, members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense dressed in their signature black berets and black leather jackets, and police brutality against Black and white demonstrators alike. Those childhood scenes stuck in his mind and would eventually shape his life toward service and activism, first as a police officer and later as a counselor and advocate.
The year 1985 marked a pivotal turning point in Darris’ life. He was hired by the Richmond, California Police Department at age 23, and was voted as Vice President of his police academy class. Six weeks into field training he was unjustly terminated from the department. Shortly after his life morphed into drug addiction and incarceration. His drug addiction eventually led to a 20-year prison sentence in 1998.
Paroling from prison in 2012, Darris completed his Bachelor of Addiction Counseling through the Association Christian Alcohol and Drug Counselors Institute and received certifications in the domestic violence and youth violence prevention counseling. In 2014, he began his organizing and advocacy career with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights where he championed criminal justice reform. In 2018, he began working for the Urban Strategies Council leading their Boys & Men of Color policy table. Working to prevent youth of color from being caught up in the criminal justice system is his passion.
Impact Manager for Housing Affordability and Equitable Development
Will brings a decade of policy experience, helping local health departments and community based organizations create equitable, health promoting communities. His work bridges health, housing, land-use, transportation, and climate change, and focuses on ensuring that working class communities and communities of color play a lead role in building the future of our cities, regions, and state. Will has particular expertise in making technical planning and policy information relevant and accessible so that those most impacted by health disparities can help shape healthier community policies.
Will has spent the last four years as a planner and policy specialist with San Mateo and Contra Costa County Health Systems, and has also been a leader in BARHII’s work on health and the built environment. Will’s research and writing has been published in Progressive Planning, The Informal American City, and by the Labor Community Strategy Center, and has won a top award from the Council of University Transportation Centers. He has developed and facilitated a wide range of popular education workshops for community based organizations, and has led a number of highly successful community planning processes. He also serves as a trainer and organizational development consultant with social justice organizations around the country.
Will has a M.A. in urban planning from UCLA, where he focused on the interactions between transit investment, land use patterns and environmental justice in low-income communities of color.
Senior Advisor, Media and Communications
Tenacious and creative, Ivan has built his communications strategy and stakeholder engagement reputation by bringing meaningful stories to life, inciting change and translating data and insights into compelling stories. Throughout his professional journey in public, private and nonprofit organizations, Ivan has attained a strong toolbox of well-honed skills, allowing him to develop clever solutions to complex problems.
Ivan believes that transparency and authenticity are indispensable for all communication and relationship-building endeavors; without them, no organization can build lasting trust.
Based in the Bay Area, Ivan is a bicultural executive who specializes in messaging that speaks to the nuanced diversity of multicultural audiences, including the Latinx community.
An avid traveler and trail-seeker, he credits most of his ideas to sparks of genius that appear while chasing around hi indefatigable son, being active outdoors, or laughing with his clients.
Senior Advisor, National Collaborations
Dedicated to creating a more equitable and inclusive community, Karleen Porcena is an authentic leader who is driven to continuous economic improvement. With over 10 years of comprehensive community development experience, Karleen aims to create innovative strategies and partnerships to move the dial on the racial wealth gap.
As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, Karleen uses her unique lived experience coupled with professional skills to build comprehensive solutions to economic disparities. In addition to consulting, Karleen is the Senior Economic Development Program Officer at Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC). Previously, she served as Vice President, Relationship Manager (My Banker), Senior Program Officer for Economic Opportunity at the LISC, and Massachusetts Kiva Advisor.
Karleen is passionate about building bridges between people, communities, and networks with intentions to have an equal playing field for all. She brings to her work a wide variety of relationships with community organizations, business and resident leaders, elected officials, as well as faith-based institutions. She is a strong communicator and has a unique ability to tell stories that resonate.
Outside of the office Karleen is involved in a number of non-profit boards including Madison Park Community Development, Board of Trustees at The Food Project, Advisory board member for the Mattapan Boys and Girls Club and many others. Karleen received her MBA at Babson College in Wellesley, Ma and holds a double Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Politics and Spanish from Clark University in Worcester, MA. When she isn’t working, you can find Karleen playing volleyball, traveling or getting comments on her amateur chef pages on social media.
Senior Advisor, Climate Change and Health
Vinita leads our climate resilience and environmental justice efforts, centered on building power and leadership of frontline communities. Trained as an architect and an urban planner, Vinita brings into her engagements her intersectional experiences working to align place-based infrastructure improvements with community needs and aspirations, particularly for vulnerable populations who can be adversely affected by planning policies.
Through her work, Vinita is most interested in validating the personal and community-based experiences of those most impacted, but also in engaging people and building capacity to create alternate pathways that center on communities’ priorities. In her previous role at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Vinita initiated and prioritized the foundation’s strategic leadership and investments in supporting shared equity housing models in the Peninsula-South Bay region and co-led efforts to launch the Peninsula-South Bay Community Preservation Lab to advance systems level efforts in addressing housing displacement. At SVCF, Vinita also co-led advocacy efforts for progressive revenue mechanisms for transportation-related infrastructure in the region. Previously in the public sector, including at the City of Oakland, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the City of Seattle, Vinita led efforts to win broader consensus and streamline processes for the integration of social equity concerns in several of her programs and projects.
Vinita pursued a bachelor’s in architecture from the Government College of Architecture in Lucknow, India, and earned her master’s in city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley. An independent researcher and writer in her other time, Vinita is also an avid learner of dance.