Congratulations 2019 Board Members

The members of YPDA - Hawai‘i are dedicated to working for economic, social and environmental justice both within and outside of the established political system(s) of Hawai‘i. To better accomplish this goal, the members of the 2018 board voted, over the summer, to amend our bylaws to move the annual board election up to August/September each year (as opposed to December/January), effectively cutting their own terms short. They did this because they felt it was important for each new board to have ample time to plan and lay the groundwork for an effective legislative session (which begins each January).

As a result, interim non-female co-chair Will Caron sent out a call for 2019 board applications in August ahead of the scheduled September board meeting on the 23rd, which will become the final board meeting for the 2018 board and serve as our board election date. YPDA received 18 applications for its 20-person volunteer board as of midnight, September 9, the deadline to apply. This means that the 18 applicants will automatically become board members, with two remaining vacancies on the board. These vacancies can be filled by the new board after it is officially formed on September 23. Members who are interested in filling those vacancies should come to the board meeting and nominate themselves to fill the vacancies. Email for the location and address of the meeting (it is at a private residence).

Normally, the submitted biographies and priorities from board applicants would go out to members as part of their ballots, but since the applicants have automatically been elected, we will post that information here instead so members can get to know their new board.

Jun Shin

Jun is a Freshman Political Science major at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM). In an effort to help his generation find its civic voice, and as a member of the Social Justice Action Committee, he advocated during the 2018 legislative session for HB1716, which would establish a youth commission. The bill was signed into law by Governor David Ige, and Jun hopes to help identify youth leaders who should sit on the commission. He continues to strive to become a better community advocate for a progressive vision of a fair and just society.

As a board member in 2019, Jun's priorities will include:

  1. Advocating and being a frequent presence at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature and the Honolulu City Council, helping to get some great policies passed; 
  2. Continuing to reaffirm our partnerships with other community organizations, while working on building new ones; and
  3. Outreach—getting more of his generation, and those even younger, involved in the political process by identifying the issues and causes they care for, and helping to make their voices heard.

Jun also currently serves as the Secretary of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi (DPH)'s Health Committee and attended his first DPH State Convention in May of 2018 in Waikoloa.

Destiny Brown

Destiny is a poet and an activist who has lived in Hawaiʻi for almost six years. She wants to give back to place that has given her so much. Destiny uses her art as activism. And, while that is powerful, she feels driven to speak directly to the lawmakers in our community and advocate for social justice policies that benefit our most vulnerable populations as well as against those that may target or disadvantage them further.  

Destiny is currently studying social work at Hawaiʻi Pacific University (HPU) and will graduate with a bachelors in the spring of 2019. Her goal is to get her masters degree in social work and use her knowledge skills and values of social work practice to further advocate for sound social justice policy. 

As a board member in 2019, Destiny's priority will be to advocate for policy changes grounded in evidence based practices to affect bail reform and any bills that specifically address young women 18-24 who are survivors of sexual violence including rape, prostitution, and sex trafficking.

Destiny is also engaged in advocacy work with Drug Policy Forum of Hawaiʻi.

Natalie Toma

Natalie is currently a sophomore at ʻIolani School looking for various opportunities to give back and help her community. 

As a board member in 2019, her priority will be to fight for environmental protections and policy changes that promote a sustainable future, including the regulation of single-use plastics.

Adrian Tam

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, Adrian graduated from Penn State with a degree in history. He is an ordained minister and licensed realtor and has worked for Senator Stanley Chang at the Capitol.

As a board member in 2019. Adrian's priorities will be focused on Hawaiʻi's doctor shortages, social justice, and housing.

Landon Li

Born and raised on Oʻahu, Landon is a junior at UHM majoring in Economics and Psychology. Landon is a long time believer in activism and participation in civics, and YPDA has helped him be more engaged in the political process. 

As a board member in 2019, his priorities will be to help promote YPDA and to serve within the Economic Justice Action Committee effectively.

Kimiko LaHaela Walter

Kimiko is a mother, an environmentalist and an activist. Her educational background is in environmental science, with a MSc in Forest and Wildlife Ecology. She has come to realize that she cannot call herself an environmentalist without also being a feminist, an advocate for equal rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights and indigenous rights.She is a lover of nature and is passionate about civic engagement. She advocates for broad progressive social change and takes much of her socio-political vantage from the five years she spent living in Germany while in her masters program.

Kimiko works for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi as Conservation Program Coordinator. Though the nonprofits work focuses on the natural environment, she pushes the organization to include a broader progressive agenda and a social equity lens in its work across the islands. She believes that we can no longer advocate on single-issue platforms. Rather, we must promote intersectionality across organizations and agencies for the progressive movement to push forward effectively. Kimiko believes that we must support our progressive allies like never before. Only then can we achieve more equitable, fair, and just society for all.

Kimiko served on the 2018 board, and knows we have much work to do in our communities and at the policy level. As a 2019 board member, and as a professional in the environmental arena, many of her priorities will deal with the environmental issues our communities and the planet are faced with, including pushing to transition off fossil fuels, promoting sustainable agriculture, climate change mitigation/adaptation, protecting access to clean air and water and protecting sacred spaces. But she also believes that social and economic justice issues must be furthered alongside, including support for Medicare for All, legalized cannabis, bail reform, affordable housing/addressing homelessness, indigenous rights, reforming our tax code to allow the rich and larger corporations to pay a fair share and advocating for a living wage.

Nate Hix

Nate served as the 2018 Economic Justice Action Committee Chair and founded Living Wage Hawaiʻi to fight for a wage policy that gives every resident in Hawaiʻi the opportunity to thrive and build a life here in the islands. 

He is driven to end poverty, address climate change and fix our broken democracy. As such, his priorities as a 2019 board member will be to pass a living wage bill, a carbon tax policy and create a system of publicly financed elections.

He encourages everyone to get out and vote this November, but to also stay engaged afterward. Volunteering with YPDA or other organizations you believe in—even just one hour a week—can make a tremendous difference.

Will Caron

Will is the current interim co-chair of YPDA and has previously served as the Social Justice Action Committee Chair, Co-Secretary and Co-Chair of the Environmental Justice Action Committee. As Social Justice Chair in 2018, he submitted 85 pieces of testimony to legislative and city council committees on behalf of YPDA, testified in person at dozens of hearings and sent more than 100 emails to legislators asking for support or opposition. He also helped his committee members organize testimony from the community. As co-secretary he created the YPDA newsletter, Facebook Page, Twitter and website. He has organized multiple events, including the 2017 #HiLegFail rally and the 2018 #PeopleToThePolls event. He secured a $3,000 grant for YPDA from Common Cause in 2018 to work on a modern elections campaign; he also interned for the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action where he focused on communications and organizing to pass the Pesticide Regulation Omnibus bill.

As a 2019 board member, his priorities will be to:

  1. Reboot YPDA as a local 501(c)3 to pull in grant money and tax-deductible donations to fund full-scale organizing work for members;
  2. Send full-funded field organizers out into the community to build community support for our 2019 priorities;
  3. Pare down our priorities for 2019 to a small handful of imperative, achievable legislative goals and push the action committee chairs to organize effective community power to get them passed;
  4. Expand YPDA's reach into the City Council as well as the Legislature; and
  5. Recruit new members and plug them into the fight for justice.

Will is also the communications director for the Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice, a member of the Palolo Neighborhood Board and the District 20 chairperson for DPH. Will served on the 2018 Resolutions Committee for the DPH and successfully shepherded dozens of progressive resolutions through committee and through the convention itself while acting as Resolutions Committee floor manager. Will sat on the 2018 Our Revolution Oʻahu endorsement committee and did contract work for the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative throughout the primary campaign season. He has previously served as the editor-in-chief of The Hawaii Independent, a community-funded, ad-free news magazine, and still serves as editor-at-large.

Randy Gonce

Randy served as both a 2017 and 2018 board member and was involved both in the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 and the creation of YPDA that followed. Randy is the son of a single mother, a product of a working class family, and a fighter for justice and equality. After high school, Randy served in the United States Air Force for six years with multiple deployments overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. After his honorable service, he used the GI BILL to go to college at HPU. In 2015, he graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Linguistics in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages, while working full time as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician. He immediately enrolled in the master’s degree program at HPU studying Global Leadership in Sustainable Development.

During his time at HPU, he met a professor named Matthew LoPresti. After writing a research paper for his class on the shocking levels of income inequality in our country and around the world, LoPresti offered him a job working for him in his other capacity as a State Representative in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature. Excited to make a difference and serve again, Randy took the job and dove in head first. Working at the legislature for the last three years has shaped him into a stronger and wiser advocate for the people of Hawaiʻi. It has equipped him with the knowledge and tools necessary to help fix a broken system that oftentimes works against the people.

As a 2019 board member, his priorities will be to increase working family wages, protect our precious ecosystems, achieve affordable healthcare, address the affordable housing crisis and provide teachers with the salaries and resources they deserve.

In his free time, Randy loves to work outside on farms, in the loʻi, and on maintaining his own garden. This practice has truly transformed his life after leaving the military, and he looks forward to each time he gets to put his hands in the soil. He is also an avid hockey player, playing for Team Hawaiʻi traveling around the nation and the world as an ambassador of the sport and of aloha. When not doing either of these activities, he enjoys spending time with his poi dog Tara at the park or the beach.

Grant Okazaki

Grant served as YPDA Treasurer in 2017 and 2018, and has produced numerous videos involving politics, including for Labor Day 2017, and as campaign manager for Dylan Armstrong's bid for state house in 2018.

As a board member in 2019, Grant's priorities will be to fundraise monies for events and promotion of YPDA activities and issues.

Hannah Liebreich

Hannah is a PhD candidate in sociology and a teaching assistant in women’s studies. She has been treasurer and vice president of the graduate student organization (GSO) at UHM. 

As a 2019 board member, her priorities will center on gender related issues, union issues and Native Hawaiian issues.

Hannah has helped organize at the Capitol for issues related to equal pay and grad student unionization.

Hunter Heaivilin

Hunter works in the academic, private, and third sectors (ask him what that means!). As a PhD student, he is researching producer needs and modeling climate change impacts to agriculture across the state, with an eye to planning and policy implications. As a food hub manager and developer, he works to increase market access for small growers through infrastructure, distribution and accounts management. As a policy analyst and activist, he advocates for agricultural land preservation and other governmental interventions for food system change.

His priorities as a 2019 board member will be centered in some mixture of municipal and champagne socialism.

Rhiannon Talbert

Rhiannon is a junior at UHM, slated to graduate next fall with a BA in Political Science. She is originally from the D.C. suburbs of Maryland, and moved to Washington state five years ago before coming to Hawaiʻi for college. She was elected as a delegate, first at the district and subsequently at the county level, for Bernie Sanders in Washington state during the 2016 Primaries.

As a 2019 board member, Rhiannon wants to work on actively engaging other young people in politics. She believes it's really important that we don't continue to let the fate of our country rest solely in the hands of the older generations. Younger input is important and valuable too. Additionally, climate change is a global threat that needs to actively be combated. Rhiannon would like to see an increased focus on this issue as it may be the single greatest threat to humanity in both ethical and survival regards. Finally, she wants to work on engaging the opposing side in positive ways, working to educate and unite instead of shaming and dividing. 

Erynn Fernandez

Erynn served as the 2018 Board Chair, and has been a member of YPDA from its inception in 2016, working to advance YPDA’s goals of environmental, social, and economic justice through planning, organizing, and legislative work. Since 2016, she has worked on various national campaigns, including for Bernie Sanders, Pramila Jayapal, Zypher Teachout and Tim Canova; as well as the local campaigns of Kim Coco Iwamoto and Ikaika Hussey.

In 2018, Erynn helped set up the Initiative for a Pono Hawai‘i to help progressive candidates win their races. As the Chair of DPH’s Health Committee, Erynn fights for universal single-payer healthcare because she believes healthcare is a human right. Through Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i and Our Revolution O‘ahu, she has organized to move the progressive agenda forward through resolutions, rules, State Central Committee representatives, and delegates. Her focus is always to make sure that our voices are heard at every layer of Hawai‘i’s political system. Hawai‘i deserves a better future, and Erynn is willing to fight for it.

As a 2019 board member, Erynn's priorities will be to:

  1. Organize and engage new members;
  2. To push for meaningful legislation, partnering with other organizations with like-minded goals;
  3. To rally an “all member paddling” approach to legislative lobbying and testimony;
  4. To obtain grants and raise funds to support committee chairs and the community events they lead; and
  5. To support board members in leadership roles aimed at these specific goals

Erynn believes it is imperative for YPDA to be an impactful youth force here in the islands.

Natalia Hussey-Burdick

Born and raised on Windward Oʻahu, Natalia has been a strong advocate for environmental & social justice for the last 10 years. With years of experience working and testifying at the legislature, Natalia can help streamline testimony for other board members, and demystify the legislative process for newcomers. Natalia has served as interim Environmental Justice Committee Chair and as a 2018 board member. She is also a region chair for DPH and is active in the environmental caucus of DPH. She ran for State House in 2018 and came in second in her primary.

In 2019, her priority will be keeping our board running smoothly and assisting others on the fight for justice.

Eileen Lacaden

Eileen is a fairly recent graduate of Virginia Tech, where she studied industrial and systems engineering and minored in green engineering. For the last few years, she has worked at the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. Eileen started at the organization as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working on an affordable housing project. After her service, she stayed with Appleseed to help improve their communications and fundraising systems. Currently, Eileen is focused on organizational development. She enjoys volunteering, beach volleyball, and canoe paddling.

As a 2019 board member, Eileen as would like to grow the list of opportunities for the organization to partner on, and members to get involved with the local nonprofits who share our progressive ideals. Strengthening the relationships between our members and our nonprofit community will help further social, economic, and environmental justice and the respective missions of our local nonprofits. Eileen is interested in exploring the idea of a structured mentoring program between seasoned community advocates and YPDA members.

Ross Villiger

Ross is a current co-secretary of YPDA and a graduate student at UHM, working on cell and molecular biology. Ross is proud to have been a member of YPDA from its inception and has worked to make YPDA the great activist organization that it is, with major legislative accomplishments and recognition within the community. Ross strives to continue to build the progressive movement, and to pursue the progressive ideals we share of social, economic and environmental justice for all.

As a 2019 board member, his priorities will be to strengthen the effectiveness and streamline the organizational aspects of the organization, and to facilitate and coordinate event planning and community outreach.

Charessa Fryc

Charessa is a student at UHM, majoring in Political Science and Dance, and has been active in politics through the Citizens Climate Lobby (2016-2017), the Young Progressives Demanding Action (2017-Present), and the Sierra Student Coalition at UHM (2017-present). While she focuses on fighting for environmental justice, she looks forward to learning more about other issues such as affordable housing, universal healthcare, education and indigenous rights, and advancing a progressive agenda forward through advocating for legislation.

As a 2019 board member, Charessa's priorities will include advocating for the above policies and interest areas, and getting the community more involved in the legislative process.

Congratulations to our 2019 board!


Will CaronBoard Structure