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Luisa Ortega, Ed.D., is an Indigenous, first-generation Chicana/Huichol mother and a passionate advocate for access to education, mental health, and the needs of youth in disenfranchised communities. Luisa has over twenty years of experience working with community-centered organizations throughout California. Ortega’s work engages in human-centered work to centralize the lived experiences of community members. As the executive director of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP), her primary goal is to heighten and expand sustainable infrastructure and resources to strengthen and address disparities at the root of the growing educational and civic needs of Latino/Chicano youth. 


Luisa brings a wealth of professional experience to the Sovereign Bodies Institute. As a baccalaureate intern, she served in organizations, including the Barbara Jordan Congressional Scholars Program and the National Latina Health Organization, advocating for mental health equity in youth populations. Following graduate studies, Luisa served as a program manager at Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego. There, she led three San Diego County contracts supporting the needs of young people, including previously incarcerated, foster, and minoritized youth and students enrolled in non-traditional educational spaces. As a counselor of SAY’s probation contracts, Luisa helped develop a social-emotional and trauma-informed curriculum for survivors of abuse and trauma. After relocating to Los Angeles in 2013, Luisa served as the inaugural director of the Onward Scholars Program (OSP), an initiative of the Smet Foundation designed to support the collegiate aspirations of first-generation students and families. Her successes at OSP included the development of day-to-day operations, mentoring support, and programming. Due partly to her program modeling, OSP today boasts six sites and more than 100 graduates, each the first in their family to attend college. 


Luisa's academic journey is a testament to her commitment to education. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, double majoring in political science and ethnic studies. Her dedication to providing youth with holistic support led her to a master’s degree in education from San Diego State University, where she focused on multicultural counseling through the Community Based Block Program (CBB). Luisa's academic journey culminated in a doctorate from the Rossier School of Education at The University of Southern California. Her published, original research examines educational best practices for Latino males in the Los Angeles area, with a particular focus on cultural capital and mentorship for matriculation. 


The mother of three children, two of whom are in college, Luisa is the proud daughter of immigrant parents whose faith, tenacity, and steadfast support are a credit to her success. In her personal time, Luisa is a board member of Cathedral High School, where she applies her knowledge and expertise in education, serving on the Strategic Planning Committee. At home, she enjoys time with family, cheering on her student-athletes, and volunteering at her little one’s school.

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