Founded in 2008 as a response to the growing disparities faced by the LGBT community in the Inland Empire, TruEvolution is dedicated to fighting for LGBT justice and advocating for the prevention & elimination of HIV/AIDS in America.
TruEvolution was founded by a group of youth activists determined to use education and leadership as vehicles for empowering marginalized and underserved youth in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Over the last 5 years, TruEvolution has committed itself to addressing the social determinants of health disproportionately impacting LGBTQ youth, such as homelessness, social displacement, and homophobia.
As a Ryan White-funded HIV/AIDS service organization, TruEvolution works with high-risk and underserved youth populations by engaging in community organizing efforts, prevention services, and improving access to care for those living with HIV/AIDS through a holistic and humanizing approach.
TruEvolution’s ultimate goal is to create a youth-driven movement that will promote health equity, racial justice, gender and sexual equality for all underserved youth in the Inland Empire.
Originally from Compton, California, Gabriel Maldonado has been a community organizer for nearly fifteen years having first began working in the field as a community organizer with the Los Angeles Police Departments Teen Community Police Advisory Board addressing the gang violence resulting from racial tensions, poverty, and police distrust in the community. It was Gabriel’s own experiences with poverty, domestic violence, and social isolation that drove his own passion for social justice.
Today, Gabriel is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of TruEvolution serving the LGBTQ community in Riverside and San Bernardino county. At the core of his work, Gabriel approaches public health from a human rights lens. He acknowledges the unique health disparities experienced by those most disproportionately impacted by HIV that are fueled by social inequities and injustices. From poverty and access to healthcare to stigma, housing insecurity, and mental health disparities, Gabriel works to combat the social determinants which exacerbate rates of HIV/AIDS in LGBTQ communities of color.
As a Ryan White-supported agency, TruEvolution engages in national advocacy efforts as well as direct-services. Gabriel has expanded his work after having been appointed to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS under the Obama Administration, and was appointed as Co-Chair of the Disparities Committee. In addition, Gabriel works on a global health issues as a member AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Board of Directors. Gabriel supports the work of the Foundation’s initiatives surrounding youth, women and young girls, Black gay men, and LGBT communities in developing countries around the world.
Having obtained an MBA in Global Business, Gabriel believes that public-private partnerships are essential building blocks to public health. He currently serves on the Advisory Boards for Janssen Therapeutics, Merck & Co., and the National Advisory Board for Viiv Healthcare.
Most recently, Gabriel was selected to serve as a Co-Chair for the 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference at the Centers for Disease Control.
As Chief of Staff, Marguerite primarily serves as the liaison between the Executive Office and the staff at-large ensuring that all communications between departments are streamlined and that the vision of the CEO is communicated throughout departments. Marguerite maintains the executive calendar and scheduling for the CEO. She assists by serving as the liaison between the CEO and Board of Directors as Board Liaison.
Sarah Makandura is a Sri Lankan-American, raised in Los Angeles whom attended University of California, Riverside. She majored in Sociology with an emphasis in Business Administration. Sarah is the Operations Director and writes grants, processes payroll and manages contacts with outside affiliate, among various tasks that keeps propelling TruEvolution to new heights. Sarah has been vegetarian and enjoys hikes and spending time with her family and friends, networking and is passionate about her work with TruEvolution. She aspires to continue her work related to health and health care, particularly in marginalized communities lacking resources and access to equitable care.
Sanisha “Sunni” Meador is the Director of Advocacy of TruEvolution—She holds a BA degree from the University of California, Riverside, in Women studies and applies her knowledge to create a platform for the community to use their voice, to equip the community with knowledge on how to protect and stand up for themselves, and to help LGBT teens navigate access to healthcare and community resources such as housing, food, and transportation. She is originally from Oakland CA where her interest in community organizing started. From joining a myriad of campus organizations, like California for justice, to helping start one (Gay Straight Alliance) Sunni has always had her feet planted firmly in helping community.
As the Creative Director, Jarrel develops creative strategy for the organization and spearheads the creation of visual assets and written communications. Jarrel is a talented web developer with a background in marketing who is passionate about eliminating organization inefficiencies through the use of new technologies, and increasing organization ROI and brand equity. Jarrel also collaborates with all departments within the organization on research and development initiatives for piloting demonstration projects fusing technology and prevention to better meet the needs of TruEvolution’s youth community.
Berta Contreras is the Senior Director of Health Services of TruEvolution. Berta has 17 years of experience working in HIV/Substance Abuse Education and prevention services. With 10 years dedicated to program management, she works tirelessly to meet contract goals, write grants, and enhance organizational planning and capacity. Berta is certified to do translation and interpretation service, and she also has an Associate Degree with a focus on Management.
Jorge Delos Santos graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in both Women’s Studies and Anthropology. Jorge has lived in Riverside since 2000 and regularly volunteers in the Chicano/Latino Community in Riverside county. As a Community Organizer with TruEvolution, one of Jorge’s passions is working specifically with LGBTIQ Chicano/Latino individuals. Visibility within the community is vital to Jorge as he works continuously to build connections and bridge gaps through his work.
Valerie Spencer is a nationally-recognized LGBTQ advocate and HIV activist. Her approach to community healing is centered in addressing the totality of the human experience. Her work in holistic behavioral therapy has been demonstrated across the country in her workshops, forums, and discussion groups. As a social worker, Valerie uses her training as an MSW (Masters in Social Work) and her many years of experience working with the LGBTQ and HIV community to provide TruEvolution clients with the space and opportunity to address the entirety of their mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Roberto “Robbie” Manjarrez works within the Creative Department and provides auxiliary and creative support for all TruEvolution events and special projects. In addition, to managing social media and media relations at all events, Robbie works to create a memorable space for our youth and community attendees.
Ulei Thomsen grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At 15 he lived on his own as a result of coming out. As a homeless gay youth of color he faced many obstacles including violence, racism, and homophobia. These experiences also empowered him to be a transformative force for other marginalized LGBTQ youth. He is completing his Bachelor of Science Psychology degree at the University of California, Riverside and will start a doctorate program in Psychology in 2018. He enjoys traveling, making people laugh, and outdoor activities.