Youth Speak Collective staff have the passion to revitalize and uplift the Northeast San Fernando Valley and create long-term social and systemic change for the youth in the Pacoima area. Below is a list of some of our team members.



pablo.jpgPablo Garcia-Hernandez
, Executive Director

Pablo was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and moved to Los Angeles when he was 16 years old. He has worked in public service for over 20 years, and has held leadership roles in the fields of community organizing, education, gang violence, HIV prevention, and youth development.  Throughout his career, Pablo has held firm to the belief that transformation begins when an individual finds her voice, and blooms when communities learn to listen.  For ten years, Mr. Garcia-Hernandez was a member of the senior leadership for one of Los Angeles County's largest after school providers. As part of this position, he sat on a strategic planning committee for the California Department of Education's After School Division, facilitated the Older Youth Committee of the California After School Network, and sat on the Workforce Advisory Group for LA County Office of Education's After School Technical Assistance Unit. Pablo earned his Bachelor Degree in Arts from Occidental College and his MA in Education - Curriculum and Instruction from University of Phoenix. He lives in Sylmar, CA with his family  Connect with Pablo on Linkedin. or Call:  or 818-890-2928 x1010


Maria_Square.jpgMaria Arteaga, Associate Director, Youth Programs 

Maria was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. She graduated from San Fernando High School, and later attended UC Santa Barbara, where she double majored in Sociology and Black Studies. Her passion for underserved communities led her to earn a Masters of Science in Non-Profit Management from Capella University.  She has spent almost a decade working in the Non-Profit sector, which is a testament of her passion to empower others.  Providing youth with the tools they require to pursue higher education is what motivates and guides her efforts. As  Associate Director overseeing Youth Programs, Maria is responsible for maintaining and establishing collaborative youth focused partnerships throughout the San Fernando Valley. Some of her other interests are reading, painting and film. Connect with Maria on Linkedin. Email: or Call: 818-890-2928 x1005




Leslie Blake, Visual Arts Facilitator

Leslie was born and raised in Mexico City, at age fourteen she moved to the United States to pursue the American Dream.  She graduated from Sylmar High and followed to achieve higher education in Fine Arts; including drawing, painting and sculpting. As an active community artist, she has worked and volunteered as independent art consultant for multiple organizations and businesses in the Northeast San Fernando Valley; including but not limited to Los Angeles Public Libraries, Latin Creativities, El Nido, MEND, Hathaway Sycamore, Help-portraits San Fernando, Relay For Life, SCV Recycling, SCV Metals, Pacoima Chamber of Commerce, and Youth Speak Collective. Leslie is a natural leader and mentor for the youth who participate in her Visual Arts Programs and all YSC participants. Connect with Leslie on LinkedIn Email:


Lorena.jpgLorena Mejia, Development Assistant 


Lorena was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. She attended California State University Northridge where she double majored in Journalism and Chican@ Studies and minored in Spanish Language Journalism. While at CSUN, she worked for the university's television and radio newscast. Through her journalistic work, she earned membership to Kappa Tau Alpha, a national honor society for selected journalists. Her passion for the community has introduced her to new people, ideas, and issues that have helped shape the person she is today. Lorena’s skills include using cameras as a tool to empower people by informing them and creating change in their communities. Some of her hobbies include reading the news, exploring the outdoors, and being an avid animal lover. Email: 



David Martinez,  Futbolito Coach

I have an AS in engineering and pursuing my BS in Mechanical Engineering at CSUN. I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California by Mexican immigrant parents. My interests would definitely have to be spending time with my family, exploring the outdoors with family especially my great dane puppy, and sports like soccer and football. Also love the fulfillment when I can be a positive influence on those in my community which Youth Speak has given me the opportunity to do so! Email: 




Freddy Tapia, Athletics Coordinator 

Freddy Tapia, a native of Pacoima, has been active in the arts and environmental movements in the San Fernando Valley for several years now. As a student at Antioch University Los Angeles, he focused his studies in Urban Communities and Environment, closely examining Los Angeles’ history, media and art, and urban sustainability. With him he brings his experience in the television and film industry, as well as his work in a variety of agencies in Los Angeles, such as Pacoima Beautiful and the Right to the City campaign. Other passions of his include playing live music, architecture, fútbol, building cities with Lego pieces and the arts. As part of the Outreach Team, one of his current focuses is to connect the youth and community members to the health, art, and educational resources in the city. Another prime goal of the Outreach Team is to increase the visibility for Youth Speak Collective and their education campaign across Los Angeles. Connect with Freddy on Linkedin. Email: or Call: 818-890-2928 x1006