Hello! My name is Clarissa Cota and I’m the founder and president of My Comunidad Foundation. I’m constantly amazed by all the wonderful things that have happened in my life, since I started practicing yoga. At first, yoga provided me with physical healing from a lower back injury but I had no idea it would be so much more. Yoga, has also been a tool in managing my mental health.
I specifically have a passion for working with children of all ages, developmental stages and diagnoses. For the past few years, I have had the privilege to merge my work with the special needs community, with my other passion, yoga! I have been working with children in many capacities for over 15 years. I received a B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development in 2003 from California State University of Fullerton and in 2006, I earned my masters in Psychology from Pepperdine University. In 2016, I completed my 200-yoga teacher training and in 2017, I completed a training with Yoga for the Special Child. Over the past few years, I’ve continued to take yoga workshops and mentorships and collectively with my experiences as a yoga student and instructor, I was inspired to create My Comunidad Foundation.
In the first few months of being a yoga student, I quickly discovered yoga studios were expensive and only located in certain communities. I signed up for group-on’s and new student deals to continue practicing yoga. When I had the privilege of becoming a yoga instructor yoga classes were free for me, which made it easier to practice regularly. Also, I found there was lack of representation of BIPOC communities, children, the geriatric community and the special needs community. I personally feel that yoga and wellness should be accessible to everyone to use as a tool in healing and managing their mental health. My Comunidad Foundation will be a space that opens its door to everyone wanting to practice yoga.
Hello, my name is Denise Velasquez and I am the Director of Human Resources at the UCLA School of Law. Prior to that I worked in the on the School’s Business and Finance team. I have worked at the Law School for 18 years now. In my current role, I supervise a team of three. Collectively we support a staff of 150 employees from three different units and roughly 200 student employees at any given time. In my role I have made it a priority to champion Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives at the School. Making sure everyone has a seat at the table and feels like they belong is incredibly important to me.
I am also an alumnus of UCLA. l graduated from with a Bachelor’s in History in 2005. I was born and raised in Bell Gardens, California. I graduated class of 1999 from Bell Gardens High School. I know intimately the need for mental health and wellness resources in the surrounding community. I am proud to now serve as the Secretary on the Board of Directors for My Comunidad a non-profit dedicated to doing just that.
My name is Alisa and I’m the treasurer at My Comunidad Foundation. I’ve always had a strong passion to better understand and work with underserved communities. Being part of My Comunidad gives me the opportunity to do this and to also be a part of something that will positively impact the community.
My education includes a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) as well as, a Master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California (USC). I also have my real estate and broker’s license and have been working in real estate for over 15 years. Additionally, I serve as a board consultant with the South Coast Air Quality Management.
I believe in creating opportunities and resources that will be equitable to BIPOC communities, which includes affordable housing and access to resources/tools that can help improve people’s lives. I’m honored and looking forward to serving in my role as the treasurer of My Comunidad Foundation.
Juli Perez (they/them) is a queer artist and yoga teacher born and raised in South Central LA. Community has always been at the forefront of their art, yoga practice and life. Raised by immigrant parents from El Salvador, they grew up seeing the importance of community in uplifting underserved populations. While exploring their artistry through photography, they realized that focusing on their own communities, QTBIPOC subjects, fueled their passion. They graduated from UC Davis in 2020 with a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies. They currently volunteer as a youth mentor in photography at Las Fotos Project.
Yoga found Juli at the tender age of 13. They tagged along with a friend and their mom to a studio in Santa Monica, which served as a grounding practice for them. In their youth, Juli maintained an on and off relationship to yoga, frequenting studios on the westside of LA. While attending UC Davis, they would de-stress from school with their friends through practicing online yoga videos. With the intention to focus on their health, they then stumbled upon a hot yoga studio in February of 2020. Once COVID-19 hit, their practice shifted to a consistent basis.
Moving back from Davis in December of 2020, they looked for studios in LA that de-centered whiteness. They were referred to The Tree Yoga Co-Op, where they completed their 200-hour certification as a work-trade student. In doing so, they incorporated their photography into their yoga practice. They were intentional in choosing a black and brown worker owned cooperative, that practices de-colonial and trauma-informed yoga. Their intention as a teacher remains to continue this practice in making yoga and art accessible to QTBIPOC folx.
Liberty is a former professional makeup artist, an Aunt to 10 nieces and nephews, and Yoga Teacher committed to sharing sense of personal freedom through the art of breath and movement.
Her journey started with her appreciation for dance and the performing arts as a member of the Etiwanda High School Varsity Dance Company. After graduating high school, she found herself with minor injuries and alignment concerns. It wasn’t until experiencing a few anxiety attacks during a stressful semester at Chaffey College, did she decided to take a yoga class in the summer. Her intentions for the class were simple, to minimize anxiety and to alleviate her ongoing injury issues.
Though what was once was thought as “just a three unit summer class ,” later deemed to be one of the greatest blessings in disguise. Her intentions were fulfilled and much more. A newfound sense of self confidence, motivation, and a creative outlook was discovered.
She started to expand her practice at Yogabody Studios in Chino, CA in 2017 and eventually completed a 200 HR YTT course in 2018.
As a Yoga Instructor, she is also committed to expressing body positivity and show that Yoga can be for everyone.
When not working on her Yoga Craft, Liberty can be found DJing, hanging out with her nieces and nephews and working towards a better embodiment.
Jared is a 500RYT yoga instructor who grew up in north Long Beach. He began practicing yoga asana almost 25 years ago after receiving a White Lotus VHS video as a gift. Although Jared's early practice was predominantly influenced by Ashtanga and PowerYoga styles, in later years his practice grew to include the more subtle yoga practices. Jared believes your asana practice doesn't need to be responsible for your workout, and teaches an asana class emphasizing attention to the breath and creating an awareness of the body with traditional asana and modern movement practices. Jared strives to provide an experience that honors the traditions of this ancient practice and creates a space that embraces all seekers.
Tania Villegas went through a massive metamorphosis at the age of 16 due to a car accident that resulted in a coma and a traumatic brain injury. Tania underwent a variety of therapies where she relearned how to walk and perform daily tasks. Her coping mechanism post-accident was to act as if that pivotal time in her life never existed. Because of the suppressed trauma, Tania lived through years of physical pain, anxiety, and depression and believed that was going to be her life until she discovered the power of Reiki, Crystals, and Yoga. Through her recovery, Tania became a Reiki Master, a Certified Crystal Healer, and a 500-hour Yoga Teacher. She knows that there are others, like her and she wants to offer the same support she found through these deeply healing modalities.
Dorothy is a holistic health practitioner, specializing in massage therapy and hatha yoga instruction. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her first yoga class was at the age of 21. There she started to feel herself slowly going within to a place she almost forgot existed. As the years passed, she continued to use yoga and meditation as a way to heal herself and balance her emotions.
In 2018, Dorothy completed her yoga teacher training with the hopes of not only becoming a better person but to help others to heal themselves as well. She believes this will ultimately heal the world
Los Angeles based artist Lorean Bautista or “Miss L” as called by her students, comes from an artistic lineage. At a young age, she learned photography, taking after her grandfather who owned a photo studio in the Philippines. Surrounded by a family of artists, performers, and musicians, this environment enhanced her creative language.
In 2007, she spent 4 months in Europe studying how art shapes communities and tells the history of their people. Using travel as a tool for learning, she puts education at the forefront of her experiences and truly believes in the universal healing power of art.
She earned her BA in Studio Art from Cal State University Long Beach in 2011 and has been honing her skills for over 10 years. Currently the Communications Specialist for a local city, she has designed publications, and outdoor signage, and worked with local muralists for the Paramount Paints program. In these 7 years of public service, she has assisted small businesses and local organizations with promoting goods and services that enrich the community’s quality of life.
Miss L’s past work experience includes Curatorial Research for The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, Museum Education as a Docent at Muzeo in Anaheim, and a Certified Art Instructor for Art Innovators and Connect Studio Space. She is also an Arts4LA Fellow for Cultural Policy, a program designed to explore public art initiatives and community strategies.
She is excited to connect My Comunidad to their community through ethical marketing practices and community art projects.
“What is done in love is done well” - Vincent Van Gogh