top of page

Board of Directors 


Senator Richard G. Polanco

Board President 

Richard G. Polanco is the former Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. In this role, he promoted and has often been quoted as saying "The Latino Agenda is an American Agenda. Good jobs, descent housing, safe neighborhoods, access to health care and Equal Opportunity in Education".


First elected in 1986, Mr. Polanco served sixteen years in the California Legislature. In 1994 he was elected to the State Senate and served as Senate Majority Leader from 1998 to his
retirement in 2002. Senator Polanco is perhaps best known for his work with the Latino
Legislative Caucus, which he chaired from 1990 until 2002.  Under his leadership, Senator Polanco led efforts to increase the statewide number of Democratic Legislators from seven Latino members to 24.


In the legislature, Mr. Polanco fought tirelessly on behalf of underserved communities
throughout the State of California. He has spent his lifetime advocating for low income communities and authored significant legislation creating policy in the areas of: MWBE certification; Congregate Living Facilities for HIV Populations; Accessibility Emergency Services Information for the Hearing Impaired; Money Transfers Act; Universal Access/Telecom & Life
Line Communication Service; Polanco Redevelopment Act; Homeless Tax Exemption; Possession of Child Pornography Crime/Act; Migrant Worker Vehicles Safety Act; Pharmacy Technician Act; Small Business Innovation Research Program; the California Procurement Act;
Water Desalination Facilities; California Business Preference Bond Act; California Aerospace
and Advanced Transportation Supplier Program; California Arts License Plates; Mental Health Managed Care Plans; Loan Export Finance Guarantee Program; Farm worker Housing Attorney Fees Act; Small Business Surety Bond and Loan. Motor Voter Act; Indian Gaming Compacts (1995-96); Community Colleges Economic Development Program; California Indian Education Centers Act; Breast Cancer License Plate Act; Community College –California /Mexican
International Trade Centers; Cesar Chavez Community Service Holiday; and The California Voting Rights Act.


Mr. Polanco joined the Plaza Community Services Board in 2020.


Reyna Valadez

Board Member


Professor Reyna Valadez joined the Los Angeles Community College District at East Los Angeles College as a Professor of Child Development in the Fall of 2015. Professor Valadez has also appointed the role of coordinator for many Student Services Equity initiatives at East Los Angeles College, as well as programs that support and advocate for equitable access for all students.  Ms. Valadez has utilized her extensive networking skills to advance, support, educate, and advocate for many marginalized groups. She has led nation-wide projects for Girls Incorporated and continues to expand services through lectures and outreach efforts.

Ms. Valadez received her Master's Degree in Education in Leadership and Administration from the University of Southern California in the Fall of 2015. As well as her Bachelors of Science degree in Child Development and Early Childhood Studies from the University of La Verne in the Spring of 2013.

JMarez 1:19:19 Head shot...jpg

Jesse Marez

Board Member


Justin Hughes

Board Member

Prior to joining Loyola in 2013, Professor Justin Hughes taught at Cardozo Law School where he served as director of Cardozo’s Intellectual Property Program, 2004 through 2008, and founded the law school’s Indie Film Clinic, the first of its kind.

From 2009 through 2013, Professor Hughes also worked in the Obama Administration as Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. In that capacity he was the United States chief negotiator for the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012) and the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind (2013). 

In the 1990s, Professor Hughes did volunteer work in democracy development in Latin America, West Africa and the Balkans.  He has practiced law in Paris and Los Angeles. As a Henry Luce Scholar, he clerked for the Lord President of the Malaysian Supreme Court in Kuala Lumpur.  

Cyndy Fujikawa (fence) bio.jpg

Cyndy Fujikawa

Board Vice President 


Cyndy Fujikawa has worked as a film, television and theater professional for the past 35 years. She has worked throughout the country and Europe as a finance manager, production accountant, production controller and producer on feature films, TV shows, pilots and documentaries. In theater, Cyndy has performed, written and directed with East West Players, San Jose Repertory Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre (Seattle), Sacramento Theatre Co, Mabou Mines, New York Theatre Workshop, New Victory Theater (NYC), and Cornerstone Theatre Co. In the 1980’s she co-founded the award-winning Encore Theatre Company in San Francisco, and produced/collaborated on its first five seasons.

Paula Bio (1).docx.png

Paula Melo

Board Secretary 

Paula knew that she wanted to work with aid organizations from an early age.  Her family had received aid growing up, first in Angola and then again in both Portugal and when her family moved to the US. As soon as she graduated from college, she joined the Peace Corps where she worked in Honduras with a women’s cooperative that cultivated cashews teaching them basic accounting and computer skills.  Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 2001, she worked at Vista del Mar Child and Family Services where she coordinated residential intakes and interpreted for a family therapist at their locked unit for boys.  Later she returned to Vista del Mar and Hathaway-Sycamores working in evaluations for the Wraparound program where she created systems for reporting outcomes to the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Department of Mental Health. Hathaway-Sycamores and Vista del Mar are children’s mental health facilities.  Both agencies have group homes for kids with mental health needs and community programs that work with the children and their families to ensure that they can be safe in the community and in school. In her 14yrs working with Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, Paula worked with various programs handling their evaluation requirement for county agency contracts as well as helping the programs achieve evaluation goals and monitoring their progress in clinical markers set internally and contractually by creating databases and reporting to management.  Now Paula has been a stay at home mom of 3 and continues to help the community by cooking at a meal for the homeless weekly, volunteering with the youth at her church including a youth mission trip, and an annual Medical Mission to Honduras where she provides interpretation for the doctors on the mission.


Al Foster

Board Member


Al Foster has seen the broadcast, film and music industry change as an insider for the past four decades. CEO of Kamal Production, an offshoot of Bedford-Purdie-Foster. Of Carl Bedford, and Bernard Purdie, Kamal Production client’s include American based Advertising Agency for the African Television Authority. His background in music videos, documentaries, motion picture and commercials stems from over a decades work in post production at NBC, CBS, MGM and Columba Pictures. Al was Director of Archive at MGM, where he mentored many young producers. Al currently sits as President, Hollywood Black Chamber of Commerce as well as a board member of Plaza Community Services where he oversees a multimillion dollar budget. He is also the Director of International In-flight Film Reclaim and project partner in Electric Shadow Company Inc.


Omar Loya

Board Treasurer

Omar Loya is a professional in the area of treasury management, financial services, business banking, and technical product management.


Presently he is Senior Vice President/Head of Treasury Management at Axos Bank.  He was  Senior Vice President and Group Product Manager at City National Bank for six years, prior to which he also served as  Vice President and Group Product Manager at Bank of the West.  He is a former board member of the Volunteers of East Los Angeles.


Maria Elena Yepez

Board Member


As an educator, writer, and community activist for the past thirty years, Maria Elena Yepes has dedicated her professional career to providing higher educational opportunities for the most underserved populations in Los Angeles. As Director of the Learning Assistance Center and a faculty member at East Los Angeles College, she has created several special academic programs and a strong Learning Assistance Center to foster the educational aspirations of thousands of students, many of whom have returned to their respective communities to contribute as teachers, engineers, doctors, union leaders, and attorneys.


Richard Montoya

Board Member


Richard Montoya is a Chicano actor, director, producer, screenwriter, playwright, comedian, and co-founding member of the San Francisco based performance troupe Culture Clash. His work in the theater is largely comedy-based and centers around ideas of racism, immigration, discrimination, and identity in Latin-American communities. 


He follows in the footsteps of his father, famous activist José Montoya, and is known for creating social and political change through a variety of artistic expression

Jesse Marez brings to Plaza Community Services an extensive experience in many facets of the developing energy industry.  As a co-founder of EcoPoint Energy Services and a seasoned electrical engineer, business development, and project manager with a strong technical foundation in alternative energy, energy-related products, and services.


Currently a member of the LA Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE-LA), a professional organization supporting and developing students & professionals interested in careers in STEM and or STEAM sectors.   


He also brings to Plaza his experience in Southern California the understanding of municipalities and intricate knowledge of their governance and operations adding a unique combination of relationship development and communication between local governments, cities, and corporations.

bottom of page