Bold Vision was launched in 2019 through a collaboration of power-building organizations and social justice funders aiming to transform systems within LA County to ensure youth of color thrive and meet their fullest potential. The initiative has engaged hundreds of young people, civic leaders, and community partners, developing a guiding framework rooted in eliminating disparities and barriers to opportunity disproportionately impacting LA County’s Black, Native American & Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander youth. Bold Vision is also developing inclusive and democratic mechanisms for philanthropy to partner with community leaders to drive how grant making is designed.
Bold Vision’s Community Council, composed of leadership from people of color led youth-serving and youth organizing organizations, embarked on an intensive executive search seeking a leader who can help strengthen and expand youth power in LA County. Bold Vision has found its new leader in María Brenes.
María has played a vital leadership role with Bold Vision, serving as a founding Community Council member. Her guidance was instrumental in developing the innovative community engagement and policy development frameworks.
María is the proud daughter of immigrants from Mexico who settled down in Los Angeles with dreams of starting and raising a family in the United States. María is the eldest of four and lived in Los Angeles until the age of nine after her father suffered an accident that made his job as a gardener challenging. As the sole breadwinner, remaining in LA was economically challenging. María’s family moved to the border town of Tecate in Baja California, Mexico. To support his family, Maria’s father became a border commuter worker, and María and her siblings crossed with him to attend public schools in East San Diego County. Her parents’ sole dream was for their children to go to college.
From an early age, María experienced first-hand societal inequities. As a child, she and her younger brothers crossed the border hoping to get prepared for higher education. But this was not without struggle. In 1993, at the eve of the state ballot measure Proposition 187, María and her peers became the target of anti-immigrant sentiment and harassment that was brewing in California.
She refused to stand down. María organized hundreds of families to speak out against the racism and injustice they were enduring. Together, María and a groundswell of families urged the media and elected officials to listen to their cry – that regardless of skin color or ethnicity – Education is a Civil Right!
After graduating from UC Berkeley, María continued her work as a community organizer working to build greater unity and empowerment with Black, Brown and Asian American and Pacific Islander students at an Oakland public high school. She then went on to earn her Master’s in Education at Harvard University, where she became the first-ever Latina elected student body president of the graduate school of education.
In 2002, María returned to Los Angeles and began working as the Youth Organizing Director for InnerCity Struggle, advocating for educational and housing justice in the Eastside of Los Angeles. In 2006, she was appointed to serve as Executive Director. Due to María’s leadership, today there is a powerful voice for students and families on the Eastside, ensuring those most affected by the decisions of elected officials – parents and students – can advocate for the education and housing justice and resources they deserve.
For over twenty years, María’s leadership helped youth and families secure historic wins for Eastside communities, including:
– In 2004, winning for the first time in over eighty years 5 new LAUSD public schools for the Eastside.
– In 2005, winning the historic A-G Life Prep Resolution, a landmark policy ensuring all LAUSD high school students had access to college preparatory courses to graduate college-ready.
– In 2013, securing the passage of the School Climate Bill of Rights that eliminated willful defiance suspensions in LAUSD that disproportionately targeted youth of color and led to the approval of alternatives to punitive discipline, resulting in increased graduation rates.
– In 2014, 2018 and 2021, winning the Equity is Justice LAUSD Resolutions, which annually allocated millions of new funding to highest need schools impacted by historic disinvestment.
In response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and housing crisis, María led organizing and advocacy efforts resulting in County policies that ensured greater tenant protections including eviction moratoriums for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Efforts also resulted in a winning campaign to secure a new affordable housing development in East LA.
An experienced leader rooted firmly in a commitment to justice, María has been recognized by LA OPINION, the Liberty Hill Foundation, UC Berkeley’s Chicano/Latino Alumni Association of Southern California, the Latina Lawyers Association, the LA Dodgers, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Since 2015, she has served as a Commissioner for the LA County Commission for Children and Families, appointed by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. Furthermore, in 2018, the LA County Commission for Women gave María the Woman of the Year Award. In 2023, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo announced María as the Woman of the Year for the California 52nd Assembly District, recognizing her as an effective and impactful education advocate. She also serves as a Community Trustee for the Board of Directors of the Hill Snowdon Foundation, a national social justice fund.
María lives in El Sereno with her family and her two children who attend LAUSD schools, where she has been an active parent volunteer.
María is excited to begin her role by meeting with youth organizers, community leaders, philanthropy, and government officials to share and learn more about how Bold Vision can be an impactful partner.
For more information about Bold Vision’s framework and partnerships, please visit: www.boldvisionla.org