Meet the 2019 Bay Area Inspire Award Advisers

 In Bay Area Inspire Awards, Designated Fund

By Savannah Lira, Program and Communications Associate

The Bay Area Inspire Awards were started by a small group of Bay Area residents interested in building local communities that work better for all residents, especially those whose lives are difficult. The community initiative, administered by Philanthropic Ventures Foundation since 2014, provides $5,000 grants to 18-30 year olds who have innovative ideas for improving social equity in San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties.

Each year, the Awardees are paired with a voluntary Advisory Board to provide them with mentorship and support throughout their projects. Now on its 4th round, we have gathered an amazing group of individuals who will be bringing their experience and expertise to the Bay Area Inspire Awards this year:


Dante Alvarado-Leon, Founder of MentorRoom; Business Product Specialist at Facebook

Dante Alvarado-Leon is a Business Product Specialist at Facebook working on In­stagram Ads and Shopping. In 2017, Dante became a Bay Area Inspire Awardee and an OZY Genius Winner for his work with MentorRoom, a virtual mentorship pro­gram that connected first-generation college students with diverse professionals in tech. Recently, Dante became a Westly Prize Winner, as the Co-Founder of the Latinas Engineering Leadership Program.


Benjamin Bac Sierra, Author; Community Innovator; Professor at City College of San Francisco

Benjamin Bac Sierra completed his B.A. in English at U.C. Berkeley, earned a teaching credential and a Master’s from San Francisco State University, and merited a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Currently, he is a professor at City College of San Francisco, an advisor for HOMEY SF, and a community innovator and speaker throughout the Bay Area. His first novel Barrio Bushido was presented a “Best of the Bay Award” and an “International Latino Book Award.”


Rita Bullwinkel, Author; Arts Educator

Rita Bullwinkel is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the story collection Belly Up, which won the 2018 Believer Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by both The San Francisco Chronicle and BuzzFeed. She is a recipient of awards and fellowships from Brown University, The MacDowell Colony, The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, The Drue Heinz Foundation, and Vanderbilt University, where she was a Commons Writer in Residence. Both her fiction and her translation have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She has taught classes on the uses of invented language and foreign language as tools for world building at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, The Nashville Public Library, The Nashville School of the Arts, The Hugo Writers Workshop, Vanderbilt University, and other institutions.


Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga, Founder and Executive Director of Ayudando Latinos A Sonar, ALAS; Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco

Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga has specialized in working with Latino mental health and advocating for the many voices who are often silent in the mental health field and in society. As the Founder of ALAS, Dr Hernandez-Arriaga uses the arts as a safe space to work with the families at all levels. ALAS is a program focused on four areas, the arts of mariachi, ballet folklorico and drumming, edu­cation, La Misma Luna counseling services and social justice advocacy.


Eugene “Ace” Johnson, Motivational speaker; Spoken Word Poet and Lyricist; Founder, iVisionary Academy

Eugene “Ace” Johnson is the founder of iVisionary Academy, 501c3 non profit, and has developed a curriculum that uses the creative arts to teach leadership development and life skills to youth in underserved communities. He was a 2018 Bay Area Inspire Awardee for his Talent Tour. Ace is passionate about holistic urban community development and has developed several programs dedicated to seeing people live out their full potential within these communities.


Jayson J. Phillips, Senior Software Manager at Trilogy Education Services; Full Stack Web Development Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension

Jayson J. Phillips is a Senior Software Manager at Trilogy Education Services. At Trilogy, Jayson works on the learning platform that powers the student and instructor experience with the courses administered at dozens of continuing education campuses. In addition, Jayson is also a Full Stack Software Instruc­tor at UC Berkeley Extension, empowering students to learn the skills needed to transition into careers in the tech industry. He is passionate about mentor­ship development and making the tech industry more diverse and inclusive.

You can read more about each Adviser and the Bay Area Inspire Awards here. Applications for 2019-2020 open July 15th!

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