From Don Howard, President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation

Today is the day! I am thrilled to announce the recipients of our 2024 Leadership Awards – an outstanding group of innovators who are changing lives in their communities and across the state.

For more than a decade, The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards have honored trailblazers with a track record of success in improving lives, cultivating opportunity, fostering inclusivity, and contributing to a better California.

Selected from a competitive pool of hundreds of nominations, the 2024 Award recipients are working on a wide range of issues including teacher preparation, youth justice, college access and completion, and ensuring the health and safety of Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, refugee, and immigrant populations.

Each of these individuals embodies qualities of leadership — characterized by significance, innovation, effectiveness, inclusiveness, timing, and leadership capacity — and will receive a $350,000 grant and additional resources to deepen their work and to help share their effective approaches with policymakers and peers.

It is a privilege to spotlight these leaders and the work their organizations are doing to tackle tough issues and create real change for Californians.

We hope you will join us to learn more about them and celebrate their success with us:

  • Francis “Frankie” Guzman, Senior Director for Youth Justice of National Center for Youth Law, for transforming the justice system by centering youth voices and outcomes.
  • Blanca Meléndrez and Amina Sheik Mohamed, Executive Director and Director of the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, for advancing health equity through collaborative, community-led initiatives.
  • Elizabeth Baham and Héctor Camacho Jr, Provost and Senior Vice President of Reach University, for addressing California’s teacher shortage through on-the-job degree and credential programs.
  • Manjusha Kulkarni, Executive Director of AAPI Equity Alliance, for confronting hate and discrimination against AAPI communities with data, partnerships, and policy solutions.
  • Brian Poth and Nick Vargas, Executive Director and Director of Development and Strategy of The Source LGBT+ Center, for fostering hope, health, safety, and inclusivity for the Central Valley’s LGBTQ+ community.
  • Michele Siqueiros, President of The Campaign for College Opportunity, for expanding college access and completion through advocacy, research, and coalition building.


More detail about the work of this year’s recipients is available here.  

We are inspired by these leaders and look forward to celebrating other Californians advancing impactful solutions in 2025. If you know an under-recognized leader (or leaders) doing innovative work that benefits the people of California, please nominate them for a 2025 Leadership Award. Nominations open today.