Raised in the Bay Area, Raquel's concern with the environment, health, and social justice grew as she saw inequities growing. With an underlying interest in health justice, in 2001, Raquel received an MPH from Portland State University, where she studied media advocacy. In 2002, Raquel co-founded Upstream with friends and fellow advocates. In 2009, she led a statewide coalition to require restaurant nutrition menu labeling. In 2011, she led a coalition to raise awareness about the dental health crisis. She also oversees Upstream’s tobacco prevention and health equity programs.
When Raquel is not policymaking, she enjoys making mess in the kitchen, winemaking, swimming across cold lakes, and traveling just about anywhere.
Mel earned two Master's degrees: one in nutrition policy, the other in environmental engineering. He is a former Fulbright Fellow and has several years experience in the non-profit sector working on media relations, fundraising, and grassroots advocacy. At Upstream, Mel coordinated grassroots advocacy for the 2005 campaign to get junk food out of school and spearheaded the successful menu labeling initiative in Multnomah County. He is currently focused on farm to school and school garden policy, menu labeling , and health and climate change work.
Health Equity Coordinator
Claudia has a strong background in civic engagement and leading innovative community – building initiatives in racially and linguistically diverse neighborhoods. She has over eight years experience working with immigrant and communities of color and over six years experience with strategic planning, policy development and analysis. Her public sector experience includes community development work within the Seattle Mayor Nickel's office, constituent services within U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell's office, and other positions related to food policy, housing, education and literacy. Claudia holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington and a Bachelor's degree in English from Duke University. She is fluent in Spanish. When Claudia isn't working she enjoys reading, wine, traveling, exercising while pushing a stroller, dabbling in pottery, and spending time with her family.
Policy Manager, Food and School Health
Kasandra spent over a decade promoting active living in the Portland area, in roles at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Oregon Environmental Council, and the Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau. She left Oregon, briefly, to earn a Public Policy degree at U.C. Berkeley in 2011, where the highlight of her academic experience was carpooling to (and going on) a slaughterhouse tour with Michael Pollan. At Upstream, she is working on expanding Farm to School and School Garden programs, reducing consumption of sugary drinks, and building better health into the K-12 education system. Kasandra likes to garden, float down rivers backwards in hard-to-steer inflatables, eat summer fruit until she almost explodes, and play hide and seek with other people's children.
Tia earned her PhD in Urban Studies with a dual concentration in Community Development and Community Health from Portland State University's School of Urban Studies and Planning. Her research efforts focus on healthy food environments, children's health, and ecosystem health. Recognized by the Oregon Public Health Association with an "emerging leader" award, Tia is passionate about working with communities to answer research questions that positively contribute to their lives.
Laura Heiser came on board as the Development Director for Upstream Public Health in Spring 2013. She brings over 20 years of fund raising experience with her. Laura specializes in building relationships with individual and corporate donors and has experience grant writing and organizing special events. She has served as the Development Director for several Portland-based organizations including Children First for Oregon, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Andrew Legal Clinic. She was also the Annual Fund Manager for a national women's organization called Women's Funding Network, now headquartered in San Francisco, and has raised funds for several other health and human service organizations in her home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Laura graduated with a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and has taken several graduate level Nonprofit Management and Public Administrative classes at Portland State University. In her free time you can find Laura on her bike riding hundreds of miles to beautiful Pacific Northwest destinations.
Samantha earned her Bachelor of Sciences in Community Health Education from Portland State University. She spent six months interning with Upstream as a Health Equity Intern providing support to the Healthy Oregon Partnerships for Equity coalition tasked with creating and drafting a five-year equity plan. Her primary focus areas include health equity, food policy, and health communications. Away from the office Samantha enjoys good food and drink, weekend camping, bicycle rides, and exploring the many wild spaces that Oregon has to offer.
Jennifer has spent the last four years studying structures, mechanisms, and interactions in Medical Anthropology and Global Health, as well as in Biochemistry, at the University of Washington. She recently joined the Upstream team through the Confluence Environmental Center AmeriCorps Program, and will be involved in community outreach and education about the health impacts of sugary beverages. Jennifer enjoys staring out into space, eavesdropping on strangers' conversations, and laughing for no reason. She also loves dark chocolate.