Staff

Xavier Morales, Ph.D., MRP

Executive Director

Xavier Morales, Ph.D., MRP, is a longtime advocate for community-driven initiatives to achieve health equity and environmental justice. Taking an expansive view of what constitutes good health and community wellness, he works in partnership to enable opportunities for youth development, workforce development, college access, prisoner reentry, early childhood development, affordable housing, and expanding access to culturally and linguistically appropriate heath care for all. Xavier currently serves on the board of the Urban Peace Initiative, and is the vice-chair of the City of Berkeley sugar sweetened beverage tax expert panel. Xavier often provides testimony in legislative arenas and is a frequent speaker at health conferences and health justice gatherings, and in college/university settings. Xavier, a former Peace Corps volunteer (Hungary), is originally from Sanger, California and studied environmental sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and city and regional planning at Cornell University.

Sylvia Castillo

Deputy Director

Sylvia Castillo is the Deputy Director at The Praxis Project.  She is responsible for leading the organization’s teams to deliver program supports to Praxis’ constituents.  Sylvia works closely with the Executive Director to support thought leadership around emerging health equity practice areas.

Formerly, District Director for Congress Member Karen Bass and Speaker of the Assembly Bass, Sylvia has combined her passion for grassroots organizing and policy to specialize in public policy analysis, nonprofit strategic planning and leadership development for social justice.   

In recognition of Sylvia’s contributions to the community, she has received the California Wellness Foundation Peace Prize and Liberty Hill Foundation Change Maker awards for her violence prevention work and youth leadership development.

Sylvia attended UCLA, earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science and was a pediatric nurse. She is a movement mother to several beloved sons and daughters, a niece and nephews. Sylvia enjoys art, animated flicks, painting, dancing and jazz concerts.

Latanya Lowe, MA

Operations Manager

LaTanya Lowe is native to the DC Metropolitan area, where she was raised in Silver Spring, MD. She brings more than 15 years of operations, project and administrative management experience to The Praxis Project.

LaTanya has worked with international and local non-profit organizations, such as the American College of Cardiology as well as The Family Restoration and Healing Center. She earned her undergraduate degree in English with an additional concentration in African Diaspora at the University of Maryland and earned her Master’s Degree in Organizational Management.

LaTanya strives to achieve and continually demonstrate hard working ethics and principles in every aspect of life, which is befitting to the cause for social, medical, economical, and educational justice for communities of color throughout the country.

Anesti Vega

Manager of Online Organizing

Anesti Vega is a longtime organizer in the Bay area Indigenous community and serves as an advocate for social and environmental justice, with a focus on Indigenous rights and sovereignty, establishing and expanding global marine protected areas, and intersectional feminism and shutting down patriarchy. As a filmmaker and community engagement specialist, he utilizes multiple formats of digital media to create awareness and visibility of issues as a form of healing and empowerment in our communities. Anesti serves as an advisor and consultant for several arts and cultural organizations around capacity building, outreach strategy and media-based youth programming. He is a member of the Tupinambá tribe of Brazil and grew up in Florida where he studied Communications at the University of Tampa. In his free time, he works as a Scuba Divemaster, working with and feeding sharks at the local conservation aquarium, studies many styles of martial arts, and goes on many outdoor adventures.

Shayla Spilker, MSPH

Program Manager

Shayla Spilker, MSPH, has worked to advance health equity and social justice for diverse communities for over a decade. As Program Manager, she brings a range of expertise to the Praxis Project team, with experience working in international health, health policy advocacy, research and evaluation, and health communications.

Prior to joining Praxis, Shayla conducted community-oriented research for Harder+Company Community Research with an emphasis on early childhood education, the health care industry, and evaluating the work of health-focused philanthropy. She also managed health policy and communications at the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, supporting policies to create healthier and more equitable environments across the state. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and her Master of Science in Community Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. A native of Southern California, Shayla enjoys traveling, eating delicious foods, and all things outdoors, including cycling, the beach, and hiking.

Aishah Abdala

Health Justice Advocate Intern

Aishah Abdala is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Public Health with a minor in Public Policy. She began interning with The Praxis Project this fall from our Oakland based office. She grew up in the city of Tijuana, Mexico throughout most of her early childhood before moving immediately north of the U.S. border to the city of San Ysidro, California at the age of 10. Her multiracial background coming from Mexican and Syrian-Lebanese immigrant families, has made her interested in identity and its influence on interpersonal relationships. Her work at Cal’s service-based organization Alternative Breaks as a Break Leader, reflects her commitment to creating opportunities that highlight and uplift the resiliency in marginalized communities and the dynamic work they contribute to break the power dynamics that have kept them out of the decision-making process. From this she has also developed a deep passion for understanding the intersectionality between the built and natural environment, people, and health within a social justice framework.

Zoey Cigar-Hodge

Intern

Zoey Cigar-Hodge is a soon to be graduate of UC Berkeley in May 2017 where she has majored in American Studies, concentrating on Environmental Health and Justice. She grew up in Los Angeles and has always had a passion for helping others and being of service to her community. At The Praxis Project, Zoey is an intern with Exonerated Nation, a non-profit organization that assists exonerates in accessing resources upon their release. Zoey previously has experience in healthcare policy and education. In her free time, she likes to hang out with friends, go to free local events, or check out the latest movie.

Elise Nycz

Intern

Elise Nycz is an Administrative Intern with The Praxis Project in the Washington, D.C. location. While working with Praxis, she is also in the process of completing her Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in International Affairs from East Tennessee State University. After graduation, Elise is preparing to pursue a Master’s degree in International Development. As she has a strong passion for social, health and food justice issues, The Praxis Project is a pioneering organization that allows her to gain experience in the field and within administration.