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.

Shayla Spilker, MSPH

Assistant Director

Shayla Spilker, MSPH, has worked to advance health equity and social justice for diverse communities for over a decade. As Assistant Director, 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.

Ariel Cohen

Senior Manager, Organizational Development

As Senior Manager of Organizational Development, Ariel brings deep experience with nonprofit organizational management and fiscal sponsorship to Praxis. Most recently, Ariel was an Advisor with Tides, working closely in partnership with a portfolio of its fiscally-sponsored groups. Ariel has previously worked across a variety of mission areas, including immigrant justice, zero waste, and public policy research. Outside of work, she can most often be found in the ceramics studio, making tableware, sculptures, and lighting. An avid maker, she also enjoys painting, cooking, growing vegetables, fermenting her own hot sauce, and more, and learning woodworking is next. Ariel lives in Oakland, was born and raised in Berkeley, and has strong roots in the Bay Area. She graduated from the University of Chicago with honors, earning her degree in sociology.

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 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, trains in different styles of martial arts, and goes on a variety of outdoor adventures.

Jeremiah Headen

Manager of Field Organizing

Jeremiah Headen is the Manager of Field Organizing at the Praxis Project. A DC metropolitan area resident, he spent five years teaching high school in DC Public Schools. Jeremiah left teaching when he realized that many of the barriers to student achievement exist outside of the classroom. With a devotion to social justice and equality, he has dedicated himself to finding better ways to support families and teachers all around the country. Combining his Political Science degree from American University with his love for people, Jeremiah is a stern advocate for children having equal access to a quality education, quality food, and a decent place to live.  In his free time, Jeremiah is an avid music lover, biker, and animation enthusiast. Jeremiah is the 5th of his parents’ 6 children and thus loves being in groups with a lot of noise.

Caitlin Dunklee

Program Manager

Caitlin serves as Program Manager for The Praxis Project, and Director of Operations for Exonerated Nation. She has organized against mass incarceration for more than ten years. She co-founded Texas Advocates for Justice, a grassroots organization committed to ending the criminalization of people of color through organizing and the collective leadership of formerly incarcerated individuals and families. She also directed the Drop the Rock Campaign to repeal New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws and helped to achieve major legislative reforms and amplify leadership in communities most affected by incarceration. She holds a Master’s of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor’s in Urban Affairs and Africana/Latino Studies from New York’s Hunter College.  Caitlin believes in the inherit dignity of all people, the critical importance of leadership from communities most targeted by state violence, and the transformative possibilities of healing collective trauma. She also believes in the Golden State Warriors.

Aishah Abdala

Program Assistant

Aishah Abdala, a member UC Berkeley’s Class of 2017, majored in Public Health with a minor in Public Policy. Aishah began interning with The Praxis Project in the fall of 2016 in our Oakland based office. Aishah grew up in  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 UC Berkeley’s service-based student organization Alternative Breaks as a Break Leader, reflects her commitment to creating opportunities that highlight and uplift the resiliency in marginalized communities and the work they contribute to break the power dynamics that have kept folks out of the decision-making process. From these firsthand experiences 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.

Aleli Alcaide

Health Policy Intern

Aleli Alcaide is the incoming Health Policy intern at The Praxis Project. She currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was born in the gastronomical capital of Mexico, Puebla City, but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She has participated in domestic and international public heath projects in Latin America. She is also an active member of the American Public Health Association through the Latino Caucus and the Food and Nutrition Section. Throughout these experiences, Aleli has become a strong supporter of advocating access to care for marginalized communities, implementing sustainable solutions to address food insecurity, and delivering health education that is culturally competent. One of Aleli’s goals is to travel to the seven continents of the world. In August, Aleli will be departing for a solo trip to Peru and Bolivia. In September, Aleli will be departing to Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer for the Healthy Schools program.

Mia Lopez-Zubiri

Health Policy Intern

Mia Lopez-Zubiri is an upcoming senior at Georgetown University majoring in Government and minoring in Sociology and Justice and Peace Studies. She is originally from Los Angeles, but has enjoyed getting to know DC by exploring and working in its diverse communities. Her personal, extracurricular, and academic exposure to a variety of social justice issues have heightened her interest in housing inequality and gentrification, identity formation, and intersectional feminism. At the Praxis Project, she hopes to learn more about the social and institutional factors that influence health outcomes in marginalized communities. In her free time, Mia enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and finding new shows to watch on Netflix!

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.