Meet Christina Alisea, NSRH's Deputy Director!
Christina Alisea (she/her/hers) recently joined the NSRH team as a Deputy Director! Christy is a nonprofit professional committed to racial and gender equality. She has over 15 years of development experience. During her tenure, she has worked with state and federal agencies to secure funding for organizations serving marginalized communities. She has worked for various local and national organizations including the Alzheimer's Association, Think First National Injury Prevention, UCSD Health, and SURE Helpline and Crisis Center as a member of the Imperial County Sexual Assault Response Team.
Christy is based in San Diego, CA and spends her free time teaching art at local schools, writing, and enjoying the outdoors with her family. Communications Manager, Rimsha Syed, sat down and learned about Christina's background, her passion for being a sexual and reproductive health advocate as a mother, and her experience with being part of a podcast team!
Rimsha: So for starters, Christy, can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you're from, where you went to school, any interesting tidbits about life, or just anything in general that you would like to share about yourself?
Christina: Sure. I'm originally from Imperial county, California. It's a really small county, population-wise, in the Southeast corner of California, borders Mexico and Arizona. It's very high poverty, high immigrant population, so a lot of farming and migrant work. My family and my grandparents were farmers. I'm Native American on my dad's side, so his family was there forever. Coming down from Arizona, from the Pima tribe. We grew up in agriculture, we kind of were a lower-middle-class family. I was born in Mexico right across the border because we didn't have insurance, so most of the people there rely heavily on agriculture.
I was born in Mexicali, Mexico and I have dual citizenship. I had to work very early on. By the age of 14, I was trying to help my family. I went to UCSD for my bachelor's and I got it in literature, so not the best thing for work. I kind of figured that out early on, and it took me a little longer than most to graduate because I had to commute to San Diego to be able to go to school. That was about a two-and-a-half-hour ride every day, driving back and forth while I was working as well. I had to pay my way to be able to get through college, kind of learned that literature was not the best thing for me at that time. And at that same time, my dad's brother who is a twin came down with early onset Alzheimer's and we just got very involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer's association and really down the path of nonprofit work. I realized early on that that was something that I wanted to do long-term, to help my community and just be involved and give back as much as I could. I was very fortunate to have a really, really good mentor at the Alzheimer's association who steered me in the right direction for both my career and education.
She helped me use and leverage my literature degree to start grant writing and just taught me everything about development and working on nonprofits that motivated me to then pursue a master's degree in business with a focus on nonprofits. And so I was fortunate enough to be able to attend UCLA and got my master's degree in business with a focus on law and nonprofit work. That's what led me to nonprofits. I've been working in nonprofits ever since in different capacities. The majority have been satellite offices with the main office being in San Diego, California, and then having a smaller satellite office in Imperial county. We're very interconnected just because we're very close to one another. And because my community's so small, we rely on San Diego for shopping for everything. For the last 15 years, I've been involved working in grant writing and with my hospital system in Imperial county. And I still do that as a contract because the hospital system there is one of the last municipally owned systems, so [I'm] just keeping involved because my family's still there.
Rimsha: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing all of that about yourself, especially aspects of your identity and personal experience that have led you to the nonprofit world in particular, definitely learning a lot here about you today. And leaning into the conversation about nonprofit and what you've been doing for the past 15 years, what brought you to the sexual and reproductive health landscape and then Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health in particular?
Christina: I think it's something that I've always, always been very very passionate about just because I am one of three girls for whatever reason. We're all girls in my family, except for my dad. He's the lone male. And I have a daughter now who's a teen, so always been involved in, I guess, women's rights. Just because the community that I grew up in was very, we call it machismo because of the community that we live in specifically. I've always been very interested in making sure that we are represented, not just as women, but as BIPOC women. I was involved with a first SART room, so a sexual response team room, in my community, in the hospital that I work for. So writing a grant for the department of justice to be able to fund that and working with local law enforcement to be able to set that up. Then I went through the training for a sexual assault response team myself and worked at a crisis line called Sure Helpline. Once you're outside of the silo of being at home and leaving the home and realizing what issues we're facing, it woke me up to the fact that we didn't have those things in my community, but it was very rampant. Seeing how politically things were leaning was something that I was fearful of, but also motivated me wanting to leverage and use my experience in nonprofits to try to do something about it. And as my daughter started growing up being a biracial young girl here in San Diego county, within the last few years, it just became very evident, very divided and her school was more of a right-leaning school. I wanna say, for the most part, the whole culture and what they were teaching, and I saw how that was playing out and it just became more of an urgency for me to try to do something to protect my daughter's rights. Obviously, I want her to have the freedom to have a choice over her body, not just abortion care, but all of her reproductive decisions. When this opportunity came up, I jumped at it because I wanna do more than just sit on the sidelines, but actually, be involved and push to be able to give more access to everybody. Being in California, we're very fortunate that we don't have that issue, but having been brought up right on the border with Arizona, seeing a lot of friends that ended up moving to Arizona, coming now into California to try to access those things even from just an elective hysterectomy, those things are not accessible anymore. There are so many barriers, so it just became something that I felt an urgency to try to be a part of, to try to hopefully use some of my knowledge to be able to further that education and make a change.
Rimsha: I think it definitely makes sense for you as a parent of a daughter, in particular, to not want to sit on the sidelines. So thank you for that answer. And so what do you enjoy doing outside of work? Any hobbies, or things you like doing in your free time?
Christina: Well, I really have always been interested in art and writing. I got involved in my daughter's school teaching art classes since she was in fourth grade as a volunteer kind of thing so I could stay involved with my daughter, but also do something that I enjoy. I do that once a week here in San Diego. I'm focused now in communities of color where they have less access and less resources. I set up the curriculum, bring all the supplies, and just do fun things that I can bring to the kids.
Obviously spending a lot of time with my kids going camping. We've all been around horses our whole lives because being Native American and my family being farmers and being raised in a farm or on a farm, I should say, horseback riding. So teaching now, my four-year-old to be around horses, how to treat them with respect, and how to ride. Those are the things that we focus on and just family time in general. I'm very, very close to my parents, and my sisters, so spending a lot of time with them as a family and making sure that my kids learn their culture and getting them involved.
Rimsha: I love that. Thank you for sharing. I know that you're involved in a podcast and I would love to hear a little bit more about that as I'm sure our audience would too.
Christina: Sure. My daughter did a little bit of acting when she was younger. She was involved with Nickelodeon and PBS and along the way, we met Stephen Kramer Glickman who played Gustavo on Big Time Rush and who also did the voice of Pigeon Toady on Storks. He has a long career and Matt Walker, who is his main writer for most of the comedy standup and also one of his best friends, they partner for a lot of projects. Got to know them over the years and they developed a podcast called the Nighttime Show, which is a combination of a live show. It started as a live show at the Hollywood improv in Los Angeles and then developed into a podcast. So a lot of the shows that are done live were put on to podcasts and during COVID, it was just mainly a podcast. Right now, it's very intermittent, hasn't really gone back live because of COVID still, there's been a lot of back and forth and a lot of changes, I think just in the whole comic scene of Los Angeles has shifted quite a bit throughout COVID. I got involved in helping with some of the writing, so again, just a hobby, not a whole lot of involvement. I can't take credit for that, but just popping in and helping when I can. We're currently working on a really cool graphic novel because part of the podcast, Matt Walker's very interested in crimes, real crime, developing that into a graphic novel that we're currently working on.
Rimsha: Very cool. And lastly, where do you see yourself long-term?
Christina: I think that's a tricky question. I don't even know how to answer that one just because it's been shifting and changing over the years. Just when I think I have an idea of what I wanna do and where I want things to lead, it kind of shifts. I think that it's very motivated by what's happening in the United States and what's happening in general. COVID kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things. I was very career driven, like type A, prior to COVID, and that kind of set me back to really see and focus on what's important in my life, which is my family. My parents are getting older, my kids, so COVID put a lot of in perspective. I think that changed my goal to be where I want to enjoy my life and not be so career driven. Of course, that's a factor in my life, especially considering this role, because I feel like I'll have more of an impact, but just be more intentional about what I do both personally and professionally. I'm taking it day by day because that's how we've had to live for the past two years. Things are shifting and just being able to go with a flow and not take things so personally and understand that everybody's going through different situations. What's happening with me is not what's happening with the next person and I tried now to have and give grace to other people. I wish I had a better answer, but I think that my priorities and my goals change and are constantly evolving with how things play out politically and professionally, and personally,
Rimsha: I think that answered it perfectly. It's really hard to determine where you'll be when there is so much changing around you. Thank you so much for talking to me today and sharing a little bit more about your life and your background.
Christina: Of course.