Juan Parras | Founder, Executive Director (Pronouns: He, Him)
Ana Parras | Executive Co-Director, Administrator (Pronouns: She, Her)
Cinthia Cantu | Community Organizer (Pronouns: She, Her, Ella)
Cinthia Cantu is a 22-year-old first-generation college student and a Dreamer. Born in Mexico Cinthia is dedicated to fighting for the rights of her community including the intersection of environmental justice and immigrant rights, reproductive justice, food justice, and health care access. When her family first arrived in Texas, Cinthia’s family settled on the east end of Houston in fence line community of Manchester. Cinthia began organizing with T.e.j.a.s as a Furr High School sophomore student, aiding the organization by taking water and soil samples to be used in a collaborative project with Texas A&M. Cinthia recognizes the long-term dangers of toxic exposure and how that impacts the very existence of a community,
“By effecting hormones toxic chemicals effect future generations. Environmental justice is about fighting for survival.” She is currently a student at Houston Community College pursuing a degree in health science and is a certified permaculturist. Her contributions and first-hand experience have cemented Cinthia’s commitment to address the issues of environmental justice.
Where he helped established a community-led fund to support union workers in during a 5 ½ year lockout. In 1995 Juan joined the ranks of Greenpeace USA in a longstanding battle and win against Shintech in Louisiana. 1996-2002 Soon after Juan began working with Texas Southern University at the newly formed Grover Hankins, at the Environmental Justice Law Clinic where he dedicated his skills and expertise in community organizing until 2002. In 1995 began the long-standing battle which started against the construction of Cesar Chavez High School and formed Unidos Contra Environmental Racism, which was later renamed T.e.j.a.s (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. From 2002-2006 Juan, concurrently was working as an EJ organizer for CLEAN (Citizens League for Environmental Action Now) formed by Jane Dale Owen granddaughter to one of the founders of Humble Oil which became Exxon Mobile. Juan was an original member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), and has served on many other boards such as the Gulf Restoration Network, Coalition of Community Organizations (CoCO)National Childhood Lead Prevention Program, and the Center for Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ). He is currently an Environmental Justice Ambassador for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Juan received the CEC Synergy Award in 2008 and the Sealy Center for Environmental Health & Medicine HERO Award in 2009. Juan was also recognized as a recent recipient of the 2015 Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Champion Award from the Sierra Club. Juan Parras and his resolve for equity, justice and community resilience is the driving force behind the T.e.j.a.s. with over 40 years of organizing and work from social services to labor, to environmental justice Juan Parras can attest to the empowering force behind marrying issues of intersectionality in environmental work for marginalized communities.
Juan has been organizing community voices for years beginning as a social worker with the Harris County Welfare Office and later with the City of Houston Section 8 Housing Department where he organized the workers at both offices. Recognizing his unorthodox organizing efforts, he was recruited by AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees) as project staff. Organizing people to fight for standards in their working environments Juan eventually was elevated to be an International Union Representative for AFSCME as an International Union Representative until 1993 where his efforts reestablished MLK day and impeached Governor Mechum of Arizona. He then began working with Louisiana Labor Neighbor Project an Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (now known as PACE) initiative.
She co-founded “Our First Steps” a storefront whose purpose was to remove the stigma of food assistance and serve women who received WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food and nutrition services. She is a pivotal member taking on research and organization functions at Tejas.
Ana has an extensive background in community organizing from her union work as president of AFSCME (Local 3242), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Her work with organized Labor emphasized the importance of Civic Engagement. She ran phone banks for the Democratic Party in South Texas for several candidates and she brought her experience to Harris County. In her hometown of Corpus, she received an award from the Central Labor Council for her efforts in establishing benefits for municipal workers. Her work has been dedicated to uplifting marginalized and affected populations as well as victims. Ana co-founded the Injured Workers of Texas and was also recognized for her outstanding efforts at the Battered Women’s Shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Before T.e.j.a.s Ana served the Harris County Central Labor Council and helped develop there political program and database. During the Cesar Chavez high school challenge Juan along with Ana jointly founded UCER, Unidos Contra Environmental Racism, which was later renamed T.e.j.a.s. Ana also has extensive experience as a legal assistant for over 12 years.
Yvette Arellano | Senior Staff, Policy Research & Grassroots Advocate
(Pronouns: They, Them, She, Her)
Yvette is a powerhouse organizer and emerging leader from Houston dedicated to the causes of environmental and racial justice. She serves as a policy research and grassroots advocate with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. In 2015, they led the campaign against H.R. 702, which opened the floodgates to U.S. crude oil exports. Yvette represented the Gulf South and T.e.j.a.s at the United Nations COP21 in Paris. They were instrumental in the joint 2016 publication Double Jeopardy in Houston and Air Toxics and Health in the Houston Community of Manchester between the Union of Concerned Scientists and T.e.j.a.s, revealing deep environmental injustice the belly of the beast, Houston. In 2018, Yvette was recognized with the GreenLatinos Emerging Leader Award. Her most recent contribution can be read in Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet highlighting Tejas’ focus on human health impacts of petrochemicals involved in plastics production, chemical clusters, risk of accidents and the lack of community engagement and access to information.
Throughout her work, Yvette strives to emphasize that access to clean water, air, land, and food is a fundamental human right best pursued through vigorous intersectional thinking and organizing. She has testified before the House and Energy Committee, EPA, National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and state legislature over environmental injustices. Currently, Yvette is leading efforts in Houston, home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, to help the city’s most vulnerable communities on the petrochemical expansion fueled by plastic production.
In addition, Yvette serves as a board member of The Backbone Campaign which provides creative strategies, artful action support, and convenes training opportunities for change agents across the United States.
Nalleli Hidalgo | Community Outreach and Education Liaison
(Pronouns: She, Her)
Nalleli Hidalgo is a Texas native, born and raised in the city of Houston. First-generation Houstonian and college graduate with parents from Mexico. Her years of working with various local and federal entities such as Houston Independent School District, Texas A&M Forest Service, the United States Forest Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. She believes that everyone deserves a healthy and equitable environment, regardless of their race, culture, social or economic level. She is the co-founder of the Woodsy Owl Conservation Corps, a conservation corps that focuses on creating the next generation of conservation leaders while integrating conservation messages through service learning
service learning projects, place-based learning, peer to peer teaching and learning. The WOCC Houston chapter first piloted the program in 2015 and it now serves as a national model for youth in other cities and countries. She served as an outreach specialist for Texas A&M Forest Service and conducted numerous placed-based programs in Houston and surrounding public lands for elementary and high school students. In collaboration with Furr High School, she led and facilitated Career Technical Education projects as a CTE proctor for 5 years, and Green Ambassador for their green spaces, conducting community-based programs and outreach. Her work alongside Texas A&M Forest Service and public schools led her to receive the Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award for implementing innovative, bilingual education programs that connect thousands of urban, underserved, limited English proficiency audiences with opportunities for inclusion in natural resources stewardship. As a community organizer Nalleli is engaged with local civic associations and local government bodies working on local advocacy efforts.