Founder, Executive Director (Pronoun: He, Him)
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.
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.
Executive Co-Director, Administrator (Pronoun: She, Her)
Ana Parras was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. Ana has an extensive background in Union/Community organizing from her tenor as President of (Local Union 3242), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. (AFSCME). She is one of the youngest Union Presidents to be elected at the age of (24 years). Under her tenor Nueces County was able to obtain Civil Service for County Employees after a long battle with County Commissioners. Civil Service gave County Employees a right to grieve and be heard. This change in the law covered three other Texas counties. 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. Ana represented her Union as a Delegate to the Coastal Bend Central Labor Council. In 1992 she became the second youngest Latina National Delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She moved to Baton Rouge, LA in 1994 and was hired to represent Injured Workers (LIWU). Her work has been dedicated to uplifting marginalized and affected populations as well as victims. Ana returned to Houston and co-founded the Injured Workers of Texas. (IWT).
Ana served the Harris County Central Labor Council, Under Ceole Speight for (8yrs) in the Political Program and helped develop their political program and database. During her work for the CLC she was hired by SEIU for their “Mi Familia Vota” campaign to write a Grant for Civic Engagement during the 2002 Gubernatorial Elections. The Civic Engagement campaign employed over 100 youth to help get out the vote during the campaign. Ana has been a long time member of the Gulf Coast Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) for Civic Engagement. Ana is currently serving on the board of the Gulf Coast Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).
During the Cesar Chavez high school battle Juan along with Ana jointly founded UCER, Unidos Contra Environmental Racism, which was later renamed Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. Ana also has extensive experience as a Legal Assistant for over 14 years. During her work in the legal profession she opened (3) WIC stores for the attorney. Then went on to co-own a WIC Store “Our First Step” 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. As the Administrator for Tejas she has been able to bring her administrative, organizational skill set to better structure and support Tejas work at both the local, State, and national level.
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,
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.
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.