The Diversity Center’s staff are dedicated and experienced professionals who understand the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sharon Esther Papo, LCSW

Executive Director

Sharon is a Bay Area native who has been a community activist for over fifteen years. Before joining the Diversity Center, Sharon was the Executive Director of 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic, a multi-service health center in Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco. Sharon has also coordinated the Santa Cruz-based LGBTQ+ youth program “STRANGE” and worked as a counselor serving marginally housed youth through SCCCC (now Encompass Community Services). Additionally, she was a health educator for foster care, homeless and incarcerated youth and served as the Program Director of Puente: Building Between Jews and Latinx. Sharon holds a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Feminist Studies and a Masters in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley with a concentration in management and planning. Sharon lives locally with her wife and son. 

Contact Sharo Papo: 831-425-5422 x 101 or

Iris Barrera Hurtado


 Iris (ee-r-ees) is a smol bean born in Watsonville that has grown to love their existence through learning more about their queer xincax identity. They grew up surrounded by agricultural farmers and saw different communities remain resilient through their existence and resistance, which have influenced Iris to want to create social change and growth within themselves and their surroundings. Iris has volunteered for the Community Action Board in Watsonville, and is currently involved with the womxn of color collective, Revolunas. Iris recently graduated from UCSC with a degree in English Literature and is eager to build community with the Diversity Center so swing by to connect! 

Contact Iris Barrera Hurtado: 831-425-5422 x112 or

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Aisha (Erica) Charves


Aisha (Erica Charves) loves traveling, and meeting new people; she has lived in 15 cities spanning the US and the globe. In 2011, with degrees in Community Development and Arabic, she travelled as a Fulbright Fellow to the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) to research women’s leadership and cultural
change. Volunteering has been a constant in her life with involvement in the Muslim Student Association, freelance journalism, the LGBTQ+ community, and much more. She loves focusing on facilitative leadership, and empowering others to be their best. 

Contact Aisha at:

Lesley-Reid Harrison

Triangle Speakers manager & Operations manager

Lesley, raised during apartheid era South Africa, has a lifelong commitment to social justice. After living in the US undocumented for ten years and raising a family, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCSC in June 2014 with a BA in Feminist Studies (emphasis Law, Politics & Social Change) & a BA in Sociology (emphasis Gender & Sexuality Studies). Her experience includes Lead Intern (Cantú Queer Center), Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, Santa Cruz Pride committee, Santa Cruz Dyke March and Tara Home Hospice. She was one of the recipients of the 2014 Chancellor's Achievement Awards for Diversity. Her passion is shining a light and bringing change to the challenges people of color, working class, transgender and gender non-conforming people face, both within and beyond the Queer community.

Contact Lesley-Reid Harrison:  Triangle Speakers: 831-425-5422 x 106 
Operations: 831-425-5422 x 102

Dina M. Izzo

60plus Senior Program Coordinator

Dina was was born in Ohio and moved to sunny California at the tender age of eighteen after coming out as a lesbian forty short years ago. Around that time, Dina attended her first Gay Pride in San Francisco and that event changed her life. After feeling the power of the queer community, she became politically aware, attending the second March on Washington for Gay Rights in 1989 which launched attending many more marches and protests that were based in the rights of queer people.  

Dina currently works in LGBTQ community both as an activist and organizer. She has been coordinator of The Santa Cruz Pride Parade and Festival guiding the growth and financial success for the last four years.
Dina works in the sustainable agricultural industry as a consultant for beginning farmers and ranchers. Her deep love of food and the earth has been the driving force of her career, Dina's work includes teaching farmers in the states, Mexico and Africa. She looks forward to bringing her passion for food to the 60 Plus programs luncheons and events.    

Contact Dina M. Izzo: 831-425-5422 x 108 or

Jamie Joy


Jamie Joy is a colorful whirlwind of ideas and radiant optimism. Transplanted from Philly, Jamie is a passionate advocate for queer communities and a dedicated activist and educator. Since moving to California, they have gotten involved with various organizations in Santa Cruz County focusing on visibility, justice, and sexual health. They recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Community Studies and Feminist Studies and are now looking forward to working with youth at The Diversity Center. Come by and connect with Jamie - they are dedicated to sharing smiles and knowledge. Cheers to queers! 

Contact Jamie Joy:  Youth Program: 831-425-5422 x104 or

Anissa Novak

Donor and Business Development Associate

After spending her formative years in upstate New York, the siren call of California beckoned Anissa westward. Nearly two decades later, the gleaming beauty of Northern California continues to be a daily source of enjoyment and inspiration. Anissa spends her days fundraising and volunteering for Meals on Wheels, The Alzheimer's Association, and the Santa Cruz AIDS Ride, to new a few. They have allowed her the opportunity to engage and support the people that make her life here so rewarding. The spice in her life comes in the form of three beautiful rescue Chihuahuas and a grumpy terrier that bares a strong resemblance to Sam Elliot.

Contact Anissa Novak  831-425-5422 x117:

Alex Santana Jr.


Born and raised in Watsonville, Alejandro (Alex) Santana Jr. graduated from UCSC in 2014 with a BA in Film and Digital Media (concentration in production). During his undergrad, Alex was highly involved with two student media organizations; during his senior year he held an Executive Producer role for a student-run broadcast organization. Alex wasn't introduced to The Diversity Center until his junior year of college. After sitting in on his first Triangle Speakers panel, Alex instantly knew he wanted to be involved with the resource center. After participating in a Triangle Speakers training, Alex got involved with The Diversity Center to learn more about the social justice movement in the queer community.

Contact Alex Santana Jr.:  Youth Program: 831-425-5422 x104 or


Neal Savage


Neal retired a year ago from an 18 month project at Cabrillo College, upgrading technology in classrooms.  Since then he has been the volunteer bookkeeper at the Digital Nest, a non-profit, high-tech training and collaboration space for young people in Watsonville. And prior to that, his career was "over the hill" as a Program and Project Manager for HP and 3Com. Neal has an MBA from MIT and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford. Neal lives in Capitola with his wife Rose. They have three children, Matt, Andrea, and Torie, scattered across the country. 

Contact Neal Savage: 831-425-5422 x 109 or

Jenny Shelton

Interim Communications Coordinator

California native and long-time Santa Cruz resident, Jenny joined the Diversity Center staff as Interim Communications Coordinator in February, 2017. Her first work for TDC was  as project manager for the 2014 Diversity Center website relaunch. Jenny holds a BA in Arts Administration, and produces arts events, as well as doing freelance and part time communications and design work.

Contact Jenny Shelton