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Prebys Foundation Announces ‘Leaders in Belonging’ Initiative Recipients

Five awardees to receive $100,000 each for their leadership working to help build an inclusive, just, and sustainable San Diego.

2024 Leaders in Belonging

San Diego (January 16, 2024) - Prebys Foundation, the largest private foundation in the San Diego region, announced the recipients of its new Leaders in Belonging initiative. The effort provides unrestricted awards of $100,000 each to five community advocates working to advance inclusion, justice, and sustainability in the greater San Diego region. This annual award is designed to provide leaders with vital support that will allow them to continue their work and help them build movements for change.

“Our community is at its best because of the heroes who work to make San Diego a place where people belong and have access to the spectacular opportunities available,” said Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Prebys Foundation. “We created this initiative to honor exceptional individuals who are deeply connected to our community and who are making all of our lives better through their extraordinary contributions to San Diego.”

In focusing on the idea of belonging, the initiative is designed to highlight leaders who are helping to provide all communities with a meaningful voice and the opportunity to participate in the design of political, social, and cultural structures that shape our region.

“We are deeply grateful for the hundreds of thoughtful nominations received and for the great work that all the nominees are doing,” said Linda L. Katz, a member of the selection committee who participated in reviewing the finalists. “Thanks to this intentionally inclusive process, we have been introduced to some remarkable individuals and organizations, and the Prebys Foundation team looks forward to finding new ways to collaborate with them over time.”


The initiative is designed to connect the foundation to a larger network of community expertise and knowledge and the inaugural recipients of the Leadership in Belonging Initiative work in a variety of areas that the Prebys Foundation has committed to supporting, including medical research, health care, youth success, and the visual and performing arts. The foundation, and its selection committee, is inspired by these leaders who are shaping the narrative around the type of leadership the region will need to meet the challenges of the years ahead. 


As part of the initiative, awardees are welcome to work more closely with the foundation, should they choose, to help Prebys serve the community, be more effective grantmakers, and deepen the foundation’s connection with the San Diego region.

The awardees are:

Macedonio Arteaga, Co-founder and Executive Director, IZCALLI

Empowering youth through cultural connection and expression

Macedonio Arteaga has dedicated his life's work to healing the wounds of intergenerational trauma and systemic injustice experienced by Indigenous and minority youth through the power of cultural connection and expression with Izcalli. His approach, deeply rooted in Indigenous traditions, has nurtured a sense of belonging and identity among youth, empowering them to explore and honor their heritage. By fostering understanding and healing through cultural arts and dialogue, Macedonio has created a restorative environment where young people can grow into leaders who value their culture and community.

“It's not enough for our young people to feel included, they need to feel truly at home with their heritage and empowered to share their voice,” Arteaga said. “We are working to create spaces where our youth can embrace their identities and become the leaders they are meant to be."

Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest

Amplifying access to reproductive health care through education and technology

Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson is addressing gaps in reproductive health care and education by advocating for accessible, high-quality services at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. Her introduction of innovative health solutions and her commitment to comprehensive sexual education, have made critical health care services more inclusive and available to more people. By prioritizing equitable care rooted in compassion and accessibility, Darrah and a dedicated team of passionate health care professionals are working to build a world where every person can access the essential health care and information they need without stigma or barriers.

“Our goal is to ensure that every person, irrespective of their background, can access the care they need with dignity and respect,” said Johnson.

Amina Sheik Mohamed, Director and founder of the Refugee Health Unit, UC San Diego Center for Community Health

Advancing health equity through community-driven initiatives

A passionate and gifted leader, Amina Sheik Mohamed confronts the entrenched barriers to health equity faced by refugee and immigrant communities, striving tirelessly to uplift the voices, perspectives, and needs of these populations. Through her transformational leadership at the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, Amina founded the Refugee Health Unit (RHU) and later collaboratively developed the San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition (SDRCC). These collectives are being replicated throughout the state and share a foundational vision that Sheik Mohamed has initiated: the recognition that those impacted by health inequities must have a leading role in deciding how to address their needs. This ethos is key to Sheik Mohamed’s success as she promotes approaches that amplify community voices and ethnic community-based organizations to lead with solutions. Sheik Mohamed’s work, which incorporates initiatives ranging from peer-based workforces to community advocacy to systemic policy changes, elevates health outcomes and fosters a sense of belonging by ensuring that systems are responsive to and reflective of the communities they serve.


“We need to create an equitable system that recognizes the full humanity and cultural richness of everyone and ensures that refugee and immigrant communities have a leading role in deciding how to address their needs.”

Diane Moss, CEO, Project New Village

Cultivating community resilience through urban agriculture

Diane Moss has spearheaded efforts to combat food insecurity in Southeastern San Diego through the promotion of food sovereignty with Project New Village. By establishing community gardens and a mobile farmers' market, she has created pathways for residents to control their food sources, contributing to community wellness and economic resilience. Diane's leadership has been pivotal in not only providing access to nutritious food but also in cultivating a sense of belonging by reconnecting individuals with their cultural food practices and promoting community solidarity through shared stewardship of local food systems.

“Our work literally starts from the roots up,” said Moss. “It’s about nurturing the land that feeds us and the hands that till it, ensuring that every table has a meal that’s both nourishing and culturally meaningful.”

Isabel Newton, Professor of Radiology, UC San Diego Health and Chief of Interventional Radiology at the Veteran’s Administration

Revolutionizing patient care through medical innovation

Dr. Isabel Newton serves as an interventional radiologist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and a professor at UC San Diego, where she specializes in minimally invasive, image-guided procedures (MIIPs), particularly for treating liver cancer. Beyond her clinical duties, she co-founded the Interventional Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating both the medical community and the public about MIIPs. By ensuring that patients of diverse backgrounds have access to and understanding of these innovative procedures, Dr. Newton fosters a healthcare environment where patients truly belong as informed participants in their care journey.

“Everything we do is about patient empowerment,” said Newton. “This means ensuring that every individual has access to the best medical solutions and the knowledge and support to choose them confidently.”

Watch the video introducing the leaders:

Video Produced by Solario Films


About the Leaders in Belonging Initiative

Prebys Foundation is dedicated to helping create an inclusive, equitable, and dynamic future for all San Diegans. The foundation believes that investing in and celebrating these leaders will strengthen their efforts and contribute to a more connected and welcoming region.

Annually, Prebys Foundation will name five leaders with a track record of building a spirit of equity and belonging in San Diego in the fields of medical research, health care, youth success, and the arts. The five leaders chosen for the award will each receive $100,000 in unrestricted funding.


In May of 2023, the foundation invited the community to nominate leaders for consideration. The foundation received a total of 326 nominations. After an initial review by staff, a selection committee made up of members of the San Diego community as well as members of the Prebys Foundation staff and board selected the five awardees. Selection committee members for the first cycle were:

  • Constance Carroll President and CEO, California Community College Baccalaureate Association; Chancellor Emerita, San Diego Community College District; Prebys Foundation Board Member

  • Irma Cota Immediate Past President & Chief Executive Officer, North County Health Services; Prebys Foundation Board Member

  • Peter Ellsworth, Prebys Foundation Board Member

  • Linda L. Katz, Civic/Social Activist

  • Walter Lam President & Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for African Assistance

  • David Miyashiro Superintendent, Cajon Valley Union School District

  • Grant Oliphant Chief Executive Officer and Prebys Foundation Board Member

  • Crystal Page Director of Communications, Prebys Foundation Staff Member

Awardees were selected based on the following criteria:

  • Through work related to one or more of our four focus areas: visual and performing arts, healthcare, medical research, and youth success—the candidate embraces and advances a universal goal that would benefit our entire community.

  • The candidate acknowledges and seeks to improve institutions, practices, or systems that get in the way of achieving that universal goal.

  • The candidate offers solutions and a broadly inclusive vision for why those solutions are worth pursuing.

  • As a leader, the candidate is adept at “bridging,” and connects with different parts of the community, is collaborative, and galvanizes others into action.

  • The candidate has deep experience and expertise related to one or more of our focus areas. The candidate also has lived experience relevant to their work.

  • The candidate’s story is inspiring, and the work they do will benefit from this recognition.

Learn more on the Leaders in Belonging hub.

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Correction: Please note an earlier version of this release stated that Dr. Newton is an Associate Professor. She is a professor.

About the Prebys Foundation

The Prebys Foundation is the largest independent private foundation in San Diego County and works to create an inclusive, equitable, and dynamic future for all San Diegans. In 2023, the foundation made 214 grants totaling more than $57 Million across the areas of medical research, health care, youth success, and the arts. The Foundation advances excellence and shared opportunity through investments in groundbreaking institutions, ideas, and people to ensure more San Diegans are financially secure, healthy, empowered, and connected.

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