Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) is dedicated to providing community members with the tools necessary to create sustainable, environmentally healthy communities by educating individuals on health concerns and implications arising from environmental pollution, empowering individuals with an understanding of applicable environmental laws and regulations and promoting their enforcement, and offering community building skills and resources for effective community action and greater public participation.
Our goal is to promote environmental protection through education, policy development, community awareness, and legal action. Our guiding principle is that everyone, regardless of race or income, is entitled to live in a clean environment.
Juan Parras | Founder, Executive Director (Pronouns: 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.
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. 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.
Deyadira Arellano | Senior Staff, Community Health Worker/ Promotora (Pronouns: She, Her)
Deyadira has extensive experience in working on campaigns regarding voter registration, lobbying, education, union organizing, and Medicaid expansion. Her Mexico/Texas connection, grounded in family heritage and respect for nature, has given her the understanding to work to preserve and restore what we have in terms of land, resources, species, and humanity through a variety of efforts and collective decision making. She is proficient in community organizing, planning actions local and national, logistics, community advocacy, coalition building, the intersection of immigrant rights and environmental justice, event coordinating, media outreach & training and interpreting material. Currently, she is the campaign lead for T.e.j.a.s with the Coming Clean Network where she is working on the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. Dollar stores are pervasive through marginalized communities especially food desserts. This campaign focuses on removing products containing toxics such as PCB’s and Parabens from dollar store shelves. She also leads our efforts in the Healthy Ports Communities Coalition tackling emissions from transportation sources. Her work has consisted of creating stronger relationships between the issues in Manchester and the Baytown area through community outreach, education workshops, youth development, and relationship building. She is also a lead member of Community Voices for Public Education where community collaborations have attempting to remove the current standardized testing models prevalent throughout districts nationally.
Yvette Arellano | Senior Staff, Policy Research & Grassroots Advocate
(Pronouns: They, them, she, her)
Yvette graduated from the University of Houston, first-generation college graduate with a degree in Political Science and a graduate of the University of Houston’s Pre-Law Institute and Hobby Center for Public Policy (CHIP) program. Their family is from Zacatecas, Mexico and Nuevo Leon, Mexico. They is a strong believer in supporting the community through volunteer efforts. Yvette has contributed efforts to organizations such as Donna Marie Clubhouse Mental Health Recovery Center, Planned Parenthood, Kids’ Meals Houston-Houston Food Bank as well as others. She believes that through a commitment to community engagement, education and political pressure we can achieve a better standard of living. Yvette believes that political participation is vital to her work at T.e.j.a.s and has extensive knowledge regarding EPA databases and toxics registries such as the EJ screen. In 2015 she lead the campaign against H.R 702 the exportation of crude and other products. Yvette represented the gulf south and T.e.j.a.s at the United Nations COP21 in Paris along with the Gulf South Rising Coalition. Recently she aided in a collaborative project with Union of Concerned Scientist and T.e.j.a.s which jointly published “Air Toxics and Health in the Houston Community of Manchester” and “Double Jeopardy in Houston: Acute and Chronic Chemical Exposures Pose Disproportionate Risks for Marginalized Communities (2016)”. Yvette’s work in environmental justice highlights that access to clean water, air, land, and food is a human right. She believes that success can be best achieved through intersectionality.
Yvette has served as co-chair of the Building Equity and Alignment (BEA) initiative to build equitable relationships and expand the pool of resources for base-building organizations in people of color, indigenous and low-income communities that are achieving results on frontlines of the climate and ecological crises. She currently serves as a board member of Backbone Campaign which provides creative strategies, artful action support, and convenes training opportunities for change agents across the United States.
Jessica Hernandez | Community Organizer (Baytown) (Pronouns: She, Her)
Jessica is currently attending San Jacinto College where she is studying culinary arts. With a passion to help others in her community, her passion to improve her community has led her to learn and advocate on environmental and social issues affecting communities in Texas. She has been an active member in G.S.A. (The gay straight alliance), L.A.S. (Ladies Achieving Success), X.I.C.A.S. (Xicanos With Actidud Society), Jessica believes in the power of intersectional movement which is a pillar for her advocacy. She is a volunteer at the Promise Center, a community center in the city of Baytown where her understanding of the importance in community and youth involvement increased. In late 2017 she began working with T.E.J.A.S.where she interacts with youth educating them about their health and the toxic exposures present in their environment. As a Tejas youth organizer, Jessica has led workshops and activities promoting environmental advocacy through healthy lifestyles and cultural enrichment afterschool programming at Hartman Park and Baytown’s Promise Center for kids ages 6-16. In 2018, she coordinated Tejas’ first school supplies drive for youth in affected areas including Manchester, Baytown and Pasadena. She has also hosted events engaging parents on necessary skills such as how to shelter-in-place.
“ Making youth discern what an acceptable and healthy environment looks like is the first step to empowering future advocates.”
– Jessica Hernandez
Nalleli Hidalgo | Community Outreach (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 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.
Marcelys Perez| Mother Support Group – Amor Sin Obstaculos (Pronouns: She, Her)
(Bio – coming soon)