Sumi Parekh serves as the Executive Director for the Group Effort Initiative (GEI). Prior to her role at GEI, Sumi worked for Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and served as the Executive Officer to the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development. In this role, she served as a thought partner for the Deputy Mayor, helped to execute the Mayor’s strategies for economic development, and served as a day-to-day manager for the Office of Economic Development staff. She also created Garcetti’s Evolve Entertainment Fund (Evolve), launched in February 2018 to open up professional pathways into film, television, music, and digital media for over 1,000 participants. In June 2021, Evolve was absorbed by GEI.
Sumi was also a Program Manager at the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving life for all Angelenos and the Director of Legislative Affairs and Programs at the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC).
Appointed by Mayor Garcetti, Sumi currently serves as a Commissioner on the nine person Los Angeles City Police and Fire Pension Board. Sumi also serves as a member of Reimagine L.A. County, a coalition of advocates, community organizations and neighbors continuing to push Measure J investments and a board member for LA Collab, an unprecedented effort to connect Latinx talent, executives, and creators to opportunities in the entertainment industry — and double Latino representation in Hollywood by 2030.
Sumi graduated in 2013 from the University of Southern California with a Masters in Public Policy and is a graduate of the University of Texas with a B.S. in Mathematics.
Natalie Robles serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives & Programming for the Group Effort Initiative (GEI). Prior to her role at GEI, Natalie was the Senior Program Manager at the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles, a non-profit organization aligned with the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles to address the city's most challenging issues and improve life for all Angelenos through innovative public-private partnerships. As a philanthropic liaison and grants manager for the organization's diverse portfolio of over 30 programs, Natalie supported the Evolve Entertainment Fund (Evolve), an initiative of Mayor Eric Garcetti to strengthen career pathways in the entertainment industry for young people from low-income and underrepresented communities. Evolve ultimately merged with GEI in June 2021.
During the Obama Administration Natalie served as a Loaned Communications Executive with PolicyLink through the IPA Fellowship Program in the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). In HUD's Office of Economic Resilience, Natalie focused on issues of racial equity, fair housing, sustainability, and government-philanthropic partnerships. She has worked in advocacy on federal housing, transportation, and environmental policy in Washington D.C. for Smart Growth America, Transportation for America, and Reconnect America. She has also worked with local governments in roles with the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat), The World Bank, and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.
Natalie holds a Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul. Minnesota.
Melissa Ramirez serves as the Program Manager for the Group Effort Initiative. Melissa realized she wanted to pursue a career within the entertainment industry as a sixteen-year-old growing up in East Hollywood.
In 2018, Melissa joined Mayor Garcetti’s Evolve Entertainment Fund (Evolve), a workforce development program that provided career pathways into entertainment careers for low-income and underrepresented Angelenos. Through Evolve, Melissa secured internships at Outfest, Live Nation Entertainment, and NBCUniversal in their Corporate Relations, Diversity & Belonging, and Campus Recruitment & Initiatives departments.
In college, she discovered her passion for helping aspiring professionals with securing entertainment career opportunities. In her final college semester, Melissa accepted an offer to join NBCUniversal’s Campus Recruitment team as an Assistant. Melissa recruited interns in the L.A. region for NBCEntertainment and Owned Stations & Affiliates divisions.
In 2020, Melissa worked for Mayor Garcetti’s Office of Economic Development as the Evolve Entertainment Fund Coordinator supporting fellow Evolve peers with securing internships and entry-level positions. Now, Melissa is excited to continue paying it forward and support upcoming storytellers, executives, and professionals at Group Effort Initiative.
Melissa graduated in 2019 from California State University, Northridge with a B.S. in Business Management and a B.A. in Economics. Melissa is also a cat lover and volunteers at the SNPLA Kitten Nursery in her spare time. Melissa is a proud owner of two short-hair tabby cats.
Claudia Juarez serves as the Program Coordinator for the Group Effort Initiative. She is an alumni of the Evolve Entertainment Fund, having joined the program as a freshman in college and landing internships at companies such as Hungry Man Production, Academy Gold, Fulwell 73 Productions, Hello Sunshine, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, and 44 Blue Productions. Following graduation, Claudia assisted the unscripted development team at 44 Blue Productions as an executive assistant before joining the GEI team. Claudia holds a B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts from California State University, Fullerton. She has a passion for photography, meaningful representation in media, and murder mystery films.
Sarah Marin (she/her) serves as a Program Coordinator for the Group Effort Initiative. As a former GEI participant, she joined with her first-ever internship at Anonymous Content. From there, Sarah has interned at various companies and non-profit organizations across the industry, including New Cadence Productions, Women In Film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and ABC Entertainment. She is a proud alumna of both the Academy Gold Rising program and the Television Academy Foundation Fellowship program.
Sarah is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she studied Cinema and Television Arts and Communications with an emphasis in Entertainment and Tourism. As a first-generation Latina passionate about making a positive impact in the entertainment industry, Sarah is driven to help build inclusivity, work with diverse voices, and uplift others in their career journey. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Sarah is happy to be residing in the area and enjoys spending time with her family and friends!
Em Pennington serves as a Program Coordinator for the Group Effort Initiative. She graduated from Columbia College Hollywood with a Bachelor's degree in Film and Television. She started out working as a production assistant on multiple student films and with Brian Graden Media, as well as interning for Pantheon Entertainment before becoming a GEI participant her junior year.
Em is enthusiastic about helping to change the entertainment industry by uplifting unique and underrepresented groups. She has a lifelong affinity for random adventures, nature, film, and writing bad poems.
Jodi Nguyen (she/her) serves as a Program Coordinator for the Group Effort Initiative. Her north star for a career is to support diverse storytelling that makes people feel connected and represented, while creating positive change along the way. As a Southeast Asian woman, she is passionate about breaking down barriers and uplifting groups that have been historically excluded from the entertainment industry. That drive led her to join GEI as a participant in college and to various internships at DreamWorks Animation, WarnerMedia, and Discovery Inc.
Jodi graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Film, Television, and Digital Media. In her free time, she enjoys reading, creating Pinterest boards, and making very specific music playlists.