Born and raised throughout impoverished cities in Los Angeles County, Cadrena always questioned the poor living conditions of the communities in which she inhabited. It was childhood and adolescent experiences that placed her on a trajectory of service. Cadrena is a first-generation college graduate, an accomplishment she attributes her leadership development to. She is a fierce HBCU alumni of Grambling State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. While studying at Grambling, Cadrena worked as a Mental Health Specialist, and interned as both a Life Skills Specialist and Clinical Therapist providing services to children, youth, and families in rural Louisiana. While at Grambling, Cadrena became fully immersed in the culture of Blackness; contributing her love and appreciation of Black womanhood and manhood from her experiences at Grambling. She was surrounded by mentors who developed her confidence, tenacity, and self-identity.
After returning home to California, Cadrena pursed and earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at California State University, Long Beach while working full-time in the education equity sector as a College Readiness Advisor for marginalized students. It was during her MSW program where she developed the knowledge and skills of political advocacy, policy reform, research analysis, organizational leadership, and community organizing. With over 10 plus years of providing direct social services, Cadrena decided to exercise her knowledge, interest, and passion for larger scale social problems and interventions that aim to effect positive change at the community, state, and national levels; specifically, policy reform and implementation to dismantle mass incarceration and strengthen the social safety net to provide critical services and support to the formerly incarcerated and other vulnerable, targeted populations.
From both personal and professional experiences, Cadrena has a keen awareness of how unjust systems and structures deeply affect the conditions and policy practices of a community, family, and individual. Believing that representation matters in the field of mental health, Cadrena is pursuing her certification as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) where she plans to contribute research on the pathology of trauma in indigenous (African American and Latino) communities and families.
Fun Fact: Cadrena draws motivation and inspiration from artists Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, and Beyoncé.