"The program gave me a close-up view of political, business and social issues and trends, information that is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur and active participant in the success of our great state. The speakers were incredible� they inspired us and stretched our minds. The opportunity to connect with successful and dynamic California women leaders was a main highlight. Being part of Leadership California is like being part of a powerful sisterhood."

—Ursula C. Mentjes, M.S., ACC
President and Certified Business Coach
Potential Quest, Inc.
"I have enjoyed my involvement with Leadership California. Our trip to the state capitol was most enlightening. As a result I have gotten involved with the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee. Thank you, Leadership California, for sparking a genuine interest in the political process."

—Shawn Farrar
Director Corporate Diversity
Sempra Energy
"The CIT program brings together successful women from all over California, and gives them the opportunity to build a network with other successful women. It's a way to learn about the important issues in our state, and to get ready to take the next step in your professional life."

—Isela Vilchis Hoenigmann
"Leadership California has provided me a panoramic view of issues, challenges and opportunities for this lovely state that I live in. The program was my introduction to women of unbelievable talent, experience and passion who are set to make a difference. The feeling to want to be more, to accomplish more, is simply contagious. I hope to know these women for the rest of my life."

—Rosario Montes-Arena
Manager, IBM Software Executive Briefing Program
Silicon Valley & Worldwide Briefing Program
"As a young immigrant woman working in the nonprofit sector, it was inspiring to see women leaders in action, to be able to network with them, and talk about the issues that are relevant to our communities and our state. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program that weaves women leaders from different sectors and geographies of California to engage in a conversation about the social, political, and economic fabric of California."

—Winnie Hui-Min Yu
Development Associate
Asian Law Caucus
San Francisco
"I've spent half of my work life in the corporate world, and the past ten years in the nonprofit world, but neither taught me how to be who I am at work�the whole pastiche of talent and spirit. I found role models who excited me, the true state of our state of California (which frustrated me), work partners continually learning like me, and friends."

—Peta G. Penson, Ed. D.
Oakland Unified School District
"Leadership California sessions feature influential speakers and lively discussion on timely issues shaping the economy and workforce. The session on work-life balance struck a chord with me, where key leaders advised us to map out a personal career plan. Networking with other women was invaluable. Leadership California is an engaging and downright fun experience."

—Roberta Tinajero-Frankel
Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Dept.
Healthy Eating, Active Living Project Manager
"Simply put, Leadership California is time well spent that will benefit me personally and professionally for years to come. I've not only kept in contact with my fellow classmates on a social level, but have had opportunities to work with some of them on business projects as our professional paths crossed. The sessions gave in-depth looks at the critical social issues that many Californians face, inspiring me to get more involved in my community�s outreach programs."

—Teena Massingill
Manager of Corporate Public Affairs
Safeway Inc.


Dr. Judy Kjelstrom, left, with sister Patty Gacutan, at the 60-mile finish line. They trained for months to participate in the three-day event, where 2,200 walkers turned out, raising $147,000 to promote a world without breast cancer. She credits Leadership California with inspiration and the fortitude to make her own healthcare decisions.


Reflections from My First Susan G. Komen
3-Day in San Diego

By Dr. Judy Kjelstrom ('08)

December 11, 2015—ON THANKSGIVING DAY, I GAVE THANKS FOR MY LIFE—free of breast cancer—as well as finishing my first Susan G. Komen 60-miler.

IN THE SPRING OF 2014, my mammogram showed a small mass. I was called back for an ultrasound, then a biopsy. The day after Easter Sunday, I got the dreaded phone call from my doctor. I wanted to show strength, but I was scared to death. My maternal grandmother had died in 1967 from metastatic breast cancer. I decided to gather as much information as I could about tubular carcinoma, so I could mentally prepare for surgery. Luckily, I only had to have a lumpectomy without chemotherapy. Radiation was recommended, but I respectfully declined after researching side effects. It took courage to challenge the gold standard of medicine, but I felt I had to choose the best option for me. I firmly believe that my association with Leadership California enabled me to ask for what I wanted and to lead rather than follow.


IT TOOK ME ABOUT THREE MONTHS TO REGAIN my mental and physical energy after surgery. I didn’t like feeling like a victim. Then I remembered LC’s motto: “From Success to Significance.” I vowed to be a champion in the war against breast cancer.

IN NOVEMBER OF 2014, my sister said she was going to do the Susan G. Komen 60 mile walk in San Diego in 2015 with “The Hands Up for Hooters” team. I immediately said I would do it too! Then, I had a panic attack. Could I raise $2,300? Could I walk this far as a 65-year-old? Did I have time to do the training? Well, I guess this is what courage and leadership is all about: Face your fears and do it anyway. I needed to walk the talk as a Leadership California alumna, a UC Davis Aggie and a Rotarian. Service above Self is a driving force in my life.

Judy's team shared the job of raising over $140,000 for breast cancer research and placed second among teams participating in the San Diego walk. Above: Judy, left, with team captain Sally Dunbar, center, and Deanna Cotter.


I STARTED DOING TRAINING WALKS in January and added yoga to my regimen to keep flexible. Focusing on getting healthy and raising money for breast cancer research helped me to endure the rigorous training. My colleagues, friends and family were so supportive that I actually raised $3,500. I felt powerful again.

WE HAD OVER 50 MEN and women on our team and each had a moving story as to why they were walking for a cure. We shared many stories as we completed our long walks every weekend. I was so proud that we raised over $140,000 for breast cancer research and placed second among teams at the San Diego walk.


THE NIGHT BEFRORE DAY 1 of the San Diego 3-Day walk, I tossed and turned. I was excited as well as a little scared. Would my 65-year-old body really hold up over the next three long days? I was overwhelmed with emotion at the opening ceremonies, with testimonies of survivors: “We walk because we must, we walk for a day without cancer.”

DAY 1 STARTED IN DEL MAR and ended in Mission Bay. The hills in the Torrey Pines Reserve challenged my heart and lungs, but the ocean views were magnificent. My teammate Cindy and I finished strong on the first day, but I was too serious to interact with the cheering spectators. My feet cramped when I finished, so I immediately took the shuttle back to the hotel. Luckily I had brought my daughter, a massage therapist, with me. She massaged my feet in the evening and I slept soundly.

“What I really needed to do was to celebrate life and be joyful, even in the midst of exhaustion.”



ON DAYS 2 AND 3, I DECIDED TO SOCIALIZE MORE, so I walked with my sister Patty and other Hooters. Patty made me laugh. She danced with the “walker stalkers,” the wonderful people who come out to show their support for walkers, and tried every treat they offered. I learned to relax and trust that my body would carry me through. What I really needed to do was to celebrate life and be joyful, even in the midst of exhaustion. I was so touched by the kindness of the staff, the police and the walker stalkers in San Diego. All of them said, “Thank you for walking.”  I replied, “It is an honor to be able to walk.”

AT THE FINISH LINE, we received our finisher tee shirts, my sister’s in dark pink and mine in pale pink with these words: “Survivor” and “Because the World is Never Changed with Half Measures.” I thought to myself, yes, I not only survive—I thrive!  

FIGHTING FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH is a battle I will continue to embrace. I am so honored to be an alumna of Leadership California. I truly believe I have progressed to the significance level of my life. I am sure that I will walk in another Komen 3-Day and I challenge other LC alums to join me.


DR. JUDY KJELSTROM is director of the biotechnology program at UC Davis. She is an alumna of Leadership California’s Class of 2008.




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