Spotlight Interview: Lucia Ornelas

Supporting the development of safe neighborhoods and inclusive environments for youth and students is a cause I am passionate about and support through my work in the CPBST and CAyS programs.
Lucia Ornelas
May 6, 2024
Welcome back to the SafeTREC Spotlight Series where we highlight a SafeTREC team member and share their stories, work and interest in transportation safety. In today's post, meet Program and Policy Analyst Lucia Ornelas.

Can you share a little bit about yourself and your role at SafeTREC?

I was born in Oakland and grew up in the Bay Area. I am second generation, with my parents and their families immigrating from Mexico to the United States. At the start of my career I gained experience in the non-profit space working with children, high school students, and parents in program planning and health education.

During my master’s degree program, I started working with the local public health department in infectious disease prevention and control programs. There I worked closely with providers, patients, and community partners to administer services, support prevention initiatives, and build capacity among providers and clinics. During the pandemic I supported response efforts, developing reporting tools and materials for providers and the public. Through my early experiences I developed a passion for health promotion across diverse communities. My current role at SafeTREC as a Program & Policy Analyst allows me to continue to support health education and community outreach efforts.

What sparked your interest in transportation safety research?

While in school I commuted to work by public transit and walking, which led me to become curious about the role of transportation in all of our lives. As I pursued my studies I learned how social determinants of health like neighborhood and built environment influence outcomes like morbidity, life expectancy, and health status. This led me to seek more knowledge about how factors like transportation and the walkability of a neighborhood may influence health outcomes, particularly in areas that are historically underserved. Observing the condition of the built environment in the Bay Area and the disparities that exist heightened my interest to serve in the field of transportation safety.

What current projects are you working on at SafeTREC?

My current projects at SafeTREC include developing and coordinating Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training (CPBST) and Communidades Activas y Seguras (CAyS) site visits and workshops. During the workshops the project teams and participants work to build collaboration among transportation safety partners, discuss local crash data within a focus area, and develop a community-driven action plan. I also support Street Story, a platform that allows community members to provide input about their transportation experiences.

What issues are you particularly interested or passionate about?

Involving youth voices is important in transportation safety planning and public health initiatives. Working with youth and students through various roles I’ve held has been insightful with understanding the concerns and issues that their groups face. Supporting the development of safe neighborhoods and inclusive environments for youth and students is a cause I am passionate about and support through my work in the CPBST and CAyS programs.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I spend time with family and get outdoors whenever I can. I love hiking, spending time near the beach, and partaking in fitness related activities. I also like reading and learning about self-development topics.

This Spotlight interview was conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley SafeTREC. The opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of SafeTREC.