Meet Nelly

Dedicated to Hardwork & Committed to Making A Difference 

Nelly Nieblas is a first-generation, Mexican-Salvadoran woman, college graduate, with a physical disability and learning disability (dyslexia, ADHD, and cerebral palsy). 

Her first job after graduating from college was a congressional fellowship working for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressman Ciro Rodriguez. As a congressional fellow, she championed the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2003-04. The reauthorization guaranteed federal funds for educational programs for students with disabilities across the country. 

As an AmeriCorps participant, Nelly worked at the grassroots level with low-income immigrants in the  Spanish-speaking populations of the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles. The same neighborhood where her parents met and fell in love. As a community organizer, her work was to empower the Pico-Union community and residents, to advocate for policy change to address the inequitable placement of bus stops and bus routes. Which transported thousands of working immigrants: who cleaned houses, provided childcare, mowed lawns, and did general construction in the lavish homes in the Los Angeles’ Westside. As the lead coordinator working with six local nonprofits; community residents were able to pinpoint problem areas in their neighborhoods including bus stops and bus routes, proposing community-centered policy recommendations that advocated for a holistic community-informed transportation plan to the Los Angeles City Council.

As a newly minted Harvard graduate in 2007, Nelly was offered a job as the Associate Legislative Deputy for County Supervisor Gloria Molina, she oversaw parks and libraries in the unincorporated areas in East Los Angeles, the same neighborhoods in which she spent most of her childhood. She worked tirelessly with community organizations, community leaders, constituents, and other elected officials to improve the state of parks (creating open park fitness zones for low-income families) to increase green space and libraries with new computers and internet access in a neighborhood where both are a rare but a cherished luxury.

From 2008 to 2010, Nelly was a Social Services Research Analyst for the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services (DPSS) , Nelly learned and was exposed to every single program low-income families depended on for subsistence in the County. Her mother is a recipient of Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) and she herself has received In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) which paid her mother a small stipend for all the caretaking her disability required. Nelly spent two years learning the ins and outs of how DPSS programs worked, their eligibility requirements, the loopholes, and mismanagement. It is here where she learned the impactful lesson of written policy versus implementation.

While at Public Allies, a non-profit that is committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership of all young people nationally. Nelly helped set the policy agenda working closely with the CEO to help Opportunity Youth (the 6.7 million youth between the ages of 16 to 24 are out of school and out of work in the United States) to participate in the AmeriCorps service program. By 2011, the AmeriCorps program in Washington DC had hired Nelly officially as their Director of Policy and External Affairs. During her time there, Nelly made sure to focus on opening doors for people with disabilities who wanted to participate in the AmeriCorps program but could not, for fear of losing their health and economic benefits (Medicaid and Medicare/SSI and SSDI). Nelly worked closely with Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin, and Sen. Sherrod Brown offices and staff to push for legislation that would create a legislative exemption for people with disabilities who participate in a AmeriCorps program so people with disabilities including veterans with disabilities cannot lose their benefits. 

In 2015, as a Governor Appointee (Former Governor Jerry Brown), Nelly worked for the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) as a Legislative Manager and Information Officer. In this department, Nelly worked on new policy areas related to Medicaid and Medicare services for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). Nelly managed and adopted a plan that outlined 15 organizational objectives leading the Council’s work. Her role focused on ensuring the employment policy and support services were at the forefront of their legislative agenda. Under her direction, an instrumental piece of legislation was introduced into the California legislature. The piece of legislation required the superintendent of schools to train teachers throughout the state in the basic screening tests for dyslexia. A piece of legislation that was near and dear to her heart because Nelly was diagnosed with dyslexia until she was a junior in college.

In 2018, as a Legislative Manager for Breathe of Los Angeles County, Nelly worked on focusing on the environmental impacts of air and environmental pollution on individual health. Specifically, low-income communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution. The links between pollution and the impact on birth rates with children with disabilities are statistically significant. Although it cannot be pinpoint to that alone; it can be said that people who live close to freeways, polluted water streams, contaminated air, or garbage dumps have higher rates of disabilities in their children, her work in these neighborhoods showed a high propensity of it being a reality. Nelly’s work focused on pushing for stricter environmental regulations in low-income communities throughout Southern California. Working with the California legislature her advocacy work focused on environmental protection, and health initiatives focusing on the early detection of long-term health conditions in children in low-income communities.

Following that year, Nelly became the Advocacy Specialist for the American Lung Association where she strategically led, planned, and coordinated a community-led coalition of Spanish-speaking residents in the city of Norwalk, that focused on promoting anti-smoking and vaping ordinances and policies. She also helped cultivate and develop partnerships with Southern California Edison on addressing air pollution by strengthening clean air initiatives and their campaign to amplify  their impact within Southern California. 

Nelly previously worked for RespectAbility, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting stigmas and creating opportunities for people with disabilities as their Manager of the California Building Better Futures Initiative.  In this role, Nelly has focused on building coalitions throughout California., she focused on creating groups of self-advocates with the lived experience of having a disability to advocate for policy changes in their states to improve their lives which include their families. She also focuses on equitable opportunities pushing for legislation that makes the workforce more accessible and equitable for people with disabilities, specifically people of color with disabilities. 

Currently, Nelly is proudly serving as a City Commissioner on the Personnel Advisory board for the City of Montebello. 

Nelly's dream and goal in life would be to create a program that trains and brings forth a strong pipeline of youth that includes a disability cadre of future leaders from underrepresented and low-income communities. “I am a person that comes from this background and has succeeded, but many have not. It is my dream and my driving force to be that catalyst.”

Nelly holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in International Relations from the University of Southern California. 

Nelly was raised with her late father (a retired janitor and former member with SEIU USWW), mother, and two siblings. Nelly now lives in Montebello with her mom, a retired home care provider and a former SEIU 2015 member.

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