We had the good fortune of connecting with Nayeli May and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nayeli, what inspires you?
I am inspired by my community. I am a proud Angeleno that is passionate about my city and my community, a network of inspiring individuals of diverse backgrounds, careers, and perspectives. I appreciate being able to learn from them and I know that I wouldn’t be who I am without those around me. I am also inspired by the team that I have the privilege of leading at Journey Out. They are amazing women of diverse backgrounds and experiences that work toward the same goal: serving survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. To me, this is an example of community.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I serve as the Executive Director of Journey Out, a nonprofit that provides direct services to survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. We offer everything from emergency housing, clinical counseling, and food assistance to job training, healthcare support, and survivor mentorship. About half of our staff have lived experience related to sex trafficking, and that’s a powerful model for the clients we serve. It also helps keep our work grounded in the realities and challenges of commercial sexual exploitation.
Having worked in the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years, my career started off as a youth coordinator for a domestic violence shelter. From there, I continued to move up in direct service, assisting with needs pertaining to domestic violence, housing, employment, and human trafficking. In time, I went into management and various leadership positions.
Amongst the many lessons I’ve learned in my career, the number one would be to listen and learn from those around me at all levels and those with different perspectives than mine. I also learned the importance of mentorship.
Coming up in my career, most of those in executive positions rarely had experience in direct service and often didn’t live in the communities that their organizations served. As a woman of color living in the community I serve while continuing to face a variety of challenges that comes with that, it was difficult to find guidance and true mentorship from those in roles I strived to be in. I took it upon myself to seek mentorship wherever I could, sought training, and learned daily from the teams I managed and clients I served.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love showing off my city!
I love burritos from Al & Bea’s in Boyle Heights, which an underrated but amazing community. The San Fernando Valley also has a lot of great spots. The Wild Plum is a magical little sanctuary that offers yoga classes, and brunch at El Abuelo Restaurant or Truman House Tavern are both top notch. I highly recommend a walking tour of Mural Mile in Pacoima (where you can grab some fruit or an agua fresca from one of our many and awesome street vendors). I would probably cap the night in North Hollywood at Verse Restaurant, a truly wonderful dining experience.
The Getty Center, LACMA, shopping at the Grove and Belmont Shore are also must sees. As a die hard Dodgers fan, I of course would strongly encourage a game at Dodgers Stadium.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am inspired by Arlene Roldan, an amazing entrepreneur. She has owned and ran many successful businesses, currently she co-own’s The Mermaid, I wonderful bar in Little Tokyo. She is a talented woman who treats everyone around her with respect and courtesy. I admire her work ethic, and her drive.