My time in Santa Cruz has been dedicated to organizing people around the love, resilience and possibility found within community. 

My brother, sisters and I at my college graduation.

Like many people and families in Santa Cruz, my life has not always been easy. But, when I reflect back, the challenges I’ve faced have formed me into a community leader that knows how to overcome difficult situations by centering the love, resilience and possibility found within community.


I was born in Fremont, CA in 1988 alongside my twin sister and into a family of two parents, a brother and a sister. After my parents split, my Dad went back to India and my Mom took us on an adventure to find a new, more affordable place to live. We landed in Boise, Idaho. The incredible landscape, community and history of that place unleashed my love for sport, knowledge and people. However, as a poor, queer girl of color, I also internalized the rampant, disturbing amount of homophobia, racism and classism present there. 


By the age of 15, my siblings and I left home to live with different families. I bounced around for a bit. Like many youth who experience this type of trauma, I began working through the instability bit by bit and part of that meant making some mistakes along the way. Once, I was sent to the campus police because I had been caught drinking at a high school dance. By the next day, I was kicked out of school and the house I was living in.


Because of the goodness in people, I eventually landed at the home of a family that I believe saved my life. I got back into that school and things got more stable for me. This foundation was built upon by the kind acts of countless others-- my basketball coach bought me basketball shoes, my tennis coach bought me a tennis racket, my orchestra teacher rented my cello, my friends’ parents came to my games and recitals -- the list truly seems to go on forever.  

 It is out of this deep understanding of and gratitude for community support that my daily work reflects such a commitment to healing, justice and equity. More specifically, my time here has focused on community healing, racial justice and youth empowerment work within marginalized communities. Prior to my time in Santa Cruz, I worked directly with young people as a teacher, coach and mentor in environments ranging from music classrooms, community centers, and juvenile halls. I have also worked for and with refugees, those surviving HIV/AIDS and organized with international peace efforts. 

My first job in Santa Cruz was at Barrios Unidos, which is a nationally-acclaimed leader in restorative justice both inside and outside of prison walls. This work involved me in national research projects on decarceration, restorative healing work in state prisons, reentry efforts in our local Juvenile Hall, and the creation of supportive community space for resilient, struggling youth. I'm currently involved in the development of research that is setting out to identify pathways away from youth incarceration in Santa Cruz.

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Me being a "cool" aunt with two of my nephews.

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Half of my family lives in India and it's always amazing to visit.

Currently, I am the Development Director of “Food, What?!”, an organization that sets out to support the well-being, liberation and empowerment of marginalized youth in Santa Cruz County through food, farming and community. Through this work, I have supported the creation of youth-led food justice projects that bring fresh produce into areas of our County experiencing food insecurity. During COVID-19, my work involved launching a crisis assistance fund for local youth and their families in serious need of financial stabilization. 


I am on the board of two local nonprofits: Santa Cruz Community Ventures, an economic empowerment organization and Salud Para La Gente, a nonprofit community health center. I also serve on the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission of Santa Cruz County. I have taken classes at Cabrillo, received a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Saint Joseph’s University and a Master’s Degree in Applied Economics from San Jose State.



 checkS payable to "Kayla Kumar for City Council 2020" to 1107 Laurent St Santa Cruz CA 95060