Athens Services Commends Five Talented and Pioneering Women in Waste

Waste and recycling professionals work hard every day to protect the environment for all of us. We’ve all seen the drivers who collect our waste and recycling, but there are many more workers behind the scenes. All of them deserve our thanks for the work they do.

Athens Services Commends Five Talented and Pioneering Women in Waste

Athens Services proudly recognizes Yvonne Velazco, Sara Train, Melissa Luna, Ashley Lozada, and Natalie Hinojosa during Women’s History Month.


During Women’s History Month, we acknowledge the significant impact and invaluable contributions of women throughout history. While the waste and recycling industry has historically been perceived as a male-dominated space, an increasing number of women are taking on leadership roles to shift that narrative and help shape a more diverse workforce. At Athens, we take pride in the perspectives, values, and voices that the women in our team bring to the organization.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are proud to highlight five exceptional women who exemplify excellence in their respective fields.

Director of Customer Service Yvonne Velazco

Athens Team Member since 2023

Yvonne Velazco came to Athens with more than 25 years of customer service experience. Although this is her first role in the waste industry, she was looking for a career change and has been a long-time Athens fan. Her brother-in-law, Operations Supervisor David Miramontes Sr. and godson/nephew Route Auditor David Miramontes Jr. are both Athens team members. After hearing years of intriguing “trash talk,” she decided it was time to begin the next phase of her career with Athens.

Yvonne prides herself on finding solutions to everyday problems. No two days are alike in the world of customer service, and one has to be creative to lead their team effectively and ensure all team members are fully capable of meeting customer’s needs.

In her free time, Yvonne enjoys mentoring others. Whether it’s women she’s connected with throughout her career or members of the non-profit organization Proyecto Pastoral, where she is a board member, Yvonne finds great joy, fulfillment, and wisdom from offering guidance to those looking for a more balanced life and career.

“What you do in your day-to-day job can easily transfer over to any industry that you really want to pursue. So don’t be afraid to take risks, know what you’re good at, and you can find ways to transfer those skills sets to a new industry.”

Yvonne lives in Fontana, but is originally from Baldwin Park. She has been with her husband Alex for 25 years and the couple shares three children, Alex (24), Alexis (19), Andrew (15), as well as a grandson, Ezekiel (1).

Project Manager Sara Train

Athens Team Member since 2022

Sara Train began her career in the crisis industry where she dedicated herself to building healthy communities that were sustainable and positioned to thrive for the long term. At Athens, she found an environment where she could expand on her passion for sustainability and community empowerment.

“My experience at Athens has been amazing. I’ve been able to work with individuals who are at the top of the industry regarding innovation and the ability to meet our community’s needs,” said Sara.

In her role, she provides operational support to the hauling and customer service teams and ensures that all internal departments are equipped to be successful in their day-to-day tasks.

Sara stresses that the waste and recycling industry has amazing opportunities for women to not only advance their careers, but make an impact. 

We need you. We need people who are smart, strong, and can think of creative ways to solve problems. The waste industry is going to be around forever, so we need individuals who are willing to continue to push the way that we solve problems and do so sustainably.”

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, Sara finds it crucial to acknowledge and learn from the stories of the women who came before us.

“It highlights parts of our history,” said Sara. “The shoulders that I stand on and people who impact my day to day have put me in a position where I can come to work and have a job that is meaningful and impactful. This has provided me the opportunity to sit at the table with decision makers and make sure that my influence is taken into consideration,” said Sara.

Sara lives in the San Gabriel Valley with her wife Kristin of 10 years and their 2 sets of twin girls, Francis and Cecilia (4) and Vivian and Daphne (5 months). In her free time, she enjoys salsa and meringue dancing, as well as cooking her favorite rice dishes.

Training & Development Supervisor Melissa Luna

Athens Team Member since 2021

Melissa Luna brings 9 years of experience in training and development and came to Athens because she was looking for a role that offered stability after the COVID-19 pandemic rattled many industries. A recruiter at Athens reached out to her and the rest was history.

Melissa enjoys collaborating with others and working with industry experts who provide learning opportunities that challenge her to strive further. She is passionate about empowering other women and giving everyone a space where they belong and have the potential to grow and prosper.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to me because DEI provides opportunities to learn from and uplift one another and cultivates a space for everyone to succeed,” said Melissa.

The waste landscape is changing and Melissa encourages other women interested in enhancing their skills or looking for a new career path to consider joining the industry.

“Be courageous and stick to your passions. Don’t be afraid to lean into your weaknesses because from that you’ll learn more and grow your confidence. We continue to evolve and contribute to shaping our culture.” 

In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, reading, and working out. She recently bought a home in Ontario Ranch with her fiancé Michael and the couple plans to wed this coming August. They share a cat named Gidet who is a blonde tabby.

Government Affairs Manager Ashley Lozada

Athens Team Member since 2024

Ashley Lozada came to Athens with six years of experience in government advocacy and relationship building with the City of Los Angeles.

What drove her to join the organization is her love for the environment and the desire to make an impact towards improving sustainability initiatives in local communities. Since joining Athens, she’s gotten a better understanding of the waste and recycling industry, especially the role each of us has in helping conserve natural resources.

So far, the journey has been even better than expected and she encourages other women to consider roles in the industry.

“Don’t be scared—A lot of people are afraid because they think the waste industry is only for men, but I came to Athens and there are a lot of women here!” said Ashley. “Take that leap of faith even if you think the odds are against you.”

Ashley goes on to emphasize the importance of persevering and going beyond traditional gender barriers.

“You can work to be whatever you want. There are women who have done it already and you can do it too. We are valuable in this society and there is a lot that we can do.” 

Ashley lives in Wilmington with her parents, Martha and Joel, as well as her partner of eight years, Eduardo. The family has three dogs—Lyla, a Labrador mix, Luna, a herd dog, and Nala, a Malinois. In her free time, Ashley enjoys running and going to Disneyland.

Business Development Manager Natalie Hinojosa

Athens Team Member since 2024

Natalie Hinojosa joined Athens with 15 years of experience in the sales industry, 10 of which within the waste and recycling industry.
What sparked her interest in joining Athens was that fact that no matter where she was working, she would always see an Athens container. Her familiarity with Athens also hit close to home as her brother, Anthony Hinojosa, has been a Roll-Off Driver with the company for more than 23 years. These would eventually be the motivating push to encourage Natalie to embark on the next phase of her career.

At Athens, Natalie now oversees new business development and construction projects throughout the South Bay area. She joined the team almost three months ago and the journey has been a welcoming experience that has had a friendly face at every corner ready to help.

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, Natalie reflected on her career and recalled that when she first started in the industry, her goal was to break through any barriers put in front of her.

Natalie has since established herself and paved a way for other women in the industry. She emphasized that this month not only highlights women’s accomplishments throughout history, but also serves as a powerful force that can help influence the future.

“Women’s History Month shows where we came from, where we are at, and where we are going.” 

She looks forward to seeing more women join the industry and make a name for themselves.
Natalie resides in West Covina with her husband of 19 years, Alfred. The couple shares a son, Mike (30), who is a Petty Officer Second Class Electrician’s Mate in the United States Coast Guard and a granddaughter, Riley (18 months). In her free time, Natalie enjoys roller skating and reading history novels.

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