Chicago, IL - Harish I Patel, coordinator of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Social Justice Initiative, is an experienced community organizer focused on youth, community and economic development issues and electoral engagement. Harish previously worked as the coordinator of public programming at the UIC Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and also as a Coalition Organizer at the Southwest Youth Collaborative on Chicago‚Äôs South Side. He serves on the board of advisers of In These Times magazine and served as an instructor at UIC for the undergraduate course, Youth Engagement in a Globalized World. He is also a founder of Project FOCUS, an international community development organization working in Uganda.
Atlanta, GA - Meagan M. Mullens, alumna of Spelman College and an aspiring lawyer, founded Green Complex, a non-profit organization focused on ensuring the prosperity of minority communities in South Florida. Through various initiatives, programs, and community partnerships Green Complex encourages participation and supports development in the following areas: Outdoor Recreation, Academic Excellence, Cultural Awareness and Tolerance, Workforce Preparedness, and Environmental Sustainability and Conservation.
Milwaukee, WI - Jayme Montgomery-Baker is the State Director for the WI League of Young Voters/Campaign Against Violence. Our mission is to agitate, educate and organize young folks to take a proactive stance against interpersonal violence by making them players in the political game. By focusing on art and hand on experiences, we encourage people to become leaders in their own community and work with their neighbors and elected officials to find solutions to the problems that plague them the most. The League recently started the Making Milwaukee Green Coalition table, an intergenerational group whose goal is to connect the dots between the resources that are available and the folks who need them the most.
Pueblo, CO - Isaac Medrano is the Colorado State Director for Democracia USA and Democracia Ahora. He was born in San Francisco, CA. His family emigrated from Managua, Nicaragua during the 1970's. He was the first in his family to attend college and graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2001. Visiting Nicaragua for the first time in 2003 with Witness for Peace propelled him to seek a career in helping the needy. In 2004 he began his political career as a field organizer for Wisconsin Victory 2004. In 2005 he became the volunteer coordinator for MassEquality in Boston, MA protecting equal marriage rights in the Commonwealth. In September 2008 he joined Democracia USA as the Colorado State Director after working as a Regional Field Director for Senator Hillary Clinton's Presidential Primary Campaign. Lastly, Isaac seeks his inspiration in the words and life of Robert Kennedy: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
Twin Cities, MN - Valerie is a Mexican, Cree, Apache, Ojibwe woman from the twin cities of Minneapolis, Minnesota who has been organizing around racial and social justice for indigenous people for the last ten years of her life. She has been on the Little Earth of United Tribes board since 2001, assisting in the development and implementation of programs that serve American Indian children and their families. Currently she is serving as a liaison to representatives from Minnesota’s indigenous communities. Valerie organized a Renewable Energy Training and community event with Winona LaDuke at Little Earth of United Tribes. She also recruited and coordinated Indigenous People’s Green Jobs Task Force, which is a statewide green jobs initiative to ensure participation and inclusion of indigenous communities in renewable energy opportunities in this new, emerging green economy.Read more
Los Angeles, CA - A proud product of south central Los Angeles, Juan D. Martinez is the national Natural Leaders Network coordinator for the Children & Nature Network. His passion to empower individuals and youth led him to direct Sierra Club’s first environmental justice youth leadership academy in Los Angeles. In 2009, Juan introduced Department of Interior's Ken Salazar at Powershift in Washington, DC, the largest youth gathering on climate change, and he was invited by the White House to attend the National Forum on Clean Energy Economy. A keynote speaker at the 2010 Outdoor Retailers Winter Show in Salt Lake City, Utah, Juan received a standing ovation following his presentation. In 2006, Juan was a delegate to the Latino Congreso, the largest gathering of Latino key figures in the U.S. and he is included in “Hispanics Living Green.” Publication of the book is being celebrated in March 2010 with a Congressional reception in Washington, DC. A student at the California State University Los Angeles, he is a recipient of Congresswoman Hilda Solis’ Environmental Youth Leadership Award and “Looking to the Future” award from the Breaking the Color Barriers conference, the largest conference on people of color in the great outdoors. Juan received a “Green for All” 2009 fellowship; and is on the national executive committee for the Sierra Student Coalition. Juan is a spokesperson for the Sierra Clubs’ Building Bridges to the Outdoors initiative, which works to connect all youth with nature. He dedicates his energy and free time on grassroots campaigns that vary from health care, housing discrimination, to creating garden space in the city of L.A.Read more
Shreveport, LA – Leia Lewis Henderson (www.leialewis.com) is a cultural arts worker, organizer, artist, educator, and mother who has been advancing nonprofit and community-based organizations for more than a decade. Leia is the Founding Director of Sankofa Vision, Inc. (www.sankofavision.org), a nonprofit that celebrates and cultivates the art, culture, and community life of people of African descent. SVI’s central work is Sankofa Gardens, an organic community garden and learning campus that supports low-income families to achieve self-sufficiency and widely attracts good, diverse people. Leia is a dedicated classroom teacher, completing a M.A. in Teaching/ Elementary Education at Centenary College of Louisiana. She has earned a B.A. in Drama and Communications and M.A. in Arts Administration from University of New Orleans. A global student and peaceful warrior, Leia Lewis Henderson’s blessed family heritage is deeply rooted in the farmland of North Louisiana.Read more
Philadelphia, PA - Aaiyda is a Paralegal for a law office in Philadelphia that advocates for employees rights. She believes that people are empowered by their knowledge of the law. She attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and majored in Sociology. While attending college she became involved in Advocacy, Social, and Faith-Based Organizations. After college she became an advocate for teenage parents. Out of all her positions or titles, “Mommy” is her favorite. She is the proud mother of a four year old, Kayla. She recently attended Powershift ‘09 and was inspired by the power and passion of young people from all over the country. Aaiyda is committed to making sure her community is not left behind in a green collar economy.
Atlanta, GA - Ms. Mar’Che James is a senior Sociology student at Spelman College. Ms. James is a native of California. She is active in the Sociology department at both Spelman and Morehouse College. At Spelman College Mar’Che is in charge of writing the campus newsletter for The Spelman College Census Bureau. Ms. James is also currently working at Morehouse College in the Community Revitalization Department. She is also an active member of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE). Mar’Che has demonstrated her belief in human rights by participating in a march to Jena, LA for the Jena 6 situation. Ms. James has also participated in the Morehouse College Green Recovery Symposium. After graduation, Ms. James plans to attend graduate school so that she can write policy and eventually become a college professor.
Philadelphia, PA - Kate Houstoun's two professional priorities are to provide quality work opportunities to Philadelphians living in poverty and to improve life in Philadelphia for all. Kate was recently hired by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN) to lead the Green Economy Task Force and to develop Philadelphia's Green Business Council. The Task Force was convened over a year ago to build critical cross-sector collaboration and policies to move Philadelphia’s green economy forward. The coalition recently reached 130 stakeholder groups including business, labor, government, policy, job training, and community representatives. The Green Business Council, set to launch this summer, will serve to align job training programs with the needs of green businesses and to secure hiring commitments from private sector members. Prior to SBN, Kate worked in workforce development, serving formerly incarcerated and homeless adults at The Doe Fund. Her experience also includes community development, volunteer recruitment, and environmental education at American Friends Service Committee. Kate is a Board Member of the Mayor’s Office of Community Services (Philadelphia’s Community Action Agency) and an Advisory Board Member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green program. Kate lives in South Philadelphia with her dog, Early.