- NLDP I
- NLDP II
- NLDP III
- NLDP IV
- NLDP V
- NLDP VI
- NLDP VII
- NLDP VIII
- NLDP IX
- NLDP X
- NLDP Xl
The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program helps to increase the effectiveness of our graduates in the projects and programs in which they are working so they will make a broader overall impact on Cleveland's neighborhoods.
Two hundred and nine (209) engaged community leaders living in Cleveland's neighborhoods and its inner ring suburbs have completed the eleven month NLDP curriculum. Click on each cohort above to view the participants of NLDP I through NLDP XI. Graduates are listed by name, the neighborhood in which they reside and the program areas with which they are involved.
Utilizing the Skills Bank
The NLDP Skills Bank is a correlation of important data about each program graduate and the community building skills which they possess within ten areas we believe are important to anyone wishing to make change in their community. NLDP graduates may contact each other and network around skill areas as they feel appropriate.
Non graduate citizens who are working in the community and are seeking assistance from passionate, accomplished and engaged community leaders who have expertise in these skills and who have graduated from NLDP, should contact Yuolanda Murray at ymurray@NLDPCleveland.com or by calling 216-776-6167.
Under the names of graduates will be icons representing which of the ten skills they have. Below is the key listing the skill definitions and the corresponding icons.
Using your skills and experience to support and encourage an individual’s
personal and professional development by sharing knowledge, skills, and
Expertise in preparing a formal proposal submitted to a government or
civilian entity that outlines a proposed project, shows budgetary
requirements and requests monetary assistance in the form of a grant.
The ability to deliver services, provide education, and raise the awareness of
existing services that are available to community members who may not have
access to those services.
The ability to speak to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner
intended to inform, influence, or entertain.
The ability to create activities designed to encourage people to work
cooperatively to improve team performance.
Proficient in the use of a dedicated Web site (such as Facebook and Twitter)
to expand business and/or social contacts by communicating informally
with other members of the site.
Skilled at planning and coordinating every detail of a business meeting,
workshop, team building activity, festival, ceremony, competition, party,
convention or social function.
Ability to identify, solicit and collect money for a nonprofit or political
Volunteer Management Efficient in the management of individuals wanting to participate in a cause by donating their time and skills without being compensated.
Facilitation Effectively assisting a group of people with their common objectives by making the process easy to understand and helping them to achieve a goal without taking a particular position.
Rashidah Abdulhaqq is a graduate of John Hay High School, and the University of Toledo. She is the former Community Liaison for the Hunger Center. In this role she worked to identify issues that impact low income families who utilize hunger centers. She was one of the 53 recipients that received a grant through the ReImaging Cleveland Program. The grant is used to support a market garden in the Glenville Community. The garden has brought new life to the community and assists a number of families and seniors that are in need of fresh produce. Rashidah has received many awards and recognitions for her work. She is also a former member of the Cleveland Board of Education and stays involved with a number of community organizations in various capacities.
Michael Christoff works as an architect for FORUM Architects in the Playhouse Square District. He is immersed in a number of projects designed to leverage Cleveland's assets and creative efforts into visible and tangible results. He moved to Cleveland after college recognizing no other city in the country affords young professionals such a direct conduit to influence positive change. Michael is a founding partner of the Cleveland Design Competition. This forum draws attention to Cleveland's urban assets. Michael partnered with a colleague to bring to Cleveland from Tokyo, Japan a unique presentation event called Pecha Kucha Night. These fast paced, high energy evenings are meant to expose and attract new design talent and ideas while fostering meaningful collaborations among presenters and the audience.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Darren T. Hamm is a community organizer and activist in Brooklyn Centre, a near west side neighborhood. As President of the Brooklyn Centre Community Association, he has taken an active role in engaging other residents in a number of projects around youth development, neighborhood health and safety and community beautification among others. Darren and his wife travel internationally studying social justice work, most recently spending several weeks with Dr. Arun Gandhi exploring grassroots development throughout India. Darren received a Masters of Nonprofit Management in 2007 from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from Kent State University. Currently he works as a Foreclosure Prevention Counselor at Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland.
In 1997, Joyce Hood founded the K.N.OW.L.E.D.G.E., Youth Organization in Cleveland, Ohio in the Union Miles area. The organization works toward improving the community by rebuilding the bridge between adults and youth. K.N.O.W.L.E.D.G.E. works with resident leaders collaboratively to share their knowledge of leadership, other established groups to teach youth of the community financial economics, conflict resolution, peer mediation, nutrition, physical fitness, and education. Joyce has received numerous recognitions and awards for her passion and commitment to changing the lives of children in Cleveland including a Proclamation Award in 2007, from former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from former Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, U.S. House of Representatives 10th District of Ohio.
Stephanie Howse currently serves as the Admission and Community Outreach Coordinator for The Prep Schools Woodland Hills Campus, She is responsible for recruiting families and building community partnerships. Stephanie also serves on the Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center Advisory Board and is Co-Founder and Mentoring Program Director of Footprints, a youth development organization committed to nurturing and cultivating a positive self-image in girls ages 9 – 17. She is a member of a number of organizations including the National Society of Black Engineers. Stephanie has a M.A. in Environmental Studies from Cleveland State University and a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Florida A&M University and is a LEED AP Accredited Professional. Stephanie has received numerous awards including the 3rd District Community Relations Leadership Award in 2008.
Kelly Kupcak a resident of Kamm’s Corner, is currently the Director of Policy for Hard Hatted Women. Ms. Kupcak uses her knowledge and skills to promote social and economic justice issues in Cleveland through working at several nonprofits including the Domestic Violence Center, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, Westside Catholic Center, and WSEM. Ms. Kupcak was recently elected to the National Board of Directors for Women Work which works to promote economic and educational equity for women. Ms. Kupcak additionally serves on several boards and advisory committees for the Ohio Apollo Alliance, the Ohio Department of Transportation Jobs In Progress, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Minority Business Advisory Council, Urban League of Greater Cleveland Construction Training Advisory Committee and the Cleveland Jobs with Justice Executive Board.
Gordon Martin was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He is a now a resident of the Stockyard neighborhood. He spent a large portion of his adult life in Poza Rica, Veracruz, Mexico. He attended the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City and received a teaching certificate from the University of Xalapa in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Gordon Martin is a former school teacher however, he left the classroom but continues to build close relationships with members of the community who hope to better their lives through more positive behavior. His passion lies in helping others find the motivation they need to fulfill their dreams. Mr. Martin founded POPCE Prince of Peace Outreach and Deliverance Ministries where he currently serves as the pastor. He loves his family, his work and his music.
Maurice Small is currently helping to create and direct community food justice awareness programs in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He inherited his profound respect and love for the earth from his parents. He utilizes grassroots research to champion urban and rural food policy congruence. His efforts to transform the food landscape in Northeast Ohio and beyond have been successful because of his ability to work with people across all sectors. As an advocate for youth, healthy food, worms, composting and soil he has been featured in a number of community newspapers, television shows and adds his environmental expertise to a number of internet blogs. His photographic work was published in the 2008 publication of Instructions from The Cook: Recipes for New Conversations, by George Nemeth & Jack Ricchiuto.
Carolyn R. Smith works with the City of Cleveland's Storefront Renovation Program (SRP). She formerly worked at Glenville Development Corporation and St. Clair Superior Development Corporation completing numerous projects that created stabilized Business Revitalization Districts and jobs for neighborhood residents. In 2005, she became a Coordinating Consultant with the SRP providing technical assistance, training and mentoring to SRP Program Coordinators in eight community development corporations. Carolyn completed the Certification in Professional Main Street Management Institute through the National Trust for Historic Preservation and became a Certified Main Street Manager. Carolyn holds a BS in English from Tennessee State University; Master of Educational Administration from Kent State University and a Master of Public Administration concentration in Economic Development from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
Patricia Ross currently serves as the Business Manager for Optiem. Optiem is a software and technology company that crafts innovative marketing solutions. She formerly worked at SCK, a strategic marketing and web development firm in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Patricia is active in both professional organizations and civic issues. As part of her work with Re$tore Tremont, she co-founded the Taste of Tremont festival which has burgeoned into a pinnacle summer event drawing visitors from all over the region. She has received a number of awards and recognitions for her civic and professional engagement. Patricia graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Social Work from Cleveland State University. She has taken certification course-work in Web Analytics from the University of British Columbia.
Debra Wilson currently serves as a Real Estate Development professional for the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation. Debra has been in the real estate field for over twenty years and is skilled in the areas of land assemblage for special projects, financial counseling and acquisition/rehabilitation for single, multi-family and affordable housing. Debra believes that marketing the City of Clevelands’ assets enhances Cleveland's ability to spur the city's continual growth. Ms. Wilson is also an Associate Real Estate Broker for City Wide Estate Services. She serves on the board of several organizations in the City of Cleveland and she is certified in Housing Finance, and Housing/Financial Counseling as well as real estate project management.
Sean Xavier is an educator and entrepreneur with experience in small businesses and new venture creation. He is deeply committed to the empowerment of Cleveland and its surrounding areas. As a founding partner of a property development and management firm his objectives are to modernize the way we live in Northeast Ohio, provide high-quality and affordable contemporary residences, and establish our region as a model for 21st century lifestyles. Sean Xavier has produced many workshops and programs, been a guest on various panels and television programs, and served and led a variety of organizations. He has received many honors, awards, and scholarships. His education includes studies at Case Western Reserve University, Florida State University, and The Ohio State University. He holds an MBA and a Master in Education.
Jon Benedict is a native of Northeast Ohio and has spent his professional career helping organizations, both public and private, enhance their public images and further their strategic goals. He is Vice President of R Strategy Group, a Cleveland-based strategic communications and political consulting firm. In his consulting work, Jon uses his extensive communications consulting experience to give clients real-world advice that helps maintain positive public and media relations. Jon also works with clients from the corporate, political, educational and non-profit sectors to enhance their public images and further their goals. Jon graduated cum laude from Cleveland State University with a bachelor’s degree in English. He is the co-founder and editor of Edible Cleveland, a quarterly magazine which celebrates the people and stories of Northeast Ohio’s local food community.
Before founding Riverside Communications Group, Laura Boustani was president of Boustani Consulting, LLC. Her areas of expertise include media relations, strategic and crisis communications, reputation management, message development, speech writing, editorial board relations, public affairs and campaign consulting. As public relations strategist for the Growth Association and COSE, Boustani advised the organization's leadership on all matters concerning public perception and the media. Laura served as deputy press secretary to former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. She is a member of the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), The City Club of Cleveland and the Entrepreneurship Preparatory School (E Prep) Advocacy Committee. She is a past member of the Press Club of Cleveland and The Salvation Army Public Relations Committee. Boustani is a graduate of John Carroll University.
Becca Britton lives in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. As Project Coordinator with the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, Becca oversees the annual Chinese Zodiac-based public art project and coordinates the arts & culture programs for the youth in the neighborhood. She is the founder and director of the Friends of the Cleveland Kennel, an organization which raises money to provide medical care for the animals brought in to the shelter, as well as, supplies for the animals during their stay. Raised in Cleveland, Becca’s passion for community change and empowering others to get involved in making a difference is what motivates her every single day. She continues to educate herself by taking various workshops, classes, and meeting new and interesting people.
Wyonette Cheairs is a Community Development Specialist for Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC), an organization that is dedicated to revitalizing and renewing the Fairfax community in order to improve the quality of life for its citizens. In 2003, she graduated Cum Laude from Cleveland State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs with an urban planning focus. In her current position as a Community Development Specialist, Ms. Cheairs markets, coordinates, and provides intake for a variety of assistance and rehabilitation programs that serve residents in her area. Wyonette is also an active member of her church and Dollars & Sense Investment Group LLC.
Yvonne Connor is currently the District Associate and Pastor of Broadway UMC. Over the past three years Yvonne has demonstrated her passion for improving her community by partnering with neighborhood organizations to host community hearings, providing space for poll worker training, hosting family events (festivals, toy gun exchange, art literacy, clergy meetings), and job screenings for neighborhood businesses. Yvonne is currently working to improve the quality of life for Cleveland families by establishing an afterschool touring program for children and offering small businesses start-up assistance. Yvonne earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University a Master of Divinity Degree from the Methodist Theological School of Ohio in Delaware OH., and a Master of Management and a B.S. in Applied Science.
Kate Dupuis is the President and founding partner of Rainey Dupuis Studios. A native and passionate Clevelander, Kate has lived and worked across the United States, with award-winning installations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Cleveland. Returning to Ohio after a decade on the West Coast, Kate and her husband decided to move to Cleveland during the 1980's, restoring a Queen Ann-style home and carriage house. The challenges of urban living inspired Kate to become an active member of her near-West Side neighborhood. At the urging of her councilman, she ran for Precinct Committee Person. Kate is co-founder of her block club and the newly formed Gateway Gardeners of Clark/Fulton. An animal lover, she runs an informal cat rescue network that has spayed/neutered and adopted out over one hundred animals.
Yvelyn Hamilton works as the Director of the Free Hand Ministry Center. She has a Master's degree in Social Service Administration from Case Western Reserve University and a LICDC license in independent chemical dependency counseling. She has worked in the community for over twenty-five years to help restore families devastated by drugs and alcohol. She is a community advocate focusing on numerous issues including grandparents raising grandchildren, domestic violence and the prevention of homelessness. She is also a member of the Women of Color Network (WOCN). She is a partner in the Safiri Rites of Passage program which cultivates and promotes cultural education as well as mentoring for young girls ages 5 to 17.
Margie Harris was born in Alabama, and has lived in Cleveland for most of her life. Ms. Harris graduated from East High School, Dyke College’s Executive Secretary's Program, Tri-C Metro Campus, and earned a Certificate in Dental Assisting from Jane Addams School of Dental Assisting. She is a Research Assistant I at Case Western Reserve University. Margie also works at University Hospitals' Case Medical Center as a Division Secretary. Ms. Harris serves as Vice President of the Nottingham Civic Club. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Nottingham Youth and is the Treasurer of the Youth Center and co- director of the Teen Youth Forum. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for In Focus of Cleveland, Incorporated, a group home and foster care facility for teenage boys.
BJ graduated with a Degree in Science majoring in Nursing from Cuyahoga Community College, and is presently seeking a Bachelor's Degree in Urban Administrative Services from Cleveland State University. She is a graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland, and Project Access. She has attended conferences on workforce development, neighborhood works, and Department of Justice national conferences on re-entry and sustainability. BJ Johnson has served in many organizations over the years, including St Ignatius of Antioch Parish Board, Detroit Shoreway Weed & Seed Steering Committee, West End Block Club, and the Ward 17 Democratic Club. BJ is a member of the bell choir at St. Ignatius Church. She is implementing a re-entry program called KIS, "Keeping It Straight," with the help of St. Paul and Detroit Shoreway Weed and Seed.
A native Clevelander and current Ohio City resident, Martha Loughridge works on many levels - head, heart and hands - to improve the health and well-being of the near west side residents. As the Program Development Coordinator for St. Paul's Community Outreach, Martha has been working with the board and staff to give more clarity to the definition of the organizational vision and to secure sustainable funding. She co-founded a babysitting co-op in Ohio City. She also teaches Satyananda Yoga at St. Paul's Community Church in Ohio City and at the Atma Center in Cleveland Heights. Martha received her Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) from Case Western Reserve University in 1999 and occasionally works on strategic planning consulting projects.
J.T. Lynch serves as the Director of Music for the Chyrsanti School of Music. He works extensively with youth and uses music as a means to empower students, as well as, to give them skills to achieve success. J.T.’s passion for music extends to all areas of his life as shown by his enthusiastic involvement as a saxophone player for Horns and Things Jazz Band. Mr. Lynch is a community leader who is seeking to increase the unity of his community in order to accomplish the long-term goal of being able to fairly represent the wishes of the constituency that comprises the community.
Ilinda Reese has been teaching, training and entertaining audiences all over the world on the subject of Transition. Ilinda’s community project involves creating a drop-in center to serve families affected by domestic violence. Ilinda is also serves as Circle Leader Chair at Greater Cleveland CARES Mentoring Movement a program that recruits African –American members of the community to serve as mentors to our children. Ilinda is the President of IMJ ReeSources and a lecturer for the Better Way Institute. She is the Ohio Chapter President of the National African American Speakers Association (NAASA), and a graduate of the Les Brown Speaking for a Living course. Ms. Reese is the host of her own talk show, TCB: Taking Care of Business. She is a graduate of Ursuline College.
Lisa-Jean Sylvia is a consultant with experience and strengths in group facilitation, community engagement, and program development. Drawing from a background in Appreciative Inquiry and Asset Based Community Development, Sylvia has a talent for facilitating meaningful conversations to build authentic relationships and connections across lines of difference. After graduating in 2005 with a Master’s in Nonprofit Organizations, Sylvia served as Director of City Fresh, a pioneer of Northeast Ohio’s local food movement. She then led the Harvest for Hunger campaign for the Cleveland Foodbank raising over $3 Million two years in a row. Sylvia then joined Neighborhood Connections designing engagement strategies and leading a team of organizers in launching Neighbor Up, a dynamic network of over one thousand individuals working together to strengthen community. Currently, Sylvia uses her passion for innovation and organizational learning as an independent consultant for area organizations.
Victoria Trotter is a community activist and operations manager of Trotter's Dry Cleaners, a family-owned business operating in the Glenville community since 1969. She is a graduate of Cuyahoga Community College and Kent State University. Victoria obtained her J.D. degree in 1994 from the University of Akron Law School. She has participated in the City of Cleveland Entrepreneurial Academy and the City of Cleveland James Wilson Construction Management Program. In addition to convening street and block clubs, Victoria has initiated a history club program for youth. Victoria believes that "The Calvary is not coming; our community must save itself" and "the power is in the people." Currently Victoria is pioneering green methods for the Dry Cleaning industry. She has also developed a "Green Space" facility that encourages education and utilization of eco-friendly energy conservation methods.
Pastor Jimmie Booze is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He is a proud husband and father. Pastor Booze served as a member of the U.S. Army and earned a bachelor's degree in Public Administration from Cleveland State University. He is the former Chief Executive Officer of Faith Child Development & Learning Center, a non-profit childcare center serving North Collinwood and surrounding communities. Pastor Booze has been active on community boards and in community groups in Greater Cleveland including having served as the President of the Lexington Bell Community Center's Board of Directors and 2nd Vice President of the East Cleveland Concerned Pastors for Progress. He is the founder of C.H.E.S.S. (Conquering Historical Economic Sub-Standards), a financial literacy / mentoring program that uses the principals of the game of chess to teach life skills.
Lisa Davis is a native Clevelander. Lisa developed a resident program entitled Steppin - Up that actively engages block clubs in community rebuilding efforts. She founded and became the Executive Director of Network for Neighborhood Success (NFNS) with the help of a group of dedicated Clevelanders. NFNS provides individuals, families and businesses with effective and sustainable education, training, health, and employment. Lisa worked as a community organizer leading the effort to create the Fannie Lewis Law. The law requires contractors working in Cleveland to hire skilled residents that live in the ward they are working in.
Kim Fields is a lifelong Clevelander and resident of the Buckeye/Woodland neighborhood. She works for the Saint Luke's Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio focusing on developing and maintaining healthy communities. As an employee of the Saint Luke's Foundation, Kim has had the opportunity to see neighborhoods become safer, healthier and empowered and hopes to see the same transition in her neighborhood. She is a graduate of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). She attended Cuyahoga Community College and continues to educate herself by attending various workshops, classes and always networking. As a graduate of the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program she is committed to making a difference in the City of Cleveland. She is currently on the Board of Directors of Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
Alicia Graves is a native Clevelander. She currently works as a Financial Services professional for New York Life Insurance Company. Alicia formerly worked as a Juvenile Justice Unit Law Clerk for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and served in The Republic of Rwanda, Africa with a Human Rights Delegation. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and a law degree from The University of Akron School of Law. Alicia is a graduate of NLDP and has completed The Cleveland Executive Fellowship, a 1 year program in the Cleveland Leadership Center designed to accelerate professional development of civic leaders. Key issues that Alicia plans to explore with her NLDP experience include diversity, education, homelessness and housing.
Rev. C. Nozomi Ikuta is the pastor of Denison Avenue United Church of Christ. Nozomi was born in Cleveland and grew up in Brook Park, Ohio. She graduated from Berea High School, Carleton College in Minnesota, Harvard Divinity School in Massachusetts, and New York Theological Seminary in New York City. She is delighted to be able to live and work in the richly diverse Denison/Lorain neighborhood on Cleveland's west side and to help the Denison Congregation strengthen its neighborhood outreach and engagement. Nozomi is fluent in Spanish and has also studied German, Greek, and Japanese. Her other interests include Taiko (Japanese drumming), Tai Chi (Chinese health and martial art form) and going for walks in the woods.
Sharyse N. Jones is passionate about helping youth and young adults to realize their full potential by aiding them in identifying their strengths and gifts and channeling that energy into the pursuit of higher education. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Master in the Science of Social Administration degree from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She currently works as a licensed social worker. Sharyse has an affinity for youth in the foster care system and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Rona R. Carter Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of increasing opportunities for mentorship and scholarship in the pursuit of higher education for the foster care community.
Larry LaPrade grew up in Cleveland. After graduating from Lutheran East High School in Cleveland, Larry moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and earned his Bachelor's of Business Degree in Legal Studies/Law Enforcement at Johnson and Wales University. He is currently a student at Cleveland State University pursuing a Masters of Urban Planning, Development and Design. Larry’s volunteer projects include E-City, a program that assists students in developing business plans, painting houses to help senior citizens, assisting with food giveaways for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and volunteering with the AmeriCorps Vista program. Larry is currently a Program Coordinator for the Burten, Bell, Carr Community Development Corporation where he deals with issues of poverty, housing, economic development and community empowerment on a daily basis.
Philip Lee grew up in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. He graduated from Glenville High School in 1976. He is a retired member of the U.S. Army National Guard. He earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology and worked several years as a licensed social worker. Philip started Intel Cleaning Solutions LLC in 1999. The company now includes a janitorial training center that seeks to train individuals from every facet of life. The training center serves as a bridge from trainee-student-employee to responsible employed person producing positively in their community.
Philip is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. He is also an ordained minister and serves as Senior Elder at his church.
Farai Malianga seeks to create policy that shapes the community. He is a member of the Friends of Slavic Village Committee and a Committee Member of the Slavic Village Board. Farai has been involved in the successful implementation of a number of community projects including the Morgana Trail mural, the Union Garden Association for familial food self-sufficiency, the Ohio State University Extension: Urban Garden Tour, and he participated in a French documentary on foreclosure. Farai's other commitments include the Mayor's Sustainability Program and a youth computer class that encourage entrepreneurship. Farai has an undergraduate degree in Physics and a Masters in Airline and Airport Administration. Farai believes he is who he is today because of those who took the time to be his mentors and teachers.
Najah Muhammad is a native Clevelander and long time community health professional. She currently works as Manager of Development and Administration for Neighborhood Family Practice. She received her Masters of Public Administration from Cleveland State University and her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In addition, Najah is completing training as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach. Najah co-facilitates the Women's Health Consortium which creates synergy among women's health service providers on Cleveland's east and west sides and currently chairs the Cleveland Community Health Center Network's National Health Center Week planning team. Najah is the proud mother of one highly creative son.
Pamela M. Scott is a Site Coordinator at Marion Sterling for Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood Initiative, a project of Sisters of Charity. She was formerly the Neighborhood Services Coordinator at Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation. She is also a certified Medical Assistant. Pamela received her Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and a Bachelor of Social Work from Capital University. She is a proud graduate of Glenville High School. Pamela credits her faith as the center of any success that she has achieved and appreciates the support and love she has received from family and friends.
Lora Smith is a lifelong resident of the City of Cleveland and lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. She is the founder and Executive Director of North Coast Development Corporation, a faith-based CDC that seeks to use volunteers to change the city. Her philosophy is that you build bridges and partnerships wherever you can. She works with volunteers to paint the homes of low income seniors and disabled persons. As a career missionary Lora leads a house church on the West Side working with the homeless and those in need. She is a graduate of St. Peter High School and Cleveland State University with degrees in Sociology and Urban Studies. Lora is a mother and grandmother, as well as, a surrogate mother for more than 70 children.
Akanni Thomas is a native Clevelander who resides in the Fairfax neighborhood. She works for Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc., a community development organization that serves the Ward 5 area in Cleveland. Akanni organizes and facilitates a number of community programs and projects and is currently working on creating a Pan African Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. She envisions this center to serve as both a museum and community gathering place for workshops, classes and meetings. Akanni received her education from the Cleveland School of Arts, Cleveland State University and the University of Akron, where she focused on Psychology, Sociology and the Pre-Nursing program. She is the proud mother of a daughter and a son.
Jeanette Toms has been a Cleveland resident since 2004. She serves as the founder and garden leader of Good Earth Community Garden and received an award from the First District Police/Community Relations Committee for her work with the garden and her volunteer efforts in the Cudell neighborhood. Jeanette has an Applied Science degree in Plant Science and Garden Center Operations with honors (Magna cum Laude) from Cuyahoga Community College. She is a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy and a member of the Neighborhood Mobilization Team for MyCom in the Cudell neighborhood. Jeanette is employed by the Cleveland Metro-Parks. She is a member of the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She is an associate of the Gardeners of America of Greater Cleveland and serves on the board of directors and as chairperson of the program committee.
Veronica Walton was born in Luray, Virginia, and moved to Cleveland at age 17 to attend Cuyahoga Community College. She currently holds an Associates of Applied Science and is licensed to practice dental hygiene in the North Eastern Region of the United States. Veronica is a wife and mother of two children. The beginning of Veronica's environmental journey began with the founding of NEO Restoration Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on environmental justice, green job development and community education around environmental health and safety. She is the Executive Director of NEO and focuses on engaging the community in a collaborative manner to help educate and activate community members around environmental issues and projects. Urban agriculture and storm water management are two of the key focus areas for NEO Restoration Alliance.
Aseelah Shareef Allen is a nurturer, an advocate for excellence and a creative being, working to make positive change with every idea, effort and action. Her path to self-actualization began with her initial dance training at the Palm Beach County School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. As a teenager she attended the prestigious Alvin Ailey Summer Dance Program. Professionally, Aseelah’s talents are currently being shared with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s All-City Arts Program and Cuyahoga Community College’s Dance department. She is actively involved in the following organizations, United Way’s Organizational Assessment Committee, Neighborhood Connections Grant making Committee and African dance study under Cleveland’s master teachers. Aseelah is a graduate of The Florida State University, receiving a Masters in Arts Administration and a BS in Exercise Science.
Imani Allen, Lead Facilitator of Footprints, is a graduate of Collinwood High School. She is a graduate of Cleveland State University with a B.A. in Journalism & Promotional Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Non-profit Administration. Participating in the summer enrichment program from the ages of 6-14, Mali Yetu, which is Swahili for “Our Wealth”, ignited her passion for uplifting youth in the community. She is a strong believer in hands on innovative education and believes in meeting children where they are to bring forth the creativity that may not get displayed in the traditional classroom setting. Imani enjoys the simple things in life, reading, family, and uplifting the people around her.
Daniele Betliskey is a first generation Clevelander and a lifelong resident of the southeast side of Cleveland. Her parents immigrated from Macedonia, which is now the Republic of Yugoslavia. She graduated from East Technical High School and Ursuline College with a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising/Business. Daniele sees sport running as a tool to help urban youth take steps to stay active earlier in life and develop discipline through the training process. She completed her first triathlon at the “super sprint” level. Daniele’s goal is to host a youth triathalon to help spread the word of multi-sport in the inner city. Daniele enjoys volunteering and coordinating events in the community. She is President of her block club, and participates in a number of community activities.
Florence Brn-Isom is a life-long resident of the Kinsman-Union neighborhood. She is a LPN at Kaiser Permanente and has volunteered through organizations such as City Mission and Pathways. Florence is also the founder of Rubies of Virtue Under Development program, which seeks to expose urban girls to arts and culture. Florence always tells her girls, “It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.”
Minister Kyle Earley is an assistant pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Kyle is a relevant voice for his generation and his life experiences have shaped him to become a spiritual leader, community leader, and a transparent communicator. Kyle works to bring about social change in a number of areas. Currently Kyle is leading an effort to build the Cleveland Voter Coalition. The Cleveland Voter Coalition is a non partisan voter outreach coalition of concerned Cleveland residents with the mission to increase voter participation in Cleveland through aggressive and effective education, engagement and empowerment outreach efforts. Their slogan says it all, “It’s not a Moment, It’s a MOVEMENT.”
Jimmy L. Gates is the SOS Mentoring Coordinator for Cleveland Eastside Ex-Offender Coalition. The Cleveland Eastside Ex-Offender Coalition is an interfaith, nonprofit partnership of churches, social services organizations, businesses, and other non-profit service providers. Jimmy is also active in Minister of the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, where he serves in various capacities. Rev. Gates is actively involved in the Mount Pleasant Ministerial Alliance and The Baptist Ministers Council. Jimmy was born and raised in Cleveland and currently resides in the Buckeye area with his family. He is currently pursuing his B.A in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.
Yvonka M. Hall is the Graduate Support Administrator for the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program. In this role she is responsible for the development, implementation and promotion of NLDP Graduates through various engagement strategies. She is the former Director of the Cleveland Office of Minority Health. As the Northeast Ohio Director of Cultural Health Initiatives for the American Heart Association, Yvonka created cutting edge programs to address the unique needs of the African American community. Yvonka graduated from John Marshall High School and Notre Dame College of Ohio. She will receive her Master’s of Public Administration from Texas Southern University in 2013. Yvonka is also a graduate of three leadership programs: Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Neighborhood Leadership Development Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Ladder to Leadership.
Josh Klein is a native of Akron, Ohio and lived in Pittsburgh and Columbus before moving to Cleveland. The older of two brothers, his sense of community was fostered by regular extended-family gatherings and by his parents’ example through their many friendships in the neighborhood and out. Growing up in the Lutheran Church and then the DIY/punk scene in the 1990s, Josh first became involved in social justice through groups like Food Not Bombs and Anti-Racist Action. In 1999, he became a father to his beautiful daughter. Josh has been working on the issue of food access in urban areas. He is currently employed with City Fresh and is a founding member of the Gordon Square Farmers’ Market. The farmers’ market brings together many of his passions, including community building.
YoLanda Lawler is currently deployed with the U.S. Armed Forces (Navy) in Djibouti Africa. She resides in Ward 11 and is employed with the Cleveland Public Library as a Library Assistant. YoLanda holds a B.A. in Sociology-Criminology and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Education. YoLanda offers tutoring services to students in grades K-12 with a special emphasis on one-on-one mentoring for male students. YoLanda is also a member of the Greater Cleveland Toastmasters 2825 Club which has been beneficial in helping her improve her communication, public speaking and leadership skills. YoLanda has also received various community, as well as, military and volunteer awards. She also serves as a volunteer for numerous organizations in her community.
Kestutis (KC) Petraitis was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in the North Collinwood neighborhood. KC graduated from Saint Ignatius High School and received two Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Urban Services Administration and a Masters in Public Administration from Cleveland State University. He is currently a Research Analyst at Ostendorf-Morris Company. He is a former candidate for Cuyahoga County Council in the District 10 race and is the Vice President at Northeast Shores Community Development Corporation in North Collinwood. He serves as the Chair of the Safety and Outreach committees and was selected as a Downtown Cleveland Alliance city advocate. KC is the son of two proud American-Lithuanian parents and is the oldest brother of four children.
Lynn Scott is Program Director at St. Malachi Center. St. Malachi Center’s vision is to be a safe place where individual’s and families’ lives are enriched through educational and social programs. St. Malachi Center’s vision coincides with Lynn’s mission, which focuses particularly on children, helping them to see themselves as special, gifted uniquely by God to fulfill a specific purpose in this world. Lynn Scott has a BS in Recreation Management from Ohio University. She also participates in a group called O*H*I*O. Old Hearts Inspiring Others Masters swimming program. She is working on instilling the love for swimming in the children at St. Malachi Center by developing a Summer Swim Camp.
Alan Seifullah has a passion for the arts and for bringing together people with a variety of art backgrounds to create an artistic energy. He experienced this type of collaboration and melding of the arts in a program he took at Ohio State University, and wanted to start similar programming here. He currently runs a series of music programs and weekly workshops in poetry and the visual arts in Cleveland. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ohio University where he also helped to found the Department for African American Studies. After working as a reporter for the Plain Dealer, he became Head of Communications for the Cleveland Public Library and then for the Cleveland Municipal School District. He worked as Public Relations Director for the Department of Public Utilities until his retirement. Alan and his wife operate an art gallery in the Cleveland area and he has served as a NLDP Program Coach since 2013.
Myra Simmons is a longtime resident of the Kinsman neighborhood. She is a member of True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church and serves on the pastor’s aide, missionary ministries and assists with the youth ministry. She has served as the lead planner and host of the annual Marshall Avenue Back-to-School Safety Fair where she provides free school supplies, safety resources, food, and fun activities to youth and families that live on Marshall Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods. Simmons successfully completed Community Gardening training from the Ohio State University Extension. She helped seniors and youth start the Marshall Avenue Community Garden to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for families that have limited access to fresh produce. Simmons was awarded the key to the City of Cleveland by Mayor Frank Jackson in 2010 for her dedicated volunteer service.
Joel Solow, originally from Northern Manhattan, New York City, has lived in Cleveland since January, 2010. He came to Ohio to study at Oberlin College, where he graduated with a major in Anthropology and a minor in African American Studies and Environmental Studies. He worked as a community organizer for Slavic Village Development Corporation. He formerly served as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) at Hard Hatted Women, as the Green Jobs Partnership Coordinator. Joel also works in a number of roles on the Cleveland Summer of Solutions Program, a summer internship program that attracts youth and students to come to or remain in Cleveland to build capacity with existing neighborhood organizations, practice responsible and effective neighborhood integration and engagement, and work on sustainability and community projects with local residents.
James Watson is committed to empowerment through active, project-based education. He has taught science at Case Western Reserve University, Collinwood High School, St. Edward High School and the Denison Nature Adventures Summer Camp. James lives in the Denison/Lorain neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side. He has been active in grassroots programs for recovery from alcoholism and associated family problems and in the religious and community programs of Denison United Church of Christ. James is married with two adult children. He is an avid cyclist and bicycle mechanic and he recently opened a bicycle repair shop in his neighborhood that allows young people to earn their own bicycle and teaches them the fundamentals of repair and maintenance. James graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota and earned a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Recellanese Williams Campbell resides in the Buckeye neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family has resided in the area since 1948. Rece moved from California to Cleveland in 1984. She has received many awards for her community work and academic achievements. She graduated from Cleveland Central Catholic, joined the military and went to Tiffin University where she obtained a BBA. Recellanese is currently a Masters of Business Administration candidate. Her community involvement includes working with at risk teens, conducting purity retreats and neighborhood improvement. Her long term goal is to open a twenty-four hour safe space for teens and the elderly. She loves to read, travel and help kids. Recellanese identifies her area of expertise as giving back to her community, showing love and living to that example.
Wendy Carlton is a HEAP In-Take Coordinator at Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation. She is an active and engaged resident of the Fairfax Community. She serves as a contributing writer for the Neighborhood Voice. She became inclined to help individuals become financially responsible because of her work with low-income households. Wendy’s goal for her project is to assist low-income households in their efforts to become financially responsible. Her interests are reading, writing and spending time with family. It is Wendy’s hope that she is able to inspire others to soar and live up to their full potential.
Ryan DeBiase is the founder of the Edgewater Hill Victory Garden (EHVG), a community garden in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Ryan came to Ohio to attend Kent State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Ryan moved to Cleveland to pursue a career in writing and editing, eventually finding employment as a multimedia editor at the news agency PR Newswire. In his spare time, Ryan loves to discuss the opportunities inherent in his adopted city. He believes that Cleveland’s vacancy signifies a blank canvas containing innumerable possibilities. Ryan can be found bicycling through all four seasons, usually commuting between Downtown and Detroit Shoreway, where he resides with his wife Alexandra and their two cats.
Tia Hickson obtained a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Inspired by her upbringing in the inner city of Cleveland, as well as, by her family, teachers, and mentors, Tia birthed Diamonds InThe Rough. Tia works tirelessly at sustaining an organization that will change lives and empower young women to be poised and productive leaders of the world. Tia has a great passion for education policy and reform. She plans to work on public policies in hopes of reforming both the national education system as well as improving academic success in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Tia has worked to create change in her community to ensure that it is a great place for children to be educated.
Rebecca Kempton is a native of Clevelander and currently resides in the Clark Fulton neighborhood. She serves as chairperson for the Fulton West Block Club and is a member of the Stockyard, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Center Community (SCFBC) Development Organization's Advisory Council and Safety Committee. Rebecca advocates for housing by serving as co-chair of the Housing Committee. The Housing Committee has made great strides in the SCFBC neighborhoods by working to get abandoned and blighted homes torn down. She created a video showcasing the worst houses in her neighborhood, “Housing Heartbreak”, that was featured on a local television station. Rebecca works as Office Manager for George R. Klein News Company. She believes that Cleveland neighborhoods are full of unsung heroes working to preserve and protect what is great about the city for future generations.
Rodney Lewallen learned community service at an early age, while accompanying his mother to meetings of the many community and social service boards in which she participated. He also learned that being engaged in his community was a social and moral responsibility. Rodney is employed by the Cleveland Public Library system and provides service to the public, as well as, participating in the Library’s community outreach campaigns. He received the Cleveland Public Library Works of Wonder (WOW!) award for his fundraising and community outreach efforts through his knitting group. Rodney is working to alleviate illiteracy in the Hispanic community and to help teens develop the personal skills to aim high. He is an active athlete, artist and writer. He currently lives in the Ohio City/Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
Stephanie Pope works as a probation officer for the City of Cleveland. Stephanie is a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts High School and The University of Akron where she received a B.A in Political Science/Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology. Stephanie serves as a Strategic Planner and Research Coordinator for the Cleveland Voter Coalition, a precinct Committee Representative for Ward 11 and a representative of the Cuyahoga County Executive Committee. Stephanie mentors young women and provides them with love, activities and resources through Footprints for Girls Inc. Stephanie serves the Collinwood neighborhood as a community organizer, neighborhood block leader and a board member for the Northeast Cleveland Little League. She believes that every individual has the ability to inspire and empower someone else’s life.
Damien L. Ware is a literary artist who is socially and esthetically connected to his community. Damien has a Bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work. Damien is a combat veteran, having served as a Military Police officer during Operation Noble Eagle in Baghdad, Iraq. Damien is the co-founder and a member of a Woodland Hills and Buckeye neighborhood based poetry group called the “Griot Project”. The mission of the group is to “Uphold the heritage, traditions and culture of the African Diaspora within the literary, visual, and performing arts, through expression, education and community outreach”. Damien’s expository writing has been featured in the Neighborhood Voice and his poetry has been published by the “World Poetry Movement” in an anthology entitled “Stars in our Hearts".
Herbert Aaron is the owner of Itchin 2 Stitch Embroidery Service a subsidiary of Trotters’ Cleaners. Herb graduated from Glenville High School and Kent State University. He is also a Substitute Math and Science Teacher for the Cleveland Public School System. As a teenager and young adult, he witnessed firsthand the collapse of the Glenville community, a neighborhood once full of prosperity and growth. Herbert hopes to reignite the area with hope and new possibilities much like he has seen in a number of other areas in the City of Cleveland. Herb is married and the father of two beautiful daughters and a son-in-law, he is also a grandfather.
Indigo Bishop is a certified mediator and a graduate of Case Western Reserve University where she studied sociology, anthropology, and social and community development. Through the university she has traveled to Kenya, Ecuador and the Netherlands to study nonprofit organizations, community development, and social policy. Through Indigo’s travels and life experience she has developed a particular interest in cross cultural storytelling and creative peace building. Since September 2011, Indigo has worked with Neighborhood Connections, bringing people together, connecting them to each other and to the community through their gifts and passions. She loves to play volleyball and recently started coaching at Laurel School, her alma mater. Indigo lives in the Shaker Square/Larchmere neighborhood.
Jeff Bodziony is a national speaker and poet and has given his life to the restoration and redemption of the City of Cleveland, a place he has called home all of his life. After spending a decade of his life running an inter-state drug ring, Jeff returned to lead a street-level Church movement, The Forward Church is radically impacting people’s lives and revolutionizing the way people see God. The Forward Church operates on the street-level and partners with organizations throughout the community; Jeff has blown the box off of stagnant and ineffective religion and brought the reality of the Gospel right into the context of people’s everyday life. Jeff is married with five children.
Deirdre L. Bryant is passionate about encouraging women and girls to realize their greatness. She is an active member of Sisters Help N Sisters Women’s Ministry where she facilitates the Bible discussions. Deirdre volunteers as an Intake Specialist with The City Mission Laura’s Home. She was raised by a single mother in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration specializing in Small Business Management & Human Resource Management from Myers University. She completed her graduate degree in Nonprofit Administration and Leadership at Cleveland State University. Deirdre founded the Life Restored, Inc. to help women and girls break the cycle of entrapment in the criminal justice system and to maximize their potential of becoming assets to their communities.
Leonard Davis Jr. was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Davis is a graduate of Glenville High School and Cuyahoga Community College where he received an Associate of Arts Degree with a concentration in Sociology. Mr. Davis was hired as a Youth Coordinator at Cleveland Catholic Charities where he facilitates youth support groups. He serves as a youth advocate for teens with mental health issues and youth involved in the juvenile court system. Mr. Davis is a proud graduate of Case Western Reserve University’s Treu-Mart Youth Development Fellowship Program. Mr. Davis is very active in the Glenville Neighborhood of Cleveland where he has organized numerous Youth-Led Marches against Violence and a youth run Community Garden. Leonard is involved with a number of Fraternal and Social organizations.
Christin Farmer was born and raised in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, where she currently resides. Christin graduated from Collinwood High School. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Kent State University. She currently works as the Community Partnerships Coordinator and Program Manager for Greater Circle Living at University Circle Inc. In Spring, 2013 Christin will begin working on a Master’s of Public Administration at Cleveland State University. Her passion is economic development, particularly in impoverished and devastated neighborhoods. She plans to continue her advocacy work to better neighborhoods in the City of Cleveland by working to influence public policy. Christin has one son.
Gwendolyn Garth is a Cleveland native who says she is “a gifted and talented artist by Divine design and a community activist by choice”. Gwendolyn was formerly employed by the City of Cleveland as a Recreation Instructor and Interim Manager of the Bureau of Cultural Arts. She served as Chapter Chairperson of AFSCME Local 100 and as Ohio's State Leader of AmeriCorps. She is a graduate of the Women in Transition Program at Cuyahoga Community College. Gwen served as a member of Neighborhood Connections' Greater University Circle Innovation Team completing a Fellowship as a Network Weaver. She is a Precinct Committeeman in Cleveland's Ward 5 and an Executive Committee member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Growing her nonprofit, Kings & Queens of Art, and working as a freelance artist are other ways that Ms. Garth serves her community. She likes to say that "Art is in the middle of my last name, I was born to do this!" Her personal ambition and desire is to "paint this world the colors of Love" and she has no Plan B.”
Sir Joshua Hellsing was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a student at Cleveland State University, pursuing his Bachelors of Science degree. He serves as the President of the Cleveland State University Chinese Club. He has a natural affinity for Asiatic cultures and in 2003 he traveled to Japan. As a highly committed student, writer, actor and teacher of drama at Rainey Institute, he is seldom caught standing still. He started an independent publishing company to publish his own books. He wants to help young African descendent males become strong capable leaders that pursue their highest possible self.
Dan Hinman moved to Cleveland as an Americorps VISTA at Neighborhood Progress Inc. His work involves Vacant Land Reuse, Local Food, and Neighborhood Stabilization. Vacant Land Reuse and Local Food work is done through the ReImagining Cleveland project which helps transform vacant land into neighborhood assets that build connectivity, confidence, and access to healthy locally produced food. As a member of the Neighborhood Stabilization Team (NST) Dan assists in providing comprehensive data management, mapping, and strategic analysis to address critical issues of vacancy, foreclosure, and abandonment. He began his organizing and activism work at Ohio Wesleyan University focusing on environmental and worker rights issues while earning his B.A. in English Literature. Dan pursued his masters in Geography at Miami University, focusing on planning and urban mobility issues.
Kelly A. Jackson provides leadership and direction for the day-to-day programmatic and operational activities for Operation StandUP where she serves as the Executive Director. She has been active in the organization’s direct relief efforts for the homeless community of Northeast Ohio. She developed and implemented a youth personal enrichment program aimed at cultivating the next generation of advocates. She has successfully led campaigns to raise awareness of issues surrounding inequality, poverty, education and engagement. Kelly served as Assistant Director of Admissions at Oberlin College and the Minority Recruiter for Cuyahoga Community College. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management, and a Master of Business Administration from Baldwin Wallace University. Kelly has received numerous honors and recommendations.
Patrick Kennedy grew up in Chicago. After graduating from Bowling Green State University, he moved to Cleveland to pursue a career in Community Organizing and Development. Patrick is currently working on Organizing and Capacity Building with community residents, and neighborhood stakeholders in Cleveland’s Central and Kinsman neighborhoods. Patrick works to empower those around him to tackle issues that matter most to them and their community. Patrick is currently the Community Engagement Specialist for Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc. where he deals with issues of poverty, housing, economic development, and community empowerment on a daily basis. Patrick currently resides in the Cudell neighborhood of Cleveland.
Robert C. Knox is a native Clevelander and a graduate of John Adams High School. After graduation Robert relocated to Detroit, Michigan to enter the Law Enforcement Profession, where he served as a Detroit Police Officer. Robert’s career was shortened by an injury and he decided to become a licensed barber. He developed The Passion for Fishing Project and began conducting Passport to Fishing, One Day Fishing Academies. He obtained his certification from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Aquatic Education Program. The Passport to Fishing classes were created for youth to give them an opportunity to seek careers in aquatic and marine related professions and revitalize interest in the Great Lakes.
Evan Langhorst is a graduate of Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, earning a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. Evan is passionate about sustainability, and is driven to make Cleveland an economically, ecologically, and socially successful city. He has served as a Voter Information Liaison to Project Vote Smart, a non-profit, non-partisan voter information group and as a member of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability. He presently serves as an Energy Conservation Specialist for Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Evan is a member of Sustainable Cleveland 2019’s Green Building group, and is interested in improving Cleveland’s housing stock by promoting energy efficiency and improving home living conditions. He is also an advocate of bicycle education in the Cleveland area, promoting shared roads that are safe for all.
Pastor Theresa A. Sutton is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and attended the Cleveland Public Schools. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Myers University. She retired from The Sherwin Williams Company, after 20 years of employment. She is the Pastor and Founder of KINGDOM TEMPLE, an inner city ministry in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a licensed and ordained Minister responsible for organizing several ministries as Director of Christian Education with the Faith Temple Church. Pastor Theresa’s ministry is designed to meet the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those who find themselves in adverse situations, in everyday problems in life. She is an accomplished soloist. She is a proud mother and grandmother. She is President of the Board of Directors of the Glenville Development Corporation and lives in the Glenville Neighborhood.
Steph Mukenyi Wahome was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a Master's in Not-For Profit Leadership from Seattle University and a Master’s in Elementary Education from American University. As the Program Manager for City Year Inc. in Detroit, Michigan she worked with underserved middle school and high school youth. Steph helped start a Charter school in D.C. allowing her to combine her nonprofit and educational experience. While working at the charter school, Steph fused an Arts integrated curriculum into classroom instruction. Steph returned to Cleveland to provide the same quality programs for underserved youth in her hometown. She is currently the Regional Cleveland Coordinator for Scenarios USA and a professor at Cuyahoga Community College.
David Waldman was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. David graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a Masters of Nonprofit Organizations. He currently works at Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation where he is involved with several community projects. David started the first City Fresh stop in Old Brooklyn which he manages with other volunteers in the neighborhood. David is also involved in greening projects such as the creation of the first market garden in Old Brooklyn. David has a long history of volunteering for Cleveland organizations. David’s interests include conservation, local foods, music and visual arts. David is very interested in organizing people in the Cleveland area to spread knowledge about local foods, cooking and eating healthy.
Anjenette Whitted is currently a resident of Cleveland’s Forest Hill Neighborhood, where she serves as a Community Mentor Coordinator. She has served as the Youth Director of Philemon Community Baptist Church where she also leads the outreach ministry. She founded Helping Hands Ministry as a way to teach youth leadership and empowerment skills and to assist them in tackling hunger issues facing seniors and families in their community. She has worked with the Peacemakers Alliance of Cleveland and Community Re-Entry to reduce recidivism and enhance the quality of life for persons returning to the community after incarceration. She is the manager of the 21st Century Afterschool Youth Program for Lexington Bell Community Center. She is the mother of three.
Caitie Adams is passionate about environmental sustainability, environmental justice, and social equality. She graduated with honors from Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. She has worked with Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, Cleveland Animal Protective League, and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Most recently, she has served as Development Associate at The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio. Caitie is presently a member of the Vital Neighborhoods Working Group of Sustainable Cleveland 2019 and attends Cleveland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences for her Master’s Degree in Sociology.Through NLDP, Caitie hopes to promote an urban gardening project among high school aged youth from diverse communities throughout the Greater Cleveland area.
Karyn Alexis is passionate about serving her community and assisting individuals with obtaining knowledge and information. She also has an interest in networking and building strong collaborations and alliances. After high school, Karyn enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps where she learned the core values of leadership and teamwork. In 2005, she started Hood Connections, LLC, specializing in business and entertainment networking. She also began volunteering and working with area grassroots and nonprofit organizations. With her interest in community service, Karyn would serve 2 years in the AmeriCorps Program as an Adult Literacy Counselor/Instructor and Patient Advocate. In 2012, The May Howard Community Unity Project was established by Karyn to provide community resources and financial and computer literacy programs. Karyn currently resides in Slavic Village with her husband and remains dedicated to providing quality community service to the Greater Cleveland Area.
Jerome Baker, after high school, attended Brotherhood Railroad Steamship Clerks Training School. After working in New York he returning to Cleveland and formed the grassroots community organization “Men of Central” whose main focus is to provide adult male positive role mentoring to youth in Central. Jerome spearheaded the mentoring program at Lonnie Burton and Central recreation centers, Marion Sterling library, Marion Sterling, and Carl & Louis Stokes Middle schools. He received his Bachelors Degree in Public Administration and is currently employed as a case manager at the YWCA of Greater Cleveland working with teens and young adults. Jerome is a founding member of H.O.P.E., assisting families of youth ages 8-21 who passed violently. He is an Ambassador for the Promise Central Initiative of Sisters of Charity Foundation and a Community Champion for the Northeast Ohio Medical University. Jerome was awarded Outstanding Volunteer by Community Solutions.
Jeff Barkas is a graduate of Vatterott College with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Computer System and Network Technology. Jeff is very passionate about the sustainability and economic growth of the City of Cleveland and in neighborhood development. He has served as an Energy Conservation Specialist for Cudell Improvement, Inc., as well as, Housing Program Assistant for the Partnership between Midwest Housing Partnership and Bellaire Puritas Development Corporations. Jeff has been interested in improving everyday life for the community by promoting the benefits of Home Energy Efficiency Living. Since 1987 Jeff has been engaged with many fund raising events that have promoted neighborhood summer youth programming as well as the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the Lupus Foundation.
Belinda Gator graduated from Glenville High School. She attended Air Co Technician and graduated with a TEG and MEG certificate in welding in 1982. Belinda is passionate about children and in 1998 obtained her day care license. She is a member at New Bethlehem Baptist Church and currently serves on the Motherboard. Belinda is also a senior usher and vice president of the junior usher board. Her dream is to stop the violence in the community and to develop strong, caring relationships between youth, senior citizens and parents. Belinda started an organization called “We Have a Dream” that includes a team of young children from local communities who play kickball. The program has now reached 300 children. With funding from Neighborhood Connections, she also holds community events for youth and families and partners with various organizations and local businesses to provide clothing and school supplies throughout the neighborhood.
Ed George is a graduate of Ohio University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication. A resident of Cleveland since 2006, he is currently the chair of the West Park Airport Committee (WPAC). WPAC seeks to reduce and equitably distribute aircraft noise across Cleveland neighborhoods closest to the airport. Ed is also a member of the Noise Compatibility Program Working Group, which comprises airport, airline, and municipal stakeholders to ensure successful implementation of FAA approved noise mitigation efforts. Ed is a recent participant in the Cleveland Energy $avers program, and has recently helped start a block club in his Kamm’s Corners neighborhood. With a background in corporate training/leadership and information technology, Ed is looking to put his talents to work in the public/non-profit sector to help Cleveland residents thrive in the 21st century.
Jerrald Goodloe is a graduate of Clarke Atlanta University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Jerrald is dedicated to improving the lives of children in the city of Cleveland. He is an active member of the 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland’s Mentoring Committee and also serves as a Big Brother with Big Brothers and Sisters of Greater Cleveland. Currently, he serves as the Manager of Outreach and Enrollment for Big Brothers and Sisters of Greater Cleveland. His goal is to create an organization that works directly with young African-American men between the ages of 14 and 18, that not only teaches the benefits of, but also focuses on, the positive aspects of being an African-American male in today's society. The purpose of the organization is to help this population reach their full potential through various forms of support.
Patricia Gray is a Clevelander committed to empowering those around her to overcome barriers to education and employment and to create positive choices. She encourages people to embrace technology and to empower themselves with knowledge, growth and change. She served two years with AmeriCorps NEO Literacy serving at Union Miles Development Corporation as a housing counselor/computer lab instructor and at Towards Employment providing basic computer skills and budgeting. She received the President’s Award for Service and Volunteerism. After receiving a PC Support Technician Certificate, she wanted to help close the digital divide that existed in underserved communities through training and sharing information. Patricia founded the Empowered Learning Network to provide computer training, educational resources and community collaborations to raise the awareness of the positive power of technology. Patricia has a son and three granddaughters who are her motivation to help others.
Daniel Kulman finished high school in Parma, Ohio, and went on to become a commercial fisherman in Louisiana. There he worked for 6 years catching shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico. After witnessing the BP oil spill of 2010 and volunteering to help save the coastal area and marshes where he worked, he decided what he would like to do professionally. Realizing his potential to help people and areas in need, he came back to Cleveland seeking a medicine degree. Since being in Cleveland, Daniel has started his own community garden in Parma, where he grows just about anything that will grow in Ohio. He also volunteers at a local hospital and at food drives for the homeless. His true passion is seeing the potential in under-utilized land and turning it into something productive for the community.
Kathy Loseto grew up in the Tremont and Old Brooklyn areas. She loves the diversity of the city and all it has to offer. Kathy served with the Cleveland Hope Assn. as a Community Ministry Volunteer for Community Impact, organizing and conducting neighborhood surveys to identify community needs. She has also worked with City Hall on the Fresh Coat Cleveland project to identify and implement home painting projects throughout the city. She is currently an administrative assistant in an urban church and leads a Missional Community providing outreach to the area for community improvement. She serves as Board Secretary for Love INC. of Cuyahoga County, whose mission is to mobilize churches to transform lives and communities in the name of Christ. Kathy also volunteers at Laura's Home Women's Crisis Center and with a homeless ministry that serves meals on the streets, under the bridges and in the woods of Cleveland.
Katherine Natasha Lott was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Studies from Cleveland State University. She has worked as a manager and community organizer in the Cleveland local food movement for three years. Katherine has served as Market Manager of the Gordon Square Farmer's Market, Microgreens Crop Manager at Community Greenhouse Partners, and she continues to volunteer for farmer's markets. She is a management consultant to community-minded businesses and a member of the shareable communities Cleveland Time Bank and NeighborUP! Entrepreneurship. Intentional community building and economic development have proven to be an innate part of her work. Katherine is currently studying grocery and retail management and is looking to open a local food grocery store in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.
Frank Miller Jr. is the Diversity Program Coordinator for University Hospitals and is responsible for school and community partnerships and relations. His project is focused on raising awareness for diabetes within the African American community with the “Step Up to Diabetes” program which targets disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic youths (ages 10-19) by providing interactive diabetes education focused on prevention and nutrition along with dancing as a form of fun exercise. The program addresses disparities in the community by way of community outreach, physician recruitment and workforce development. Frank acquired his Bachelor’s from Cleveland State University and is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. He is currently working on his MS in Health Informatics. Frank served on the Diversity Task Force for Cuyahoga County and has been in “ Who’s Who in Black Cleveland” for 4 years and is a recipient of the Northcoast Nurses “Unsung Hero Award”.
Al Najieb is a lifelong resident of Cleveland who graduated from Glenville High School. He recently retired from Keybank in their Information Technology area. He is currently a volunteer computer instructor at the Clyde Rahman Community Center in Cleveland. He also attends Masjid Bilal, an Islamic house of worship, in which he has been a member for 40 years. His project and his passion are to improve the basic computer skills and employment opportunities for the citizens in the Hough and Fairfax areas. He leads the Step It Up Job Club at the Community Center that has this project as its primary goal. The Job Club has a ten seat computer room in the Community Center where its clients can learn, among other things, the basics of Internet access and completing job applications. He is happily married and the proud father of three adult children.
Barbara O’Patry holds a Masters Degree from Cleveland State University’s College of Education. During her professional career, spanning more than 35 years, she worked in the field of social services as a youth and family counselor, community organizer, case manager and educator. Although semi-retired, Barbara remains passionate about the importance of healthy families in building strong communities. In 2011, she was honored as the recipient of “Volunteer of the Year” for her leadership in maintaining the gardens in the Kamm’s Corner Business District. She is currently in her 23rd year as an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer providing horticultural consultation and education to residents of Cuyahoga County. Barbara lives in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood.
Norma Polanco-Boyd is a District Community Affairs Officer for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Prior to the OCC, Norma served for six years as the executive director of a small economic development corporation on Chicago’s northwest side. Norma, who served in the Peace Corps in Central Asia, holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She and her husband moved to Cleveland from Chicago in 2005 and live in the Ohio City neighborhood. Norma is the exhausted mom of two little girls, but is also one of the founding members of the Ohio City Babysitting Co-op, the Near West Intergenerational School and the Near West Family Network. Norma is a past board member of Ohio City Inc., several Chicago boards and is a current board member of Birchwood School.
Seronica Powell currently serves as the Director of Operations at University Settlement Neighborhood Center. She has over 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector, in particular, in neighborhood centers. She holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well as a bachelor’s degree in Operations Management and Business Statistics from Cleveland State University. She is a mother of two with strong spiritual beliefs and morals. She also has a strong passion for education with a firm belief that we are all in different areas of our life, so, it is important to meet people where they are. Therefore, her project is putting technology into the homes of low income individuals to assist in bridging the educational gap.
Drew Ullman is a community and political activist who lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. He leads the Detroit Shoreway Housing Committee, which is a resident-led group that fights urban blight, mediates landlord-tenant issues, and connects residents to programs that can help them stay in their homes. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from The Ohio State University and got involved in state politics and the labor movement. He moved to Cleveland in 2012 and currently works at ESOP as their Seniors Outreach Coordinator. Previously, he was the Community Organizer for Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization where he developed “an understanding of where this city is, has been and where it could go, and a deep appreciation for this city’s character, personality and people”.
Angela M. Williams is a graduate of Dyke College, now known as Chancellor University, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Management. She is presently a Facility Specialist for AT&T. Angela is also a licensed Realtor for Liquid Blue Realty and Managing Member of A.W. Real Estate Investments, LLC. She is passionate about helping others battle against predatory lending practices and mobilized people across NE Ohio to create Hope Opportunity Management Enterprise (HOME) which provides workshops called Home Readiness Solutions (HRS). It is supported by Neighborhood Connections, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, banks and non-profit legal and housing advocate organizations. HRS provides free education and resources for residents in the areas of finance, credit and housing. Angela is affiliated with the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors, Ohio Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors and the Communications Workers of America. She is a former board member of several Cleveland neighborhood CDCs.
Ephraim Abdullah is currently the president of the East Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. Through meetings and strategic marketing, he is working to organize merchants who operate in and serve East Cleveland residents and businesses, with the goal of connecting vendors, merchants and residents economically for community development and empowerment. He is an enthusiastic community organizer, city canvasser, and volunteers for Shaw High School’s Parent Teacher Organization, where he provides community involvement opportunities to students. Ephraim and his wife serve on the East Cleveland Citizens Advisory Council where they support East Cleveland’s legislative body through research and advice on current issues. He is an active State Licensed Managing Cosmetologist and enjoys the art of music production.
Rahim Basit is a co-founding member of the Anansi Artists Alliance whose mission is to “advocate for, support and advance the endeavors of American artists and to encourage cultural awareness and social action through the arts”. Rahim has dedicated his time and efforts into developing programming designed to enhance the life skills of neighborhood youth, giving back to the homeless and displaced, and utilizing creative arts methods and culture to revitalize and build strong communities and economic stability in both Cleveland and East Cleveland. Additionally, he is working in a team to develop creative programming, activities that include meditation, guest speakers, and etiquette, as an alternative to scholastic punishments, such as detention and suspension. With his background is business, Rahim has also taught start-up fundamentals, business plan writing and entrepreneurship courses. He is an advocate of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Black Male Engagement and Uncollege.
Joseph Black - With passion running through his veins, Joe fell prisoner to the belief that change could be systematic. Unsure of how to accurately pursue such a vision he blindly and selflessly began to offer his love for people through his works as a social servant addressing issues such as truancy, drug prevention, mental health, literacy, and social justice. While being thoroughly invested in the need to support the young men of Central, Joe has plans to support them further by creating a peer to peer mentoring program that will instill basic principles including accountability, respect, patience and the value of hard work. Those young men would then become mentors for their peers thereby creating a continuum of peer support. Currently Joe is working in the Central community as the Neighborhood Engagement Manager for the Sisters of Charity Promise Initiative. He is also a member of the Men of Central.
Orlando J. Boyd founded the Orlando Labyrinthian Egress Organization. The Organization serves adolescent youth and those approaching or who have already exited the foster care system and are no longer eligible for services. It supports this “aged out” community by helping them identify benefits they are entitled to, as well as navigate the system. The Organization also provides creative ways to approach life after foster care through life skills, coaching, and positive expression utilizing the arts (poetic, musical, dance and artistic creation and/or performance). The Organization’s ultimate desire is to provide the participants the tools to take advantage of available programs, recognize their gifts and talents, identify appropriate routes to accomplish their goals, develop a commitment to become a greater asset to society and then feed back into the community. Orlando also has a passion to help the fatherless, primarily males, build self-esteem and self-awareness.
Sayf Bryant started the organization Right Turn to help guide inner city youth in as productive a manner as possible. The program’s aim is to involve youth in quality programs that promote an interest and excitement about education and more importantly, to instill in them that making good decisions today will lead to the best results tomorrow. Through a partnership with the wrestling team at Shaw High School, Right Turn works with youth to convince them that they have different options and they do not have to be a product of their environment. Guest speakers, community mentors and counseling sessions are the tools used for outreach. Program youth also work with professionals from different fields so they are exposed to various positive lifestyle options and life paths which they can pursue. The focus is not around the end result but the path taken to get there. Through partnerships, encouragement and education, while in high school and beyond, the next generation is being prepared for success.
Verna Darby is passionate about working with young mothers to provide support to help lower the infant mortality rate. For over 18 years, she has served as a Project Manager for the Cleveland Birthing Project and Birthing Project Virtual Sisterfriend Project. Birthing Project USA is an international African American maternal program whose goal is to encourage better birth outcomes by providing practical support and education to women during the pregnancy and for one year after the baby’s birth. The project volunteers are matched up with an expecting mother or a mother who has recently delivered to provide support through various resources to help meet the mother and her infant’s needs. Verna holds a Bachelors Degree in Health Care Administration and Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix.
Phillip Fagan’s passion is to contribute to the revitalization of the Glenville community through his participation in the fraternal organization known as The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, I.B.P.O.E. (The Elks). Through the lodge’s youth department, grade school youth participate in an annual oratorical contest that raises money for scholarships which are presented to deserving 11th and 12th grade students. The lodge also conducts an annual “Youth March Against Violence” throughout Glenville with the goal of showing the community, but especially the youth, positive African American male role models who care about their well-being. They also support other organizations working for the betterment of the neighborhood. During Phillip’s tenure as President the Elks organized their first community blood drive. Phillip, a United States Marine Corps veteran, was born and reared in Glenville and is a proud graduate of Glenville High School, class of 1984.
Portia Gadson is the Creator, Founder and Director of Mommy Knows Breast, a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the alarmingly low breastfeeding rates of women in Cleveland by providing pre-natal education, essential breastfeeding supplies and offering compassionate support. Mommy Knows Breast has worked in collaboration with the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland since 2006 providing breastfeeding support for clients enrolled in Baby and Moms Support, a community pregnancy outreach program. She contributed to the Breast For Success grant at University Hospitals which studied breastfeeding rates of women in the area. Portia received the National Certification in Lactation Management becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), having demonstrated competence in the lactation skills, knowledge and attitudes that are essential to helping women breastfeed. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Air Traffic Control and Business Management from Hampton University.
Kaela Geschke is a program developer with a passion for community development and a desire to contribute to the development of healthy neighborhoods. She connects artists, students, people experiencing homelessness and other neighborhood stakeholders as the community organizer for Campus District Inc. She practices network centric principles as she contributes to neighbor-led artistic placemaking with City Repair Cleveland, the Sustainable Cleveland Vital Neighborhoods Committee, and the Neighborhood Connections Grantmaking Committee. Kaela is dedicated to engaging people by tapping into their own agency for creating healthy, strong communities. She organized a west side Neighbor Network Night where neighbors come together to discuss what is important to them, what they have to offer their community, and what their community has to offer them. Kaela earned a Master’s degree in Community Development and Social Justice from Loyola University and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Mercyhurst University.
Keisha M. Gonzalez is passionate about historic preservation and the power that it holds in creating solidarity through shared history. She currently works as a community organizer for the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton, & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office where she takes part in community network weaving and Hispanic engagement. Through NLDP, Keisha plans to create community engagement within the 40% Spanish speaking population of the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton, & Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods through the use of culturally relative network weaving and community beautification projects. She received a Bachelor’s of Art from Cleveland State University in Anthropology and a Master’s in Historic Preservation from the University of Delaware’s School of Public Policy and Administration.
Tamika Herndon is a community advocate and entrepreneur with over 14 years of nonprofit experience. She is currently building a youth initiative entitled Y.A.R.D (Young Adult Resource and Development Center) for young adults in the Buckeye Woodland and Fairfax communities. Y.A.R.D.’s mission is to guide young adults in a successful and sustainable direction that will help them transition into adulthood and independence. Y.A.R.D.’s vision is to offer every young adult sustainable skills that will provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their aspirations and professional goals in life. The Y.A.R.D. Center will offer workforce training; academics, to include college readiness skills and ACT/SAT and GED preparation; and independent living skills. Tamika holds a BS in Marketing from David N. Myers University and a Master of Science in Business Management, with a concentration in Human Resources, from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Angela Hill - From Cleveland State LINK Program mentor, to American Heart Association Ambassador, to Junior Achievement, Angela believes in giving back to the community. For over eight years, she has served as the Activity Program Director for “Footprints,” a girl youth development program/organization whose mission is “to nurture and cultivate a positive self image for girls 9 – 17 years old, while building character.” “Footprints” strives to help participants realize they can change the world for the better through their actions and deeds, thus leaving their “Footprints” on the world. Additionally, as a mentor and tutor of common core subjects, Angela’s passion is to immerse students in the education process and influence their desire to remain in Cleveland, develop a program and materials to help youth meet academic standards to close the educational gap, and improve life skills. She is a graduate of Glenville High School and Myers University, Cleveland, with a degree in Management.
Tanya Holmes is the founder of Ka-La Healing Garden Resource Center, an urban agriculture green space. The garden’s primary goals are educational: exposing local residents to the power of healing and healthy living while also offering a comfortable public space for residents to relax. Ka-La Healing Garden Resource Center hosts a variety of flowers, fruit trees and a large vegetable garden. Tanya plans to include an educational facility on the grounds to be used as a teaching center for community empowerment and personal development, be available to private or auxiliary groups wanting to host events/seminars/classes, and serve as a “farmer’s market” for local residents. In March 2013, Tanya started the Ladies Entrepreneur Group (LEG) to help women open their businesses. By October, LEG had grown from 15 to 38 women who were equipped to start a business or market their business. Forty women have benefitted from LEG. Tanya has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for more than 32 years.
Vanetta Jamison believes that exposure through travel expeditions, city and worldwide, increases the understanding and acceptance of cultural diversities and she has implemented the program "I am more than my Zip Code" to expose youth to the world beyond the community in which they live. Cleveland is known for its diverse neighborhoods and its kaleidoscope of cultures. Through exposure to local and out-of-town cultural venues, festivals, and historical sites the participants are involved in expeditionary learning by way of motor coaches, boats, and public transportation. The educational expeditions, to be done on a quarterly basis, will provide fully funded opportunities to area youth that includes transportation, room and board, travel kits to document the experience, and more. Vanetta looks forward to expanding her projects to include "Make My House a Home Program" that will assist with the transition from being homeless or aging out of foster care to having a place called home by providing items for the new residence.
Charmaine Jordan is currently rebuilding an important organization for women known as “Women of Central.” The mission of “Women of Central” is to help improve the Central community by implementing youth development programs, increasing parent involvement, and mentoring young women of the neighborhood. Charmaine’s goal is to make a direct impact by actively recruiting mothers to join the Women of Central with the objective of providing reading tutors for the George Washington Carver and Alfred A. Benesh schools and mentoring girls at weekly group sessions. Charmaine also works as a volunteer for the “Men of Central” and assisted with their mentoring programs held throughout local schools and recreation centers in the Central Neighborhood. The “Women of Central” program is an extension of the “Men of Central” program.
Mary Kauffman, an artistic, bohemian-techy, spends her life-ticking moments analyzing what she thinks while thinking about what she analyzes. Her state of being is defined by an existence of work that allows her to provide connections to resources and programming through the innovative use of technology. One such work can be seen through a program called TechBOOM. TechBOOM, a program started at University Settlement’s Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Center, is designed to engage people, young to old, on being “technology literate". TechBOOM empowers, enriches and educates people on how to solve problems through some form of technology. Currently, the program is provided at Alexia Manor and Lorexis Apartments, Harvard Village Senior Apartments and Fleet Public Library and provides technology instruction through an entertaining gaming format. TechBOOM aims to create “people booming with technology” so they can solve problems in the areas of education, communication, and socialization.
Dennis Knowles has enjoyed fishing for most of his life. An avid angler, who honed his skills attending fishing seminars, Dennis founded The Fishing Foundation in 2010. Its mission is to enrich people’s lives through fishing by offering training, education on water safety and conservation, casting, friendly competition and time on the water fishing from shore in a safe and secure environment. Through community organizations, “How to Fish” seminars have been conducted for teens and tweens and fishing trips for seniors and other groups. In 2012, The Fishing Foundation received its non-profit, 501 (c) 3 designation and that year conducted its first free-fishing program with veterans from the Louis Stokes Veterans Memorial Hospital. In 2013 his outreach was broadened and nearly 300 kids from Cleveland, East Cleveland and the Rainey Institute participated in “How to Fish” seminars and free fishing from shore.
Petrina Patterson With the help of her NLDP experience, Petrina will be equipped to open and manage the Demerara Hope Project – Cultivating Hope for Women of all Generations, a sheltered living facility for battered women and their children. Lengths of stays will range from 90 days to six months. In addition to case-management, protective services and court advocacy, on-site classes will include G.E.D. preparation, parenting, behavior health, grief counseling and “Dress for Success.” Not wanting to operate a “run of the mill” shelter, Petrina will make use of data from interviews with shelter owners and operators in Cleveland and Columbus. More importantly, she will go directly to the source and utilize the experiences of former victims of abuse and shelter residents to provide a different perspective and outlook on “what a shelter should look like” in order to best meet the needs of those who will be served.
Jeanetta Price currently serves as Executive Director of the Union Miles Development Corporation (UMDC). Her vision is to transform our neighborhoods back into communities that offers its’ residents a safe place to live, work and play. UMDC has enlisted the help of its residents, stakeholders and other community partners to uncover the needs of Union Miles with a theme of “What does a community look and feel like versus a neighborhood”? Consistent community engagement and resident input will help UMDC create the “model” community which will revitalize and enhance the overall quality of living, which increases the number of residents within the Union Miles community, which contributes to the overall population of the City of Cleveland. UMDC is also working to rebuild the community with a “new” housing development that will include an “agricultural incubator”.
Jean-Marie Redrick has been an active volunteer with human trafficking victims and drug and alcohol addicted women in the City of Cleveland and its surrounding area. Her dream is to provide affordable housing for this alienated population of women as well as programs that will educate them to become “whole” again with no shame or guilt and inspire dignity to move forward in their lives. In additional to shelter, the program curriculum will encompass life skills training to include how to live on the outside, money management, critical thinking, job readiness, career goals, time management, nutrition and exercise, and computer/internet literacy. Jean-Marie is currently a senior at Cleveland State University (CSU) pursing her Bachelor’s degree in Non-Profit Administration. In September 2015 she will pursue a Master’s degree in Diversity Management.
Ariana Rogers…started an event called “Cleveland Feeds the City” which is an initiative to give back to individuals who are less fortunate, the working poor and the struggling middle class. Cleveland Feeds the City provides free hot meals, toiletries, gently used clothing, non-perishable food items and special activities on Thanksgiving Day in a family setting. The event has serviced over 300 people. With a tremendous amount of relationship-building, Ariana plans to expand “Cleveland Feeds the City”. Her long term goal is for the program to become a year-round initiative that provides services to those in need throughout Northeastern Ohio by implementing various events, activities and workshops.
Charlotte Sullivan’s community involvement addresses a deadly epidemic which is sweeping the streets of Cleveland. Heroin overdose deaths outnumber people killed in car accidents. Drug treatment facilities are almost at full capacity, leaving many addicts, who want to get sober, out on the streets. Her project “SafeSpace” will be a place for women after detox, while they wait for an open bed in a treatment center. It will offer a safe, drug free environment and will include counselors and an education program designed to support a participant’s decision to become sober. There will also be extensive engagement with individuals about what to expect after the program concludes. SafeSpace will encourage women to seek a better drug free life, let them know it can be done, and they do not have to repeat the same vicious cycle.
Patricia Tinsley is the Director of “Mothers United Against Youth Violence” (MUAYV). MUAYV is an organization of families who have experienced the tragedy of losing a child to gun violence. They choose to work through their “pain” by helping youth change their attitudes and influencing them to make positive life changing decisions. MUAYV visits juvenile facilities, schools and hosts events that explore perceptions about guns, anger management, and they share their personal experiences about the loss of their children to gun violence. In addition to MUAYV, she is also involved with S.A.V.’N GRACE, whose mission is to support “at risk” young mothers, ages 12-24, who are pregnant or have children. Her ultimate goal is to rehab abandoned buildings and create quality housing that will include programs that emphasize parenting, job readiness, and self-sufficiency. Patricia received her AA in Early Childhood Education and is attending Cleveland State University, pursing a degree in Special Education.
John Worthy is uniquely qualified to address the dilemmas young African American men face on a day-to-day basis through his program, “The Mentoring Blueprint.” With 17 years in the juvenile justice field, which was preceded by 10 years of ‘inappropriate behavior’ in the community, John works now to engage young males and educate them on the elements of manhood and cultural awareness so they can avoid falling into the same pitfalls that have plagued others in their communities. The youth participate in group mentoring and workshops that include interactive PowerPoint presentations. There is also a component for online mentoring via video chat groups. His ultimate goal is to instill in young men a positive attitude and build character so they will aspire to reach their fullest potential and not become another statistic living a challenged life in their neighborhood.
Benjie Marie Alatise is a Baltimore native who moved to Cleveland in 2000 with her family. She desires to uplift her Euclid community by working with disadvantaged, at-risk youth and males, ages 5 to 18, by partnering with a non-profit organization. To that end, Benjie has been involved with Pop Warner Football for 10 years as a football mom, recruiting youth to participate, supplying snacks and drinks, and transporting participants and their families to games and events. She also offers an afterschool program in her home as a safe haven for youth with no place to go after school. With the tragic loss of her eldest son in 2015, in Baltimore, Benjie is even more determined to make a difference in the lives of her community youth. A senior student at Cleveland State University majoring in Social Work and Non Profit Administration, with a minor in Black Studies, she anticipates graduating December 2016. Upon matriculating, Benjie plans to collaborate with existing nonprofit organizations to utilize her skills and education to assist in empowering Euclid’s youth, as well as assist abused women in her community.
Charles Basham III (Trey) is a marketing professional who is passionate about health, wholeness and harnessing the strength and power of our collective voices to improve our collective wellness. Trey currently works in the Communications Department for MetroHealth Hospital where he leads community engagement strategies and champions market growth initiatives that support the organization’s mission to improve the health of all who reside in Cleveland. Through NLDP, he plans to create an inclusive association of diverse, minority professionals who commit to excellence in self-mastery, promoting achievement and the development of Cleveland’s future leaders. He is a graduate of Morehouse College where he studied International Relations, focusing on diplomacy, and the Georgia State J. Mack Robinson School of Business where he is a member of class of 2012 MBA/MHA.
Greg Bell has a passion for sports, youth and East Cleveland. His journeys from youth sports and prevention programs throughout East Cleveland and Cleveland, to Shaw High School led him to Missouri State University and the NCAA. After playing professional basketball in the USA and Europe, he returned to Cleveland in 1992 and continued to pursue his passion as assistant Boys Varsity Basketball Coach 1992-1995; assistant Girls Varsity Basketball Coach 1996-1998; and he started the Shaw High Alumni Athletics Association. In 2005, he founded the BELL SPORTS FOUNDATION (BSF) whose mission is to “Inspire Youth through Sports” and to build and enrich communities and lives of individuals by providing a safe, welcoming and rewarding environment for all participants, at all levels of wellness and recreation. In conjunction with BSF, Greg is diligently working to ensure elected officials and associated agencies address discrepancies concerning conditions at local community and recreation center. Greg is employed with Northern Ohio Recovery Association as the Drug Free Coalition Coordinator for East Cleveland Bridges of Hope which focuses on underage drinking, underage smoking, and other drug use through environmental change. He resides in University Heights.
Mordecai Cargill’s experience growing up on Cleveland’s East Side inspired his sense of social responsibility. Upon returning home after graduating from Yale, he noticed a renewed sense of civic pride and many new, transformative projects. However, confronted with the persistent blight and economic struggle in his neighborhood Mordecai joined a cadre of like – minded Cleveland returnees who were championing the cause of uplifting underserved communities. He lends his time and energy to increasing Cleveland pride and civic engagement, volunteering with Ohio Homecoming and HackCLE. Beyond his role as Manager of Fund Development for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Mordecai has committed himself to inspiring and empowering young African American men to catalyze the changes they wish to see in their neighborhood. He entered NLDP determined to sharpen the skills necessary to effectively launch BigHomies—a mentoring program to prepare Ginn Academy students for the challenges of higher education, and support their transition from high school to college. By connecting selected students with mentors, he intends to provide the next generation of civic leaders with valuable resources to begin their journey into adulthood.
Evie DuVernay has dedicated herself to social justice work since she was a teen working to garner community support for migrant workers and their families. In Collinwood, she educates and facilitates dialogue around race and class differences in their community. She has worked with National Public Radio to conceptualize a conversation about food disparity, which featured Collinwood residents who discussed their access to food and Cleveland food deserts. She also campaigned in Collinwood's "Ballot Box" project for a grant to give teens knowledge about engaging in activism through the use of social media and the arts. Evie has developed and delivered programs to U.S. and international audiences addressing diversity and inclusion. She was widely recognized for developing and managing a large-scale LGBTQ Cultural Competence program in preparation for the 2014 Gay Games, held in Cleveland, and she worked to gain publicity for Collinwood during the Gay Games for the neighborhood's commitment to LGBTQ diversity training. If you do not see her fighting for justice in Collinwood, you can find her managing "One Collinwood," her Facebook page that addresses racial inequities and the plight of gentrification in her neighborhood.
Marlene Gatewood-Allen is passionate about social and community engagement and how it can be used to build individual capacity and provide ways for residents to live life and not just exist. A lifelong Clevelander, Marlene, is a volunteer planner for the Euclid Beach Blast, one of North Collinwood’s annual community festivals. She was elected to the Northeast Shores Development Corporation Board of Directors. She utilizes the position as a vehicle to improve communication with all residents and connect them to available community opportunities. She founded the East 169th Street Block Club and is actively involved in bringing neighbors together for street beautification projects and activities and events to increase participation, awareness and interest in their community. Through NLDP, Marlene plans to create and lead projects that generate funds while providing opportunities for social and community engagement. Portions of the proceeds will be used to support the startup needs of future social entrepreneurs attempting to bring about change in Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Marlene is hopeful that such contributions will improve the chances of implementing successful community based projects.
Richard Goudreau has enjoyed the many satisfactions of ornamental/vegetable gardening, multi-systemic sustainability, and community engagement for most of his life. His passion for gardening led to his Master Gardener certification from The Ohio State University Cuyahoga County Extension Service, and he has since focused his gardening passion by advocating for urban permaculture. Richard currently works at The Harvard Community Center's Community Development Corporation as senior Code Enforcement Officer for Ward's 1, 2, and 4 in the great city of Cleveland. Richard’s aggressive, persistent work involving the collaboration of government and community groups has initiated clean ups of considerable illegal dumping in the Mt. Pleasant and Lee-Harvard areas. Richard is currently a garden leader for two community gardens in Lee-Harvard area, from which all of the produce is donated to the local food pantry. Richard plans to use skills learned from NLDP to foster community growth and development regarding sustainable horticultural practices and community engagement in the Lee-Harvard and Mt. Pleasant areas of Cleveland. Richard earned a Bachelor's in Public Administration from St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
Loretta Gray, an experienced connector and program developer, combines her interest in community activism and social change with her passion for youth empowerment. She contributes to workshops and seminars around character and virtues, teen life skills, ownership, mental toughness, networking, and unity as a community-based mentor for Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. - Greater Cleveland. She also engages a Student Leadership Team in decision-making, establishing healthy relationships, interpersonal skills, building upon strengths, and social skills in the Metropolitan School District. Loretta believes in the development of young people’s skills, cares deeply about promoting the voice of young people, and is committed to empowering youth through access to support resources. She and the Top Teens community-based youth group are developing a social media and Internet network (TeensLINKS-Teens Learn Information to Keep Safe) that will link youth to help-lines, counseling, therapy, mentoring, medical and rehabilitation services, recreation through networking opportunities and digital media. Loretta is an educator and has coached leadership programs with Cleveland Metropolitan Schools, and was certified in nonviolent conflict resolution with youth through the W.A.V.E Program.
Jeremy Langham is an advocate for social justice and an engaged citizen who participates in equity movements. After graduation, Jeremy assisted marginalized individuals attain financial and family stability through fatherhood development and employment services at Passages, Inc. During that time, he became an active member of the EDWINS Restaurant and Culinary Institute Board, a unique program giving formerly-incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry, and assisted with fundraising. In 2013, Jeremy joined a movement for educational equity as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member and taught second grade in the near west side. Currently, he serves as TFA’s Director of Alumni Leadership, Northeast Ohio region, working to unite regional TFA alumni in the fight for educational inequity and inequality. Jeremy’s goal is to open the Midwest’s first, nonprofit brewpub providing seed and programmatic grants to organizations fighting for social justice and equity throughout Northeast Ohio. A Cleveland native, he earned a BA in Political Science and BS in Educational Sciences from Kent State University and a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Akron.
Jessica Lynn Morrison is committed to making Cleveland a more literate city! She believes that reading with children is extremely important because it helps them build stronger relationships, basic speech skills and gain academic excellence. As a result, Jessica started the Project Storybook campaign at the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity where she works as the Family Programs Manager. The Project Storybook campaign enables her to give every child who moves into a Habitat home books to start their own library. Through NLDP, Jessica hopes to expand the program city-wide. She had also partnered with the Little Free Library Organization, a program that promotes literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, and aims to build literacy-friendly Cleveland neighborhoods utilizing book parties and reading workshops. Jessica earned her Bachelor's Degree in Urban Studies and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning, Design and Development with a concentration in Neighborhood Planning at Cleveland State University.
Kenneth Perdue is the CEO and Founder of the RollinBuckeyez Foundation (RBF). The RollinBuckeyez Foundation came into existence as a result of his passion to see transformation in the lives of the youth of Northeast Ohio through the art form of roller-skating. Kenneth organizes monthly skating events to provide a safe and family friendly atmosphere to “have a ball without alcohol”. His charitable service extends beyond the skating rink through his community involvement and support of various organizations. In 2011, RBF participated in the Lifebanc Gift of Life Walk & Run to bring awareness about the need for organ, eye, and tissue donors within the minority communities of Northeast Ohio. This opportunity allowed youth participants to showcase their talents by kicking off the walk with a skating routine. The youth were able to learn about the importance of becoming a registered organ donor and saving lives. The RollinBuckeyez Foundation also supports various other causes focusing on elimination of childhood obesity, hunger, and mentoring. Currently, Kenneth resides in Euclid, Ohio with his supportive wife Dana, the Executive Assistant for the RollinBuckeyez Foundation, and their family.
Tonya Perkins-Stoudermire has devoted her adult life to the service of others. For many years, she was a Rotarian embracing the Rotarian model of service before self. She expresses her desire to serve others by volunteering to serve on several non-profit boards including Triumph House, Habitat for Humanity, Union Miles Development Corp, and the Cleveland Realtist. The thread that all of these organizations have in common is serving and uplifting the underserved. In 2012, her love of community service guided her to start Bessie’s Place, a facility whose goal was to provide low income housing for young women aging out of foster care, providing them a safe haven and life skills that would include both leadership and career development. The vision of Bessie’s Place further developed and became Bessie’s Angels, a 501c3. Bessie’s Angels’ mission is to educate, nurture and empower young women aging out of foster care. Tonya believes that “in community” or as an energized group we can change the world and leave a legacy of service and efficiency, impacting change while improving lives.
Heyward R. Prude III developed a genuine interest in youth programming and development working as a community organizer while in school. In 2002, Heyward founded the E.M.S. Rams Youth Development Group, Inc. Its mission is to provide youth with the tangible skills needed to become future leaders. The organization offers multiple programs: literacy, health and wellness, traditional sports and also focuses on restoring communities back into neighborhoods. As a troubled youth himself from an underserved urban area, Heyward has created sustainable programming opportunities in the community which has served thousands of youth in and around Cuyahoga County. The E.M.S. Rams have formed collaborations with community stakeholders which have shown consistency in its work in the community since its inception. Heyward has been on the Board of Directors of St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and worked to foster relationships with the National Football League, ESPN, USA Football, and the Cleveland Browns to provide a quality sports experience for Cleveland youth. The E.M.S. Rams are expanding its programs and services in various communities around Cuyahoga County and anticipate working with youth on a state wide then national level.
Jonathan Rivera is a first generation college graduate who grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Cleveland. He credits his education to opening many doors throughout his life, and has found his passion in working with first generation college students and their families to help them produce similar opportunities. While working for Cleveland Municipal School District, he played a significant role in increasing the Hispanic graduation rate by 23%. Jon has worked with Cleveland’s inner city youth for over 10 years and has facilitated many projects that include reconditioning a youth recreational center in his old neighborhood, mentoring, crisis intervention, and sponsoring out of state exposure trips and youth lock-ins. Recently he led a sock drive that raised over 1000 pairs of new socks for people in need. In 2014, Jonathan was recognized for his leadership efforts with an "Excellence in Education" award from University Hospitals and The Hispanic Roundtable. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications with a focus in Marketing from Bowling Green State University.
Alexander Robertson is the cofounder of Cleveland Youth Landscaping, a vocational program that hires youth, ages 14-18, to perform free landscaping services to Glenville residents. In February 2015, Alex launched his first nonprofit, re-inspired, and began working on two additional community projects. The first, Recess Cleveland, repurposes vacant lots in the Cleveland area by manicuring the space and inviting nearby residents to join attendees of previous recess events for organized games of dodge ball, kickball, hula hooping, and more in the newly reactivated space. The second, minorTasks, is an online platform that will connect freelance youth contractors with residents who need someone to pick up their groceries, paint, provide landscaping services, remove debris, and/or any other tasks a kid from their community can do. Alex is a 20 year resident of Glenville and a graduate of the Computer Engineering program at Columbia University. He is also an avid volunteer who frequently speaks to youth about entrepreneurship and education during his spare time.
Delesia Robinson founded Pride Among Daughters & Sisters, aka PADS, in July of 2013. PADS is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to empower and educate underprivileged girls and women on personal health and hygiene while making costly feminine hygiene products (sanitary pads, tampons etc) available. She developed a partnership with the Hunger Network’s Stay Well Program in 2014, and does monthly events with them on Cleveland’s East and West sides. In 2015 Delesia was nominated for the America Jewish Committee Isaiah Award for Human Relations, which given to local non profits to lead the way in building a better and more just society. She is a registered nurse at Kindred Hospital in Cleveland as a Minimum Data Set Coordinator. Delesia and her husband reside in Midtown.
Laura Schaefer is eager to help people connect and feel supported. Through encouragement, planning events, supporting budding positive initiatives, she embraces a grassroots approach to bringing people together. After teaching and working abroad, she returned to Cleveland and helped launch Edgewater Hill University. The University offers lifelong learning opportunities at low or no cost utilizing the skills and talents of people from the community. This model inspires Laura because it allows neighbors to work together, strengthen relations, and meet new people, as well as learn and share experiences. Additionally, through neighborhood cleanups, restaurant crawls, gardening, and exercise, new networks will be fostered within her community. Her long term goal is to establish similar connections to people throughout Cleveland to promote community engagement and support cross-cultural and inter-generational communication. Laura’s educational degrees are in graphic design, international education and holistic wellness.
Diana Sette is a passionate community cultivator, educator, urban ecologist, writer, and facilitative leader. Her experience in social and environmental justice comes from working with at-risk youth; the world-renowned radical political puppet troupe, Bread & Puppet Theater; and direct action projects focused on food justice and community engagement. In the Buckeye & Central neighborhoods, she has supported youth and adults in growing both food and community. She founded Possibilitarian Garden, a community garden that serves as a resource incorporating educational workshops, art and culture events, community gardening, and social justice work. She has worked as a community climate ambassador and served on several boards that support the strengthening of community resiliency. Diana is a Certified Permaculture Designer & Teacher and a Racial Justice Facilitator. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts with a double major in Literature and Religious Studies from Drew University and is the Graduate Support Manager for the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP).
Fasi is an accomplished musician with an emphasis on percussion. Her talents and dedication to children and adults go beyond performing and teaching; her connection to her students guides them to understand that “art is for creating not destroying,” and through the art of African drumming, she has positively impacted her family and community. Fasi began a partnership with The Old Landmark Christian Ministries in Slavic Village to use one of their facilities. Once the building is refurbished, programs would include woodworking to teach making African Drums as well as household items such as chairs, kitchen cupboards; arts and crafts; workshops, theater, and dance. The auditorium and stage for would be used productions. She was the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Imani African American Dance Ensemble, presenting workshops and performances consisting of dance, African drums and theater. A former “Artist in Residence” in Travis County, Austin, Texas, Fasi matriculated from Case Western Reserve University as a dance major; is a certified TEFL Instructor, Maximo Nivel, San Jose, Costa Rica; and attended the University of Legon, Ghana, West Africa for African Drums and Dance.
Bonnie Walker moved to the Stockyards Neighborhood in 1986 and started the Camden Avenue Block Club in 1993, working to improve the quality of life for Cleveland residents. She has a passion and need to help others, with hope to start and work to help America’s youth to improve their lives through self-esteem and education. Sometimes it only takes someone to believe and you will learn to believe in yourself. Bonnie’s core belief is that only by reaching out to help others can we help each other to obtain a better future for all. Bonnie was born and raised in Cleveland, attended Cleveland Public Schools and received her diploma from Sawyer Business College for Administrative Assistant.
Randall York has an affinity for socially marginalized individuals and is an active leader working with the un-housed population. Acutely focused on needs specific to the homeless and identifying gaps and weaknesses concerning community services, he co-founded TinyVillage-CLE (TVC), an emerging organization and coalition of aligned partners working toward a smarter, cost effective, and sustainable alternative to current housing opportunities for Cleveland’s displaced low-income residents. TVC promotes self-governed eco-conscious villages that encourage community involvement and self-help scenarios to restore hope and motivation that fuels positive contributions to self, community, and humanity by furthering autonomy and self-sufficiency. Randall has also formed an association of artists and arts-enthusiasts that seek to connect resources to artists in East Cleveland, one of the nation’s poorest municipalities. The aspiration is to utilize the arts as a means of community building, strengthening neighborhoods, and generating an economic presence. The overarching theme is to restore hope to a marginalized and disenfranchised group of individuals in order to unveil their hidden talents and underappreciated value so that we all may enjoy an improved quality of life.
Hilda Abreu (Nina) is a native of the Dominican Republic and moved to Cleveland in 2008 with her twin daughters. She desires to improve West Cleveland communities by working with underprivileged at-risk youth and females. To that end, she is involved with the Metro West Community Development Organization, and engages in community events and leads fundraisers for the Fiesta de Te, community block clubs, neighborhood clean-ups, City Repair, and she volunteers to support the different cultures in her community. After sending her daughters to college, she realized her passion for seeing young girls and women flourish. To accomplish her new goal, Hilda’s vision has become to create a young women’s organization that will help them excel in life by teaching life skills, leadership, and personal development, as well as, provide them equal access to resources focusing on increased awareness of self-value and collaboration for the betterment of communities and society as a whole.
Dominique L. Bell developed a great interest in youth programming and development during undergraduate school while working as an after school teacher. In 2015, she founded RoyalTeen, Inc. Its’ mission is to cultivate today’s youth by providing resources to steer them toward positive opportunities, equipping them with productive life experiences to help them build meaningful futures. Dominique believes teens should adapt a mentality of prestige, an unspoken self-declaration which embeds a royal state of mind within. RoyalTeen helps its audience to develop this mentality by providing Christian based seminars, workshops, hands on life experiences, and field trips which contribute to the development of an optimistic mindset and the pursuit of purpose. The organization’s ultimate goal is to establish a safe haven for adolescents and teens, a place which offers recreation, professional development, bible based teachings, and life experiences for underprivileged youth. Dominique believes in our future Kings and Queens and as they adapt a royal mentality, they will settle for nothing less than the best.
Austin Boxler has always been interested in politics and government. In 2014, he started working as a Community Organizer for Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO). As an organizer at DSCDO, Austin is deeply involved in Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’s Organizers & Allies (O&A), a guild for community organizers that works to connect organizers to professional development and capacity-building opportunities, advocates on behalf of organizers on a variety of issues that impact the community organizing and community development industries, and administers a small grant program that helps grassroots leaders implement community-building projects. Austin’s project is to push O&A towards engaging in more policy work in order to elevate the voices of the communities that CDC organizers serve. Austin earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Urban Studies from Brown University. He is enrolled in the Masters of Public Administration program at Cleveland State University, and has worked as a Research Assistant in the Center for Community Planning & Development.
Maria Campanelli is a passionate early childhood education advocate. She was a member, volunteer, consultant and is now the Executive Director of The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) which provides opportunities to learn through play for all children ages eight years old and younger. When the Museum’s 32 year lease at its University Circle location was non-renewed in January 2016, Maria accepted the challenge to leverage the CMC’s move to its future home in the historic Stager Beckwith mansion in MidTown Cleveland. Her goal is to create a new early learning environment, innovative programs and ways to partner with other early childhood organizations to create new ways to support the development of our region’s youngest learners. While still fundraising, the goal is to open the new Museum late in 2017. Maria has a BSBA from John Carroll University and an MBA from the Case Western Reserve University.
Rodre’Ana Chapman’s passion lies within the community and is focused on preventive care. She is developing a non-profit, the Engage Community Center, with the primary objective of preventive care through recreation, education and programming. It will be an environment with no limitations where underrepresented children, adolescents and adults can mix and engage in life skills programs, arts, crafts, sports, fitness, health and wellness. Her goal is to reintroduce the lost art of life skills with a fusion of preventive care and break the continuous increase of cardiovascular disease within the community. She truly believes there are greater advantages to being involved with preventive care as opposed to rehabilitation. Rodre’Ana is a recent graduate of Ohio Northern University with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Exercise Physiology.
Megan Davis is an active leader in neighborhoods throughout Cleveland, providing mental health services to those with severe and persistent mental illness. Megan has dedicated her life to serving others, engaging the community, and advocating for improved quality of life through health and wellness education/services. She plans to develop and implement a dance movement therapy program. She believes joining individuals, while respecting their autonomy, in a dance movement approach to rebuild community encourages self-esteem, teaches conflict resolution and remediation of inner-conflict, strengthens expression of emotions and communication, promotes empathy among others, and empowers individuals to create societal change. She has been a volunteer with many organizations including Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, Girls on the Run Northeast Ohio, Autism Society of Greater Akron, The Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties, Cleveland Animal Protective League, and The Centers for Families and Children. Megan earned a BA, Summa Cum Laude in Clinical Psychology and a minor in Ballet Performance from the University of Akron and will earn her M. Ed. and LPC in 2017 in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Akron.
Moneeke Davis is a resident of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and runs a youth community garden, Mustard Seed Garden, on Elton Avenue. A recipient of the 2015 Detroit Shoreway award, she is also working on a project to promote social cohesion that includes working with the community to identify and design a gathering space for the area. She sits on the Steering Committee for Our Alleys Revitalized (OAR), an ongoing project driven by residents in collaboration with Graffiti HeArt and artists from Rustbelt Monster Collective, a project that aims to illustrate the stories of residents in their neighborhood. During the two-year rehabilitation of her new Habitat for Humanity home, Moneeke attended and graduated from the Practical Nursing program at Brown Mackie College. Currently, she is a sophomore pursuing an associate degree in nursing Cuyahoga Community College. Moneeke’s mission is to use her gifts, knowledge, and abilities to bring people together to change the nation one community at a time.
Adam Dunn wants to see social entrepreneurship, community leadership and collaborative efforts bring lasting change to Cleveland. He is the founder of Cleveland Co-Labs, a non-profit to help house, grow and sustain a vibrant community of change makers. Cleveland Co-Labs’ mission is to help individuals become better persons, make teams be more impactful, cultivate tomorrow’s organizations to optimize their work and have a sustainable impact in the lives of others, and seek to address how society’s challenges are solved. Co-Labs will achieve this through workshops, facilitating team building through team collaboration, pairing traditional business consulting with a more holistic outlook on organizational development, using artificial intelligence (AI), and other qualitative methodologies to assess and serve social enterprises. Adam knows that by making spaces where professional, physical and mental barriers can be broken down, innovation and solutions to challenges in Cleveland can be found and supported.
Robert Gatewood is a native Clevelander dedicated to creativity, freedom of expression, and innovation. A staunch supporter of equality for people of all gender identities, ethnicities and sexualities, he works to level every playing field he can for those disadvantaged in society. His passion for communication, creativity, and interactivity grew and sharpened into an expertise with graphic design and creative leadership with a Cleveland focus. He shares his graphic design skills as the Marketing Chair of the “Euclid Beach Blast!” an annual, homegrown community festival at Euclid Beach and is a co-founder of the Lakefront Literacy Project, a summer reading program held during the festival. Robert graduated from Cleveland State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Graphic Design. He believes that by bringing together things that were not together before, he can show people that they are more alike than different.
Nadine Head has been dedicated to serving her community and advocating for the residents of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the seventh largest housing authority in the nation with close to 10,500 units of housing, for almost 20 years. As Vice President of the Progressive Action Council (PAC) she helps CMHA fulfill its mission to be a leader in providing safe, quality, affordable housing opportunities to residents of Cuyahoga County. She encourages the PAC to be the voice of the residents and communicate pressing issues and concerns to CMHA management so viable solutions can be reached. Her commitment and consistency have built a trusting relationship between both residents and CMHA staff and enabling her to be a point person for providing recommendations and suggestions regarding CMHA community affairs. Her relationship with CMHA began in 1991 when she moved into Heritage View Homes and eventually served as its Local Advisory Council President. Nadine is also speaks on topics that include the criminal justice system, the importance of the vote, and voter registration.
Dawn Johnson, known in her community as the Food Lady, seeks out new opportunities to encourage the self-reliance principles of providing a sustainable healthy lifestyle, a legacy passed down through her family. In 2004, she accepted responsibility for her grandfather’s family garden space in Hough, where he had farmed over 50 years. She maintains the garden with a goal to educate the community about growing and preparing their own foods, and has taught over 150 children and families health and wellness through her “Soil to Life” gardening and cooking classes. Both a Master and Market Gardener, and certified in Food Safety and Preparation, Dawn teaches how to plan, prepare, grow, harvest, preserve and recycle natural foods. Constantly looking for ways to teach this self-sufficiency programming, she received grant funding to teach elementary children to farm and cook at Village Preparatory, Cliff Campus, and recently her “Soil to Life” curriculum was adopted by the school as part of its Enrichment programming. Dawn is a second generation graduate of Cleveland State University.
Kemberley Jones is convinced that adolescent girls who are faced with bullying will suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth. To address that issue she plans to develop and implement her project the “New Age Charm School”. Her target group will be girls in the third and fourth grades, between the ages of 8 and 10. One goal of this project is to encourage the girls and help build up their self-esteem and self-value. It will introduce them to techniques to deal with conflict resolution, as well as educate them in proper etiquette, and appropriate behavior to ensure a more successful middle school and high school experience. The “New Age Charm School“ will also create a standard of behavior for the girls to follow throughout their lives. Another goal is to inspire the girls to have a strong self worth and the confidence which then can minimize, if not completely alleviate, them being the bully or becoming the victim of bullying.
Kevin O. Lowery Jr. is passionate about youth development through sports, mentoring and exposure to the possible. He is a founder of the nonprofit organization, Urban Exposure Company (UEC), which exposes at-risk youth and ex-offenders to people, places and things to raise their aspirations. Through the “Exposure Program,” an extension of UEC, he aspires to follow a designated group of high school students throughout the school year. The objective of the program is to introduce them to tangible results and rewards that can be obtained through academic achievement, with the ultimate goal of taking them outside their local communities to experience the history and economics of similar situated youth in North East Ohio. A member of numerous associations, he also serves as a Co-President of the Ludlow Community Association, which provides oversight to his community. Kevin, a graduate of Cleveland State’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and the Maxine Goodman Levine College of Urban Affairs, is currently receiving legal training in the Prosecutor’s Office, City of Cleveland Law Department.
Chrishawndra Matthews, is a Cleveland Resident with a five year old son who understands the school-to-prison pipeline. She knows the Cuyahoga County statistics for low income families and literacy and she understands if her child fails the third grade reading test a prison bed may have his name on it. Realizing that, she asked herself, “What can I do to help in my community?” She answered that question by working in collaboration with the “Barbershop Literacy Project” to raise literacy rates in Northeast Ohio. She found a sponsor to provide free haircuts and the children are read to while they wait and receive free books. She instructs parents and caregivers on the importance of reading aloud to a child 15-20 minutes a day. Her dream project, “Literacy in the Hood” will assist families struggling to ensure their third grader passes the reading test, as well as provide youth with books and various reading and learning materials. Chrishawndra is an AmeriCorps Volunteer, facilitating financial literacy and workforce development, and presents teen workshops for local non-profit organizations.
Michael Mishaga is an artist, activist, community organizer, and urban ecologist. His life revolves around working with the people and neighborhoods of the City of Cleveland and designing and managing programs in the arts and community building. He is working in the Clark-Fulton Neighborhood on the Newark Creek Court/Hyde Court Mural Projects and Street Painting, a project creating a place of acceptance and appreciation to express oneself creatively and form relationships. This is an ongoing neighborhood placemaking event with ‘City Repair Artivism Cleveland Style’. He also volunteers at Kentucky Garden as garden steward and operations manager with the goal of creating a safe and stress free environment and preserving that land as the neighborhood commons. He believes that working together we will shape and form our neighborhoods and it is working together with our hands, over time, we discover ourselves and others.
Caroline J. Peak has been a committed community leader, engager and volunteer for over thirty five years. She has been a community organizer dedicated to school reform and an advocate for helping build better schools by volunteering in Cleveland Schools, serving on district-wide committees, PTA’s, school community councils and advisory boards, and campaigning for levies. Through her mentorship for eighth graders in the True2U program at Memorial School, she was inspired to create the “Collinwood Community Youth Academy” (CCYA). CCYA focuses on supporting youth ages 12 and above to become “A Better You” by engaging self-discovery, identifying their strengths, learning how to create a better community through problem solving, and engaging with guest speakers who share their success stories. Paralleling this, she sits on the Executive Board of Northeast Shores Development Corporation and Cleveland Housing Network. Caroline is a Certified Public Librarian, and earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree from Meyer’s University and a Masters of Library Science from Kent State University.
Magnolia Peters is a community “change agent”. A promotion to Garden Valley Library Branch Manager in the Garden Valley CMHA Housing Project provided her opportunities for needs-based community engagement and programming. She collaborated with community members such as The Boys and Girls Club of America, Head Start, Cleveland Food Bank, and various Senior and Youth programs. Desiring to improve quality of life, enhance community outreach, and education she has planned and executed numerous programs including an educational forum with surviving Tuskegee Airmen, free holiday jazz concerts, and was part of Mt. Pleasant’s Family Literacy Day. Additionally, in partnership with Key Bank, a financial literacy program was established with an area shelter for women in recovery entitled, “Daughters of Destiny.” Her current focus is sustainability via urban gardening. Realizing food deserts are an issue in low income urban communities, Magnolia plans to help her patrons empower themselves to grow their own vegetables with a pilot project entitled, “Sprouts of Change.” Patrons gain access to organic, fresh products in a sustainable manner. “Let’s Get Growing!”
Terrance Ray, a Cleveland native, is a nonprofit and communications professional. Passionate about education, he seeks to promote continuing education among inner city youth by exposing them to the different avenues they can follow after completing high school. Through exposure, Ray hopes to increase the number of students who enroll in a four year institution, trade program, or apprenticeship to continue their educational pursuits. His dream is to establish a foundation that partners with local school districts to expose their students to the world of education that awaits them after high school. His foundation would also assist with career and education exploration, mentorship, retention efforts, and scholarships. He is currently employed at Catholic Charities where he helps TANF clients acquire self sufficiency by achieving their educational and employment goals. Ray is a graduate of Bowling Green State University where he studied psychology and entrepreneurship, and of Ashland University where he was a member of the first graduate cohort of its Masters of Arts in Health and Risk Communication program.
Allosious K. Snodgrass is passionate about positively impacting poverty, education, civil rights, development in the African-American community, U.S. politics, and international relations. He believes there is a need to invest in the next generation of political leaders because if [they] can systematically exclude us from the political arena, [we] can systematically include ourselves. As he explores policies and regulations, which disfranchise the poor, less educated, black and other “sub-groups” of the American people his goal is to develop a program that organizes aspiring political leaders into being strategically and actively engaged; specifically, focused in Cleveland, but leveraged nationwide. Its objective will be to engage political figures, institutions and organizations whose primary goal is organizing, policy and advocacy. Allosious is a student at Cleveland State University, majoring in Political Science with an Urban Affairs minor.
Carmella D. Williams strongly believes in community and service. After serving in the U.S. Navy, she moved back home to Cleveland with an appreciation for and understanding of the importance of a strong community and the unimagined gains made by people working together. Carmella has worked on behalf of Moreland on the Move Community Association (MOMCA) to develop strong relationships with neighbors and community stakeholders to provide positive activities and events for families. She also has collaborated with city leaders to address a variety of concerns affecting the quality of life of residents concerning housing, community safety, and neighborhood beautification. She is currently working with various stakeholders to organize ballroom dance classes for teens that will offer life lessons along with instruction on Detroit style ballroom dance. Carmella stands behind the MOMCA mantra which is, “It is not about where you live but how you live,” and has it in mind when working on youth activities, community development, and neighborhood revitalization.
Angela M. Cain is a servant leader. A native Clevelander, Angela is passionate about leading change efforts that produce law-abiding citizens and is committed to providing youth with the knowledge, tools, and networks vital to success. Currently, she leads the Temple of Praise Baptist Church Women’s Ministry team that facilitates monthly sessions on life skills, ethics, and faith-based education and development to “At Promise” youth at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center (CCJDC), an outreach ministry she founded in 2016 under the existing CCJDC volunteer program. Angela’s long-term goal is to establish a non-profit that will collaborate with private and government agencies and work across systems to leverage wrap-around services to enhance the lives of troubled youth, deter them from incarceration, and reduce the recidivism rate of those already in the juvenile justice system. She serves on the Tri-C Workforce Community & Economic Development Division Healthcare Employer Board and the Hire Local and HRIS subcommittees of the Greater University Circle Initiative. A life-long learner, Angela holds a BA in Psychology and a Socially Conscious MBA from Ursuline College.
Sharon Core sees her life’s work as one of making connections. As an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she understands those connections to be three-fold: connections with God, one another, and community. During 25 years of parish ministry, the leadership she has offered has centered on making those connections real in the life of members, colleagues and those curious about the life of faith. Believing that her primary work is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”, she has created opportunities for people to explore their own gifts and calling; created an ethos where a church entered into intentional discernment that resulted in the sale of a building so that affordable housing could be developed; and worked with colleagues to provide a Presbytery with a building-use policy. She now brings her experience and commitment to making connections to the Presbytery of the Western Reserve as their General Presbyter. Alongside the 7900 Presbyterians in NE Ohio, she is looking forward to working with them in discovering the connections to be made and the gifts and callings they possess.
Holly Davenport, a Glenville High graduate, has had a zeal for serving people regardless of age, race or gender throughout her life. Operating a small catering business, Heavenly Delicious, Holly demonstrates her love for others by serving her heart and soul, scratch kitchen cuisine. After dedicating 26 years to the Cosmetology industry, she founded “COOK IT UP!” a project to introduce youth to the art of cooking. The project goal is for school-aged children, senior citizens, the culinary community, urban gardeners, and families to cook and break bread together and also develop trans-generational relationships. Holly is very active in her church in Collinwood. She currently volunteers with the Lake Erie Sharks, a Cleveland Muny football team, and she is a homeowner in the community she plans to positively impact.
Kevin de Leon is passionate about seeing the success of his family, friends, peers, and community. His first mission was to be his family’s voice upon their arrival to Cleveland as Guatemalan immigrants. As a first-generation college graduate from CSU, Kevin started realizing his responsibility to his community and started volunteering at MetroHealth and Esperanza Inc. as a mentor to Cleveland Latino youth. After graduation, Kevin joined AmeriCorps and was lead to Luis Muñoz Marín and Lincoln West to help students learn about various career options in the medical field. Kevin then joined OSU extension to provide nutrition awareness to underserved populations throughout Cleveland. Following his roots and passion, Kevin joined the Hispanic Alliance mission named “La Placita” a movement to uplift and highlight Cleveland’s diverse and cultural Latino population through art, food and business. From there he has helped lead community clean-ups in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood and one day hopes to transform his current neighborhood’s historic business district, known as Lorain Station, to create opportunities for up-and-coming Cleveland based small business owners.
Lavita Ewing has volunteered in various community venues. As an education advocate, she strongly believed children had the best learning environment when there was an effective team effort between the school and the parent teacher organization (PTO). To meet that need she served as PTO president for numerous schools and as President of the Shaker Heights PTO Council. She has served on the boards of the Shaker Meals on Wheels Program, Shaker Youth Center, Shaker Schools Foundation and Shaker Historical Society. Since 2011, Lavita has been involved with the Association of African American Cultural Gardens (AAGC) and is the current development chair. By building community engagement, through business support, and chairing the major fundraising benefit, “A Night for the African American Cultural Garden”, Phase One was completed. The Association’s goal is to dedicate the completion of the garden in 2020. A retired nurse, Lavita received her BSN Kent State University and MSN, Education focus, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Chinetha Hall is the Chief Executive Officer of Hasani Management Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and empower youth, including those with special needs, by enriching and cultivating the social and cultural fabric in the Cleveland community through cognitive and life skills experiences. Chinetha provides opportunities for youth to work with arts and cultural organizations, as well as, career exploration to first job readiness. She also has a strong commitment towards childhood hunger and obesity issues. She uses a hands-on, holistic, healthy "keep it fun" lifestyle approach to address these issues in an educational and practical way. Chinetha has done philanthropic work by volunteering at Garden Valley Neighborhood House food bank and the American Cancer Society. Additionally, she has served as a Student Parent Organization President and is a certified cheerleading coach and dance choreographer for the Cleveland Browns Football Muny League Association.
Wanda J. Hill–Chestnut a Cleveland native, has enjoyed its benefits her entire life. While developing her love for community and helping others she studied Urban Service and Administration at Cleveland State University and received her BA from the Levin College of Urban Affairs. Being passionate about her neighborhood, Wanda is actively involved in community organizing and understands that your zip code does not determine your success or your ability to strengthen and encourage others. Currently, she is the Pastor of the Saint Luke Church located on Cleveland's East-side. It is there that she is afforded the opportunity to aid those in discovering the joy of helping others, the value of community, and the fulfillment in appreciating life. “Love God. Live Life. Serve Others.” is the motto that influences her daily life.
Valerie Jerome is passionate about creating racially equitable organizations and systems that are focused on building bridges across lines of difference and sparking lasting change. Her core values, ethical code, and global mindset are a result of her time working as a community and youth development associate in the United States Peace Corps and subsequent experience as a communications professional in the non-profit and public sectors. Valerie is heavily engaged in building a stronger West Park community through monthly “Network Nights” to increase neighbor to neighbor engagement, develop a greater understanding of the power of neighborhood network building and promote progressive change. Additionally, she has discussed Network Night/Community Practices with members of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority leadership team, ideally to engage CMHA residents in the network or help to facilitate Network Nights within the properties. Valerie has a degree in journalism from Ohio University.
Ariana Johnson has devoted her life to service. Born and raised in Cleveland by her community activist parents, she was reared to serve her community at a young age through street club cleanings and helping local community leaders. She is involved with the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, and has two blogs: “Dear Ida”, focusing on political and social issues and her new lifestyle blog, “The Brown Girl Blog”, is in development. Ariana is involved with the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church, is a member of the National Council of Negro Women and is also the communications director of the Cuyahoga County Young Democrats. Passionate about youth and a strong child advocate, she is in the beginning stages of starting her own non-profit “Help me L.E.A.D (Learn, Educate, Advocate, Develop)” which trains and encourages students from 14-17 to be effective leaders in their respective communities. Ariana earned her BA in Journalism and Promotional Communications from Cleveland State University she plans to attend Law School at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law.
Joshua Jones is a believer in the essential goodness of a city which serves everyone. As a youth, he frequently participated in service projects, such as painting, cooking, and fundraising, and his passion to serve continues as a young adult. At the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Center for Innovative Musicianship, Joshua strives to connect experts, artists, neighbors, and technology for social benefit through broadening the education of elite musicians to include purposeful community engagement with classical music’s underserved audiences. He will use this new opportunity to seek out neighborhood partners in the greater University Circle area. Through his passion for arts engagement and social justice, the goal is to embrace Clevelanders as collaborators in educating the next generation of world-class musicians. In the process, local adults and children can form a new connection to classical music and actively incorporate it into their neighborhood betterment efforts. Joshua also volunteers for urban planning, beautification, and programming efforts. His passions for racial equity, sustainable urbanism, LGBT rights, and the arts grew from seeds planted at Kent State University.
Joe Linsky was raised in Chardon and he is thankful to be a recent Slavic Village transplant living on Fleet Avenue. With a passion for community development and through his recent work at the Slavic Village Development, an AmeriCorps VISTA, Joe managed a new farmers market, hosted community events such as the Village Feast- a community street meal that encourages connection with food and neighbors and live music at the Village Stage- a shipping container transformed into a performance arts hub. Recently he began focusing on public art projects. To that end, he spearheaded a project to decorate four traffic control cabinets with vinyl wraps inspired by the history and future of Slavic Village. Through a fundraiser that raised $3,500 by the merchant association, the Fleet Skateholders, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, a Neighborhood Connections grant was received for 15, five-foot LED snowflakes to light Fleet Avenue. He was also instrumental in the organizing of the holiday community celebration with over 350 people in attendance. In May 2016, Joe graduated from Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs.
Letitia Lopez found her passion in art, culture and community in 2008 when she became a volunteer at Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center. The center’s mission is dedicated to transforming lives by preserving, educating and promoting Latino heritage through the teaching and practice of the visual, performing and literary arts. Through her fervor and understanding the importance of the arts to her community, she has been able to witness its impact on the youth and families she serves. Shortly after becoming a volunteer she joined the Board of Trustees and in 2009 accepted the position of Executive Director. Letitia’s project goal and priority is to take the center to the next level - stabilizing it financially so the organization can expand its programming to reach more youth and their families. Letitia has continued her own personal involvement in the arts as well. In 2013 she became part of an advisory committee that created the first Latino theatre ensemble. Four years later she continues to be an active committee member and actor of Teatro Publico de Cleveland.
Rebeca Neria is focused on educational and workforce development - expanding the adult learning curve in her service area where low-income residents can participate in classes for their GED. Understanding the correlation between education and jobs which then increases the community’s median income, she has created an educational literacy model that is ideal for self-paced awareness and one-on-one teaching to meet each individual’s need. Moreover, she works with community leaders within the technology sector to seek grants to provide digital literacy to low-income families and individuals in Cleveland. Letitia has also provided time and services to several organizations and events within her Clark-Fulton community and throughout the city. A United States Marine Corps veteran, Letitia is a Computer Center Organizer and HEAP Intake Specialist at Metro West Community Development Office.
Jamie Pawlak is passionate about community engagement opportunities and ways to have fun so that residents can connect to their neighborhood and gain community pride. Her aspiration is to sponsor pop-up events such as yoga in the park, happy hours at the shops, and creating exclusive tours so that residents and Cleveland locals can learn more about the new and old assets of Slavic Village. She is the Secretary of the Slavic Village Development Board and is currently a Slavic Village Development Fund Development Committee Member. She desires to identify imaginative methods to help the organization connect and attract residents to what makes Slavic Village a unique and special neighborhood, as well as create a passion so the residents will be proud of their neighborhood. Jamie is also a founding member of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance City Advocates Alumni Network that extends the opportunity for Alumni to convene, build relationships, and remain actively engaged in the downtown community through a self-directed, membership-driven organization. Jamie attended Cuyahoga Community College and the National Institute of Massotherapy.
Lynn Rodemann has spent the majority of her life in service to others. From ages of 13-23, throughout three different Ohio cities she participated in the Food Not Bombs homeless outreach program. Upon moving to Cleveland in 2002 she connected with friends looking to have a more in-depth connection with their neighbors. Understanding, that regardless of economic or political background, food is the thread that ties us together, the nonprofit organization LEAF (Lakewood Earth and Food) was born. LEAF held weekly events serving over 150 families and connected them with access to affordable locally sourced produce, live music and art. The organization eventually grew to manage community gardens in city parks connecting residents and children with the soil, and the ability to grow their own food. She also served as a LEAF board member. Currently, Lynn is working as a part of the housing team at Slavic Village Development where she connects residents with resources to assist them with home repairs, vacant land for gardening and expanding their properties.
Clarissa Russell is a graduate of John Hay High School. Her commitment to the advancement of “high risk” and marginalized youth has been demonstrated by introducing and mentoring them through their higher education journey. She serves as Program Director of All About Your Health (AAYH). AAYH has successfully engaged over 4,500 youth across northeast Ohio, organized 400 professionally lead workshops and garnered numerous community volunteers. Additionally, AAYH has also engaged 20 partnering organizations for the Girls and Boys Health and Empowerment Summits that attracts about 1,000 students, volunteers and community members yearly. The current student population is predominately high-schoolers. Her goal for the program is to expand it to younger populations and middle school students, starting with her own neighborhood. Clarissa received her BS from Eastern Michigan University and earned her MPH from Florida A&M University.
Roshawn Sample was born and raised in the Union-Miles neighborhood and is passionate about her community. She serves as the Executive Director for the Union Miles Development Corporation (UMDC); a position that allows her to give back to the community. Roshawn believes that improving the neighborhood’s quality of life through sustainable programming and bringing change to the environment is a must, not an option. One of her community organizing goals is to assist in the training and facilitation of 10 new block club leaders. In addition to her work at UMDC, Roshawn has also been a Ward 1 (Lee-Harvard) Precinct Leader, volunteered at Westhaven, a youth shelter on the Westside, is a foster parent, providing emergency respite for youth and she also mentors young adult females in youth groups throughout Cleveland. Roshawn holds a BA from the University of Akron and an MA from Cleveland State University.
Jonathan Steirer is passionate about housing, equitable neighborhood development, transit access, and facilitating relationships between community members. He is involved with the Cleveland Global Shapers, where he serves as Membership Chair, and is a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor. Currently, Jon also serves as a block club leader and seeks to develop a neighbor-to-neighbor resource network that can provide both leverage to residents in determining the future of their community and a safety net that can provide residents various types of support that might otherwise be unavailable to them through existing programs, as well as a framework through which hard and soft skills can be shared and mutually benefit individuals and the overall Cudell community. Jon is a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy.
Kirby Suntala believes in the beauty, grandeur, and grit of Cleveland. He has volunteered at MedWish International and in national and local political campaigns and causes, including the Progressive Student Action: a collegiate organization focused on combating climate change and efforts to stop the death penalty. Currently, he is involved in the Hough neighborhood’s Rainey Institute, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to performing and visual arts education and participation for Cleveland youth. A musician, Kirby firmly believes in the power that music and the arts have in changing lives. His dream is to expand mastery based art and music education opportunities for underserved children and youth, with the ultimate goal being to leverage and foster resources from governmental, corporate, foundation, and individual communities to provide every student in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District access to music and arts education, regardless of income and geographic location. Kirby earned degrees from Cleveland State University in Nonprofit Administration, Urban Studies, and Music and is pursuing his MPA at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.
Robin Turner’s leadership journey started early in her life. Her current focus, however, is to enhance her skills and become a more impactful community leader for those she serves. As the Ambassador/Community Leader for the West 73rd Safety Coalition, she facilitates activities centered on building teams, developing relationships, empowering and encouraging others and enlightening a diverse population on the notion that developing a sense of community allows you to build a family within multiple families. Robin researched and developed one of the first community gardens on Dearborn Avenue. She envisions the garden as a space for community organizing, crime prevention, cultural opportunities, youth programs, food production, health, wellness and enjoyment. Robin is a humanitarian dedicated to promoting the human welfare and dignity of others. She earned an associate’s degree from Urbana University, and a BA in Sociology and a Certificate in Chemical Dependency Counseling (CDCA) from Cleveland State University, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in Diversity Management.
Jonathan Tyes, a graduate of Glenville High School, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Cleveland’s children through mentoring and academic engagement. He is a board member of the Cardinal Nest, Inc., an organization that provides mentoring and college scholarships to East Cleveland and Cleveland students. Jonathan operates a reading program at Kenneth Clement Boys Leadership Academy to help students meet and exceed state reading standards, and he also serves in mentoring programs and on scholarship committees for several local and national service organizations. Upon completing medical school, he plans to establish a health professions mentoring program that will connect young men and women from underserved communities with physicians, pharmacists, dentists and other healthcare professionals to serve as mentors and provide critical exposure to the healthcare field. Jonathan earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Morehouse College.
Toni White is a Hough native and an alumnus of John Hay High school. She is a True2U mentor, a career awareness program that prepares eighth-grade students for their transition from middle school to high school. Her ultimate interest is workforce development for underserved post-incarcerated men and women with employment barriers. Her project will include collaboration with the Veterans Administration and various nonprofits that coordinate job fairs and hiring events for this target population. She believes in addition to job readiness and employment preparation, soft skills such as dependability, flexibility, professionalism and respect will assist post-incarcerated individuals obtaining meaningful employment and an improved quality of life. Additionally, employment opportunities for this demographic will make communities safer and reduce recidivism. Toni is pursuing a BA in Nonprofit Administration at Cleveland State University.
Marissa Williams is passionate about building strong, successful and sustainable communities. She has worked with community development corporations, Foundations and other nonprofits in Northeast Ohio, consistently advocating for community engagement in positive social change on issues ranging from vacant property and demolition, to environmental sustainability, to college access. Marissa is the Graduate Support Manager at NLDP. A lifelong advocate for animal welfare, Marissa volunteers with Cleveland Animal Care and Control handling dogs at events and bringing awareness to the adoption program. She hopes to expand her role with the events team and start an educational program to help community members understand the basic issues of responsible pet ownership and improve community knowledge about safety around animals. Marissa holds an MSSA from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and a BA in Sociology from Willamette University in Salem, OR.
"NLDP represents movement. In order to move forward myself, I must help others move forward as well."
Rodney Lewallen, Detroit Shoreway