Leaders of Color Announces its 2021 Spring Cohort
February 25, 2021
New York, New York (February 25, 2021) – Today, Leaders of Color (LOC) announced the second-ever roster of fellows for its New York chapter.
LOC New York proudly welcomes into the program Cristina M. Arroyo Rodriguez, Morgan Bass Roper, Kisha Chandler, Maria Del Valle, Sean Farrow, Soribel Genao, Althema Goodson, Fayth Henderson, Esmeralda Herrera, Ohilda Holguin, Erica Johnson, Trenee Chimere Lurry, Myriah Martin, Kimberly McCoy, Leslie Maxine Mercado, Jordan Pineda, Stephanay Slade-Louis, Ashley Raquel Gómez, Christian Vargas, and Davonte Williams
“We are so pleased to have such high-caliber and compassionate individuals who are pledging themselves to the Leaders of Color program,” said Leaders of Color New York Director Dr. Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez. “These 20 people have between them not only a rich and diverse pool of experience, but they each also have a deep commitment to bettering their communities for the sake of every resident within them. I cannot wait to see what these talented and thoughtful trainees will do in the future, and I have every confidence that they all will go on to positively change it.”
About the Cohort
Cristina M. Arroyo Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She moved to Boston, MA to earn her BA in English and Psychology and then her MA in Psycholinguistics. She then moved to New York to work as an editor until she decided to pursue Industrial and Organizational Psychology at CUNY. With two toddlers in tow, she completed her MS in Organizational Justice and five years of her PhD in the same topic. Since then, she has dabbled in local Valley Stream politics, consults for non-profits, as well as founded the Valley Stream Justice Project, Ltd. She has worked with local and state school districts, PTA groups, non-profits, and government to enact sustainable systemic change by advocating for fair hiring practices, organizational transparency, and formation of DEI committees for oversight.
Morgan Bass Roper is the Special Events Lead at Democrats for Education Reform. She plans and executes events to support the organization’s fundraising, community outreach and internal team development efforts and co-leads the organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, working to implement policies and practices that promote a workplace culture of inclusivity and interdependence. Prior to joining DFER, Morgan worked as a Foundation Manager for Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation, where she ideated, developed and produced community and youth-oriented events for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty. Though Morgan is a Los Angeles native, she achieved “official” New Yorker status as she marked 10 years of New York residence in summer 2020. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania.
Kisha Chandler is the Operations Project Manager in the School of Business at Molloy College, her place of employment for 15 years. In her primary role, she oversees the daily operation of the office including developing and managing the department’s budget. Before joining Molloy College, Kisha held a number of administrative positions in the corporate and non-profit sectors. She has also worked as a science, social studies, and essay writing instructor for students in grades 4-12. Kisha received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Queens College, her Master of Science in Childhood Education, and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in management both from Molloy College. She is also a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).
Maria Del Valle is an activist, mother, musician, teacher, consultant, and social entrepreneur. Maria is originally from Puerto Rico, and based in New York City and she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Florida, and Master’s Degree in Childhood Education from Brooklyn College. Maria has 10 years of teaching experience founding music programs in international schools, charter schools, and El Sistema Programs throughout New York City and abroad. She is the Founder of Project Shine International, an arts consulting and international exchange program, and Shine on Kids Arts Initiative, a community-based arts program for children and families based in Uptown Manhattan. In 2020, Maria was named a quarter finalist by the RECORDING ACADEMY© and THE GRAMMY FOUNDATION© Music Educator Award and am a winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Sean Farrow is a public defender in Manhattan with the Legal Aid Society where he has, for the past four years, researched and drafted various legal documents, such as motions, briefs, and subpoenas on a near daily basis, analyzed case-law for misdemeanor and felony criminal cases while advocating for hundreds of clients on the record and litigated dozens of Pre-trial hearings and Trials. A New Jersey native, Sean has turned New York into his home, specifically Harlem where he volunteers within the community doing free legal clinics and educational workshops as well as tutor first generation students in English.
Soribel Genao is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Provost Diversity Fellow at CUNY Queens College. Her research has focused on examining the inclusive, equitable and diverse systemic issues in and reform of urban schools while assessing administrative, educational, and community collaborations that facilitate more positive academic and behavioral outcomes such as student retention in marginalized communities. She has institutionally led the development of a dual master’s and certificate in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on Bilingual Education programs at the P-20 level at Queens College. Her national and international work focused on intersectionality that amplifies the ways identities interconnect to influence each person’s diverse experiences. Soribel also co-edited a book (Re)Building Bi/Multilingual Leaders for Socially Just Communities, which has been noted in TC Records Review and used across the nation as a course text.
Althema Goodson, MSOL, is currently serving her first three-year term as an Elected Trustee of the Ossining Public Library, Co-Chair of the Equity Task Force in Ossining, Co-Chair of the Landlord Tenant Relationship Council and utilizing her many talents and passions by sitting on advisory boards, Althema has worked in non-profit consulting, engineering administration, as a Director at the Westchester County Bar Association, in banking, and, currently, works in contact tracing for COVID-19. Althema also started her own consulting company, The Goodson Agency, which is currently helping business owners with creative strategies and development. She also co-founded the Juneteenth Council, which brings awareness to Juneteenth, and promotes social justice, civil rights, and more. After earning her master’s degree in 2008, inspired by a personal encounter with health challenges, Althema decided to focus on advocacy and, in particular, health disparities while also bringing awareness to invisible warriors.
Fayth Henderson serves as the Director of Strategic Alliance and Collaborative Partnerships for the 67th Precinct Clergy Council also known as the GodSquad. which is a group of clergy from across the East Flatbush/Flatbush area of Brooklyn whose sole purpose is to reduce gun violence in the community. Fayth’s role is creating unique partnerships that align with the mission and vision of the organization within the community. Fayth also works at the Office of the NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams and serves and assists in organizing faith leaders and the faith community across NYC.
Esmeralda Herrera was born and raised in the Bronx and is an ecosystem builder who works at the intersection of business and social impact to support local entrepreneurs. As Director of Programs and Community Relations at Communitas America, Esmeralda manages an accelerator in the Bronx that works directly with founders—primarily women and entrepreneurs of color—to help build, launch, and expand social ventures that reach vulnerable communities. Esmeralda Herrera is driven by innovative approaches to creating impact. She is passionate about equity and social justice to ensure vulnerable communities have opportunities to flourish. Previously she worked with international organizations in India and China that empower local change makers to revitalize their local economy.
Ohilda Holguin is an education consultant and professional development trainer, author, keynote speaker, and wellness coach. Ohilda worked in the field of fighting domestic violence for over 15 years, managed after-school programs, and taught middle school reading before entering the world of educational publishing and technology for the last twelve years. Currently, she is a Breathe for Change trainee where she is studying to be certified in yoga and social emotional learning and is in a mindfulness training program at Mindful Schools. Ohilda is also working on her Health Coach Certification at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She develops powerful leadership trainings, health & wellness coaching programs and consultations.
Erica Johnson has been serving the public since she was 8 years old, when she started handing out home cooked meals to local homeless people in her neighborhood. While she has worked in a variety of fields with include corporate, government, and non-profit organizations, she always finds a way to bring social justice and cultural perspectives to all her roles. When weather threatened the lives of Puerto Ricans, she created the Hurricane Maria Supply Drive to bring much-needed supplies to people on the island. Ten years ago, when civil and social unrest erupted across the country, she became a Legal Observer with the National Lawyers Guild to help protect people’s first amendment rights. Now, she is grateful to join the Leaders of Color to help advocate for not just better education but also access to education.
Trenee Chimere Lurry has been an educator in the field of special education for eight years. Trenee’s desire for greater was fueled by the understanding that representation matters, and as an African-American female there is a need for her to be a leader. As she embarked on this journey into leadership, it revealed her passion for diversity equity and inclusion. This was discovered through her studies of cultural competence and culturally relevant pedagogy. Trenee will graduate with her Master’s Degree in Education and her principal certification in May 2021. While completing her Master’s degree she formed the school district’s DEI committee, where Trenee holds an executive position.
Myriah Martin is from Brooklyn, and is a Temple University graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in African American Studies/Africology. While at Temple University, she was the Black Student Union President and the Student Ambassador for the Department of African American Studies at the National Council of Black Studies Conference. She presented her graduate proposal, “Urban Holism: Radical Reformation on Urban Policy Pedagogies” which highlighted her passion for public policy reform focused on arts, education and sustainable growth within Black urban communities. She is currently a teacher in the New York Department of Education and is pursuing her master’s degree in Liberal arts with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology at SUNY Empire State College.
Kimberly McCoy is an attorney, special educator, and parent of a child with autism. She brings over 10 years of experience in special education, ranging from early childhood evaluator and home-based ABA instructor to Special Education teacher and administrator. She attended City College for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Special Education and earned her J.D. at Seton Hall University School of Law.
Leslie Maxine Mercado is a Puerto Rican raised in the Bronx, and has held titles as a Field Manager/Canvasser representing candidates and motivating people to vote. Leslie was brought up in the public school system in the Bronx; she also went to Rye High School and graduated with honors in Yonkers, Greenburgh-North Castle. Leslie then attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and Hostos College in the Bronx. Leslie speaks with people in her community in order to strengthen their abilities to help bring changes to the Bronx. She knows that by working together we can affect positive change in communities that will work towards a better quality of life for all residents.
Jordan Pineda started his career teaching high school English for three years in Title I schools before entering education management. In his time outside of the classroom he has recruited teachers of color and also spent time as an equity coach for first year teachers. Jordan has since transitioned into policy and works with states and localities across the country identifying, aligning, and scaling equity centric policies that impact young people of color. Jordan was the youngest candidate and first Latino to ever run the Board of Education in Charlotte, North Carolina and he has played an active role in generating grassroots support for equitable school reform in segregated schools. He proudly serves on the board of multiple nonprofits dedicated to education reform and elevating youth voice. Slated to earn his M.Ed from Harvard University this fall, Jordan is researching progressive policy reforms for racially isolated schools and students of color. Jordan earned his B.A. in Sociology and concentrated in education equity at Wake Forest University.
Stephanay Slade-Louis is applying to a master’s programs with a focus in International Relations. She has studied at The New School in New York, majoring in Theater and minoring in Political Science. Born and raised in New York, Stephanay is passionate about pushing culture forward through conversations and different mediums of art.
Ashley Raquel Gómez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Ashley is a recent graduate from Brooklyn College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a minor in Political Science. Ashley’s goal is to become more involved in her community and create a change for her younger peers, by advocating for resources in schools and poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Cristian Vargas is from Brooklyn, New York. He is a Boston University senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Cristian is a writer, photographer, and idea creator. Since the beginning of quarantine, he has been writing a novel about contemporary life in New York City. He is really passionate about the arts and thinks it’s important to advocate for equitable arts programs in all schools.
Davonte Williams was born in Denver to a single mother with an 8th grade education and has experienced the many pitfalls a lack of education entails throughout his life. Davonte graduated Magna Cum Laude at Berkeley College with a degree in Business Administration and has recently been hired to the operations team at Classical Charter School II in the South Bronx where he hopes to discern, firsthand, the educational needs of that grossly underserved community. Davonte also supports local black owned businesses throughout New York City through his Instagram network @black.excellence.nyc, while also developing his own brand of interactive décor on Instagram @the_ironbonzai. Davonte hopes to further his education in order to better improve the educational and socio-economic status of his peers and young scholars.
About Leaders of Color
The Leaders of Color (LOC) program recruits Black and Brown leaders for public office. These leaders are respected in their communities and are provided a suite of resources to help win elections and increase their influence. Not only are community-based leaders uniquely essential to the sustainability of education reform, local leaders who support reform values are also the least likely to receive the supportive services necessary to launching and winning elections. The LOC training program is the launch of our long-term development to unapologetically usher in a new, bold group of Black and Latino elected officials.
LOC provides 70-plus hours of training content, delivered over a span of five months with in-person training weekends, focuses on cultivating leadership abilities, building education policy knowledge, and honing campaigning skills — all with an equity lens.
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