Members of National Council of Young Leaders
Jamiel Alexander, YouthBuild USA
Jamiel Alexander, is a graduate of the Crispus Attucks YouthBuild Charter School in York, Pennsylvania and an AmeriCorps alumnus. As Youth and Family Education Programs Manager at Crispus Attucks, Jamiel is responsible for a wide variety of activities, including the running of afterschool programs, family education workshops, community service projects, and blood drives. He also assists with counseling, consulting, event planning and fundraising.
Despite struggles during his youth at which time he dropped out of high school and was at risk of incarceration, Jamiel has become a rising star in his community. This year, York Mayor Kim Bracey nominated Jamiel to the General Authority Board, which oversees the financing of municipal projects and parking operations, saying that “I’m excited about Jamiel’s appointment because he is able to bring a community perspective to the board.
Earlier this year, Jamiel’s colleagues on the YouthBuild USA National Alumni Council elected him as their Vice President. In that role he is charged with advocating for issues of concern for alumni graduate. A frequent speaker on panels and at conferences about issues affecting low income youth and their communities, Jamiel deeply believes in “Service Above Self”
Lashon Amado, YouthBuild USA
Lashon Amado enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston for the fall 2011 semester after completing an associate’s degree at Massasoit Community College (MCC) with a 3.8 Grade Point Average. Today, Lashon stands poised for a future career in criminal justice. He also serves as a local and national student leader, participating in speaking engagements across the country. In this role, Lashon’s leadership skills, resiliency and spirit of service have inspired hundreds of students and educators in his community of Brockton, MA and beyond.
Lashon achieved all of this success after dropping out of Brockton High School. When Lashon enrolled in YouthBuild in 2009, he says he had never considered college or anything beyond getting a GED and a paycheck. However, the staff, other students and graduates of YouthBuild Brockton helped Lashon consider all the ways that college could fit into his life and work plans. Lashon participated in classes at MCC while he was still at YouthBuild. At the conclusion of YouthBuild, Lashon transitioned into a bridge program at MCC that helped prepare him for academic and personal success in college.
Gilbert Bonafe, College Advising Corps
Gilbert Bonafé, Jr., 25, is currently a graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education working towards a Master’s in Higher Education. A native of the Bronx, Gilbert grew up in a low-income housing district and attended Aviation High School in Long Island City, Queens. In high school, Gilbert joined a TRIO program called Upward Bound that exposed him to the possibility of higher education. The assistant director of Upward Bound nominated him for the Posse Scholarship, a full tuition leadership scholarship, which he received. Posse allowed him to attend Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA where he majored in Spanish. After Dickinson, Gilbert became a college adviser for Greencastle Antrim High School in Greencastle, PA through the College Advising Corps. He worked there for two years and is now at Harvard.
Gilbert hopes to someday work within higher education to promote access, improve retention and persistence, and ensure student success. He has seen many of his family members and friends struggle economically and he aspires to help the next generation break out of that using education.
“I wouldn't have been able to make it to where I am today if it weren't for people betting on me. By educating myself, I am getting ready to step up to the ticket window to place my bets on the next generation.”
Ramean Clowney, Jobs for the Future
Ramean Clowney, 19, recently began his freshman year at the Community College of Philadelphia. A native of Philadelphia and a product of the Pennsylvania foster care system, Ramean overcame personal struggles – exposure to violence, drugs and abuse – to graduate with honors from the One Bright Ray Community High School, where he was a member of the basketball team and participated on the drum line.
Ramean is currently Chief Youth Ambassador for the Philadelphia Youth Network, one of the city’s leading youth programs, in this role, he is one of several advocates for local youth.
Rameon, who aspires to one day run for a seat on the Philadelphia City Council, intends to study political science at Howard University, and eventually attend law school.
“Retrospectively (speaking), I guess you can say I was in search of me . . . . now I no longer settle for mediocrity – excellence is a must.”
Ryan Dalton, Youth Leadership Institute
Ryan Dalton, 23, attends Southern University at New Orleans, where he is pursuing a business degree. He works as a trainer and manager for Café Reconcile’s culinary training program in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. He also serves as an advisory board member for The John Besh & Bride Mayor Scholarship at Chefs Move!, which prepares aspiring chefs for positions in the culinary profession; and in this role, Ryan is working to recruit young minority chefs from New Orleans
During his youth, Ryan faced tremendous hardships: he was the victim of violence and experienced the murder of his brother and cousin; he and his family were displaced by Hurricane Katrina; and he had to leave high school without a diploma to help support his family. Yet, not only has Ryan attained great success in improving his own life circumstances, he has assisted many young people in doing the same.
Reflecting on his childhood and his ability to overcome personal challenges, Ryan says that, The solution must come from within.”
Agustín Flores, Mikva Challenge
Agustín Flores, 22, is a first generation Latino currently pursuing his undergraduate degree and working at Mikva Challenge as a Youth Program Coordinator. Agustín arrived at Mikva as a student on the Mayoral Youth Commission after his graduation from high school. On the Youth Commission, Agustin met with the mayor and various other city leaders throughout Chicago to discuss key issues affecting young people and the various solutions that he and his fellow commission members created. His experience on the Youth Commission made him a believer in youth voice and he continues to pursue youth work professionally.
Francisco Garcia, Public Allies
Francisco Garcia, 26,is a professional artist. A student at Rio Hondo College and Art Center College and Design in California, he works as a public muralist in California and Arizona. As a teen he left his hometown of Los Angeles and became involved in illegal graffiti and other activity following his move to Phoenix, Arizona.
A life changing event occurred in 2003, when Francisco attended a church-sponsored youth night in Mesa and found his calling as a result of a testimonial rap performance, which he says, led him to evolve from illegal street artist to public muralist focused on social activism.
Since 2009, Francisco has been a mentor to emerging graffiti artists, teaching them the benefits of creating art for the community and for social change. He credits a number of programs, including AmeriCorps, Chicanos Por La Causa, Public Allies and Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), with having a positive influence on his life. –It was YLI that facilitated a trip to Washington DC, where he was interviewed by members of Congress about youth jobs and his community art..
Of his art and mentoring he says, “I believe God blessed me with many talents, and one of those talents is being able to paint murals and work with youth at-risk. . . . It brings warmth to my heart when I am a witness to youth making a difference in their own community and living their dreams.”
Megan Gregory, National Congress of American Indians
Megan Gregory, 26 is originally from Keex Kwaan (Kake, AK), and is of the Ch’aak’ (Eagle)/Wooshketon (Shark) Clan of the Tlingit Tribe and a member of the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). Ms. Gregory currently resides in Anchorage, and is committed to serving Indian Country and actively supports addressing the critical health needs of her people. She advocates strongly for addressing the cultural, educational, and social issues affecting Alaska Natives and American Indians, and works diligently to address the high rates of suicide across Indian country.
Ms. Gregory works for an early childhood development non-profit called Best Beginnings as the Partnerships Manager. In 2012, Ms. Gregory was nominated by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to serve on the National Council of Young Leaders. She was also one of three young board members named to the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) Board of Directors. The Center is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy.
Ms. Gregory works with the Rural Alaska Community Action Programs (RurAL CAP) Alaska Native Youth Success (ANYS) Advisory Group, which was created to identify best practices for intervention, diversion, enforcement, treatment and reentry services—while providing feedback on the development of the ANYS Resource Center. Ms. Gregory serves on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention— Alaska Native and American Indian Native Taskforce, a public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
She received the 2011 National Indian Health Service Behavioral Health Achievement Award for outstanding leadership in suicide prevention. In 2012, she received the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) Woman of Distinction Award—the youngest honoree to date.
Tekoa Hewitt, Gateway to College National Network
Tekoa Hewitt, 20, is a student in the Gateway to College Program at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. After graduating with his diploma in the spring, he wishes to continue attending Mott until he earns an associate degree. Currently, Tekoa is in the honors program at Mott and actively volunteers by mentoring other Gateway students trying to make the transition to the college environment. He has aspirations to one day attend graduate school to pursue a degree in higher education. In addition to his studies, Tekoa works as a math tutor and writing center consultant. Along with his regular duties as a tutor, he also is a peer tutor mentor, helping incoming tutors get acclimated to the collegiate work environment by leading focus groups designed to improve the quality of tutoring services.
Born to a working-class family in a small suburb of Flint, Tekoa saw firsthand the difficulties America’s youth face achieving an education in a poor economic climate. After his twin brother passed away from complications from hemophilia, Tekoa dropped out of high school at sixteen and started working. He spent the two years after dropping out working at a pizza place on Flint’s east side. But he knew he had to get a quality education to help better his family’s quality of life so he joined the Gateway to College Program at Mott.
While in the Gateway program, Tekoa traveled to the District of Columbia to participate in the GradNation Summit as a youth scholarship recipient. He observed seminars focusing on reducing the number of high school dropouts throughout the nation. He has also participated in the Flint Literacy and Basic Skills Summit, whose mission is to help improve the literacy and graduation rates of Genesee County, Michigan. He also was invited to speak at one of the Summit’s planning sessions to share his story.
“The beautiful thing about being a youth in America is that there are virtually limitless opportunities to those who seek them. The problem facing most young people today is that there is not enough academic, emotional, and financial support available. As young leaders, it is our duty to do our best to help the growth of not just ourselves, but our communities and peers as well.”
Shawnice Jackson, Public Allies
Shawnice Jackson, 24, is a young professional committed to the advancement of positive youth development through mentoring and advocacy. She currently works as a customer relations specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake (BBBSGC), where she is responsible for the recruitment, screening, and training of volunteers who are matched with at-risk, underserved youth in Baltimore City and surrounding counties.
A native of East Baltimore, Shawnice graduated from Eastern Technical High School and is currently in her senior year at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she is majoring in criminology and social deviance.
An alumna of Public Allies in Maryland, she has served as a project coordinator for a Baltimore Rising program: Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents, and as volunteer and coordinator at BBBSGC. As a volunteer Big Sister at BBBSCG, she continues to give of her time in support of the well-being of young people in her community. A court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children withCASA Baltimore City, Shawnice hopes one day to begin her own youth development program and to become a juvenile court master.
Shirwanda James, The Corps Network
Shirwanda James struggled with reading and writing in elementary and middle school and was placed in Special Education classes. As she approached high school, Shirwanda dedicated herself to her studies and to being a positive peer, with great success. Not only did she obtain the high grades she previously thought herself incapable of, she became one of the only people in her family to obtain a diploma graduating early at the end of her junior year. Shirwanda was selected for a peer leadership program at Regis University where she learned about applying to college, building a resume and preparing for future careers. She took these skills back into the classroom and assisted her peers in the senior class with her leadership and knowledge.
After high school, Shirwanda became scared for her future and the potential of going to college. She was working small, unstable jobs and had her daughter at the age of 18. Shirwanda was homeless when she found Mile High Youth Corps in 2014, when she was hired in a full time AmeriCorps term with the AmeriCorps Conservation and Leadership Crew Shirwanda excelled on this project, often taking a leadership role with her peers. Because of her strong work ethic and skill development, became an Assistant Crew Leader on a Land Conservation crew. Shirwanda worked closely with her Crew Leader to develop and facilitate educational activities in career development, environmental education, civic engagement, team building, and leadership development for her crew.
Shirwanda’s Crew Leaders and peers recognized her as a great team player and integral to the success of each of the crews she was on. Despite the challenges she may have been enduring as a young mother outside of work, she was always able to maintain a positive attitude and was always there to support her peers. Shirwanda began a new role of peer leadership, accepting a position as the Alumni Mentor: Outreach for Mile High Youth Corps.
Julie Jent, Partners for Education Berea College
Julie Jent, 18, is currently a student at Berea College where she enjoys cross country running and volunteering. Julie is working towards a double major in political science and peace and social justice. Julie grew up in the one-stoplight town of Jackson County, Kentucky, where she was involved in many educational programs at her high school, such as Family And Schools Together, Upward Bound Math and Science, and Youth Working Group. Julie was the first in her family to go to college. Despite the challenge of having absent parents and being adopted by her great uncle, Julie has risen above and done more than anyone expected.
Julie received the Kennedy Lugar YES-Abroad Scholarship to Malaysia and was a youth ambassador during her senior year of high school. She grew immensely over the year and adapted well considering being out of her comfort zone on a daily basis. Julie has a passion for learning about other cultures. Upon arriving back to the States, she received the honor of representing her TRIO program at a session—at this ‘Beating the Odds’ session, led by First Lady Michelle Obama, Julie got to tell her story and give suggestions on a personal level.
Julie is thrilled to see where she can make more differences as a new member of the National Council of Young Leaders.
Deon Jones, Be the Change, Inc.
Deon Jones is special project assistant to the president at Be The Change Inc., a social entrepreneurial organization that creates and manages national issue-based campaigns, such as ServiceNation, Opportunity Nation, and Got Your 6. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Manifest Leadership Institute, an academic and leadership development program for formerly incarcerated teenage boys. Prior to joining Be The Change, Deon served as national spokesperson at the Campaign for Youth Justice, where he traveled globally speaking on the organization’s mission to end youth incarceration in the US adult criminal justice system. Previously, Deon served as a DC advisory neighborhood commissioner representing Ward 3 from 2011–13, making him the youngest elected official in Washington’s history. In 2013, the DC City Council passed the “Deon T. Jones Recognition Resolution of 2013” honoring his service to the city and commitment to empowering young people.
Deon has a BA in political science from American University and King’s College London, and was a public policy and international affairs fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. While at American University, he held fellowship and internship positions with the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the White House, and Teach for America. He is the first African American from American University to be appointed a Harry S. Truman Scholar by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.
In addition to being a member of the National Council of Young Leaders, Deon serves on the board of directors at America’s Promise Alliance and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Alumni Association.
Dominique Jones, Year Up
Dominique Jones, known artistically as Dom Jones, is an entrepreneur, author, orator, performer, and graduate of the Year Up program from Oakland, CA. The dream of being self sufficient and able to pursue her artistic endeavors came through her success in Year Up and her internship with salesforce.com, where she now works as a full time IT Systems Analyst. She self published her first book of poetry, Boss Patois, in August 2013, which became the 2014 Runner Up in the San Francisco Book Festival. Her writing has been published in the Huffington Post, Black Girl Nerds, and in various anthologies. After serving for two years as the Year Up Bay Area Alumni President, she now serves on the National Year Up Alumni Board as the Feedback Chairperson, and represents Year Up on the council. She is the Founder of Dom Empire, a Performance Arts and Lifestyle Media company, purveying products and experiences that re-connect the audience with an elevated sense of self. Social Justice and Equity being a lifestyle, these topics are weaved throughout her work and service to community. To learn more, please visit www.iamdomjones.com.
Humberto Palacios, National Guard Youth Foundation
Humberto Palacios, 19, attends Santa Ana College and dreams of becoming an internet entrepreneur. “I dream big like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs….my goal is to start an online business, and to also become a philanthropist to give back to my community and to the world.”
Humberto graduated from Sunburst Youth Academy, a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program that helps high school dropouts get back on the path to graduation. At the academy, he became more open-minded and had similar goals as the other teens enrolled in the program. “We were all tired of letting our circumstances control our lives. We all wanted to get on the right track.”
Since graduating from Sunburst Youth Academy, Humberto has participated in the Senator Lou Correa’s Young Senators Program. In addition, he shared his ChalleNGe story with thousands, including Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and other policymakers on Capitol Hill. Humberto also participated in the 2014 GradNation Summit hosted by America’s Promise Alliance where he was able to share his views on the dropout crisis with influencers within the education community.
Humberto now lives by the quote “Believe you can, and you are halfway there.” –Theodore Roosevelt
Raechal Perez, College Advising Corps
Raechal Kristyne Perez was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and double majored in English and Urban Studies at the University of California- Berkeley. Coming from a large family with seven younger brothers, Raechal was the first in her family to attend college. Gravitating toward educational access programs serving low-income families and students who would be first in their family to finish high school and further their education. During her undergraduate coursework, Raechal worked with AmeriCorps and after graduation served two years with the College Advising Corp at UC Berkeley. Raechal is continuing her work with Trio Talent Search at UC Berkeley and is currently attending Cal State East Bay to acquire her Master's in Public Administration with an emphasis in management and policy.
Teresa Rivera, Public Allies
Teresa Lynn Rivera, 22 is a social activist, born and raised in the Bronx. Her passion for social equity was nurtured at The Point CDC. The Point aims to create a safe space for youth through education and the arts. From a young age, Teresa has been consciously sharpening her leadership skills. In high school, she was the president of a youth activist group, ACTION, that focused on social and environmental issues in the Hunts Point community. During this time, she also assisted in founding a women's empowerment group at The Point. The Women's group is still providing young women with the resources they need to learn, grow and heal. Teresa is currently program coordinator.
In 2013, Teresa played a lead role in Michel Gondry's "The We and The I". The movie was filmed in the South Bronx and used youth from the community who had no acting experience. The film was used as a platform for these young people to share their experience growing up in the Bronx.
Teresa is also a proud graduate of Public Allies NY. Upon graduation, she was offered a full time position at her partner organization, Fordham Bedford Housing Corp. Her responsibilities include organizing events for tenants, as well as facilitate an after school program.
Teresa is dedicated to providing young people with a safe space to advocate for themselves and reach their full potential.
Adam Strong, YouthBuild USA
Adam Strong, 24, is currently working as a Medical Laboratory Scientist at Hazard ARH hospital. Assisting and working with doctors, validating results for diagnoses he aspires to one day become a doctor himself. “Service is a way of life and I’d like to work with patients to not only rehabilitate them medically but to their lives as well.”
Raised by his father in an Appalachian community in Jackson, Adam attended his local community college, working as a security guard at a local coal mine at a time when the coal industry was in decline. He soon found himself unemployed and without options; but was able to gain entry into the YouthBuild Hazard program. At YouthBuild, Adam took part in community service and outreach projects, while receiving a much needed stipend. The experience helped introduce him to a life of service where he could not only improve his community and other people’s lives but his own as well.
After YouthBuild he went on to serve two terms as an AmeriCorps member at YouthBuild Hazard working as a Teacher’s Aide. Adam Characterizes this experience this way: “It feels great being able to work with young people and see them realize that they can not only dream but accomplish as well.”
After graduating from his local community college he went on to graduate with a bachelor’s from the University of Kentucky’s Medical Laboratory Science Program.
Philan Tree, The Corps Network
PhilanTree, 26. born in the Edgewater Clan, is a member of the Towering House Clan of the Navajo Nation. She is currently interning as an assistant to the Coconino County District 4 Supervisor, tasked with community relations and communications between her office and tribal communities.
Philandrian served two terms as an AmeriCorps mentor and was selected as The Corps Network’s 2012 Corps Member of the Year. As an AmeriCorps mentor she had a great opportunity to work in her home community on behalf of the Coconino Rural Environment Corps and secured two memoranda of understanding between Coconino County and the Navajo’s Leupp and Tonalea Chapters.
This collaboration between the county and Navajo resulted in all 17 Navajo chapters receiving Coconino County weatherization retrofits; and in the process, AmeriCorps members benefitted from on-the-job training with participating local contractors in the Navajo Nation Weatherization Assistance Program.
In addition to her work with Coconino County, Philandrian serves as the chair of the Native American Parent Advisory Committee for Flagstaff Unified School District, where she works with families and the District to support and enhance the quality of education for 2,500 Native K-12 students.
Shanice Turner, Year Up
Two weeks after graduating from Waukegan High School in Illinois, Shanice Turner hitched a ride with her visiting father to Atlanta, Georgia. She knew she wanted “opportunity, education, and something better”. Shanice wanted to see growth and improvement in her life. She wanted to go places. Four months after leaving Waukegan, Shanice enrolled as a freshman in college. Shanice is currently working on a degree in Community Development at Rodger Williams University. “Something better” is definitely on her immediate horizon.
Shanice joined Year Up in Atlanta in 2012. As a result, she gained job experience and exposure to a whole new world of career and professionalism. Four years after her life-altering decision to pack up and head south, she works in the Education Department as a Post-Secondary Support Specialist at United Way of Greater Atlanta on its Atlanta Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund Initiative.
Shanice would one day like to become a Senior Director in the Education Department. She would like to push for the various programs that seek to level the educational playing field for all children, regardless of their economic background. Shanice has a passion for youth advocacy, and children welfare.
Turner feels that, “education is the gateway to those opportunities that help to mold oneself.”