Meet the Speakers

Keynote Speakers and Thought Leaders

Paul Baumann

Paul Baumann

Paul Baumann is an independent consultant who believes that youth are a resource vital to the health of our democratic republic. In his work, he supports efforts to strengthen state education policy, particularly in the areas of civic education, service-learning, and youth engagement. Prior to beginning his consulting work, Paul was the Director of the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement at Education Commission of the States from 2011 to 2017. He began his career as a music teacher and spent 10 years in the classroom before earning his Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2010. Paul serves on the board of several organizations, including the Organization of American Kodály Educators (Past President) and Campus Compact of the Mountain West. In his spare time, Paul enjoys being a stay-at-home dad for his two young children, Brooks and Cora, and spouse to his husband, Chris; trying out new recipes; and keeping in touch with his large extended family.

Dale Blyth

Dale Blyth

Dr. Dale Blyth is a consultant & professor emeritus from the University of Minnesota where he served as Howland Endowed Chair in Youth Development & Associate Dean directing the Center for Youth Development. He previously directed research at Search Institute and was on the faculty of Cornell University & Ohio State University. He co-developed the Center for Adolescent Health at the AMA and was a Research Scientist at the Boys Town Center for Youth Development. He has co-authored a book as well as many chapters & articles and serves on local, state and national youth development efforts.

Nick Cedergren

Nick Cedergren

Nick is the Schools and Athlete Leadership Coordinator at Special Olympics Minnesota. He earned his B.A. in Sports Medicine from Bethel University, a M.S. in Sport Management and a M.S. in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He has served on the Board of Directors for DIFFERbilities Experience, a non-profit set out to break down barriers between individuals with and without disabilities. Through playing Unified Sports, we will raise a generation that will expect inclusion in every aspect of life. Will your school #ChooseToInclude this year?

Caleb Chung

Caleb Chung

In 2013, and just 8 years old, Caleb began raising money and running races with Team World Vision. His first race was 1 mile and he raised $900. He then expanded his efforts and invited friends to run on his Team World Vision team Little Tsunamis. Since this time, Caleb has raised well over $50,000 for clean water in Africa, becoming the youngest member of the Team World Vision Legends Club. He continues his efforts and says his goal is to "save as many kids as I can."

Donna Cook

Donna Cook

Donna has a long history of working with young people, having served as the first Director of the Minnesota Alliance with Youth and helped developed Minnesota's AmeriCorps Promise Fellows program. A co-author of Giving Voice to the Leader Within, she is a strong advocate for authentic youth-adult partnerships. She co-founded youthrive 12 years ago, with a youth and adult team, and is dedicated to community action and peace-building.

Steve Culbertson

Steve Culbertson

Steven Alexander Culbertson was appointed in 1996 as the President and CEO of YSA (Youth Service America), an international nongovernmental organization that activates children and youth, ages 5-25, to find their voice, take action, and have impact on the world’s biggest problems.

For two years in a row, the Nonprofit Times named him to its list of "The 50 most powerful and influential leaders" in the sector, saying, "Culbertson has helped to position volunteering and young people as an issue and a national priority." Steve led the international expansion of National Youth Service Day into Global Youth Service Day in 2000, and YSA now coordinates GYSD activities in more than 100 countries on six continents. In 2008, he developed Semester of Service, an academic framework that links Martin Luther King Day of Service (January) to Global Youth Service Day (April) with service-learning projects of "Duration and Intensity." In 2016 he launched a new YSA initiative to activate the world’s youth to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Andrew Furco

Andrew Furco

Andrew Furco is Associate Vice President for Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota, where he also serves as Professor of Higher Education.  His research and publications explore various issues regarding the impact, implementation, and institutionalization of community engagement, service-learning, and experiential learning in primary, secondary, and higher education in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Furco worked at the University of California, Berkeley (1994-2007) as a faculty member in the Graduate School of Education and as the director of the University’s Service-Learning Research & Development Center.  A former K-12 teacher and school administrator, Furco has championed the advancement of service-learning across all grade spans.   He has led more than 30 studies of service-learning and community engagement, and has published four books and more than 100 articles and papers on various service-learning and community engagement topics. He is former co-editor of the International Journal for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement and currently serves on NYLC’s Board of Directors.In 2015, he was inducted into the national Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship.

Anas Ghanim

Anas Ghanim

Anas Ghanim is the Doha Coordinator at Qatar Foundation International where he supports QFI’s Youth Engagement program in the US & Qatar. Anas is also a Senior computer science student at Qatar University in Doha, Qatar. He is passionate about service learning, culture exchange, human rights and youth development. His energy and talents made him a great contributor during past Service-Learning conferences. He was among the very fortunate ROTA youth to attend the UN Summit to adopt the sustainable development goals in 2015. He is highly motivated to work closely with youth and loves to bring joy to others.

Barry Guilliot

Barry Guilliot

Barry Guillot is a National Board Certified 8th grade science teacher at Harry M. Hurst Middle School in Destrehan, Louisiana.  He is the creator and coordinator of the nationally recognized Wetland Watchers service-learning project.During the last 20 years, over 25,000 students have become community leaders through hosting weekend community trash clean-ups, tree plantings, and nature tours. Since the inception of the program, Wetland Watcher volunteers have spoken directly to nearly 2.5 million people across Louisiana about wetland issues through outreach opportunities.

The initial small tract of land adopted by Guillot and his students later became part of 28 acres of land donated by the Pontchartrain Levee Board in 2004 to St. Charles Parish in the name of the Wetland Watchers. This donation includes 2.5 acres of land rebuilt back to the 1976 shoreline through partnerships with community leader Milton Cambre, local industry, and the St. Charles Parish Government. This donated land is now the location of Wetland Watchers Park, which includes 8 picnic pavilions, a huge grand pavilion, two incredible outdoor classrooms, an 8-foot marsh overlook, and over 1,200 feet of boardwalk nature trails. Wetland Watchers Park is now part of the St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation system.

Greg Herder

Greg Herder

Greg Herder is currently the Service Learning Coordinator for Mounds View Public Schools in metro Minnesota, and a Member At-Large of the NYLC Board of Directors, representing K-12 teachers.  A 15 year classroom veteran and Service Learning practitioner, Herder now assists other teachers and administrators in service learning implementation and program development.  He has collaborated with NYLC on many projects over the past decade.  

Merrit Jones

Merrit Jones

Merrit Jones is a first-year student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and recent graduate of River Bluff High School, an EL education school, in Lexington, SC. She joined the Student Voice team after having founded Student Space, when she noticed disparities among South Carolina schools and the lack of students in the conversation around how to improve them. She is passionate about storytelling, policy, and youth empowerment. Merrit is recently concluded her gap year where she pursued those passions full-time by traveling to talk with students across the United States, researching and influencing policy, and facilitating youth-oriented events and conferences. Today, she is working with Student Voice to amplify, aggregate, and accelerate student work. Merrit believes that one must always dare greatly and be the person “in the arena,” as the great Theodore Roosevelt said, to affect real change. When she's not fighting in the education arena, you can find her cooking, doing yoga, or listening to a podcast.

Elizabeth Koenig

Elizabeth Koenig

Elizabeth Koenig began her career with NYLC in 2008 as an AmeriCorps*VISTA and continues her work leading NYLC’s Professional Development team. She currently supports NYLC’s efforts in developing young leaders and supporting educators by developing and delivering trainings for educators and young people, coordinating nationwide efforts to support out-of-school time service-learning, and leading NYLC’s efforts to integrate service-learning in school districts around the country. Elizabeth previously led NYLC’s STEM and Teen Driver Safety program areas. Elizabeth graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Will Larson

Will Larson

Will is a Senior at Orono High School located in Orono, MN. Will is currently the President for the Special Olympics Minnesota Student Board of Directors which is a student led group focusing on fostering unified school programming across the state of Minnesota. He is also an active Unified Club member at his school, a three-sport varsity athlete, a member of DECA, and a true advocate for inclusion.

Daisy Leonard

Daisy Leonard

Daisy was born in China, and now lives near Northfield, MN. She is 14 years old, in 8th grade. She learns online with Connections Academy and hopes to go to Stanford University. She has two sisters. She is into fashion designing and playing the cello, as well as currently being a high green belt in Tae Kwon Do. Youthrive, NJHS, and UAR Generation are programs she is involved in.

Vika Lin

Vika Lin

Vika Lin is from Cheng-chi University Department of Business Administration. She is full of the energy to try new things and passionate about Human Care and International Affairs. Thanks to the service-learning and the people she met on the road she started to think about how her inspiration and engagement can make positive influences in her hometown, Taiwan. Vika started a social business organization called PINTREE with other partners from her college. The organization provides adventurous journeys overseas for high school students in Taiwan to have a chance to get away from their comfort zone and the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. The adventure includes not only the volunteer work, career development, culture exchange but also various official visiting, and its purpose is to allow high school students to expand their horizon, meet different people, listen to their stories, and discover themselves during a trip into the world.

Nicodemus Madehdou

Nicodemus Madehdou

Nicodemus Madehdou is a 2016 high school graduate from New Foundations Charter School where his career path began through his involvement with service learning projects and leadership opportunities within the school. He co-founded JumpButton Studio in 2012, an entertainment company focused on producing and developing products that inspire change while educating individuals through easy to consume animated shorts known as Curiosity180 - Let's Talk About It. He now functions as the CEO of JumpButton Studio and has represented the company twice at the White House to be recognized for his company’s mission to create a positive impact on the community. JumpButton Studio was also nominated and awarded in two categories at the 2017 Philly Geek Awards for Media Project of the Year and Dev Project of the Year.

Nicodemus was also honored as a “Who’s Next” by BillyPenn in Philadelphia, listed as a “2017 Young Futurist” by TheRoot, and titled a “Leader on the Fast Track” by the Entertainment Software Association. Geared to succeed and motivate others to start their journey at a young age, Nicodemus Madehdou continues to build great relationships and long friendships. In his free time, Nicodemus coaches his high school’s track team, assistant coach for their Wrestling team and advises the Digital Media Program. He also likes to unwind with some Checkers and Netflix.

Vince Meldrum

Vince Meldrum

Vince Meldrum, through Earth Force, creates tools and supports educators to help students explore real-world problems and employ the tools of democracy to solve them.

Amy Meuers

Amy Meuers

Amy is the CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council, a national nonprofit organization that for more than 30 years has transformed classrooms, empowered teachers, and captivated students by leading the way in providing high-quality, dynamic service-learning content to school districts, classrooms, out-of-school youth programs, and everything in between. Amy has a strong passion and commitment to the work of NYLC and the role that young people can play in change the world. Over the past decade, she has authored numerous articles and blogs on service-learning and youth engagement, has led 13 National Service-Learning Conferences, service-learning World and Indigenous Forums, and is an active volunteer in her community. She is committed to transforming community into classroom and inspiring all young people to Serve. Learn. Change the world.®

Sabrina Mohamed

Sabrina Mohamed

Hi, my name is Sabrina Mohamed I am a fifteen-year-old Muslim African American.  My mother is from Oromia which is located in Ethiopia I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have a younger sister named Helen. I am a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.  I’m part of Girls Inc which which is a five year program that introduces girls to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics. I enjoy writing poems, being active in my community, and advocating for people who usually don’t have voices or won’t be heard.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan, PhD, has spent the last 47 years as a public-school teacher, administrator, parent, PTA president, researcher and advocate of service-learning and other important strategies to help young people achieve their potential and learn skills/attitudes to be active citizens. He taught service-learning courses that were described in, for example, Reader’s Digest, McCalls, and other national magazines and has appeared on the Today Show, ABC Morning News, and NBC Nightly News, as well as National Public Radio and on more than 200 other tv and radio programs. Joe is currently writing weekly columns appearing in suburban and rural Minnesota newspapers reaching up to 650,000 families.

Abbie Nelson

Abbie Nelson

Abbie is the co-founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of PAB’S PACKS, a nonprofit dedicated to providing comfort and encouragement to chronically ill teens. She is a senior at the Blake School and will be attending Tufts University in the fall of 2018. Abbie has lived in Minneapolis her whole life and loves the sense of community she feels living here. In her free time she enjoys time with her family and friends, walking or paddle boarding around the Twin Cities lakes, playing tennis and lacrosse for her school, and visiting the many art museums and galleries in the Twin Cities. A Type 1 Diabetic, Abbie is also passionate about advocating. She hopes to major in human organizational development and continue finding ways to give back.

Sinda Nichols

Sinda Nichols

Sinda Nichols is the associate director of Minnesota Campus Compact. She has a background in counseling, education, and social change work and is an experienced trainer and facilitator. Before joining the Compact, she managed the Speak Up! Speak Out! youth action civics initiative at the The University of Texas at Austin’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. Sinda holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Carleton College, is an alumna of HECUA, and has a master’s degree in social work from The University of Texas at Austin. She also sees her time as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Minneapolis Public Schools as a critical component of her education. She serves on the board of the Waite Park Community Council in Northeast Minneapolis and loves cooking, dancing, and spending time outside.

Enrique Ochoa

Enrique Ochoa

Beginning in 2016, Enrique Ochoa has served as CLAYSS Executive Director. Ochoa is a graduate of Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires and Specialist in International Relations and Negotiations for FLACSO and the University of San Andrés. Between 2000-2015 Ochoa was a consultant at the Argentinean Ministry of Education, specializing in the promotion of service-learning projects in schools, higher education institutions, universities and youth organizations. He has also taught at the levels of middle and higher education, and workshops and courses in different institutions in Latin America. Since the creation of CLAYSS, he has taken part in the development of the organization’s International Relations, participated in conferences of the Iberoamerican Service-Learning Network and in the coordination of the Latin American node of the Talloires Universities Network. 

Dario Otero

Dario Otero

Dario is the owner of Youth Lens 360, a company that provides superior visual communication and product marketing and branding services through the lens of youth ages 14-24. The Company utilizes L.E.A.D (learn, experience, apply and debrief) curriculum to train and support the technical and entrepreneurial skills of youth in our community. At Youth Lens 360, youth can earn project based credit, experiential learning, after school enrichment, entrepreneurial development and pay through an application and membership process. Prior to forming Youth Lens 360, Dario worked as a special education teacher and transition specialist at High School for Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul, Minnesota. While at HSRA, Dario developed and implemented a video and communications department that connects visual communication techniques with rigorous curriculum to address highly creative learning styles in special education student populations.

Ananda Patel

Ananda Patel

Ananda Patel is a junior at Spring Lake Park High School and is serving as MN FCCLA President-Elect. This means she will be president-elect in her junior year and her senior year will be President of the state of MN FCCLA. One of her responsibilities this year is to coordinate state level STAR Event competition management for over 1,000 youth in MN FCCLA at the State FCCLA Conference. She has been an active member of her chapter and is also on her high school swim team. Ananda has worked on various service projects and the chapter has won many national awards for their projects. Last year Ananda did the “Career Investigation” competitive STAR Event and placed first in the nation in this senior high event.

Kent Pekel

Kent Pekel

Kent Pekel is an educator who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Throughout his diverse career, he has sought to bridge the divides that too often exist between educational practice, research, and policy. Kent is currently President and CEO of Search Institute, an internationally recognized research organization that studies and works to strengthen youth outcomes in schools, families, out-of-school time programs, and communities. Prior to joining Search Institute in 2012, Kent served as the founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium, where he led the creation of Ramp-Up to Readiness, an advisory program for middle and high school students that has been adopted by more than 200 schools in eight states, engaging more than 100,000 students each year. While at the University, Kent also led the launch and expansion of the Minnesota Principals Academy, a year-long executive development program that to date has engaged more than 400 Minnesota school leaders in the study and replication of high performing schools and systems. From 2000-2005, Kent served as Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools, where he led development and implementation of the urban school district’s strategic plan and supervised the departments of research, technology, fund development, policy, high school reform, and transportation. From 1995-2000 Kent held several senior staff-level positions in the Clinton Administration, including White House Fellow assigned to the Director of Central Intelligence, Special Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Education. Kent began his career as a high school social studies teacher in his home state of Minnesota. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota.

Nan Peterson

Nan Peterson

Nan Peterson has spent the past 37 years as an educator and administrator at The Blake School in Hopkins, MN. Peterson has been an advocate for service-learning and spends time convening members of the service-learning community in Minnesota. Peterson was awarded the Passion Award from the Minnesota Department of Education in 2009, and the Service-Learning Practitioner Leadership Award from the National Youth Leadership Council in 2012.  Nan has been involved with the Grab the Torch Summer Leadership Camp since 2013 and has served as a Shinnyo-en Foundation Senior Fellow since 2015.

Rachel Peterson

Rachel Peterson

Rachel is a child advocate and researcher focusing on youth voice and children's rights. While living and working in Norway as a Regional Director for Save the Children, she developed a deep interest in and passion for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – a document that guides her both vocationally and personally. Rachel has a B.A. in Anthropology from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and a Master of Philosophy in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies from the Centre for Peace Studies at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. She has worked as Program Manager for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and as Director of Programs for Norway House in Minneapolis.

Pia Phillips

Pia Phillips

Pia is the co-founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of PAB’S PACKS, a nonprofit dedicated to providing comfort and encouragement to chronically ill teens. She is a senior at Blake High School and will be attending Emory University in Atlanta, GA this coming fall. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Pia loves to explore the city, draw, play the guitar and spend time with her family and friends. Pia is passionate about PAB’S PACKS because she believes it is a way for other teens to feel wanted, known, and cared for through connections and comfort.

Devin Robinson

Devin T. Robinson X "Egypt"

Despite losing his mother at 12, having his father abandon him the same day and being classified as an orphan, Egypt may have been knocked down…but wasn’t knocked out. Over a span of 10 years, Egypt has worked in Black history storytelling, relationship counseling and HIV education. He has appeared on MTV, BET, Apollo Theater twice, TEDx twice, FOX with Lee Pitts in addition to countless radio shows, magazine and performance appearances. He has shared stages with A-list celebrities such as John Legend, Alicia Keys and Magic Johnson. He adopted the name "Egypt" because he plans to influence the world just as the great African empire has influenced the earth. He has performed around the world, including Johannesburg South Africa, Doha Qatar, Barbados, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and a TEDx Talk in Amman, Jordan. Not to neglect he has gained two degrees while being on the Dean's list, graduated Phi Theta Kappa Honors, won the Florida State PAL Boxing Championship, is a devout Christian, created the AIDS Awareness Poets Inc and the AIDS Games. He wrote three top selling relationship books, "How Good Is Sex?", “Change Him… In 100 pages,”, "Love Is Not An STD" and 10 Steps To Get Over An Ex…FOR GOOD”. He is also the youngest (27) Alumni of the year award recipient at Palm Beach State College for his work in HIV/AIDS.

Julie Rogers Bascom

Julie Rogers Bascom

Julie Rogers Bascom is the Service-Learning Coordinator at Edina Public Schools. She works with teachers and students to weave service into the early education through high school curriculum and beyond. Julie has been with the district for over nine years and has been on the advisory board for Connecting With Kids for four years. She has presented at national workshops on weaving service into curriculum and community and also serves as on the board of Doing Good Together, a non-profit that inspires and helps families volunteer.

Dr. Susan Root

Dr. Susan Root

Dr. Susan Root is currently Senior Academic Fellow at the National Youth Leadership Council. She received her doctorate in educational psychology with a cognate in statistics and research design from Michigan State University. Sue’s research and evaluation skills include research design in collaboration with partners, developing quantitative and qualitative data collection tools that reflect partner input as well as relevant theory, managing the process of evaluation, quantitative and qualitative data analysis and producing research reports.

Jim Scheibel

Jim Scheibel

Jim Scheibel is a Professor of Practice at Hamline University. During his career he has served as a community organizer, city councilmember, mayor, director of VISTA and the Senior Corps, and executive director of nonprofits. Jim has been active fighting to end poverty, as an elected official he was a national leader on hunger, homelessness, and immigrant and refugee issues. He has advocated for policy initiatives and changes. Today, he continues the fight serving on the board of the Congressional Hunger Center and as a Regional Volunteer Director (a volunteer position) for AARP. Jim has a MPA from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. In 2015 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for service from President Obama and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Dr. Raj Sethuraju

Dr. Raj Sethuraju

Dr. Sethuraju is a recovering criminologist, alcoholic, and survivor of sexual abuse, with over 20 years of community-based activism as a researcher and educator. Inspired by the resilience of the youth and the men in our prison systems, he trains probation agents, community members, and justice personnel on implicit biases and raising consciousness utilizing restorative justice practices. In his latest work, Dr. Sethuraju explores the depths of our justice system and creates a framework in which consciousness becomes the roots of our practices.

Robert Shumer

Dr. Robert Shumer

Dr. Robert Shumer has been involved in education for almost 50 years.  He has taught from middle school through graduate school and conducted research in many areas, from service-learning, to teacher education, to character education, to career and technical education, to civic engagement, to participatory evaluation. He served as the founding director of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse at the University of Minnesota and internal evaluator for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE).  He also served as Director of Field Studies at UCLA and Vice Chair of the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement.  He has published more than 85 articles, book chapters, and even a few books on service-learning, youth-led participatory evaluation, career and technical education, teacher education, and community-based learning.  He has also taught courses and consulted in many countries around the world, including Mexico, Germany, England, Ireland, Morocco, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and China.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Youth Leadership Council and is a Research Fellow at Clemson University's National Dropout Prevention Center.

He received his Masters in Educational Psychology from California State University, Northridge, and his Ph.D in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Ananya Singh

Ananya Singh

Ananya Singh is a sophomore at Morris County School of Technology, in New Jersey, where she studies in the academy for visual and performing arts. She serves on NYLC's Youth Advisory Council, a team of servant-leaders dedicated to youth leadership and service-learning. She is also deeply engaged in advancing climate justice and social activism, bringing great passion and energy to her work. She firmly believes in the power of young people to create change in the world, and the importance of working together across generations and cultures to create a more equitable, just world.

Dr. James Toole

Dr. James Toole

Dr. James Toole is a global change maker that works with youth, social entrepreneurs, teachers, and non-profits to support a new generation of leaders that are designing innovative solutions to social challenges. Over the past decade, he has taught over 300 youth leaders from 60 countries that are tackling everything from gender-based violence in Botswana and teaching English in Brazilian slums to protecting the oceans in the Philippines and supporting female education in Syrian refugee camps. His curriculum on social innovation and entrepreneurship for the International Youth Foundation is translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and Arabic and used in 22 countries. He is also the co- founder (with his wife) of the National Youth Leadership Council’s Service-Learning Professional Development Department.

Kate Walker

Kate Walker

Kate Walker is an Associate Professor and Specialist in Youth Work Practice at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. She studies the role that adult program leaders, staff and volunteers play in supporting youth development in programs. She also leads professional development efforts aimed at supporting and improving youth work practice. This includes trainings on social and emotional learning and on the dilemmas that practitioners face in their everyday work with young people. Kate is the editor of the Journal for Youth Development: Bridging Research and Practice

Maddy Wegner

Maddy Wegner

Trained as a journalist, Maddy is NYLC’s Director of Engagement. She has served for the last six years as the Director of Training and Innovation at Youthrive, a nonprofit dedicated to cross-generational work and peace-building. She has taught middle and high school English in private and public middle and high schools in Vermont, California, and Idaho, and has done research, program, and nonprofit development, helping integrate service-learning into a consortium of 10 school districts in the Twin Cities metro area. The recipient of the 2016 Stellar Service-Learning Award, and a 2010 Minnesota Department of Education Service-Learning award, she has a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University, a secondary English/Language Arts teaching credential from the University of California, Berkeley’s Bay Area Writing Project, and an undergraduate B.A. in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

Cindy Yang

Cindy Yang

Cindy Yang sits on the Hmong Americans for Justice Board of Directors. She is Hmong American – raised in the deep south of North Carolina, Cindy’s journey to Minnesota in 2010 is where she found her true passion and calling for social justice work. Cindy began organizing at her first college at the UNC Greensboro, where she led many initiatives with Hmong focused student organizations. It was there where she was reacquainted with her Hmong identity, and was proud to be a Hmong American. Cindy later graduated from Metropolitan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems. Like most young professionals, Cindy began working in the IT corporate world. Still seeking her passion, Cindy found political campaigning in 2015. She served as fundraising chair for a city council campaign in Saint Paul. Later in 2016, as campaign manager, Cindy elected the first person of color to the Brooklyn Park City Council. Most recently in 2017, Cindy helped in a mayoral race in St. Paul. Cindy is a founding member and board member of Hmong Americans for Justice (HAJ) and the Data and IT Manager of TakeAction Minnesota. Her role as a board member of HAJ, Cindy plans to increase the Hmong electorate and civic engagement. Currently as Data and IT Manager.

Meet the National Service-Learning Award Winners

The Incredible Machine Project

The Incredible Machine Project

The Incredible Machine was created by Cassey Ivie and Hala Louviere to partially fulfill the Utah 4-H State Ambassador Competition requirements. When they received a $6,500 grant from NobleCause, the project expanded exponentially. The program uses a near-peer service learning model to teach software, electrical, chemical, mechanical and civil engineering. A team of Entheos and 4-H youth contribute to the project. The curriculum has been piloted at Entheos, two neighboring school districts and in 4-H clubs throughout Utah. The kits are available for checkout by teachers, parents, and 4-H club leaders. They also created a philanthropic business plan for the Incredible Machine at Copper Hills High School, placing 1st in Utah and 5th at the 2017 DECA International Career Development Conference. The project is receiving further traction through the National 4-H Council Youth in Action Program, as Cassey was chosen as the 2018 National 4-H STEM Pillar Winner and Youth Spokesperson, allowing her to share the project with youth throughout the nation. As Cassey and Hala move on to college next fall, they leave capable team members to sustain the program. They will continue to keep a hand in the project through Collegiate 4-H at Utah State University.

Katrina Weimholt

Katrina Weimholt is the Assistant Director at the Center for Civic Engagement providing expertise in service-learning and experiential education, nonprofit management, and political engagement. She previously led civic engagement programs at Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development as the Program Director of the Civic Education Project. Katrina founded the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago, a volunteer-run association that strengthens the nonprofit community by providing professional development, resources, and networking opportunities to young professionals. She was also a founding director of the New Leaders Council in Chicago, a nonprofit that recruits, trains, and supports the next generation of progressive leadership. Katrina holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political communication from Northwestern, and is completing a master’s degree in public policy and administration.

Dr. Barb Witteman

Dr. Barb Witteman

Before Barb Witteman started school, she knew she was going to be a teacher. And by either through subbing or under contract, she has taught every grade from preschool to graduate level classes.

Born and raised in northwest North Dakota, Barb began her teaching career three weeks after graduating from Minot State University. After teaching several years, her husband Kurt encouraged her to go to graduate school and their family, which now included Ryan and Anne, moved to Oxford, Ohio where she earned her masters and PhD degrees from Miami University. The family then moved back to Fargo and she began teaching at Concordia College in 1995. It was here in an elementary methods’ class that she had students write curriculum to support a local historical village’s buildings and artifacts by creating museum trunks for teachers to check out. Barb didn’t know it as service-learning, she just called it good teaching because her students learned how to and created ways to make history come alive. This led to her becoming even more engaged in the Fargo-Moorhead area where she continues to work with students of all ages, classroom teachers and multiple agencies. In the field of service-learning, she has led inservice activities, conducted workshops and even written books geared toward children to better explain what service-learning is and how to do it.

Meet the Elders

Dr. Daniel Abebe

Dr. Daniel Abebe

Since arriving in Minnesota, Daniel has actively built bridges between African immigrants and other U.S. groups. He serves as a member of the faculty at Metropolitan State University where he teaches and advises students in the College of Individualized Studies. Daniel also served as one of the original programmers on "Voices of Ethiopia," a weekly feature on KFAI radio, and co-founded Global Citizens Network (now Xpertas) a non-profit Minnesota-based organization that facilitates service-based experiences for North Americans in multiple destinations around the world. He has also fostered these educational exchanges as a training consultant and volunteer for colleges and universities and community organizations in the US and abroad. As a faculty advisor and team leader, Daniel has guided hundreds of college students, faculty peers, and other U.S. professionals on trips to Kenya, Tanzania, Jamaica, Botswana, Western Samoa, and other destinations over the past 20 years. He currently serves on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Council of the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities. Daniel earned his Master and Ph.D. Degrees in Adult Education from the University of Minnesota and holds a B.A. in Economics from Hamline University.

Abdisalam Adam

Abdisalam Adam

Abdisalam Adam came to the United States in 1991 and worked as a Librarian, Arabic Translator, and Researcher in the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, Fairfax, VA. He also served as the Managing Editor of Al-Jumuah Magazine in Madison, WI, before moving to the Twin Cities in 1996. He worked at Al-Amal School in Fridley where he served as a teacher and principal. Abdisalam is on the Board of the Islamic Civic Society of America, which operates the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis. He currently works for St. Paul Public Schools as an Administrative Intern at Highwood Hills Elementary School. He has also served as an English Language Learners teacher and Cultural Specialist with the Office of Family Engagement and Community Partnerships. Abdisalam obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Master’s degree from St. Cloud State University and he is currently pursuing the Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D) at Bethel University. Abdisalam strives to build bridges between the diverse communities in Minnesota.

Mac Hall

Mac Hall

McClellan is of Cherokee descent. Mac is a former teacher and principal of tribal schools and founded the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, over 30 years ago. He has dedicated nearly 40 years to Native youth development. Mac is a graduate of the Native Teacher Education Program at the University of Washington and holds a Masters of Education from Arizona State University.

Mac was a member of the SAMHSA Expert Panel on Prevention (10 yrs) and a member of SAMHSA’s Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention (5 yrs) . Mr. Hall was the Co-lead of the American Indian/Alaska Native Task Force for SAMHSA’s national suicide prevention effort for 5 years. Mac is the recipient of the Kurt Hahn Award, the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award, Alice King Public Service Award for the state of New Mexico, the Alec Dickson Servant Leader Award and the Indian Health Service Director’s Behavioral Health Achievement Award. He is the developer of Project Venture, the only Native American-developed Program in the US to attain the level of Model Program with SAMHSA and NREPP. NIYLP also co-developed TANAY (Therapeutic Adventure for Native American Youth) program, and the Web of Life, both adaptations of Project Venture. Mac is a consultant on positive youth development in the US and Canada.

Dr. Jose Johnson

Dr. Josie Johnson

Josie Robinson Johnson has played an active role in the civil rights movement since her teenage years, when she and her father canvassed her hometown of Houston to gather signatures on an anti-poll tax petition. In the early 1960s, Josie lobbied professionally for passage of bills concerning such issues as fair housing and employment opportunities. In 1964, she traveled from Minneapolis to Mississippi with an integrated group of women to witness and take part in the struggle there. Josie became a community organizer for Project ENABLE, a pioneering effort in developing parenting skills and strengthening family life in 1965. A member of the Minneapolis Urban League, she served as acting director between 1967 and 1968. Josie became the first African American appointed to the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota (U of M), in 1971. In the 1990’s, as associate vice-president for academic affairs at the U of M, she spearheaded efforts to increase diversity in the student body and faculty. To honor her committed efforts, the U of M established the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award, which honors “its faculty, staff, and students who, through their principles and practices, exemplify Dr. Johnson’s standard of excellence in creating respectful and inclusive living, learning, and working environments.”

Jim Kielsmeier

Dr. Jim Kielsmeier

Kielsmeier has committed his life to transforming the roles of young people in society – building youth-adult partnerships that help young people grow from recipients of information and resources to valuable, contributing members of a democratic society. In the process, he has woven concepts of national service and experiential learning to pioneer service-learning, an educational approach that has benefitted countless young people, including many who haven’t responded to traditional educational models, and helped strengthen communities around the world.

Dr. Ramon A. Pastrano

Dr. Ramon A. Pastrano, IV- D.Min.-MSM-MATS

Ramon founded ImpactLives in 2007 as a laboratory for social responsibility and innovation. Through transformational leadership, cultural competence, and critical thinking his model is designed to assist individuals and organizations in developing new frameworks from where to solve the world’s most challenging problems. By critically reflecting on the social cultural and geopolitical structures as a whole, his model helps to provide a better understanding of complex problems. Ramon’s ImpactQuest model takes a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving that integrates science, business, faith, socio-cultural anthropology and profound social change methodologies. His approach also includes, human centered design, design thinking, transformational leadership, system thinking, service learning, social responsibility, social innovation and entrepreneurial leadership. Additionally, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and socio-cultural awareness reflective experiences that help increase self-awareness.

Linda Eagle Speaker

Linda Eagle Speaker

Traditional Name: Holy Medicine Shining Woman. Linda Eagle Speaker is a mother, Grandmother of eight, traditionally adopted mother of four sons and two daughters, traditionally adopted grandmother of six grandchildren and is an enrolled member: Dually enrolled Blood Tribe, South Alberta and Blackfeet Tribe of Montana. She is the Holder of Sundance Pipe, Ceremonial Herbalist gather /preserver of ceremonial plants used in traditional ceremonies. She has spent 14 years with Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, currently as the Ceremonial Elder in Residence. She is a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Rose Wan-Mui

Dr. Rose Wan-Mui

Rose has dedicated her professional life to the tireless pursuit of education equity and excellence for children and youth. Rose brings over 25 years of diverse and rich cross-sector experiences.

A former research engineer at Honeywell, Rose became a licensed classroom teacher, and later a teacher leader in Minneapolis Public Schools. She then joined Metropolitan State’s Urban Teacher Program (now housed in the School of Urban Education), with a mission to increase the number of teachers of color and to prepare all teachers to ensure quality education for urban learners.

Meet the Youth Emcees

Beza Gebremariam

Beza Gebremariam, Youth Emcee

Beza Gebremariam graduated from Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, and is currently a first year at Duke University. During her time at Overland she served a variety of leadership positions including Student Body President, President of Math Honor Society, Captain of Speech and Debate, and Vice President of National Honor Society. At Duke she is a Robertson Scholar and plans to study Public Policy. In her spare time she enjoys reading (she’s open to any book recommendations), photography, and hiking. Being the first in her family to go to college, she understands the importance of education and is excited to work with NYLC to advocate for education equity through service learning.

Lakshmi Meenakshi Immaneni

Lakshmi Meenakshi Immaneni, Youth Emcee

Lakshmi Meenakshi Immaneni, whose friends know her as Meenu, is a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the inaugural class of 2016 graduates from The STEM Early College at NC A&T. She is honored to be serving as a member of the 2016-2018 NYLC Youth Advisory Council. She believes literacy is the greatest gift someone can receive because of its ability to unlock potential. Three years ago, she and a friend started a small program known as the Interactive Learning Club, or ILC. Its aim was to provide students with a fun, interactive, and worthwhile STEM learning experiences. Their program was implemented in a small, parochial K-8th grade school in Greensboro and has been active ever since. In addition to this program, she also helped organize an annual STEM day event as Secretary of her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Just like ILC, its goal was to help underrepresented minorities explore the STEM fields through various activities. Both of these programs are still thriving to this day. As an organizer, advocate, and STEM enthusiast she could not be any prouder.

Jesse Ordonez-Saybe, Youth Emcee

Jesse Ordonez-Saybe is a junior at Roseville Area High School. He is a 2019 graduate student and is part of the AVID program in pursuit of becoming a 1st generation college graduate. Throughout his high school experience, he has strived to do his best in rigorous courses. Currently, he is taking AP Literature and Composition, college algebra, AP psychology. Jesse has volunteered continuously over the years for many nonprofit organizations but also school programs such as bagging at cub foods for his soccer team, senior night, and things like the 623 walk/run and the WE movement. He has also enjoyed going back to talk to younger students and leaders and being a leader by example.

Katrina Tadros, Youth Emcee

Katrina Tadros is an 8th grader at Minnetonka Middle school East. After traveling to Bolivia and Egypt on service trips she became very passionate and dedicated to helping other in her community. She is President of her school’s Student Government and volunteers at a variety of projects focusing on local poverty and homelessness.

Kidist Wosenyeleh

Kidist Wosenyeleh, Youth Emcee

Kidist Wosenyeleh is a junior at Roseville Area High School. Her hobbies include playing the violin, writing poetry and watching TV. She is on the math team, speech team, twp orchestras and is an active member of the Youthrive Cabinet. She does not know what she wants to be yet but she does know that she wants to inspire people and become a leader in which ever field she chooses.