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Nagla Bedir is currently a Social Studies teacher at Perth Amboy High School (PAHS) in Perth Amboy, NJ. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in History and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Rutgers University in 2012 and went on to graduate with her Masters in Social Studies Education from the Graduate School of Education in Rutgers University in 2013. During her two and a half year tenure at PAHS she has been the advisor for the National Honor Society, the JV volleyball coach, and has written three curriculums for US History 1, Contemporary World Issues, and Freshman Seminar. She continues to promote social justice in her classroom by giving students platforms that amplify their voice. Nagla also spends her summers working for the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. She has been a teaching assistant and instructor and continues to build her career through various teaching opportunities.
Jerell Blakeley graduated as ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ from Trenton Central High School and the Princeton University Preparatory Program. While in high school, he was the sole student representative on the Trenton Board of Education. He secured an academic scholarship to Howard University, where he earned a degree in History. While at Howard, he secured internships with the Secretaries of HUD and the Interior and the White House Initiative on HBCUs. He currently is a Civics and History Teacher at his alma mater TCHS-West and an Organizational Development Consultant with the New Jersey Education Association. A passionate believer in the power of education, Jerell is a graduate of The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where he earned an Ed.M. in the Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education as an Eagleton Fellow of Politics and Government. He received his teacher's certification from the Center for Effective School Practices, also at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He presently is a PhD student in the Urban Systems/Urban Education Policy program at Rutgers-Newark.
Jerell has been featured in national and international media outlets like the National Public Radio, Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. Jerell is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. He is a proud member of the Trenton Education Association and the New Jersey Education Association, where he is a member of local and county Legislative Action Teams, was recently selected as one of 50 Emerging Leaders in the NJEA, and was featured on the cover of the April 2015 NJEA Review edition highlighting the pension issue in NJ. He was recently selected to participate in the inaugural class of the NJ State Democratic Party's Building Our Future political operative training program. He serves on the boards of The Children Home Society of NJ and the Mercer County Board of Social Services
John Butler is the Problem-Solving Justice Fellow at the Center for Court Innovation in New York City. In this role, he provides technical assistance to court jurisdictions around the country, including services provided under the Problem-Solving Justice Initiative at the U.S. Department of Justice, and helps to plan and coordinate regional and national training events on topics related to criminal justice.
Prior to joining the Center, John clerked on the District Court of New Jersey and worked as a researcher for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, researching and writing on the effects of prison downsizing in California. While in law school, John worked for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Public International Law & Policy Group and was a fellow at the Stanford design school (the "d.school"). He also co-founded a legal education program at an Iraqi university and a police accountability program in Nairobi, Kenya and represented indigent criminal defendants in municipal court and on federal appeal.
Before law school John worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Newark; as an aide on a number of campaigns; and as a camp director at Frost Valley, YMCA.
He serves as President of the Board of BioBus, a STEM education non-profit, and as a Trustee at Frost Valley, YMCA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Brown University, a Masters in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Peter Chen is a staff attorney and 2014-16 Skadden Fellow at Advocates for Children of New Jersey. His work focuses on expanding access to early intervention services for at-risk infants and toddlers ages 0-3, as well as on other early childhood education and health issues. Peter is responsible for policy analysis and advocacy at the state and local level, as well as assisting families in advocating for their children.
Prior to joining ACNJ in 2014, Peter clerked for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and taught high school English in Chicago. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, and his B.A. from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Elizabeth Coulter has worked in government and politics in New Jersey for her entire career. In 2013, she graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Politics. Immediately after graduation, she joined then-Representative Rush Holt's Special Election Senate Campaign as a Communications Assistant. She went on to work in the Congressman's District Office as a Communications Assistant and District Representative, where she managed a constituent casework portfolio consisting of education, healthcare, immigration, and veterans issues, in addition to community outreach.
She is currently the Strategic Development Coordinator for Phil Murphy, the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany under President Obama. In a volunteer capacity, Elizabeth serves as the Vice Chair of the Monmouth County Democrats Young Democrats Caucus and as the Vice President for Membership and Website of the United Nations Association USA Princeton-Trenton-Area Chapter.
Louis Di Paolo was elected to the Dumont Council as the borough’s top vote-getter in the 2015 general election. He is currently the youngest elected official in Bergen County, and is among the youngest candidates ever to mount a successful run for municipal office in the State of New Jersey.
A firm believer in transparent and accountable government, Louis ran for council to provide attentive oversight as the borough deliberates the future of its vacated municipal complex. Given the magnitude of this project, Louis ran on a platform promising increased communication between the borough’s governing body and residents. His other priorities include exploring shared service agreements with neighboring municipalities and addressing the ongoing heroin epidemic.
Louis works as State Senator Bob Gordon’s Director of Constituent Services, where he helps residents avoid homelessness, attain health insurance, and navigate state agencies and programs. He also assists with the senator’s legislative initiatives, including ongoing efforts to reform the Port Authority of NY & NJ.
In addition to his public service, Louis is the President of Young Democrats of Bergen County, where he works to recruit and empower progressive young candidates. He also has extensive experience on state and local campaigns, and has advocated for criminal justice reform as a legislative coordinator for NORML NJ.
Louis graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ramapo College of New Jersey, studying Political Science and Criminology.
Brianna Earle is an organizer at heart who has a deep passion for social justice and communications. Having grown up in a labor household, she was raised with a picket sign in her hand. At an early age she was taught the importance of being an advocate for the underrepresented and the working poor. At seventeen years old Brianna got started in the labor movement by organizing food service workers across the state of New Jersey from there she transitioned into politics where she worked on various statewide campaigns specializing in Latino outreach. Brianna has also spent time at Working Families an organization that pushes and advocates for progressive policies that uplift the middle class and the working poor. Presently, Brianna does communications work for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, a union that represents over 30,000 Union Carpenters across New Jersey, New York, and Maryland.
Brianna was born and raised in Atlantic County but currently resides in Ewing Township. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in the alleviation of Poverty and Inequity from the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University. In her free time she enjoys, traveling, reading, and spending time with family, friends and her puppy Milo.
Petra Gaskins moved to New Jersey from Hawaii during her junior year of high school. She then attended and received a BA from Rider University in Political Science and Global Studies. While at Rider, she got her first taste in politics when she interned for the late Senator Lautenberg in his Camden office. She worked with the campaigns of President Obama, Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, among numerous others. She then studied for a year in China and later interned with the Department of State researching the investment trends of Chinese firms. Afterwards, she served as President of the Rider College Democrats and helped re-launch the College Democrats of New Jersey with a group of young leaders from other NJ college campuses. Petra currently handles Veteran Affairs, immigration and education casework for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman.In her spare time, Petra loves to ride her bike and talk about anything relating to Millennials.
Kimby Heil is a community builder, with a passion for bringing people together across barriers to foster strong relationships and deeper understanding. She grew up in central New Jersey where she was very involved with her youth group and started to develop a desire to fight for social justice. This passion, coupled with her dream of being an elementary school teacher, led her to Boston College where she earned her BA in Elementary Education and math. From Boston she went straight to Nashville, TN where she earned her M.Ed. in Diversity and Urban Studies at Vanderbilt University. While engaged in course work she interned at a juvenile detention center, and the students she met there drastically changed the trajectory of her life. She realized her passion for working with those cast out by society, and decided to postpone teaching elementary school to pursue ways to work with teens and men involved with the criminal justice system.
Shortly after graduating she moved to Trenton, NJ where she currently resides. It is a city that has captured her heart, and she is dedicated towards revitalizing the city by working with the people who make it up. She works with the OneTrenton Project leading a variety of community events including art and gardening initiatives. She also is the founder/director of CommUNITYworX, a program that brings together racially and socioeconomically diverse groups of teens to build community and talk about issues of race, privilege and justice. It is her deep belief that through fostering meaningful relationships and building stronger communities is essential to the success of the world.
Amit Jani, Account Executive, Vision Media Marketing
Amit Jani currently serves as an account executive with Vision Media Marketing. He previously served as a Congressional Aide for United States Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. in New Jersey. In this capacity, he worked to build community relations, planned programs important to residents in the district, and served as a liaison for constituents and community stakeholders to federal, state, and local government agencies, and the private sector. He also serves as a County Director for the South Asian American Caucus within the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, and is an Advisory Board Member for the Hudson County Schools of Technology Foundation.
Prior to this role, he worked in a legislative capacity for Congresswoman Judy Chu in Washington, D.C. He also worked with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), working on issues including education, civil rights and South-Asian affairs. He has prior experience working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New Jersey State Legislature, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ. Amit has also served as Committeeman for the Middlesex County Democratic Committee.
Amit is a Jersey City native, where he currently resides. He is also a proud alum and Scarlet Knight of Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey.
Ryan Jones advocates on behalf of clients in areas concerning the automotive, healthcare, and arts/tourism industries as a Government Affairs Associate with the law firm, GluckWalrath, LLP.
Ryan received his Juris Doctorate from Delaware Law School in 2009 and his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Franklin & Marshall College in 2006. In college, he became interested in social and organizational psychology, where he began studying design. This interest continues to this day as he manages a design firm that he founded in 2010, The Carmichael. The Carmichael offers a wide variety of branding solutions and strategic communication consulting services to assist small and midsize entities seeking growth strategies and defining their public identity in authentic ways.
This year, Ryan successfully ran for Councilman in his hometown of South River in Middlesex County. He is focused upon reevaluating the local government's policies in order to foster a climate that promotes property investment—not discourages it. This means reevaluating the town's permit, fee, and rate structure and ensuring that specific focus is placed on growth and cultivation of civic activity. He is focused on returning the council's role to one that serves residents built upon respectful, civilized discussion and one that offers residents real opportunities to voice concerns and feedback. That input will serve as the basis for a larger foundational plan to rejuvenate the downtown, premised upon concepts of place-making, purpose-driven design, and expanding public-private relationships.
Concurrently, Ryan is working to launch a nonprofit aimed on addressing market based challenges of development in small towns like South River. The organization seeks to promote 21st century concepts of urban design and management to drive a critical mass of residents back into the downtown. The organization's initial mission is to educate others on and promote good design policy in order to reset expectations and reestablish how communities interact with public spaces and resources. The organization will focus upon towns lacking traditional demand models (such as transit, higher ed, tourism) that typically provide the justified stimulus for development.
Ryan looks forward to ice fishing with his father each winter, loves escaping into cooking projects with his fiancée, Jaci, and is a passionate Rangers fan.
Norah Langweiler is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work at Rutgers University, focusing on policy and its impact on marginalized populations. She holds a Masters of Education with an emphasis on Human Sexuality from Widener University where she was accepted into the Gamma Eta Rho Honors Fraternity, the only academic fraternity in the country for scholars in sexuality. Her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, where she was a member of the Commonwealth Honors College, was of her own making within the university’s individualized degree program and focused on Creative Writing, Poetry, and Politics.
South Jersey native and avid traveler, Norah is particularly interested in global policy and cooperation between nations to find solutions to universal problems. A passionate writer and activist, Norah blogs under an alias for a feminist website and helps out by volunteering her time editing other writers’ work. Norah cut her teeth in social justice working at a student run cooperative, Earthfoods Cafe, at UMass. She credits this experience with shaping her worldview and plunging her into the realm of activism and social justice. Norah is currently working with HiTOPS, an adolescent sexual health organization, facilitating support groups for LGBT youth. Norah spends her free time brewing beer in the winter and kayaking in the summer.
Crystal McDonald is the Director of Operations and Development for Faith in New Jersey, a faith-based community organization focused on developing and empowering leaders to fight for racial and economic justice. She currently leads the organization’s operations, human resources and dvelopment work and has led their transition to an independent 501 (c)(3) organization. She has been a healthcare advocate and organizer for eight years focusing on ensuring that all New Jerseyans have access to quality, affordable healthcare. She has engaged community leaders and health stakeholders across the state in improving health access in “hot spot” communities, conducting outreach and education about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passing and implementing the NJ Medicaid ACO Demonstration Project, and improving the states non-emergency medical transportation contract which impacts 1.7 million New Jerseyans. Prior to her role at Faith in New Jersey, she was the Healthcare Campaign Coordinator at NJ Citizen Action and helped to build and organize a coalition of over 650 small businesses & staff a coalition of over 70 organizations throughout the state to support the passage of the Affordable Care Act and protect vital safety-net programs like Medicaid and Medicare. She started her career as the Program Assistant at the NJ Chapter of the Sierra club and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 2006. She lives with her husband and son in Howell, NJ.
Brian McGinnis is an Associate in the Philadelphia office of Fox Rothschild LLP, where he practices employment law.
Brian previously served as Communications Director to New Jersey General Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt. In this role, he directed media relations, managed digital media communications, and developed and coordinated external messaging for the Assembly members in a wide variety of media—earning a reputation for aggressive advocacy and effective public relations strategies. In addition, Brian coordinated policy analysis and development for the members in the areas of gun violence prevention and issues affecting New Jersey’s LGBT community.
Brian is a veteran of numerous political campaigns, including campaigns at the statewide, legislative, county, and local levels. He also previously served as South Jersey Director to Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s leading LGBT civil rights advocacy organization.
Brian graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers Law School in 2015, where he served as Co-Chair of the Board of the James Hunter III Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition, Executive Editor of the Rutgers Law Review, and Part-Time President of the Student Bar Association. While in law school, Brian received the 2015 Helen Levine Cohen Award for demonstrating the highest caliber of advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.
A classically-trained musician who has competed in several triathlons, Brian is also an avid soccer fan.
No matter where Jenna is in the world, she always reps the big hair and bodacious ways of her beloved Garden State. Jenna Mellor is currently working on an oral history project in Atlantic City that looks at sex work and underground economies. Jenna is motivated by the belief that all people deserve agency over their own lives and wellbeing. This belief started as a child witnessing social disenfranchisement in Atlantic City and so, after years elsewhere, Jenna was excited to return to New Jersey as a Global Health Corps Fellow coordinating medical services at a youth shelter in 2013.
Jenna moved to New Jersey after living and working with her partner in Cochabamba, Bolivia where she shadowed a street psychologist and worked on self-care practices for EMTs. Before her time in South America, Jenna ran the flagship Outreach Program at HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), where she managed a team of over 75 volunteers to provide a diverse range of services including HIV testing, counseling, condom distribution, and syringe exchange. She joined HIPS after working at Safe Horizon in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office as a case manager for domestic violence survivors.
Jenna is a sex-positive leader and oral historian, who as an undergraduate at Harvard co-founded the high-impact Female Orgasm Seminar and co-chaired the Radcliffe Union of Students, a feminist organization devoted to activism and the arts. She has led menstruation workshops for Boston-area teenagers, taught literacy courses to migrant farm workers in New Jersey, and conducted original research into the history of involuntary sterilization in the United States.
Jai Parson is currently a Financial Analyst in Corporate Treasury at BNY Mellon. There he is responsible for building and enhancing valuation models that assess the banks resilience to stressed market conditions. Prior to his role in Corporate Treasury, he held various roles in Asset Servicing, specifically in the hedge fund and private equity industry. Outside of his day-to-day duties, Jai serves on the planning committee for IMPACT, a BNY Mellon affinity group with the goal of fostering professional growth and advancement of employees from diverse backgrounds.
Aside from work, Jai co-founded Access Academy, a non-profit organization focused on uplifting urban youth through leadership development, mentoring, community service, and academic tutoring. The first class consists of 20 high school male students from Newark and Jersey City. As a product of Jersey City Public Schools, Jai is passionate about combining his personal connection to the city and his professional acumen to improve the lives of the next generation. Jai currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.
Jai holds a BA in Economics from Rutgers University. While attending, he became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and served as the Bigger and Better Business Chairman for the undergraduate chapter. As Chairman, Jai was responsible for organizing business programs that increased the student body’s knowledge of basic accounting principles, personal finance, and the global markets. During his personal time he is active in state-wide community service, reading about history, and small business consulting.
Matt Platkin was born and raised in New Jersey and currently resides in Montclair. He has been active in New Jersey and national Democratic politics, having worked for Cory Booker’s senate campaign as well as serving as an advisor and for various other state and federal campaigns across the country. Previously, Matt worked on economics policy at The Brookings Institution, where he advised members of Congress on policies to promote economic recovery and job growth in the wake of the financial crisis. In 2011, he managed a successful city council campaign in San Antonio, TX for a first-time candidate. His writing has been featured in The New York Times and The Star Ledger.Matt is currently an attorney with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, where his practice focuses criminal and regulatory investigations. He also maintains an active pro bono practice, representing indigent clients facing criminal and removal proceedings in immigration and federal court. Matt serves on the board of America Needs You – New Jersey, an organization that provides mentoring and professional development to first-generation, low-income college students in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Madison High School, Stanford University, and Stanford Law School.
Lovely Randle was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti and her family migrated to the United States in 1993 when she was 3 years old. Lovely was raised in several cities in New Jersey including Newark and East Orange, before settling in Elizabeth. A graduate of Elizabeth High School, Lovely is fluent in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. Proudly, she is the first member of her family to earn a college degree—a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from New Jersey City University in 2013. Immediately after, she went on to pursue her Master’s degree in Health Services-Public Administration from Kean University with an expected graduation date of May 2016. Lovely is a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Global Public Administration Honor Society.
Lovely currently serves the City of Elizabeth as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist. Alongside her colleagues, she inspects Elizabeth’s food establishments to make sure that they are in compliance with the NJ state sanitary code. Her duties in the City of Elizabeth Health Department also include being a NJ State licensed Lead Inspector/Risk Assessor. She inspects the homes of children who have been deemed by the state to have elevated blood lead levels through their physicians. Lovely is also currently completing an internship for the Union County Division of Emergency Management assisting the Deputy Director of Emergency Management with administrative tasks.
Lovely is very passionate about increasing her presence in the public health community to bring more public health awareness in urban communities. Teaching is also a passion that she plans on pursuing after my work has been fulfilled in the public health field. Lovely is a “die-hard” Dallas Cowboys fan and in her spare time she enjoys cooking, singing, and painting.
Brian Rock is a social studies teacher and a union activist. Since 2007, he has taught social studies at East Orange Campus High School. He is an officer in his local education association and active in both the NEA and the NJEA.
As a teacher, Brian teaches history, civics and government at East Orange Campus High School. He serves as the yearbook advisor at the school and organizes two semi-annual blood drives. This year, he wrote a new civics and government curriculum and leading the implementation of a peer leadership course, Peer Group Connections. Next year, he will serve as the lead teacher for the school’s new Arts and Technology career academy.Brian is currently the Vice President of the East Orange Education Association. As the chair of the local’s Government Relations Committee, he maintains relationships with local politicians and organizes members to take political action. He serves on NJEA’s Congressional Contact Committee, whose charge is to maintain relationships with NJ’s Congressional delegation. He has served as a delegate to the NEA’s Representative Assembly, and he is the 1st Vice Chair of NEA’s Democratic Caucus.
Brian is also one of the founding members of the Essex County Young Democrats and is active in the Urban League of Essex County Young Professionals. He is a supporter of the All Stars Project of New Jersey and was recently recognized with their “Community Builder” award. In the past, he has worked at C-SPAN developing curricular resources as a Teacher Fellow and a Senior Fellow. He has completed a fellowship with the House Historian’s Office and a NEH seminar at the New York Historical Society. He earned his B.A. in Political Science (2006) and Ed.M. in Social Studies Education (2007) from Rutgers University. He was a Governor’s Executive Fellow at the Eagleton Institute of Politics while pursuing an Ed.D. at Rutgers University.
Nayeli Salazar holds a Master’s degree in Translation and Interpretation Studies from la Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara and a Bachelors of Arts from Rutgers, The University of New Jersey. Ms. Salazar is currently the Senior Executive Associate for the Dean of Rutgers University School of Nursing; ranked 25th Best School of Nursing by US News and World report in 2015. Prior to becoming an Administrator at her alma mater, Nayeli functioned as Project Specialist for U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Consultant to the Government of Puebla Mexico, Consultant to the Mexican General Consulate in New York City, and was also a State Fellow for the Office of Communications for former Governor Jon S. Corzine.
Actively involved in community engagement and government, Ms. Salazar has served as an Advisor, Board Member, and General Member to various non-profit organizations such as: LUPE Fund Inc., Lazos America Unida, Inc., the Morris County Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce, the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce, and the Latino Action Network.
As a proud Mexican Immigrant, Nayeli co-founded the First Binational Mexican American Summit of New Jersey (BMASNJ) in May of 2014. This collaborative conference illustrated the national and state growth of the Mexican population in the U.S. and their profile and contributions in the realms of health, education, immigration, economic development, and arts and culture.
Along with her administrative and advocacy work, Nayeli is keenly interested in Health Research and Policy. She is a partnering researcher at the Center for Community Health Partnerships at Rutgers School of Nursing and is foreseeing a PhD in Global and Urban Health Systems in the near future. Nayeli resides in Passaic County and plans to return to government as a Health Policymaker.
Aakash Shah is an emergency medicine doctor-in-training and the Executive Director of Be Jersey Strong, which trains and mobilizes students to help the uninsured connect to healthcare coverage.
Aakash has researched the impact of state-level healthcare reforms and paid family leave policies in various roles at Rutgers University, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. He has also served as a healthcare policy advisor to the New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader and to a recent gubernatorial campaign.
He is currently an MD candidate at Harvard Medical School. He obtained his MBA and MSc in Social Policy from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He received his BA and BS from Ursinus College, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.
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