MEET OUR Instructors
Our instructors are all lived-experience founders who are actively creating a more equitable world – get ready to learn from some of the most inspiring people in our world! Our 2021 instructors will bring back some familiar faces from our pilot session along with new additions to our community!
Celebrating Black Lives Instructors
Quardean Lewis-Allen is the Founder and CEO of the nonprofit youth creative agency and innovation hub, Youth Design Center, which provides a gateway for young people in his native Brownsville community to access education, technology, and mentorship to tackle underrepresentation in STEAM professions and cyclical poverty, as well as to address the need for place-based community revitalization. He has over a decade of interdisciplinary design experience working across public and private sectors at the intersection of tactical urbanism and social activism through community-led design. Youth Design Center has been featured in the NYTimes, Fast Company, Buzzfeed, and Forbes. Lewis-Allen was an Adjunct at City College of New York and NYU Tisch Interactive Telecommunications Program where he was also a Human-In-Residence Fellow. He serves on the Board of Brownsville Community Development Corporation and the Ocean Hill Brownsville Coalition of Young Professionals. He is an Emerging Leaders Fund recipient of Claneil Foundation, Crain’s 40 Under 40, Forbes 30 Under 30, America’s Promise Alliance’s People of Promise Awardee and an Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellow, amongst other accolades. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from SUNY Buffalo and a Masters in Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Gina Clayton-Johnson is the Executive Director of Essie Justice Group, which she founded (named after her great grandmother Essie Bailey) in 2014 to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities.
Gina has spent more than a decade advocating for communities of color and her experiences as an organizer and civil rights activist in South Los Angeles led her to pursue law. In her first year as a student at Harvard Law School, someone Gina loves was sentenced to 20 years in prison. It was this painful personal experience that would put her on a new course. As an attorney in Harlem, NY, Gina searched for organizations that addressed criminal justice with a focus on women with incarcerated loved ones and found none. Thus, she founded the Essie Justice Group for those women.
Among the awards she has received for her work are fellowships from Equal Justice Works, Soros Justice Fellowship, Echoing Green Global, the JMK Innovation Prize and a Harvard Public Service Venture Fund Seed Grant. In 2017, she was awarded the Grinnell Prize, the largest award given by any U.S. college in recognition of social justice.
Gina has also been honored by several publications, and was named “Top 14 Women Who Rocked 2014” by Colorlines, and a San Francisco Magazine Soldier of Social Change in their “Women In Power Issue” in 2015. She is on the Policy Table Leadership team for the Movement for black Lives and one of the creators of the BREATHE Act.
Stay tuned as we announce more instructors as we get closer to camp!
Ready to sign up for our next Camp Equity session?
Pilot Instructors (Fall 2020)
Carlos Mark Vera is the Co-Founder and current Executive Director of @payourinterns . Originally from Colombia, Vera was raised in California until he moved to Washington, D.C. to attend American University. While at AU, Vera was an unpaid intern at the White House, the European Parliament and the House of Representatives. He knows firsthand the struggles of trying to survive while interning for free. Most notably, Vera was named Forbes 30 Under 30 in the 2018 Policy and Law class and was named an Aspen Scholar for the Aspen Ideas Festival. Prior to Pay Our Interns, Vera worked for Van Jones at Megaphone Strategies. He has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, The Atlantic, Fox News, NBC Latino, and The Hill to name a few. Carlos proudly serves in the Army Reserves as a generator mechanic.
Cory Greene is a formerly incarcerated co-founder and Healing Justice Organizer with How Our Lives link Altogether! (H.O.L.L.A!). Cory is invested in developing, leading and, implementing an-intergenerational youth led citywide and nationwide Healing Justice Movement. Cory (39 years old) was born and raised by a single mother in East Elmhurst Queens, NY, during a time when many mothers and urban communities were impacted by the crack epidemic. Cory’s ancestors and elders hail from the struggles of delta Mississippi, and the historical reality of being Black in “America” Cory’s experiences as a youth growing up in urban ghettos have contributed to his understanding of the systemic inequalities As a result, Cory has committed himself to a wide range of educational projects, healing, and grassroots movement building that seek to change existing conditions for youth of color and our communities. Cory earned his Associate degree in Liberal Arts Deaf Studies from LaGuardia Community College. Cory earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Psychology from New York University. Cory earned his doctoral degree from the Critical Social Personality Psychology program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), where his research efforts analyze the praxis of grassroots pedagogy and healing –centered youth organizing within a process of radical healing.
Cory serves as research associate and leader on numerous participatory action research (PAR) projects. Cory is an organizer with the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Family Movement (FICPFM), a national movement led by formerly incarcerated leaders to change the public policy landscape of criminal justice (punishment). Cory is a national organizer with the Education Liberation Project, engaging a national project to uplift Prison Abolition through an educational toolkit. Cory is a 2013 National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, 2013 Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellow, 2016 Echoing Green Fellow, & 2017 Camelback fellow.
Elise Schuster, MPH, (they/them) is a sexuality educator with 15 years of experience in youth development and LGBT issues. Elise is the co-founder and Executive Director of okayso @heyokayso, a free online platform that connects LGBT youth and their allies to experts they can't reach any other way for personalized support and information. Elise has a master's in public health from Columbia University with a specialization in sexuality and health and spent many years working at The Door - a major youth development agency in New York City, and training medical professionals, youth workers, and educators about best practices for supporting LGBT youth.
Lolofi Olo Soakai, from Ontario, CA. Comes from a family that has embedded the importance of valuing culture in order to never forget who you are inside and out and too value the importance of traditions, language, kindness, service, and gratitude. I am a founder and Executive Director of a Pacific Islander lead organization called MALO. In the Tongan language MALO means Thank you.
As a first generation Tongan American, my family has been a pillar of support in the Ontario community since the 1970’s. We’ve supported generations of Tongan families who have come to the U.S. from the island of Tonga in search for a better life. Through these many connections across our community, my family and I have been channeling the Tongan culture as a way to both connect with one another and also educate those from outside our community about the indigenous values that make us who we are. I have made it my life-work to empower my Tongan community and pass along the knowledge that was handed to me. For almost ten years, I’ve served as a community consultant for the under-represented Pacific Islanders and the community of Tongans in the city of Ontario in addition to some of the local cities in the Inland empire. My family and I were able to partner with Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center to promote a college tutoring program which helps to promote the value of higher education as well as create the understanding that Tongans/Pacific Islanders belong in college settings as much as anyone else. This program is called the Saturday Tongan Education Program (STEP) and it has been in existence since 2009. To serve the community that I identify with creates such meaningful efforts towards understanding and genuine hope for success and self-sufficient futures.
Within the past five years, I was able to implement skills learned from my Masters program in Ethical Leadership and I organized an educational show case of the Tongan culture as a means to create understanding. This event was the beginning of efforts in connecting an underrepresented Tongan community to their local city/community. We’ve since built off this project to find ways to better serve our Tongan community by establishing a non-profits in California called MALO (Motivating Action Leadership and Opportunity).
Maria Yuan is the Founder of IssueVoter, a non-partisan platform that offers everyone a voice in our democracy by making civic engagement accessible, impactful, & efficient.
Maria’s political experience includes introducing and passing a bill as a constituent, working in a State Representative’s office in Texas, and managing and winning one of the most targeted races in Iowa – an open seat in a swing district. Maria’s professional experiences include recruiting, social enterprise, investment banking, strategy, and corporate development. Maria has consulted the San Francisco Conservation Corps, PlaNet Finance, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Urban Outfitters. She has served on the boards of Gibney Dance and The University of Texas Co-Op, and was a founding member of Friends of the Children NY’s Young Professionals Board.
Maria earned degrees from The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and The University of Texas at Austin. Maria’s writing has appeared in Huffington Post and The Hill, and she has spoken at SXSW, The Social Innovation Summit, Shearman & Sterling, UBS, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Sara Minkara is an internationally recognized champion for inclusion, leadership, individual empowerment and social enterprise. Dynamic and memorable, Sara speaks to diverse audiences around the world and facilitates transformative, interactive workshops that employ adaptive approaches to social and workplace challenges.
Sara proudly features her own remarkable journey in all her work. A Muslim, first-generation American woman, she lost her sight at the age of seven—and has pioneered a truly empowered life. As an undergraduate and dedicated to promoting inclusion as a value and guiding others on their own journeys, Sara founded a nonprofit organization, Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), through a Clinton Global Initiative grant. More than a decade later, ETI and the programs Sara designed are still active in the MENA region, providing social and life skills development for refugees and other children with disabilities. Sara is part of the Board of Directors for ETI and continues to create new programs and opportunities for the children and families it serves.
A graduate of Wellesley College and the Harvard Kennedy School, Sara currently is the Founder and CEO of Sara Minkara LLC, an organization that offers courses, workshops, executive coaching and engages in public speaking opportunities to continue to bring her leading voice in the fields of disability, inclusion, empowerment and authentic leadership to society. She has developed a holistic approach, affecting change on individual, institutional and global levels. Sara is an advocate, expert, and facilitator in the fields of disability, inclusion, authentic leadership, and social entrepreneurship.
Sara is a featured speaker with the State Department’s U.S. Speaker Program, and she has presented numerous times at the United Nations. She is a facilitator with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education program, and an advisor to numerous academic, government, and policy groups on issues related to disability inclusion, adaptive leadership and social entrepreneurship. She has been recognized for her many contributions through appointments and awards, including Forbes 30 Under 30, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology IDEAS Global Challenge, and the Vital Voices “100 Women Using Their Power to Empower” program.
Scott is an experienced community bridge builder who is committed to inspiring teams and individuals. His leadership style places an emphasis on care and emotional stimulation coupled with action and direction to elevate a team, facilitate cultural growth and change while successfully completing a project. His leadership roles include spearheading JEDI conversations at Patagonia, an acting member of the Board Advisory Committee at NOLS, a member of Steering Committee for Diversity Outdoors Pledge, a board member at The Brown Ascenders, and an ambassador with Brown Folks Fishing. Scott was also a member of the first African American Team to climb Denali and is the Founder and Executive Director of WeGotNext. He is the proud father of Semiya Sage Strongheart who is the inspiration for his work.
Tony Weaver, Jr. is an award winning writer and educator creating diverse stories that make young people feel seen and valued. After seeing the impact that media stereotypes had on students in his community, Tony embarked on a journey to create new media narratives that would challenge the status quo. What started as a school project became a national platform that’s landed him on the Ted Stage, in the presence of world leaders, and gained him recognition from the likes of Taraji P. Henson, Lebron James, and Lena Waithe at the age of 25. He is the CEO of Weird Enough Productions, where he developed a program that uses comics and superheroes for literacy and social emotional learning in elementary, middle, and high schools. Through Weird Enough, Tony, developed The UnCommons, an award winning webcomic that engages over 40,000 young people monthly. In 2018, Tony made history as the first comic writer to ever be selected for the Forbes “30 Under 30.” He was named a History Shaker by Coca Cola, a Global Barrier Breaker by Marriott International, and awarded the Aspire Award from AT&T. Tony has also worked with brands like Facebook, Instagram, and American Express. By being open and vulnerable about his childhood experiences, and telling new stories that uplift underrepresented voices, Tony hopes to show everyone that as long as you pursue your truth you’re never too weird, you’re just Weird Enough.
Vanessa Luna is the Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer of ImmSchools, an immigrant led nonprofit organization that transforms schools into safe and welcoming spaces for undocumented students and families. Vanessa immigrated to the U.S. at the age of ten from Lima, Peru and grew up undocumented in NY. She was the first one in her family to graduate from college and her undocumented experience deeply impacted her choice for a career in Education. In 2014, she joined Teach For America as a DACAmented teacher and taught in Los Angeles and NYC, where she witnessed the need to provide greater support for the immigrant community within our schools. Vanessa holds a BA from Binghamton University and an MA in Urban Education and Policy from Loyola Marymount University. She was awarded the 2016 Urban Education Student Researcher of the Year Award for her research on the threat of deportation and its impact on middle school students. She has served as a founding member of Teach For America DACA Advisory board, was a Camelback Ventures Fellow and a Roddenberry Foundation Fellow. In 2019, she was selected as Forbes 30 under 30 in Education and an inaugural TIME 100 Next listmaker for her work and leadership in developing inclusive schools for immigrant families. Vanessa is a nationally recognized leader in the intersection of immigration and education, and has been featured in The New York Times, ABC Nightline, Forbes, TIME and Ed Week. Vanessa is inspired by her parents and the immigrant community to fight for educational equity and immigrant justice. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Will grew up in the Atlanta Metro area of Georgia, which is a unique environment for Black youth in that, as a place with many neighborhoods of middle-to-upper-middle-class Black families living together, there was an abundance of models of Black people achieving financial success in a wide variety of fields. His parents also contributed significantly to the number of positive racial affirmations he received, by regularly reminding him of the great contributions of Black scientists. As a child, he planned to become a scientist himself. His environment largely sheltered him from the negative messages and stereotype threat that impact so many Black children and when negative messages did come his way, they had nowhere to take hold inside of him, because his parents and his environment had provided him with so many positive racial affirmations. This was the genesis of a lot of his work with Village of Wisdom (VOW). In college, he restarted his university’s chapter of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. But after graduating with a chemistry degree, he decided to forgo a PhD and instead became a middle school teacher, to reach young students of color who might never make it to him if he took a position as a professor. After teaching for four years, he became frustrated, realizing that despite his students’ high-test scores, they were not ready to navigate the world outside of his classroom. In search of a solution, he left teaching to learn more about how Black students could be better equipped to navigate a racially biased system. In graduate school, he learned all about the cognitive processes behind learning, but found the research seldom discussed how these were impacted by socio-cultural realities. Searching for interventions that help students to cope and navigate racial bias explicitly, he found evidence that demonstrated that the more racially affirmed Black children were, the more resilient they were to the negative effects of racial bias.