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Meet the June 2023 Cohort of Community Leads!

Category: TEXnews

Thriving Earth Exchange is pleased to announce the June 2023 cohort of Community Leads! They will work with Community Science Fellows to launch 16 community science projects in the United States and Mexico. Stay tuned for more information about the impactful projects to come and the communities who lead and inspire them!


Black Appalachian Coalition in Ottawa Hills, Ohio

Bishop Marcia Dinkins is the Founder and Executive Director Black Women Rising and the Black Appalachian Coalition (BLAC). Her work spans across the Ohio River Valley (OH, KY, WV, & PA) with a focus on narrative strategy, and storytelling to dismantle the white-washed narrative associated with Appalachia by scaling up our stories for change and to use our stories as a pre-cursor for policy making. to address unjust racial histories, inequities, and divestment. 


Carondelet Neighborhood St. Louis, Missouri

We are a Climate Resilience Action Group formed as a part of the MARSH Cooperative (not-for-profit Spark for the Arts, Inc.) The leadership team consists of Beth Neff, Ivey March, and Ishmaiah Moore.  Our group is in the process of creating a public event to inform and motivate action around climate change. Our concept, Choose Your Own (Climate) Adventure will be engaging, dynamic, and well-informed (thanks to AGU Thriving Earth Exchange!)


The City of Oberlin, Ohio

Jennifer Reeves works as the Stormwater Coordinator for the City of Oberlin in Ohio. Oberlin has been working to incorporate sustainable eco-conscious designs into its city planning and is expanding this work to include neighborhood-level stormwater designs. Jennifer has been working with both residents as well as commercial and industrial business owners to understand why and how we should be planning robust stormwater networks, through a new county-wide Master Rain Gardener program as well as smaller, more site-tailored projects. They are looking forward to broadening and deepening the reach of their work. 


Dan Riverkeeper in Madison, North Carolina

Follansbee, West Virginia

Frank Rocchio is a dedicated and passionate environmental advocate, currently serving as the Executive Director for Ohio Valley Environmental Advocates (OVEA). With environmental policy and community engagement, Frank is making significant strides to positively impact environmental initiatives within the Ohio Valley. His unwavering commitment to sustainability and environmental justice has enabled OVEA to champion key environmental protections. Frank’s leadership continues to drive the organization towards its goal of creating a healthier, safer , and economically prosperous environment for the communities within the Ohio Valley region.


KAʻEHU in Wailuku, Hawaii 

Kahulu Maluo-Pearson has served as the Executive Director of KAʻEHU for just over a year now, with her 30 years of background in administration & program management. KAʻEHU is a nonprofit organization with the goal to restore the land and perpetuate traditional Hawaiian culture using a community-based, inclusive, family-oriented approach to environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. Kahuluʻs passion for the environment stems from her cultural connections and lifetime of education in the study of the Hawaiian culture as a kumu hula, a teacher of the traditional art of movement. She has been a formal teacher for the past 30+ years. KAʻEHU is looking forward to continuing and expanding its data collection in the various streams on the 64 acres that the organization manages, in hopes of improving the water quality for the community and the island of Maui.


Move Past Plastics in Carlisle, Pennsylvania 

Tamela Trussell is the founder of Move Past Plastic (MPP) in South Central Pennsylvania. MPP helps communities understand the complexities of the single-use plastic (SUP) crisis and move toward a regenerative economy by offering resources, education, and support to businesses and municipal governance to change legislation, and ordinances, use SUP alternatives and decrease consumption and waste.

Tamela has been on the board of the Conodoguinet Creek, a Master Watershed Steward, and a volunteer water tester with the Alliance For Aquatic Resource Monitoring, ALLARM, for years. After getting on a stand-up paddle board with her two small dogs, Prairi and Starbuck, Tamela fell in love with the creek and really appreciated it as a living being.The project will provide an opportunity for others to fall in love with the creek by developing a relationship with her while we collect essential data about the types and amounts of different toxins in Conodoguinet Creek. 


North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

Chris Hawn is the Co-Director for Research and Education at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN). We are a grassroots, people of color-led coalition of community organizations and their supporters who work with low income communities and people of color on issues of climate, environmental, racial, and social injustice. We have a participatory science project called Spidey Sens-r where communities monitor air quality by collecting spider webs. We’re looking forward to working with AGU scientists to make our project more accessible by increasing the number of contaminants we can detect with a single web.


Parable of the Sower Cooperative in Richmond, California 

Aleta Alston – Toure, Parable of the Sower Intentional Community Cooperative. The Mission of the Parable of the Sower Intentional Community Cooperative is to develop our cooperative as a housing model for black organizers/activists, and Black worker-owned intentional communities. We will provide holistic services through community organizing, housing, and health services. Simultaneously, we will assist in alleviating social stigmas through reparation database collection, community support systems, sustainable economics, political education, and natural healing practices under a transformational feminist economy through Mpito Tu, Just Transition.


We were started through mobilization campaign wins that use People’s Movement Assemblies (PMA), Universidad Sin Fronteras/ University Without Walls, and Black Radical Tradition (BRT) political education. We are most looking forward to showing the legacy of our Black and Indigenous communities that are from land-based cooperation and science-driven “utakaitfu Mfumo wa ikolojia” Sacredness of Ecosystems.


Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania

Tonyehn Verkitus is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, and the Lackawanna and Luzerne County Medical Societies. Her work in the nonprofit world has mostly centered on health and food though she also spent many years training organizations and communities on fundraising and telling their mission-based stories.

In 2007, Tonyehn along with other family members and friends started Africa Community Exchange, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support an effective model of education for youth and educators. Currently their work centers in Liberia with plans to expand to neighboring countries. Tonyehn also sits on the boards of the Lackawanna County Arts, Culture and Education Department; WVIA Community Advisory Board; and leads professional education programs for the Luzerne County Opioid Task Force through the District Attorney’s Office.


Portsmouth, Virginia 


Ribault Neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida

As Community Development Officer, Kristopher Smith leads LISC’s Jacksonville Urban Core Initiative and its efforts to advance economic growth in urban core neighborhoods. Kristopher brings nearly 20 years of experience in community engagement and development, grantmaking and capacity building to the organization. Before joining LISC Jacksonville, he served as a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Mid-South, focusing on workforce development, community revitalization and education issues. Prior to that, Smith was the director of leadership development for the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and during that time he worked closely with the Older Industrial Cities funder working group to allocate resources and oversee project execution. Kristopher received his master’s degree in public administration from Nova Southeastern University; and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Bethune – Cookman University. 


Together for Nature in Lake County, Illinois 

Katia Carranza is the co-founder of the Together for Nature nonprofit in NE Illinois. Together for Nature is focused on equitably empowering NE Illinois communities to improve our social and environmental conditions through education, leadership, and advocacy. Over the past ten years, Katia has been a community organizer that has mobilized her communities for environmental justice, equity in sustainability, fair trade, and immigrant rights. She is currently a graduate student in Natural Resource Sciences collaborating with Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance to conduct research focused on supporting the socioecological resilience of Indigenous people. She serves a grasslands Indigenous Kinship Circle in compiling their priorities into strategy and implementing equitable engagement across North America. Katia is committed to continue collaborating with underserved, migrant, Indigenous, and frontline communities to advance a vision for equitable sustainability that heals our social and environmental relationships. She looks forward to working with Thriving Earth Exchange to complete a sustainability leadership curriculum that will help underserved and EJ communities participate in and lead sustainability change, equitably improving our social and environmental conditions in NE Illinois.


Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Elaine Cimino is a dedicated community advocate and activist who has workied for 30 years in land use, environmental protection and social justice. She is the co-founder and director for Common Ground Community Trust /Common Ground Rising whose mission is to educate, organize, and implement community grassroots committees to take action that protects our environment against the drivers of climate change, which impacts watershed, air, public health and safety.

Elaine co-authored the Espanola Basin Sole Source Aquifer petition which was adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007, the first designation of a sole source aquifer in the state of New Mexico. Her efforts in community collaboration helped pass the Anti-SLAPP legislation in New Mexico, which protects the rights of citizens to participate in public discourse.Elaine has played a crucial role in ensuring that the community is informed about the activities and harmful land-use threats and its potential impacts on the environment and public health.

Currently, Elaine is a strong advocate for the adoption of the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Index (WHO AQI) in Bernalillo County and Albuquerque. She is working with 12 environmental justice (EJ) organizations and non-profits to raise the voices of marginalized communities and create more equitable and sustainable policies for the protection of air and water. With her passion, commitment, and leadership, Elaine is making a positive difference in her community raising awareness for adaptive capacity and resilience in the face of global warming. 


Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico


Weequahic Park Association in Newark, New Jersey 

Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, the Executive Director, appointed in 2017, joined the Weequahic Park Association (WPA) as a member in 2006.She has advocated on preservation, environmental, sustainability, health, economic, recreational, and other issues of concern to the community. She works closely with the Board of Trustees, and members to assure the effectiveness and long-term success of the Weequahic Park Association, and the preservation of Weequahic Park.

She and the WPA have also partnered with the office of the Essex County Director, Newark City Council Members, schools, local officials, labor leaders, non-profits, grassroots organizers, college students, faith-based organizations, etc. in order to inform, and educate the public.She has worked with Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., Maryknoll in South America, as a Consultant with the United Nations Population Fund in Egypt, in addition to various organizations and businesses. She holds a B.A. in Economics/Management & Administration and a M.S. degree in International Relations. She is fluent in French, Haitian Creole and Spanish.

She and the WPA are looking forward to Weequahic Park’s, including Weequahic Lake, restoration, with technical assistance from Thriving Earth Exchange, in order to provide a welcoming nature sanctuary and educational space for visitors.

Blake McGhghy subscriber

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