Featured Fellows

YP4 is comprised of a vast network of diverse, dedicated, and passionate Fellows and Alumni working to advance social justice and civic participation in their communities. Throughout the year, we highlight their work by conducting “Featured Fellow” interviews with current and former Fellows. Check them out here!


Aaron Moreno

Aaron Moreno, a 2008 Young People For fellow, is not your typical college student. Adopting his father’s values of working hard and working for the family, he got a job right out of high school. Now 26, Aaron works to combine his two passions: education and children. At Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, Aaron draws on the life experiences of his fellow students, many of whom are parents, to empower students attending Arizona’s dismally underserved public schools, whose spending ranks 49th in the country. His Blueprint for Social Justice, Chessmates, aims to challenge students and keep them off the streets through games of chess in their local libraries. Aaron plans to transfer to the University of Tucson next year and finish his degree in political science before running for school board.

Read more »

Alray Nelson

Alray Nelson is a 2012 YP4 Fellow and an advocate for Native American youth. He is a graduate of the University of Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in Politic Science.  Born and raised in Arizona, he grew up in the small valley of Beshbetoh on the Navajo Nation.  He has served as an executive assistant & adviser for two Navajo Nation Presidents. Last year, the LGBTQ community recognized Alray for his effort to repeal the discriminatory Diné Marriage Act and honored him with the prestigious 2015 Rainbow Naatsíílid Champion Award. As marriage equality become law across the country, Alray together with his partner Brennen Yonnie founded the Coalition for Navajo Equality – one of the largest LGBTQ organizations in the country. Alray’s story has been featured in Details Magazine, the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, Los Angeles Times, MTV News, Indian Country Today, and National Public Radio.  Alray resides in Gallup, NM, and is the new Director of External Affairs at Teach for America.

Read more »

Amanda Matos

Amanda R. Matos is a community organizer from the Bronx, New York and has dedicated her time and efforts toward racial and gender justice and reproductive freedom.

She is the Founder and Executive Director of The WomanHOOD Project (Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination), an innovative after school mentorship program for young women of color in the Bronx. WomanHOOD started as Amanda’s Young People For (YP4) Blueprint Project in 2011 and has expanded since then, leading her to being selected as one of five young leaders to receive the Peace First Prize in 2014. She credits YP4 with providing her with the tools to engage in meaningful anti-oppressive work. She now serves as a mentor and trainer to support the cultivation of young progressive leaders in the fellowship program. Amanda also works in the reproductive rights field fighting for legislation that protects people’s access to healthcare.

In May 2013, Amanda graduated from Columbia University, where she studied Ethnic Studies and Human Rights, focusing on the intersections between sexism and racism in the United States. Now Amanda serves as the Graduate Student Relations Chair on the board for the Latino Alumni Association of Columbia University and as a board member on the Fund for a Safer Columbia.

Read more »

Ameenah Muhammad

2009 Young People For Fellow, Ameenah Muhammed is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Hoping eventually to practice medicine in underserved communities Ameenah is a pre-med student majoring in Sociology. Although Ameenah was originally Biology major she recently decided to switch her major to Sociology in order to be able to approach medicine with specific knowledge of and focus on patient care and relations. In addition to her passion for health and medicine Ameenah has been active with community organization, Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) since high school, and is enthusiastic about working with youth in her community.


Read more »

Andrea Headley

Andrea Headley is currently finishing up her last year at the University of Miami. An expected May 2013 graduate, she has been applying for graduate schools as well as seeking out options for employment within human service organizations after she graduates. She is a double major in Human and Social Development and Criminology with a minor in Communication Studies. She has worked with various non-profit organizations, taught law at an all boys detention center, conducted community based research, worked for political campaigns, and currently mentors and tutors student athletes. She believes in educational equality and opportunity for all as well as juvenile justice. She has interest in policy and various other legal aspects. Ultimately, she longs to become an influential community builder in her hometown to empower and uplift others by God’s help.

Read more »

Andrew Jenkins

Andrew Jenkins, 2010 Fellow, is a feminist killjoy and queer social justice activist hailing from the west coast. He started his activism as a student organizer, leveraging progressive issues to turn out thousands of young people to vote in the 2010 midterm election. In 2011, Andrew organized the first ever convening of LGBT military personnel – post repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – as the Conference Director for OutServe. Andrew now brings his unwavering passion for youth leadership development and feminist praxis to the talented team at Choice USA, where he works to engage, train and mobilize the upcoming generation of reproductive justice leaders. In addition to mobilizing young people, Andrew is developing and implementing innovative programming to engage & recruit young men to be vocal advocates for reproductive and gender equity. When he’s not organizing on the ground, he’s doing it online as a contributing writer at RH Reality Check and ConwayStrategic.

Read more »

Angie Buhl

“The FLLA program has changed my life. It has trained me not only in how to run for office, but in how to win. Additionally, FLLA has taught me to not lose sight of my values, and how to run on those values and win. FLLA has given me the tools I need to be a leader in progressive politics for many years.”

Read more »
April Joy

April Joy Damian

April Joy Damian is the founder of South of Market (SoMa) Scholars, a one-on-one mentorship program matching college students with low-income adolescents of color, the creator of Eat Your Heart Out: Addressing Heart Disease and Diabetes in the Filipino Community of San Francisco, and a 2008 Young People For fellow at City College of San Francisco.

Read more »

Beatriz De La Espriella

Beatriz De La Espriella graduated from the University of Florida majoring in Criminology. For the last two years she has been a leader of the student organization CHISPAS which focuses on addressing the pressing needs of the immigrant community through advocacy and service. She is the North Florida Steering Committee Representative of the Florida Immigrant Youth Network. In the past two years Beatriz has worked with both campus and community members to organize against anti-immigrant legislation and work towards education for all regardless of immigration status. As part of CHISPAS, she started a campaign called, Undocumented Not Uneducated, that asked the university to effect policy change and openly accept undocumented students to the University. She was a Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Undergraduate Research Scholar and has conducted research to identify the relationship between acculturation, assimilation and analogous delinquent behavior of Hispanic immigrants.

Read more »

Dustin Cox

“If you truly do, deep down in your heart, want to help shape the world into a better place, then FLLA is the first step on your path to that goal. I’ve taken that first step, and am on the same path I hope to see future FLLA Fellows on. This program really has empowered us to stand on the front lines of the fight for a better America and a better future.”

Read more »

Elody Gyekis

2008 YP4 fellow Elody Gyekis is earning a double-concentration bachelor of fine arts degree with a minor in civic and community engagement. She has designed, organized and painted three community murals in inner-city Harrisburg.

Read more »
Ernesto Villasenor

Ernesto Villasenor

As a student and research assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) from Compton, CA, Ernesto Villasenor has focused on issues of social and environmental injustice in inner city communities. He has worked to develop methods of intervention in the areas of public health, the environment, and education. He has completed extensive work on public health disparities in Los Angeles County, helping to develop a resolution in the field of public health that has been adopted by seven school districts in LA County and published with the Latino Medical Student Association. Ernesto hopes his work will help bring positive changes in inner city communities, throughout the country, and the world.

Read more »

Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez was born in Mexico City, came to the U.S. when he was 4 years old and lived in East Los Angeles, California. He attended East Los Angeles Community College where he founded a student support group for undocumented AB-540 immigrant students. Mario has centered his efforts on immigrant rights, economic justice, and educational policy. In 2008, he served as the AB-540 Campaign Coordinator for the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund working on a statewide and local campaign to pass the California DREAM Act. During his time as an intern for the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute he analyzed survey results of student’s knowledge of the labor movement. He was selected as a 2008 DMI Scholar through the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy where he received core trainings in public policy and gained an opportunity to network with key leaders in policy positions and the progressive movement. In 2008 he also served on the board of Adelante! California where he chaired the policy division. This summer, he was selected to participate in the 2009 Center for Progressive Leadership New Leaders Program in Washington D.C. He is interning with Voto Latino, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on motivating young Latino’s to become civically engaged, and has worked on researching the strong correlations between the current debate over immigration reform and the increase in anti-Latino hate crime incidents and offenses. This fall, Mario will be entering the University of California at Berkeley as a Political Science Major.

Mario Lopez is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley double majoring in Political Science and Statistics with a minor in Public Policy. In 2008, he was part of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy Scholars Program. A year later, he was part of the New Leaders Program at the Center for Progressive Leadership. As a YP4 Fellow, Mario developed the Immigration Policy Scholars Initiative. He has worked as an immigrant rights advocate and grassroots organizer since 2006. He currently serves as Co-Chair for Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education where he directs both the Advocacy and Fundraising Committees. Mario sits on the Advisory Board for ¡Adelante! California, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing necessary resources for under-resourced students.

Read more »

Maya Torralba

Maya Torralba is the proud mother of Chado and twins Matthias and Kateri. She is also the founder of the Community Esteem Project in Anadarko, Oklahoma and a 2008 Young People For fellow at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Read more »

Monique Gillum

With the ability to motivate and mobilize people to action, Monique Gillum is recognized as an emerging leader. At the age of 23, Gillum was hired by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia, to serve as a Site Director in July 2009. As Director of the Murphy, Felton, Tindall Unit, Gillum lead a program that sought to help identify solutions to the challenges facing our youth. Gillum currently serves as Senior Advocate for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL. She works firsthand on juvenile justice and education reform projects in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.
A graduate of College Leadership Florida, Gillum was also very active in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Student Government Association (SGA), serving as a student senator her freshman and sophomore years, and as Student Body Vice President her junior year. Then, her peers elected her as SGA President, serving from 2007-08. While in office, she served as the first female student member of the FAMU Board of Trustees and was appointed to the following boards and committees: FAMU Provost Search Committee, Florida Student Association and the Leon County Civic Center Authority Board.
Gillum is a member of the Young People for the American Way Foundation’s inaugural fellowship class of 2005 and a graduate of Front Line Leaders Academy. Gillum is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Coalition for Justice, and a member of Beulahland Bible Church.

Read more »

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, 22, recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science and is the Associate Director of the Iranian American Women Foundation. Her passions lie in social justice, human rights, and the law. She hopes to pursue the aforementioned by attending law school in Fall 2016 to fulfill her aspirations of providing legal representation for under-served communities. Before her academic career at UCLA, Negeen held leadership positions at United Nations Association of Orange County, as Vice-President of Membership, and Network of Iranian Professionals of Orange County, being the youngest member of the Executive Board in the organization’s 29-year history. She was a writer for Fempowerment Journal, a collaborative blog discussing feminist issues in the millennial era. In 2013, she was nominated for the Rising Star award at the OC Global Women’s Conference and received an honorable mention. Upon attending UCLA, Negeen was highly involved in student government representing UCLA in state-wide and nation-wide conferences and elected UCLA’s first ever Transfer Student Representative for the Undergraduate Student Association Council. Negeen represented over 28,000 undergraduate students, hired and managed 30+ staff members, and advocated for equitable institutional change alongside UCLA administration. Throughout this time, she was also serving as External Vice-President of the Iranian Student Group at UCLA. Negeen is currently a IAWF staff member, Chair of the Orange County National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action team, and active member of the Southwest Asian, North Afrikan Coalition, an collective she helped form in 2014. She has also presented at numerous conferences on education and international relations. Her analysis on feminism, education, race relations, and international affairs have been featured on Washington Post, Manoto TV, Mic, KIRN 670 radio, FEM Newsmagazine, ABC’s Nightline, BBC World Service’s Newsday, and Al Jazeera America.

Read more »

Nuno Pereira

Nuno Pereira is a first generation Mexican American, 2016 Fellow, and community activist. As a scholar he is recognized as a 2015 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar, and is researching the impacts of memory on the criminal justice system in John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the community Nuno has been involved in the organization Make the Road NJ in which he has traveled to advocate for immigrant and worker rights throughout the country. Through this service he has given testimony before bodies of elected officials and activists, in locations such as the State House in Trenton NJ and Washington D.C. Nuno also is currently serving as president of Educate the Future, a grass roots movement he founded in the town of Hillside with the mission to close the education gap by providing free tutoring services to all families regardless of their social or economic background. The organization’s, and Nuno’s, ultimate goal is to provide every child with the same opportunity to reach their full potential through a high quality education. He has further been recognized as a 2016 Vera Fellow and will begin working with a partnering agency to the Vera Institute of Justice this coming fall. As he continues to study Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Nuno aims to shape public policy and legislation through research, and reform the criminal justice and education system to best serve the community. His future goals include continuing his studies in the United Kingdoms, receiving his PhD in Psychology, and running for elected office to inspire change in the community.

Read more »

Sakeena Gohagen

2009 fellow Sakeena Gohagen is double majoring in sociology and African American studies at Florida State University. Last year she served as FSU Vote Coalition campus organizer as well as mentoring students and serving as United States Student Association People of African Descent Vice Chair.

Read more »

Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel  is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University who grew up in foster care. His  is the founder of  Think of Us, a commitment of action for the Clinton Global Initiative. Cancel also serves as a Youth Innovation Advisor to Dell and is a member of the Youth Thrive Expert Panel. Cancel has been named a Millennial Maker by BET and recognized as one of the Top 24 Changemakers under 24 in the country by the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and Sparkaction. Cancel has been quoted on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Fox News, and by the Huffington Post. Cancel presented issues facing black, LGBT youth in foster care at the White House’s Black LGBT Emerging Leaders Briefing.

Read more »

Thomas Helmstetter

A 2005 Young People For fellow, T.J. currently serves as Director of Communications and Development at Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s LGBT equality organization. Previously, he was statewide Communications Director of New York’s labor-backed Working Families Party, where he helped expose right-wing politicians and elevate the spotlight for issues of economic justice. Before that, as a consultant with Blue State Digital, he worked with progressive causes (and corporate clients, too) to raise their profiles (and their dollars) online. While at BSD, he was most proud of his work with LGBT causes including Freedom to Marry and the launch of Dan Savage’s inspirational “It Gets Better” campaign.

Read more »

Yulkendy Valdez

Yulkendy Valdez is a junior at Babson College studying business management and entrepreneurship. She moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 10, and ever since, she became more aware of the socio-economic inequalities that exist in today’s society. She is very active in leadership roles on campus from serving as Community Service Chair for both Black Student Union and ALPFA (a Latino Business organization) to working directly with multicultural programs at her college to facilitate initiatives around diversity and social entrepreneurship. She is proud to be a Resolution Project Fellow as well as a recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation-ESA LOFT Fellowship for her work around inclusive leadership and gender equality. She was admitted to the Public Policy Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2013 and has spent her college journey traveling on immersive programs to Rwanda, Uruguay, Argentina, Russia, India, China, and most recently throughout Europe.

Read more »