Nicole Amri, Program Director, SAY Sí, San Antonio, TX
Nicole Amri is a 2006 alumna of SAY Sí (a national-award-winning creative youth development program in San Antonio, TX) and a 2012 graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a BFA in Painting and a BA in Communication: Public Relations. She is also a certified nonprofit professional through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Driven by learning and creating, Nicole’s great passions are education and the arts. Her artwork predominantly explores human rights issues with a focus on interpersonal relationships and societal conditions. In addition to her position as Program Director for SAY Sí, Nicole currently serves on local and national committees such as city-wide collective impact initiatives: SA2020 and Excel Beyond the Bell SA and national groups: the ALAANA Network and National Advisory Committee to the Creative Youth Development National Partnership. When she’s not working or creating, Nicole loves to dance, cook and listen to music (often at the same time).
Jennifer Cole, Executive Director, Metro Arts, Nashville, TN
Jen leads the city’s efforts in art, culture and creative economy, a position she has held since 2010. She has over 20 years of experience in organizational leadership and change management and has worked extensively in the public and non-profit sectors in a variety of executive positions.
She has a degree in English from the University of Mary Washington and serves on many local boards and national arts efforts including The National Arts Executive Leadership Forum and the Executive Board of the U.S. Urban Arts Federation. She is a frequent national speaker about the role of arts in community transformation.
Sarah Cunningham, Executive Director of Research, School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Dr. Cunningham currently serves as Executive Director for Research at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and Founding Director of the Arts Research Institute at VCUarts. Through projects within VCUarts, VCU and the national arts community, Dr. Cunningham works to translate the value of arts understanding to the development of new knowledge. At VCU, Cunningham works across the university on numerous arts/health collaborations, and directs the Lullaby Project, a partnership with Carnegie Hall. Nationally, Dr. Cunningham serves as the Senior Strategy Advisor to the Alliance for Arts at Research Universities, based at the University of Michigan. She also serves on the boards of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) and the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
From 2005-2011, Cunningham held the post of Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts, founding the NEA Education Leaders Institute (ELI) to develop arts education policy and strategy in 29 states. She launched the first national study of arts assessment, Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts, and provided leadership for NEA’s Poetry Out Loud, Shakespeare in American Communities, and Jazz in the Schools. Cunningham received a PhD and MA in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and her BA from Kenyon College.
Deb Habib, Executive Director, Seeds of Solidarity, Orange, MA
Deborah Leta Habib, Ed.D, is co-founder and Executive Director of Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, a non-profit organization in Orange, MA that ‘Awakens the power among youth, schools and families to Grow Food Everywhere to transform hunger to health, and create resilient lives and communities.’
Deb holds a Doctorate in cultural diversity and curriculum reform from the University of Massachusetts (1996), and a Masters of Science Teaching from Antioch New England (1989). The flagship program of Seeds of Solidarity is SOL (Seeds of Leadership) Garden for low-income youth, an out-of-school program that embodies the principles of creative youth development through food growing and food justice, community building, and the arts. Artistically and personally, Deb enjoys writing, working with clay, photography, cooking, dance and yoga. She is married to Ricky Baruc, a farmer, artist, and co-founder of Seeds of Solidarity, and has one awesome son, Levi. Deb is also a founder of the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, organized by neighbors to ignite cultural and economic power in their rural community, plus serves on several non-profit boards and task forces.
Alex Johnson, Managing Director for Californians for Safety and Justice, Oakland, CA
Alex Johnson is the Managing Director for Californians for Safety and Justice. Previously, he served as Executive Director for the Children’s Defense Fund-California, the state office for the Children’s Defense Fund; a national organization founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman. As Executive Director, Alex led the organization’s statewide advocacy, policy, program and organizing efforts to ensure access to quality affordable health coverage and care for children and low income families, reforming the juvenile justice system, promoting educational equity, and ending child poverty.
Prior to assuming that position, Alex served as Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Prior to returning to Los Angeles County where he was born and raised, Alex worked with school instructional leaders in the New York City Department of Education where he provided counsel to school leaders and departmental executives as well as managed complex civil litigation, policy matters and special disciplinary proceedings as part of a teacher quality initiative. He taught high school students as a Fellow with the Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and has served as an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College.
Alex is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned his Juris Doctor from American University, Washington College of Law.
Cristy Johnston Limon, Executive Director, Destiny Arts Center, Oakland, CA
Cristy Johnston Limon is Executive Director at Destiny Arts Center, a creative youth development organization leveraging the arts as a catalyst for social change. Cristy recently completed the 1.7M acquisition and revitalization of an idle industrial warehouse into a modern, 8,000 square foot arts and cultural facility, stabilizing the nonprofit by securing a permanent home, creating dozens of jobs, and as incubator for emerging and established artists.
Cristy’ s background includes public policy, economic and community development, strategic planning, nonprofit startups, and small business development. She is an MBA candidate at the Berkeley-Haas School of Business with a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley. Mrs. Limon presents on the “nonprofit advantage” working at the intersection of business and philanthropy; creating arts spaces as part of community and economic development efforts; and how the arts in partnership with cities and the local business community rebuild and transform neighborhoods citing examples from her work in Oakland and in San Francisco with the “Invest in Neighborhoods” initiative where her nonprofit startup EAG emerged.
Erik Peterson, Vice President, Policy, Afterschool Alliance, Washington, D.C.
Erik joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all. Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. Prior to coming to the Afterschool Alliance, Erik worked for the School Nutrition Association (SNA) in the Washington DC, area and as both an AmeriCorps VISTA and staff for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas. He received his Master’s in Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas, and also has a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Kwame Scruggs, Director of Programs and Training, Alchemy Inc., Akron, OH
Kwame Scruggs has over 20 years of experience using myth in the development of urban male youth. He holds a Ph.D. and MA in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. Kwame also holds a MS degree in Technical Education with an emphasis in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Akron.
He has conducted numerous workshops on the use of mythological stories to engage urban youth, presenting at C.G. Jung sites of New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. In 1993, after being formally initiated into the Akan System of Life Cycle Development (African-based rites of passage), Kwame became a Certified Facilitator of this process.
Kwame is the founder and program/training director of Alchemy, a non-profit organization in Akron, Ohio. Since Alchemy’s establishment in 2003, the organization has served nearly 2,000 urban adolescents from Akron and surrounding communities. In 2012, Alchemy received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by Michelle Obama – the nation’s highest honor for youth serving programs. The incredible impact of Alchemy’s programs was highlighted in the national documentary Finding the Gold Within.
Lauren Stevenson, Director of Youth Initiatives, Head of Project 1324, Adobe Social Impact, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Lauren Stevenson, Ph.D, is Director of Youth Initiatives at Adobe where she heads up Project 1324, a global initiative supporting emerging artists who use creativity as a force for social impact. Lauren has over 15 years’ experience as a leader and researcher in arts education and youth development. As principal at Junction Box Consulting, she conducted studies on arts education in school, community, and museum settings, and led the development of ArtsEdSearch, a national clearinghouse for arts education research and policy. She also spearheaded the California Alliance for Arts Education’s initiative to increase equity of access to arts education for students in Title I schools, and wrote the framework for the first national Summit on Creative Youth Development for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Prior to Junction Box, Lauren was the senior associate for research at the Arts Education Partnership where she directed a national research study examining the role of arts education in transforming K-12 schools.
Lauren holds a Doctorate in Education Policy and Master’s in Sociology from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s in History-Sociology from Columbia University. She is the co-author of two books on the arts and educational and community change.
Matt Wilson, Executive Director, MASSCreative, Boston, MA
Hired as MASSCreative’s first Executive Director in March of 2012, Matt directs the advocacy campaigns and organizational development for the organization. For 30 years, he has run campaigns and organized volunteers and communities for the public interest on a local, state, national level.
In 2011, Wilson directed environmentalist and social entrepreneur Bob Massie’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. Previously he coordinated Health Care for All’s campaign to monitor the takeover of the nonprofit Caritas Hospitals by a for profit private equity firm.
As the National Director of the field staff for MoveOn.org from 2005-2006, Matt helped develop and implement the strategy behind MoveOn.org’s successful 2006 Call for Change, which recruited and trained more than 100,000 volunteers in 60 swing Congressional and Senate districts.
As the Founder and Director of Toxics Action Center from 1989 to 2005, Wilson assisted more than 300 neighborhood groups address toxic pollution issues in their communities. He grew the organization from one staffer working in Massachusetts to a New England-wide organization with 11 staff.
Wilson graduated from Dartmouth College in 1983 and also earned a Masters of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2008.
Jason Yoon, Executive Director, Atlas DIY, Brooklyn, NY
Jason Yoon is the Director of Education at the Queens Museum (QM) in New York City where he oversees the museum’s visual arts education programs both at the museum and in community settings around the borough of Queens. Prior to joining QM, Jason served for five years as the executive director of New Urban Arts, a nationally recognized non-profit art studio and gallery for high school students and emerging artists in Providence RI. He was a teaching artist and museum educator at the Brooklyn Museum; founded and directed his own youth arts mentoring program 7ARTS which was featured on NY1 News; and worked as a grant writer and Development Associate for the DreamYard project. Jason is a proud graduate of Cooper Union’s free visual arts high school outreach programs, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting with a concentration in art history from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.