2014 NLC Fellows: Baltimore

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afolayan.jpgAbiola Afolayan, Executive Director, AFT-Maryland

Abiola Afolayan is the Executive Director/Chief of Staff of the American Federation of Teachers-Maryland.

A lawyer by training, but strategist and organizer at heart, Abiola Afolayan has been involved in the social justice movement since she was a youth in Nigeria, West Africa-which was amplified by her viewing on television of Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990. As a college and law student in America, she always worked on the multiple fronts of building political power and capacity for low income people and people of color in order to significantly impact communities, policies and institutions that affect them.

Abiola holds an advanced degree in law with an emphasis on labor and environmental law, human rights and humanitarian law and has work experiences and a portfolio in: grassroots organizing and development, work on over 20 contract, political and issue campaigns on the local, state, federal and international levels.

Abiola has worked on and spearheaded numerous campaigns from Oakland to Los Angeles, California to Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia to New Jersey, the Republic of South Sudan and the Gabonese Republic-allowing her the opportunity to work with various leaders, diplomats, coalition partners, lawyers, agency heads, elected officials and political candidates on various issue, political and contract campaigns.

Abiola’s most recent victory includes a successful national campaign through a volunteer based NGO she helped create (Not On Our Watch Advocacy!-NOOWA! visit: notonourwatchadvocacy.org) entitled “”Educate, Empower and Eradicate Human Trafficking at Super bowl XLVIII”" starring sex trafficking survivor Leah Byrd-Albright and New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Tracy Thompson of the New Jersey AG’s office, with the purpose of educating the American public about domestic sex trafficking, aka pimping during the SuperBowl. This campaign garnered the support of numerous anti-trafficking organizations such as Shared Hope International, USCRI and celebrities like Jada Pinkett-Smith to name a few.

Abiola was also instrumental in the legislative campaigns for the passage of numerous community related bills, most notably one in the State of Maryland that would help create 12,000 good paying jobs.

Abiola’s passion, depth of experience and understanding of community organizing and the labor movement has enabled her to serve any community she finds herself in with precision by amplifying community voices, combining grassroots power to win and building social movements of tomorrow.

Theodore R. Allen III, Senior Training Analyst, Ciena Inc.

allen.jpgTheodore R. Allen, III is a decorated 11-year Veteran of the United States Navy and a proud military service member who served both in Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf Wars. As a dynamic public speaker Theodore has earned the highest award as a Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM from Toastmasters International. A budding entrepreneur, he serves as the Executive Director & CEO of DivineCrossingx, Inc., a Training and Develop Consulting Firm designed to enrich the minds of clients through dynamic empowerment speeches, literary works, and invigorating workshops. Winner of the National Urban League (NUL) Southern Regional Essay Writing Contest with a literary piece entitled: The Silent Epidemic, Theodore has debuted as Author with his inaugural literary work entitled ñThe Steps of a Good Manƒ Discovering Your Path to Successful Living.î Moreover, he is a 2009 graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) with a Masters in Information Technology (MSIT) and holds an undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University_ Carbondale (SIU-C) in Workforce Education.

Lauren Boswell, Special Assistant to the Director of Federal Advocacy (National Urban Fellow), National League of Cities

boswell.jpgLauren Boswell has always been captivated by space, urban landscapes, culture, and the policy making process that creates diverse and sustainable communities. At the age of 16, Lauren was nominated by Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer to represent MarylandÍs 5th district as a House of Representatives Congressional Page. This experience solidified her desire to study Urban and Environmental Planning and African-American Studies at the University of Virginia and work towards creating sustainable policy for AmericaÍs most disadvantaged cities and communities.

As a student at UVA, Lauren volunteered with middle school girls under the Young Women Leaders Program, and was awarded a research grant to extend the program to include a local high school. Lauren was also a critical member of the Black Student Alliance, eventually becoming the organizationÍs president, winning the title of Best CIO at UVA in 2010.

Lauren began her work in the non-profit sector as an intern with the Public Housing Association of Residents. Lauren organized job readiness opportunities for public housing residents, facilitated home ownership seminars, created volunteer opportunities, and most importantly, gave public housing residents in Charlottesville, Virginia a platform for civic engagement and involvement.

At the end of her fourth year, Lauren enthusiastically embraced the challenge to become a Teach for America 2010 Corps member. Lauren made the commitment to teach Kindergarten for two years in an underserved community in Washington, D.C. Through teaching, Lauren has gained a broad insight to the needs of our nation’s families while understanding the potential obstacles that arise in formulating sustainable policy.

As a National Urban Fellow, Lauren is committed to synthesizing all of her diverse experiences into a career in serving the public as an administrator and community advocate.

Monica Dean, Energy & Environmental Services Assistant, American Public Power Association

dean.jpgMonica Dean is the Energy & Environmental Services Program Assistant at the American Public Power Association (APPA) working on the Reliable Public Power Program (RP3). Through this program, Monica is providing engineering services work on technical, regulatory, and compliance issues for the nationÍs more than 2,000 community owned electric utilities. Prior to joining APPA, Monica was the Communications Officer for the Maryland Clean Energy Center where she assisted in program development to encourage the growth of a clean energy economy in Maryland.

Monica has a passion for international environmental justice work. She helped found Hima-Mesoptamia, dedicated to the Restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq and conserving the Tigris-Euphrates watershed. Her research on the impacts of Marsh Desiccation to Iraqi Water Buffalo was presented at the Society for Ecological Restoration 4th World Conference. Additionally, she has worked with the Association for Environmental Justice in Israel on environmental conflict resolution.

Monica graduated Cum Laude from Tel Aviv University with an M.A. in Environmental Studies and was awarded the PresidentÍs Medal and DeanÍs Academic Honor Award from California State University Sacramento (CSUS), where she received her B.A. in Environmental Studies.

Brian Holler, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist and Program Coordinator, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Brian Holler is a domestically trained, internationally experienced public health professional with a passion for community development and youth outreach. A motivated leader with a diverse skill-set, he has implemented CDC-funded HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs in Maryland; served as the Peace Corps volunteer leader and water, sanitation, and maternal health expert in Turkmenistan; and conducted quality improvement in New Orleans prisons.

Brian has a BA in Political Science from the University of Maryland and received an MPH at Tulane University, which has given him the educational training and experience to create sustainable, progressive change within diverse communities both in the U.S. and abroad.

Daniel Kawah, Consultant

kawah.jpgBorn to Edward and Helena Kawah, Daniel is a first generation Liberian-American from Washington, D.C. A graduate of the prestigious Winston Churchill High School of Potomac, Maryland, Daniel was a two sport scholar athlete who lettered in basketball and football for three consecutive years. During his junior year at Churchill, Daniel recognized the need for a student-led organization unifying the African-American presence on campus. Taking this into consideration, he and two colleagues took the initiative and began the schoolÍs first ever Black Student Alliance. Upon graduation from Churchill, Daniel pursued a Political Science degree at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD where he played for the universityÍs basketball team and participated in the Young Democrats of America organization on campus.

Although he received several acceptance letters to esteemed law schools after graduation, Daniel felt compelled to pursue a professional career in political consulting. Daniel also established himself as a blogger through the creation of YEBies (Young Educated Black Individuals Elevating Society).com, an online hub for the young progressive minds of the future. Started as a blog in the summer of 2008, YEBies became a multi-faceted movement striving to connect the dynamic minds of people of the diaspora in innovative ways. This organization recognizes race as a current social constraint that shouldn’t be used to divide but instead unite our people. YEBies was primarily used to host community-based events all over the East Coast and through the relationships established with venues and sponsoring businesses, YEBies transitioned into a vehicle to educate minority-owned businesses by the YEBies Online Program. In 2010, Daniel was offered his first job opportunity at a political consulting firm based in DC.

As an Associate Consultant, Daniel was integral in the fostering of three-way relationships between the government, the firmÍs clients, and other NGOs. Daniel knew the importance of maintaining a well-rounded consulting career, so he decided to branch out from the political world and accept a position as the Branding and Marketing Consultant for Denim Bar in Arlington, VA.

By merging his political consulting and brand development experiences, Daniel currently serves as the Communications Strategist for the Jack Evans for Mayor campaign. Daniel is excited to contribute his expertise while learning from other mentors and fellows during his participation in the National Leadership Council 2014.

Nina McHugh

mchugh.jpgNina recently obtained a Juris Doctorate, with Honors and a concentration in Health Law Studies, from Saint Louis University School of Law in Saint Louis, Missouri. While at SLU, she worked in conjunction with Missouri Health Care For All to develop health law advocates, work with consumer advocacy organizations on state and federal health policy initiatives, engaged in legislative and administrative advocacy and public education. Additionally, the field work component involved community education and policy advocacy activities including presenting public educational forums about the Affordable Care Act and writing fact sheets and action alerts on key health policy issues.

Nina also worked for ACLU-MO as a law clerk contributing to the recent Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the Missouri Supreme Court that found an involuntary blood draw is a search under the 4th Amendment. Additionally, Nina provided policy analysis and advocacy as an intern for Health Care For America Now, an organization that worked to promote, defend, implement and improve the Affordable Care Act at the state and federal levels and protect Medicare and Medicaid.

Lastly, as a student intake specialist at the Health Justice Project, Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s medical-legal partnership, she engaged in direct client representation, policy development and collaborated with non-legal professionals in order to identify and improve the social and health needs that negatively effect it’s low income clients. The interdisciplinary work of HJP illustrated the need to attack social problems from every angle and led Nina to pursue a career in health policy as an avenue to alleviate social inequities.

Nina is excited to return to Baltimore, where she received a B.B.A, with Honors, from Loyola University Maryland.

Andrea Pyatt-Johnson, Co-Founder/Administrator, Watson Hall Montessori

pyatt-johnson.jpgAndrea Pyatt-Johnson is the Co-Founder and Administrator of the Watson Hall Montessori School located in Catonsville, Maryland. The Watson Hall Montessori School strives to create ñan environment that promotes a love of learning, self-empowerment, and creativity in the young mind.î Through her work with Watson Hall Montessori, she helps to develop and encourage young children to use their innate talents and skills to shape our worldwide community.

Prior to starting Watson Hall Montessori, Andrea was an administrator with the Baltimore City Department of Health (BCHD) in the Maternal and Child Health Division. During her tenure she served as the state liaison and Coalition Leader for a national early childhood literacy program. In addition, she served on BCHD, Parents Place of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine committees for major city-wide infant and child public health initiatives. One of these initiatives involved the training of pediatric practices on the use of state required validated developmental assessment tools.

Andrea is a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, MA. She received her graduate degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD. Andrea is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).