IGNITE Fellows are changing the face of leadership in their communities, and ultimately, across the United States. 

A premier fellowship program for civically engaged young women who are on the path to become the next generation of political leaders. Every year IGNITE recruits a new cohort of diverse and passionate women in communities across the United States and provides them with resources, training and networks to launch political careers. These young women serve as ambassadors for IGNITE’s mission and vision and play a valuable role in our efforts to spread a national message that it is time for young women to step into political power.

Each Fellow:

  • Launches a regional college council for 20-30 politically ambitious young women from a group of local college campuses. Each College Council meets for bi-monthly weekend retreats to develop political leadership skills, learn in-depth information around a specific policy area, and receive mentorship from several elected women.
  • Works with the College Council members to start and sustain IGNITE College Chapters on their home campuses, thereby reaching many more politically active young women. Chapters build political and civic engagement among students and organize activities like voter registration drives, policy workshops, and meetings with elected women and candidates. Chapters members have the opportunity to target their organizing efforts to the specific needs of their campus.
  • Organizes regional IGNITE events for an even broader audience of young women and community stakeholders to expand IGNITE’s program reach and audience.

 


2018-2019 Fellows

Andrea Duarte serves as our Twin Cities Fellow. Andrea’s political ambition first sparked her freshman year when she joined student government. She built on this experience by lobbying Catholic Social Justice in Washington, D.C. with Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK. She is a Greater Minnesota advocate in the Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota where she champions equity in opportunity for young women. Andrea’s work earned her prestigious honors, like the Jay and Rose Phillips Scholar and Harry S. Truman Scholar. She is a senior at St Catherine University, majoring in Political Science and minoring in English and Women's Studies. For Minneapolis inquiries, contact Andrea at andrea@ignitenational.org.

Jess Gaughan serves as our Memphis Fellow.  Jess is a senior at Rhodes College studying an interdisciplinary major she created herself that combines aspects of Philosophy, Political Science, and International Studies, with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Jess serves as Tennessee College Democrats' Director of Minority Affairs, President of Rhodes College Democrats, Vice President of the Rhodes College Hillel, and is as an active member of the Rhodes College Mock Trial program. In the future Jess plans to combine her passions for criminal justice reform and equal rights by becoming an indigent criminal defense attorney.  She hopes to one day be elected or appointed as a Chief Public Defender. For Memphis inquires, contact jess@ignitenational.org.

Kristen Gonzalez serves as our New York Fellow. Kristen holds a B.A. in Political Science and Race and Ethnicity Studies from Columbia University and wrote her senior thesis on expanding political opportunities for young women of color. At Columbia, Kristen served as President of Columbia University Democrats and worked in the office of Senator Schumer, where she assisted the Director of the Senate Diversity Initiative. She was also part of the final intern class under the Obama Administration, where she worked on Latino engagement and reported to the Senior Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement at the White House. Previously, she was a member of the Young Women’s Advisory Council for New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative. She now serves on the Queens Community Board 4. Kristen is a proud daughter of immigrants, a passionate activist, and a community advocate. She was born and raised in a single-parent household in Elmhurst, Queens, which sparked her interest in empowering immigrant communities and working families. For New York inquires, contact kristeng@ignitenational.org.

Kirsten Jackson serves as our Atlanta Fellow. Kirsten is a senior at the all-women college, Agnes Scott College, where she is studying Political Science with a minor in Business Management. On campus, she had holds several leadership roles including President of Honor Court,  Resident Assistant, and Tower Council. She is a second year fellow with IGNITE. During her first year, she participated in chartering four college chapters and created a substantial foundation for IGNITE in Atlanta.. Her path to political leadership and advocacy started in high school when she launched the Forgotten Ones, an organization devoted to supporting individuals with their basic needs from sanitary products to backpacks. For Atlanta related inquiries, please contact Kirsten at kirstenj@ignitenational.org.

Abriana Kirt serves as our Birmingham Fellow. Abriana is a senior at the University of Alabama studying Biological Sciences on a pre-med track. As a member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) on campus, she is acutely aware of the need for gender parity in elected office. A pivotal moment for volunteerism and political leadership for Abriana was her participation in  an international exchange with Girl Scouts of America. She traveled to England to discuss environmental issues affecting the U.K. and America with her English peers. She walked away from that experience fired up to get more civically engaged. For Birmingham related inquiries, please contact Abriana at abriana@ignitenational.org.

Alyssa Mayleen Mermea serves as our Chicago Fellow. Alyssa is pursuing a Master's in Youth Development with a specialization in Educational Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Applied Learning and Development - Youth and Community Studies with a concentration in social services and a minor in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. While at UT, Alyssa participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Congressional Internship program in Washington, D.C. Today, Alyssa is a Literacy Coordinator for the University of Illinois at Chicago's America Reads program and supervises tutors working in neighborhood schools around the city of Chicago. Alyssa's political aspirations were sparked at a legislative advocacy conference in 2015 when a woman told her "you need to run for office.” Taking this message to heart, Alyssa wants to empower other young women to be powerful forces in the political arena. Alyssa grew up in the border town of El Paso, Texas. For Chicago inquires, contact alyssa@ignitentational.org.

 

Ximena Mondragon serves as our San Antonio Fellow. Ximena is currently a Political Science major at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio Texas. When she graduates in the Spring of 2019, Ximena will be the first in her family to obtain a college degree. She has been an IGNITE member since high school and founded the IGNITE chapter at St. Mary’s University, where she now serves as President.  Ximena is a McNair Scholar and part of the Marianist Leadership Program. She plans to obtain her PhD in Political Science. She is dedicated to empowering girls and serves as a mentor for Girls Incorporated of San Antonio. For San Antonio related inquiries, contact Ximena at ximena@ignitenational.org.

Shradha Parkeh serves as our Columbus Fellow. Shradha is a  junior at Ohio State University in Columbus majoring in Public Management, Leadership, & Policy, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. On campus, Shradha is involved with Undergraduate Student Government and the Multicultural Center.  She is a native Ohioan who is very passionate about social justice issues, especially women’s rights and equality, as well as other minority groups’ advocacy. She hopes to enact change through a position as a public servant for her community, at a local and national level. She wants to empower young women everywhere to succeed in politics and one day run for office! For Columbus inquires, contact shradha@ignitenational.org.
Cecilia Ruesta serves as our Central Valley Fellow. In undergrad at California State Fresno, Cecilia was a member of Students for Quality Education (SQE) where she mobilized students, faculty and staff to address socioeconomic disparities in higher education. In addition to lobbying at the state level with SQE, she has also lobbied at the national level with United We Dream and other organizations in order to pass legislation that would grant deportation relief to thousands of immigrant youth. In the Women's Studies Program she helped organize campus wide campaigns to end gender discrimination, racism, and violence against women and children. Cecilia is originally from Lima, Peru and immigrated to the United States at the age of 17.  Cecilia holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.S. in Criminology and is currently in the MFT counseling program at California State University, Fresno. For Central Valley related inquiries, please contact Cecilia at ceciliar@ignitenational.org.

Monica Sibri serves as our Washington D.C. Fellow.  In 2016 and 2017, Monica was a part of IGNITE’s inaugural fellowship cohort, organizing hundreds of college women across New York City and planning the first NYC Young Women’s Political Leadership conference.  She currently serves as a close adviser to CUNY DREAMers, an undocumented student-led organization she founded in 2013 to help advance equal access to higher education and build a network of support for thousands of undocumented students at the City University of New York, the largest urban university in the United States. Monica’s been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Huffington Post, the Voice of America, New York Daily News, and many other local and international newspapers. As a powerful advocate, she works tirelessly to strengthen the immigrant movement by helping undocumented immigrants to access resources, services, and the support they need to succeed. Monica earned her BA degree in American Politics, Policy, and Advocacy from the Baccalaureate For Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies at the City University of New York.  Monica’s current and future goals include pursuing a Master’s in Political Management at George Washington University and to get more women elected into office – particularly, to get more women into the New York City Council by 2021. For Washington D.C. inquires, contact monica@ignitenational.org.

Dalila Valdez Renteria serves as our Southern California Fellow. Delila holds a master’s in public policy with a focus on Race and Immigration from the University of California, Riverside and is returning to IGNITE for a second year as the Southern California Fellow. She currently works at Immigrant Defenders Law Center in the Detained Youth Empowerment Program where she works with detained children and youth to provide them with legal services. Prior to this Dalila worked at a local rape crisis center and dedicated to her time to serving survivors of sexual assault and helping to end gender-based violence by facilitating middle school and high school Be Strong groups on a weekly basis.  For Southern California inquires, contact dalila@ignitenational.org.


Rae’Niqua K. Victorine serves as our Boston, MA fellow. Rae’Niqua is a senior at Simmons University studying Political Science and Public Policy. She was the founding Vice-President and later President of the Simmons African Caribbean Student Union and served on her Student Government Association (SGA) as the Academic Affairs Officer. As an intern at Emerge Massachusetts and through local campaign work, Rae’Niqua realized her passion to educate women on how to run for office. Rae’Niqua plans to run for office in Massachusetts and later move up the political ladder in order to better the lives of everyone and to continue to advocate for those living in U.S. territories. Rae-Niqua was born and raised on the island of St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., and began her political career at the age of 15 serving as a youth senator under the Legislative Youth Advisory Council for the 31st Legislature of the Virgin Islands. In her three-year term, she served as the Chairwoman for the Committee on Education, Health, and Youth Relations, where she reviewed and passed legislation that would eventually make its way into the V.I. Senate Chamber. For Boston related inquiries, contact Rae’Niqua at raeniqua@ignitenational.org.

Louie Tan Vital serves as our Seattle Fellow.  Louie is a Masters candidate at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Louie recently worked as a nonpartisan Committee Legislative Assistant during the Washington State House of Representatives' 2017 Legislative Session and in the 115th Congress in the United States House of Representatives for Congressman Adam Smith. After a post on social media about her experience as a young woman of color working in Congress went viral, Louie gave numerous national and international newspaper and radio interviews where she publicly declared her intent to run for office. Louie also gives workshops, lectures, and speeches on race in public policy, culturally-competent civic engagement, diasporic narratives, and combating anti-blackness racism in the Asian Pacific Islander community. For Seattle inquires, contact Louie at louie@ignitenational.org.

Maddie Zimmerman serves as our Madison fellow. Maddie is currently a Legislative Assistant for Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent and is the Deputy Communications Director and Research Assistant for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Maddie spent her time in college volunteering and interning for a local domestic violence agency in the crisis response department. Maddie was also the IGNITE National intern for the 2017-18 school year and helped launch the college chapter at UW-Madison. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Human Development & Family Studies and Legal Studies. For Madison related inquiries, contact Maddie at maddie@ignitenational.org.

 

Ayah Ziyadeh serves as our Denver fellow. As a human rights activist, writer, and aspiring international law attorney, Ayah is passionate about making the world a better place to live in for everyone.  Ayah served as a Colorado State Capitol Fellow and lobbied for bills on civil rights, education and healthcare. She has also organized rallies in Colorado to raise awareness about crucial human rights issues around the world.  Ayah is proud to be working with IGNITE as she believes every female has the right to be politically active. She recently graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a B.A in international relations with a minor in philosophy. For Denver related inquiries, contact Ayah at ayah@ignitenational.org.   

 

 


Fellowship Cohort II: 2017-2018

Left to right, top to bottom: Zunera Ahmed, New York Fellow; Kirsten Jackson, Atlanta Fellow; Nadya Okamoto, Boston Fellow; Geovanie (Geo) Ordonez, San Antonio, Fellow; Dalila Valdez Renteria, Southern California Fellow; Zeenat Yahya, Seattle Fellow; Elizabeth Zalanga, Minneapolis Fellow. Read the bios of our former fellows.

Fellowship Cohort I: 2016-2017

fellows_collage.jpg

Left to right: Jade Goins, Atlanta Fellow; Kayla Farhang, Minneaplois Fellow; Monica Sibri, New York Fellow; and Tiffaney Boyd, Southern California Fellow. Read the bios of our former fellows.