Fellowship Cohort III: 2018-2019

Jalessa Bryant served as our Madison, Wisconsin Fellow. Jalessa holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies and a minor in education from the University of California, Berkeley. Jalessa is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Multicultural education. Her scholarly work includes several research projects: the Spencer Foundation Virtual Laboratory, the Arts + Literature Laboratory, as well as serving as a graduate student research assistant to her advisor. All of her research efforts centered on supporting students from marginalized backgrounds and generating paradigmatic shifts to the way we think about the science of learning to provide more comprehensive support to students. Jalessa believes that encouraging women, particularly queer identifying and women of color, to be aware and engaged in politics will lead to more just, holistic legislation and improved experiences in schools for children with marginal identities.  

Quadira Coles served as our New York Fellow. She is currently at John Jay College pursuing a Masters of Public Administration in Public Policy. Quadira obtained a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Penn State in 2015. During undergrad, she worked in domestic violence advocacy at Blair County Courthouse, which fueled her passion for policy, politics, and a desire to be a catalyst for change. As a child, she always challenged the status quo whenever it seemed unjust.  This attribute stayed with Quadira and is the driving force in her career path. With a pragmatic mindset and commitment to accountability and civic engagement, Quadira wants to run for an elected office. Quadira was born in Passaic, New Jersey but raised in many different corners of Essex County.  


Andrea Duarte served 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.  

Anais Franco served as our Southern California Fellow. Anais holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Economics from California State University San Bernardino. Her background is in higher education and regional organizing. Anais’ recently served as the Regional Organizer for Rancho Cucamonga with James Ramos 2018 campaign for State Assembly. The focal point of her regional organizing and time on the campaign trail was making higher education more accessible to all as well as increasing trade school opportunities in the region. Anais' passion for higher education advocacy was the impetus for getting civically engaged. She currently works as an English Tutor for the Language Success Center at Chaffey Community College. 

Kirsten Jackson served 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.  

Abriana Kirt served 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.  

Alyssa Mayleen Mermea served 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.  

Ximena Mondragon served 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.  

Shradha Parkeh served 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!  
Cecilia Ruesta served 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. 

Monica Sibri served as our Washington D.C. Fellow. Monica was a part of IGNITE’s inaugural fellowship cohort (2016-2017), organizing hundreds of college women across New York and planning the first NYC Young Women’s Political Leadership Conference.  She currently serves as an adviser to CUNY DREAMers, an undocumented student-led organization she founded in 2013 to help advance equal access to higher education and a support network for thousands of undocumented students at the City University of New York. 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 other local and international mediaMonica 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.  

Rae’Niqua K. Victorine served 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.  

Louie Tan Vital served 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.  

Ayah Ziyadeh served 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. 


Fellowship Cohort II: 2017-2018


Zunera Ahmed served as our New York Fellow. She is currently a senior at Brooklyn College, City University of New York pursuing a degree in psychology. Her passion for politics began at a young age and has carried into her college career.  She serves as the Speaker in her campus student government has previously interned at Brooklyn College’s NYPIRG chapter. These experiences sparked her passion for advocacy. Zunera was a member of IGNITE’s inaugural college council in 2016-2017 where she was introduced to politically ambitious peers from across New York’s boroughs.  As a Fellow,  Zunera hopes to educate and support her fellow college women to pursue careers in government, while creating a  safe space for women to ask questions and challenge themselves. After graduation and the fellowship, Zunera plans to run for City Council in New York. For New York college related inquires, please contact Zunera at zunera@ignitenational.org.

Kirsten Jackson serves as our Atlanta, GA Fellow. Her path to political leadership and advocacy started in high school where she launched, the Forgotten Ones, an organization devoted to supporting individuals with their basic needs from sanitary products to backpacks. Kirsten is a senior at the all women’s school, Agnes Scott College, where she is studying Political Science with a minor in Business Management. On campus, she had holds several leadership roles including an executive position on the Judicial Board, Resident Assistant, and Tower Council. As a fellow, Kirsten will advocate for underrepresented populations to get more women elected to office. Kirsten’s goal is to empower women by helping them see that they are capable of becoming political leaders and shattering the glass ceiling in politics.  

Samantha Lichtin served as our Denver fellow. She is a writer, organizer, policy maker, and climate scientist who studied Geology & Geophysics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale University where she focused on paleoclimatology and large-scale impacts of climate change. After graduation, she returned to the metro area after graduation to learn how politics actually works behind the news coverage and get involved in Morgan Carroll’s campaign for CD-6. She has since served as a lead organizer for the Denver March for Science, and worked energy and environment policy for members of the Colorado State Senate, House of Representatives, and Governor’s Office. Sam is fiercely committed to expanding access to the experiment known as self-governance, such that we create a truly representative democracy and more equitable and just world. She is proud to work with IGNITE in its dedication to empowering young women from all backgrounds in the political process. When not encouraging other young Coloradans to engage in public service or fighting for evidence-based policy at the State Capitol, you might find Sam preparing tax returns with VITA, playing viola with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, cooking up a storm, or curled up with a good book.  

Nadya Okamoto served as our Boston, MA fellow. Nadya is a sophomore at Harvard College. At 16, Nadya founded PERIOD, a global organization providing and celebrating menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service. Since its founding in 2014, the organization has reached  110,000 individuals and have registered over 100 campus chapters. She is also the co-founder of E Pluribus, a post-partisan media platform that engages young people in discussions around issues that they truly care about, and pushes them to take action. Nadya will share her organizing experience and political ambition to empower young women in the Boston community to step up into leadership roles. Nadya herself is stepping into political power and is running for Cambridge City Council in fall 2017. 

Geovanie (Geo) Ordonez served as our San Antonio, TX fellow. As the second to attend college in her family, Geo decided to focus her career in public policy. She is a recent graduate of St. Mary's University where she earned a Bachelor's in Political Science and International Relations. Throughout her college career, Geo was deeply involved in the Student Government Association (SGA) where she served as president for the 2016-2017 school year. Along with the SGA, she has served as Vice President for the Social Justice League, Service Intern with the Civic Engagement Center, and intern with the Center for Legal and Social Justice. Geo is a recipient of the Marianist Student Leadership Award and Presidential Award. Geo is committed to sharing her experience to motivate young female minorities to declare their political ambition and run for office on campuses and in communities across San Antonio. Geo aspires to bring back all the knowledge she has gained to her hometown of Fort Worth where she hopes to one day work to bring more political representation for minorities in her hometown of Fort Worth and across TX. 

Dalila Valdez Renteria serves as the Southern California Fellow. Dalila is passionate about creating social change through political advocacy. She recently completed her Masters of Public Policy at UC Riverside. During her undergraduate career at the University of California, Riverside, Dalila was an inaugural member of the 2015-2016 college council in Southern CA and also led the efforts to launch an IGNITE chapter on that campus. Before serving as a fellow, Dalila served as a Certified Sexual Assault Counselor and Prevention Specialist with the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center working with young women ages 12-18 to teach them about healthy relationships, sexual harassment prevention and the intersectionalities of violence. Dalila is eager to empower more young women to take their next step to elected office to increase the representation of women of color in local government.  

Zeenat Yahya served as our Seattle fellow. This fall, she is starting a Masters of Education Policy program at the University of Washington. Zeenat is passionate about empowering young women to become political and civic leaders in their communities. Previously, Zeenat has served as the California Program Coordinator for IGNITE, where she worked on program development and administration of our CA high school and college programs. Zeenat is excited to continue her work with IGNITE as the organization combines her passions: education, politics, and women’s empowerment. Zeenat holds a B.A. in Political Science-Public Service from the University of California, Davis.  

Elizabeth Zalanga served as our Minneapolis Fellow. She is currently completing an Associate in Arts Degree with an Emphasis in Social Science/Public Affairs at Saint Paul College. This past spring Elizabeth was elected to serve on her school’s student senate as the Diversity Officer. She was also elected to serve as the Metro North Region - Governing Council Representative. In both of these positions Elizabeth erves as an advocate for her school’s student body and for the greater campus community of public two-year community and technical colleges in her region. After completing her associate’s degree Elizabeth hopes to transfer to the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) to complete a bachelor's in Global Studies and eventually a Master's in Public Policy. Elizabeth is deeply committed to dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic equity. Her passion extends to her service on the Board of Directors of several nonprofit organizations that address disparities faced by young people of color. During her Fellowship, Elizabeth wants to foster the leadership skills and confidence of young women who are passionate about policy-making and running for elected positions. 

Fellowship Cohort I: 2016-2017


Tiffaney.jpgTiffaney Boyd served as our Southern CA fellow. She recently graduated magna cum laude from California State University San Marcos and received her Baccalaureate degrees in Social Sciences and Communication. Tiffaney served in numerous leadership positions during her time at CSUSM. Most notably, she was elected to serve on her student government board for three years, attaining the position of President and was elected President of the National Communication Association’s honor society, Lambda Pi Eta. Tiffaney has a passion for access and education equity and encourages students to take an active interest in the political forces that shape their educations and their lives. Through this fellowship she hopes to help women and gender parity by demystifying the process of running for office and bridge the networks required for success in politics.  

Where is Tiffaney today? Leveraging her experience as Student Body President at California State University San Marcos, Tiffaney dramatically expanded IGNITE across the region and went on to secure a job in the California State Assembly. (Updated 12/2017)

“IGNITE gave me a lot of applicable skills that I can use as I continue my political journey. The IGNITE network supports and inspires me every day.” - Tiffaney Body


Kayla.jpgKayla Farhang served as our Minneapolis Fellow where she is currently a senior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Kayla is working towards a Political Science and Global Studies double major. She has a strong passion for politics and has been involved in a lot of community organizing throughout my college career focused on a variety of social justice issues. Kayla has served as an Organizing Fellow for Students for Education Reform Action Network and as a Legislative Intern for the Minnesota School Boards Association. Kayla also serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of MPIRG a non-partisan organization where she organizing state-wide campaigns. As a Fellow, Kayla hopes to encourage her peers to pursue their passion for politics. As a woman in the field, she knows how important it is to feel a sense of support and solidarity. By creating an environment where women's voices are uplifted and where they feel confident and supported, the fellowship will help us achieve gender parity in the U.S.  

Where is Kayla today? Kayla graduated from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in spring 2017. She is leveraging the organizing skills she gained with IGNITE to lead local campaigns in the Minneapolis region. (Updated 12/2017)

“Through IGNITE I became more confident in my political power and ability to make a change. I also built a community of like-minded individuals. Together we are shifting the narrative to include the voices of young women in the political realm.” - Kayla Farhang


Jade.jpgJade Goins served as our Atlanta Fellow where she was born and raised. Jade attended Alabama State University from 2012-2016. While at ASU, she spent a majority of her time engaging with campus and community based organizations that stood for causes dear to her. Some of those organizations included URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity), The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, The One-Hundred Black Men of America, and others. Jade found it extremely important to explore areas she was interested in and to take on leadership roles as well. She recently graduated in May of 2016, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. As a fellow with IGNITE, Jade feels that this is her opportunity to get the U.S. to progress in the correct direction towards gender parity. The entire fellowship is an ideal avenue to encourage, educate, and empower young women towards equality. Jade’s goal is to inform young women that what is most important is their ability to succeed in any avenue.  This fellowship will bring awareness to more young women on college campuses of their capabilities, which will result in them bringing change into their own communities. Once these two components are planted, the public will have to move forward in addressing issues regarding gender parity. The young women produced through this programming will not allow any less.   

Where is Jade today? Jade brought IGNITE programs to 200 young women in the Atlanta region. Via contacts she made at IGNITE, Jade secured a job with the Congressional Women’s Caucus at the Georgia State House. (Updated 12/2017)

“Before the fellowship I was all about electing more women to office, but I didn’t think that I was qualified enough to run. Now I realize that I am qualified, intelligent, and ready to run! The women I brought together taught me how much I could achieve.” - Jade Goins


Monica Sibri served as our New York Fellow where she was the Founder of CUNY DREAMers, the first CUNY- wide student-led organization regardless of legal status that represents the needs and aspirations of undocumented students in The City University of New York. She is a leading advocate for creating change and accessibility to undocumented students for higher education and an organizer for equity laws that protect and advance the lives of immigrants. Monica firmly believes in civic engagement thus she has successfully helped organize and led voter registration campaigns from across the five boroughs. Monica is most grateful for the DREAM Fellowship Award that enabled her to become an organizer; and the Latino Leadership Institute Electoral Activism and Leadership Academy Award, where she learned intensive skills to be a better organizer and advocate for the immigrant community. Monica’s current and future goals include pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and to get more women elected into office – particularly, to get more Latina women into the New York City Council by 2018. 

“IGNITE provides a network for young women to unite and build on their personal experiences to serve their communities. Through IGNITE young women see themselves in political leadership positions by engaging with women elected officials in a very personal and approachable space.” - Monica Sibri