Speakers & Panelists

Keynote Speakers

YDC_new.pngCongresswoman Yvette D. Clarke

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, a Brooklyn native proud of her Jamaican heritage, attended the New York City public schools, graduated from Oberlin College, and was a recipient of the prestigious APPAM/Sloan Fellowship in Public Policy and Policy Analysis.

Prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Clarke served on the New York City Council, representing the Fortieth District in Brooklyn. She succeeded her pioneering mother, former City Council Member Dr. Una S. T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the City Council.

As the representative of the Ninth Congressional District of New York, she has dedicated herself to continuing the legacy of excellence established by the late Honorable Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman and Caribbean American elected to Congress.

As an activist, a community organizer and now as a legislator, Congresswoman Clarke’s boldness, compassion and love for the people has allowed her to become an effective leader and an outspoken advocate on numerous issues of great importance to her constituents.

In the 115th Congress, Congresswoman Clarke serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Committee on Small Business, and the Ethics Committee. Congresswoman Clarke has demonstrated her capacity for leadership as Chair of the Multicultural Media Caucus, dedicated to eliminating stereotypes in the media and expanding ownership to include communities of color, and as Co-Chair of the Black Women & Girls Caucus, which develops programs to support the aspirations of African American women of all ages, and an At-Large member of the Congressional Black Caucus Executive Committee.

In addition, Congresswoman Clarke serves as Co-Chair of the Caribbean Caucus, where she has works to build the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean community (CARICOM) on matters of trade, immigration reform, and direct investment through development programs.

Congresswoman Clarke currently resides in the neighborhood where she grew up, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Grace_Meng.jpgCongresswoman Grace Meng

U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng is serving her third term in the United States House of Representatives.  Grace was born and raised in New York City, attended public schools, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1997. After attending Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, she served as a public interest lawyer before being elected to represent Queens in the New York State Assembly in 2008 and the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.

As a DNC Vice Chair, Grace has focused her efforts on representing new and diverse constituencies within the Democratic Party. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she focused her efforts on turning out voters in the major Asian American communities, resulting in almost double the rate of early voter turnout in those communities—and a dramatic increase in the number of non-English and new media outlets with which the DNC communicated.

Grace is the first Asian American Member of Congress from New York State, and the only Congressmember of Asian descent in the entire Northeast. She is also the first female Member of Congress from Queens since former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. In Congress, Grace has focused her legislative efforts on vulnerable women and children as well as America’s minority and rural communities. She is a founding member and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Kids’ Safety Caucus, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Leadership PAC, and a member of the Democratic Future Forum.

Through her AT THE TABLE! PAC, Grace supported 11 successful minority candidates in their elections to federal office in 2016. She also serves as an original member of the Board of Directors of EQUALITY PAC, the political arm of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, of which she is also a member. 

Grace lives in Queens with her husband Wayne and their two sons, Tyler and Brandon.


Genesis Aquino

genesis.JPGGenesis Aquino is a candidate for AD 51 State Committee Member (Female District Leader). As an activist and community organizer she has been outspoken advocate for issues including housing, immigrants rights, education and police accountability, which have been issues of great importance to her community. Genesis was raised in Sunset Park, where her grandparents and extended family have been living permanently since early 1980s, after migrating from the Dominican Republic. She attended New York City public schools and graduated from The City University of New York where she earned Bachelors in Social Work and Urban Community Development, and received scholarship and extensive training in public service by the Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program in Government and Public Affairs. She believes in the power of civic engagement, and is intentional with involving herself and neighbors in Participatory Budgeting, getting out the vote, and various campaigns to promote progressive policies that benefit her community.

Tarana Burke, Director of Programs at Girls for Gender Equity; Creator of the #MeToo Movement

tarana_burke.jpgThe simple yet courageous #metoo hashtag campaign has emerged as a rallying cry for people everywhere who have survived sexual assault and sexual harassment – and Tarana’s powerful, poignant story as creator of what is now an international movement that supports survivors is moving, uplifting, and inspiring.

#metoo is not just an overnight hashtag sensation; Tarana has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to social justice and to laying the groundwork for a movement that was initially created to help young women of color who survived sexual abuse and assault. The movement now inspires solidarity, amplifies the voices thousands of victims of sexual abuse, and puts the focus back on survivors.

A sexual assault survivor herself, Tarana works under the banner of The ‘me too’ Movement to assist other survivors and those who work to end sexual violence. She is senior director at Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity. Her work at its core is about lifting up marginalized voices, enabling survivors across all races, genders, or classes to know that they are not alone, and creates a place for comfort and healing to those who have experienced trauma. Follow her movement at @metooMVMT.

Maggie_Castro.jpgMaggie Castro, Associate State Director, AARP NY

Maggie Castro is the Associate State Director for the New York State office of AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social welfare organization with a membership of nearly 38 million that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to the 50+ population and their families. In this role, she is responsible for outreach, education, engagement and all initiatives focused on the ‘go local strategy' for the five boroughs of New York City, while serving as a volunteer coordinator. She brings her life-coaching skills and background to programs committed to helping people rediscover their gifts, explore new possibilities and move toward their best lives. In addition, Maggie is an Ambassador for ‘Take The Lead’, a nonprofit organization aimed at preparing, developing, inspiring and propelling women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. Prior to her current position at AARP, Maggie was the ‘right hand person’ to the Publisher & CEO of the oldest Spanish language newspaper in the country, El Diario, where she co-wrote a bi-weekly column entitled, “Batalla de los Sexos” (Battle of the Sexes). Maggie is the proud mother of two successful young professionals and grandmother to a beautiful baby boy. She has a degree in Business Administration with a focus on human resources and currently resides in Queens, NY.


Catalina Cruz, Coordinator of Elected Officials’ Volunteers, New York City Council Campaigns

Catalina Cruz is an experienced attorney and a leader for immigration reform and workers rights. She recently served as the Chief of Staff for Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the New York City Council Finance Committee. Catalina has worked to help pass key legislation protecting workers, women, and business owners. She previously served as the Director of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Exploited Workers Task Force, helping New York become a national leader in the fight against worker exploitation. Catalina came to the United States in 1992 from Colombia with her single mother, a domestic worker who experienced wage theft but never felt able to report it. Catalina is a DREAMer: she was undocumented for more than a decade and understands firsthand the fear that immigrants face when reporting crimes to law enforcement. Catalina has worked several local campaigns, coordinated volunteers, petitioning, and door knocking. Her journey is one worth following all the way, check it out at @Catalinalao124.


Katelynn Eckert, New York Life Insurance, Senior Analyst

Katelynn is an advocacy professional with extensive experience in state and federal lobbying, grassroots campaign management, and message development.

Currently a member of the government affairs team at the New York Life Insurance Company, Katelynn conducts legislative and regulatory research and contributes to advocacy campaign development for a Fortune 100 company. In her previous role a legislative lead for the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, she managed a portfolio focused on the advancement of science education and funding for scientific research.

Katelynn received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2015, she was named a Bryce Harlow Fellow for her demonstrated commitment to practicing lobbying with the highest level of integrity.


Jerry Goldfeder, Special Counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

Jerry has practiced election and campaign finance law for over thirty five years, and has represented dozens of candidates from local office to President of the United States. He teaches the subject at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Fordham Law School, where he was voted Adjunct Professor of the Year in 2015. He is the author of the treatise, Goldfeder's Modern Election Law (New York Legal Publishing Corp, 2018), now in its Fifth Edition, and has written numerous articles for academic journals and the popular media. He lectures regularly on election issues. Follow Jerry at @JerryGoldfeder



Jessica Goodman, Senior Editor, Cosmopolitan magazine

Jessica Goodman is a senior editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, where she oversees all lifestyle content and writes about politics, sex, and relationships. Prior to Cosmo, Jessica was a digital news editor at Entertainment Weekly and an editor at HuffPost. Her work has also been seen in New York Magazine and the Village Voice. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, Jessica lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and a dozen houseplants. Follow Jessica on Twitter at @jessgood and Instagram as @jessicagoodman.


Kathy Hochul, New York Lieutenant Governor

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was elected in 2014. Prior to her role as a statewide official, she was elected at both the Federal and local level – she was a Member of Congress in New York’s 26th Congressional District, served as Erie County Clerk, and began her career in public office on her local town board.

The Lieutenant Governor chairs Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils, which have reinvented economic development by empowering local leaders in business and academia. This strategy has brought more jobs than ever before to New York State.

As the highest ranking female elected official in New York State, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is committed to inspiring a new generation of women to enter public service or aspire to leadership within their chosen field through the #NYWomenLead initiative. The Lieutenant Governor spearheads the administration’s key efforts to advance equality, championing campaigns for fair wages, paid family leave, Enough is Enough to combat sexual assault on college campuses, and eliminating the wage gap. In 2016, she was elected chair of New York State’s Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.

The Lieutenant Governor is dedicated to her role as the Governor’s eyes and ears on the ground. She makes a point of traveling to all 62 counties every year she’s in office, traveling enough miles to circle the globe over 3 times.

Hebh Jamal, Public Relations Director, IntegrateNYC

Hebh Jamal was featured on the front cover of the Volume 5 edition of TeenVogue, highlighting her activism and work in combatting school segregation .She's director of Public Relations for IntegrateNYC, and youth policy fellow for NY Appleseed. She co-founded the Diversity Council for IntegrateNYC. Hebh prides herself in being a Muslim Palestinian Bronx native that combats injustice without sacrificing her identity.


Letitia James, Public Advocate, City of New York

Letitia James is the Public Advocate for the City of New York, the second highest ranking elected office in the City.Public Advocate James made history in 2014 by becoming the first woman of color to hold citywide office in New York City.

Public Advocate James has a long history as an advocate for children and families. Whether defending children in foster care who were the victims of irreparable harm, protecting children with disabilities who were forced to ride on dangerously hot school buses, or ensuring that our students have the best quality education they deserve, she has never backed down from doing what is right for our children. She is a leading voice in the fight for universal free lunch for public school students and for comprehensive reform of the system to track education plans for students with disabilities. She is also a strong advocate for paid family leave, raising the wage, and introduced legislation to ban questions about salary history from the employment process to end gender wage discrimination.

Prior to being elected Public Advocate, Letitia James served as a City Council Member from 2004 to 2013. As a City Council Member, she fought for Paid Sick Leave, and passed the Safe Housing Act, which ensured that thousands of families in rental buildings receive prompt and full repairs to their apartments.

Public Advocate James is a graduate of CUNY's Lehman College and Howard University School of Law. She previously served as an Assistant Attorney General, and a public defender. She currently resides in Brooklyn.


Maura Keaney, First VP, Amalgamated Bank

Maura manages Amalgamated Bank’s engagement with Non-Profit and political clients in the NorthEast. She also works closely with progressive organizations and campaigns around the country to develop strategic partnerships.

Her extensive work in New York City government includes serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to the City Council and leading public engagement for the NYC Department of Education. She was NYS Political Director for the garment workers union and had organized and lead many issue-based and candidate campaigns across the State and City. Follow Amalgamated Bank to learn more about their resources at @AmalgamatedBank.

Kathleen_Kingsbury.jpgKathleen Kingsbury, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, New York Times

Kathleen Kingsbury is the Pulitzer Prize-winning deputy editorial page editor at the New York Times. She previously served as the managing editor at the Boston Globe and as the Globe's deputy editorial page editor. Before that, she was a staff writer and Asia correspondent for Time Magazine. Kingsbury has also contributed to Reuters, the Daily Beast, Fortune, and others.


Maria Cruz Lee, Former New York State Digital Director at Hillary for America

Maria Cruz Lee is an advocate for immigrant leaders and civic tech. Starting her career in online advertising, Maria has worked in digital, city government and national campaigns for the past 10 years. From 2010 – 2014 she served as Special Assistant to Commissioner Fatima Shama at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs during the Bloomberg Administration. After, she joined the leadership team of Define American, a national nonprofit focused on immigrant narratives, founded by Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. During the 2016 general election, Maria served the Hillary Clinton campaign as part of the digital coalitions team at headquarters in Brooklyn. She is an alum of the New American Leaders' 2017 Ready to Run Cohort in Detroit, Michigan. Maria is currently the Director of Digital Marketing at the City University of New York and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media from CUNY Hunter College. Learn about Maria’s work by following her at @Mcruzlee.


Sally Frank, Former Campaign Manager at Nily Roznic for Assembly

Sally managed the campaigns of two brilliant young women: Nily Rozic for State Assembly and Rebecca Lynch for City Council. She currently works at the Department of Education. Previously, she served in a variety of policy and legislative roles in city and state government. A proud Queens native and graduate of New York's public schools, she knew she wanted to serve the public from a very early age. She attended University at Albany, SUNY on scholarship and received a B.A. in Public Policy and an M.A. in Public Administration. Follow Sally to get engaged in some campaigns at @franklysally.


Gigi Li, Former Chairwoman at Manhattan Community Board #3

Gigi served as the Director of Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, a not-for-profit organization focused on transforming best practice to policy for children, youth, and families. Li has been a member of Community Board 3 (CB 3) since 2009, and served as Chair of CB 3 from 2012-2016. Gigi serves on multiple boards of local organizations, and holds a B.A from Smith College and a MSSW from Columbia University. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, and their pug, Vito.

Suzanne Markland-Suwareh, Board Member at Bronx Community Board 5

Suzanne is a senior international marketing major at Baruch College. She is currently the President of Ignite at Baruch and board member of Bronx Community Board 5. Some of her greatest passions are women's rights, girls education, economic development in the Caribbean and is committed to ending violence against women and girls. You can follow this young woman’s journey at @SuzMSuwareh.


Larissa Martinez, Executive Director of Right Now

Larissa Martinez brings wide-ranging expertise on policy, communications strategy, political engagement, and operations to bear on behalf of Invariant’s clients. She served on President Donald Trump’s transition team, advancing communications and third-party outreach in support of the President’s Cabinet nominations. In addition, she served as executive director and senior advisor to Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), developing strategic policy initiatives and overseeing day-to-day operations.

She managed the Senator’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee portfolio, along with judiciary, health care, and labor issues. Larissa also served as the Senator’s political director after her time as deputy campaign manager in 2012.

erin_mitchell.jpgErin Mitchell, Director of the Engagement, AARP NY

2018 is Erin's 13th year serving the 50+ and their families at AARP NY. Prior to working at AARP NY, Erin worked at Family Planning Advocates of NYS and in partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its Action Fund. Erin was integral planning the 2004 Women's March on Washington and continues to be an advocate for her community. In the mid to late 1990's Erin worked at legislative staff in the New York State Legislature. She is a graduate of Lemoyne College and currently resides in Albany, NY with her husband and children.


Tara Moore, Managing Editor, FutureVision at R/GA

Tara is Managing Editor of FutureVision, the trendspotting arm of R/GA. In this role she hosts the FutureVision Conversations podcast, collaborates with executive leadership to craft editorial-driven thought leadership focused on technology and digital disruption. Prior to joining R/GA, she was a senior editor of the collaborative journalism team at Edelman where she developed and executed editorial strategy for brands, including the creation of INTELLIGENCE magazine, a print publication on the Internet of Things for a large tech client. Prior to entering the marketing world, she worked as a reporter, researcher and writer for several magazines including Fortune, Fast Company, all while maintaining a focus on business and political journalism. Somewhere in the midst of all that, she obtained her Master's in Political Management from GWU in 2016. Follow her work at @Tmelmore.

Stephanie_Park.pngStephanie Park, Community Organizer, AALDEF

Stephanie Park is a community organizer at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), working on immigration and anti-trafficking issues, and a Board member at United We Dream (UWD). She was formerly an Immigrant Justice Corps community fellow at the MinKwon Center, providing direct legal services for Korean American immigrants in New York City.


Crystal Patterson, Outreach Manager at Facebook

With more than 15 years of experience in policy and political communications and digital strategy, Crystal leads Facebook's work with Democratic and progressive elected officials, campaigns and advocacy groups. A native of northeast Ohio and a graduate of Northwestern University, Crystal is based in Washington, DC. Follow Crystal’s work at @crystalp.


Kimberly Peeler-Allen, CO-founder of Higher Heights 

Kimberly Peeler-Allen has been working at the intersection of race, gender and politics for almost 20 years.  Kimberly is the Co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office. A highly skilled political fundraiser and event planner, Kimberly was the principal of Peeler-Allen Consulting, LLC from 2003 to 2014, the only African American full-time fundraising consulting firm in New York State.

After completing the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall where she served as the deputy finance director, Kimberly founded her New York City-based consulting firm to help develop capital for clients, organizations, and issues affecting people of color that have historically been kept outside of the mainstream. 

Kimberly served as finance director for Letitia James’ successful bid to become Public Advocate of the City of New York and the first African American woman elected citywide in New York’s history.

In 2010, Kimberly was named to the Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40 list as well as named one of The Feminist Press’ 40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism.

Jessica Pels, Digital Director at Cosmopolitan.com 

jessica_pels.pngJessica is the digital director of Cosmopolitan.com. In this role, she oversees Cosmopolitan’s online presence, including editorial content, social media and original video production.

As the largest community for millennial women on the internet, Cosmopolitan.com—which reaches over 15 million unique users a month and has a social media following of more than 19 million—delivers up-to-the-minute news, entertainment and advice on everything young women care about. Cosmopolitan.com is also one of the largest women’s brands on Snapchat Discover, with more than 13 million global subscribers.

Prior to Cosmopolitan.com, Pels was the site director of MarieClaire.com, overseeing the digital execution for the brand. Under her leadership, MarieClaire.com’s content expanded to include more ambitious reporting, exclusive interviews with top newsmakers and award-winning multimedia features with a focus on women’s issues.

Pels was formerly the features editor and online deputy editor at Teen Vogue, prior to which she served as editorial director at a fashion-tech startup and held a variety of editorial posts at Glamour.

Pels hails from Atlanta, has a degree in film production from NYU, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Katharine_Pichardo-Erskine.jpgKatharine Pichardo-Erskine, Vice President, MirRam Group, LLC

Katharine Pichardo-Erskine is Vice President at the MirRam Group, a leading strategic consulting firm serving Fortune 500 companies, healthcare institutions, elected officials, unions and major non-profits in the country.

Katharine is a 20-year veteran of government and politics. She joined the MirRam family after a lengthy tenure in the New York State Senate, where she served as Executive Director and Chief of Staff, managing policy, economic development, fiscal operations, communications, political and issue campaigns for a number of Senate Members.  She was part of the team who led Democrats to the Majority after 44 years of Republican control. Since then, she has been a sought-after political strategist, most recently helping to elect the first Dominican-American to Congress and several women of color to strategic positions at the municipal and state levels of government. 

Katharine’s wealth of experience also includes noteworthy accomplishments in her prior work at the Office of the Queens Borough President, the New York City Council and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

She is married and proud mother of two young luchadores, Arthur (14) and Gabriella (9).


Monica Ramirez, Co-founder & President, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas

Mónica Ramírez is the daughter and granddaughter of migrant farmworkers.  Her parents inspired her to become involved with social causes and public service. Mónica has dedicated her career as an attorney and advocate to ending gender based violence in the workplace and achieving gender equity. She has been specifically engaged in direct service and advocacy on behalf of farmworkers, Latinas and immigrant women. Mónica also has a long history promoting women’s leadership and political power, including leading LatinasRepresent, the only national non-partisan initiative focused on increasing Latina representation and participation in public leadership positions.

She is the founder of several major initiatives and projects, including Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mónica has received numerous awards for her work and has been featured in national and international media.  She is the co-founder and Board President of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women's Alliance). Mónica serves on the Board of Directors of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH).

Mónica holds a Juris Doctorate from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. She received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University Chicago.

Mónica resides in Montgomery County, Maryland with her husband and her son. In October 2017, she was confirmed to serve as a Commissioner for the Montgomery County Commission for Women. Mónica is the Deputy Director for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and the Director of LatinasRepresent for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA).

Chuck Rocha, President and Founder of Solidarity Strategieschuck_rocha.jpg

Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, Chuck Rocha followed in his father’s footsteps as a union worker for the Kelly – Springfield Tire Company. Chuck started his union career at 19 as a member of the United Rubber Workers Local 746. He soon after became the youngest officer ever to be elected of Local 746 and later was appointed as National Political Director. Chuck became the only Latino to serve as the National Political Director of a significant U.S. labor union. He served as Dick Gephardt’s and John Edwards’ National Labor Director during the 2004/2008 presidential election cycles.

In 2010, Chuck founded Solidarity Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in providing political services including mail, phones, and general consulting to progressive candidates, corporations, and nonprofits. Solidarity Strategies is a 100% minority owned small business. Clients vary from VoteVets, NCLR, to Bernie Sanders for President.

Chuck frequently makes appearances on the news providing insight on Latino issues and current political races. He is a regular contributor to FOX News as a Latino vote expert and Democratic strategist. Chuck also authors op eds on the Hill and the Huffington Post.

Chuck currently serves as an Executive Board Member for the Hispanic Lobbyists Association and Demos. He is a graduate of the Harvard University Trade Union program. Chuck is a recipient of the 2016 Goldies All-Stars award for his work as a Senior Advisor to Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign. Most recently, he was elected a member of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee. Follow Solidarity Strategies at @SolidarityLLC.


Kayla Santosuosso, Former Campaign Manager at El-Yateem For City Council

Kayla is a Bay Ridge, Brooklyn-based community organizer. Most recently, she managed the El-Yateem for City Council campaign, engaging hundreds of volunteers from across New York City and garnering national press attention to the local race. Prior to that, she served as the Deputy Director of the Arab American Association of New York, overseeing social service and advocacy programming in the heart of the largest Arab community in NYC. While at AAANY, she founded an initiative called The Accompany Project - a program which has trained thousands of New Yorkers to safely intervene when someone is being harassed or attacked in public. She is also one of the founding members of the NYC chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national organization which organizes people to disrupt racism in their own communities. Kayla holds a Bachelor's Degree from New York University in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and is currently earning her Juris Doctor as a Global Law Fellow at New York Law School. Follow Kayla’s journey at @kaymsanto.


Erin Schrode, Activist, Social Entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Turning Green

Erin is a citizen activist, social entrepreneur and writer. This leading voice on sustainability, social impact and millennials and vocal advocate for environmental action, public health and equal justice recently ran an unprecedented campaign for US Congress in California – to redefine civic engagement and reinvigorate a culture of public service. Since co-founding Turning Green in 2005, she has developed eco education and action platforms to inspire, educate, and mobilize millions of students and global masses. Erin speaks and consults internationally, contributes to ABC, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Refinery29, and is frequently tapped as an expert for and featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, CNN, NBC, FOX, Seventeen, Forbes, and other media. This community organizer champions civic leadership and environmental stewardship worldwide – from education projects in Haiti to recycling in Ghanaian schools; eco curriculum in Middle East conflict zones to organic school lunch and garden programs in the Bay; Syrian refugee camps in Greece, Macedonia and Jordan to the streets of New York City for racial justice; climate and human rights campaigns at Standing Rock to mass feeding operations in Puerto Rico. Erin is a bold innovator on a lifelong journey to inspire and mobilize people to discover and activate passion for social impact and policy change. Follow Erin’s work at @ErinSchrode.


Amanda Septimo

Amanda Septimo is a lifelong Bronx resident with a long, rich history of service to the community. Most recently, Amanda Septimo worked with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) to ensure that school leaders and students have the resources they need to transform every school into a thriving learning environment.

Prior to joining CSA, Amanda Septimo spent four years working with Congressman Jose E. Serrano in The Bronx. In 2014, Amanda became one of the youngest serving senior staffers in Congress when she was promoted to District Director for the 15th Congressional District. During her time as District Director for Congressman Serrano, Amanda Septimo significantly expanded the pool of federal resources in the district and amplified the array of services available to constituents.

With hopes of a continued career in public service, Amanda Septimo continues to pursue work that champions the fight for true justice, educational equality, and economic opportunity for everyone in New York.


Marlene St. Fleur, Young Artist From Lyons New York, Member of Justice Organization of Youth (JOY)

Marlene St.Fleur is a sophomore at Sodus Jr/Sr High School. Her passion is to help her community through the arts and as a member of the youth group J.O.Y (Justice Organization of Youth) she aspires to create positive changes for everyone in the community. She is looking forward to attending the conference and meeting more IGNITE young women because it is her first time getting together with a group of women interested in learning and sharing ideas on how to create changes the community. Follow Marlene at @MarleneStFleur1.


Joanna Stach, Membership Chair at Richmond County Young Republicans

Joanna Stach was born in Sanok, Poland and immigrated to the United States with her family in 2003. She has a bachelors of arts in social science with a focus on history & pre-law  from Cazenovia College. Joanna is currently working as a IBMO Analyst at Barclays Capital and as a financial consultant for WSne in Manhattan. Joanna is a  member of the Women's National Republican Club, serving on the communications committee. In addition, she is also the campaign chair for the Manhattan Young Republicans, the membership chair for the Richmond County Young Republicans, an adviser to the New York State College Republicans, and lastly she serves on the planning committee for the SSG Michael Ollis Foundation Annual 5k run on Staten Island. Previously she has worked in Senator Gillibrand's office and has been a volunteer and fundraiser for numerous campaigns, including most recently Nicole Malliotakis' bid for Mayor of New York. She is committed to women's empowerment in politics both domestically and abroad.


Sarah K. Steiner, Election Law, Campaign Finance Compliance and Audit Representation

Sarah is a sole practitioner in Manhattan, with a practice principally in election and other political law, particularly with regard to campaigns and elections.

Sarah Steiner was Chair of the Election Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York from 2013 to 2016. She remains a member of the Committee, and continues to run the annual program at the City Bar "How to Get on the Ballot in New York City." She has represented candidates ranging from those seeking citywide office to the most local candidates, all with the same attention to detail. Ms. Steiner also represents non-profit corporations, civic associations and PACs on the legal aspects of their political activities, and advises candidates and elected officials on state and federal campaign finance law and ethics obligations. Her experience includes litigation and appearing before administrative agencies. Follow her work at @Sarahgoat.


Cynthia Richie Terrell, Founder and Director of Representation2020

Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and director of Representation2020 and a co-founder of FairVote - a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. Terrell has worked in the area of voting system reform in the United States and abroad.

Previously, Terrell worked extensively on political campaigns, working as campaign manager and field director for campaigns for the U.S. President, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, for governor and for state and city-wide initiative efforts, including a state equal rights amendment and a city campaign for fair representation voting.

Terrell has been published in numerous print journals including: the Washington Post, The Nation, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The American Prospect, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun, and The Christian Science Monitor; has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal; and has participated in numerous radio shows & panel discussions on the topic of structural strategies to elect more women. She has three children and is active in the Quaker community. She graduated with a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College in 1986.


Erin Vilardi, Founder and CEO at VoteRunLead

Erin is the Founder and Director of VoteRunLead, a national organization leveraging technology and training to accelerate the number of women in civic and political leadership. She first launched VRL as Vice President of Program and Communications at The White House Project, establishing the largest national political training program readying women for public office and civic life, training over 15,000 women. She has served as a Leadership Development Consultant for a range of clients, including the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights division and Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she developed the Athena CORE10© – an innovative set of leadership competencies for 21st century women leaders based on the latest research and gender analysis. She has worked with a diverse range of clients including Fortune 100 companies, global girls’ initiatives and the U.S. Department of State, reaching women leaders in a dozen international cities. Vilardi serves on the Advisory Boards of Girl Meets World, the New American Leaders Project, and Democracy.com and is on the Leadership Teams of Vision2020 and Political Parity. She is an Executive Producer of Ann Richards’ Texas, a documentary about the late pioneering governor. She has appeared on CNN, BBC, and Fox News and her work was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine as well as numerous international and domestic articles on women and leadership. Follow VoteRunLead at @VoteRunLead.


Melissa Mark Viverito, Former Speaker of the New York Council

Former Speaker Mark-Viverito served as the Speaker of the New York City Council from 2014-2017, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold citywide office. She represented the 8th District, which includes El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx from 2006 to 2017. Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, she worked for over a decade in local activism, nonprofit organizations and grassroots labor organizing before being elected to the City Council in 2005. She was unanimously elected to serve as New York City Council Speaker in January 2014.

Led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City has emerged as a national leader in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaker Mark-Viverito is also an outspoken advocate for local and national criminal justice reform, and launched the Young Women’s Initiative to address disparities faced by women in such areas as education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system.

In 2011, she was one of four Council Members to pioneer the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City. Since Mark-Viverito’s speakership, Participatory Budgeting has spread to 31 districts across New York City. Before becoming Speaker in 2014, Melissa served as founding co-chair of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus. From 2010 -2013, she also chaired the City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation. Follow her in amazing new adventures at @Mmviverito.

Danielle Walker, International Public Affairs - Africa at Pfizer  

Danielle Walker is Pfizer’s Senior Manager of International Public Affairs responsible for Africa. In this capacity, Danielle collaborates with Pfizer’s regional and in-country policy and business leaders to develop and execute policies and public affairs strategies that support the company’s business units and corporate affairs objectives.

Prior to joining Pfizer, Walker led government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Eastern and Southern Africa as well as for issues related to trade facilitation and energy across the region. She worked closely with Chamber member companies, business coalitions, AmChams, government leaders, and business executives to achieve their business objectives in this complex part of the world.

Her experience at the Chamber includes roles focused on the Middle East and North Africa, intellectual property, and a variety of domestic policy issues. Prior to the Chamber, Walker worked at the U.S. Department of Labor.

She holds an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University and a B.A. in political science from Louisiana State University. Follow her exciting journey at @Dwalk18.

Sheridan Watson, Senior Communications Consultant, Aetna

For more than 10 years, Sheridan Watson served as an on-the-record spokeswoman and communications advisor for members of Congress, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Zell Miller. Previously she managed a portfolio of policy issues for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and served in communications roles at the Archdiocese of Washington and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

As president of the Georgia State Society, Sheridan planned the first Georgia Inaugural Gala in 2009. As a volunteer during the 2015 papal visit, she managed media at Pope Francis’ mid-day prayer with U.S. bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. She currently lives in Manhattan where she works for Aetna providing external communications support to markets in the northeast and southeast.


Katherine Wynne, Recruitment and Enrollment Specialist at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management

As the Recruitment and Enrollment Specialist at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, Katherine engages and works with prospective students who are passionate about advancing their careers in politics, advocacy, and communications. While earning her master's in global Political Management, she worked as a Presidential Fellow for GWU and launched a grassroots community advocacy grant competition. Prior to that, she has experience on Capitol Hill in D.C., with a lobbying team in Sacramento, CA, and in international and national NGOs empowering women in the public sphere.