Young Women Run Chicago 2019 | October 19, 2019

Hosted at Convene | 9:00 am to 2:00 pm


Are you ready to flex your political power and ramp up your civic engagement? Young Women Run Chicago will connect you to elected leaders, train you on strategies to mobilize for 2020, and more. You'll build a squad of politically ambitious young women and leave empowered, activated, and ready to run for office - or campaign for a candidate you admire. Onward, to Young Women Run and 2020!


9:00 AM - Breakfast and Registration

9:30 AM - Welcome and Plenary

10:00 AM - Breakout #1

11:00 AM - Breakout #2

12:00 PM - Lunch with Women in Politics

1:00 PM - Opportunity Fair

Keynote Speaker

Melissa Conyears-Ervin, City Treasurer, Chicago

Melissa Conyears-Ervin is the 2019 City Treasurer for the City of Chicago and former State Representative for the 10th District. As the product of a single-parent household, Melissa has seen firsthand the value of education and faith from her mother. Melissa became the first in her family to graduate from college and earned an MBA from Roosevelt University. She has more than 15 years of experience serving the community in the insurance industry as a manager for Allstate and CS Insurance Strategies.

Melissa has served as a mentor for high school girls and a co-chair of events for the community, including the popular back-to-school festival that provides school supplies for over 1,000 kids. Melissa also serves as the youth superintendent at Mt. Vernon Church and participates in a youth mentoring program for teenage girls. 

As the former state representative for the 10th district, she sponsored the improved Illinois education funding formula that directed over $221 million in additional funding to Chicago Public Schools. She was also the chief sponsor of bipartisan legislation that protected funding for child care assistance, a service that allows many working parents to stay in the workforce.  

As City Treasurer, Melissa plans to focus her private-sector and financial training on ways to bring development into Chicago’s neighborhoods. Chicago’s billions of dollars of municipal deposits should be leveraged to help Chicago communities grow at the same rate, regardless of their zip code. Melissa believes Chicago’s investments should observe a triple bottom line, ensuring city money isn’t used to harm the environment or working families.

Panel: Running for Office


  • Carla Castellanos ran for Student Trustee at Morton College
  • Nashra Mohammed ran for the Niles, IL District 219 School Board
  • Kacie Weicherding is running for Illinois State Representative, 108th District ⁠


Thanks to Felicia Davis, President & CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women, for moderating the conversion with these inspiring leaders. 



Angela Accurso, Coordinator of Public Affairs, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Angela has been part of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago team for over two years. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, she now makes Chicago her home. In her role she has led outreach and engagement activities for the Chicago Women’s March, voter registration events, and YWCA USA’s national Get Out the Vote campaign. She is currently managing Census outreach activities funded through Forefront’s IL Count Me In Census 2020 project. She has BA in Political Science from Drake University in Iowa and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently serves as President of Women in Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago and sits on the Impact Council for A Better Chicago and the PAWS Chicago Professional Board. 
Carrie Adams, Politics & Government Outreach, Facebook Carrie works on Facebook’s Politics and Government Outreach team in Washington, DC ensuring that federal-level Democrats (running for the Senate, seated in the Senate, or running for president) use Facebook and its family of apps to the best of their abilities in an ever-changing digital world. Carrie recently came to Facebook after 6 years on Capitol Hill as a digital director and speechwriter, most recently working for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is a hot yoga aficionado, loves independent films, and is a native New Yorker.
Bushra Amiwala, Skokie School District 73.5 Board Member Bushra is a media icon, speaker, activist and the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States. After coming out victorious in a pool of seven candidates, she was first elected to and sworn into Public Office in April 2019, and first ran at the age of 19. Bushra caught the national eye with her historical campaign, as she was able to mobilize and register over 2,000 first time voters. This led her to become the Public Peace Ambassador Receiptment from the United Nations, Glamour Magazine’s College Woman of the Year and Seventeen Magazine’s Voice of the Year. On the cover of TIME Magazine in January 2018, Bushra became Youth Icon of the new wave of young, diverse voices in politics. She has spoken in front of crowds ranging from just 15 to 15,000 people to share her story of failure and resilience, in hopes to inspire and motivate others to engage with the civic process. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for GenVote, SheVotesIL, the Indo-American Democratic Organization, and WeWill, along with the Board of Education for Skokie School District 73.5.

Carla Castellanos, former candidate for Student Trustee at Morton College Bio coming soon.

Ghida Dagher, Trainer, New American Leaders Ghida is a NAL Ready to Lead alumna and the Advocacy & Government Relations Manager at United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM). She also stewards the United Way’s Advocacy Fund, which empowers organizational partners to increase advocacy and policy engagement and oversees the United Way’s Public Policy Fellowship Program. Ghida also served as the Advocacy & Civic Engagement Specialist at the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), a national project of ACCESS. Her previous work has included employment and partnerships with various entities of the University of Michigan, Peace Corps, Arab American National Museum, Northern Borders Coalition, Michigan United, and Michigan Voice. In 2016, she was the Campaign Director for Abdullah Hammoud for Michigan State Representative. Mr. Hammoud went on to win his race and was sworn into office in January 2017. Ghida is currently the Policy Chair of the Southeast Michigan Public Policy Council, and serves on the Michigan League of Public Policy’s Kids Count Michigan Advisory Board, the ALICE Report Advisory Board and the ACCESS Community Advisory Board. She is also the Vice Chair of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network in Detroit. She is a member of the League of Women Voters, the Arab American Political Action Committee, Detroit Economic Club, and is an Emerging Philanthropist at United Way. She is also an alumna of the Center for Progressive Leadership and Emerge America.

Felicia Davis, President & CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women Felicia S. Davis is a self-described “girl from the South Side of Chicago.” Felicia has spent the bulk of her professional career in public service. Most recently, Felicia served as the Interim President of Olive-Harvey College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). She was named to this post by CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado in May 2017. As Interim President, her primary responsibility was to provide vision for the College and continuous leadership and direction for the planning and operation of all aspects of the College's programs and services in conformity with CCC Board policies, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) rules and regulations, and State law. She was also responsible for developing, maintaining and evaluating the academic programs and student services of the College and creating a climate which enhances student learning, stimulates creative approaches to teaching and learning and motivates both staff and students to optimum achievement. Prior to joining City Colleges, Felicia held several executive positions in city government. She served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s First Deputy Chief of Staff, the first Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, and as Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings. She also led the Public Building Commission (PBC) as its Executive Director. As a public developer, the PBC plans, designs and builds schools, parks, libraries and municipal buildings that help to make the communities of Chicago and Cook County better and safer places to live. Under Felicia’s leadership, the PBC developed over $200 million worth of public projects. With Felicia at the helm, the PBC’s annual Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise participation rate was nearly 40%. Felicia spent 10 years in administration at Kendall College, rising to Vice President of Operations and Student Administration. Felicia began her public sector career with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), where Felicia served with distinction, for 10 years. Felicia is a native Chicagoan and life-long resident of the City’s South Side, where she resides with her family. This dynamic leader and mother of five is deeply committed to community. Felicia is proud to serve on the Advisory Board for the Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative and is a founding member of the South Side Giving Circle at Chicago Foundation for Women.

Cydnei Drake, IGNITE Program Growth Manager. Cydnei was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and is a proud product of Dallas ISD. With her work at IGNITE, Cydnei combines her passions for social justice and advocacy. She graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington receiving her Bachelor of Social Work and is currently pursuing her MSW. Cydnei is a member of Phi Alpha Social Work honor society and has served as both the undergraduate and graduate student representative on the Office of Field Education Committee. Before joining IGNITE, Cydnei spent three years at The Ortiz Law Firm. 
Tanya Lozano, President/CEO, Healthy Hood Chicago Forged in the heart of Chicago, Tanya Lozano is a community-health culture jammer battling the many challenges affecting black and brown communities. As founder of Healthy Hood Chicago, Tanya leads a robust portfolio of programs aiming to engage, educate, and empower youth and families in personal and community health initiatives. Through her partnerships with Rush Medical Group, the city of Chicago, and other local not-for-profit organizations, Tanya inspires sustainable, healthy lifestyles through co-sponsored programming, guest performances, and community outreach projects.
Erika Mendez, Senior Education Policy Analyst, Latino Policy Forum Erika is the Senior Education Policy analyst for the Latino Policy Forum. Erika promotes the Forum’s advocacy and policy work in education. She managed the Forum’s Education Legislative portfolio, provides community and parent capacity building, and is leading some of the Forum's work around the bilingual workforce shortage. Through her work, Erika draws awareness to the different obstacles facing Latino and English learner children in Illinois and works on policy solutions that address inequities faced by these students, starting in early childhood and across the educational continuum. Erika earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Michigan. Prior to the Forum, Erika conducted research for the Contexts for Academic and Social Adjustment (CASA) research laboratory at the University of Michigan. She was involved in a number of projects aimed to best support immigrant families. Additionally, Erika was a former Family Resource Specialist for Illinois Action for Children and worked with the School District of Beloit’s Equity department on Latino family engagement.
Nashra Mohammed, former candidate for Niles, IL School Board Nashra and her family moved to Lincolnwood three years ago in search of the right place to continue her education. Mohammed is currently attending DePaul University where she is majoring in MIS and minoring in Community Service. She aspires to pursue a career in Law. She worked with the Democratic Party of Evanston in support of Laura Fine and Jan Schakowsky where she attended meetings, held phone banks, and gathered signatures in the area. Working with Laura Fine her senior year heightened her passion for a push for quality education. Mohammed worked as an election judge her senior year where she became more interested in her community. Mohammed has been part of several charity organizations in hoping to make a world a better place. She worked with organizations such as Feed My Starving Children, The Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and The Humanity Projects throughout her high school career. At the age of 18, Mohammed devotedly and enthusiastically ran for District 219 School Board, being the youngest ever candidate to run for office.
Justin Valas, Policy Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Justin brings a decade of experience in community building, grassroots organizing, and leading legislative policy change around issues of economic justice, health equity, and immigrant rights. Most recently, Justin served as the Director of Health Equity at the Asian Pacific Development Center in Aurora, Colorado. Additionally, he was a founding member of Asian Communities Together, organizing Asian Americans in Colorado around issues of racial justice. Previously, while with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, he led the legislative efforts to repeal the state’s “Show Me Your Papers” law. He was also founding member of the NC DREAM Team, which protected undocumented community members from deportation in North Carolina. Justin earned his BA from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Residing in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, he is an Asian American history buff, comic book geek, hip hop head, and policy wonk.
Kacie Weicherding, Candidate for Illinois State Representative 108th District Kacie is running to amplify the voices of the people in her district that have been left behind and overlooked. She understands the experiences of working families and the hardships they often experience. Kacie is a returning college student finishing a degree in Political Science with a certificate in Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Dedicated to fighting for working families, Kacie wants to bring better education, health care, and jobs to Southern Illinois to build a better government that works for the people.


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