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New Leaders Council


Omar Bah,Refugee & Community Advocate, Journalist, Center for Refugee Advocacy & Support (CenRAS), UNHCR Refugee Congress

Omar Bah is a journalist from Gambia who resettled in the U.S. as a refugee, and has recently founded the Center for Refugee Advocacy and Support (CenRAS). As the Rhode Island representative at the Refugee Congress set up by UNHCR, a UN agency, Bah is a recognizable voice on refugee and community advocacy both within the state and across the country. He has received the International Institute of Rhode Island's Alumni excellence award, the African Alliance of Rhode Island's community service award, and Rhode Island Department of Health's award for healthy housing advocacy. He is currently serving in the boards of Childhood Lead Action Project, and Community Works Rhode Island. Formerly, Bah was a reporter for the Independent Newspaper and news editor of the Daily Observer in Banjul, Gambia, and he was the secretary general of the Gambia Press Union. In 2006, he was forced into exile by the Gambian dictatorial regime for persistently writing on corruption and suppression. He lived in Senegal and Ghana temporarily before moving to the United States as a refugee in 2007. While in Ghana, he represented Gambia at the 2006 International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ) congress in Stockholm, Sweden, where he showcased Gambia's degrading environmental condition and the media's efforts at sensitizing the public about it. His participation in the IFEJ congress spurred him to coordinate with local journalists in Gambia to set up the Environmental Journalists Association. Bah obtained numerous certificates in journalism, law and alternative dispute resolution, as well as specialized training in child and health reporting, in Gambia. Upon arrival in the U.S., he became a loan-servicing representative at Rhode Island Housing & Mortgage Finance Corporation and matriculated as a full-time student. In the summer of 2011, Bah was among eleven ethnic journalists selected nationwide for the Metcalf Institute’s seminar in Marine & Environmental Reporting. He also works within the communications department of Rhode Island Housing writing and editing statements and corporate documents. Bah is an inspirational public speaker who has spoken at the International Institute of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University, Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and at refugee conferences in Washington, D.C. In addition to English, he speaks four languages. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and political science from the University of Rhode Island, a certificate in community economic development from Roger Williams University, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration.

Stephaine Boucher,Education Programs Manager, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley

Stephanie Boucher works as the Education Programs Manager at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley located in Woonsocket, RI. She coordinates programming for youth residents of NeighborWorks BRV’s housing developments in Constitution Hill and Heritage place of Woonsocket, and the Clocktower community of Burrillville, RI. Prior to assuming this position, Stephanie served as an Americorps Vista and Summer VISTA at NeighborWorks BRV, assisting the coordinator with youth programming in Woonsocket. During this time she helped with improving program quality and worked with Navigant Credit Union to develop deposit only saving accounts to teach youth how to save for college. During the summer she completed several service projects and participated in events to beautify and strengthen the community. Stephanie attained her bachelor’s degree in secondary education and history at the University of Rhode Island in 2008. She is currently a highly qualified social studies teacher certified in the state of Rhode Island. After investing her time working as a substitute teacher and tutor, her career path evolved to work in a level of education that went beyond classroom walls. Her work as an Americorps VISTA and Program Manager has led her to pursue a career in developing a community effort to support and enhance education for all young people. A Woonsocket native and a product of their schools, Stephanie hopes to continue to give back to her community and aspires to be a part of positive, progressive change for her hometown with genuine, thoughtful leadership.

Niketa Brar,Sixth Grade Math Teacher, Achievement First - Elm City College Prep Middle School

Niketa Brar is currently a 6th grade math teacher working in the Achievement First charter network. She joined the staff of Elm City College Prep Middle School in New Haven, Connecticut in fall 2011. She comes to this position as a Teach for America alumna from the 2009 DC corps, where she considered the impact of educational reform policies on children living in the nation's capitol while working in one of the city's most under resourced communities. Niketa's commitment to education stems from her past position as a criminal investigator working for the DC Public Defender's office, where her clients spoke about the effects of a subpar educational system and the limited life options they had as a result. Niketa graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University in 2009, earning her bachelor's degree with dual majors in Public Policy and International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict and Security. While a Teach for America corps member, she also attained a Master's of Arts in Teaching with a speciality in Secondary Mathematics from American University. She enjoys bike-riding, used books stores, live music, and many forms of culinary appreciation.

Shane Culliton,Public Relations Officer, Fairmount Schools PTO

Shane Culliton seeks to combine his background in both the Social Sciences and Business to better his community. After almost a decade of corporate world experiences, Shane is pursuing opportunities to synergize with the sphere of community building. Past employers include CVS/Caremark, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, Bailey Total Health, a health clinic focused on non-drug therapies, Marriot, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, and campaigns for both Gubernatorial and State Senate candidates. Shane has an MBA from Webster University and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University. He completed the Democratic Campaign Management Program in 2002, and participated in NAU’s German Immersion Program in Regensburg, Germany during the summer of 1999. Shane spent the first ten years of his life in Germany and attributes both his worldview and appreciation of historical items to this experience. Shane is a firm believer in the sustainability movement, the concepts of personal integrity and accountability, and the dangers of exclusionary thought. Shane is a member of the Rhode Island Payday Lending Reform Coalition and The Woonsocket Neighborhood Team, as well as the Public Relations Officer for the Fairmount Schools PTO in Woonsocket, RI.

Ashley Daigneault,Government Relations & Policy Manager, RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now

Ashley Daigneault is the government relations & policy manager for the RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now, a public education reform initiative with the mission that every child as access to a great school. Tasked with policy and legislative affairs, she is responsible for building relationships with key lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, and state government officials as well as crafting inside strategy to transform education policy in Rhode Island. Ashley holds a B.A. in Political Science and an MBA in Sustainable Business and Government Policy from Marylhurst University. While an undergrad, Ashley worked in Washington, D.C. as public policy assistant for a non-profit safe schools organization. She was responsible for conducting legislative research, building community programs and organizing lobby days on Capitol Hill. Prior to joining RI-CAN, Ashley was a senior account executive at Caster Communications, a full service RI based agency providing public relations and social marketing services to companies engaged in consumer, commercial and personal technology, as well as clean energy and sustainable business products and programs. Current interests include sustainable community development, green building, public policy, education reform, Rhode Island politics and urban revitalization and land use.

Brandford Davis,University of Rhode Island, Classy Leaders Achieving Student Services

Brandford Davis is a full time International Scholar at the University of Rhode Island, were he currently interns at the Multicultural Center and works as a member of AmeriCorp. He is the former URI Student Senate Cultural Affairs Chair and Founder of the awareness organization Classy Leaders Achieving Student Services (C.L.A.S.S). Through his work at URI, Brandford has developed a unique vision for a multicultural campus in which all students are enabled to learn and develop to their maximum potential. In May, Brandford will be completing his second undergraduate degree in Africana Studies with his first degree in Communication Studies and a minor focus of English and Leadership Studies. Brandford is a Level 1 Kingian Nonviolence & Peace Trainer, a Servant and Civic Leader who has studied abroad in Cape Verde. Brandford is a Providence native, whom graduated from the Leadership Academy of Hope High School. He is very active in his community and seeks to aid underrepresented youth in working towards their fullest potential in life. He currently mentors at the Paul Cuffee Charter High School and administers a basketball camp for middle and high school students. Everything Brandford does, it’s done to the best of his ability.

James Diossa,Councilman/ Middle school advisor, City of Central Falls/ College Crusade of Rhode Island

James Diossa is currently a councilman for the city of Central Falls. But before he became a councilman, his family migrated from Colombia in look for a better future. The family settled in Central Falls where James was born and raised. Receiving his education from the Central Falls public schools, James had the experience to help take the Central Falls High school soccer team to winning a state championship his senior year. After graduating high school he went on to college where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Becker College. Compelled by a lifelong desire to give back to his community and city, James launched an unlikely campaign for the Central Falls City Council. Winning his election, James has become very active and a voice of reason in his community. James currently works at the College Crusade of Rhode Island as a middle school advisor.

Stephen Ford,Educator, Blackstone Valley Prep

Stephen is a founding educator at Blackstone Valley Prep, a high-expectations, high-poverty public school in Rhode Island where he leads district-wide science and literacy curriculum design teams. His work helped the school become the first institution in Rhode Island’s history to achieve 100% student proficiency on the state literacy assessment. Stephen is a charter corps member of Teach for America Rhode Island, a national service program committed to eliminating educational inequity. He is the chairman of Rhode Island’s Teach for America Legacy Fundraising Campaign. Prior to his work in education, Stephen worked as a fundraiser for Brown University where he helped raise $1.4 billion for the Boldly Brown Campaign. He has also worked to expand affordable housing as an analyst in the City of Newark, New Jersey’s Housing and Real Estate Division. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Brown University, and studied international politics as a Presidential Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Stephen is interested in the capacity of government to provide creative solutions for all Americans. He is originally from Newark, New Jersey, and he currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island.

Claytonius Gray,Case Advocate, Crossroads RI

Claytonius Gray is currently working as a case advocate at Crossroads RI providing Case management service to men and women who lack stable housing.He has been working with the homeless community in RI for the past five years. prior to working with crossroads RI providing homeless service Claytonius was a youth organizer and founding member of PrYSM the providence youth student movement at PrYSM he work to help to develop social justice campaigns that touched at the core problems in the providence youth community and to calculative a supportive and empowering environment for improvised and disenfranchised youth. Claytonius studied full time at the university of Rhode Island.

Amy Greer,Community Services Library, Barrington Public Library

Amy Greer is the Community Services Librarian at the Barrington Public Library. Through this position, Amy hopes to offer programming that promotes civil discussion, cross- and inter-cultural awareness, and enjoyment for the whole family. Amy also collaborates with a number of community organizations to ensure that the whole community feels engaged with its public library. Formerly, Amy was Archivist of the Feminist Theory Papers at the Pembroke Center of Brown University. She was involved with establishing, growing, and making accessible the FTP's exciting collection of materials. Before becoming a librarian, Amy received her B.A. from Wheaton College in 2001, her Master's in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, and her Master's of Archives Management from Simmons College in 2008. Amy worked as a teller and banker for Citizens Bank, a training supervisor for Borders Books, an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, an admissions recruiter for Wheaton College (MA), and an archives assistant at numerous archives, including Harvard Law Library Special Collections, John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, and Rhode Island Historical Society. As a PhD student, Amy is interested in exploring concepts of diversity in the field of library and information science, as well as social and cultural issues around providing information services to young adults. Along with her academic and professional work, Amy is an active member of American Library Association, Young Adult Library Services Association and Association of Library and Information Science Education. Beyond school and work, Amy enjoys reading, hanging out with family and friends, kettlebells, hiking, and anything outdoors. She grew up all around New England and Kentucky, though Amherst, Massachusetts and Warwick, Rhode Island are the places she spent most of her time. Currently, she lives in Providence.

Mary Gwann,Masters Student, Roger Wiliams University, School of Criminal Justice

Mary is currently a 2nd year Criminal Justice graduate student at Roger Williams University with a concentration in digital forensics. Recently, she was an intern for the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit and a volunteer in a Southern New England mentoring program where she worked with at risk youth. She was a Field Director for Anthony Gemma’s 2010 congressional Campaign and a Minority Outreach Director for Treasurer Frank Caprio’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. As descendant of her Nigerian-Egyptian Parents who raised her in the south side of Providence, Mary was always taught to be part of the solution, not the problem. Her father Dann Gwann, former President of the Nigerian Community Association of RI for almost a decade, taught her that giving respect and obtaining knowledge from elders is paramount. He stressed that communities must seek to advance themselves to thrive. As a leader, this advice inspires her to strive to bring positive change to not only her own community, but to other communities that can benefit from her strengths as well. She also makes every effort to educate them how to hold their officials accountable, regardless of their economic, political, social, or other demographical background.

Shandi Hanna,Youth Services Counselor, Providence Youthworks 411 Center

Shandi Hanna is currently working as a Youth Services Counselor in the Providence Youth Center where she teaches work readiness skills to teens and young adults and assists them in career exploration and goal setting. She has worked in the non-profit field for over 5 years, beginning as a community organizer in the LISC Americorps program. Shandi also is an active member of the RI Chapter of the National Organization for Women, a volunteer run organization dedicated to improving the life of women and girls in Rhode Island. She started her college career at CCRI where she found her passion for social work and transferred to Rhode Island College to continue her education in that field. In May of 2011 she graduated with her bachelor's degree and as a member of the National Social Work Honor Society. Shandi was raised in North Kingstown, RI since a young age and is now living in Cumberland, RI with her husband and their two cats. She loves anything that involves animals,Italian food and can be considered a bit of a daredevil. In her free time you can find her working on her new blog or helping her husband DJ weddings.

Pitu Sim, Student, University of Rhode Island

Pitu Sim is currently a second year undergrad student studying Political Science and Economics at the University of Rhode Island (URI). He currently works as a Resident Advisor and was recently elected Student Senator at the university. He became active in politics his sophomore year in high school upon joining The Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) as a youth leader; he currently serves on its board as a general member. During his time at PrYSM, he created a policy agenda for the city of Providence, with over twenty policy recommendations, some of which were turned in pieces of legislation and sponsored by state legislators. In 2010, he, along with other fellow interns, organized a forum to discuss with the city of Providence’s mayoral candidates issues pertinent to the city’s youth. He is a self identified introvert, although you wouldn't realize that the first time you meet him. In the summer, he will be interning at The Rhode Island Department of Education. His favorite animal is the hedgehog.
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