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Fall 2021 Fellows Share Their Inspiration and Hopes for Change

Lorenza Wilkins – Durham, North Carolina

The FUSE fellowship has inspired me to serve the great citizens of Durham during such a pivotal time in history. Through my work, I hope to help the City of Durham in becoming the first municipality in North Carolina to receive a Fair Employment Practices Agency certification that is substantially equivalent to the federal EEOC.

Timothy Walter – Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

I was drawn to the macro-level impact of my project. At this point in my career, I am seeking to make profound community-level impacts, and policy work is a route I had not considered. I hope to contribute by creating templates, messaging, and launching new ways of thinking, geospatially, about police reform within communities.

Channing Neary – Travis County, Central Texas

I have worked as an attorney in the criminal legal system as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney for my entire career. There is no disputing that our criminal legal system is failing our communities, particularly communities of color. Our current system of punitive punishment as opposed to repairing harm and healing is archaic and costing people their lives while draining our community’s resources. I have always been a huge proponent of restorative justice.

I am incredibly inspired to be a part of something that will actually promote healing of those that are harmed, caused the harm, and the Travis County community. It feels right to be partnering alongside the Travis County District Attorney’s office to collaborate in the design and implementation of this project, even though I have spent most of my career as a criminal defense attorney. It is an illustration of the adversarial walls coming down and recognizing the power in combining our knowledge and experience to effect change in the institutionalized criminal legal system. I hope to co-create a lasting restorative justice program for the youth in Travis County that can potentially serve as a model for future jurisdictions and inspire them to follow suit.

Robert Zardeneta – Los Angeles, California

I grew up in East Los Angeles, where my family/community have been “green” before being “green” was trendy or before federal dollars were attached. We were “green” because our elders taught us to be resilient, not be wasteful, and to respect the land and the environment. In America, being “green” is a sign of privilege. Solar was for rich folks on the Westside. However, in our native Mexico, the “People of the Sun” used PV Solar panels to bring energy to communities in Chiapas without access to power. I’ve dedicated most of my professional career to empowering communities impacted by years of environmental injustices. Together we developed and pioneered culturally relevant models of a “green” economy. I organized young folks to advocate for stimulus dollars to fund the Green the Eastside Campaign, a comprehensive residential retrofit program that created new “green” jobs and resulted in the over 60 homes in East Los Angeles having access to Solar PV, tankless water heaters, and native/drought-tolerant landscaping. With the promise of the Build Back Better plan and the prospect of a Green New Deal, I found myself excited by the opportunity to find a way to franchise the model that my community created more than a decade ago.

The FUSE Executive Fellowship has allowed me to lend my expertise to implement the City Of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Green New Deal LA. Through this fellowship, I will support the Green New Deal LA’s efforts to create 100K new green jobs in Los Angeles by 2025 and also participate in the Just Transition Task Force in supporting the Los Angeles County 5 year plan to transition fossil fuel workers to careers in renewable energy.

Margretta Getaweh – Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

The African proverb “it takes a village” is often quoted to show the power of community in impacting change. The civil unrest in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic showed the world that it is challenging for the village to thrive and grow together when systemic barriers continue to contribute to the worse outcomes in terms of health and safety for our communities. I moved to Brooklyn Park, Minnesota as a teenager from Liberia, and I have occasionally lived, worked, and worshiped in Brooklyn Center since 2003. When I moved to the US, I learned that inequalities were very pervasive, and achieving the “American dream” for me meant understanding and addressing systemic barriers that prevent communities from having access to the tools and resources needed to be healthy. As an Immigrant woman, I know how having access to the correct information and resources can be a determining factor in achieving success, and communities are often labeled as ‘harder-to-reach and are not engaged adequately and authentically to truly co-govern.

This particular initiative in Brooklyn Center: Building an Equity-Driven and Culturally Responsive Government Through Authentic Community Engagement allows me to be a part of something that resonates and is deeply personal. It will enable me to bring over 15 years of experience in engaging communities in the Twin Cities metro area to serve the City of Brooklyn Center in creating a community engagement plan that reflects the community’s hopes, aspirations, and concerns. Together, we can reimagine public safety and create an inclusive government that works for all.

Karin Weaver – Kansas City, Missouri

I was inspired by the chance to take my 30+ years of experience, training, and skills and apply them to deep challenges that my city faces. My goal is to learn how to apply an equity lens to those challenges and help find solutions to difficult problems.

Ian Scott Lee – LA County, California

Throughout my career, I have looked for opportunities to activate social equity and promote the voice of the unheard. I have worked with organizations that receive state and federal funding sources where policy changes based inside government bureaucracies have caused significant damage to sustainability and progressive change. The opportunity to bring influence and improvement into change and project management within Los Angeles County drew me to this particular FUSE Executive Fellowship.

Working within DHS Radiology, I hope to improve the workflow, increase optimization, and maximize the capacity of the current resources. By focusing on a holistic approach, I want to know the struggles, strengths, and challenges faced by stakeholders throughout the process of radiological services in order to find a workflow that brings inclusion and equity to patients and employees within Los Angeles County. My greatest hope is that the difficulties that arose during 2019 and COVID are no longer a continuous struggle to overcome but rather tools for improvement and a roadmap towards process improvement through my FUSE Executive Fellowship.

Darcy Celletti – King County, Seattle Area, Washington

I am excited by the opportunity to work in partnership with the community and government to advance racial justice and social progress at the critical intersection of health, equity, and climate change.

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