Debrena Jackson Gandy: Master of Ceremonies
Debrena Jackson Gandy has been a member of the Highline College Board of Trustees since October, 2010.
Ms. Gandy is a business consultant, trainer, national seminar leader, performance coach, strategic marketing consultant, personal development expert and two-time national best-selling author of “Sacred Pampering Principles” and “All the Joy You Can Stand.” She is owner of Masterminds, a speaking, training, consulting and performance coaching firm. She has been named as an Outstanding Young Woman of America, to the Who’s Who Among Business and Professional Women and to Who’s Who Among Minority Executives. She has been featured in national publications, including Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine, Woman’s Day, Ebony, Essence and Black Enterprise, and has appeared on various national and regional TV shows, including “CNN,” “CNN Live” and “Good Day New York.” She also has been a guest on more than 40 radio shows and Winfrey’s website, Oprah.com. Ms. Gandy is a graduate of Pepperdine University with a major in business and a minor in marketing.
Makela Steward, a Seattle native, is a graduate of Rainier Beach high school, Southern University A & M College in Baton Rouge, LA, The University of Phoenix and current student at Seattle University. Steward is the first college graduate in her immediate family, with a double major in both Computer Science and Education. Steward has been singing and speaking in front of large audiences since she has been able to talk. Music has played a huge part in Stewards life getting her through some of the toughest times in her life. In 2012 Steward was crowned Miss Plus America Elite in Memphis, Tennessee. Steward competed against 49 contestants and went on to win both state and national Talent and Covergirl competitions and received top scores in 4 areas of competition during the 4-day national event.
Currently Steward is the proud Assistant Principal at South Lake high school, an active member and officer in her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Director of Education at Mt. Calvary Christen Center in Seattle and a nationally sought after pageant coach. She loves engaging in community service and works everyday promoting her mission of equality in education and advocating for positive and realistic body images for every person she encounters. Her future plans include obtaining her PH.D and moving to the policy side of education and expanding her pageant consultant business.
Kiana Davis is the author of Digging For Roots and From These Roots Up. She was born and raised in Richmond, California. She began writing poetry at the age of 12 to grapple with growing up in a low income community and to help her develop her identity as a young black girl in America. For the past 10 years, she has worked as an educator teaching at-risk youth in Washington State. In 2014 Kiana won a 4Culture Individual 2014 Heritage grant. Kiana was selected to be a 2016 King County literary and spoken word artist, and she was award a Renton City Art Commissions community grant to continue her equity and social justice poetry workshops in 2016.
Teresa S. Springer
Teresa Springer is a true modern-day renaissance woman, with an impressive business background that includes establishing a non-profit organization, business consulting firm, owning and operating a health & wellness retail store and partnering in a digital media productions company. As an entrepreneur extraordinaire, she began on a small scale in 1999 when she opened her first fashion-based retail kiosk. Her eye for fashion, combined with her business savvy, lead her to expand that business throughout Washington and into California. Her entrepreneurial work did not go unnoticed, as she was recognized by the Mayor of Tacoma with an Entrepreneurial Empowerment Award. Her successes allowed her the opportunity to head a metro-area chapter organization for professional women of color, as well as working as a commissioner for Seattle Women's Commission. With her recent acceptance to lead Seattle Fashion Week Foundation as their new CEO, she has embraced the responsibility to positively impact the richness of culture within her community. Teresa’s most recent accomplishment is developing a girls empowerment program called GEMS | Girls Empowered through Media in Sisterhood which is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2016.
Chelsey Richardson, a Seattle native believes that poetry lives everywhere. Her writing is influenced by but not limited to race, politics, and motherhood. In October 2007 she had the honor of winning The Gwendolyn Brooks poetry Slam at Chicago State University. In 2007, 2011 and 2016 she earned a spot on the First Women’s National Poetry Slam team stage to compete against some of Seattle’s greatest female poets. She has been published in Intersections, the University of Washington's interdisciplinary journal. In 2015 her writing was selected for 4Culture's poetry competition Poetry on the Bus. She also performed at Poetry on the Bus' 2015 unveiling of contests winners works. She was nominated by the CD Forum as a Seattle Poet Populist candidate in 2008 this said this about her, “Her writing requires you to think critically and examine the world in which we live. She is a writer that truly represents independent poetic expression. There is a cleverness and creativity in her prose that draws the reader or listener in. She is an amazing teaching artist and mentor in Seattle who is poised for a dynamic career.” – CD Forum for Arts and Ideas. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and currently works as an educator at Nova Alternative High School where she facilitates a poetry committee, Naked Truth a performance group that combats stereotypes through Spoken word and mentors for the youth writing/spoken word organization Youth Speaks.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell, MA understands the struggle of being a woman of color and growing up within an impoverished family. She is a dynamic speaker and educator who empowers young girls and women to develop the confidence and courage to be leaders, change makers and to take up the reigns as Modern Day Queens. She is the Principal Consultant of Co-3 Consulting: Co-Creating Cohesive Communities, a graduate from Antioch University’s Masters of Whole Systems Design, and a Ph.D. Student in Transformative Studies and Consciousness through the California Institute of Integral Studies.
As a full time Program Coordinator for Techbridge, Chanel inspires girls to explore careers in science, engineering and technology. In addition to co-facilitating after school programs, she enjoys working with women in STEM and STEM focused companies to provide opportunities that some girls don't always have. Chanel received a Master of Science degree in Chemistry from Oakland University in Michigan, her hometown. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a minor in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining Techbridge, Chanel served as an AmeriCorps VISTA working as a 4-H Program Coordinator and spent a summer working as an Engineering and Technology Faculty Advisor for Envision, an experiential education organization that allows students to explore career interest ans strengthen skills essential for college. She also received the Girl Scout Gold Award and enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with friends.
Jamicka was born and raised in the south suburb of Chicago, IL. After graduating from high school she attended college, for a year then joined the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis – now called Joint Base Lewis McChord. Jamicka has realized her passion and calling is motivating and inspiring others to live life to the fullest. She has been on a quest to ensure everyone knows their purpose in life and know they matter. Jamicka has a genuine love for life and all people. Although Jamicka has experienced many life trials she overcomes obstacles and strives to give others hope. She greets everyone with an infectious smile and when you leave her you will know that "You Matter." She now currently resides in Steilacoom, WA with her 3 sons. They are her WHY for everything that she does. She spends quality time with them and enjoys running and bicycling outdoors.
The oldest child, born in Klamath Falls, OR and raised by a single mother. She was uprooted out of her home state and moved to Nespelem, Washington in the middle of her freshman year in high school. While in high school she found a mentor, through the Upward Bound Program, that pushed her to find education as her way out of her abusive home life. As a first generation student, with many setbacks along the way, she persisted through her education while working full time. She attended Big Bend Community College the summer after graduating high school and then took almost a year off after receiving her Associates before going back to finish her Bachelors. She graduated from Central Washington University after many years of failures and hardships with a Bachelors in Art, a minor in Spanish and a beautiful little girl, she calls her greatest accomplishment. She has been working with students and in every level of education since attending CWU. She now works as the BAS Admissions Advisor at Highline College. She has cultivate her career and her life around her passion of giving back to her community and helping students understand their full potential. One of her biggest dreams in her life was to make one difference in one person’s life. She has been blessed to see what can be done with high expectations, inspiration and persistence.
Dr. Amelia Phillips is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS in Astronautical Engineering and a BS in Archaeology. She earned her doctorate in Computer Security at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as an interdisciplinary degree.
After working as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and TRW, Amelia worked with e-commerce sites and began her training in digital forensics and investigations during the dot-com boom. She has designed certificate and AAS programs for community colleges in e-commerce, network security, digital forensics and data recovery. Amelia co-authored the textbook Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations now in its fifth edition. In 2013 the first edition of her second textbook E-Discovery – An Introduction to Digital Evidence was published. Amelia is program lead for the Network Security and Data Recovery/Digital Forensics AAS programs for Highline College in Seattle. She was also the lead for Highline’s first Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity and Forensics which kicked off in the Fall of 2014. Amelia is the Regional Director of the Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (PRCCDC) which Highline has hosted since 2010. The 9th annual event will be April 2016 at Highline. Amelia also is active in working with developing nations in e-learning, retention, network security, digital forensics and entrepreneurship. She was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Polytechnic of Namibia in 2005 and 2006. Amelia is currently tenured at Highline College.
Melannie Denise Cunningham is a strategic thinker and a person that is known for bringing a fresh perspective and a positive attitude to any situation or environment. She is President and CEO of the Cunningham Network, Inc. a public relations and marketing agency that provides business development and media production services to community focused enterprises. Since 2006 she has served as Director of Multicultural Recruitment for Pacific Lutheran University where she leads the outreach efforts to increase their student of color enrollment. Melannie is extremely passionate about social justice and equality for all people (especially women and girls), and brings that lens to her community service endeavors. Melannie holds a B.A. in General Studies from Washington State University and an M.B.A. focused in Entrepreneurship from Pacific Lutheran University. She is a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and “Auntie Melannie” to many youth nationally and internationally
Veronica Alicea Galván
Veronica Alicea Galván is a former Assistant City Attorney for the city of Seattle who until December 2014 presided over the Des Moines Municipal Court and operated a dual-language courtroom that allowed cases to be heard in Spanish. In December 2014 Judge Galván was appointed by Governor Inslee to the King County Bench. She earned her law degree from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology from Western Washington University, according to a statement by the governor. She is also an adjunct instructor at the Seattle University School of Law, where she teaches a continuing legal-educational program emphasizing multilingual legal education. She is the current president of the District and Municipal Court Judges Association. She was awarded the Juez Excepcional Award from the Latino/a Bar Association of Washington in 2014. "Veronica is a highly respected judge and a strong voice in the Latino community,” said Inslee in his statement. “She brings a passion for justice and a dedication to her work that will serve the court well. I look forward to her service on the bench."
Nisha Daniel is a teacher in Seattle Public Schools. She holds a Masters in Teaching degree from Seattle University, as well as, Bachelors in Women’s studies from Washington State University (Go Cougs!). Her family is from the beautiful state of Kerala in the Southern region of India. In 2008 she started working at the YWCA GirlsFirst program where she became a mentor to 3 young girls and 8 years later she is still their mentor! In her spare time she is an active volunteer with the American Cancer Society and her own Kerala community here in Washington. She also loves to play her guitar and sing for her many friends all around the country!
Mandy Kwan graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont last May where she majored in Spanish and minored in Psychology. She is from Beacon Hill and attended Garfield High School. Throughout her high school career, she participated in programs that allowed her to explore various interests and supported her as she navigated life, such as the unchartered territory of college and work. She believes that the positive role models and fulfillment of her curiosities equipped her with experiences that helped her develop her own sense of self as a high school student. To this day, Mandy still credits her lifelong curiosity of the world and passion for learning in and out of the classroom as the impetuses to many of her experiences. During her senior year at Middlebury College, she saw and experienced how stressful and nerve wracking it could feel finding a job after college. Listening to her curiosity she wondered, “What is it like to be on the other side of the job hunt?” Currently, she is gaining exposure to exactly that at Zillow. Mandy is glad you are here and wishes that this Young Educated Ladies Leading Female Summit existed when she was in high school. After all, who wouldn’t want to celebrate all of the young women of color who will be leading our future communities all under one roof?
Seayoung (SHEE young) Yim is a playwright based in Seattle, Washington. Seayoung’s full-length play Do It For Umma premiered at Annex Theatre in February 2016, enjoying a record-breaking, completely sold-out run. Her other work has been produced for Live Girls! Theater,SIS Productions, Seattle Fringe Festival, 14/48 Projects, and an Asian American theater conference produced by the University of Washington: Stories from Chinatown: A Living Theater Project. Her play Roaring Girls was produced in The Zig Zag Festival at Annex Theatre, which featured works all written and directed by women. Seayoung holds degree in Drama from the University of Washington and has studied playwriting with playwright Stephanie Timm for several years. She’s a member of SIS Writers Group, a collective of Asian American playwrights in Seattle.
In addition to theater, has been involved with social justice community organizations such as the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation, Western States Center, Social Justice Fund Northwest, and Sahngnoksoo. She currently works at Children’s Alliance, a racial equity advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health, safety, and economic well-being of children in Washington State.
Riya Kuo is the front-line product attorney for Microsoft's $1B Visual Studio product, serving as trusted advisor to a division of over a thousand engineers, program managers, and marketers on a variety of complex and developing legal and business topics in software and cloud services. She is deeply committed to the company’s pro bono work as well as its diversity and inclusion initiatives. Riya was previously a corporate and securities associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where she represented technology and growth companies throughout their lifecycles from company formation to liquidity event, advised nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis, and served as co-coordinator of the firm’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Project. Riya earned her B.S. in Business Administration and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, where she was an exchange student at Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, and a visiting student at Columbia Law School. She was the winner of the AEF Robert T. Matsui Writing Competition in 2007 for her publication on Native Hawaiian rights.
Andrea Lopez-Diaz works in the youth development field and has experience as a youth worker and anti-racist organizer. Most of her organizing is done through Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) in Seattle, Washington where she’s lived since 2010. Andrea is committed to ensuring young people have a voice in their communities and in their own lives. Andrea grew up in Sacramento, California and built her perseverance through her practice of Taekwondo, earning a black belt as a teenager.
Elaine Irons-Hunt, RN, MSN
Elaine Irons-Hunt, RN, MSN was born and raised in Lima, Ohio. She relocated to Seattle, WA in 2000. She has been a Registered Nurse for 30 years. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Wright State University and her Master’s Degree in Advanced Psychiatric Nursing from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. She also completed Parish Nurse training at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle. Elaine has worked in mental health, corrections, public health, School Nursing and has been full-time Nursing Faculty for the Registered Nursing Program at Highline College in Des Moines, WA since September 2014. Elaine is also an ordained Elder in ministry, active in community outreach for health and wholeness connecting and educating concerning the spiritual and natural realms. She served as the Faith House Nurse and Director of Health Ministry at Paradise of Praise Ministries in West Seattle, WA for several years. Elaine is also the founder of H3 Streets REACH which is a new home and community based, non-denominational ministry under development geared at meeting, embracing and educating people where they "are." Elaine has presented at conferences, plays, radio and was a guest speaker on TBN for televised segments on mental health and women’s health issues in January and February 2016.
Nafisa Ali is a second year student at the University of Washington majoring in Neurobiology. She currently works as a Lab Assistant at the UW Medicine Department of Pediatrics which focuses on the studies of neuroprotective effects of erythropoietin in neonatal models of brain injury. Nafisa is a first generation college student and moved to the United States when she was in middle school from Kenya. She graduated from West Seattle High School where she had the opportunity to travel overseas and have paid summer internships due to participating in programs and clubs at school. During her free time she likes hiking and baking with her family.
Kamrica Ary-Turner is an Assistant Principal at Emerald Ridge High School in the Puyallup School District. She has worked in education for the last eight years and has spent most of her time at the High School level, as Dean of Students. Kamrica graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelors of Arts in Strategic Communications and played on the Women's Basketball team. Kamrica received her Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling and Educational Leadership Certificate at City University. While receiving her masters Kamrica worked at Federal Way High School as a Discipline Specialist and coaching Volleyball at Federal Way High School and Basketball at Todd Beamer High School. Thereafter, Kamrica became a Counselor at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee while coaching girls’ basketball at South Doyle High School. Kamrica then returned to Washington and accepted a position at Lindbergh High School in Renton School District as the Dean of Students. This is Kamrica's fourth time participating and bringing students to the Y.E.L.L. Conference. Her passion of young people and young people of color is endless. After attending the Black and Brown Male Summit in fall of 2013, she was inspired and work with students to create a support group for young men and women of color. The bases of these groups is to provide exposure to post-secondary opportunities, building relationships with community leaders and mentors of color. Provide opportunities for students to attend community events which supports their social, emotional and academic aspirations.
Teresa Pan is a Program Manager for Human Services at Highline College. She is a second generation Hakka-Chinese born and raised in Kolkata, India. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology/Law and Society from York University and her Legal and Corporate Administration Certificate from Seneca College, Toronto, Canada. She previously worked as a Program Lead for LEP Pathway, aimed at providing culturally appropriate services to refugees and immigrants, helping them achieve self-sufficiency through Education and Training. Teresa earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University. She currently teaches Human Services classes and serves as Academic Advisor to our Human Services and Chemical Dependency students
As a Honduran-American of Garifuna decent, she was raised primarily in Federal Way with her parents and brother. Being the child of immigrant parents, education was instilled at an early age, which included knowing her family, language and heritage. This resulted in living in Honduras with her maternal grandmother during her elementary years, meeting extended family and becoming trilingual. Transitioning back to American life also meant being questioned about race and identity. For Martinez, it was foreign and uncomfortable. The complexities of being Latina of African descent were challenging throughout her K–12 experience, but it was an identity that Martinez embraced as her educational scope increased throughout her undergraduate college student experience at Highline College. Upon graduating from Highline in 2007, she continued her studies at Seattle University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications in 2009 and a master’s degree in student development administration in 2011. After working at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, Martinez returned to Highline College and now serves as Director for Student Diversity and Inclusion. Her goal is to provide students a safe space to discuss social injustices, equity and inclusion and to empower students to be change agents in their communities. When she is not running throughout campus, you can catch her in her office in the Center for Leadership and Service (Building 8, 3rd floor) socializing with students and dancing to her favorite tropical Latin music. Azúcar!
Sheley Secrest is the Vice President of the Alaska Oregon Washington State Area Conference NAACP and is a committed Black Lives Matter activist. Sheley successfully fought to increase civilian oversight of local police misconduct complaints. She advocated for the implementation of city ordinances which decrease economic inequality and secured inclusion oversight in government funded contracts of State projects. Sheley was a driving force in passing legislation in education reform to close the achievement gap of African American students. She has over 15 years of experience performing legislative advocacy, and is currently working to restore Affirmative Action efforts to achieve racial equity throughout Washington. Sheley is a graduate of Seattle University Law School.