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2018 Dallas Public Voices Greenhouse Participants

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Vidya Ayyr Director of Social Impact, Parkland
Emma Cager Digital Organizer, The Afiya Center
Marissa Castro Mikoy Executive Director, After-School All-Stars North Texas
Sejal Desai Business Engagement Director, Communities Foundation of Texas
Lenita Dunlap Chief Executive Officer, Heart House
Rea Foster Chief Operating Officer, Teach For America Dallas-Fort Worth
Courteney Harris Assistant Dean, UNT Dallas College of Law
Jin-Ya Huang Interdisciplinary Artist, Break Bread, Break Borders
Josephine Lopez Paul Lead Organizer, Dallas Area Interfaith
Liz Magallanes Immigrant Rights Activist, Mi Familia Vota
Kimberly Manns Managing Director, Early Matters Dallas/Commit
Alicia Morgan VP of Education and Programs, Frontiers of Flight Museum
Norma Nelson Executive Director, Readers 2 Leaders
Cassandra Porter Founder, Optimism by Fire
Anga Sanders Executive Director, FEED Oak Cliff
Akilah Wallace Director of Development, Faith in Texas
Sherrye Willis President, Alliance for Greater Works
Huma Yasin Co-Founder & Chair of the Board, Facing Abuse in Community Environments
Cynthia Yung Executive Director, The Boone Family Foundation

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Vidya Ayyr, MPH, CHW joined Parkland Health & Hospital System in October 2012. As Director of Social Impact, Ms. Ayyr provides strategic direction and leadership to promote social innovation, with a commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of disadvantaged, marginalized, and vulnerable populations. Prior to this role, she worked in Legislative Affairs as part of Community Relations at Parkland where she specialized in public health interventions and partner collaboration. From 2008 to 2012, Vidya was at Children’s Health and supervised volunteer and outreach initiatives benefitting pediatric patients in North Texas. Ms. Ayyr has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas and earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health in 2011. Vidya Ayyr has served on Community Leadership Forum with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC and was most recently recognized as a Presidential Leadership Scholar with the George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson Foundations, 2017.


Emma Robinson Cager joined The Afiya Center as their Digital Organizer in 2017. Before that, Emma organized for sex workers rights while working in retail (a group of folks that desperately need unions). She didn’t realize that organizing her coworkers was radical, but definitely pissed off every single manager she had ever worked under. Radicalizing the working class is her only true passion. Emma found Reproductive Justice work was a natural extension of the personal work she’d been doing so the transition was easy. When Emma is not disrupting antiquated systems and educating folks on the intersections of class, race, and gender, she can be found cycling or playing with her cats!



Marissa Castro Mikoy comes to After-School All-Stars North Texas as the Executive Director with over 20 years of professional experience in the education and non-profit sector. Prior to joining the ASAS team, Marissa worked with the nonprofit, Dallas Afterschool where she was focused on building and implementing continuous quality improvement systems within the Dallas out of school time community. She moved back to her home state of Texas in 2011, from Washington DC, where she worked with the DC Public Charter School Board. Marissa was charged with providing academic and operational performance oversight to DC charter schools as well as providing early childhood technical support. Marissa was instrumental in leading a city wide Task Force of DC charter schools in the development of an Early Childhood Performance Management Framework that is being used to assess DC public charter schools using common goals and metrics. Marissa’s work experience includes directing and leading early childhood programs with several grassroots nonprofits, as well as working with national nonprofits in fundraising and community organizing. Marissa has worked on early childhood and education policy issues at the local and national level, is passionate about increasing the level of quality of education in under-resourced communities. In 2012, Marissa was honored at the White House by President Obama’s Administration as a “Champion of Change” for her work in AmeriCorps and career dedication to social justice and education. She is a graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, where she earned a degree in Business Administration and Management and holds a Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate from Georgetown University. Marissa lives in Dallas with her husband and two sons, Xavier and Sebastian.

Under-resourced kids depend on after-school and summer programs


Sejal Desai is the Business Engagement Director for CFT For Business. In her role, she works with over 100 companies across North Texas to engage them with the community through philanthropic guidance, networking, Community oriented programming and educational events. Sejal also helps guide the strategic direction of CFT For Business along with the overall team. Sejal is also the Founder of SevaYatra, a social venture that offers short-term service project opportunities at NGOs in India. Sejal previously worked as a Principal at MHT Partners, a boutique investment bank based in Dallas. She was also a Co-Founder and Principal of STARTech Early Ventures, a seed stage venture firm, that invested in early stage technology ventures in Texas. In addition to STARTech, Sejal also co-founded and sold a hands-on science education business, Mad Science of Denton County. Prior to her work in the U.S., Sejal served as a manager in the corporate advisory services division for Ernst & Young in Mumbai where she worked on various foreign inward investment projects, valuation as well as due diligence studies. She currently serves on the Board of the DFW South Asian Film Festival, Opportunity Plus and on the Philanthropy Council of North Texas Food Bank. Sejal is a co-founder of the Orchid Giving Circle and serves as the Grant Committee Chair for the past three years. Sejal has previously served on the boards of The Dallas Assembly, thinkIndia Foundation, Texans Credit Union and On-Target Supplies & Logistics Ltd. She is a graduate of Leadership Richardson. Sejal holds a Masters in Liberal Studies from Southern Methodist University. She has an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas and she is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Sejal lives in Dallas with her husband, Hemang and two children, Mohan and Maya.

Collin County must address food insecurity
Taking Immigrant Women from Economic Uncertainty to Unleashed Potential
Take a non-siloed approach to transforming communities

Lenita Dunlap has more than 17 years working in educational and nonprofit organizations that uplift and empower young people and their families. Appointed CEO of Heart House in 2014, Lenita advocates and leads a team of experts who guide and nurture refugee children to lead full lives. Through her leadership, Heart House has grown and deepened its impact, and today continues to make the difference in the lives of more than 120 children annually in Vickery Meadow. Lenita previously has held roles in fundraising, external affairs and management at the Center for Nonprofit Management and the Dallas Theological Seminary, Perspectives Charter School and Healthy Schools Campaign. Lenita graduated from the University of Illinois and holds Masters degrees in Public Administration and Christian Education; and is recipient to numerous Certificates of Nonprofit Management, and Marketing. Lenita is a PhD student at UT Arlington, studying Public and Urban Administration. Lenita has dedicated her life to service, driven by the desire for impacting the lives of those around her. She is married to her love Garland and they have one inquisitive son, Luke who blesses their lives with so much uniqueness and intelligence that it’s hard to believe he’s only six years of age.

Refugee Children in America Lost and in Need of Our Compassion


Rea Foster. From the moment when, at age 12, Rea convinced her elementary classmates to make her the “Prez of the Year” (performing a live spin-off rendition of Whitney Houston’s pop song “Queen of the Night”), it was clear that she was born to campaign for change. As Chief Operating Officer, Rea is responsible for ensuring that Teach For America Dallas-Fort Worth fulfills its potential as a force for change by building an ever-expanding and increasingly diverse movement of community leaders and philanthropists committed to educational excellence and opportunity for all children. She leads a team of rock stars to raise $10M annually and build awareness through effective storytelling and high-impact events. Prior to her work at Teach For America, Rea was a litigation attorney in Washington, D.C. with a pro bono practice addressing civil rights and education issues. She graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law, where she also served as the Managing Editor of The Journal of Gender, Race, & Justice. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics. A Texas native, Rea lives in East Dallas with her husband and toddler son.

Starbucks employees don’t need new training

Courteney Harris is the Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development with UNT Dallas College of Law. In this leadership position she manages employer outreach and creates an environment with learning opportunities for students to prepare them for job search. Ms. Harris is an alumna of Leadership Dallas – Class of 2016. Ms. Harris has also served on the State Bar of Texas – Texas Minority Counsel Steering Committee for two years, leading efforts to engage students in attorney programming geared toward increasing opportunities for minority and women attorneys who provide legal services to corporate and government clients. Ms. Harris has led student engagement as a member of the Dallas Bar Association’s Minority Participation Committee. Ms. Harris is a graduate of United Way’s Project Blueprint Class of XXV.  Project Blueprint trains minorities to serve on nonprofit boards.  Subsequent to this training Ms. Harris served as a Trustee for Bering Omega Community Services.  Bering Omega Community Services is a nonprofit with an annual budget of $5 million whose purpose is to nurture the well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS. During her tenure on the Board of Trustees she served as the Nominating Committee chair and Secretary.  While studying for the Texas State Bar examination she taught government to male offenders earning associate degrees while serving their sentences. Immediately after passing the Texas State Bar, Ms. Harris joined the Texas State Attorney General’s Office as an assistant attorney general.  She also worked as an attorney for a Houston area school district. She held that position for five years.  Prior to law school Ms. Harris worked as a legislative aide for a member of the Texas House of Representatives, a program manager for Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and a workforce planner for Houston Galveston Area Council of Governments.  Ms. Harris earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Xavier University.  She earned her Juris Doctor and Master of Public Administration from Texas Southern University. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.


Upon Jin-Ya Huang’s arrival at age 13 to the United States after being raised in Taipei, Taiwan, she was inspired to remember her experiences as a whole and relate it to her new life. As she struggled with her East-West identity, dealing with social issues of being an immigrant in America, and as a working Mother/Artist, Huang realized this is the narrative point of view she wanted to address in her work. She found her translation through mixed media and written words, by which she is able to convey her history with meaning, while making a difference, and project the mission of kindness footprint.


It’s a free country; but don’t speak your own language
Arts Ability to Heal
Grief into action

Josephine Lopez Paul, Lead Organizer IAF, Dallas Area Interfaith Josephine is a community organizer with the Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, and is Lead Organizer for Dallas Area interfaith an interfaith coalition of congregations, schools and non-profits organizing for local change. She has organized with other IAF affiliate organizations in New Mexico and El Paso, and Fort Worth, Texas. She has organized in both rural and urban settings working on many community initiatives, in the areas of, police reform, public education, job training, healthcare and immigration.


America’s Love Hate Relationship
Success Stories like this one show how Dallas can help residents pull themselves out of poverty
Census citizen question should not be a way to intimidate immigrants



Liz Magallanes is a proud DISD graduate who has worked as an advocate in the immigrant community of Dallas-Fort Worth to bring justice through empowerment, and civic engagement in Latinx and allied communities. She has done this in different capacities- as an organizer, legal assistant, and actor, by means of grassroots organizing, legal services, and art. She has also worked intersectionally with local organizations, and nationally with United We Dream, to connect the issues impacting communities of color and other marginalized communities to effect social change. As a student of Drama she also strives to incorporate these voices in the Arts. She recently did this through her appearance in Cara Mía Theatre’s production of Deferred Action, which toured Texas, and was presented at Encuentro De Las Americas 2017, an international theatre festival that brings companies from across the Americas together in Los Angeles.

Latinas Face the stigma of mental health issues
Seeing the truths and fiction of DACA


Kimberly Manns is a passionate leader with a real talent for bringing diverse stakeholders together to solve complex social problems. Kim currently serves as the Managing Director for Early Matters Dallas, where she convenes over 200 organizations in Dallas County to rally behind common goals and strategies to increase early childhood outcomes for children 0-8. Key recent wins for Early Matters Dallas include: 1) the passage of legislation to establish an Early Childhood Institute at DCCCD that will enable community college students to receive a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and 2) a regional pre-k campaign in partnership with 13 local Districts. Prior to joining Early Matters Dallas, Kim served as the Program Director for the Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading, where she led a strategy process to increase the City’s 3rd grade reading scores by 100% by 2020. She also served in the public sector as Deputy Director of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Office of Policy and Communications and Special Projects. In that role, she led the development of the City’s Read to Succeed Plus program, a comprehensive summer program serving 2500 low-income children, by facilitating the collaboration of Baltimore City Schools, the City of Baltimore, and several other non-profit and private partners. She also led the design and project management of the 2012 US Conference of Mayors and developed an innovative communication strategy for the Baltimore City’s 2010 Census campaign, which resulted in an unprecedented increase in participation rates. Kim began her career as an Assistant Brand Manager for Procter and Gamble’s Covergirl and Wal-Mart accounts. In this role, she led multi-functional teams to design and launch consumer products nationwide. Kim is a Maryland Daily Record 2014 Leading Women Honoree, a member of Leadership Dallas Class of 2018 and Junior League of Dallas.

Six decades later, Brown vs Board of Education ruling is still aspiration
The Power Shift – new found ability to influence societal change
National testing scores show Dallas ISD must continue crucial reforms
Who’s Got the Power: Reframe the Education System to Close the Achievement Gap
What Is Personal Power? How You Can Exert Influence and Why You Should


Alicia Morgan, Vice President of Education and Programs at Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. I am responsible for managing the development and execution of school and public programs through STEM outreach initiatives, aviation and spaceflight history exploration. Honoree for the Women of Color in STEM Conference K-12 Promotion of Education Award. Graduate of Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Science Engineering and New Mexico State University with a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. Committed to lifelong learning I have successfully maintained leadership excellence in the for-profit and nonprofit sector through K-12 STEM/STEAM education outreach, college/workforce readiness, strategic planning and program development. My professional engineering experience includes working at Fortune 500 companies such as Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, and Raytheon. A J Rêve International Global Arts Education Fellow, TEDx Speaker and conference presenter, my interactive sessions helps attendees learn that there is life after failure by taking corrective action for business success.

For educational success, we must address both social and emotional needs of students
Reinventing Failure
GenX Leadership
Beyond the pipeline: Fighting for Women and Girls in STEM


Norma Nelson currently serves as Executive Director of Readers 2 Leaders (R2L), a literacy non-profit serving West Dallas that was formed in 2010. Norma was the first person hired by R2L, and has been instrumental in developing all R2L programs. In just six years, R2L has grown from a small after-school provider to an agency serving over 800 children and parents. R2L’s main program, Team Read, helped over 400 West Dallas students receive high quality reading tutoring in 2016-2017. Prior to working with Readers 2 Leaders, Norma spent eight years as an educator. She has experience teaching 1st-8th grade, and served as Assistant Principal and Curriculum Director for St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School in West Dallas. Norma holds a B.A. in Political Science and Theatre, as well as a Masters in Education from the University of Notre Dame. She is the recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education as well as the Catholic Foundation’s Work of Heart Award through the Diocese of Dallas. Norma is active in the Dallas non-profit community and currently serves as a client representative for the Dallas Afterschool Board of Directors, as well as Board Chair for St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School in West Dallas.

Read this – US literacy gap needs closing
A perfect time for a good book
C’mon, Get Happy: Protecting Ourselves From Tragedy


Cassandra Porter. I am a fundraiser and a student of philanthropy. An Air Force brat, I have lived in Dallas for more than 20 years where I have enjoyed a successful career with a focus on public broadcasting and the arts —building relationships and partnerships to benefit the community including a national campaign about the critical early years of children and establishing a permanent museum for contemporary art. Several years ago I discovered my great-grandmother, Lucretia Cheatham Ross (1909-1988), was the earliest known philanthropist in the family. In Southwest Arkansas she worked as a domestic and in the fields picking produce and bailing hay. She was poor but owned land. When a local congregation needed a place to worship and bury their dead in segregated Arkansas, she provided several acres of land for a new church and cemetery. The realization that my great-grandmother was a philanthropist changed me. Coming from a community where it is almost impossible to trace history and familial lineage beyond four generations, this knowledge added a layer of connectivity to my life. And so I created Optimism by Fire to uncover the unknown philanthropy of other African Americans, expand the conversation about what philanthropists look like, and challenge stereotypes within the philanthropy community. I also decided to become a scholar of philanthropy and applied and was accepted into the Philanthropic Studies Masters Program at the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. As a new member of the Priscilla Art Club of Dallas, established in 1911, I can study the Black Women’s Club Movement and their contributions to philanthropy, civil rights and social services. I have a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami and a BA in English Literature from the University of Southern California.

Back to the Future?  Our Enduring Legacy of racism.
The Right To Govern Your Own Body Shouldn’t Depend On Where You Live
Whose DNA is it anyway?
We must create financial support for child abuse survivors of color


Anga L. Sanders is the Chief Executive of Global HR Solutions LL, partnering with CEOs, executives and businesses of various sizes to provide creative outsourced solutions to a variety of personnel and compliance issues. In addition, she is founder and Executive Director of FEED Oak Cliff. In 2015, Anga literally walked into her true passion when she entered the Albertson’s store at Lemmon and McKinney, spotted the fresh salad bar that she had seen so often, and realized that there was nothing comparable south of I-30. This realization led her to found FEED Oak Cliff, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing healthier grocery stores to the food desert. In order to help change the perception of Oak Cliff, Anga also founded the Dallas VegFest, a free festival of plant-based nutrition and healthier lifestyle, Dallas’ only event of its kind south of the Trinity River. Anga’s passionate advocacy for ending food insecurity in Dallas has garnered the attention of local media and led to her being invited to participate in the Community Innovation Lab, a national think tank. Ms Sanders came to Dallas from her native Marshall, TX to attend Southern Methodist University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology as well as a Master of Liberal Arts degree. In 2015, the SMU Association of Black Students named an annual award, the Anga Sanders Community Impact Award, in her honor. She served as a member of the SMU Alumni Board for three years.

Access to fresh food is urgent
What’s the longest war in American history? fighting for the right to vote
The case for voting: Why we get the government we deserve

Akilah Wallace is the Director of Development for Faith in Texas, a multi-racial faith based, social justice organization. She has over 15 years of experience as a relationship manager, with expertise in fund development, event planning & promotions, marketing, multicultural media sales and project management. Her love for connecting community organizations with financial and in-kind resources has resulted in over $2 million in revenue support. She is currently pursuing a degree in Human Services Management & Leadership at the University of North Texas at Dallas, and has earned a Nonprofit Management Certificate from the Center for Nonprofit Management.  In 2013, Akilah launched Distinguished Ones: A Philanthropic Initiative, respectfully known as #BlackDFWGives, an educational and inspiring, online initiative seeking to heighten the platform for philanthropy education and the next generation of philanthropists of color throughout North Texas. Her philanthropic leadership includes the founding of Texas’ first Black/African-American giving circle HERitage Giving Fund at Dallas Women’s Foundation, during National Black Philanthropy Month in 2017, and consulting services for small-to-medium-sized community organizations.  Akilah is an honoree of the Dallas Business Journal 40 Under 40 and recipient of The Dallas Foundation Top 10 Good Works Under 40 Award. She is a charter member of The Golden Circle and Dallas Women’s Foundation XIX Society, a Step Up mentor and former “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters. She currently serves on the Trinity Commons Foundation and Seeds to STEM boards of directors.  Akilah is the proud mother to high school senior Jamel and St. Philip’s student-athlete, Jayce. Her mantra is: “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.” – Madame C.J. Walker


Sherrye Willis, Founder and President of Alliance for Greater Works™, has more than 30 years of nonprofit experience. During her career, Sherrye has led on both sides of philanthropy – as an executive director of a private family foundation, a chief development officer in major higher education and art institutions, and founder of a thriving nonprofit organization. Sherrye is an author, servant leader, speaker, consultant, coach, and certified adult-learner trainer. She has consulted and trained thousands of leaders and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally including Dr. Tony Evans’ National Church-Adopt-A-School Initiative, Center for Philanthropy Bermuda, Communities Foundation of Texas, Concord Church, Children’s Health Systems, Esping Family Foundation, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and many more. In 2012, Sherrye was one of 150 U. S. leaders invited to the White House to discuss challenges facing local communities. The goal was to learn from pioneers who are driving change in challenging times and to explore new ways federal policymaking can support their endeavors. In 2014, Sherrye authored her first book, Launching Greater Works™: Turning a God-Inspired Vision into a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit, written for visionary leaders and nonprofits desiring to address the social inequities of individuals and communities. In her spare time, Sherrye loves jazz, traveling abroad, reading, and spending time with her best friend and husband, Joe.

Nonprofits are suffering from a leadership gap
Avoiding Burnout: Leading, Giving and Staying Calm


Huma Yasin is a Muslim attorney and writer who examines the intersectionality of religion, law, and politics in her writing. She is currently writing a creative non-fiction, entitled CONSPIRACY: The True Story of the Fort Dix Five, which recreates a sixteen-month sting in which the FBI employed two informants with sordid, criminal backgrounds to entrap five Muslim men on conspiracy charges. She is also the co-founder and serves as chair of the board of Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE), a Dallas-based non-profit designed to protect victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Muslim clergy and leaders of Muslim-based institutions. Yasin is also a grassroots social justice advocate, active in the Dallas-Fort Worth activist community. She’s also written and published articles in law journals concerning religious liberty in the workplace as well as international human rights and international humanitarian law and has been featured as a guest blogger to demystify Islam and Muslims on Kristen Howerton’s popular blog Rage Against the Minivan. Yasin has also served on the Middle Prairie Institute, a think tank analyzing the convergence of politics and religion, and was as a member of the Fort Worth Police Department’s Citizen Peer Committee, committed to foster understanding between the community and law enforcement.

I’ll Be Out in the Garden, De-stressing
Secret Shame: We need to close accountability gap
Is the FBI Profiling Students to Interview Without Parental Consent?
Not So Fast: ramadan Legacy
US Is Still Harsh To Muslims
Racial Injustice in America is worse than you thought
Mark Anthony Conditt terrorized Texans, but he’s not called a terrorist because of his skin color
Noor Salman should never have been prosecuted in the first place
The price of murder: stop funding Israeli
US War On Immigrant
For or Against: Is The FBI foiling terroism plots or creating them?


Cynthia Yung is founding Executive Director at The Boone Family Foundation, a resource for social justice and innovation in three primary areas:  advancing gender equity for women and girls, improving educational outcomes for children in public schools and promoting environmental stewardship.  Grants totaling $30 million have been made to support local and national nonprofits in these areas including several new nonprofit launches over the first ten years. Cynthia worked in the telecom industry prior to this role. Her previous career includes roles in sales, strategic marketing, manufacturing operations and finance. Cynthia also earned a Chartered Professional Accountant designation at Ernst & Young and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Canada.  Throughout her corporate career, Cynthia was always active with social causes. More than a decade of volunteer work on international mission trips and serving on nonprofit boards paved the way for this role.  Ms. Yung also serves on advisory boards for Commit! Partnership Leadership Council, Best in Class, and Raise Your Hand Texas.  Cynthia is also founding circle chair for the Orchid Giving Circle fund of The Dallas Women’s Foundation. She was recognized by Women’s eNews in 2016 as one of 21 Leaders for the 21st century and by SMU Women’s Symposium in 2017 with a Profiles in Leadership Award.

Social and emotional intelligence training will save lives – not more guns
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Us too: Acknowledging the struggles of Asian Americans