YWA 2017 Finalists: Advocacy & Organizing
A woman who excels as a community advocate or organizer. Nominees in this category may advocate on behalf of women’s rights or galvanize communities to do the same through an organization locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.
Sasha Altschuler is the National Manager of the Young Women’s Leadership Network at JWI, an organization working to empower women and girls by eradicating violence against women, advocating for reproductive justice and rights, and promoting economic literacy and leadership among for all women. JWI’s young women’s division promotes these core values, empowering and inspiring communities of young professional women dedicated to making a difference. Under Sasha’s leadership, the Network has expanded from a regional initiative to a national network (including chapters in D.C., New York, Denver, and Los Angeles) engaging more than 1,000 women in unique networking, volunteer, and skill-building programs each month. During her tenure, the Network has shifted focus beyond social and career development to programming that emphasizes women’s empowerment and social justice, including events that promote grassroots advocacy, philanthropy and community development. Sasha is also the Coordinator of JWI’s National Library Initiative, working to build children’s libraries in 100 battered women’s shelters across the country. Sasha serves as a liaison for JWI on behalf of the Young Women’s Leadership Network with the White House Council on Women and Girls and has actively participated in United State of Women conferences.
Elle Hearns, born and raised in Columbus,Ohio, is an organizer by nature. She’s known for her work in organizing communities and public speaking. She served as an organizer of The Movement for Black Lives convening in Cleveland, Ohio and consulted on the policy platform that would later be released. Elle currently is a partner for the #BlackLivesMatter Network and the first organizer to join the staff, where she’s been a strategic partner since its organizational inception and has supported the development of the Network’s national reach. She currently is the Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization she founded in 2015. She previously served as the Central Region Coordinator for the grassroots organization GetEQUAL and as the former creative ambassador for TWOCC (the Trans Women of Color Collective). Elle’s writings have been featured in TruthOut, Huffington Post, and Ebony. Her work has been chronicled by several publications, including Time, CNN, MTV, The New York Times, Alternet, Democracy Now, The Daily Dot, Fusion, Essence Magazine, and The Washington Post. Elle currently lives in Washington, DC.
Cindy Nava first stepped into the US around the age of 7 after arriving to Albuquerque, NM with her parents and siblings from Chihuahua, Mexico. After growing up in the only place she now considers home, Cindy went through the APS and SFPS systems to later begin her higher education life at the Santa Fe Community College, where she found a deep passion and awakening for policy and politics. Like many immigrant students, Cindy went on to become the first in her family to attend college. However, by this time she knew that she was destined to face more obstacles than many of her peers, because aside from being an immigrant, she was an “undocumented immigrant student.”
However, this did not stop Cindy from striving and working hard to turn her goals and dreams into actions. During her time at SFCC, Cindy became a student ambassador, then joined ENLACE NM as a student volunteer, leading presentations on college pathways and student leadership in Santa Fe and Northern NM. Ultimately, Cindy went on to become the first undocumented student to ever serve as President of the SFCC Student Government Association.
After this, Cindy began interning at the NM State legislature and went on to study Political Science at the University of NM, where she quickly began to expand her journey into a collective number of projects within policy, politics, advocacy, civic engagement, and higher education policy at a State a National level.
Nava quickly obtained numerous internships, fellowships, and scholarships at UNM to support her academic journey through El Centro de la Raza, the Community Engagement Center, ENLACE NM, and many other organizations and entities.
In 2012, Cindy went on to become an Obama fellow in Santa Fe, NM, and then went on to be the first undocumented student to serve as Executive Director of Governmental Affairs for ASUNM. She continued on to complete numerous internships with many New Mexico legislators and Congressional members.
Cindy went on to become a National Fellow for the YP4 program by People for the American Way, conducting a social justice model revolving around the continued accessibility of the NM lottery scholarship for our most vulnerable communities. After this, she became the Southwest Regional Chairwoman of the United States Students Association, the Chair of the YDNM Women’s Caucus, and a member of several national leadership organizations.
In 2014, Cindy had the privilege to serve as Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s guest of honor at the White House’s Cinco De Mayo celebration, where she had the opportunity to meet and speak to the Mexican Ambassador to the US, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama. Later that year, Cindy was nominated and received the 2014 National Federation of Democratic Women Founder’s Award, for which she went on to conduct a fellowship at the National Democratic Committee Headquarters in DC in the summer of 2015.
During her time in DC, Cindy worked directly under the Political Department and the Hispanic Press Director, quickly becoming known as the first dreamer to ever serve as an intern/fellow for the DNC. Cindy went on to receive national and international attention after sharing her story with the Washington Post and the Spanish international news agency EFE. Upon her recent return to NM, Cindy was featured on the Huffington Post/Latino Voices “40 Under 40: Latinos in American Politics” to watch.
Upon her return from DC, Cindy became the first dreamer/undocumented student to ever be awarded the Rising Star Award by the NM Democratic Party which is an award given on a yearly basis to rising political stars in NM. The awardees of the 2015 awards were Cindy Nava and NM State Legislator, Javier Martinez.
Fast-forwarding 19 years since she first arrived to the State of NM as an undocumented child, Cindy worked as an unpaid fellow and intern with more than a dozen political campaigns and organizations at a State and National level, unable to accept any other “title” due to her legal status.
In April of 2016, Cindy finally received her DACA work authorization and began working as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Center for Education Policy Research, The Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy, as well as an ENLACE NM Graduate Outreach fellow.
Later that year, Cindy was appointed as a board member of the organization NM Voices for Children, and she also became the first dreamer in NM to graduate from the organization EMERGE NM, which trains women to run for office.
In September of 2016, Cindy became the first dreamer/DACA recipient to present a TEDx Talk in New Mexico, which focused on supporting minority women in leadership development.
Cindy currently works as a NM House Majority Pool Analyst for the New Mexico State Legislature.
Jessica Raven is an anti-racist feminist activist and mother to one gender creative three-year-old. She is the Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, a local grassroots organization working to address harassment in DC, best known for its anti-harassment campaign on DC’s public transit system and the Safe Bars program that teaches bystander intervention skills to bar staff. As a formerly homeless survivor of violence, Raven aims to elevate the voices and needs of DC’s most marginalized communities in her advocacy, focusing primarily on communities of color, LGBTQ and gender nonconforming people, people experiencing homelessness, and those who live at the intersections of multiple oppressed identities.