In its 5th year, the Healthy Communities Fellowship elevates and amplifies the expertise of community leaders who are designing and implementing solutions to best solve systemic health inequities.
Contact: Meridith Tucker
Today, communities across the U.S. face systemic inequities that create obstacles to leading healthy and full lives. To address these issues and create transformational change, Aspen Global Innovators Groups (AGIG) is pleased to announce the 2023 Healthy Communities Fellowship class.
Now in its fifth year, the Fellowship is focused on advancing health equity by supporting leaders in communities that are disproportionately impacted by economic and health disparities, including Alaska, Oklahoma and Texas. Selected fellows rooted in these communities are bringing new solutions and expertise to improving food access, environmental health, mental health, equitable health research, entrepreneurship and economic development, maternal health, health systems equity and sports equity.
The Healthy Communities Fellowship provides individualized and tailored communication, narrative, and leadership training and coaching for BIPOC leaders working from a place of lived and learned experience. This training will help fellows educate and empower residents, other community leaders and officials on how to best address the factors that limit optimum health and well-being.
“With our regional hub model, we are intentional about connecting leaders who are working within similar communities and addressing core issues with differing approaches. When fellows have the opportunity to learn with and from one another, we can create an exponential trajectory of change,” said Lola Adedokun, Executive Director of AGIG. “Tools like media training, messaging, narrative refinement and global networking opportunities have long been in the hands of the elite. With this Fellowship, we shift power to those who are providing direct support by giving greater visibility to chronically under-funded community leaders who have historically lacked access to these networks and resources.”
The Fellowship is supported by key local organizations including Methodist Healthcare Ministries, H.E. Butt Foundation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Rasmuson Foundation.
“As Methodist Healthcare Ministries continues its efforts to advance health equity, we are inspired to join in partnership with the Aspen Institute on their Healthy Communities Fellowship,” said Jaime Wesolowski, President & CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries. “The fellowship program is well-aligned with our efforts to co-create and co-design community-led solutions, alongside subject-matter experts, that move forward our shared goal of seeing all communities thrive.”
Meet the Healthy Communities Fellows:
The 2023 Healthy Communities Fellows come from Alaska, Oklahoma, and Texas. They will participate in a curated media and communications training and executive coaching to inform their leadership journey and bring their ideas and solutions to major public platforms to strengthen within their communities. Learn more about the fellowship at https://www.aspenhc.org.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS FELLOWS
Sara Masoud, Program Manager for Caring for the Caregiver, is a former family caregiver and researcher who creates spaces for communities impacted by dementia to gather, collaborate, educate, and advocate for research that matters to them. As a Palestinian-American raised in a Texas border town who cared for her grandfather living with dementia, Sara struggled to find inclusive, supportive care. She recognized the need for research to understand the lived experiences of those impacted by dementia and how to support them. She is driven by her steadfast belief that those closest to an issue should be the leaders of research that affects them. By partnering to co-lead research with families and communities impacted by dementia, she aims to eliminate the discrepancy between the needs of communities and the priorities of research that informs dementia care. Together, Sara and her partners are defining a future in which research can be open and accessible to communities who have the right to dictate how science can improve their ability to thrive in spite of dementia.
Stephen Lucke, Founder of Gardopia Gardens, is food systems expert and activist focusing on health and environmental justice who educates and empowers communities on how to lead healthy and sustainable lifestyles through urban agriculture. He became aware of San Antonio’s obesity epidemic and climate crises in his college years, sparking his journey to help find a solution to declining planetary and population wellness that disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities. In 2015, Stephen founded Gardopia Gardens to help solve the challenges facing his community by working with educational and community institutions to ensure current and future generations have the knowledge and skills to cultivate a high quality of life for themselves and society, fighting against malnutrition related diseases and environmental degradation.
Veron Blue, Founder and Executive Director of Faith & Community Wellness Center, Inc., is a local pastor, mental health coach and advocate whose passion is to connect faith leaders to the transformative power of mental health treatment and support. Pastor Blue’s work involves equipping faith-based communities of color to educate their congregations and communities, by removing the stigma, shame and silence associated with mental illness. After being trained as a mental health coach, Veron began to experience the transformative effect of the knowledge of mental health. Transformed people do indeed transform their families, churches and communities. She is also the lead of Rapha Mental Health Ministries, a group of 9 churches who have banded to educate Northeast San Antonio to provide a safe place for healing and restoration for families in our community who are dealing with mental health challenges.
Alex Bailey, Executive Director and Founder of Black Outside, Inc., is an educator and third-generation outdoor enthusiast, who uses his radical imagination to re-envision outdoor programming for Black youth. He began his education career as a camp counselor, witnessing first-hand the transformative power the outdoors can have on youth while also recognizing the lack of diversity in the summer camp industry. Today, he works to cultivate spaces that meet Black youth and families at the intersection of joy, cultural relevancy, and outdoor exploration. Alex is the founding Executive Director of Black Outside, Inc and is a proud alum of Teach for America, Echoing Green, and Wild Gift.
TULSA, OKLAHOMA FELLOWS
Omare Jimmerson, Executive Director of the Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative is the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant and also a mother of two, working to save the lives of Black women in a healthcare system that continually dehumanizes them. As an undergraduate working with teens she saw young girls being treated as adults and denied their right to childhood. This sparked her interest in making sure young people had knowledge to advocate for their own bodily autonomy. She works to ensure every woman is treated with dignity, respect and most of all as a human. By bringing doula care to Black and Brown women, her organization gives them back the power to advocate for their care.
Ashli Sims, Managing Director of Build in Tulsa, is a storyteller who breaks down barriers and opens doors so Black entrepreneurs can build wealth for themselves, their families, and future generations. Growing up in the shadow of Black Wall Street, she only knew of the Tulsa Race Massacre as a tragedy and a cautionary tale. She didn’t learn Tulsa was the epicenter of Black wealth until she left her hometown. As Managing Director of Build in Tulsa, Ashli is helping reclaim the narrative: Black Wall Street is not a history lesson, but a blueprint. She believes the next Black-led billion dollar company will be based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Dr. Janel Pasley, is a visual artist, writer, innovator, and community advocate who works to strengthen the non-profit sector and challenge existing systems to achieve equity in the funding space. She founded The Astute Creative, LLC as a mechanism to provide authentic and strategic creative services to small business owners seeking to find their creative advantage. Dr. Pasley believes that there is untapped potential in all of us and is committed to helping others realize and visualize their purpose. She currently serves as the Program Officer at Ascension St. John, championing the Community Health Equity Catalyst Strategy (CHECS).
Dr. Chris McNeil, Founder of Youth Medical Mentorship, is an Emergency Medicine Physician and School Board Member who is creating pathways to medical education for BIPOC children. He does this by identifying students with an affinity for medicine early, and creating a pipeline of mentorship programs, building hospital internships, promoting recruitment for allied health professions, influencing educators, and creating strategic partnerships that extend from cradle to careers. His goal is to create a legacy of guidance for students to envision themselves in medical careers and to increase the number of BIPOC doctors which has been proven to lead to better outcomes for underserved communities.
Jamar Hill, Founder of Gamers Baseball RBI, is a former professional baseball player and current youth coach whose lived experiences empowers him to provide access to athletic resources and experiences that have real world value outside of sports. Jamar Hill works with boys and girls ages 8-18 living primarily in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, Alaska. Mountain View has been recognized at times as the most diverse neighborhood in America which includes White, African American, Latin American, Native Alaskan, Asian and Polynesian families amongst many other ethnic groups. Poverty, civic design, as well as the geography of Alaska create conditions that block access for these kids to participate in sports. Jamar Hill convenes hard conversations involving race and equity that stimulate increasing resources being directed toward sustainable support impacting Anchorage’s most diverse and most underserved kids. Jamar’s experience traveling the country as a pro player and taking on the challenges of creating subsidized sports facilities and programming have offered him a unique perspective of how the issues he’s taking on in Alaska are common systemic problems on a national level.
Alana Peterson, Executive Director of Spruce Root, is an entrepreneur and non-profit leader whose lived experience brings together indigenous values with Western economic systems to build towards a sustainable future. She started her first business at age 7, taking wood scraps from her father’s carving shed and painting them to sell to tourists on the docks. Working with other small businesses deepened her understanding of the transformative power of an entrepreneur’s journey. Alana brings this expertise to her work with Spruce Root, a community development financial institution that is building up a strong small business sector in her home region of Southeast Alaska. She believes that small business is the foundation of a strong community, much like the root system of a healthy forest floor.
About the H.E. Butt Foundation
The H. E. Butt Foundation is an operating foundation focused on spiritual formation and health in families and children. Our headquarters are in Kerrville, Texas, and we have offices in San Antonio, though much of our work takes place deep in the Texas Hill Country on 1,900 acres situated along a breathtaking stretch of the Frio River Canyon. There, we run five programs—a youth camp, a family camp, an adult retreat center, an outdoor school, and a camp that provides free facility use to qualifying groups. Outside the Canyon, the Foundation operates a sixth program dedicated to fostering community engagement on behalf of families and children in the places we live and work—San Antonio, Kerrville, and Real County. Visit here: https://hebfdn.org/
About Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries broadens the definition of healthcare by providing low-cost clinical care for the uninsured and by supporting community-led efforts that improve living conditions that cause people to be sick in the first place. We use our earnings as co-owners of Methodist Healthcare to ensure that people who are economically disadvantaged and uninsured can live their healthiest lives. We do this by advocating for, investing in and providing access to quality clinical care and addressing factors that affect health—including economic mobility, supportive relationships, food security, broadband access, and safe neighborhoods. Ultimately, we fulfill our mission of “Serving Humanity to Honor God” by advancing health equity so that more resilient individuals & families living in the 74 counties we serve can thrive. Visit here https://www.mhm.org/
About George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information about the George Kaiser Family Foundation, visit https://www.gkff.org
About Rasmuson Foundation
Rasmuson Foundation is a private Alaska-based family philanthropy that was founded in 1955. It has an outsized mission for a staff that now numbers 28: Promote a better life for Alaskans. The Foundation hosts convenings with policymakers, community advocates and thought leaders as well as an annual Grantmakers Tour of Alaska to introduce national funders to the issues, needs and successes of the 49th state. It awards $25 million to $30 million a year to improve housing, health care, social supports, the arts and community development. Visit https://www.rasmuson.org/
The Aspen Global Innovators Group
The Aspen Global Innovators Group widens access to health and prosperity for people living at the world’s margins. Our network of innovators brings overlooked challenges into plain sight, then creates programs, policies and partnerships to address them. Breakthrough programs include: New Voices Fellowship, which brings expert voices from emerging countries into the global development discussion; AMP Health, which works with health leaders in under-resourced countries advancing to the last mile; the Artisan Alliance, supporting the world’s most untapped start-up community; and Aspen Ideas Health, a premier creative forum on health at the Aspen Ideas Festival. For more information, visit www.aspenglobalinnovators.org
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, please visit www.aspeninstitute.org.