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Global Justice Summer Fellows Institute

Join us in a unique opportunity for a transformative journey! August 7th-9th at El Puente Headquarters in Los Sures (Southside of Williamsburg), Brooklyn

The Global Justice Summer Fellows Institute is designed for changemakers, emerging community leaders, community artists, educators, cultural and social justice organizers, and all-around trailblazers who bring passion and dedication to their practices. Fellows will be guided through a transformative process, steeped in El Puente’s practices and pedagogy, with the goal of applying what they learn to their own practices, projects, and initiatives.

Fellows will:

  • Be engaged in in-depth training on El Puente frameworks, tools, and modules with the lens of applying these to their own work.
  • Be immersed in El Puente’s vibrant community, platform, and network.
  • Take part in deep dialogue with renowned social justice, community, arts, and education leaders such as Dr. Frances Lucerna, Luis Garden Acosta, Wanda Vazquez, Asenhat Gomez, Joe Matunis, Fiorella Guevara, Gloria Zelaya, Jana Lynne Umipig, Gabriela Álvarez, David Ortiz and more.
  • Receive comprehensive, materials, including published curriculum and toolkits as well as curated readings and texts.
  • Participate in individual coaching based in a personal empowerment model with certified Global Justice Institute trainers to create an individualized action plan for beyond the Institute.
  • Earn a certificate of completion at the end of the institute, in a culminating certification ceremony.
  • Be invited to participate in additional trainings, events, and coaching after the Summer Fellows Institute.

Presenters and Trainers

Frances Lucerna

Dr. Frances Lucerna, Executive Director & Co-Founder of El Puente and Founding Principal of El Puente Academy for Peace & Justice

Frances Lucerna is a pioneer of community arts and education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Dance from Hunter College and Masters of Arts, in Education and Supervision, from Bank Street College.  She danced professionally for 10 years and in 1982 she co-founded El Puente where she developed El Puente Arts, a premier hub for pre- professional arts training and a recognized model for community-driven, culturally rooted arts for social change. In 1993 she became the Founding Principal of El Puente Academy for Peace & Justice, the first public school in the U.S. dedicated to Human Rights. Her awards include Brooklyn Arts Council’s “Arts Advocate Award”, El Diario’s 2010 Mujeres Destacadas Award, the 1998 Heinz Award for the Human Condition, and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ “Coming Up Taller Award.” In 2018, Frances received an honorary doctorate degree from Bank Street College of Education.

Luis Garden Acosta(1)

Luis Garden Acosta, Founder and President, El Puente

Luis Garden Acosta is an American pioneer for community driven, human rights activism who founded El Puente in 1982. Given his vision, El Puente, as the name implies in Spanish, “bridges” major initiatives in health, the environment, education and the arts, incorporating them all in a holistic, spirit driven, goal oriented membership for community members of all ages. The "Green Light District”, a projected 10 year initiative, takes El Puente's holistic action planning door to door, engaging, virtually, every family in transforming Luis' home community, the Southside of Williamsburg to a model American neighborhood for community health and environmental wellness. Understanding that climate change is "the moral challenge of the 21st Century", El Puente is, now, sharing the "best practices" of the Green Light District beyond Brooklyn. Facilitating the first dialog on the climate change crisis in Puerto Rico (among 200 Puerto Rican Island leaders including past and present governors and leaders of various Faith Communities), El Puente, led by Luis' vision, launched the Latino Climate Action Network (LCAN). Through LCAN, El Puente seeks to engage and empower Puerto Rican/Latino communities on the Island and in the states to address this challenge in their home communities as well as take their place in the national discourse on climate change policy.

Wanda Vazquez

Wanda Luz Vázquez, Principal, El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, Principal Coach NYC Department of Education

Wanda Luz Vázquez is a New Principal Coach for the NYC Departmet of Education and a former Principal of El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. She is the first in her family to graduate college and holds degrees in psychology and education from York and Brooklyn Colleges and certificates in Leadership and Civic Engagement from the We Got Issues Institute. She is also a graduate of the New York City Leadership Academy.  Wanda began working at El Puente Academy in 2000 as a Special Education teacher, where she facilitated English, Sankofa Seminar, Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution Classes, Hip Hop 101, and Women’s group. She is the proud founder of Fly Girl Fest, an annual celebration on behalf of, with, and for the women of the community. Wanda has always been passionate about nurturing and developing leadership in others. She says of growing up in Brownsville Brooklyn, “I dreamt of community-based schools that offered arts programming, that gave us the opportunity to learn about ourselves, and that had teachers who respected our knowledge, feelings, and experiences.”

Asenhat Gomez

Asenhat Gomez, Senior Director for Programs, El Puente

The Senior Director of Programs at El Puente, Asenhat Gomez has been associated with El Puente since she first joined the organization as a member at age 16, when she and her family moved into the neighborhood from the Dominican Republic.  Since then, Asenhat has been an indefatigable activist for both El Puente and the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick, where she is a celebrated community organizer fighting for human rights and social justice for all. Asenhat has received several awards and recognition for her work from the New York State Assembly, New York City Council, the Borough of Brooklyn President’s office, and others. Asenhat works tirelessly for youth and community and for over 20 years has been an model of El Puente’s mission “To inspire and nurture leaders for peace and justice.”

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David Ortiz, Director, El Puente Puerto Rico

David Ortiz is the Director of El Puente Enlace Latino de Acción Climática (ELAC) in Puerto Rico. El Puente ELAC is a program of El Puente of Brooklyn, New York, a human rights organization that promotes leadership for peace and justice through engagement of members in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action. David leads a group of members who help promote public policy, educational activities and island wide mobilization on the issue of climate change and shifting the Puerto Rico towards the integration of renewable energy.  Before working at El Puente ELAC he was the Advocacy Manager for Sapientis an organization that focused on improving public education in Puerto Rico. He was also the Deputy Director of MassVOTE and Founder of the Young Civic Leaders program in Boston, Massachusetts. Before that he also founded the Youth Development department at La Alianza Hispana in Roxbury, Massachusetts. David’s background is in education, environmental justice, non-profit management, advocacy and community organizing.

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Joe Matunis, Co-Founder of El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, Director of Los Muralistas de El Puente

Joe Matunis is a community artist, activist and educator who has made his home and practice in the Los Sures community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY since 1990.  Joe received his BA in arts from Pennsylvania State University and his MFA in painting from the Art Institute of Chicago. His training in community art practice came through three years with Chicago Public Art group in the mid 1980’s, study with and projects under the supervision of David Harding at Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art program in Glasgow, Scotland, and a year-long residency in the Mural Arts program under the direction of Sri Gayarsilal Verma at Maharajah Siyajirao University in Baroda, India. These experiences led Matunis to develop a concept of community art practice in which the artist integrates into the life of the community and develops art programs and projects in conjunction with, and in response to the needs and interests of the community over an extended period of time. Joe is the Artistic Director of Los Muralistas de El Puente, a multi-generational community mural group composed of adult and adolescent members who, since 1990, have created over 30 murals and other public works of art. He is also a co-founder of and arts facilitator at El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. Since 1993 he has led the annual Integrated Arts Project at El Puente Academy.

Gloria Zelaya

Gloria Zelaya, Guest Trainer, Global Justice Institute

Gloria is El Puente’s Theater, Arts, and Wellness Coordinator, where she facilitates Qi Gong, wellness, and theater workshops for El Puente and the wider community. Gloria is also the coordinator for CADRE (Community Artist Development and Resource Exchange), El Puente's network of mostly Latino community artists, artisans and cultural workers rooted in North Brooklyn. Gloria was the Program and Theater Director of Teatro El Puente from 2000-2013, a resident theater company that used innovative plays to educate audiences about AIDS/HIV, sexual health, and other social issues. Gloria is President, Artistic Producing Director, and co-Founder of The Fantastic Experimental Latino Theater Inc. (FELT) (1999- present). She is also Co-Theater Director for The Around the Block Inc. Company (2010-present). Gloria studied Theater Arts in New York City and in France, where she was awarded a scholarship by the French government. As a director Gloria has staged productions with various companies in New York. As an actress she has been in On the Outs, (shown in Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals); Mother Part Ten: Exploration on the Sacred Theme, (Independent); Home is a Struggle, (Independent, and a San Antonio Film Festival Award Winner); Plan for all Seasons (a William Graves Production); Cross Over Dreams (a Max Mambru Production), Educating Diego and Lobo.

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Fiorella Guevara, Guest Trainer, Global Justice Institute

Fiorella is the Director of MS50 El Puente Community school. She joined El Puente in October of 2015, and has an extensive background in community development and education. Fiorella received her B.S. from University of Maryland, College Park in Early Childhood Education and taught elementary school for five years in Washington D.C. and Baltimore before pursuing her graduate degree in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from New York University. Fiorella worked for 4 years in organizing and policy with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and she has used her vast experience to support MS 50 El Puente Community School in becoming a national model for what a true community school can look like.  Fiorella became involved in education to transform education systems that perpetuate systematic oppression, and she feels that it is most important to create an education system that fosters creativity, empathy, and freedom of mind. Through programs and advocacy, Fiorella has continuously sought to implement these goals. The deep commitment to community and social justice that Fiorella has seen in El Puente and its ability to create connections and change on a local level has inspired and aided her work to revitalize and revolutionize education in the city and beyond.

Clara Parker

Clara Parker, Director, Global Justice Institute

Clara is a community-based artist and researcher whose work focuses on education and human development. She loves working with people to channel their individual and collective genius. Clara believes that meaningful personal and community development are driven by meaningful participation, and that the deeper the participation, the more elevated the potential for change. Clara’s journey has taken her down the path of teaching artist, community muralist, arts administrator, curriculum creator, assessment fanatic, and training enthusiast. Clara regularly speaks, trains, and develops curriculum on arts for social justice, holistic assessment, and Participatory Action Research. Clara received her M.S. Ed in 2012 from Bank Street College of Education in Leadership in Community-Based Learning. She received her B.A. in 2004 from NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study in Community Education, Latin American Studies, and Studio Art. At El Puente since 2005, Clara is passionate about how the arts and participation in social justice movements develop our humanity.

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Rosa Scott, Senior Certified Trainer and Consultant, Global Justice Institute

Rosa is a leader in the areas of executive coaching and training, curriculum development and programming, and empowerment for liberation. Her passion for community began at 15 years old as a youth organizer leading multiple campaigns including lead poisoning awareness workshops and petitioning to have 100 trees planted and 3 mailboxes installed in her neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Starting as a member of a Human Rights Organization she moved up the ladders of leadership from line staff to a Program Director. Over the course of her career, Rosa has developed and strengthened multiple programs and traveled nationally and internationally to organize around environmental justice, wellness, and human rights education. She is a certified Senior Trainer with El Puente’s Global Justice Institute and has trained over 500 educators, activists, and community leaders. She has managed over 10 programs across multiple sites, and overseen outstanding and award-winning programming for thousands of young people in her tenure. In addition, Rosa co-developed El Puente’s ground-breaking framework, Transformative Community Building. Rosa stands for advocating for those without a voice and creating sacred spaces to build a culture where people are empowered to thrive.

Jana Lynne Umipig

Jana Lynne (JL) Umipig, Certified Trainer, Global Justice Institute

JL is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, healer and activist elevating the narratives of Pilipina wom*n as a reflection of her own life's journey toward decolonizing, re-indigenizing and humanizing self. JL is a core member of The Center for Babaylan Studies, an Inner Dance facilitator, and founder of Butikaryo mga Babae, which creates sacred space for Pinay Womxn Healers seeking to learn and remember healing practice and knowledge connected to our ancestral traditions. JL has built her Arts Education pedagogy on the roots of self and community empowerment through connection to liberation education, human rights advocacy, spirituality, and the honoring of ancestry. JL received her MA from NYU, Steinhardt Educational Theatre Program for Colleges and Communities. She is a certified trainer from the founding cohort of El Puente Global Justice Institute (GJI) where she developed and codified curriculum and pedagogical methods of community organizing for the Creative Justice Approach framework. JL is a full- time high school Theatre teacher in East New York, Brooklyn.

Gabriela Alvarez

Gabriela Álvarez, Chef and Founder of Liberation Cuisine and Certified Trainer, Global Justice Institute

Gabriela began cooking after studying public health in academia for several years. The kitchen became her way to tackle inequalities in the food system, while maintaining a focus on individual agency. Her own relationship with food has served as a declaration of self-worthiness in a world that diminishes brown bodies as well as a point of connection to her Puerto Rican ancestry. Her menus are an exploration of her own identities and a reflection of the communities and collectives with whom she collaborates. Chef Gabriela Álvarez cooks in spaces of self-determination, healing, community celebration, and cultural preservation. In 2014 she founded Liberation Cuisine with the intention of nourishing movements for social change with sustainable ingredients and practices. She has cooked for Soul Fire Farm’s Black and Latinx Farmer Immersion Programs as well as Harriet’s Apothecary Healing Villages, Bed-Stuy Pride, and Race Forward's Racial Justice Trainings. Gabriela teaches cooking classes dedicated to food as resiliency and honoring traditional food preparations.

Shy Richardson

Shy Richardson, Trainer, Global Justice Institute

Shy is a writer, performer, and teaching artist from New York City, and she is the Arts and Membership Program Manager of the El Puente Bushwick Leadership Center. She has performed all over New York City, as well as internationally, and has worked with youth from the barrios (hoods) of Barcelona to the borough of Brooklyn. She believes wholly in the transformative nature of the arts, and their value in social justice and reform. She hopes to see the world using her art as a tour guide, as well as continue to use poetry and hip hop to inspire and develop youth at home, and beyond its borders.

Romel Jackson

Romel Jackson, Trainer, Global Justice Institute

Romel is the Program Director of the El Puente S.T.A.R.S. Athletic Program. He was born and raised in Harlem, NY where his passion for sports led him to a scholarship at South Kent prep school, one of the best prep schools in the country that has produced many athletes currently playing in the NBA and NHL. At Emmanuel College in Boston, Romel played four years of basketball and majored in Political Science. Romel learned he had many opportunities as a child that were not available to everyone. Now he tries to forward his blessings to kids today. Romel teaches the importance of discipline and works to develop great habits that can be of use in young people’s future. As a coach, Romel reminds everyone that "Teamwork makes the Dream Work" and that you can accomplish more with more people. In an age when many see things that are dividing us with negativity and violence, Romel is a powerful catalyst for positive change and an effective leader promoting non-violence. He is a powerful mentor, ensuring that young people reach their full potential regardless of where they come from, who they are, or any other circumstances that may seem impossible to overcome.