March 18, 2022
13 Black and Latinx Women graduate from WEPOWER's Chisolm's Chair Fellowship, prepare to pursue public leadership positions
In its second year, the Fellowship is designed to support and train Black and Latinx women as they pursue public leadership in St. Louis. Graduates will go on to pursue appointed and elected positions with a strong support system of changemakers behind them.
WEPOWER, a community of Black and Latinx changemakers and entrepreneurs who are working together to address systemic injustice celebrated the graduates of the second cohort of their Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship (CCF) at a virtual ceremony on Thursday, February 12.
The graduates successfully completed a rigorous 64-hour program offering leadership development, landscape analysis, campaign readiness training, and community building.
Meet the latest women leaders of WEPOWER!
Educator, Special Schools District of Saint Louis
Kristin Brown is a special school district educator. She is a fierce fighter for equity, having completed the Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship just one year after spending a year pursuing food access justice with the Creative Reaction Lab. Kristin is passionate about consideration of others and the safety of women and children. She hopes to see more opportunities and less violence in her community.
Alderwoman of the 26th Ward of the City of St. Louis
Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard is in her fourth year of serving as alderwoman of Ward 26 in St. Louis City. She is driven by a love for her constituents and cares deeply about seeing all people thrive in the community where she serves.
Fair Housing Education and Outreach Coordinator, St. Louis Metropolitan Equal Housing and Opportunity Council
Marissa Cohen is an equity advocate in her current role as Fair Housing Education + Outreach Coordinator at EHOC, the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. She highly values collaboration, education and inspiration, and longs to see more inspiration to action and less negative narratives in her Florissant community.
Liliana De La Garza
Case Manager, The MICA Project
Liliana De La Garza is devoted to the wellbeing of migrant and immigrant communities in her role as case manager at the MICA Project. Driven by honesty and collaboration, she aims to see more community teamwork.
Congressional Staff Assistant
Jazmyn Holton has no interest in finger pointing; she is looking to make an impact through collective thought. As a former field organizer on the Biden and Obama campaigns, Jazmyn knows the dedication it takes to pursue public office and is exploring what her route will be. She highly values her family, her friends and her community.
Content and Program Coordinator at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Sydni Jackson is an all around administrative powerhouse. As a content and program coordinator at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Sydni is fighting for equitable access to resources. She is fueled by community input. She keeps her days full as a Board member for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, President of Creve Coeur Township Democratic Club, and Vice President of Membership of the National Women's Political Caucus.
CEO, SK2 Enterprises
Sandra Keely, compassionate freedom fighter, is the CEO of SK2 Enterprises, a st. Louis based real estate company. Sandra is driven by the desire to see criminal justice reform, most particularly in the life of her unjustly incarcerated brother. She formerly completed the WEPOWER Power Builders Academy and the fire within her from that experience carried on into the Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship.
Ly Syin Lobster
President, PASS Administrative Support Services
Ly Syin Lobster, President of P.A.S.S., an administrative support service, and a former five-year legislative assistant for the State of Missouri, is a wealth of knowledge as pertains to the legal systems of our state. As a survivor of domestic violence, she is a passionate advocate for those experiencing it, and uses her power to support policy that addresses DV.
Educator, Normandy Schools Collaborative
Gwendolyn Logan-Craig is the teacher you wish you had. She is an educator at Normandy Schools Collaborative and the founder of MVT Tutoring Services. She is fueled by education, equality, family, growth and healing, and is driven to see equitable opportunities realized in the early childhood education sector. She is currently nominated for the LifeChanger of the Year Award for her tireless work at Washington School.
Ward 1 Councilwoman, Ferguson and Community
Councilwoman Phedra Nelson is a Council Member for Ward 1 in Ferguson, Missouri and has been serving there since 2021. She works to achieve the community she dreams of– one with more accessible grocery stores and less liquor stores— each day through her role as Community Wellness Director for the Gateway Region YMCA. Phedra values community awareness, engagement and access to resources for all.
Retired Educator, St. Louis Public Schools
Jacqueline Person is a WEPOWER Power Building Academy alumnae and an advocate for Black and Brown thriving. As a former SLPS educator who now tutors and loves on her grandbabies, Ms. Jacque brings a wealth of experiential knowledge to the Chisholm’s Chair table.
Dr. Jovon Willis
FA Support Specialist, Edward Jones
Dr. Jovon Willis is Founder and CEO of Elitess Consulting Firm, where she works to solve the issue of the lack of African-American women in executive leadership roles. With the dismal facts in mind– no African-American women leading a Fortune 500 company and only 3.2% of all executive leadership roles in the hands of African American women– Jovon offers executive leadership training to high school and college students as well as young professionals. She is passionate about educating young African-American women on how to seek out opportunities, network and utilize their greatest strengths so that they can reach their full potential. As well, Jovon is a FA Support Specialist at Edward Jones.
Karen Rojas Davila
Graduate Student at Saint Louis University
Karen Rojas Davila is a full-time master’s student of Student Personnel Administration at Saint Louis University and a mother to Tarex. She is curious about what it looks like to pursue equity as a school administrator and a learner through and through.
During the Zoom event, graduates were honored with certificates of completion from the WEPOWER team and presented with individual Resolutions from 78th District Missouri State Representative Rasheen Aldridge.
The Fellowship supported a cohort of 13 Fellows over the course of four months. Throughout the program, Fellows attended monthly training sessions, interacted with guest experts, made connections to vendors and consultants, and accessed community-building experiences, peer coaching groups and healing sessions that helped prepare them for public leadership.
When applications for the fellowship launched in August of last year, Founder and CEO of WEPOWER Charli Cooksey said, “We need more unflinching Black and Latinx women like Mayor Tishaura Jones, leading policy and political change in a way that guarantees our city as a place that values young people and as a region that honors the humanity and rights of our growing Black and Brown communities.”
At the closing ceremony, Cooksey showed confidence in each Fellow’s future in public leadership, saying “Congratulations to each of our Chisolm’s Chair graduates. You are the women who will advance policy change in St. Louis and East St. Louis. It is an honor to know you and support you, and we will continue to support you as you grow your network of champions and allies working towards a better St. Louis”
“We set out to meet Black and Latinx women in St. Louis who are unbought, unbossed, and who are committed to leveraging policies that advance the needs of young people and families in our communities,” said Allison Gibbs, Director of Public Leadership at WEPOWER. “That’s exactly who every one of these women are. Every woman in the cohort learned about themselves, our communities, our systems, and each other. They found sisterhood and acquired a support system and tools to help them in their journey to pursue public office and create change. And they taught us a lot along the way.”
Graduates were invited to share how the fellowship affected them and what they will do next. Fellow Karen Rojas said, “I will sit at every table I desire and speak up for and with everyone who feels like they don’t have a voice ensuring folks have the resources they need to thrive .”
Fellow Dr. Jovon Willis shared, “I receive all the love and support and knowledge from our fellowship community. I definitely came in feeling like the underdog; there was so much knowledge–I definitely appreciate being able to learn so much. I promise to leverage my passion and growing knowledge to create change in St. Louis. I will be of service to this cohort, to the community, to whomever needs me.”
To conclude the virtual ceremony, Jessica Wernli, Chisholm’s Chair’s co-facilitator, offered powerful well wishes: “I encourage you all to continue celebrating. Celebrate your milestones. Celebrate your learning. Any opportunity you can take, celebrate. I want to affirm to you all that you have everything you need. You are called to lead for a reason. And whatever that leadership turns out to look like for you, you were called for a reason. We gave you tools to help you along this journey, but just responding to that call is affirmation that you have everything you need already.”
About Chisolm’s Chair
Chisholm's Chair is a training initiative designed to support Black and Latinx women along their public leadership development journey as they explore and consider pursuing publicly elected and appointed office. Named after Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress, his Fellowship works to honor her legacy by inviting and training the next generation of Black and Latinx women to lead policy change in St. Louis and beyond. To date, the Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship has successfully graduated two cohorts of Black and Latinx women.
WEPOWER is a community of Black and Latinx change makers and entrepreneurs building political and economic power in St. Louis. We activate community power to create systems that are just and equitable for everyone. We accelerate community-owned wealth generation. And, we tell human-centered stories that shift beliefs and behaviors. Learn more at wepowerstl.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.