Council, staff and board

Leadership Council

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DR. AMBER S. BISMACK

Amber is co-founder and Director of the Residents Working Against Huron River Flooding in Brighton, MI and Assistant Professor of Science Education at Oakland University. The organization works to engage the community creatively to minimize flooding along the Huron River and Ore Lake and share information about raising structures and upcoming flooding events. She enjoys living with her family in the Huron River Watershed and using her science communication skills to call attention to what needs to change.

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DR. DARSHAN ELENA CAMPOS

Dr. Darshan Elena Campos was raised by her single Askenazi mother on ancestral Awaswas territory in a town now named Santa Cruz, California and became a Fulbright specialist in education and a former professor at Stanford among other learning institutions. In 2018, she returned to her father’s homeland, Borikén, Puerto Rico. Darshan runs “Somos Semillas Antillanas” [“We are Antillean Seeds”] “a mobile seed library and community seed bank in Cabo Rojo that specializes in ancestral and community seeds and the creation of Artisan Gardens, as well as curating a digital living archive of elders’ stories. Her work is meant to both heal her community and help it thrive.

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DEE DEE GREEN

Dee Dee Green is the Area Program Director of AFSC’s Peace by Peace program in New Orleans and Board Member of the Hollygrove Neighbors Association (HNA), formed in 2005 after Katrina. HNA has partnered with Peace by Piece New Orleans for the Sustainable Communities project to increase local access to fresh food through the Hollygrove Community Garden, incorporating youth cultural education and leadership development. Dee Dee has been a proud resident of New Orleans since 2007.

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ARTHUR JOHNSON

Arthur is the Executive Director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), based in New Orleans. Founded in 2006, in the aftermath of Katrina, CSED works to stimulate civic engagement, repopulate, sustain natural systems, assist community leadership and preserve resources in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhoods. With extensive major fundraising and communications experience, Arthur also supports serving youth and young adults in the GulfSouth and the Southeast.

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KEVIN W. SHOCKEY

Kevin is the founder of Ahora, Inc., based in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He is positioning the organization to address rampant food and economic insecurities, and is inspired by the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals as a model for a better future for Puerto Rico. With 27 years of experience in the software industry, holding positions from information system officer to IT Director, etc, Kevin has a unique perspective on how technology can provide solutions for equity and sustainability.

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AMY STELLY

Amy is the Coalition leader for Claiborne Avenue Alliance, a coalition of volunteers, residents, businesses and organizations advocating together for improved environmental, social, and public health conditions in their New Orleans community. Amy is a professional urban planner, but her passion is for reclaiming her once vibrant neighborhood on Claiborne Ave. She is fighting to replace the crumbling Claiborne Expressway section of Interstate 10 with green infrastructure and safe mixed-use development based on the community’s needs.

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SPENCER WELLS

Together with Yvonka Hall, Spencer is a co-leader of Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH) and a lifelong tenants’ rights advocate. He has dedicated his life to improving the health and well-being of Cleveland citizens, many of whom are disproportionately affected by racial inequities. In 2022, Spencer’s priorities are having a LEAD Czar appointed to the Mayor’s Cabinet and to expand childhood lead testing.

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ROMONA TAYLOR WILLIAMS

Romona, Executive Director of Montgomery Citizens United for Prosperity, is a seasoned community and economic development practitioner specializing in equitable and sustainable development. Her guiding vision is to bring together change makers —resources such as scientists, educators, engineers—and communities in need to effect authentic, lasting change. Romona sows those seeds through the ASEED Creek Rangers program creating youth leaders in natural resource stewardship.

Leadership Council Emeritus

DEBRA CAMPBELL

Debra is Secretary and Treasurer for A Community Voice and Chair of its Upper 9th Ward chapter in New Orleans. A native New Orleanian, she cares for a child with a severe disability and an elderly relative in her nineties.  She leads ACV’s work to prevent flooding in the city. She has fought lead contamination of water, and against the closure of the only local post office servicing the 9th ward.

KATHERINE EGLAND

Katherine is co-founder of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO), a Gulf Coast environmental and social justice coalition. She is also the chairperson for the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee for the National Board of Directors of NAACP. She joined Higher Ground to help protect her community against dangerous development of essential wetlands.

CAMILLE HADLEY

Camille is the Program Director of Little Growers Inc. in Melbourne. FL, a youth urban agriculture program which promotes food security, and leadership skills. When Camille’s home flooded during Hurricane Irma, she joined Higher Ground. She is one of 22 grassroots leaders selected for the Sierra Club and Women’s Earth Alliance 2019 U.S. Grassroots Accelerator for Women Environmental Leaders.

SUZANNE HORNICK

Suzanne is the founder and chairperson of the Ocean City Flooding Committee in Ocean City, NJ., a coastal community plagued by regular flooding. Suzanne is a long-time resident of Ocean City (her family has owned their home since the 1940s), and she’s dedicated to promoting flood awareness and education, civic activism and protecting her community for generations to come.

HILTON KELLEY

Hilton is the Founder and Executive Director of the Community In-Power and Development Association Inc. in Port Arthur, TX. When in 2017 Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in his community, the U.S. Navy veteran, accomplished actor and Goldman Prize winning environmental justice activist joined forces with Higher Ground to fight flooding.

SUSAN LILEY

Susan is Co-Founder of Citizens’ Committee for Flood Relief and a passionate community activist. Susan is dedicated to implementing sustainable flood solutions and disaster readiness plans to protect her beloved, historic hometown of DeSoto, MO, which has suffered repeated flooding.

QUEEN QUET

Marquetta L. Goodwine, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, is a preservationist, environmental justice advocate and the founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. She joined Higher Ground to raise public awareness threats to the Gullah/Geechee way of life.


Staff and volunteers

Sheelah Bearfoot

Sheelah Bearfoot (PROGRAM MANAGER)

Sheelah Bearfoot graduated with a degree in Genetics and Plant Biology from UC Berkeley in 2016. She’s Chiricahua Apache, and upon graduation worked at the Native American Health Center in San Francisco as a diabetes educator and referral coordinator before starting a Master’s in Environmental Health Science at Johns Hopkins, continuing her focus on Indigenous health disparities. In her spare time, she’s also a speech and debate coach.

Kalina Browne

Kalina Browne (VOLUNTEER)

Kalina Browne (she/her) is a master’s student in the UCSC Coastal Science and Policy program focused on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) in the environmental field. As an islander, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, she has a strong interest in climate change and justice which was her focus when she worked with Ocean Conservancy as a Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Fellow. Kalina is currently a Green 2.0 fellow, where she is researching how NGOs engage with underrepresented coastal communities.

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Sabrina Chapa (PROGRAM MANAGER)

Sabrina (she/they) is a Xicana from the frontlines of so-called South Texas (Karankawa land). She is a proud “Earth Protector at the intersections of just practice, biocultural ecology, and radical transformation”. She got her M.S. in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management with a focus on Ecological Justice. She’s also a co-researcher with the Tishman Environment and Design Center and volunteer for her community. She was previously Fellow with Our Climate and worked within the NY Renews Coalition.

STEPHEN F. EISENMAN, PH.D (VOLUNTEER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY AND CO-FOUNDER) 

Dr. Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, a widely published writer, critic, and curator, and an activist who has campaigned against climate change, U.S. sanctioned torture, long-term solitary confinement and animal abuse.

HARRIET FESTING, M.PHIL. (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER) 

Harriet has 25 years’ experience managing award winning programs that tackle climate change. Harriet’s experience stretches across diverse fields – water, energy, agriculture, housing – within government, non-profits and academic sectors in the US and UK.

MICHELE GIELIS (COMMUNICATIONS Manager).

Michele has spent the last decade helping nonprofits raise their voice for change. She looks to make action meaningful by connecting people to the technology and messages that bring resonance and resilience. Michele is proud to support the Anthropocene Alliance working to get communities to #HigherGround

KERRI MCLEAN (VOLUNTEER, WRITER AND COMMUNICATIONS EXPERT)

Kerri is a Florida-based educator and writer devoted to telling the stories of heroes on the front lines of environmental justice. Experiencing over 30 years of hurricanes in the Florida Keys, she understands the ravages of climate change and repetitive flooding.

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Poorvaja Rajagopalan (Federal Liaison & Grant Writer)

Poorvaja graduated from the University of Chicago with a double major in public policy (focused on environmental science) and history (focused on British colonialism). She most recently worked as a paralegal at a business immigration firm. In her free time, she watches a lot of movies and reads a lot of comics.

MICHELLE SMITH (OPERATIONS MANAGER)

Michelle is also the Marketing Director for the Community In-Power and Development Association Inc. She received her Bachelor’s degree from HAN University in International Business and Languages, and her Master’s in Business Administration from Radboud University.

Board of directors

JOYCE COFFEE, LEED AP (CHAIR)

Joyce is President of Climate Resilience Consulting, working with leaders to create strategies that protect and enhance markets and livelihoods through adaptation to climate change. Previously, she was managing director of the ND Global Adaptation Initiative, led the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan and worked in water-related international development.

PAUL B. JASKOT, PH.D. (TREASURER)

Paul is Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. His work focuses on the relationship of art, architecture, and urbanism to politics in the modern period. He was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art (2014-2016). From 2008-2010, he was President of the College Art Association.

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REBECCA JIM

Rebecca is the Tar Creekkeeper, founder of Local Environmental Action Demanded in northeast Oklahoma and a member of the Cherokee Nation. L.E.A.D Agency Inc. works to educate the community on environmental concerns, take action to counter environmental hazards that put Northeast Oklahoma’s residents at risk, and partner with other environmental organizations throughout Oklahoma and the nation.

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OMAR MUHAMMAD

Omar is from Augusta, GA where he earned his Biology degree from Augusta State University. He currently works for the Department of Natural Resources as a Fisheries Biologist. He is married to Tawana Muhammad for seventeen years with their son, Aamir, where they reside in Charleston, SC. Omar has worked as a community advocate and activist since 2007 as a volunteer for the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC).

AIDIL OSCARIZ

Aidil is Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for Catalyst Miami, a social and environmental justice nonprofit. She has advocated on behalf of immigrants, and worked to increase the civic participation of underrepresented groups. Aidil holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Sociology from Florida International University and a JD from Fordham University.

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Burrell is a Nonviolence Trainer at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago and has a background in social and environmental justice. He is on the Emerging Leaders Board at the Mikva Challenge and Compassion It Chicago. Burrell is a U.S. Army Veteran from the West Side of Chicago. He practically lives on his bicycle and is an enthusiastic composter.

RAJ PANDYA

Raj is the founding director of the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX). He is also a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, former commissioner of Education and Human Resources for the American Meteorological Society, serves on the board for Public Lab, and chairs the National Academies committee on “Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning.” He holds a Ph.D. from University of Washington in Atmospheric Science.

SUSIE SKARFORD (SECRETARY)

Susie is currently a blogger at Pins and Procrastination. She is passionate about advocating for environmental causes. Susie received her Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.

ERIC TATE, PH.D. (VICE CHAIR)

Eric is Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences.  He teaches and conducts research in the areas of flood hazards, water resources, environmental justice, and social vulnerability, primarily using geospatial indicators to examine environment-society interactions.  Dr. Tate earned his PhD in Geography from the University of South Carolina.

Top illustration: Gordon Parks, Haverstraw, New York. Camp Christmas Seals, 1943. Learn about this artwork.

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