Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative

Meet the Spring 2019 Cohort

Griffin, Venita - Cropped

Venita E. Griffin is a digital consultant for a national cross-movement campaign that engages African-American, Latinx and LGBTQ communities. In this role she works with nonprofit organizations such as Accelerate Change, PushBlack, ParentsTogether and Open for All; large corporations such as Nike and the NBA; and several major advertising agencies. She possesses over 15 years of corporate and nonprofit digital marketing experience.

Venita’s work has been honored with awards from the Association of National Advertisers (Multicultural Excellence Awards), the Association of Women in Communications, the Communicator Awards and the Publicity Club of Chicago.

A New Orleans native, Venita lives in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. She holds a B.A. in journalism and an M.S. in integrated marketing communications.

Hammond, Roshaynae - Cropped

Roshaynae “Shay” Hammond is currently the Manager of Community Supports with Access Living of Chicago, IL. Shay received her B.A. from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and her M.A. from Lewis University-Romeoville. She has been within the Human Services/Social Services field for 20 years helping people cope with their mental health and community servicing through various programs for multiple non-profit organizations throughout Chicago.

In addition to helping others, Shay has a love for travel, music and watching documentaries. She's married with two children, Kaitlyn and Matthew, and resides within the south suburbs of Chicago.

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Tiffany Isom has been working in the social service field for 15 years, providing services to single women, families and youth. Tiffany is dedicated to helping women who are experiencing homelessness and other barriers to finding safe and affordable housing. She joined Deborah’s Place in 2007 and is currently the Residential Manager of Teresa’s Interim Housing Program. Tiffany also provides leadership on several committees and working groups of the Chicago Continuum of Care. In addition, she is the point person for the West Side during Chicago’s annual Point in Time Count. Tiffany is a sought-after speaker on topics of women and homelessness.

Tiffany earned a bachelor’s degree in family and child studies, with an emphasis on family and individual development, from Northern Illinois University and received a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lewis University.

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Lejia “Jia” Johnson is an advocate for restorative justice and a prison abolitionist. She has had the privilege of working alongside formerly incarcerated persons in pursuit of racial, economic and social justice. As a project manager with Sunshine Enterprises, she manages the partnership with Pathway to Enterprise for Returning Citizens (PERC). She currently serves on the board of Off the Pews: Faith in Action as well as Community Renewal Society. She was recently nominated to join the Board of Visitors for the Center for the Church and Black Experience at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. This year, Jia will co-teach McCormick Theological Seminary’s pilot Certificate in Theological Studies at Cook County Jail.

Jia hails from El Paso and is a recent transplant to the Chicago area from Southern California. She is a third-year Master of Arts in public ministry candidate at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New Mexico State University.

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Madra Guinn Jones is the Senior Manager, Health Equity & Inclusion at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In this role, she supports the Academy’s efforts to advance child health equity and address bias and discrimination; this includes serving as the primary staff person for the Committee on Native American Child Health and (Provisional) Section on Minority Health, Equity and Inclusion. Prior to this, Madra managed school health and pediatric hospice and palliative medicine initiatives at the AAP. Before joining the AAP, she oversaw a home visitation and family support program and managed clinical operations in private and hospital-based practices in Georgia and Washington, DC.

Madra has been proud to call Chicagoland home for nearly 15 years. She has volunteered with Chicago Scholars and New Moms, and served on the OPRF Community Council and Supported Education Association. She received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master of Public Health from Emory University.

Krahenbuhl, Gail - Cropped

Gail Arthurs Krahenbuhl is full-time faculty member in the College Readiness Department at Triton College, where, in addition to her teaching responsibilities, she co-chairs the Presidential Advisory Council for Equity and Inclusion, serves as the Faculty Advisor for SURGE (Sisterhood of Undergraduates Representing Great Excellence) and leads the Social Justice Learning Community for faculty. Gail is also a licensed minister and has served as Director of Women’s Ministries. She is active in several organizations for Black clergy women, including the National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry and Fierce Women of Faith.

Gail has earned master’s degrees in education, school administration and women and gender studies, and she is finishing a fourth master’s degree in English.

Gail currently resides in West Chicago with her husband of 26 years, Tim Krahenbuhl, and is the mother of four children ages 14-24.

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Tiffany McDowell is a community psychologist and thought leader committed to identifying and eliminating systems that push people to the margins of society. Tiffany serves as Director of the Equity Institute at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, and she is co-founder of the Chicagoland Equity Network, where she convened a diverse membership to advance a common equity agenda across Cook County. Tiffany’s passion for social justice and equity drives her approach to ensuring that all voices are valued. Much of her work is focused on building capacity of organizations, community residents and other stakeholders to develop strategies and action plans toward equity and inclusion.

Tiffany holds a Ph.D from The Ohio State University in human development and family science, specializing in couple and family therapy. She received a M.S. in child and family studies from Miami University and a B.S. in psychology from Southern University and A&M College.

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Tamela Milan-Alexander has more than 20 years of experience in the maternal and child health community working as a peer educator, developmental screener and community health worker, as well as a Healthy Start case manager. She has worked at Access Westside Healthy Start for 15 years and is often asked to share her wealth of experience around family engagement and consumer buy-in as a keynote speaker or/and training specialist.

An accomplished public health professional, Tamila has received numerous awards and acknowledgments, including the Chicago Healthy Start Award, the Access Community Health Network Award from Westside Healthy Start for 15 years of service, and recognition of achievement from the Raising Our Daughters Foundation.

Tamila currently serves on the AAP Family and Partnerships Network Executive Committee, as Vice President of the Board of Directors of HealthConnect One, the Board of Directors of EverThrive Illinois, and on the Illinois Community Health Workers Advisory Board.

Odom-McKinney, Crystal - Cropped

Crystal Odom-McKinney is an experienced certified workforce development professional who partners with local and national nonprofits, community partners and businesses to grow their businesses through the training and employment of job seekers. With over 20 years in nonprofit management and expertise in working with special populations (youth, veterans, disability, older adults), Crystal knows what truly drives community collaborations.

Crystal serves as Assistant National Director at Easterseals. In addition to her recent appointment as Communications Director on the Board of Directors for Building Families Together, Crystal serves as Vice President and Membership Committee Chair for Illinois Diversity Council. She is a member of Chicago Jobs Council, a board member for National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and is a Certified Workforce Development Professional (CWDP).

Crystal holds an M.A. in counseling psychology from Lewis University and a B.S. in psychology from Tennessee State University. Crystal is also a veteran of the United States Army.

Odum, Isioma

Isioma Odum received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Social Science with a concentration in Sociology and Psychology, from Washington State University, and her Masters of Art in Social Justice from Loyola University Chicago. Throughout her graduate program, Isioma worked with numerous community organizations such as the Br. David Darst Center, the Health Justice Project, Cornerstone Community Outreach, Sarah’s Circle, Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation, and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

As the current Bronzeville Outreach Coordinator for Faith in Place, Isioma engages communities in dialogue centered on the intersectionality of environmental and racial justice.

Okwu, Chinyere - Cropped

Chinyere “Chi Chi” Okwu is a development officer for World Vision, a global humanitarian aid, development and advocacy organization. In her role, Chi Chi builds strategic partnerships with organizations nationwide to fund global initiatives. Her professional experience includes healthcare consulting and community engagement work in Chicago, and she sits on the board of the Inclusive Collective. She is also a speaker and writer passionate about issues relating to culture, faith and justice.

Chi Chi earned a master’s degree in public health and business administration from the University of Alabama.

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L’Oreal Thompson Payton is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, communications executive, author and mentor. She serves as Director of Communications for OneGoal, a national organization that strives to close the college degree divide between students in high-income and low-income communities.

L’Oreal contributes to outlets including the teen-focused Sesi magazine, HelloGiggles and Brit + Co. Her blog (ltinthecity.com) and weekly newsletter offer self-care tips, professional advice and job opportunities to her followers. Additionally, she sits on the Chicago Literacy Alliance associate board.

L’Oreal earned a communications degree at Loyola University Maryland. She hopes to translate her life experiences and professional learnings into the literary world as a non-fiction author.

Waller, Angela K

Angela K. Waller is dedicated to educating women of color about the importance of overall breast health and the empowerment of patient advocates, following her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2006 at the age of 34. Angela is currently the director of community engagement and strategic partnerships for The Loretto Hospital in Chicago’s Austin community, and she is also the vice president/chef consultant for Catering Out The Box, LLC.

Angela has spoken throughout the Chicagoland area for community and faith-based organizations, businesses, schools and civic organizations, sharing her breast cancer journey and advocacy work. She received her B.S. degree in mass communication/broadcast journalism with a minor in political science from Jackson State University, and her M.A. degree in communications from Governors State University.

Williams, Gloria - Cropped

Gloria A. Williams established The Voices of West Englewood, which has hosted job fairs, housing repair workshops, school supplies distributions and other events. Gloria’s professional background is in the social service field, working on housing, employment placement, ex-offenders services and education issues. Gloria also has professional experience working in several nonprofits and corporations as a job developer in the areas of hospitality, health, warehouse distribution and transportation.

Gloria obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Chicago State University, and she currently attends The Northern Seminary University and is working toward a master’s degree in urban leadership.