Transformational Leadership Initiative - 2021 Cohort 


Grace Wickerson

Grace is an engineer, organizer, and educator working to help young people critically evaluate structural injustices and design interventions to re-imagine our current systems. They are a recent graduate of Rice University, where they received their B.S. in Materials Science and Nanoengineering and were a Point Foundation Scholar, Buick Achievers Scholar, and Trustee Distinguished Scholar. While at Rice, they served as Student Body President, and sought to re-think the way the University administration, faculty and the student body approached diversity, equity and inclusion, financial inclusion, sustainability, and engagement with the larger Houston community. For their work, they were recognized as one of the Outstanding Seniors of the Class of 2020, an honor only awarded to ten students in a +1000 person class. They also initiated the only class on design and social good at Rice University, working with +30 students over three years. Now, as a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, Grace is utilizing their engineering knowledge to design biodegradable, biocompatible therapeutic medical devices for chronic diseases and working to increase access to innovative, cutting-edge healthcare interventions. They are continuing their work in design education, founding Design for Equitable Systems to research educational methodologies that show young people how to understand the way a system is constructed to then understand how they can redesign them for a more equitable future. Their future goals are to create a think-tank for collaboration across fields of expertise on addressing systemic challenges in healthcare, education, the environment, etc.

Jia Hurd

Jia (They/She) is a Black non-binary femme from the South Bronx of NYC. They are a suicide attempt survivor, a creative, Mental Health advocate and community organizer. She is pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Social Work at CUNY Hunter College. She is a New York Transgender Advocacy Fellow for 2020. Jia has 7 years of non-profit program management + 4 years of Mental Health advocacy experience. She trained as a holistic wellness practitioner at The Reciprocity Foundation and an end of life hospice volunteer with New York Visiting Nurses Services. Jia has 7 years on successful social justice movements for LGBTQ+ and Black liberation with Black Trans Media, The New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Hetrick-Martin Institute, Cookies’s Joint, The Audre Lorde Project, BUFU, Equality 4 Flatbush, Sadie Nash Feminist Foundation, Black Lives Matter, BYP 100, and F2L.

Alec Fischer

Alec Fischer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, digital content creator, TEDx speaker, and nationally featured LGBTQ+ advocate based in Minneapolis. At age 17, he created a short documentary titled “Minnesota Nice?” addressing the rising suicide rates of high school students in Minnesota. The documentary led to legislative changes throughout the state and was screened in schools across the world.  As a sophomore in college, Alec was named a Dalai Lama Fellow for his advocacy work and has since been featured by sites including MTV, Buzzfeed, The Washington Times, and USA Today. Now a 27 year-old digital influencer and founder of the media company Fischr Media, he continues to use storytelling as a catalyst for conversation and change. His latest documentary-series, Covid Confessions, highlights stories from more than 100 workers across 15 industries impacted during the pandemic.

Mirandy Li

Mirandy grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This inspired her to go to medical school, after witnessing the health and resource disparities that resulted from the storm. She attended Emory University, where she studied biology and global health.

After graduating, Mirandy returned to New Orleans as an MD/PhD student at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). As the only queer woman of color in her medical school class, she joined, led, and created organizations that focused on student activism. As co-president of Tiger Pride, Mirandy organized community seminars on PrEP, and regularly volunteered to test individuals for HIV and Hepatitis C at local homeless shelters. In her second year of medical school, Mirandy established the Diversity Advisory Committee at LSUHSC, through which she facilitated a monthly “Social Justice Talk,” where students discussed issues of social justice on campus and in the community. Mirandy was also co-president of LSUHSC’s chapter of Medical Students for Choice (MSFC), where she organized student trainings on IUD insertion, contraception counseling, and abortion. For her work, she was selected as a MSFC Reproductive Health Extern in 2017, and was awarded the Women in Medicine Leadership Award in 2018.

Mirandy decided to pursue her PhD in public health, where she could research health disparities that marginalize vulnerable populations. Her dissertation focuses on smoking cessation strategies for LGBTQ populations. After graduating with her MD/PhD, she plans to continue her health disparities research, while also being an abortion provider.

Liana Giangiuilo


Liana Giangiulio is a white nonbinary playwright and performance artist from Philadelphia. Their writing breaks down the conventional barriers placed gender, culture, language, and sex as means to cultivate an American society where multiplicities of experiences are welcomed, prioritized, and celebrated. Their plays have been workshopped and performed by Reground Theatre Collective (Love in the Valley of Mexico and Camp Out), and featured in Vintage Soul’s Quick Quarantined Festival (Round 5), and Dysfunctioning Just Fine and Shea Theater Art’s Queerantine Virtual Fringe Festival (To Be Out and Unafraid). Previous Boston performance credits include the world premieres of The Nestwives of the Cretaceous (Boston University), Dead House (Boston Playwright’s Theatre), and Make Way for Ducklings (Wheelock Family Theatre). For their senior thesis, Liana wrote a new collection of trans centered monologues for the BU Trans Monologue Workshop, for which Liana won two school sponsored grants to facilitate and execute.

Follow Liana on Instagram @liana_tcg to see their love of fitness, food, and Latin dance.

Yabundu Conteh

Yabundu Conteh is a proud Sierra Leonean-American from The Bronx, NY. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Sociology and Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College where she is set to graduate in May this year. She aspires to use artistic mediums to connect and educate young people about the numerous social issues affecting our world today. Outside of her time in school, Yabundu enjoys exploring global perspectives through the worlds of film, fashion, music and creative writing.

Venancio Cortez

Venancio (they/she), is a trans fem artist, grassroots activist, and proud member of NYCs Ballroom community stationed out in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Their dream is to amplify the voices of their black trans and queer siblings through visual works of art and creating space for continuous empowerment and support for her community. Venancio understands that the world we live in today wouldn’t exist without the contributions of black queer folk but especially, black trans women. So during this time of radical change and self-exploration; Venancio doesn’t just want to have a seat at the table for the sake of "representation"—But more importantly, she wants to make sure her community rightfully has their own dining room... To bask in the glory of their very own creations.

Hao Zhou

Hao Zhou is a filmmaker and photographer from a rural district in southwest China. Often informed by personal experiences, Hao’s work centers on LGBTQ+ people resisting marginalization. Hao has produced several short films as well as a feature film and play. After working in Europe and Asia, Hao moved to Iowa, where he is pursuing graduate degrees in filmmaking and photography. Hao has continued to carry out LGBTQ+ media projects in Iowa, focusing on BIPOC and immigrant LGBTQ+ communities. Hao’s latest project, funded by Art With Impact (AWI), explores queer immigrant mental health and has been featured in AWI’s public mental health workshops. In addition to creative work, Hao is passionate about advancing inclusive, accessible education. With support from the University of Iowa’s Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Hao is developing a new diversity-centered course and workshop. Hao has also won a UIowa Libraries grant to create open-access course materials aimed at reducing educational costs.

Je'Jae Daniels

Mx. Je'jae Cleopatra Daniels (she/they/qween) is a new York city based teaching artist, social practioner, resource navigator and organizer of over 15 years who identifies as nonbinary, queer, a Jew of color with disabilities and of Mizrahi heritage. They are a 2017 graduate of CUNY with a cum laude in Media & Gender Studies. Their artistic brand "Mx.Enigma" has produced international award winning films, exhibitions, and has provided DEI creative solutions as a consulting business to NGOs, city/state agencies, at-risk youth and more like Footsteps, Reelworks, DYCD, Educational Alliance, Heritage of Pride etc, where their main passion is to curate anthologies with their resilient clients to promote restorative justice and build a network of survivors through art therapy. In 2016, they were a Out in Tech Mentee of its first class, where they worked with their mentor at Facebook's Education department to produce DEI & Culture events on trans inclusion and awareness.

In 2017, they were a Americorps Urban Farming fellow with Green City Force, where they spent their year building 2 sustainable farms in NYCHA developments across NYC, on top of harvesting 20k veggie produce, for local residents for free with cooking demos and nutritional demos and compost to apply at home and spearheaded a public health campaign with the NYC Dept. of Health on NYCHA going smoke free along with their outreach team. In 2018, Je'Jae became the 1st nonbinary community board 3 member for city council elected by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and tv host on American TV at MNN where their talk show "Queer Justice" awarded for highlighting experts, findings and advancement around qtpoc & immigrant causes. They're a 2019 alumni of Y.E.S Camp which trains emerging organizers for progressive causes where they went onto housing justice campaigns with Audre Lorde Project & Sylvia Rivera Law Project. They are a 2020 fellow at Equality NY working on virtual campaigns to tackle hate crimes statewide through artivism.

In 2021 on top of being a TLI fellow with The Pride Network where they plan into next year to further their anthology work but produce a magazine highlighting creative work representating Trans voices of color and Queer Asylum Seekers/ Dreamers from MENA with SQMN. When they aren't working or organizing in person, they lead 5 mutual aid associations online for the Queer/Trans community: Queer Media Network, Trans Writers Collective, NYC Queer Activists, Trans Tech Professionals and NYC Queer Artists. Through financial assistance, editing support and referalls for publication, all to create a economy where LGBTQ+ members and their allies especially people of color can rely on their own community to advance their portfolios and careers in tech, media, arts, journalism and much more! 

Yeshiva University Pride Alliance

The Yeshiva University Pride Alliance is an unofficial group of undergraduate YU students hoping to provide a supportive space on campus for all students, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, to feel respected, visible, and represented. Our goal is to foster awareness and sensitivity to the unique experiences of being a LGBTQ+ person in YU and the Orthodox community, and to advocate for their unconditional inclusion and acceptance. Our space will promote open dialogue for all, regardless of religious views and political affiliations.