Wells Fargo Global Impact Challenge


We are excited to announce the next cohort of educators that serve middle and high school students from across the United States that are participating in the 2019 Global Impact Challenge, a diversity and inclusion competition designed to spark the best ideas from students for building a world free of barriers, stereotypes and discrimination. Our goal is to equip these teachers with the necessary tools to help students dream big and break down barriers through the Global Impact Challenge.

The educators selected for the 2019 Global Impact Challenge include:

Ryan Crete

Ryan Crete

Ryan Crete is currently serving Hudsonville High School in the Greater Grand Rapids, MI area as an Assistant Principal. He grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and attended a private Catholic high school. This upbringing and his large family instilled his values of commitment, integrity, and perseverance. Growing up in this urban setting also prepared Ryan to be a leader in equity and diversity. As a college student, he began working for an after-school program to serve underprivileged students of poverty in the K-5 grade levels. Through working in this program and getting to know the families, he found a passion for providing opportunities for all students to learn and become successful global individuals. Ryan decided to switch my degree from pre-dental to secondary administration. In his eight years in education, he have served as a coach, teacher, and administrator and have always been passionate and highly involved in finding ways for all students to connect and for creating the best culture for student learning and achievement. Ryan’s wife, Angela, and I are blessed with two boys, Mason (3) and Logan (1), and are expecting their third child in November 2019. They enjoy watching Detroit and University of Michigan sports, boating, snowmobiling, golf, family time with their boys, and being outdoors enjoying the beauties of Michigan.

When Ryan was approached about the No Barriers Global Impact Challenge program, he was immediately drawn to the opportunities that this program will provide his entire district. His school district has grown significantly in the past several years and has gone from a rural area to a suburban area with ever-changing demographics. With this change, it has been essential in their work to provide training and education for both staff and community on the importance of embracing diversity and inclusion. By keeping this a focus in the community, they continue to strive to keep the small town values prevalent in schools by ensuring all students have a place to connect. This program will open and create new opportunities and other ways for the students to get involved in a greater cause.

In Hudsonville, diversity and inclusion means embracing all kids for who they are and educating the community on the challenges that certain groups face in the world. Diversity means broadening perspectives to understand and embrace different races, cultures, religions, socioeconomic statuses, and personalities. It is promoting equity and equality in their school. Inclusion means finding a place for students to thrive and a place for them to get involved so that ALL students feel like a part of the culture and fabric of the organization. Ryan’s school and his students demonstrate the desire to do this daily when they look at the special education program. They host an annual Special Olympics basketball tournament every year and the teachers give up a day of instruction to pack the gym and support students with disabilities from several local districts. As they look to improve the culture, the area of diversity is becoming more relevant in the district and students and staff are looking for opportunities to educate themselves to become ambassadors for inclusion and diversity within the Hudsonville community.

Erica Szilagyi

Erica Szilagyi

Erica grew up in the big cities of Philadelphia and Detroit, but now lives in the resort town of Naples, Florida. Her parents were involved in civil rights and she spent her elementary years in integrated schools in Philadelphia. When they divorced, she moved to Detroit and went through forced busing and the struggle to integrate those schools. In this very chaotic time, Erica spent some years involved in drugs and she took her GED before her class graduated from high school. She then moved to Texas and went to college on and off while supporting herself. She came to Florida on vacation and met her first husband. Erica stayed there to raise a family, and she has gone through many personal challenges along the way.

One of the ways that she has dealt with these challenges is through running. A neighbor introduced her to jogging when she was 14 during the 1970’s. Running gave her such a great feeling and took her to such a wonderful place; that this is one of the things that has kept me going in my life. It has contributed positively to Erica’s physical, mental and emotional health and has been a constant through good times and bad. This along with reading and art are her passions.

Erica became an educator because she wanted to help kids and because she felt that having an informed public is of such importance. She taught environmental science for over 20 years and then went to graduate school to become a guidance counselor. Erica loves this position because it allows her to interact in a more one on one fashion and to have direct impact in a students’ life.

She felt drawn to the Global Impact Challenge Program because it seems to be a program that can unite youth in seeing that although we all have different abilities, but we also all have different challenges as well. Teenagers often feel alone in their struggles, but to see people who may not have the advantages that they have can act as an empowering force. Diversity and inclusion to Erica means to understand that we may all come from different places and cultures and have different challenges, but there is a place for all of us. We can learn from each other and develop empathy for each other and therefore have a more accepting and peaceful world.

Olivia Chadwick

Olivia Chadwick

Olivia (Libbie) Chadwick is from Castleton, NY, a small town outside of Albany, NY. When she is not teaching, she enjoys baking, reading, walking, and spending time with her husband, Scott, and two young children, Sophia and Lucas. After trying out careers in marketing, hospitality, and accounting, she felt called to enter the education field so her work could make a positive difference in the world. She finds working with young people extremely rewarding, entertaining, and exciting.

Libbie was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge because, as a high school special education and English teacher, she is dedicated to pursuing opportunities for young people of varying strengths and ability levels. She aspires to help her students recognize their strengths instead of feeling limited by labels and their perceived differences. In a culture that glorifies the college ‘track’ as the primary way to a successful life, she works hard to help students recognize the options they have to positively contribute to society and lead fulfilling lives, even if college is not a goal for them in their futures.

Libbie’s primary hope is for people in her school and the surrounding community to see and recognize the potential in all individuals, instead of seeing differences or limitations. She’d also like to empower every individual to see that they have the power to be a positive influence in someone else’s life. Through a program that celebrates and embraces diversity and inclusion, she wants everyone to see we each have the power to be a light to others who may be struggling through darkness in their own lives. To Libbie, “diversity and inclusion” means people accepting and embracing our shared humanity, while also celebrating what makes us different and unique. She believes that when people take the time to listen to each other and work together, anything is possible!

Leah Mueller

Leah Mueller

Leah Mueller was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. She is a singer, actor, and educator who is passionate about making the world a better place. Leah attended Penn State University for her undergraduate degree in Music Education and went on to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London for her Master of Arts in Theatre Studies. Leah loves being in the classroom and onstage, but also finds joy in a long hike or backpacking trip.

While in a production of “The Music Man JR” in 6th grade, Leah noticed that her music teacher was running the show and decided that being a music teacher was the role for her! She went on to pursue this goal and kept studying theatre along the way. Now Leah combines her two loves and teaches both music and theatre at Delta Middle School in State College, PA. The Delta Program is a democratic school within the State College Area School District that celebrates shared decision making between the whole community: teachers, students, parents, and administration.

Leah was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge because of the focus on diversity and inclusion. She is passionate about educating her students about privilege and the social categories that define us. Leah strives to help her students learn the stories of others through theatre and music so that they can be more empathetic individuals. Leah hopes that her students will become more connected to their local community through the Global Impact Challenge. She hopes that gaining proximity with those who have a different way of walking through life will open up their world view and create a more loving community.

Andrew Hinerfeld

Andrew Hinerfeld

Andrew Hinerfeld is a teacher, father, husband, creator and explorer of life who presently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. After spending 13 years working on different vegetable farms in five different states, traveling abroad and completing a solo cross-country bike tour. Andrew settled down in Athens, Georgia. In Athens, Andrew started his own farming business, got married and became a father. Soon after the birth of his first child, he began his teaching career. Andrew’s shift to teaching was driven in part to help overcome the financial insecurity of farming and to utilize his experience and interest in experiential education -though this time focusing on fostering a passion for learning, creating and exploration in kids with various disabilities.

Andrew is now completing his thirteenth year as a public school teacher, presently as a middle school teacher of students with more severe needs in Loveland, Colorado. Working with students that have such disabilities as autism spectrum disorders, Downs Syndrome, significant cognitive disorders and other pervasive developmental disabilities, Andrew is able to bring his extensive life experiences and interests into his classroom to make learning engaging, purposeful, and multi-faceted, while also being able to differentiate for the substantial diversity of his students’ strengths and weaknesses. Andrew’s lessons and activities are often related to his interests and experience cooking, baking, playing music, photography, traveling, growing food, cycling, hiking, parenting, yoga and meditation.

Andrew was drawn to No Barriers’ Global Impact Challenge program for several reasons. The concept of a diverse group of students working together to tackle a real world problem fits perfectly with many of the guiding principles of the school where Andrew now works. Andrew’s students work with “peer buddies” on a regular basis doing small activities that typically have a collaborative problem solving aspect to them. The Global Impact Challenge will allow Andrew and a group of students at his school to take this work to the next level. Another draw to the Global Impact Challenge, is that Andrew’s son has participated in No Barriers programs, as well as did a class project on Erik Weihenmayer. Hence, Andrew already has strong admiration for the work of No Barriers. Finally, Andrew hopes that taking part in the No Barriers Summit and the Global Impact Challenge will help Andrew go further with his greater life pursuits related to experiential education and getting more kids into the larger classroom that exists outside of the cinder block walls of traditional schools.

For Andrew, diversity and inclusion primarily means allowing people to work and interact together to enrich everyone’s life experience and the greater world around them, regardless of the characteristics, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses that the individuals possess. Creating an environment where mutual respect and compassion are instilled in all, and where all individuals can be both challenged and achieve success in a safe environment is paramount for diversity and inclusion to be a positive experience. In such a healthy environment, the different skills, traits and perspectives that people bring are analogous to the many different parts that make a complex machine perform its function effectively. The teachers or other types of leaders in a diverse and inclusive setting ideally exist to help facilitate the processes that occur within the group, help provide guidance and help overcome the inevitable obstacles that arise when individuals are purposefully challenged in a myriad of ways to collaboratively work on common goals.

Ashley Young

Ashley Young

Ashley has been in education for over 12 years. She holds Bachelor of Science in Speech Communications from Northwest Missouri, and a Master’s in Education from Concordia University, Texas. Ashley has taught in Missouri and Texas Schools. She has been a Social Studies teacher, and a Special Education teacher. Aside from teaching, she also coached Soccer, Cross Country, Volleyball, Basketball, and Track. Ashley has lived in multiple states, which has impacted how she views the world and how she interacts with it. Ashley became an educator because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around her. Ashley’s grandfather served in World War II, and lost an arm in battle; he taught her that no matter what comes your way in life, you look at what you have, and not at what you don’t, in order to succeed.

Ashley was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge because as a teacher, she sees the barriers students face, and wants to empower students, and give them the tools needed to breakdown those barriers of stereotypes and discrimination. She sees the Global Impact Challenge as a solution to the many problems people of today face; whether a physical, emotional, or mental barrier they are trying to overcome.

Diversity and Inclusion, two words that foster such emotion, when really it is the differences that makes everyone unique, while wanting to be included. Everyone needs to learn that we have more in common than not, and to celebrate who we are as individuals and collectively. Diversity and Inclusion – makes us stronger; makes us better.

Deborah Massengill

Deborah Massengill

Deborah Massengill has a BS in science education from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Masters in science education from NCSU. She has been at Enloe High School in Raleigh, NC since 1989 and has taught biology, ap environmental science and a variety of other science courses. She currently is serving as the coordinator of the medical bioscience academy which is a NAF distinguished academy of over 290 students. Debbie chose to be a teacher because she wanted to help encourage and inspire youth.

Debbie was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge because she saw that there are many obstacles that students have to face and that in order for a school to aim for equity each of these barriers needs to be addressed. Even though there has been much progress in education over the last 30 years, she feels that are still many, if not more, barriers that students have to face today than they did in the past.

Debbie hopes that by participating in the Global Impact Challenge that she can alleviate one of the barriers that students have to face. Many organizations, clubs and groups aim to be more diverse yet students are not applying to them due to the fact that they do not have the confidence that they will be successful. Diversity means having a group of people that have many differences: ethnicity, race, gender, physical and learning abilities, etc. Inclusion is making sure that a group is diverse. In order for inclusion to occur, many barriers need to disappear.

DeWayne Crowder

DeWayne Crowder Jr.

Dewayne is 35 years of age and from Carrollton, Georgia. DeWayne enjoys everything outdoors and is a true country southern man at heart. He loves SEC football (Go Dawgs), fishing, sports, and is an avid obstacle mud runner. He has done over seventeen races and has plans to do many more in the future. DeWayne likes to spend time with his kids and enjoys watching them participate in all their activities. He became an educator because he has always had a special place in his heart for helping kids and being apart of their success. Dewayne has coached many young student athletes and has been a vital part of their success on and off the field. After many career changes he finally found his place in education and hasn’t looked back since.

Dewayne saw the GLobal Impact Challenge through fb and was immediately hooked. He saw an opportunity to help make a difference and to be apart of something special. After reading about the challenge he immediately approached his principal with the opportunity which without hesitation mr. Thomaston gave him the go ahead to apply for the opportunity.

His goal is to bring students and the community together through the Global Impact Challenge. Dewayne interprets diversity as an opportunity to explore the world without leaving the room. Inclusion to him means to give everyone no matter the opportunity to express themselves and use the God given talents to be successful.

McKenna Taylor

McKenna Taylor

Originally from SoCal, McKenna is going on her fifth year teaching high school English in San Francisco Unified School District. When she’s not lesson planning, McKenna enjoys taking hikes to city parks, reading more and more books, writing poetry, and traveling to local and international destinations to broaden her worldview.

McKenna decided to become an educator after being placed into an English class to peer tutor during her senior year of high school. She admired the work her mom put into teaching for 40 years but wasn’t sure if she was cut out for the same field. After working with students on the margins, though, McKenna realized that teaching was a calling and has pursued it ever since. Choosing a continuation high school for her first four years of teaching, McKenna wanted to learn the gaps keeping students from being successful at comprehensive high schools and bring her knowledge gained to these schools. In doing so, she hopes to support students in staying engaged and taking ownership of their learning earlier on in their high school journeys. With her school’s librarian, she started a magazine after school club that turned into a Writing for Publication Class for students to earn English or elective credits. McKenna is proud of her students who consistently showed up for the extracurricular club and made publication possible for future students as well.

Now that she is transitioning to a comprehensive high school, McKenna learned about the Global Impact Challenge Program and felt it was a great opportunity to integrate into a new school and help students connect with each other and with the issues facing their communities. From her experience recruiting students to join the magazine club, McKenna hopes to establish a strong community of students with diverse learning needs and perspectives and help build empathy–one of her core goals of teaching. Her former students already showed deep interest in naming injustices currently facing San Francisco residents, including gentrification and homelessness. These are issues McKenna also deeply cares about and she is curious to see what direction her students take with the Global Impact Challenge.

For McKenna, diversity and inclusion means an authentic community of learners with different perspectives. These learners are willing to be vulnerable, ask for help, and become aware of the ways in which they hold different privileges and act on this awareness to shape a better and more just society. By participating in the Global Impact Challenge, McKenna hopes to see her students gain a fuller understanding of what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes and enact effective change to help those in need. She looks forward to growing alongside her students as they enter this neat learning experience.

Jeremy Aten

Jeremy Aten

Jeremy is a Title 1 Reading Specialist from an intermediate school. He is National Board Certified and has over 20 years of classroom experience. Jeremy traveled to Japan as a 2006 recipient of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Scholarship, and to Greece and Turkey as a 2011 recipient of the Fulbright-Hayes Scholarship. Most recently, Jeremy completed a 12-month fellowship through the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship that culminated with an international field experience to South Africa. Besides traveling, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his family and hopes to hike the Appalachian Trail someday.

Jeremy became an educator to make a difference. He understands that our future lies within each child, and they deserve the most complete, sound education possible. He is excited about the future possibilities that may develop while working with his sixth-grade team on the Global Impact Challenge. He anticipates learning a lot from his team as they tackle this challenge through their eyes.

Diversity and inclusion means that one possesses a global mindset. At every opportunity, we must be intentional with our teaching to increase the global awareness within our students. Simply having a passport will not cut it. We must teach empathy, kindness, and a respect for all cultures, especially ones that are different than our own.

Chantha Toeum

Chantha Toeum

Chantha Toeum graduated from Suffolk University with a B.A. in Sociology. His college studies lead him to work with youth of all ages, whom he believes are the driving force that will help create change and a better future. Shortly after graduation, he began working at the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, a non-profit organization, where he has held various positions within a span of six years. He was then hired to fulfill the role of the Pre-teen Specialist at the Edgerley Family South Boston Club.

Chantha works directly with members between the ages of 11 through 13 years old. His work consists of creating programs to promote and develop healthy lifestyles, social and emotional wellness, leadership, character development, and education. He was inspired by several teachers in his formative years that dedicated countless hours to coaching and mentoring him to stay on the positive track despite the challenges in his neighborhood. At the time, Somerville was plagued with high rates of substance abuse, violence, and low graduation rates from high school. When he realized the members he serves were experiencing the same challenges he faced as a youth, he dedicated himself to model the teachers that inspired and motivated him to always see the positive, even in the most adverse situations.

As the Torch Club Advisor, Chantha supports a preteen- lead program that actively practices the importance of community service and social responsibility. Over his four-year tenure as Torch Club Advisor to the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, he has initiated several programs such as, The Social Justice League, Food for Thought Book Club, and Bully Prevention Week, just to name few. These programs encourage the club kids to share the love, and embrace diversity and inclusion through team building, games, open dialogue, and performing arts. His mission now is to create greater awareness and active participation on a larger scale beginning within the city of Boston to the United States, and even all seven continents.

Carly McQuown

Carly McQuown

Carly McQuown is from Salisbury, Maryland, a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She attended Towson University to receive a BA in History with a focus on Latin American Studies. After college she traveled around the United States in search of adventure and direction. Ultimately this time lead to self-reflection that made clear she was to become an educator. This led to her attending Salisbury University to obtain a Master’s in Teaching degree. She worked in middle schools for 3 years and is currently teaching high school psychology.

The Global Impact Challenge program is a unique opportunity to facilitate growth in students on multiple fronts. Not only will students think deeply about their personal contribution to their communities, they have the opportunity to see that a small group of dedicated citizens can bring about social change. This opportunity to inspire my students to see themselves as part of a greater whole is one that any educator should be humbled to take part in. The hope for this experience is to be a domino that inspires empathy and self-efficacy for a lifetime within the students who participate.

Diversity and inclusion represent an opportunity to actualize the American spirit. Pluralism is what makes America unique and frustrating to those that are not accepting to new ideas. It inspires progress and develops empathy. As acceptance and inclusion spread, society becomes gentler and more advanced. Without these ideals and focus society does not progress.

Kenneth Waters

Kenneth Waters

Dr. Kenneth D. Waters is originally from Philadelphia “Philly”, PA. To date, he lives in the Washington, DC metro area, where he’s a current faculty member at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac, MD. In this capacity, he serves as the school’s Diversity Coordinator, and teaches in its Upper School’s English and Humanities Department. Dr. Waters is also one of the founding leaders for Black Male Educators for Social Justice; a professional membership and activist organization dedicated to advancing the recruitment, development, and retention of Black male educators.

Earning his B.A. from Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and his M.S. and Ed.D. from Neumann University, Aston, PA, Dr. Waters pursued a career is education, primarily because of his passion for helping students, specifically those learners who are considered marginalized, maximize their academic, social, civic, and professional potential. As such, his professional career extends throughout the K-12 and postsecondary academic arena, where he’s held positions in public, charter, and private school environments. His collegiate instructional experience includes time teaching at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level, where he’s also served as a content specialist for doctoral level students. Moreover, his research, expertise, and training revolves around cultural diversity, equity, and inclusivity; how one’s differences impacts his or her societal progression; school reform; restorative practices; workforce development and training; education in the 21st century; education law; systems thinking; and leadership. Dr. Waters has also been featured as an expert consultant for NBCNews and has been asked to present nationally, regionally, and locally on issues related to implicit bias, social justice, culturally relevant instruction, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce, and educating students of color.

Learning about Global Impact, its mission, and its Challenge Program, Dr. Waters perceives this as an opportunity to further his knowledge base about how to develop and advance students’ capacities and abilities, so that they are equipped with the resources and skills to positively contribute to a world that interdependent and constantly evolving.

Being able to interact, and effectively collaborate with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are factors that contributes to one’s ability to thrive in today’s global economy. However, without considering, understanding, or respecting differences, a student’s identified success can be prolonged or derailed. To curtail this possibility, implementing equitable educational policies, curricula, and programming to meet the diverse needs of students is paramount. In short, the true meaning of diversity and inclusion, is when educational systems ensure each student, despite his or her background or status, has the same access as his or her peers.

When Dr. Waters is not educating, he enjoys spending time with his 12-year-old son, reading, cooking, traveling, collecting bow-ties, golfing, working out, and napping. He’s also known to enjoy cigars

Anupa Kotipoyina

Anupa Kotipoyina

Anupa Kotipoyina is the social studies and ESE teacher at Pace Center for Girls of Polk County in Lakeland, FL. She grew up in Lakeland, FL and studied history and education at the University of Florida.

Her desire to become an educator stemmed from the impact that her own teachers had in her life and is a calling she has felt for many years. When looking for her first teaching job, Anupa was immediately drawn to Pace’s mission of helping girls and young women through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. She felt sure that she wanted to join Pace during the interview process when three Pace students joined as interviewers and had prepared questions to ask about her teaching style and why she wanted to work at Pace. It was clear then how committed the staff are to making thoughtful and intentional choices, big and small, that embody the philosophy behind Pace. One of her favorite aspects of the Pace model is how closely teachers and counselors work together to support students in and outside of the classroom.

As a new teacher, Anupa aims to participate in as many enriching professional development opportunities as possible. The opportunity for guided hands-on learning alongside her students, rather than simply attending a training independently, made the Global Impact Challenge stand out from other programs. By participating in the Global Impact Challenge, Anupa hopes both she and her students are challenged by new ideas and perspectives that will inform both the development of their project proposal and their own efforts to be more inclusive in their personal lives. She is excited for the unique opportunity to work collaboratively with students on a creative and meaningful project that extends beyond Pace and the school curriculum. The process of reflecting critically on their own experiences and the experiences of others will be an important reminder to students that the challenges they face have given them unique insights and strengths to offer the world.

Too often diversity and inclusion can simply be buzzwords, afterthoughts, or boxes to check off. Anupa strongly believes that diversity and inclusion are key foundational pillars of any school and community and that this foundation can only be sustained through a culture of continual learning, teamwork, and reflection. One of her favorite tools for cultivating discussion in the classroom about the detriments of stereotypes and lack of exposure to diverse experiences is the TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie. Students can always relate to the experience of feeling labeled by other people, as well as to the experience of viewing others through the lens of limited information.

Kristen Conrad

Kristen Conrad

Kristen Conrad is an LMSW who graduated with her Masters in 2010 from Grand Valley State University. Her undergraduate studies were completed at Merrimack College outside of Boston, MA. During her undergraduate studies, Kristen ran experiential education programs through North Andover Youth Services. She facilitated elementary through adult age groups through ice breakers, low initiatives and high ropes elements. Kristen designed experiential education multi week programs for at risk youth which included ropes course activities as well as hiking and climbing.

Kristen currently works at Disability Network Northern Michigan as the Transition Manager focusing on transition age youth with disabilities. She runs programs within the schools as well as out in the Community. Kristen’s passion for experiential education started when she completed a 22-day Outward Bound experience at the age of 19. Some of her other accomplishments include hiking to Bright Angel Creek Campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon as well as summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Kristen has experienced first-hand the positive, empowering influence that experiential opportunities can offer.

Kristen knew since she was a child that she wanted to be a social worker. She has a passion for helping empower others to reach their full potential. She operates from a person centered, strengths-based approach in which she believes that happiness, independence and success are all defined by individuals themselves. Kristen has worked to develop her skill set to best support the consumers with whom she works. Kristen strongly believes that awareness brings change. When people are exposed to various perspectives, opportunities and barriers, they have a choice to sit silently or work for change. This can be change on a personal, community or global level. Any level of change starts with an individual and Kristen believes in the opportunity for all individuals to influence positive change.

Kristen was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge because she sees it as an avenue for change. The program brings together individuals with a variety of strengths and challenges. It provides the students the opportunity to identify an area that would benefit from change and help make that change a reality. The program aligns with Kristen’s personal philosophy which embraces the importance of empowerment, self-awareness and the power to choose one’s perspective in all situations. Instead of looking at a barrier as unbreakable, Kristen sees the Global Impact Challenge as offering students the opportunity to think outside the box, recognize their individual strengths and struggles and be creative in developing a solution to a problem. This process can be used to be successful in all areas of life.

Kristen hopes that participating in the Global Impact Challenge will increase the community’s exposure to barriers that some individuals encounter and the importance of breaking down these barriers. People do not work for change if they do not know that change is needed. This challenge will also give an experience to students that can lead to improved self-awareness, personal and community growth. The students will have the opportunity to identify a goal for change and see that change turn into a reality. This concrete example of success can help encourage students to continue growing on this path of making a difference.

Disability Network of Northern Michigan believes, “It’s our mission to promote personal empowerment and positive social change for people with disabilities.” The agency embraces the philosophy of access for everyone. This means all individuals have the right to make their own choices, set their own goals and decide how they want to reach their goals. Kristen believes that all people have strengths and all people have struggles. It’s how one learns to manage these aspects that can influence achievements and successes. Kristen believes that Diversity & Inclusion means that all individuals, regardless of strengths and struggles, should have equal opportunities to education, community resources, recreation and leisure activities. The Global Impact Challenge helps to remove barriers that prevent people from having access to these opportunities by increasing individual, community and potentially global exposure to a barrier while offering a potential solution for positive change.

Bonnie Cowen

Bonnie Cowen is originally from Richfield, OH and has spent most of her adult life living in Fort Collins, CO. She enjoys experiencing new cities, cooking and creating new recipes, spending time at the river, reading a good book, rooting for the Chicago Cubs, having deep conversations with just about anyone, and laughing with friends and family.

After graduating from Kent State University, Bonnie moved to Colorado to complete a year volunteer work assignment and then was hired to develop an adolescent program at a homeless shelter. In this experience, she saw first-hand how when an adult believes in a child, it is an essential element in positively changing the trajectory of their lives. As a result, she decided to become an educator. She is extremely passionate about developing relationships with children in the classroom and believes it is the foundation for all meaningful learning to take place.

Bonnie was drawn to the Global Impact Challenge program to be inspired to learn more about herself so that she can better encourage her students to break down barriers that oftentimes lead to social exclusion rather than inclusion. She also sees this challenge as an opportunity to help utilize the seven life elements of No Barriers and is hopeful that it will inspire motivation in her students to take on challenges our community faces when it comes to discrimination issues. She is hopeful that with the support of this program she will be able to increase student civic participation while helping them to address real world problems.

It is Bonnie’s hope that individuals continue to accept the challenging work around diversity and inclusion so that they can influence their communities to become more aware of inequities. She is a strong believer that we each are responsible for tending to our own truths about how we approach the world and all of its differences. She is hopeful that her future is surrounded with people that want to look inward so they can serve outward, building a safer, happier, and more inclusive world for all.

Crystal Harden

Crystal Harden

Crystal Harden-Lindsey is currently the Executive Director of Green Street Academy. The Baltimore native is a graduate of Morgan State University, where she earned a degree in Social Work. She then furthered her education at Johns Hopkins University majoring in Education. Lindsey completed her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in December of 2018. Her thirst to support and empower a community was evident in her pursuit become a teacher in the neighborhood, where she lived as a child.

In 2014, Lindsey was coined as a transformational principal as recognized by the Baltimore City Public School System for her work with community partners. Green Street Academy changed sites from an old, district-owned building to a newly renovated, 140,000 square foot site in the heart of West Baltimore. The effective and timely completion of this $20MM project – from the financing, the design, the move and subsequent logistics (furniture, low voltage, technological infrastructure, etc.) – took place under Lindsey’s leadership. Not only did it get done in time, but the building earned LEED Platinum status – the 2nd largest school building in the world to do so using the standards applied to Green Street.

Perhaps the most innovative program created at Green Street is the internship program, open to 10th, 11th and 12th graders motivated to work. All 260 internships are paid, and partners include: Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland – Baltimore, Baltimore Gas and Electric, The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, BioHabitats, Outward Bound, St. Agnes, Bon Secours, Hord, Coplan and Macht, and Youthworks amongst others. These internship experiences are intertwined with classroom instruction to make explicit the idea that performance and expectations within the school building apply to real world experiences. With over 17 years of experience, Lindsey works to inspire students in the classroom and beyond, connecting post-secondary education to workforce development.

In 2016, Lindsey was one of the winners of the Heart of School Awards. As she navigated the work of the principal, she also served as a peer reviewer for the Every Student Succeeds Act for the United States Department of Education.

In addition to the work at Green Street Academy, Lindsey works as a consultant traveling internationally supporting school leaders with developing culturally responsive practices within their schools. The Global Impact Challenge will deepen her skills as an educator and build a strong professional network of learning strategists, who believe all students can learn. Ultimately, Lindsey believes, “when schools are inclusive, students have greater opportunities for positive academic outcomes.”

Tova Sprecher-Markowitz

Being a mother, a Jew, and an educator, therapist, and exercise enthusiast defines whom Tova is as a person. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a diverse, middle class neighborhood, to two parents whom were the eldest children of Holocaust survivors. Being a child, of children of Holocaust survivors is a distinct experience due to their parent’s raising them just a few years after experiencing the absolute most traumatic experience in history. Her parents divorced when she was a freshman in high school. Tova had to become completely independent having to provide for her physical and academic needs. Tova learned the value of hard work and empathy in relating to others. She was a resilient young woman whom decided she wanted a bright future, and an education without guidance from school or home. Her grandparents, Regina and Leon, were the only driving force that proved to be the inspiration for Tova to aspire to higher education. Leon from a very early age would tell Tova repeatedly in broken English and some Yiddish that she has to go to college. Unfortunately, they themselves had no opportunity to continue even their high school education, because of the Holocaust.

Tova has always wanted to make her grandparents proud. Most interestingly, is the fact that Tova’s entrance into the NYC Department of Education was only possible due to the fact she spoke Yiddish, a very high incidence language in some communities in Brooklyn New York. The language which her grandfather repeatedly told her to stop speaking, because he insisted they speak English together. A language he and her grandmother taught themselves to speak, read, and write as new adult immigrants. Speaking Yiddish allowed Tova to serve a community that often struggles to find professionals that speak their language.
Tova’s passions are family, work, charity, supporting the state of Israel, running, dancing, and enjoying the great outdoors. Tova combined her passion for children and psychology when choosing to become a school psychologist. Upon being told in middle of an introductory child psychology course, early on in Tova’s undergraduate career, that she would make a great school psychologist. Tova learned of this career option and put her laser focus on completing the educational requirements. Despite the challenges in completing an undergraduate as well a rigorous graduate degree, being a young mother with very minimal outside supports, she exceled and graduated with honors. Tova married at the age of 18, and had her first child at age 19, she is now the mother of 3 children. Tova is married for 21 years, her eldest daughter is 20, a sophomore in college, a 12 year old daughter, as well a 10 year old son. The family lives on Long Island and focuses their lives around their children, community, and religion.

Tova uses her never ending energy and passion to fiercely fight for her students to get them the services they require. She has seen too many students turned off of education, because of a lack of emotional or academic support. At a very young age Tova was witness to a child whom was physically abused as well as not provided the academic support their learning issues required. Tova, as a child tried to advocate and reach out for help for this child, but was unsuccessful. This proved to sear in her mind the need to fight for every child as they cannot advocate for themselves.

Tova read about the Global Impact Challenge on Facebook one evening while decompressing from a long day of working, shopping, preparing dinner and doing homework with the kids. The Global Impact Challenge piqued interest as currently, there is an unprecedented level of anti- Semitism sweeping the nation, and at local level it is being seen on the Far Rockaway High School campus. At the same time she had been developing in conjunction with the Simon Wiesenthal center a program on Holocaust education and anti –Semitism/ intolerance to be hosted at Far Rockaway High School.

The Global Impact Challenge arises as an opportunity to address intolerance and hatred on a systemic, large scale. The program poses as an excellent opportunity to instill in our students at an impressionable age diversity and inclusion as essential to their education and lives. Diversity and Inclusion are foremost and in every fiber of Tova’s being as having first- hand knowledge of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism from birth. Diversity and inclusion are essential elements that need to be instilled in our students from early childhood to ensure they grow to be compassionate, empathetic adults that view all other human beings as equals regardless, of race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. This is basic to creating a humane and democratic society.

Jennifer O'Brien

Jennifer O’Brien

Mrs. Jenn O’Brien is a third year Middle School English Language Arts and Media Studies teacher at Gardens School of Technology Arts (GSOTA) in Palm Beach County, Florida. She is originally from Maryland and moved to South Florida in 2013 with her husband, two sons and beagle. In her spare time, she enjoys coaching her sons’ soccer teams, traveling, and geeking out to Game of Thrones.


Her path to becoming an Educator was not necessarily the traditional one. While she always thought about going into the profession, it wasn’t until a tragic event in 2015 that changed everything. In the Fall of 2015, Jenn’s family was involved in a very serious car accident that resulted in her older son nearly losing his life and suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury. It was through her son’s recovery that she became knowledgeable and passionate for advocating for students with special and diverse learning needs. She became so active in her son’s school that they ended up recruiting her to join the staff as a paraeducator and subsequently as a full time member of staff once certified. While teaching started out as a way to be more involved with her son’s education, her students have also become “her kids” and she strives to provide a caring, welcoming and inclusive learning environment for all of her kids.

The Gardens School of Technology Arts is a public, K-8 school that is focused on the STEAM curriculum. Its mission is to prepare and equip young innovators with the 21st century skills they need in order to succeed in the international community and global economy. Since GSOTA is a Title 1 school, Jenn’s students come from a variety of backgrounds and learning needs. Incorporating Diversity and Inclusion is a vital part of Jenn’s teaching philosophy. She believes everyone deserves a seat at the table and that all people have unique strengths, talents and gifts for which they can offer the world.

It was a simple ad on social media that drew Jenn to the Global Impact Challenge and the opportunity that it presented her middle school students to showcase their skills on a bigger platform as well as to impact their community. By participating in the Global Impact Challenge, she hopes to help lead her students in learning more about their community, teamwork, business acumen and how to engineer solutions. But more importantly, she hopes to help her students learn more about their own unique gifts so that they can grow into tomorrow’s change agents who are self-disciplined, self-motivated and socially responsible.

Aleksandra Odzakovic

Aleksandra Odzakovic who goes by Sasha is from Highland Park, NJ and has been teaching high school social studies for six years. When she is not teaching, she is traveling because she has major wanderlust! She also loves to hang out with Jack, the rescue pup she and her fiancee rescued this past year. As a lover of history, she loves visiting museums and historic sites. In the summers when she is not working, she loves to scour library books sales, visit local wineries and spend time at the beach!!

Sasha is first generation Serbian American and is fluent in Serbo-Croatian. Her cultural identity encompasses much of who she is and is one of the reasons she became a teacher. Aside from the fact that she loves the subject matter and making a difference in the lives of young minds, she wanted to become a teacher to ensure that all students regardless of their race, religion and/or ethnicity, feel welcome and included in her classroom. Growing up, Sasha had a difficult time connecting with her peers and teachers because English was her second language and her ethnic background was so different than her peers. She often felt like she was missing out on something. This is a feeling she never wants her students to experience. Instead she aims to celebrate the differences that make her students unique and through the appreciation of these differences she believes students can create mutual understandings about the world we live in today and build meaningful connections.

She wanted to participate in the Global Impact Challenge because it aligns closely to the equity and inclusivity work her district has been progressing towards in the last couple of years. The committees and professional development opportunities in her district that have been established are having meaningful conversations and working to create a more equal community all students can be flourish, be challenged and reach their full potential. By participating in the Global Impact Challenge Sasha hopes to contribute to her district’s work on equity and inclusivity and give a voice to a group of students in her school who can and will spark positive change. To Sasha, diversity means acknowledgement and cultivation of differences in order to practice mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own. Inclusion means creating an environment where every individual belongs and can feel empowered. It is in these environments that individuals connect and the power of perspectives can yield meaningful outcomes. She is excited and looking forward to learning and growing through the No Barriers experience!

  • “[This program] has allowed me the wonderful opportunity to work with a new and motivated group of students from varying backgrounds on a project that had immense purpose and meaning. This honestly was a highlight of my almost 20 year teaching career!”

    Michael Eckerman, 2017 Global Impact Challenge Runner-Up Educator, Century High School, Rochester, MN


– April 8, 2019 – Application Deadline

– April 30, 2019 – Team announcement

– June 13-16, 2019 – Twenty educators from around the U.S. participate in the 2019 No Barriers Educator Training at the No Barriers Summit in Lake Tahoe, California. There they will get to experience the No Barriers Life and learn about the program curriculum. All travel expenses including lodging, airfare, ground transportation, and meals are covered through the generous sponsorship of Wells Fargo.

– Fall 2019 – Each educator recruits a diverse team of students with and without disabilities from their home school/community. Each team follows an online curriculum designed to foster creativity and develop projects to address local diversity and inclusion issues.

– December 2019 – Each team “pitches” their solutions by submitting a project proposal to a selection committee made up of subject-matter experts, business experts and start-up specialists for evaluation and feedback. Finalist groups will be awarded prize money (up to $5,000) to launch their ideas in their local communities, and may get a chance to attend the 2020 No Barriers Summit!

PROUDLY ANNOUNCING the 2018 Global Impact Challenge winning teams!

The two first-place teams were awarded $5,000 to implement their projects and received an invitation to present their projects at the upcoming 2019 No Barriers Summit June 13–15 in Lake Tahoe, California:

  • Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, NY – A team of seven students led by teacher Brian McDonald focused on creating adaptive clothing items that are easily accessible, functional and comfortable for children with disabilities.
  • State of Connecticut, Windsor, CT – A team of five students led by teacher Dennis Gallant focused on making popular destinations, such as zoos and museums, more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.

The two runner-up teams were awarded $1,000 to implement their projects:

  • Carrboro High School, Carrboro, NC – A team of nine students led by teacher Melissa Barry focused on sharing their authentic, diversity and inclusion experiences in a series of videos, presented in a documentary film festival, to bring the community together.
  • Greensboro Day School, Greensboro, NC – A team of 16 students led by teacher Angela Ballou focused on creating a buddy system that pairs middle school students of differing abilities to better understand one another and foster a more inclusive community.

  • “We’re continually amazed at the enthusiasm and creativity the teachers and students bring to the Challenge. With innovative ideas like these, the possibilities are endless for creating a more diverse and inclusive society for all.”

    Kathy Martinez - Head of Disability and Accessibility Strategy at Wells Fargo

This Latina Is Using Her Own Lived Experience With Blindness To Bring About Change In The Workforce
Wells Fargo Leadership in Disability and Inclusion Wells Fargo Head of Disability and Accessibility Strategy Kathy Martinez was featured in FORBES, including this great picture of her presenting to 2017 Global Impact Challenge educators!

This Latina Is Using Her Own Lived Experience With Blindness To Bring About Change In The Workforce.

2017 Global Impact Challenge

Two first-place teams received $5,000 to help them implement their projects:

• Grady High School, Atlanta, included six students led by teacher Nadia Goodvin. The team
 developed a working organization to address the lack of local sensory-friendly theaters, films
 and other recreational events in Atlanta for people with sensory processing disorders and
 related conditions.

• Hill Country Middle School, Austin, Texas, included six students led by teacher Sylvia 
Troxell. The team proposed a project to create a fun, interactive educational campaign
 about hidden disabilities to help ensure that all students welcomed, understood and 
encouraged to participate to the best of their abilities.

The two first-place teams also received invitations — including airfare, accommodations and meals — to the 2018 No Barriers Summit Oct. 5–6 in New York City. The No Barriers Summit is a premiere immersive event that brings together people of all backgrounds and abilities who are transcending barriers to unleash their fullest potential and live a life of purpose.

One runner-up team received $2,000 to help it implement its project:

• Century High School, Rochester, Minn., included five students led by teacher Michael
 Eckerman. The team proposed a social storytelling platform for students to share personal 
stories of hardships and barriers, with the goal of creating a sense of unity by highlighting 
the differences of others and the difficulties they face.

  • “No Barriers unleashes the potential of educators and their students, giving them the mindset and tools to break through barriers and lead with purpose. The past two years’ teams designed amazing projects that address challenges in their community. We’re grateful to Wells Fargo for helping make the challenge possible.”

    Andrea Delorey - No Barriers Education Director

About No Barriers Youth
No Barriers Youth helps middle and high school youth develop through experiential learning, collaborative problem-solving, service learning, and field-based experiences. Educator-focused programs include professional development, curriculum resources, and coaching.

About No Barriers USA
What barriers do you face? This question lies at the heart of our organization. Whether in our personal lives, at work, or in our communities, we all face challenges that can prevent us from reaching our full potential. At No Barriers, we believe that what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way. No Barriers empowers people of all walks of life to overcome obstacles, live a life of purpose, and give back to the world, all through our ground-breaking curriculum, the No Barriers Life. Learn more about No Barriers at NoBarriersUSA.org.

About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,300 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 42 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 263,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 25 on Fortune’s 2017 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

For more information and interviews, contact:

Jaime Donnelly
Marketing Director – No Barriers USA
(970) 484-3633 x316

Lisa Westermann
Wells Fargo
(415) 845-7759 (cell)