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Official Roster of Fellows
First Cohort, July and December 2018

Media Entrepreneurship Track

Alex Bledsoe
Alex is a writer and filmmaker whose work is inspired by dismantling systems that exploit vulnerable members of society. She is co-founder of Breaktide Productions, a film production company owned by women of color. She produced and directed OAKLEAD, a documentary exploring Oakland’s lead poisoning crisis and the correlation between socioeconomic status and access to equitable housing and health care. Previously, Alex was a guest columnist for The Washington Post and an Aspen Institute emerging writer nominee. Before that, she managed public relations for Apple, where she was instrumental in communications efforts to defend global consumer privacy rights. She earned a B.S. from Georgetown University in International Politics and speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic.

Kristen E. Jeffers
Kristen is founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Urbanist, author of “A Black Urbanist” (second edition forthcoming) and one-half of the podcast “Third Wave Urbanism.” She is a freelance writer, urban planner and advocate. She has a Master of Public Affairs degree focused on community and economic development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a B.A. in communication with a concentration in public relations from North Carolina State University. She has presented at the annual Congress for New Urbanism on civic pride, cultural diversity and the power of grassroots in communities.

Samira Sadeque
Samira is a New York-based Bangladeshi journalist focusing on migration, the refugee crisis, gender and mental health. She completed her M.S. in Journalism from Columbia Journalism School in 2017. She is part of the founding team of the Bangladeshi Identity Project, a community-based news platform that reports on and showcases work by the Bangladeshi diaspora in the West. She is working on an upcoming community-based project to train female journalists in South Asia to report on and connect the thread among various issues across the continent. Samira began her journalism career in Dhaka, Bangladesh, covering the 2013 factory collapse, the country’s ethnic and religious minorities and its LGBT community. Her work has appeared in Reuters, Al Jazeera, Quartz, The Lily, The Daily Beast, AJ+, The,, the Dhaka Tribune and other publications.

Giomar Silva
Giomar has an extensive background as a reporter and editor in Peru and Washington, D.C. After covering stories about human rights, culture, technology and politics in Peru, he focused on immigrant and minorities issues as a web editor at Washington Hispanic, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the D.C. area. His interest in these topics led him to found Migrante21, a bilingual website that aims to document the immigrant experience in America.

Ingrid Wilgen
Ingrid is editor of the start-up East Side Freelancer, a hyperlocal online news presence, that will cover District 2 of San Antonio, Texas. Previously, she wrote for the San Antonio Express-News. Ingrid has associate degrees from San Antonio College in journalism, photography and radio-television-film. She has one semester left before completing a B.A. in Communication at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Newsroom/Media Management Track

Rey Castillo
Rey is assistant sports editor at The Victoria (Texas) Advocate, a daily newspaper published independently and second oldest in the state. His experience includes online and print reporting of all sports, broadcast journalism, page designing and sports commentary. A Corpus Christi native, he received his B.A. in Communication/Journalism from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Previously, he was a sports reporter for Houston Community Newspapers and a freelance sports reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He is a deadline-driven journalist with deep experience in using social media to engage audiences.

Cindy Chin
Cindy has worked for more than 25 years in newspaper roles including reporter, copy editor, city editor and metro editor. She is a deputy editor at Newsday, where she leads a team of government reporters. She manages breaking news, daily and enterprise content for web and print. Cindy is part of a newsroom-wide effort to increase diversity in coverage and staffing. She has a B.A. in English from the University at Albany.

Janel Davis
Janel is a senior editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s local digital news (hyperlocal) team, responsible for coverage of metro Atlanta’s four core counties and its Intown neighborhoods. She joined the AJC in 2010 and has covered local and state government and politics, higher education and worked as a Politifact reporter. Janel has been a reporter in Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. She is a graduate of Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, La., with a B.A. in Mass Communications.

Troy Espera
Troy is executive producer for news at ABS-CBN International’s The Filipino Channel based in Daly City, Calif. During his eight years at TFC, Troy has won two Emmy Awards, the National Journalism Award for Broadcast from the Asian American Journalists Association, multiple Telly Awards and a Vision Award nomination from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications. He earned a B.A. in journalism at San Francisco State University and was an international student at Complutense University of Madrid where he studied Spanish philology. He speaks fluent Spanish and is an avid reader of Filipino-American and Spanish literature.

Dani Marrero Hi
Dani is a Mexican immigrant born and raised along the Texas-Mexico border. She is founder and director of Neta, a progressive nonprofit multimedia platform that creates authentic and culturally relevant stories of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. In 2017, she was recognized by GLAAD at its San Francisco gala for improving media representation of the LGBTQ community in South Texas. Neta also covers issues including immigration, abortion access and media accountability.

John Ketchum
John is deputy editor at SB Nation. He is passionate about sports, business, leadership and using technology to advance the craft of journalism. John has worked for several national news organizations, including NPR and CNN. He is from Saginaw, Mich., and got his start in journalism as a reporter for WCMU Public Radio in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Wilson Liévano
Wilson is a journalist and motion graphics designer focused on the intersection of visual technologies and journalism. He coordinated online editorial operations of the Spanish-language edition of The Wall Street Journal for seven years and now runs Animated Press, his motion graphics studio focused on news explainers. He has an M.A. in journalism from Boston University and was a member of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program at Stanford.

Shauntel Lowe
Shauntel is a senior staff editor in the sports department at The New York Times. She has more than a decade of experience as a reporter and editor, including three years at Bleacher Report, where she helped to launch B/R Mag, its award-winning digital magazine. Shauntel is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned a B.A. in English with a minor in political science. She is originally from California but has lived in the New York area for the past four years.

Christina M. Oriel
Christina is managing editor of the Asian Journal Media Group, a leading ethnic multimedia firm publishing the most widely circulated Filipino-American community newspaper in the United States. She oversees its digital platforms and editorial coverage for its five weekly editions in California, New Jersey, New York and Las Vegas. Since 2014, she has been editor-in-chief of the Southern California and Las Vegas editions, where she writes long-form pieces on politics, business and culture. She is also editor of Balikbayan, the company’s quarterly travel and lifestyle magazine distributed in 60 countries and 101 cities across the globe. She has a B.A. in Political Communication from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, and lives most of the year in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised.

Dalila-Johari Paul
Dalila-Johari is a news editor for CNN Digital. For more than a decade, she has held multiple editorial roles with Guardian US, CNBC Digital, The Star-Ledger and the Hartford Courant. A Dow Jones Newspaper Fund alumna, the New York City native and Rutgers University graduate has mentored high school journalists throughout the years.

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani
Adrienne is a senior editor at ThinkProgress, where she leads the newsroom’s policy reporters. Before that, she was an editor at Muftah magazine and worked in the Iranian-American community. Adrienne received an M.S. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.S. in international studies from American University in Washington, D.C. In her free time, she is on the hunt for the perfect kanafeh recipe.

Storytelling Track

Galilee Abdullah
Galilee, 24, is Ethiopian and an audio producer and storyteller. Originally from Dallas, she received a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2016. Most recently, she was a production intern for Worldview, a daily global topics program on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR affiliate.

Zirconia Sapphire Alleyne
Zirconia Sapphire Alleyne (yes, that’s her real name) is features editor/special projects coordinator at the Kentucky New Era Media Group. She has a B.A. in News/Editorial Journalism from Western Kentucky University, where she was a reporter and features editor at College Heights Herald, the student newspaper. She writes human-interest and food articles for Kentucky New Era and is editor of the newspaper’s three bimonthly magazines. As special projects coordinator, Zirconia redesigned the local Chamber of Commerce business directory as a striking magazine named Best Special Section at the 2017 Kentucky Press Association awards. She looks forward to telling thought-provoking stories using her love of writing, photography, video and design.

Michael Butler
A native of Augusta, Ga., Michael spent much of his life moving around as part of a military family. Son of a Panamanian immigrant, he majored in media studies and production at Temple University, where he interned for Philadelphia Weekly, a popular alternative paper. After graduation, he joined the web team at Visit Philadelphia, the city’s destination marketing organization, where he creates content for and As a freelance journalist, Michael writes about culture for Metro Philadelphia, a daily newspaper, and Lonely Planet, which publishes travel guide books.

Jonathan P. Higgins
Jonathan is a speaker and writer specializing in social justice education. They hold a Ed.D. in Educational Justice from the University of Redlands and regularly contributes to The Root, Pride, INTO and them. Their TedX Talk on “Unlearning Fear and Embracing Personal Power” can be found on Youtube and has more than 2,000 views. Their story is featured in the Soul Searching series on Splinter. Follow them on twitter @DoctorJonPaul or by visiting at

Esmy Jimenez
Born in Mexico and raised in the Yakima Valley, Esmy is a bilingual, multiplatform news reporter based in Central Washington. A University of Southern California alumna, her studies focused on environmental science and international relations. She works with Northwest Public Broadcasting, the public radio service of Washington State University and an NPR affiliate, and she has written for NPR, “The Lily,” La Raza del Noroeste and other publications. She serves on The Seattle Globalist board of directors and is an NPR Next Generation fellow. When not running around, Emmy can usually be found discussing either eating or eating while talking.

Chris Juhn
Chris Juhn’s career has primarily been as a freelance photojournalist. He credits learning key skills and knowledge from technical colleges he attended to study photography. He has been honing his craft by covering events and seeking advice from colleagues. He freelances for various media outlets and aims to begin doing national and international projects.

Carlos Alfaro Rodriguez
Carlos, 23, is a freelance journalist who graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in French Studies. He wrote as a freelancer for many campus publications. In 2015, he interned at the weekly Montgomery County (Md.) Sentinel, where he continues to contribute as a freelance writer focusing on sports and politics.

Hanaa’ Tameez
Hanaa’ is the diversity reporter for the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas. She covers race, identity and social equity in one of the nation’s most conservative counties. She has an M.A. from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in Spanish-language journalism. Previously, she worked in Mexico City for Animal Político and The Wall Street Journal, in New York for Americas Quarterly and the Council on Foreign Relations, and at the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette. In 2016, Hanaa’ graduated with a double major in journalism and Spanish Language and Literature from Stony Brook University. A Pakistani-American who grew up on the East Coast,she speaks English, Urdu and Spanish.

Aldane Walters
Aldane is a media mogul-in-training. He produces and presents Feel Alright, a reggae radio program on KGPC 96.9 FM, a community station broadcasting out of Oakland, Calif. His media exploits began at age 15 in his Jamaican homeland where wrote as a freelancer for The Jamaica Observer, one of two major print outlets on the island. By 19, he was producing and assisting on various broadcasts at Television Jamaica, the island’s top-rated television station. A former youth advocate, he studies Communication at Berkeley City College and hopes to transfer to the University of California, Los Angeles or San Francisco State University next fall to pursue a degree in television production/film/broadcasting.

Isabelle Yiu
Isabelle is deputy assignment editor at the San Francisco Bureau of the Sing Tao Daily, Hong Kong’s second-largest Chinese-language daily.
Isabelle specializes in covering Chinese community news in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the past five years, she has been writing about government policies and local elections. She is a Hong Kong native and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. degree in Political Economy.