Meet the members of our 2021 fellowship cohort and learn about their ongoing work.
UVA Open Data Project on Student Life
This group of students with a variety of interests at UVA united to create and manage a project that encourages students to access and analyze content generated by the university and its affiliates. Information—such as finances, student life, and academics—should be freely made available to hold the stewards of our community accountable and to engage actively in the pursuit of a more perfect university.
Ronith Ranjan — Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder
Ronith, a second-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, plans to study Computer Science and Political & Social Thought. He hopes to develop his tech skills and use them towards positive social impact by working in the civic tech field to modernize our government. He enjoys running and amateur skateboarding.
Vinay Bhaip — Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder
Vinay, a second-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, studies Computer Science and Mathematics. He loves finding ways to use computer science to create concrete change around him. Outside of computer science, Vinay is passionate about philosophy, politics, and the environment. He loves rock climbing, debating, and cooking.
Kasra Lekan — Chief Data Officer, Co-Founder
Kasra, a second-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, studies Economics and Computer Science. He also enjoys learning about philosophy, classics, and new languages. He is fascinated with unlocking untapped potential by combining data with creative solutions. In his free time, he loves to read non-fiction, play basketball, and run.
Salina Salim — Chief Operating Officer
Salina, a second-year pre-commerce student, plans to study Finance and Psychology. She is passionate about promoting the use of relevant data when engaging in initiatives across the UVA community. In her free time, Salina enjoys spin classes, golfing, baking, and cold brew.
From Public Housing to Home Ownership
Dr. A'Lelia R. Henry's is seeking to convince the University of Virginia, CRHA (Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority), and city residents to develop this project site as duplexes that residents can purchase, by investing in the renovation costs and wrap-around services needed to provide economic stability for low-income residents. She is partnering with PHAR (Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents) and the final project will be a proposal that can be used to implement the idea of from project residents to homeowners in one location in the city of Charlottesville.
Dr. A'Lelia Henry
I first came to Charlottesville in 1983 to attend the University of Virginia. I completed my doctoral degree, in Government and Foreign Affairs, in 1994. After teaching at several colleges in upstate New York, I returned to Charlottesville in 2000. After conducting research as a Spencer Fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute, I suffered a major medical event that completely altered my own career aspirations. Most of my attention focused on healing and educating two of my three sons, so that they were prepared for college and life beyond. As a public housing resident, I have gained a totally different perspective on poverty and underemployment. After witnessing first hand several of Charlottesville's redevelopment initiatives, I began to wonder if there might be meaningful ways to encourage home ownership among public housing residents, both as a means of maintaining an African American presence in Charlottesville, and at the same time, encouraging upward mobility among a group of residents that have largely been excluded and even injured by past public and private actions.
Though I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, according to Ancestry.Com., the ancestral lineage of both of my parents began with early ship arrivals on the shores of Tidewater, Virginia. Both of my parents migrated from Arkansas to Iowa, where they birthed twelve children. By coming to Virginia, I have, in many ways, brought our family's American experience full circle. If my present gnomic make-up is similar to that of most African Americans, they are 65 percent African, and 35 percent white (in my case 66 percent West and Central Africa and 33 percent United Kingdom/Norway). I am filled with a sense of pride in knowing that this has been my country for a very long time, and I remain filled with an obligation and responsibility to make this city, state and nation work for all of its citizens.
App for Healthy Living Resources in Richmond
Allison Weiderhold hopes to offer community resources to decrease blood pressure and adverse cardiac health outcomes in disadvantaged populations. She will do this by offering free blood pressure screenings, instructions on self-monitoring, and access to care if users experience elevated readings. In this pilot, she also would like to offer stress reduction sessions and provide hypertension prevention resources. Her outcomes are that she hopes to increase awareness about hypertension in disadvantaged populations and offer tangible solutions for prevention and care for those who are already experiencing adverse cardiac health outcomes. She would also like to expand her own knowledge and become more involved on a local level. She is very curious about addressing health inequities and expanding access to health care (specifically cardiac care) to everyone, in spite of racial and/or economic barriers that currently exist.
My name is Allison Weiderhold, and I'm a Virginia native. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018 and graduated from my master's program at Drexel University in May 2021. I've worked in clinical research for 5 years, and I am passionate about health equity and cardiac outcomes. I'm particularly interested in improving access to care and education around heart health in my local community. When I'm not working, you can find me playing with my two dogs, baking, knitting, and trying local coffee shops!
Music Cooperative and Education Resource for Black Female Sound Engineers
BJ Pendleton and Leslie M. Scott-Jones are working to add more black female audio engineers and theater technicians to the world. As a touring sound engineer, BJ has found there is a serious lack of black engineers, especially women. To create this change and address the imbalance that exists in the music and theater tech world, they will work to create access for certain people to gather the information needed to attain these positions. They are working to create a camp to develop relevant skills and experience among high school girls and women of color.
BJ Pendleton is a highly motivated, self taught Musician and Live Audio Engineer. One of his companies, Pendleton Presents, provides services surrounding show and event production, as well as artist consultations and more. He is soon to open his own recording studio, Rolling Wave Recording, where he will take his music production endeavors to the next level. With a Vocal Degree from William & Mary, and over 25 years of experience as a Sound Engineer, BJ brings a dynamic perspective to any and all of his work.
Leslie M. Scott-Jones
Leslie M. Scott-Jones is also working on the Music Cooperative Project. She studied theater education at VCU & Theatre Administration at Howard University. Leslie has been writing, acting and directing since her teens. She has gone on to write several plays, novellas, and short stories. Book Ends, her first full length novel, hit the shelves Valentine’s Day Weekend 2016.
Leslie has been active in Charlottesville community theater for over ten years. She became the Artistic Director of the Charlottesville Player’s Guild, an all Black theatre company in 2016.
Leslie is the CEO and founder of EugeneMartin LLC, an artist development firm in Charlottesville, Va., which focuses on empowering artists with the tools they need to take their art to the next level. EugeneMartin is producing a limited fictional series podcast called GROUNDS which is the story of five Black professors at a predominantly white university. It highlights the struggles and joys of Black academia.
Leslie currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is mother of two children and Mimi to two grandsons.
Oral History with Archives on Living in Public Housing in Cville
Matthew Slaats is working to create an oral history with archives on living in public housing in Cville. This project is based on a long held desire by public housing residents, in the spring of 2021, he partnered with PHAR (Public Housing Association of Residents) to start the PHAR oral history project. Over the year they are developing a process where public housing residents will be trained to interview elders to tell the history of public housing organizing in Charlottesville since the end of urban renewal.
Matthew Slaats is a community organizer, consultant, and designer that has dedicated his life to making sure communities are the center of the decisions that impact their lives. His work has consisted of a multitude of efforts that crosses the boundaries of community development, environmental justice, food accessibility, and creative placemaking. That has included collaborations to re-envision a polluted stream as a generator of community vibrancy, producing art installations that collect and present public history, and initiating community collaborations that rethink the role that residents play in managing public money.
At the moment Matthew is pursuing his Ph.D. in the UVA School of Architecture's Ph.D. program in the Constructed Environment. For his research, he partners with grassroots, Black-led organizations to better understand how they reimagine economic and political systems as a means of creating more resilient and just cities. While the focus of these efforts is a collaboration with the Public Housing Association of Residents in Charlottesville, he is also studying southern worker cooperatives, citizen assemblies, and the broader solidarity economy movement.
Marissa Turner-Harris is a single mom who wanted to give back to her community. So she saw a void in the city with access to getting items for having a baby such as diapers. She came she saw and she conquered and that’s how she became The Diaper Ladii. Her team enjoys seeing The Diapettes grow each month.
Charlottesville Community Food Co-op
Tamara Wright, Community Advocate Lead for Cultivate Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network, and Lisa Draine will be exploring ways to increase access to nutritious food in low-wealth neighborhoods. They will look at several models for implementation, including grocery co-ops and mobile farm stands. Their planning process will build on the work started by community partners and public housing residents.
Tamara Wright is a community activist focused on food justice issues in Charlottesville. She is the Community Advocate Lead for Cultivate Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network. She serves on the Steering Committee of UVA’s Equity Center, and is a member of The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Community of Practice.
Tamara came to advocacy work while fighting for the rights of her son with a disability. She later started the Friendship Court Residents Committee, and joined the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) Intern Program. She is an elected member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, helping to shape the architectural design plans for her neighborhood’s redevelopment, and is also a member of the Virginia Housing Justice Advisory Committee.
Tamara’s experience with food sovereignty began with the Urban Agriculture Collective. In 10 years she served on its Advisory Committee and Board, including as Board Chair, the UAC grew from one community garden to three, and took a lead role in advocating for the right of marginalized communities to access healthy, nutritious foods. In 2019, shejoined the staff of Cultivate Charlottesville and was instrumental in launching the Food Justice Network’s Community Advocate Program, an initiative designed to encourage those living in low-wealth neighborhoods to become involved in food justice work.
She completed the Community Investment Collaborative’s Entrepreneur Workshop in 2018 and later started her own jewelry-making business. She is the hard-working mother of five children.
Lisa Draine is a freelance producer and community activist in Charlottesville, Virginia. For the past few years, she has been an organizer with the Monumental Justice Virginia and Take ‘em Down Cville campaigns, advocating for the removal of Confederate monuments in public spaces. During the pandemic, Lisa has been involved in various food relief efforts with Cville Community Cares, New Beginnings Church Food Pantry, and the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) Emergency Grocery Program.
She has produced several projects that have combined her interests in social justice and the arts, including the 6-part Seeing Black: Disrupting the Visual Narrative speaker and youth engagement series featuring nationally-known Black photographers for the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and Inside Out Cville: This is What Community Looks Like, an outdoor exhibition of 120 large-scale black and white portraits of local racial justice activists installed on the Violet Crown Cinema wall in August 2019 as part of the City’s Unity Days initiative.
Lisa served as the Festival Manager for the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph from 2007 – 2017. Before moving to Charlottesville in 2000, she was the News Producer in the Washington, DC Bureau of TF1-French Television, the leading national network in France. She is most proud of being the mother of two strong daughters who have inspired her to keep working for justice for all.
10th Street Tree Restoration Project
Michael Luegering is working on the 10th Street Tree Restoration Project. His design perspective is framed by his study of landscape architecture, urban design, and urban planning, his extensive research in the vernacular of the American pasture and his Kentucky upbringing.
Michael Luegering received a Bachelor of Urban Planning from the University of Cincinnati. He earned a Master of Landscape Architecture with distinction from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where he was awarded the Thesis Prize in Landscape Architecture for his thesis Vernacular Pasture Lands | The Rural Design Almanac. He was a guest designer in the 10th International Urban Design and Landscape Urbanism Workshop in Kortrijk, Belgium, in 2012.
Car Repair Pricing App
Ali Alkhaledy is working on creating a Car repair pricing app, that compares all Charlottesville local body shops/workshops to help the community get an honest, fair quote with one tap on their phone.
Ali Alkhaledy was born in Iraq, raised in the United States, a student currently enrolled in general studies program at PVCC by day and an entrepreneur by night. Currently the Chief Executive Officer and Director of ANAM Care, one of the leading medical transportation businesses in the state of Virginia. Also a shareholder of Astra Care, an independent NEMT company.
Anson Parker and Dave Norris are working on a digital currency pilot program for the homeless population. This project will test pilot a digital currency tool working with the Haven and Code for Charlottesville to build out a stablecoin backed smart-contract bound product that would let homeless people who have meta credit cards and spend money at local stores like market st market. We can transfer debt over to traditional credit tools like Visa, and work to improve credit scores.
Anson Parker is an open-source developer with 18 years of library and archive development experience. Two current projects include using consumer-grade LIDAR for accessible navigation as well as developing decentralized services such as blockchain and the emerging NFT market to improve transparency, security, and sustainability.
Dave Norris serves as Manager of the new Charlottesville Financial Opportunity Center for Piedmont Housing Alliance. Dave has spent the bulk of his career in the housing and community development arena, most recently as Redevelopment Coordinator for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Dave also served in local elected office in Charlottesville, including two terms on City Council (2006-2014) and two terms as Charlottesville's Mayor (2008-2012).
LiDAR Accessibility Scanning
Michelle Miles' project is a LiDAR accessibility scanning project. She hopes to coordinate with blind, low-vision, and wheelchair-using people and identify places of interest, both indoor and outdoor, and use consumer-grade 3d scanners to see how well we can determine the accessibility of those spaces. While working on this process we will produce high quality documentation with the aim of providing a teaching tool that might be useful in local schools.
Michelle is an artist, designer, and interdisciplinary researcher. Her practice is informed and often conceptually underpinned by her experience as a disabled woman. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2019, Michelle held a year-long position in Accessibility at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she worked with a team to design and facilitate museum experiences for visitors with disabilities and served as an internal accessibility advisor for the institution. She currently works remotely from Charlottesville, splitting her time as a researcher for the NYC-based exhibition design firm Studio Joseph, and for the collaborative design tool Figma. Her work has been presented at a variety of venues, including the Sundance Film Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center, and, most recently, at an upcoming exhibition at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany.
Cville Tool Library Capacity Building
Taylor Frome is working with the Cville Tool Library. They hope that this fellowship will allow them to move from the building stages to the launch stage in 2022. They have interested groups to help make this successful. Those groups include; Time Bank, UVA MakerGrounds, Shift/Enter, Habitat for Humanity, and Cville Makes are interested in forming an entity to provide access to tools, equipment, and skills to all residents and organizations in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. They have a rough framework to move this forward--and need to focus on securing fiscal sponsorship and a facility in order to launch this winter. The Fellowship would support staff to explore options, and to develop a launch event in early November 2021.
Taylor Frome recently moved to Charlottesville after three decades of working in the field of education in Philadelphia. Earlier, she spent a decade in Central Virginia as a member of Twin Oaks Community. In Philadelphia, she founded and served as executive director of YESPhilly, and also founded and led the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. For over 30 years she took the lead in designing programs that re-engage youth who’ve dropped out of school, and that put them on the path to success. In developing the YouthBuild Charter School and supporting development of Mastery Charter School, Ms. Frome helped pioneer charter schools in Pennsylvania. Ms. Frome’s work was based on a powerful vision of education that truly leaves no child behind—and is creative, engaging, and effective. She has expertise in organizational development, fundraising, and program design, which she is excited to bring to Common Ground Healing Arts, as interim executive director. She is also invested in helping to launch the Cville Tool Library in early 2022.
On a more personal level, Taylor has a daughter living in Staunton Virginia--Lee Ann Kinkade. She loves many things, including nature, cats, visual arts, and participatory dance.