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Meet the 2011 Student Freedom Riders


Marshall Houston

The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Class of 2011
Major: Economics, English
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

As a sophomore, Marshall created a film about Foster Auditorium and civil rights; he also worked on a second documentary that examined the effects of the drug war on Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. Marshall worked with two other students for over 16 months to create the “Uniting Alabama Gubernatorial Debate,” which aired on live television across Alabama. Marshall is the 2011 Algernon Sydney Sullivan award recipient for The University of Alabama.


Lu-Anne Haukaas Lopez

University of Alaska, Anchorage
Anchorage, Alaska
Major: English
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska

Lu-Anne Haukaas Lopez was born into a missionary family in the jungles of Caqueta, Colombia. Forced from their home by the civil war, her family eventually settled in rural Alaska. Being raised on a subsistence lifestyle taught her the value of a simple life, while moving to Australia to study music engendered a global perspective. She continues to live, work, read and write in the beautiful state of Alaska.


May Mgbolu

University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Class of 2012
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Growing up along the US/Mexico border in Tucson, Arizona has been a constant motivator for May to learn about social justice issues, such as immigration and racism. Her experiences have led her to study how political narrative affects communities across diverse cultural and racial landscapes. A Young People For Fellow, May currently serves as an activist through the YWCA Racial Justice Program and is involved in the African American Students Affairs on campus.


Samantha Williams

Samantha Williams

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Class of 2012
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Bryant, Arkansas

This southern belle grew up in The Natural State, but had her eyes set on bigger things when she hopped on a flight to Las Vegas after high school. In Sin City Sam discovered a passion for writing and politics, which has carried her from Capitol Hill to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. After transferring to the UA in 2009, she became Opinion Editor at The Arkansas Traveler and is committed to a career in public service.


Francisco Diaz

Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa, California
Class of 2012
Major: Anthropology
Hometown: San Rafael, California

Francisco Diaz was born in Merida, Yucatan and moved to the United States when he was five years old. He has lived in San Rafael, CA, for twenty years. Francisco’s father was a civil engineer in Mexico and his mother was a schoolteacher. Both instilled in him a sense of social justice and a love of learning. In his spare time Francisco enjoys practicing Jiu-Jitsu, watching movies, and playing guitar.

Carla Orendorff

Santa Monica College
Santa Monica, California
Class of 2011
Major: Journalism & Film
Hometown: Reseda, California

Carla Orendorff is a documentary filmmaker and media activist who is passionate about bringing untold stories to light. She is a mentor for ImMEDIAte Justice, a program that empowers young women of color to share their stories about reproductive justice through film. In addition to teaching youth filmmaking classes at the Echo Park Film Center, she enjoys going on adventures, browsing obscure historical archives, and supporting her local DIY (Do-It-Yourself) music and arts scene.

Michael Tubbs

Stanford University
Stanford, California
Class of 2012
Major: Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
Hometown: Stockton, California

Michael Tubbs has dedicated his time as an undergraduate to issues of youth empowerment and social justice. He serves as the founder and Executive Director of The Phoenix Project, leading a team of 47 Stanford students in providing mentorship and pro-bono college admissions consulting to 95 low-income students state-wide. He also serves as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Stockton Summer Success and Leadership Academy, where he guides 30 “at-risk” youth through a leadership development curriculum. He nationally organizes for the Children’s Defense Fund on their Campaign to End the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and has coordinated Stanford’s Black Student Union’s Youth Empowerment Conference. He also serves as a motivational speaker for students throughout the nation.


Davis Knittle

Wesleyan University
Middletown, Connecticut
Class of 2011
Major: English and African American Studies
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Davy is the founder and co-editor of the Stethoscope Press Chapbook Series and a 2010-2011 Wesleyan Student Poet. He is interested in the relationship between how people understand their neighborhoods, and how the public and private spaces in those neighborhoods are designed and used. He is currently at work on a senior honors thesis in poetry on the legacy of the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, and the recent history of West Philadelphia, where the bombing took place.


Tania Smith

American University
Washington, D.C.
Class of 2013
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Tania Smith was born in the United States but grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Growing up in Haiti has inspired Tania to become a social justice activist and an advocate on behalf of developing countries like Haiti. Tania goes to the American University in Washington, D.C., and is majoring in International Studies with a focus in International Development.


Stephanie Burton

Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, Florida
Class of 2011
Major: Journalism
Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama

Who is Stephanie Burton? She’s a dreamer who seeks her future as a lobbyist, journalist, social worker, advocate, make-up artist, yoga instructor, and founder of a successful non-profit organization. Not enough? The dream continues with frequent trips to exotic places, lunch with Michelle Obama, and a house with her own slushie machine! Stay tuned to find out if the friend, sister, daughter, and dreamer conquers her (many) heart’s desires.


JoyEllen Freeman

University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Major: English and English Education
Hometown: Milton, Georgia

JoyEllen Freeman is a sophomore at The University of Georgia who loves to explore the world through literature. Some of her favorite writers include Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Pat Conroy, and Langston Hughes. As an aspiring English teacher, JoyEllen enjoys mentoring and tutoring adolescent children in her community. In her spare time, JoyEllen likes to shop, listen to her iPod, read tear-inducing poems, and play Debussy on the piano.

Kaitlyn Whiteside

Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia
Class of 2011
Major: History and Sociology
Hometown: Ringgold, Georgia

Kaitlyn Whiteside grew up in Ringgold, GA before attending the Georgia Institute of Technology. While in college, she has worked at the Georgia State Capitol for Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, conducted independent undergraduate research, and served in the Executive Branch of the Student Government Association. She will begin law school this fall where she hopes to continue her work studying American legal history.


Jason McGaughey

Heartland Community College
Normal, Ilinois
Class of 2012
Major: Education-History
Hometown: Carthage, Illinois

Jason has spent the last couple of years working at a local non-profit agency supporting adults with developmental disabilities. He has assisted in setting up various community integration activities to help connect people with disabilities to their wider community. He has recently gone back to college to continue pursuing his academic education. Jason has always been inspired by ‘people’s history,’ and he hopes to one day teach high school history highlighting the struggle for equality.


Ryan Price

Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa
Class of 2013
Major: Politics & Journalism
Hometown: Apple Valley, Minnesota

For as long as his parents can remember, Ryan has been interested in history and civic engagement. He woke up every morning during elementary school to watch the headlines while his twin sister slept in. Ryan is civically engaged on campus and writes a weekly column for the student newspaper, the Times-Delphic. He runs, plays tennis and has an unhealthy obsession with sushi. He currently serves as President of his social fraternity at Drake where the embodied idealism of his 109 fraternity brothers constantly excites him.


William Dale

University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Class of 2014
Major: English, American Studies with a concentration in Race and Ethnicity
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

As Henry David Thoreau once said, “Be not simply good – be good for something.” This quote serves as inspiration for Will Dale as he begins his quest for justice for all. Will is particularly interested in issues such as education and homelessness, and he seeks to explore and find solutions for the disparities he sees. The Student Freedom Ride will provide Will with a forum to discuss these issues with civic engagers on the national stage.


John Walker

Murray State University
Murray, Kentucky
Class of 2012
Major: Journalism
Hometown: Nicholasville, KY

John was raised in the rolling hills of the Bluegrass Region, but in his youth spent summers in the highlands of northeastern Kentucky with his grandparents. There he learned to importance of community, appreciation, and trust. These values helped spur his ideals throughout high school, which flourished into a lifestyle of activism and volunteering in college. Even today he uses those cultural lessons to solve real world issues locally and across the region.


Anna Nutter

Bowdoin College
Portland, Maine
Class of 2012
Major: History
Hometown: Houston, Texas

Anna Nutter is a southern girl stuck in the cold north who still says yes ma’am and no sir. She is the big sister to a great big football player who towers over her. She enjoys traveling all over the United States and is a big history geek. She can’t wait to meet all of the other bus riders.


Michellay Cole

University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
Class of 2013
Major: African-American Studies/Broadcast Journalism
Hometown: Washington, DC

Michellay Cole is a native Washingtonian who takes inspiration from her experiences growing up in D.C. to help her understand ways to improve the conditions of her surroundings. She dreams of becoming a TV broadcaster and documentary producer to report on issues of social injustice and inequality. Michellay is determined to use her talent in public speaking to try to change the world one story at a time.


Peter Davis

Harvard College
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Class of 2012
Major: Government
Hometown: Falls Church, VA

Pete is the co-founder of CommonPlace, a web and community organizing start-up that aims to revitalize American civic life. CommonPlace organizes towns onto ‘CommonPlaces’ online, which make it easy for neighbors and local leaders to share information with the people who live right around them (see: Pete is the proud son of an indigenous peoples’ rights activist, and believes we can solve today’s big problems by reviving a culture of civic creativity in America.

Zilong Wang

Hampshire College
Amherst, Massachusetts
Class of 2013
Major: History, Philosophy
Hometown: Baotou, Inner-Mongolia, China

Zilong was born in Inner-Mongolia, China. As nomads do, Zilong has been moving from place to place since he was two months old. After high school in Shanghai, he spent a year in Germany before coming to the United States. These days, Zilong reads Kant in the morning and plays bamboo flute at night.


Erica Shekell

Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
Class of 2013
Major: Journalism and Media Arts & Technology
Hometown: Howell, Michigan

Erica is proud to represent the outstanding people of her small hometown of Howell, Michigan, as well as the extraordinary people at Michigan State University. She is passionate about journalism, student press rights, video production, social media and her two turtles. She is an active member of People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality (PRIDE), one of MSU’s 18 LGBTA groups. Erica is a member of MSU’s Honors College and is proud to be a Spartan.


Rachael DeMarce

Carroll College
Helena, Montana
Class of 2012
Major: Political Science and Communications
Hometown: Great Falls, Montana

Rachael DeMarce is a member of the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians and is a descendant of the Blackfeet Nation. A Gates Millennium Scholar, Rachael is the founder and president of the Carroll College Cultural Alliance. Currently, she is an intern for State Superintendent Denise Juneau, the first American Indian women to hold a state-wide elected office. This summer, Rachael will attend American University and intern in Washington, D.C.


LeRoy Ford

University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska
Class of 2013
Major: Communication Studies
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

LeRoy Ford is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is New Student Enrollment (NSE) orientation leader on campus. LeRoy serves as a peer mentor for the Melvin Jones Scholars Learning Community, a program based on leadership, academics, and community service. He has been involved with the Residence Hall Association (RHA). LeRoy is also a member on the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH).


Karl Kumodzi

Stanford University
Stanford, California
Class of 2014
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

From an early age, Karl has wanted to change the world. At the age of 6, he decided he would do it by becoming a superhero. Today, he strives to impact the world in a different way – one person at a time. In 2007, he helped his mother start Hidden Talent Foundation, an NGO that helps children in his native country of Togo succeed in school by providing transportation, tuition, school supplies, and other services. Currently he is very active in a number of social justice initiatives at Stanford University, including the Stanford Project on Hunger and a student-led effort to build a Stanford community-run homeless shelter.


Liliana Graciela Astiz

New York University
New York, New York
Class of 2013
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Liliana is inspired by the human potential for change. She believes in the romantic notion of nature as a guiding force and an example of balance that mankind can look up to. She believes in her generation and their potential for conscious action, where change comes from the collective efforts of those who can imagine a different future.

Tariq Meyers

Ithaca College
Ithaca, New York
Class of 2014
Major: Politics
Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts

Driven and determined, Tariq’s passion for justice and outreach has motivated him to provide a voice to the voiceless. His accomplishments involving identity, community organization, and the cultivation of cultural curiosity have been recognized by the Princeton University Prize in Race Relations and the Begley Scholarship, where Tariq led an independent study on facilitating understanding and dialogue. Tariq is a MLK Jr. Scholar, and has been involved with the Boston’s NAACP, Fadacy Music Group, and Greatest MINDS.


Collis Crews

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
Greensboro, North Carolina
Class of 2012
Major: History
Hometown: Katy, Texas

Twenty-year old Collis Crews was born in Newport News, Virginia. Growing up as a military brat, Collis had the opportunity to live in several states across the nation. As a rising senior in high school, the rich African American history in Greensboro contributed to Collis’ decision to attend North Carolina A&T State University. Collis is involved in numerous organizations on and off campus including Pre College Initiative (PCI), Big Brothers Big Sisters, and College Democrats of America.

Rajlakshmi De

Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Class of 2013
Major: Economics
Hometown: Oak Ridge, North Carolina

Raj is passionate about global social change, especially with regards to sustainable reductions in poverty and the empowerment of women, inspirations derived from her family visits to Kolkata, where the disparities compel her lifelong dreams. At Duke, Raj works towards these dreams through various gender initiatives and by serving on the committee for student group finances, and plans to intern in microfinance this summer. In her free time, Raj enjoys backpacking and the outdoors.

Doaa Dorgham

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Class of 2012
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

Doaa Dorgham is a Palestinian American and was born in Kuwait City, Kuwait. She is involved in the Muslim Student Association as the Outreach Chair on campus. She is also a Caldwell Fellow Scholar at North Carolina State University. Through the Caldwell Fellows program she has been able to travel throughout Latin America and the Amazon. As indicated by her aforementioned endeavors, Doaa finds it essential to be a global and local citizen.


Sarah Cheshire

Oberlin College
Oberlin, Ohio
Class of 2014
Major: Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Students, Creative Writing
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Sarah is a freshman at Oberlin College, where she volunteers as a Rape Crisis Advocate and is a participant in the Bonner Scholarship Program and is thrilled to be going on the 2011 Student Freedom Ride. She has always considered herself an activist and is constantly looking for ways to become more civically engaged. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, telling stories, reading David Sedaris, and planning itineraries for hypothetical trips around the world.


Bakhrom Ismoilov

Eastern Oregon University
La Grande, Oregon
Class of 2011
Major: Business Administration, International Business
Hometown: Isfara, Tajikistan

Bakhrom Ismoilov is an international student from Tajikistan, currently attending Eastern Oregon University (EOU). His major is Business Administration with a concentration in International Business. Currently, he serves EOU as a Vice President for Diversity and Equity through the Student Government. Since 15 years of age, Bakhrom has been out of his house traveling and gaining experience in a various locations around the world.


Meghna Chandra

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Class of 2013
Major: Urban Studies
Hometown: Merrimack, New Hampshire

Meghna Chandra is a 19-year-old Indian-American girl from New Hampshire with a passion for social justice. She’s a student organizer with Student Labor Action Project, a group that works to build student power in solidarity with workers, and an intern with Media Mobilizing Project. Meghna loves Philadelphia and considers it one of her homes. She loves to write, dance, couch surf, and have amazing adventures.

Diana Mahoney

Messiah College
Grantham, Pennsylvania
Class of 2012
Major: Human Development and Family Science
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania

At eighteen, Diana boarded a plane to Darwin, Australia, where she spent the summer doing volunteer work with Australian youth and aboriginal people. During that time, she developed an interest in the movement to help end human trafficking. Upon returning to the States, she became involved with an organization devoted to ending human trafficking, advocating and fundraising. Diana spent the fall of 2010 studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Throughout college, she has actively volunteered in inner-city after school programs in Harrisburg.

Robert Sgrignoli

Mercyhurst College
Erie, Pennsylvania
Major: Sports medicine
Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Robert is grateful to have the opportunity to be surrounded by such established and aspiring leaders and advocates. Robert is passionate about social justice and helping to bring about equality for all. While serving as the president of Mercyhurst College’s Diversity Club, he worked to broaden discussion on racial prejudice, raise funds for various charities, and expose the college community to different cultures. Robert feels obligated to serve others and advocate for those rendered invisible.


Jayanni Webster

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee
Class of 2012
Major: College Scholars: Post Conflict Education in Africa
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Jayanni, a College Scholar, is the president of her campus’ Amnesty International chapter. She also serves as a Baker Scholar for the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy and is a member of Tennessean’s for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Inspired by her work with The Knoxville Jazz for Justice Project, which promotes music and the arts as tools for peace-building and reconciliation in northern Uganda, she spent time living in the region in 2010.


Esther Kim

University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Class of 2012
Major: Sociology & Gender Studies
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Esther Kim is an activist, ally and attempted academic (as well as a sucker for alliteration, apparently). She has often been described as ‘too critical’ by admirers and skeptics. Esther lives for conversations on deconstructing race, gender, class, culture, sexuality and identity, enjoys playing the ukulele at a low-intermediate level and has recently been spending an uncomfortable amount of time worrying about whether her car will breakdown on the freeway, while ON the freeway.


Charles Reed Jr.

University of Mary Washington
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Class of 2011
Major: Business Administration
Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey

Charles Reed Jr. was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey where he graduated from Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School. At UMW, Charles has been the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, and holds leadership positions in academic and cultural organizations. He was recently honored and presented with the president’s Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership. In his spare time, he enjoys keeping up with current news issues and listening to music.


Benjameen Quarless

Whitworth University
Spokane, Washington
Class of 2012
Major: Philosophy
Hometown: Lakewood, Washington

Benjameen was born in Tacoma, Washington and grew up playing the steel drums with his father and brothers. It was through this experience that he was able to interact with a variety of people from many diverse backgrounds. This sparked an interest in racial and social justice, and he is excited for the opportunity to “get on the bus.”


Maricela Aguilar

Marquette University (Klingler College of Arts and Sciences)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Class of 2012
Major: Political Science and English Literature
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Maricela Aguilar is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University. She is currently a junior and is pursuing Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and English Literature. She is a recipient of the Marquette University Urban Scholar Award and is presently a student in the Honors Program. As an undocumented student, she acts as an organizer with Youth Empowered in the Struggle, serves on the Board for Voces de la Frontera, and was chosen to serve on the National Coordinating Committee of the United We Dream Network.

Alicia Skeeter

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Class of 2013
Major: Education Policy and Community Studies
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Human interaction, good conversation and building relationships are three of Alicia’s favorite things. She is passionate about education and learning about why inequality exists through understanding history. Alicia is from the city of Milwaukee and hopes to join those already serving to improve Milwaukee Public Schools, where she attended as a child, in the future so that all students regardless of background can experience the freedom obtained through education. She also enjoys spoken word performances.

3 responses to “Meet the 2011 Student Freedom Riders”

  1. [...] this documentary on the riders, but also sending 40 students on a freedom ride. Just so you know, Ithaca College Freshman Tariq Meyers is participating (scroll down to [...]

  2. [...] 40 Student Freedom Riders were chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants and represent a cross-section of America, much like the [...]

  3. [...] As one of 40 Freedom Riders, in partnership with PBS, we’ll be encouraging civic activism for social justice causes. Fifty years ago Freedom Riders ventured into the South to challenge ongoing segregation and the legacy of Jim Crow laws. These peaceful protesters faced staunch public opposition, including violence. This year I will be retracing their original route as part of a coordinated effort to continue those historic efforts toward equality in society. [...]