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RISING LEADERS CLASS 2023-2024

The Rising Leaders Initiative is a one-year advocacy training program for charter high school students designed to inspire student engagement in education advocacy and cultivate the next generation of young leaders who will actively shape education policies in their local communities and states. By providing students with the tools and resources they need to become effective advocates for education reform, we can create a brighter future for all students.

The ten charter high school students selected as the second cohort of Rising Leaders are passionate about ensuring their peers have access to high-quality and free public education. They aspire to become architects of education’s transformation and are committed to making a positive impact in their school community.

Meet the Rising Leaders Class 2023-2024

ABDULLAH CELIK

Senior, Gateway Science Academy in Missouri 

Abdullah’s drive to make a lasting positive impact on the world fuels his desire to be a change-maker and contribute meaningfully to society. He actively takes on leadership roles in his school and community, participating in the student council, National Honors Society, Concept Young Scholars Program, and Youth Club. Outside of school, Abdullah has strong ties to his Turkish heritage and frequently visits his hometown in Turkey, maintaining a close relationship with his family there. He dedicates his time to volunteering as a weekend school tutor at the Turkish American Society of Missouri.

ANTHONY AYER

Senior, Baxter Academy in Maine

A natural-born leader, Anthony has served on the Principal’s Table and Town Hall Committee at his STEM-based charter school. His extracurriculars extend to Model UN, various leadership programs, and working on his Eagle Scout project as a Life Scout, showcasing his commitment to community service. He enjoys exploring the great outdoors through hiking, lifting weights, and immersing himself in literature and writing. Music is another cherished aspect of his life; he loves listening to and playing music. Through his advocacy and efforts, he aims to build a better future for education in his community and beyond.

Cameron Mirmelli, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

CAMERON MIRMELLI

Junior, BASIS Scottsdale in Arizona

Cameron has always been passionate about helping others and learning. Serving as the captain of her Mock Trial and Varsity Basketball team, starting a public speaking club at her school, and finding an advocacy platform (thepurplelining.com) for young people, she has become a key leader of her school and enthusiastic public servant of her community. Beyond just education advocacy, Cameron is passionate about mending the partisanship in Congress, revising the foster care system, and ensuring that all voices are heard. Whether this is a future in law or government, she hopes to use her resources to make further progress in these endeavors.

Darren Paredes, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

DARREN PAREDES

Junior, ASK Academy in New Mexico

Growing up in the multicultural and multilingual state of New Mexico, Darren has always been motivated to contribute to improving his community. He has diverse interests, including reading, participating in Model UN, running, and occasionally delving into poetry and video-making. He participated in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, allowing him to spend 10 months attending a German high school. Back home, Darren aims to bridge the gap between his school, community, and generation, ensuring their voices are heard in the decisions that impact them now and will continue to shape their future.

Kamila Almazan, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

KAMILA ALMAZAN

Senior, YES Prep Gulfton in Texas

Kamila is passionate about fostering positive change and is the proud founder and president of the Neurodiversity Committee at her school. Kamila’s dedication lies in creating an inclusive and supportive environment through organizing events, activities, and lessons that promote understanding. Outside of school, she volunteers as an Ecoteen and serves as a summer teaching assistant at the Houston Science Museum, expanding her knowledge in accessibility and acceptance. Her ultimate vision is to build a world where diverse minds can thrive, emphasizing the importance of collaboration.

Maya Maliakal, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

MAYA MALIAKAL

Junior, Harmony Science Academy Carrolton

Through her role as student council president, Maya was crucial in guiding her school to be elected as the vice president school for district three of The Texas Association of Student Councils. She has also been involved in other leadership organizations, such as NJHS/NHS, where she contributes to leading and participating in various service-related activities to benefit her community. Outside of school, she has a significant role in a state-wide conference held at the Texas State Capitol for The Service Leadership Society. Her passion for participating in different organizations reflects her desire to create positive change in her community.

Nathan A. Duguid, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

NATHAN A. DUGUID

Senior, Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in New Jersey

Nathan is a multi-talented individual who wears many hats as a journalist, poet, rapper, and songwriter. Alongside his artistic endeavors, Nathan is actively engaged in various leadership roles. He serves as the vice president of his school’s Student Government Association, where he spearheads initiatives to enhance student welfare. As the founding Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, Nathan utilizes his platform to amplify marginalized voices and shed light on important issues. He is also working with the Civic Spring Fellowship, where he is passionately involved in organizing a community event addressing educational inequities.

Olivia Jones, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

OLIVIA JONES

Senior, University Prep Art & Design High School in Michigan

Olivia is an exceptional honors student with an impressive 4.09 GPA and her dedication extends beyond academics. Olivia is part of Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan and serves as the Student Council vice president. She also holds the esteemed position of president of the National Honors Society and is a member of Student Leaders. Her passion for advocacy and social justice shines through her extensive extracurricular commitments, aligning with her ultimate goal of becoming a civil rights attorney. Olivia’s continuous effort and hard work are evident in everything she undertakes, both inside and outside school.

Rosamaria Villasenor, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

ROSAMARIA VILLASENOR

Sophomore, Elevate Academy in Idaho

Rosamaria is a dedicated individual eager to make a difference in her community and beyond. Her commitment to personal growth and compassion for others makes her an inspiring and valued member of any team. Recently, she was selected to participate in Business Professional of America where her exceptional skills in job interviews led her to the finals. Outside of school, Rosamaria’s passion extends beyond academics. Homelessness, teen substance abuse, hunger, and racism are among the causes she is devoted to addressing. Through advocacy, Rosamaria aims to positively impact and create meaningful change in these areas. 

Sahaana Rajagopalan, 2023-24 Rising Leaders Initiative headshot

SAHAANA RAJAGOPALAN

Senior, Charter School of Wilmington in Delaware

Sahaana is a natural-born leader determined to grow and sustain her initiatives while promoting inclusive and diverse policies. As the founder of The S.P.A.R.K.S. Project, she is dedicated to bridging the STEM education gap for K-5 students. Sahaana also serves on the board of NerditCares, a non-profit focused on reducing the digital divide in communities through technology, skills, and support. She also volunteers several hours weekly at the Ronald McDonald House. At school, Sahaana takes on leadership roles in organizations like Speech and Debate, Health Occupations Students of America, and CSW Connections.

 

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Advocates Council

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Legacy Society

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