The NCEI Advisory Committee is a group of cross-sector community-based and institutional leaders with deep experience and understanding of communities, systems, and community engagement. The committee guides the work of NCEI by supporting the development of the institute’s long-term vision and goals. In more direct way, the committee advises in multi-year strategic planning, programming, and outcomes setting. As sounding board and a community of practice, the Advisory Committee leverages decades of thought leadership and knowledge to advance NCEI’s mission.
Ivette Izea-Martinez was born in Venezuela and oversees all community-based prevention initiatives, including Fuerza Unida which develops the leadership skills of Latin@ adults and youth to help end gender-based violence. She is the lead facilitator for Casa de Esperanza’s listening sessions, a proven approach to engaging Latin@s in developing community-driven solutions. Ivette is a 2019 Upswell fellow, a 2018 MN Change Network Fellow and a 2020 cohort member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Ortner Center Executive Program in Leadership and Strategy, Violence and Abuse Prevention additionally she serves in the School District 196 Diversity and Equity Council and the Curriculum Advisory Council. She is a member of the Minnesota Department of Health Sexual Violence prevention network and the MN Community-Level Prevention Action Collaborative.
Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra has been a Childbirth Attendant for over twenty-five years and is the Chief Family Development Officer/Health Systems Navigator with the Cultural Wellness Center where she supports individuals who are interacting with the health care system. In 2013, she received her certification as a Community Outreach Perinatal Educator, and in September 2014, received another certification to be a Perinatal Education Trainer for the Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery School, in Winter Garden, FL. Currently she is the President of the Twin Cities Black Child Development Interest Group.
Caitlin Schwartz has been doing community engagement, organizing, and grassroots leadership development since 2005, in both non-profit and public organizations. She is currently consulting with the Nexus Community Engagement Institute to support its work on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. Her passion is in constituent leadership and ensuring that people are centered in the planning and decision-making that impact their lives. A first-generation college student, she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas, studying Justice & Peace Studies and Sociology.
Sindy Morales Garcia
Driven by a commitment to equity and wholeness, Sindy works with Wilder’s Community Initiatives team to catalyze the cultural shifts needed to co-create transformational and sustainable change. Her work is informed by a rich tapestry of experiences in higher-education advocacy, community collaborations, and faith-based activism. As a facilitator, Sindy enjoys cultivating spaces of meaningful reflection and dialogue that enable participants to strategically advance new thinking and action in their lives and work.
Originally from Quetzaltenango Guatemala, Sindy comes from a family of community organizers. Her family’s narrative of struggle, resilience, and strategic disruption led her to center her personal and educational journey on deepening her understanding of liberation, healing, and social justice. This includes a degree in Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University, community organizing and public policy at the Silberman School of Social Work, and liberation theology and social ethics at Union Theological Seminary.
Now retired, from 1994 to 2017 I was associate director and executive director at Hope Community based in one of the most economically challenged and diverse communities in Minneapolis. With partners, Hope built almost 300 healthy, affordable rental homes. I worked with talented Hope staff who developed the strategies for extensive community engagement that are at the core of Hope’s approach including community listening, organizing, cultural art, leadership, and more, with racial equity at the center. My related experience includes: Covering low-income issues from a community perspective as a contributing editor for City Limits, a New York City-based magazine. Serving as director of two large, institutionally-based, multi-cultural community organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN and New York City, where I had the honor of working with hundreds of grass roots leaders building power and fighting for the future of their communities.
Janice is the director and founder of Healing Roots, and has the honor of being named an Elder in our European American community. She is currently a consultant in community engagement and an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota, teaching on culture and health. She designs and conducts workshops for organizations who want to better understand culture and respectfully and productively engage with people of different cultures.