Stevie Valles is a 2010 graduate of Oakwood University (HBCU) where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Since graduating, he has committed his entire career to advocating for justice, equality, and freedom for ALL people. Since Stevie became the Executive Director (ED) of Chicago Votes in 2017, the organization has started two new programs and has expanded it’s base to include young Chicagoans in juvenile detention centers, jails, prisons, high schools, colleges, and in Chicago’s creative community. Chicago Votes has had too many recent accomplishments to count, but he is exceptionally proud of the work CV did to pass two laws: Senate Bill 2090, which made the Cook County Jail the first jail in the country to serve as a polling location, and House Bill 2541, which requires that people being released from prison receive peer-led civic education courses. Prior to joining Chicago Votes, he was the National Campaigns Director for the Bus Federation (now the Alliance for Youth Action). Stevie has also worked in the United States Senate, the Texas Legislature, and on a number of different campaigns, ranging from presidential to gubernatorial to affordable housing. Stevie seeks to empower people through participation in the democratic process. He believes that society is in need of revolutionary change in order to end oppression in all it’s forms, and that this kind of change can be accomplished through organized efforts rooted in education, voting, advocacy, and accountability. Stevie hopes to impact society by empowering young Chicagoans to represent the interests of communities that are most oppressed. He believes that holistic participation in the democratic process is a means by which society can be changed.
As Deputy Director at Chicago Votes, Jen Dean is a strategist, sociologist, youth mentor, and community organizer inside jails and prisons in Illinois. MTV chose Jen as a “Leader For Change” for her activism work, ensuring people most impacted by the criminal justice system and young people have a seat at the table when policy decisions are being made. Ms. Dean’s passion is to cultivate new social justice initiatives such as #ParadeToThePolls, #GiveAShitChicago, and Cook County Jail Votes. She has created a rapid national movement drafting and passing legislation that protects civil rights and voting rights for people inside jails; the #UnlockCivics model of civic engagement has spread to over 30 detention facilities. She has worked with several organizations on; the legalization of cannabis, reducing stop and frisk, the #ByeAnita campaign, marching the streets for Laquan McDonald and the Fight for 15, while serving on the boards of Chasing23 and Bring Your Bag Chicago. Jen recently received the Barbara Jordan Award for excellence in judicial advocacy and education from Judicial Accountability PAC. Some of her current work is ensuring there is a more diverse, quality judiciary while she continues to build the bridge of criminal justice reform through transformative democracy. She is working to bring Parole to Illinois, ending prison slave labor, and making sure people with prior felonies can serve on a jury. Jen’s mission in life is to find the balance between adventures, traveling, and politics while encouraging women to bring their “full selves” to the table.
A Hoosier native, Rudy graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in political science and international studies. She moved to Chicago in August of 2013 to attend culinary school, but found her inner activist instead. She completed the Chicago Votes Winter internship program in late winter/ early spring of 2014. After working at a law firm in the loop, she took a job as a Chicago Votes Field Organizer during the summer/ fall voter registration project and has been working with the organization ever since. Rudy is excited to show young Chicagoans that they can make a difference in their city and encourage the millennial generation to take an active role in the political system.
Josh was born in eastern Kentucky, but has called home to Seattle, Washington D.C., Princeton, New York City, and now Chicago for the past five years. During college, he was a Bonner Scholar, completing over 1,700 hours of community service at various nonprofits. This contributed to him receiving the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship, a social justice program that trains, inspires, and sustains leaders in the arenas of hunger and poverty. He spent time at the Bonner Foundation, providing diverse, predominantly low-income students with an access to education and opportunity to serve through scholarships and service. He continued his work at Feeding America, helping food banks develop strategic planning efforts around supporting SNAP and vulnerable populations. and most recently, freelancing around equity and strategic planning.
Alex is a recent graduate of DePaul University with a bachelors in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies. She is an active organizer in voting rights and the criminal justice system. Alex has previous experience at the Chicago Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights in addition to the “Inside Out” program, a Legislative Think Tank at Stateville prison. After Chicago Votes passed the Re-Entering Civic Education Act, Alex spearheaded the civics curriculum development for every person leaving Illinois prisons. She also serves on Parole IL’s board. In 2019, Alex brought community members together to form Cannabis Equity IL, a cannabis coalition ensuring community members are included with the implementation of the legalization of cannabis. She has also ensured our Parade To The Polls program continues to be innovated as she lead our first ever 2019 Candidate Mayoral Forum bringing 13 high schools together at Malcolm X college to hear from the mayoral candidates and then lead the students directly to the polls. You can catch Alex at just about any community organizing event across the city, helping everyone from establishing mental health clinics to book clubs in jail.
Brian started organizing in high school. As a member of his school’s student council he advocated against racially driven policies that had not been implemented at his school since the 1800’s. He eventually left the student council in spite of those policies for not complying with them. In response to that, he started his own Black Student Union. He continued to fight against the same policies. Ask him…he will tell you the rest. In 2014 he rallied in the protest for “School Choice Now” which was for free education. In 2017 he joined “The People’s Lobby, Reclaim Chicago and Chicago Student Action. He began to run his own student action teams on multiple college campuses including Malcolm X and Harold Washington, both teams had over 20 students. They bird dogged, hosted phone banks for gubernatorial candidates and ran activist trainings.
Katrina is originally from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and moved to Chicago to study sociology at DePaul University. She has been organizing around issues of educational inequity and mass incarceration for several years. As a high schooler, Katrina founded Curriculum on Race Education (CORE), a student group that advocates for inclusive curriculums and equitable school policies. Since moving to Chicago, she has served as Co-President of Students Against Incarceration, a student organization at DePaul that fosters an environment for students interested in fighting against issues in the American legal system. In this role, she has lead a #banthebox campaign to remove barriers to higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals. As a sociology student, she has conducted research on the experiences of first-generation college students and higher education in prison.
Kiah Michelle Sandler is a New Jersey native and graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, IL with a degree in Community Psychology and African & Black Diaspora Studies. While in school she was an active social justice leader having co-founded a nonpartisan social justice organization, serving as President for a Black femme empowerment group, and chartering the Upsilon Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. on her campus. After graduating, she taught as a 9th and 10th grade special education teacher on Chicago’s west side in the North lawndale community, and then was a part of the GOTV team for Chicago Votes’ 2020 Democracy Corps. Now, Kiah will be serving as Chicago Votes’ first Development Associate and will be focusing on fundraising for existing and new projects. She is looking forward to incorporating innovative ways for young people to be a part of funding the movement.
The Emergence Collective
East Lake Mgt. & Development Corp.
University of Illinois at Chicago Army ROTC
American Bar Association
East Lake Management and Development Corporation
Coding for America