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Meet the Nominees

These local changemakers were nominated by community members for their innovative sustainability work for social and environmental change. This year, Sustain Dane is recognizing young leaders under age 30. All Live Forward Nominees will be recognized at the Sustain Dane Summit on Friday, November 2. Congrats!

Alec Hembree is a Senior architectural designer at Strang Inc., an integrative architectural, engineering, and design firm in Madison. Alec uses his formal architectural training to guide building designs toward sustainability and has worked on some of the county's most recognizable construction projects. Alec has consistently led by example in his community through his year-round commuting by bicycle, volunteering as a Boy Scout Troop Scoutmaster, and contributing to United Way and the CANstruction hunger initiative.

Ashleigh Herrera is the Inventory Control Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, as well as the Treasurer and lead for the Nominating Committee with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) in Madison. Through youth programming with the Hands-on History Program for the Wisconsin Historical Society, and planning with YNPN, and in her personal life, Herrera pushes herself and others to consider diversity and racial justice in the pursuit of a more equitable community. She is also the owner of Kiss-Off clothing, a sustainable business that offers recycled and restored vintage clothing options.

Ashley Ligman works in the IT department for Edgewood College and is working with PaperCut, a print management technology company, to create a new, environmentally-friendly button for companies' print management pages. Once implemented, students and employees at over 50,000 schools and companies worldwide that utilize PaperCut printing software will be able to donate money to plant trees or work toward other sustainable initiatives, encouraging them to help offset the carbon footprint associated with printing paper. Ligman has engaged directly with Edgewood College students to promote sustainable paper use and is currently enrolled in Edgewood’s Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership graduate program.

Caleb Warner is the Facilities Manager at the YMCA of Dane County's East Branch, where he leads the YMCA’s Green Team. The team has spearheaded numerous green projects over the last year, such as hosting an e-waste drive, converting the East Branch to all LED lighting, placing recycling bins at every trash receptacle, updating bike racks with U-lock friendly ones, and encouraging bike culture through monthly contests. Future projects are set to include a food garden, LED lighting at the other 2 Dane County branches, and potentially solar power. Warner's leadership with the Green Team has impacted an organization of 450+ staff which serves over 50,000 individuals in Dane County every year, helping educate staff and members to live as better stewards of our planet.

Cassie Steiner is a tireless advocate for intersectionality and racial justice in the movement for climate justice, working as the Public Relations and Outreach Associate for the Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter. Outside of the Sierra Club, Steiner has served on the steering committee for the REAMP Network, which aims to reduce global warming pollution economy-wide 80% by 2050, and she has participated in the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change's Transportation and Land Use Working Group. She recently graduated from the Emerge program for democratic women who want to run for office and in her free time volunteers in electoral politics in Dane County as part of  her mission to build a healthier, more just planet.

A 2018 graduate of Madison West High School, Charles Hua served as president of West Green Club, a student-run organization committed to fostering a carbon neutral, zero waste school environment. Charles helped raise $100,000 to install solar panels at the school through West Green Club's "Project Solis" initiative, whereby individuals and organizations have the opportunity to adopt and name solar panels through a donation. Project Solis is the largest student-led sustainability effort in Dane County: by reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy usage, Project Solis affirms the growing youth-led movement advocating for solutions to environmental challenges. With this initiative, West Green Club plans to increase awareness among students and staff of the energy challenges facing Dane County, while outlining potential solutions to these challenges. In recognition for his efforts, Charles was honored as a 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholar at the White House. Charles is now a freshman at Harvard College and intends to study math and government.

Dora Siel is an Educational Assistant at Sandburg Elementary School who worked with teachers and students to initiate numerous sustainability projects such as a school-wide recycling program, outdoor rain gardens, community gardening and building projects. Siel has worked with naturalists in Dane County, attended community-wide science meetings and led environmental presentations at Sandburg Elementary. She believes in ecological practices as social justice and empowerment for young people, and clearly demonstrates this belief in her work with the Madison Metropolitan School District.

As Madison’s food policy director, George Reistad keeps Madison healthy and thriving by creating programs and policies that increase food access for residents of the City. Reistad has focused particularly on initiatives that provide better access to healthy, affordable food. His work actively brings together individuals from across the Madison region to build more robust community food systems, and has steadfastly included people of color and from all walks of life into the discussion around food access.

During his time as a Timber Procurement Forester, Griffin Brown was witness to landowners being defrauded by underpayment and the ecological destruction of their forests. As a result of this experience, Brown’s current business, Apex Forestry LLC., is writing long term forest management plans for private landowners, and enrolling them into the DNR's Managed Forest Law so that they can receive a tax break on their forested acreage. He believes that there needs to be a sustainable change throughout the forestry industry and has been working with his business and a host of community members to be the change they wish to see.

As a membership coordinator for the YMCA of Dane County, Jackson Butler promotes sustainability both at work and at home. Butler co-founded the YMCA of Dane County's Green Team and spearheaded several sustainability projects in the past year. The projects include providing recycling containers in each office and running an E-waste drive that kept thousands of pounds of electronic waste from going to the landfill. Since they weren't able to compost at their apartment, Butler and his wife, Katelyn, enlisted a local compost pick-up service to both support small business and help reduce waste.

Jon Hepner is T. Wall Enterprises' Development Manager.  Hepner pioneered the Veritas Village solar project on behalf of T. Wall Enterprises in 2017 (the largest solar array on a multi-family property in Dane County) and led the effort to install photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on four more T. Wall Enterprises properties in Dane County in 2018, making the developer the largest incorporator of solar on multi-family developments in the state.  His passion for renewable energy and determination to overcome obstacles was integral in T. Wall Enterprises’ decision to incorporate renewable energy into its properties.

Jonathan Roach is a 2010 graduate of Verona High School who now serves as a firefighter and rescue professional, with a passion for woodworking with local trees that would otherwise be wasted. Roachd aims to stop the waste of beautiful urban trees that are being primarily disposed of in Dane County, and to transform the unique wood into furniture that connects people to the trees growing all around us. There is much talk about using urban wood, but Jon is turning words into action by working with local partners to make it a reality right now.

Marcia Morales is a program manager at the Dane County Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program in partnership with UW Health Kids Collaborative and the WI Bike Federation, where she works to make walking or biking to school safer and more appealing to kids as a strategy to decrease childhood obesity, increase safety and improve attendance. Morales is a resource for both urban and rural schools to engage in safety planning, and to hold events such as Walk/Bike to School Days, the Walk or Wheel Challenge, and Walking School Bus programs.  She is responsible for the evaluation of the large county program as well as working with individual schools and the community to better understand the needs of families, with emphasis on equity and public health in SRTS programming.

Max Christman leads the effort at UW-Health to push energy efficiency, waste reduction, healthy chemicals, smart purchasing, and local food throughout UW-Health's system in south-central Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Sustainability at UW Health works with the preexisting community relations and population health departments to ensure a positive impact on Dane County for each of their initiatives. Christman is currently particularly proud of an effort amongst the green teams at outpatient facilities to provide better education to patients on safe medication and sharps disposal, which protects public safety by both combatting needle pricks in the opioid epidemic and protecting the environment by keeping hazardous materials properly contained.

The Mellowhood Foundation's Summer Initiative employs 23 youth neighborhood stakeholders to work in 4 community gardens in the morning assisted by youth support professionals and master gardeners. In the afternoon they are provided supervised individualized math and reading curriculum and produce their own weekly podcast: Your Voice - Your Choice. The youth are also served lunch and dinner and participate in the menu planning often using the food they grow. This initiative was created to allow youth to take the initiative in all aspects of their life.

Kayleb Hawj and Peyton Yang are young activists and organizers who were raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and are staff members at Freedom Inc. Hawk works with the Freemen program, which is a group of Southeast Asian boys who work to end patriarchy within their community, and also works to increase the visibility of womyn, queer and trans leadership through photography and videography. Yang became an active community member by the age of 11 years old, and is now working to end violence and change lives by teaching dance choreography in a safe space. Both Yang and Hawj develop their capacity to create social change through sharing stories and facilitating leadership, social justice, anti-violence and advocacy trainings for youth.

[Re]Generación is a leadership program created by youth facilitators for Latinx high school students in the Dane County area that engages youth in culture, identity, and the arts to strengthen their voices in our community. [Re]Generación connects youth with community service opportunities to give back, learn, and grow as pathways to futures beyond high school. It is an action-oriented Latinx youth group for high school students in Dane County, focused on social justice, and taking steps for addressing barriers to the advancement of Latinx youth in the United States.

Shawn Kuhn is the co-founder of Vitruvian Farms, which aims to “bring balance back to farming” by using organic, sustainable practices. Now selling to grocery stores and over 40 restaurants in Madison, Kuhn is seeking out new ways to innovate how farming is done and food is packaged. Among his many values at Vitruvian farms are responsible farming, concern for the environment, support of the local economy, and revolutionizing the food movement to provide healthy, locally sourced food for all.

Sreenath Pillai and Julia Block are the founders of UpRaise, a fundraising tool designed to put more money back into the hands of the nonprofit as they fundraise. Pillai also owns Flow Enterprise, a software development company that focuses on mentoring entry level developers, while Block has a history mentoring adults at the YWeb Career Academy and has now also started her own marketing company. Both founders are active community members who live sustainably in their professional and personal lives, and are distinctly aware of the local impact of non-profits.

Tracy Harvey is a graduate student at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies whose work centers around sustainable business. Harvey is interested in evaluating the economic incentives of adopting effective sustainable strategies in business and understanding the role of mission-based framework and natural capital valuation. Harvey plans to work with local Madison businesses during her program to improve their sustainability approaches and work towards a more sustainable future. She provides a constant positive influence on her  friends, family, students, and community to make better environmental and socially responsible decisions.

Victoria Barrett is an undergraduate student in the University of Wisconsin Nelson Institute who has been involved in a climate change lawsuit at the federal level, and who is a fellow to the Alliance for Climate Education. Barrett is on scholarship at the UW for this work and has presented it at the Nelson Institute’s annual Earth Day Conference. She currently sits on the diversity committee for the Nelson Institute to help advise and involve students of color in environmental activism, including action at the local level.

Will Erikson is an Environmental Business Coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Green Tier, helping WI companies achieve superior environmental performance. Erikson also serves as the project coordinator for the Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter, a group of  23 Communities and Counties across the state dedicated to moving members further, and faster towards their sustainability goals. Erikson facilitates sustainability efforts amongst participating Communities, Counties, and NGO Charter Partners, working closely with the cities of Fitchburg, Monona, and Middleton in Dane County.

The Xicanx Institute for Education and Self-Determination Program at East High School is a two-week-long evening program to help area and surrounding area high school students develop their identities as Xicanx students within the U.S. The Xicanx Institute engages in this process by prioritizing the historical and cultural context of students' lives, while looking to center civic engagement and critical thinking within a social justice framework. The program incorporates college-level material used nationally within ethnic studies and Xicanx studies disciplines, and is designed to be relevant to the culture and lived experiences of the students participating within the institute. The XIES program also has a partnership with the Menominee Nation where XIES participants learn and connect with the land and other native youth through weekend retreats in the summer and winter.