We Power NYC Ambassador Spotlights
We are beyond pleased to announce the We Power NYC Ambassador Class of 2020! Below are the 32 bright, passionate, and caring individuals we selected to promote voting and civic engagement in New York City. Our 2020 Ambassadors range in age from 14-24 years old and represent all five boroughs. Our ambassadors include representatives from partner organizations including Coalition Z, CUNY, and Urban Word. This dynamic team will work alongside our Youth Coordinator to share election information and reach out to young voters and future voters.
Keep reading to meet our inaugural cohort of We Power NYC Ambassadors!
Name: Wali Ullah
Bio: My name is Wali and I'm a senior at the City College of New York, majoring in Political Behavior & Analysis. Right now, I'm a CCNY Climate Policy Fellow, where I’m working on renewable heating and building electrification research. I'm finishing up a legislative internship in Albany with the New York Public Interest Research Group, and over the summer I'll be interning with the BlueGreen Alliance on sustainable energy and infrastructure development. The issues I care most deeply about are related to higher education, green energy, mental health, and civic engagement. I can't wait to work with my fellow We Power NYC ambassadors!
Fun Fact: Before I started college, all I wanted to do was just be a DJ.
Name: Mikayla DeLuca
Bio: My name is Mikayla and this year I have worked with my school to get my fellow students registered to vote. I have always had a drive to lead an example for others and speak out on everything that I feel is important. I can't wait to work with fellow We Power NYC ambassadors and help out our community.
Fun Fact: I am 5'10 and an Aires
Name: Jennifer Martinez
Bio: My name is Jennifer Martinez (17) and I’ll be pursuing a double major in Journalism and Gender & Sexuality Studies at NYU in the fall. I’m a member of Urban Word NYC and an alumna of Developing Artists Theater Company. It is through these two programs that I have become dedicated to promoting youth voices in politics as well as civic engagement, and I am excited to be able to continue this work as a We Power NYC Ambassador.
Fun Fact: In my spare time I do a lot of songwriting and play ukulele, guitar, and piano.
Name: Leah DeFunis
Bio: My name is Leah DeFunis and I’m a sophomore in high school. I am extremely passionate about politics, public service, and voting rights. I am very excited to be a part of the We Power NYC ambassador team.
Fun Fact: I really like to swim.
Name: Vladimira Asinor
Bio: My name is Vladimira, and I am excited to have been chosen as a We Power NYC Ambassador. I am very passionate about public service, and I hope to put this passion to good use throughout my ambassadorship.
Fun Fact: I play the flute.
Name: James Lherisson
Pronouns: They/Them, He/His
Bio: Hi! My name is James Lherisson and I am a rising sophomore at Hunter College. I am a 2020 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and Federal Hall fellow and look forward to working alongside NYC Votes to increase political awareness in my community.
Fun Fact: I can Freestyle
Name: Maya Soudatt
Bio: My name is Maya and I’m a junior at NEST+m high school. I love discussing social issues and am passionate about supporting marginalized communities. I’m really excited to become a We Power NYC ambassador!
Fun Fact: I love to sing and I’m an Aquarius.
Name: Lauren Lee
Bio: My name is Lauren. I love music and tennis. Recently, I have been trying to improve myself as a person and help the community more.
Fun Fact: My birthday was on the first day of school for many years in a row.
Name: Zainab Jabeen
Bio: My name is Zainab Jabeen and I am a current high school junior. I am part of Teens Take Charge and will continue to be part of it for my senior year. I attend Edward R. Murrow high school and hope to further my studies in NYU, Fordham University or Barnard college. Although I want to be a researcher when I grow up (medical and/or social science), and am passionate about solving issues of segregation in New York City.
Fun Fact: Although I'm severely allergic to dogs, I'm planning on getting one.
Name: Timothy Hunter
Bio: My name is Timothy Hunter, and I am a recent graduate of CUNY NYC College of Technology with a major in Education. I am extremely excited to help engage more young people in the democratic process, and ensure our communities that need it most are the most civically engaged moving forward.
Fun Fact: I am an avid sports fan who believes that some day the New York Knicks will be great again!
Name: Ana LuoCai
Bio: My name is Ana and I'm a rising senior at the City College of New York. I'm studying political science and public policy with the intention of pursuing policy work in the future. I'm passionate about serving marginalized communities throughout New York City, especially immigrants and low-income folks. Within the past year I've become really invested in civic engagement and finding ways to strengthen voter turnout and political engagement in our communities, so I'm really excited to be a part of We Power NYC!
Fun Fact: Right after I was born my dad opened a restaurant in Peru and named it after me.
Name: Lila Shulmister
Bio: Hi, my name is Lila Shulmister! I’m a junior at NEST+M high school on the Lower East Side and I’m from Brooklyn. I am super excited to get people more involved in local elections and meet all of the new ambassadors.
Fun Fact: I love to cook!
Name: Jaylon Toussaint
Bio: My name is Jaylon Toussaint and I currently attend Clara Barton High School. I’m very optimistic and I love trying new things. I don’t really know much about voting but I do know how important it is for the voices of our people to be heard. I am excited to see what the We Power NYC crew has to offer and how myself and others can benefit from this new opportunity.
Fun Fact: I’m a Gemini
Name: Helen Chen
Bio: My name is Helen, a current high school junior. I attend High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies. I have a passion for reading, writing, and various community causes. Voting rights is extremely important and I’m so glad to be a We Power NYC ambassador.
Fun Fact: I’m a indecisive Libra with a creative mind
Name: Charlotte Ritz-Jack
Bio: My name is Charlotte and I am a junior at the High School of American Studies. I am also a Co-Executive Director at Coalition Z, where we bridge the gap between young people and their government. I am so excited to work with NYC Votes to make voting inclusive and equitable in NYC!
Fun Fact: I row with Row New York
Name: Talia Moine
Bio: My name is Talia and I just graduated high school. As I take a gap year before attending university, I have made a goal of working to increase voter turnout in upcoming elections, becoming more involved in my community, and developing my various interests.
Fun Fact: When I was little, I was afraid of grass so my parents forced me to play outside until I was no longer afraid.
Name: Nah'sarah Fofana
Bio: My name is Nah’sarah Fofana, I’m 18 years old and I go to John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I’m majoring in International Criminal Justice and minoring in Journalism. I’m also interested in voting rights, immigration and women’s rights. I am really happy to have been given the chance to work with the We Power NYC ambassadors.
Fun Fact: I’m left handed and can play the violin.
Name: Izzy Fell
Bio: My name is Izzy, I am currently an incoming freshman at Boston University and I am planning on majoring in Political Science. I am excited to work as a We Power NYC ambassador, to spread the word and empower voters!
Fun Fact: I have a puggle dog (half pug, half beagle).
Name: Katerina Corr
Bio: My name is Katerina and I'm currently a junior at Stuyvesant High School. Since middle school, I have been passionate about public service and international relations. I am currently a Co-Chair on the FEMA National Youth Preparedness Council and am excited to be getting involved in voting advocacy as a We Power NYC ambassador!
Fun Fact: In my free time, I enjoy playwriting!
Name: Mushfiq Milan
Bio: I'm Mushfiq Milan, junior at Martin Van Buren High School. I love business and computer science. I'm the Vice President of Student government. I'm very excited about We Power NYC ambassador because I think it will allow me to advocate for my community. I am very passionate about this position and hope that I can solve some major concerns in my community.
Fun Fact: I love the complicated math. I can write up to 28 digits of pie. I love to make new friends and talk with different people.
Name: Cecilia Castellon
Bio: My name is Cecilia Castellon and I'm a 10th grader at Information Technology High School. I'm currently in the Video Production program at my school where we learn editing and Photoshop skills. I am incredibly passionate about voting rights and am beyond excited to work alongside the new We Power NYC ambassadors.
Fun Fact: I was in my Elementary's school production of the Wizard of OZ where I played one of the Munchkins.
Name: Joshua Lee
Bio: My name is Joshua and I'm 2020 We Power NYC Ambassador for NYC Votes. I am a fourth-year Political Science and Communications double major with an emphasis in international law, and human rights at Baruch College. I am incredibly passionate about democracy and voting rights and am beyond excited to work alongside the new We Power NYC ambassadors.
Fun Fact: My favorite ice cream flavor is Pistachio.
Name: Amira Ismail
Bio: My name is Amira and I'm a new We Power NYC ambassador! I am a part of the class of 2024 but I am 14. I live in Queens and I'm excited to work with many amazing people!
Fun Fact: I play basketball and am a Pisces
Name: Dawn Rafal
Bio: My name is Dawn Rafal and I am incredibly excited to be a We Power NYC ambassador. I am currently a Marketing Assistant for Queens-based nonprofit Commonpoint Queens. I graduated from Northwestern University in 2019 where I studied Communication Studies and Civic Engagement.
Fun Fact: In addition to civic engagement, I am equally passionate about trains, dogs, bubble tea, and the borough of Queens!
Name: Marissa Cronin
Bio: My name is Marissa and I’m a student at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College. I’m currently studying Political Science and Public Policy, and I am really excited to help increase civic engagement in the city!
Fun Fact: I run collegiate track!
Name: Francesca Pierre
Bio: My name is Francesca Pierre. I'm a sophomore in highschool. I'm very ambitious and driven.
Fun Fact: I have a twin brother and a younger brother. I'm a Scorpio. I do track(I love the hurdles) and play tennis (doubles).
Name: Alexa Quitian
Bio: My name is Alexa. I am a junior at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. I am Colombian and Salvadorian. When I grow up I want to be able to help others and explore the world.
Fun Fact: I enjoy singing
Name: Meera Dasgupta
Bio: Meera Dasgupta is 16-years-old and the youngest appointed United States Youth Poet Laureate. A junior at Stuyvesant High School, her poetry has been featured by PBS, Apple, the Apollo, Bryant Park, and more. She has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall, TEDxCUNY, and the Teen Vogue Summit. Part of numerous advocacy groups, Meera hopes to continue to uplift marginalized communities and intersectional voices by way of her artivism.
Fun Fact: I am currently obtaining my yoga teacher certification.
Staten Island Ambassadors
Name: Sara Shirazi
Bio: My name is Sara Shirazi and currently, I am a sophomore at Wagner College in the Physician Assistant program. I want the people of New York to know how important voting is so they can advocate what is best for them and their city. I am excited to work with NYC ambassadors to see what I can do with others to make a change.
Fun Fact: I am very artistic and love to paint
Name: Caris Lashley
I’m Caris! I’m from Brooklyn and a junior in high school. I run track and I’m good at it. I’m passionate about human rights and healthcare for all.
I’m one of the fastest runners on Staten Island.
Name: Brooke Kraus
Bio: My name is Brooke Kraus and I attend Wagner College. I am a junior with a major in political science. I am passionate about people being able to do their part in government as far as voting. I truly believe that we as individuals have a voice and we should use it.
Fun Fact: I am a triplet with two of my brothers. I enjoy broadway shows and singing
Name: Annmarie Gajdos
Bio: My name is Annmarie Gajdos and I am an alumna of Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College. I recently graduated as Baruch's 2020 Valedictorian with a BBA in Computer Information Systems and Management of Musical Enterprises. I believe strongly in the importance of exercising one's civic responsibilities and look forward to mobilizing my peers to do the same.
Fun Fact: I was a competitive cheerleader for seven years.
Your Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Early Voting
A few weeks ago, we asked you to submit some of your questions about early voting, and today we wanted to take some time to answer them. Below are our answers to your top five questions about early voting, and if you think we missed any, let us know in the comments below or by submitting any additional questions here!Read more
Five Reasons Why Early Voting Is Good For Our Democracy
Last week, we launched our Early Voting Challenge to raise awareness about early voting coming to New York City this fall. Make sure to take the Challenge if you haven’t already!Read more
Civic Education, Representation, and a Seat at the Table: Youth Perspectives at the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee Hearing
The NYC Votes Street Team recently hosted the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee’s first-ever youth-centered public hearing, “We the Young People.” The Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) advises the CFB on its voter engagement efforts and recommends legislative and administrative changes to improve NYC elections. Over 60 young people attended the hearing, and many spoke about their experiences as young New Yorkers, leaders, and activists. Read on for a recap from our Street Team about the event!Read more
CFB Spotlights: The NYC Votes Street Team
CFB Spotlights is our blog series dedicated to interviews with various staff members from the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), the home of NYC Votes. The CFB is a nonpartisan, independent city agency that empowers New Yorkers to make a greater impact on their elections by increasing voter engagement and participation, enhancing the role of small contributors in funding campaigns, reducing barriers to running for city office, diminishing the corrupting influence of money in city elections, and informing the public about candidates and elections. Learn more about us at www.nyccfb.info.
Every summer, NYC Votes is joined by a new group of young New Yorkers looking to make a difference and help register, inform, and engage voters in our city. Together, our interns, known as the NYC Votes Street Team, lead our community outreach efforts and help us establish and maintain partnerships with other organizations. Street Team members are trained on how to lead voter workshops and register new voters at events all around the city like community fairs, block parties, festivals, and naturalization ceremonies, providing information about upcoming elections and helping citizens register to vote.
Today, in the second installment of our CFB Spotlights series, we’re talking to our 2019 Street Team about their work, the issues they care about, and what they’re hopeful for!Read more
CFB Spotlights: Working with City Candidates
CFB Spotlights is our new blog series dedicated to interviews with various staff members from the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), the home of NYC Votes. The CFB is a nonpartisan, independent city agency that empowers New Yorkers to make a greater impact on their elections by increasing voter engagement and participation, enhancing the role of small contributors in funding campaigns, reducing barriers to running for city office, diminishing the corrupting influence of money in city elections, and informing the public about candidates and elections. Learn more about us at www.nyccfb.info.
Do you want to give back to your community? Learn how to make an impact? Focus on the issues that you care about in your neighborhood?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider running for local office. Local elected officials can have a huge impact here in New York City, and starting at the local level is a great way to learn more about and serve your community.
This summer, the New York City Campaign Finance Board is launching a series of trainings for anyone interested in running for New York City office. And here to talk about the resources and guidance that the CFB offers candidates is Senior Candidate Services Liasion Samantha Perez!Read more
Voter Turnout in the 2018 Midterms: A Closer Look
In the 2018 midterm elections, voter turnout among New Yorkers rose significantly for the first time since 2002, and voters turned out in record-breaking numbers for one of the most exciting midterm elections in recent memory.
To learn more about the 2018 elections and what turnout looked like throughout New York City, take a look at our recent Voter Analysis Report, as well as the write-up we got in the Gotham Gazette!
In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the demographic characteristics that influenced voter turnout (both positively and negatively) at the neighborhood level. We used Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs) in our analysis, which are boundaries created by the Department of City Planning. To learn more about NTAs, visit the Department of City Planning's website here.Read more
How We Can Make Sure Early Voting Works for New Yorkers
Have you heard? New Yorkers are getting early voting soon! Starting this fall, you'll be able to cast your vote ahead of Election Day at a time that's convenient for you, including on the weekends. But in order to make sure that this reform is implemented in a way that make sense for the millions of busy voters across New York City, we've made a list of recommendations for the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) to consider. We'll be sending the BOE's commissioners the letter below, and we want to get your take! Let us know what you think of these recommendations in the comments below.Read more
Another Way to Vote: Instant Runoff Voting in New York City Elections
You may have heard of instant runoff voting (or ranked choice voting, as it’s sometimes called) before, but what you might not know is that our city government is considering adopting this method of voting.
The 2019 Charter Revision Commission (CRC) has a mandate to review the City Charter and will soon be provide recommendations to the public for how we can improve the Charter this November. As the CRC prepares its preliminary report, which is set to be released next Monday, April 22nd, members are taking the benefits of instant runoff voting (IRV) into consideration. So let’s get into it!
Making Voting Better: Registration Edition
Did you know that there are over 750,000 eligible citizens in New York State who are not registered to vote?
While new legislation has recently been adopted to make registering to vote easier for New Yorkers, there are additional steps our state can take to ensure all citizens have the opportunity to register and vote. Read on to learn more about how voter registration could be faster, more streamlined, and accessible.