• Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.46.16 AM

© 2018 by NYAM. Proudly created with Wix.com

Think Tank Goal

An inter-generational team of subject matter experts from a diversity of disciplines working together to craft a curriculum for youth personal leadership and gun violence prevention in high schools. The goal of the curriculum is to develop within each student and within their schools a strong foundation for catalyzing pro-social behaviors among youth that 1) expands their capacity for building relationships, 2) engenders a creative orientation for addressing life's obstacles, and 3) demonstrates, in hands-on activities, how to address emotional and mental strain constructively by applying their passions and feelings of disillusionment to creative endeavors and civic and community engagement.


This curriculum is meant to be a counterbalance to the widespread anxiety and depression evoked within youth in the U.S. by increasing acts of violence in public spaces and the reality of active shooter drills in schools. It is meant to precipitate a culture shift from bullying, hatred, and isolation as a norm to creating peer-to-peer compassionate communities in schools that are self-perpetuating.

Think Tank Team

Subject Matter Experts

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 11.46.57 PM.pn

Janice Samuels is an educational technology leader, writer, and activist whose mission is to “help others know themselves, own their power, and live full and glorious lives that produce that best of what we are as humans, dreamers, and believers.” Throughout her career she has translated this mission into innovative programs and learning solutions that engage and empower students, faculty, peers, and the community to facilitate change.


Dr. Samuels is the founder and executive director of the National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence (NYAM), a Chicago-based fiscally sponsored nonprofit project that combines art activism and Augmented Reality technology to provide marginalized youth with the opportunity to be thought leaders in gun violence prevention. In less than three years, she has secured numerous supporters and partners and gained international and national attention through multiple conference presentations and publications, including a showcase of NYAM youth artwork at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Dr. Samuels also holds a Doctorate of Education in Learning Technologies from Pepperdine University, Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Regent University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Rollins College.

Founding Executive Director of the National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence

Dr. Janice T. Samuels

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 11.38.53 AM.pn

Tanya Sharpe joined the Factor-Inwentash Faculty in July 2018 after serving as an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work for 11 years. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Boston College located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Sharpe is a community-based researcher who is passionately committed to the development of

culturally responsive approaches and sustainable opportunities allowing Black communities to thrive

in the face of homicide violence.

Her research examines sociocultural factors that influence the

coping strategies of Black family members and friends of homicide victims. She has developed culturally

appropriate interventions and best practices designed to assist African-American survivors of homicide victims in the management of their grief and bereavement. Her comprehensive Model of Coping for African-American Survivors of Homicide Victims (MCAASHV) (Sharpe, 2015) has informed the development of a psychosocial educational intervention (Sharpe, Iwamoto, Massey & Michalopoulos, 2018), and a tool of measurement designed to assess the needs and coping strategies of African American survivors of homicide victims.

Factor- Inwentash Endowed Chair in Social Work in the Global Community, University of Toronto

Dr. Tanya Sharpe

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 11.46.54 AM.pn

Kelvin A. Ramirez is a board certified Art Therapist with years of experience incorporating art therapy within educational systems to enhance student’s personal and academic growth. A Board Member of FNEI, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Boston, MA, Dr. Ramirez has taken his expertise and shared them internationally, collaborating with educators, community leaders, mental health professionals and art therapist in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, India and Mexico. Dr. Ramirez is an Associate Professor in the Division of Expressive Arts Therapies with dual appointments in the Division of Global Interdisciplinary Studies and the Graduate School of Education.

Associate Professor,  Expressive Arts, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA

Dr. Kelvin A. Ramirez

RF cover pic.jpg

For over thirty years, Robert Fritz has been developing the field of structural dynamics through his work, first in the area of the creative process, and then in the area of organizational, business, and management issues.  He is the founder of Robert Fritz, Inc., and, along with Peter Senge and Charlie Kiefer, Innovation Associates.

His first major book on the relationship of structure to human behavior was The Path of Least Resistance, followed by Creating, Corporate Tides, The Path of Least Resistance for Managers and Your Life as Art.  This book takes the technology and applies it to organizations. These books, along with his trainings have introduced revolutionary ideas about the influence of structural causality on human beings, both as individuals and within organizations.  His book The Managerial Moment of Truth, was selected as one of the best business books of 2007 by BusinessWeek magazine.  Elements – The Writings of Robert Fritz is a collection of Fritz’s articles and blogs.  His latest book, co-authored by Dr. Wayne Andersen, is Identity. His publishers include Simon & Schuster, Ballantine Books, Berrett-Koehler, and Newfane Press. Fritz’s books have been translated into German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Best-selling Author of "The Path of Least Resistance" and Consultant

Robert Fritz

BellaMasterson (1).jpg

Bella Masterson (she/her) is a 21-year-old organizer and art educator from Chicago, currently living in Philadelphia as a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a double major in Cinema and Media Studies and Urban Studies, with an academic focus on the community benefits of nonprofit arts and film institutions. As co-founder of Teen Artists’ Creative Oasis (T.A.C.O.), she empowers teen artists by creating spaces dedicated to free expression, and has encouraged numerous art organizations in Chicago to prioritize youth leadership in their curatorial visions and program models. She has held internships and fellowships at arts institutions such as the Chicago International Film Festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. 

Co-Founder of Teen Artists Creative Oasis

Bella Masterson

Isabella Kiser (she/her) is a 22-year-old arts organizer and advocate, artist, and student. She is enrolled in a 5-year dual degree program at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she pursues a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies focusing on sustainability, equity, and policy and a B.F.A. in Studio Art. Through her work with Teen Artists’ Creative Oasis (T.A.C.O.), youth and adult artists, and various other arts organizations, she hopes to change the art history canon by making the art world a more inclusive and diverse space. She also hopes to one day study urban planning and design to reimagine the cityscape as an equitable and sustainable place.

Co-Founder of Teen Artists Creative Oasis

Isabella Kiser

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 11.56.01 AM.pn

Dr. Ricardo Omar Elizalde, Sr. honed his craft of teaching for 18 years in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). A lifelong learner, Ricardo started to experiment with multimedia projects early in his teaching career as an English and English Learner teacher. From puppet shows to film festivals, Ricardo enjoyed creating a classroom community of storytellers and media-makers. HIs current work explores media literacy and building student voice via portfolios, podcasting, film making and the building of digital communities. Vital to his work is building on the definition of Critical Digital Literacy.  He is a Doctor of Education in Learning Technologies. His dissertation blends language learning with multimedia making and sharing across digital platforms. For the past two years, he has also been a KQED Media Literacy Innovator.

Teacher on Special Assignment , Department of Technology, San Francisco Unified School District

Dr. Ricardo Omar Elizalde, Sr. 


Sara Knizhnik holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MA from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.  She served as a university-level English-as-a-Second-Language Instructor at various universities in the Chicago area for 17 years before becoming first a volunteer, part-time gun violence prevention (GVP) advocate with Moms Demand Action and then a full-time, professional GVP advocate with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV).  ICHV is the founding member of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, which has over 185 member organizations from all over Illinois that are collaborating in their efforts to effect meaningful gun safety reforms throughout the state and beyond.  As an ICHV organizer, Sara’s role is to educate the public about how they can become active in the GVP movement and effectively lobby their legislators and other elected officials to support the reduction of gun violence through the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. Sara lives in Vernon Hills with her husband and two children.

Organizer, Illinois Council on Handgun Violence and Chair, Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition

Sara Knizhnik


Liz Gomez’s artistic career began in 2007 as a portrait artist in their home state of San Antonio, TX. Gomez moved to Illinois to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received a BFA in 2014. They currently hold residency in The Hunter Radcliffe Artist Residency program and are an alumni of The Chicago Artist Coalition, Field/Work Residency program.

In 2018, Gomez founded Divine Gratitude, a live portrait video series designed to bring visibility to individuals whose stories show the positive impacts of authenticity and service within a community. Their various works have been shown at Rootwork Gallery, Chicago; Stony Island Arts Bank; Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Minneapolis; Phantom Gallery; William Hill Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center; The 

Museum of Science and Industry; Aplomb Gallery, Chicago; The Gene Siskel Film Center; Evanston Art Center 22nd, Chicago.

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence and Founder, Divine Gratitude Project

Liz Gomez

Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 7.27.00 PM.png

Duane de Four is an educator, media critic and activist with more than twenty years of experience developing strategic initiatives, policies, and curricula as well as facilitating discussions focused on issues ranging from sexual and dating violence prevention, masculinity, privilege, power and accountability to sexual health.

Duane has done this work in a wide variety of settings, including; the NFLNBANHLMLB and NASCAR, all branches of the U.S. Military, colleges and universities across the United States, high schools, middle schools, non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the US and in Nairobi, Kenya, and youth detention centers. He has also provided expert witness testimony in legislative hearings and domestic violence related cases.

Duane is currently working toward a PhD in Higher Education at UMass Boston, while teaching at Merrimack College and serving as a member of the MA Governor’s Council on SA/DV and the board of directors at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC).

Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston and Owner, DD4 Consulting

Duane de Four

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 10.05.14 AM.pn

Marquis is a 19 year-old who attends Morehouse College. In being born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Marquis provides a different perspective on the beauty that is within his city. Through the use of his photography, Marquis hopes to cultivate a new perception of his hometown and to create awareness of social issues across the country.

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement and Morehouse College Student

Marquis Sewell

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 10.13.17 AM.pn

Leah LaQueens is self taught artist and educator from Chicago with a concentration in digital graphics and expressive paintings. Leah's subjects  are mainly women who through her artwork she personifies to reflect issues and injustices effecting today's society. Leah founded LaQueens & Things in November 2018, an art design house, that places empowering art on products from home decor to apparel. 

Art Activist, National Youth Art Movement and Owner, LaQueens & Things

Leah LaQueens

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 12.44.18 PM.pn

Ms. Patrick is a recent retiree from the American Bar Association after working tirelessly for 39 years in several key positions to promote diversity, create social justice programs, and promote equal opportunities for individuals and lawyers of color.  She has mentored, inspired and helped to develop successful careers of thousands of law students and lawyers of color during her tenure at the Association.

Her goal of promoting diversity and equal opportunities started long before her legal career.  Prior to graduating from DePaul College of Law, she received a B.A. in Education from the University of Illinois, and a M.S. in Reading from Chicago State University.  She spent 12 challenging years teaching in the inner city for the Chicago Public Schools.   As an English teacher, she mentored, inspired and assisted hundreds of disadvantaged students of color to seek careers in law, medicine and education.

 Her work with Dennis Archer (first African American President of the ABA), Robert Grey (second African American President of the ABA), and Paulette Brown (first African American woman President of the ABA), inspired her to serve as the Director of the ABA Task Force on Minorities in the Profession. This first of its kind Task Force provided Ms. Patrick with an outstanding opportunity to play an instrumental role in making history by assisting with the drafting and creation of the Association’s
Goal 9, (the first Goal to be dedicated to diversity), and the historical Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession.  She served as the first director of this historic Commission, and she played a crucial role as part of the dynamic teams that created, developed and designed the historical Minority Counsel Demonstration Program, the Conference of Minority Partners, the Multi-Cultural Women Attorneys Network, and the Spirit of Excellence Award.

In her final position with the ABA, she was the Director of the Coalition on Racial & Ethnic Justice where she continued to dedicate and commit herself to social justice issues, diversity, and civil rights issues e.g. Stand Your Ground, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Teen Violence, Gun Violence, and Bridging the Gap between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color through Hackathons.

Ms. Patrick has made outstanding contributions to the legal profession, communities of color, law students and lawyers of color. She has been nationally recognized and received countless awards from the National Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Association of Black Women Attorneys, Native American Bar Association, Hispanic Law Students of Chicago, Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), and the American Bar Association. Her commitment and dedication to diversity have made a positive and profound impact on the lives and future of individuals from all backgrounds.

Retired American Bar Association Director

Rachel Patrick, Esq

Think Tank Organizational Partner

The Great Books FOundation

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 8.01.41 AM.png

For 20 years, Valentina Texera-Parissi has served schools and education- al organizations, helping to build ambitious curricular plans that improve learning outcomes. Prior to becoming CEO, she was executive director of

K–12 programs for the Foundation. In this role, she led the rebranding of the Foundation and launched Great Books Plus, a new digital platform for Junior Great Books. Early in her career, Valentina served the Foundation as a senior account manager, a formative experience that led to administrative positions with other educa- tional organizations, including Encyclopædia Britannica, Language Stars, and James G. Blaine Elementary School. Recently, Valentina spearheaded the launch of Inquiry In Action, a new leadership program of the Foundation with a mission to build stronger, more innovative working and thinking communities and to equip leaders with the skills to generate positive change.

President & Chief Executive Officer

Valentina Texera Parissi

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 8.04.22 AM.png

Louise Galpine is the executive director of creative development at the Great Books Foundation, overseeing creative strategy, publishing, and programming. She holds a BA in English from the University of Cambridge, and an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of London. Louise has led nu- merous educational projects at GBF, including collaborating with the Studs Terkel Radio Archive to produce an audio-based high school curriculum, partnering with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives to contribute discussion questions to a curriculum based on the work of Frederick Douglass for schools across the country, and working with the American Writers Museum to develop curriculum in support of a new exhibit on immi- grant writing, “My America.”

Executive Director of Creative Development

Louise Galpine

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 8.06.08 AM.png

Sarah Friedland joined the Great Books Foundation in 2016 and serves as its executive director of business development. In this role, Sarah is responsible for leading the Great Books Foundation’s sales, development and partnership efforts in the United States and internationally. Previously, Sarah was the director of K-12 programs, managing the educational training and sales team efforts including local, district, and international schools. Prior to joining the Foundation, Sarah spent nine years at Language Stars, most recently as the regional director for Chicago.

In this role, Sarah was responsible for driving strategic business and marketing objectives for 12 Chicagoland educational language centers with 2000-plus children ages 1–10. Earlier in her career, Sarah was a sound engineer working in theaters in and around Chicago. Sarah holds a BA in theater from the University of Iowa.

Executive Director of Business Development

Sarah Friedland

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 8.08.57 AM.png

Nancy Carr has been part of the development team for all the current Junior Great Books K–8 materials and has also worked on many of the Foundation’s anthologies and programs for adults. In addition to her editorial work, Nancy leads professional development workshops for teachers and coaches in class- rooms throughout the country. She has a PhD in English from the University of Virginia and often leads discussion groups for adults.

Senior Editor and Professional Learning Consultant

Dr. Nancy Carr

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 8.10.36 AM.png

Deb Ciochina is a career-long public school educator from Indiana where she spent 25 years working with high school students teaching English and directing theater productions before serving as an elementary school principal and district instructional leader for curriculum and instruction. Currently, Deb is the founder of Deb Ciochina Leadership Consulting, LLC, where she partners with schools, youth and nonprofit organizations, and companies to advocate for empathy, integrity, compassion, and authenticity; develop leadership potential; promote professional learning and growth; and facilitate strategic planning. Deb is a parent and grandparent and loves the creative arts, writing, traveling, and learning.

Leadership Consultant

Deb Ciochina