Our Origin

When I ran for public office in 2014, I went door-to-door seeking support in the neighborhood where I grew up. A number of residents asked me: “Why are you asking for my vote? My voice doesn’t matter.” It hurt my heart to hear that.

That’s when I decided to start a nonprofit to help low income people of color realize that all voices matter and that together, we can improve public policies that affect our living conditions. And so, with a small group of dedicated volunteers, I founded Our Voices Matter.

- William Jawando

 William Jawando

 
 
 

Our Core Beliefs

 
  • Through dialogue leading to collective action, disaffected individuals realize their ability to bring about positive social change
  • By fostering emerging local leaders, we strengthen marginalized communities

  • Advocacy strategy and tactics are best understood through participation in an actual issue advocacy campaign

  • By working in coalition with like-minded stakeholder groups, we leverage each other's strengths, maximize impact, and amplify underrepresented voices

 
 

Our Board of Directors

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William Jawando

Will is the President of our Board of Directors. He is a public policy attorney, community leader, and public servant who has been working for over a decade on education policy and on issues impacting children and families in government and the private sector.

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Michele Jawando

Michele is the Treasurer of our Board of Directors. She is a public policy attorney, wife, mother and "change agent."  She has worked at national and local non-profits and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Committed to service, Michele is a believer in the possibility of greatness in all of our communities.

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Crystal Ruiz

Crystal is the Secretary of our Board of Directors. She is a public policy analyst, mother and community organizer. As a life long Maryland resident, she understands the changing needs of the community and the state. She is committed to making sure that all people feel like their voices are heard.

 

Our Leadership Team

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Sterling Crockett

With nearly 30 years experience as an inspirational agent of change, Sterling has provided transformative leadership to numerous enterprises in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors, helping them grow and flourish.

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Jon Randall

Jon brings to our organization more than 20 years of experience at the national, state and local level as a grassroots organizer, policy advocate, tactician, trainer, facilitator, and nonprofit leader.

 

Our Interns

 KAYDEN FU  I am a sophomore in the IB Diploma Program at Richard Montgomery HS. I wish to major in law and I'm interested in a career of law or diplomacy. In order to combat injustice on the national or world stage, we  need to first engage in advocacy within our community. As an OVM intern, I am working with student leadership projects across MCPS in support of student-led social justice efforts. 

KAYDEN FU

I am a sophomore in the IB Diploma Program at Richard Montgomery HS. I wish to major in law and I'm interested in a career of law or diplomacy. In order to combat injustice on the national or world stage, we  need to first engage in advocacy within our community. As an OVM intern, I am working with student leadership projects across MCPS in support of student-led social justice efforts. 

 SIMON DEBESAI  I’m a rising junior at Springbrook High School. I swim and run competitively, and I’m deeply invested in political organizations within my community. I have a myriad of interests that are vastly different from each other, but I’d love to pursue Criminology, Forensic science, or Veterinarianism in the future. Becoming politically active within our community is an integral part of what it means to become an ideal citizen, and it allows us to push for the change we want to see in our community. Through OVM, I’m able to  educate people about the value of their voice.

SIMON DEBESAI

I’m a rising junior at Springbrook High School. I swim and run competitively, and I’m deeply invested in political organizations within my community. I have a myriad of interests that are vastly different from each other, but I’d love to pursue Criminology, Forensic science, or Veterinarianism in the future. Becoming politically active within our community is an integral part of what it means to become an ideal citizen, and it allows us to push for the change we want to see in our community. Through OVM, I’m able to  educate people about the value of their voice.

 NYRENE MONOFORTE  I’m a rising senior at Montgomery Blair High School. I love filmmaking, running, and earl grey tea. I believe that dialogue is a crucial first step towards creating change, but it must be followed up by effective action. Through OVM, I hope that I can facilitate spaces for both moments. I plan to study Public Policy in college.

NYRENE MONOFORTE

I’m a rising senior at Montgomery Blair High School. I love filmmaking, running, and earl grey tea. I believe that dialogue is a crucial first step towards creating change, but it must be followed up by effective action. Through OVM, I hope that I can facilitate spaces for both moments. I plan to study Public Policy in college.

 MAYA CANADY  I’m a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School. In college, I plan to major in Political Science or International Relations. My experience growing up in DC has led me to be very politically active. I’m passionate about politics, social justice and doing service. My internship at Our Voices Matter serves as a platform to fight for social justice as a young person and amplify others’ voices.

MAYA CANADY

I’m a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School. In college, I plan to major in Political Science or International Relations. My experience growing up in DC has led me to be very politically active. I’m passionate about politics, social justice and doing service. My internship at Our Voices Matter serves as a platform to fight for social justice as a young person and amplify others’ voices.

 DEBRA HENDERSON   I am a rising senior at Bishop McNamara High School, located in Forestville, Maryland. I am very interested in Music, Psychology, and Sociology. I plan to attend the college of my choice, majoring in Criminology or Forensic Science. I believe that my internship at Our Voices Matter is a great way to improve my leadership skills while also making a difference in the community.   

DEBRA HENDERSON

 I am a rising senior at Bishop McNamara High School, located in Forestville, Maryland. I am very interested in Music, Psychology, and Sociology. I plan to attend the college of my choice, majoring in Criminology or Forensic Science. I believe that my internship at Our Voices Matter is a great way to improve my leadership skills while also making a difference in the community.

 

 JUSTINA BLANCO  I am a rising senior at Parkdale High School. My passions include  sports, food and social justice. Ultimately I want to  become an activist attorney focused on reform within our justice system. For now I am working to represent the student voice in the gorgeous Prince George’s County. I believe there is no greater purpose than to fight for the people around you and that starts within your community.

JUSTINA BLANCO

I am a rising senior at Parkdale High School. My passions include  sports, food and social justice. Ultimately I want to  become an activist attorney focused on reform within our justice system. For now I am working to represent the student voice in the gorgeous Prince George’s County. I believe there is no greater purpose than to fight for the people around you and that starts within your community.

 AMALIE ZINN  I am an incoming freshman in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I am passionate about engaging with my own community, and making sure that residents are able to take advantage of the opportunities that voting affords.  I plan on majoring in International Studies with a possible minor in Biology, and I hope to go into Public Policy.

AMALIE ZINN

I am an incoming freshman in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I am passionate about engaging with my own community, and making sure that residents are able to take advantage of the opportunities that voting affords.  I plan on majoring in International Studies with a possible minor in Biology, and I hope to go into Public Policy.

 NIDHI MANDADI  I will be a sophomore at Virginia Tech in the fall. I am studying Business Information Technology and hope to work for a company that values political awareness and civic duty. Growing up and watching the country drastically change is what has led me to become more involved in the political process and is also what led me to intern for OVM this summer.

NIDHI MANDADI

I will be a sophomore at Virginia Tech in the fall. I am studying Business Information Technology and hope to work for a company that values political awareness and civic duty. Growing up and watching the country drastically change is what has led me to become more involved in the political process and is also what led me to intern for OVM this summer.

 DEVIN MCLENAGAN  I will be a junior at Walt Whitman High School in the fall. I am interested in politics and promoting civic engagement. I hope to increase my advocacy and leadership skills at OVM and use these skills in the future to advocate for others so that everyone may be heard and have their rights upheld. In college, I want to major in engineering and continue to be an active part of my community and further promote civil rights.

DEVIN MCLENAGAN

I will be a junior at Walt Whitman High School in the fall. I am interested in politics and promoting civic engagement. I hope to increase my advocacy and leadership skills at OVM and use these skills in the future to advocate for others so that everyone may be heard and have their rights upheld. In college, I want to major in engineering and continue to be an active part of my community and further promote civil rights.

 TARINA AHUJA  I will be a junior at Madeira School in the fall. I am passionate about advocacy and social justice as I believe that every person can use their voice to achieve great heights. I work with organizations such as Girl Up and Amnesty International and run my own nonprofit that works to get young Sikh girls involved in service and community empowerment. Along these lines, I hope to study International Relations and Political Science in college. Civic engagement is so important as it is an integral part in creating a community in which every citizen has equal access to their rights. This is why I am so excited to work with OVM in an effort to reach this goal!

TARINA AHUJA

I will be a junior at Madeira School in the fall. I am passionate about advocacy and social justice as I believe that every person can use their voice to achieve great heights. I work with organizations such as Girl Up and Amnesty International and run my own nonprofit that works to get young Sikh girls involved in service and community empowerment. Along these lines, I hope to study International Relations and Political Science in college. Civic engagement is so important as it is an integral part in creating a community in which every citizen has equal access to their rights. This is why I am so excited to work with OVM in an effort to reach this goal!

 ETHAN TIAO  I am a rising junior at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. I believe that we need to unite together in order to combat the intolerance, hate, and discrimination within our communities and schools. If the youth within our community have an adequate platform that allows them to find their voice, we will be able to address the social justice issues that plague our society everyday.

ETHAN TIAO

I am a rising junior at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. I believe that we need to unite together in order to combat the intolerance, hate, and discrimination within our communities and schools. If the youth within our community have an adequate platform that allows them to find their voice, we will be able to address the social justice issues that plague our society everyday.

 MARY ATANG  I am a 17 year old rising senior at Reservoir High School in Howard County. I play field hockey (though I’m not very good at it, I like the team aspects) and am part of many clubs. I am passionate about people. I want to go into the law field, maybe constitutional law, to help those who cannot help themselves. I believe many laws benefit only certain people and as a lawyer I hope to help those who are wronged. I’m excited to intern at OVM because I think these are the starting steps to becoming the activist I wish to become.

MARY ATANG

I am a 17 year old rising senior at Reservoir High School in Howard County. I play field hockey (though I’m not very good at it, I like the team aspects) and am part of many clubs. I am passionate about people. I want to go into the law field, maybe constitutional law, to help those who cannot help themselves. I believe many laws benefit only certain people and as a lawyer I hope to help those who are wronged. I’m excited to intern at OVM because I think these are the starting steps to becoming the activist I wish to become.

 LULIA FITIWI   I am a rising senior at Quince Orchard High School.  I am involved in various organizations and clubs in my school one of them being Model United Nations, which taught me that dialogue is the first step to solving any problem. As I child I have lived in many different places which has given me an appreciation for diplomacy. Which is what I intend to do here at OVM,gain the leadership skills that are need for me to make a difference in my community.

LULIA FITIWI 

I am a rising senior at Quince Orchard High School.  I am involved in various organizations and clubs in my school one of them being Model United Nations, which taught me that dialogue is the first step to solving any problem. As I child I have lived in many different places which has given me an appreciation for diplomacy. Which is what I intend to do here at OVM,gain the leadership skills that are need for me to make a difference in my community.