Meet the 2022 LeadNext Fellows
LeadNext builds a vibrant network of future leaders Aged 18-25 from across Asia and the United States and supports their growth, impact, and capacity to address today’s greatest challenges.
Lochana Gayatri Anand Adivarekar | Age 23 | India
Lochana is a Gender Trainer and works with adolescents and youth focusing on gender and sexuality. Currently, she is a Training and Advocacy consultant with YUVA where she mentors 13 researchers in the British Academy’s Youth Futures Program, which aims to create inclusive cities. One of her key roles is to engage youth in the process of policymaking and governance. Additionally, Lochana has initiated a movement named “Ubuntu” in order to create a gender-inclusive world, focusing on gender and sexuality education, by collaborating with colleges and youths.
Mayabee Arannya | Age 23 | Bangladesh
Mayabee Arannya is a feminist activist from Bangladesh working to end gender-based violence. As the Community and Strategy Leadat Kotha, a local feminist youth-led organization, she leads efforts to tackle the root causes of gender-based violence. Kotha’s work is at the intersection of education, research, policy advocacy, and art. Mayabeeispassionate about advocating for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights and effective mental health and trauma management. She is a peer educator and peer educator trainer, facilitatingBangladesh’s first fully youth-led comprehensive sexuality education program. Mayabee has helped to organize multiple national protests against rape and sexual violence, promoting bodily autonomy, and gender equality, and calling for reforms of archaic rape laws.
Ana Malia Melanie Angeles Falemaka | Age 18 | Tonga
Ana Malia Falemaka is a first-year law student at the University of the South Pacific, Tonga. She is a youth ambassador and trainee at the Talitha Project Tonga, providing programs for young women and girls in Tonga. The programs focus on sexual reproductive health rights, confidence building, and self-esteem. Through Talitha, Ana is also a youth climate ambassador for Care Australia working on climate crisis advocacy. Recently, Ana participated in a panel discussion at one of the COP26 events titled “Cities for Children”. Additionally, Ana is a member of the With and For Girls Advisory Council headed by Purposeful, providing young women around the globe with a leadership platform to distribute funds to small organizations focused on creating safe spaces for young girls. In her free time, Ana leads the children in her village via a small church organization that provides services for the poor and elderly. She is the eldest daughter of five and enjoys spending time with her family, reading, playing the guitar, and singing.
Sopharoth “Rosie” Ith | Age 23 | Cambodia
As a first-generation college student, education holds a special place in Rosie’s heart. Awarded the SHE-CAN scholarship to pursue a college education in the U.S., Rosie intends to bring her knowledge home to expand educational opportunities for Cambodians—especially women and girls—as a path toward poverty alleviation. Coming from a low-income family, Rosie understands the challenges of accessing opportunities and resources. She has been an advocate for social justice through multiple diversity and inclusion programs at the University of Portland and co-founded the Cambodian Student Association in the U.S.A. Rosie initiated “Unleashing Your Potential”, a mentorship project for rural high school students in Cambodia, developing it with other Cambodian students. As an experienced representative in global forums, Rosie aims to join the growing number of female policymakers impacting gender equality in Cambodia and increasing women’s representation from the Global South in the international community.
Nelson “Nello” Kokoa | Age 24 | Papua New Guinea
Nelson Kokoa is a multidisciplinary storyteller, born and raised in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, devoted to using his love for the arts to develop, inspire and empower young people in his country. He is a Clean Generation Campus Ambassador, with a keen interest in public speaking, creativity, design, and theater arts. Recognized as a Clean Generation leader with The Voice Inc. and a local actor at the Moresby Arts Theatre, Nelson has been involved in innumerable youth development programs as well as historical and groundbreaking theatre shows. At present, Nelson is a full-time student at the University of Papua New Guinea in his final year of studies pursuing a degree in science (Chemistry). While he is completing his education, Nelson volunteers as the team lead volunteer at The Voice Inc., a dynamic youth development organization aiming to equip young people with the tools and knowledge to be agents of change in their communities. He also volunteers as a performer at the Moresby Arts Theatre, which has landed him gigs as a TV host and master of ceremony at several events.
Christine Rose L. Lapada | Age 24 | Philippines
Christine Rose L. Lapada is a Filipino youth leader and a human rights and grass roots legal advocate. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Community Development from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2019. She has extensive experience in legal and community development research. Her fields of interest are legal empowerment, human rights, grass roots organizing, and community education. Currently, Christine works as a research assistant and legal intern at the Ateneo Human Rights Center, and as a student recruitment coordinator and volunteer tutor at Tutors for Leni.
Ryenchin Myagmarsuren | Age 23 | Mongolia
Ryenchin Myagmarsuren is a program coordinator at Zorig Foundation, a prominent nonprofit organization in Mongolia. He runs the Junior Internship Program, which is a six-month program that professionally empowers high school students nationwide through training, workshops, mentorship sessions, and professional internships. Additionally, Ryenchin manages Athlete Leadership Program (ALP) helping uncertain professional athletes, many of whom retire earlier than those in other industries, through career transitions after their retirement. ALP provides a comprehensive program for athletes competing in various sports with the necessary knowledge and capacity-building training to make their career transition more seamless. Ryenchin is also a co-organizer of the Women in STEM project, empowering young women working in STEM to lead in this male-dominated industry. The project was awarded funding from the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2021.
Ivo da Conceicao Tilman Ribeiro | Age 19 | Timor Leste
Ivo Ribeiro is an inspiring and dedicated youth leader focused on creating effective change by utilizing clear communication and empathic learning. He studies at Joao Saldanha Institute, majoring in economics, and is passionate about socioeconomic development, communications, and youth engagement. He has two years of professional experience in international development and translation/interpretation with The Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste, Leadership and Life Coaching Solutions/Dalberg Advisors, and the University of San Francisco. He also has more than three years of experience working in youth empowerment and education, volunteering in various youth-led and education-focused organizations including Uma Amerika, Youth for Others, GrowYouth, and Colégio de Loiola. In early 2020, when Timor-Leste experienced a severe flood, he co-founded Youth for Others (YfO). YfO organizes and motivates on-the-ground emergency volunteers, providing essential and emergency goods to families in evacuation centers. YfO has also fundraised for and provided assistance to more than 100 households across Dili during the 4th of April 2021 flood. Outside of work, Ivo enjoys public speaking with his debate team, the Fighters.
Faye Simanjuntak | Age 19 | Indonesia
Faye Simanjuntak is the founder of Rumah Faye, a nonprofit founded in 2013 working to eradicate child sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation utilizing prevention, rescue, and rehabilitation programs. Through her work, Faye has been recognized on Forbes Indonesia’s “30 Under 30” list and The Strait Times’ “Young Asians to Watch” list. Most importantly, in 2016 Faye led Rumah Faye to open new safe houses, working directly with victims of sex crimes, assisting in the recovery of over 140 girls as of March 2021. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Washington, D.C.
Piyumi Pramuditha Thathsarani Wattuhewa | Age 21 | Sri Lanka
Piyumi Wattuhewa is an undergraduate, volunteer, and advocate based in Sri Lanka. With a background in international relations, she is pursuing degrees in law and development studies at the Universities of London and Kelaniya, respectively. Piyumi is the advocacy lead and Sinhala language spokesperson at Sisterhood Initiative, a young women’s organization based in Sri Lanka focusing on creating safe spaces for Muslim women. She is also a volunteer with Hashtag Generation and Hype Sri Lanka and is a member of the National Resource Pool of Uva Shakthi Foundation. In 2021, Piyumi was awarded The Asia Foundation’s Civil Society Fellowship under the South Asian Grants Programme. She has extensive experience in carrying out awareness campaigns promoting women’s leadership, prevention of violence against women and girls, prevention of early and child marriages, and environmental advocacy via social media. Additionally, she has led projects to mentor and mobilize young women to participate in social action projects. Currently, Piyumi is conducting research through an Internews fellowship concerning online gender-based violence and digital security in Sri Lanka with a focus on women and gender minorities. Piyumi seeks to empower youth by expanding education and professional opportunities.
Eliya M. Baron Lopez | Age 25 | United States
Eliya M. Baron Lopez grew up in Monterey and San Francisco, California. After becoming fascinated by marine conservation through the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s teen program, she dedicated her studies to ocean conservation advocacy. Eliya received her bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego in Environmental Policy and Korean Studies. She completed her master’s degree in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island (URI), publishing work on global marine plastics and South Korean maritime disputes. Her master’s research focused on the efficacy of South Korean marine litter management. Previously, she conducted research in the marine debris field at the New England Aquarium, URI, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is currently a Fulbright Student at the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, researching South Korean marine plastics policy and engaging in cross-cultural connections.
Shubham Gupta | Age 21 | United States
Shubham Gupta is a senior at UCLA majoring in public affairs and minoring in global studies and Chinese. Gupta was recently awarded a Taiwan Studies Research Fellowship by the UCLA Asia Pacific Center to qualitatively study sexual assault and resource accessibility for migrant workers. He also analyzed migration flows across California counties through the California Policy Lab. In their free time, Shubham directs several dance teams at UCLA and loves finding APIDA-owned businesses in Los Angeles to explore and support. After graduating in 2022, Shubham hopes to pursue graduate study to uplift marginalized groups within their community and beyond.
Sora Heo | Age 20 | United States
Sora Heo is a junior studying International Studies, Political Science, and Arabic. As the proud product of immigrants, Sora has been active in immigrant and refugee advocacy and justice. In her home city of Chicago, Sora serves as a citizenship counselor for a local nonprofit, providing support throughout the U.S. citizenship naturalization process. On-campus, she serves on the executive board of No Lost Generation, her college’s sole refugee empowerment organization, coordinating academic panels on refugee issues, language exchanges, and volunteering initiatives. Additionally, she is the bystander intervention director of It’s On Us, a student initiative focused on combatting sexual assault on campus. By way of her passion for increasing civic engagement, she has worked on voter outreach, voter protection, and policy research for Katie Porter and Christina Hale’s congressional campaigns, Andrew Yang for Mayor, and Tricia Shimamura for NYC Council. She has held internships for her local congressman, USAID, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the U.S. Department of State. She aspires to be a foreign policy analyst while remaining active in immigrant and refugee justice causes.
Anne-Marcelle Kouame | Age 24 | United States
Anne-Marcelle is a certified YouMap© coach, ally-leader, and creator of Silk Road Journey, a self-discovery story lab that affirms students on their individual strengths with stories that celebrate their cultural background. Prior to this, Anne-Marcelle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies at Juniata College, where she developed the Global Village residential community, led dozens of minority-inspired student initiatives, and pursued a migrant-focused linguistic study across France, Tunisia, and Morocco. As an Ivorian-American with experience living in China, Anne-Marcelle is committed to developing ally-leaders across the diversity spectrum using storytelling.
Johileny Meran | Age 25 | United States
Johileny is a program coordinator with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange working to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange. Her previous work with the American Association for People with Disabilities and the National Disability Rights Network focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency response and preparedness. A Dominican immigrant and native Spanish speaker, Johileny has a bachelor’s degree in Global Public Health with a minor in Disability Studies from New York University (NYU). She was motivated to pursue an international disability rights career after experiencing “accessibility shock” during a visit to her home country. She studied abroad at NYU London, England as a Global Equity Fellow where she was tasked with improving resources for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Based on this experience, Johileny created a “London Access Culture Guide” to give students with disabilities insight into accessibility in London.
Mary Mijares | Age 22 | United States
Mary Mijares is a first-generation Filipina immigrant, a Bay Area native, and a recent University of California, Berkeley graduate. As a fully-funded Fiat Lux Scholar, Mary holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies and Asia Region, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, minoring in Global Poverty and Practice. At UC Berkeley, Mary was a part of Berkeley Law’s Human Rights Center as an administrative assistant and an open-source investigative researcher, examining the proliferation of multi-language disinformation and misinformation online. Mary also served as a research assistant in Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor & Employment, conducting cross-comparative studies analyzing global Filipino/a/x migrant communities. Lastly, Mary is an incoming researcher for Amnesty International’s Tech and Human Rights department, where she will examine the intersection of these fields. Outside of academics and research, Mary is passionate about visual arts and music. As a traditional artist and a musician for over 8 years, she has co-led and designed projects incorporating these mediums. Mary hopes to support initiatives making these subjects more accessible to all, especially underserved populations.
Nirmala Singh | Age 25 | United States
Nirmala has over five years of public sector professional experience. Her passion for gender equity and women empowerment has led her to create programs and build partnerships across nonprofits and governments. Nirmala currently serves as community programs manager for RISE. She oversees the planning, implementation, and growth of RISE’s public programs. She is also a co-founder of South Queens Women’s March, a local gender-justice nonprofit. Prior to RISE, Nirmala was the senior national service program coordinator at the NYC Office of the Mayor where she was essential in managing a 100-member program serving 50 nonprofits throughout NYC. Preceding her time at the mayor’s office, she was the program associate at the New York Immigration Coalition where she helped to launch the inaugural Women Empowered to Lead Immigration Navigators program. Nirmala strives to be a change agent and public sector leader disrupting inequitable systems and advocating for GBV survivors.
Alec Stimac | Age 20 | United States
Alec Stimac is a junior at Davidson College in North Carolina studying International Relations and Chinese studies as a Belk Scholar. His undergraduate research has focused on borders, conflict zones, and international diplomacy within the MENA and Asia Pacific regions. He currently works for Morocco World News and is writing an independent study on Algerian-Moroccan border tensions while studying in Rabat, Morocco. He hopes to work in development consulting, strategic affairs, or international journalism within the Asia Pacific. Previously, as an intern at New Bloom Magazine, he wrote groundbreaking articles on social movements, youth politics, and identity across Taiwan. Alec also participated in the CSAT Fulbright 2021 Mini-Semester abroad program at Tunghai University’s International College, learning business Chinese and fiscal policy. He is passionate about empowering communities through peacekeeping efforts, including community service, conflict resolution, education policy, and journalism.
Ayodele “Ayo” Theard-Lewis | Age 20 | United States
Ayodele Theard-Lewis is a Haitian and African American woman from Portland, Oregon. She is a rising senior and honors student at Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black University in New Orleans. Her goals are to become an educator and a national educational policymaker. She currently serves on two board committees of a public charter school in New Orleans. Her work as a teacher’s assistant in 2nd-grade classrooms, and her passion for her first-generation college student mentees fuel her dreams of creating equitable educational policy in the United States. After graduating from Xavier, she hopes to attend graduate school to attain a dual degree in Educational Policy and Political Science or Law. Ayodele is passionate about serving students with the best educational experiences possible, and changing the world by producing socially conscious, critically thinking members of society.
Brendan Wong | Age 23 | United States
Brendan Wong, from Taipei, graduated from Rice University with a double major in sociology and ecology. As a legal clerk at a boutique law firm in Los Angeles, he liaises legal communication for clients with limited English proficiency. Bilingual in Chinese and English, he translates primary legal documents and writes Mandarin blog posts on intellectual property, business, and housing legislation to increase the accessibility of legal knowledge. Brendan wrote his senior thesis on coral reef fish community recovery and is passionate about analyzing anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems. Additionally, he has extensive experience in graphic design, video editing, and podcast production. His experiences demonstrate his dedication to creating inclusive and environmentally sustainable communities. He has received awards for his science communication skills and campus contributions. He is pursuing a career in environmental justice and is eager to join the LeadNext Fellowship.
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