This year’s chosen group of 30 political leaders is shaping up to be one of Emerge Wisconsin’s best ever, with women from all parts of the Badger State, who come from diverse backgrounds and span the spectrum of races, sexual orientation, socioeconomic levels and professional experiences.
Rowan Abbott is a hard-working digital organizer who wants to put her skills to use to make people’s lives better. She looks forward to learning from other women in public service and politics to prepare for a future in public office herself, or assisting on other political campaigns.
Deb Andraca is a candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly in the 23rd District. She is also a substitute teacher with the Whitefish Bay School District and at Bruce Guadalupe Community School on Milwaukee’s South side. She spent most of the past 17 years as a stay-at-home mom while serving at different times as a PTO president, Girl Scout leader, community volunteer, and travel writer. Deb earned her teaching license at Alverno College, has a masters’ degree in political management from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. Deb and Marc Andraca have been married for 21 years and they have two teenage daughters.
Amanda Avalos was born in Chicago and moved to Milwaukee for college. After graduating from Marquette University, Amanda completed two terms with Public Allies Milwaukee.
Amanda is the Canvass Operations Lead for the Center for Popular Democracy, overseeing offices in six states. In this role Amanda provides operational canvass support for grassroots organizations running progressive campaigns. In addition to her operations role, Amanda is also a Remote Steward for her staff union, Washington-Baltimore News Guild Local 32035, serving on the Labor Management Committee. She is the lead of the Latinx Caucus and a part of the DEI committee for CPD.
Amanda is committed to working for a thriving Milwaukee by serving as Vice Chair of the Safety and Civic Commission, sitting on the board of Leaders Igniting Transformation, and the co-founding of #MilwaukeeBeautiful.
A HR business professional with experience in strategy, inclusion and diversity, community engagement, and program management. Faustina currently serves as Sr Director of Human Reources, as well as works in the community engaging in topics around inclusion. Faustina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Masters Certificate of Sustainability Leadership from Edgewood College. In addition, she completed the Leadership Institute (LI) program, which is part of the University’s Division of Learning Communities for Institutional Change & Excellence (LCICE). She is also an active volunteer and board member of the City of Sun Prairie Personnel Committee, City of Sun Prairie Bicycling Sub-Committee, Latino Professional’s Association, and Kennedy Heights Community Center.
Elizabeth Cox is a pediatrician and Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work leverages the voices of children and families to improve child health and well-being. Her farm girl roots motivate her to build programs and policies that support each person to be their best self. In her spare time, she enjoys talking with neighbors about their ideas to better our world, mentoring youth, and tromping through Wisconsin’s gorgeous state and county parks.
Becca Donaldson (she/her/hers) is a civil and human rights attorney at a public interest law firm based in Milwaukee. She has worked in gender equality advocacy for over a decade, both internationally and right here in Wisconsin. She earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, her B.A. in Communication Studies & Political Science from Northwestern, and is a proud graduate of Wauwatosa public schools. She’s now returned to her hometown of Tosa, where she lives with her partner and cares for her mom, who has early onset Alzheimer’s. Becca is thrilled to work with her fellow Emerge members and her community to move Wisconsin forward.
Dora Drake is a Milwaukee native who is passionate about ensuring justice is accessible for everyone. She graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in Social Welfare and Justice. Her love for improving the quality of life of individuals has led her to work in the criminal justice system. Dora has served individuals impacted by the disparities in the criminal justice system and participated in the collaboration implementing racial-bias training for a local agency. She is also trained as a Trauma-Informed Response facilitator for criminal justice professionals. Dora also served as campaign manager for a candidate running for Milwaukee Public School Board. She is excited to have the opportunity to learn from like-minded individuals on becoming an effective advocate and leader for the community.
Loreen Gage, Director of Client Services, is employed at Housing Initiatives and new to the Madison area. She leads a team of responsible case managers that provide services for over 200 clients with severe and persistent mental illness, helping them regain independence after experiencing homelessness. Loreen has over 20 years of combined experience in management, education and social service. She holds a B.A. in Communications, and Master of Human Services degree and is currently completed in M.A. degree in Special Education. She worked as a Special Education Teacher in Illinois and Milwaukee, working with students with cognitive disabilities, hearing impaired, and behavioral disabilities. She is the mother of three beautiful daughters, Jasmine, Kennedy and Leah. She was recently appointed to the Monona Grove School Board and is a member of WI Women’s Network Policy Institute.
Holly Hatcher is excited to bring her energy, compassion and experience to public office. As a registered nurse, she brings a unique perspective, skills, integrity, and a true commitment as a public servant to the table. Serving her community has always been a priority both professionally through her work in health care and public health, and as a community volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County and with the Dane County Democratic Party. These experiences have taught her how to collaborate, seek solutions, organize, and lead with compassion and integrity.
Angela Jenkins is a first-generation immigrant, mother of young children, and a community builder who is extremely passionate in building communities that are welcoming and equitable. Angela’s unique background and lived experiences are assets – drawn from a combination of her childhood growing up in a small, third-world country to her family’s immigration journey to the United States in search of better opportunities. She is excited to connect with other like-minded women and in continuing her work to elevate the voices of the oppressed.
Katie Kegel is an attorney who has devoted her career to public service. Through her previous work with nonprofits and inner-city public schools, and now as a public defender and an adjunct professor for Marquette University Law School’s Street Law program, Katie has sought opportunities to become a leader in her profession. Katie now hopes to expand her professional impact to be a leader for change in Milwaukee.
Brittany Keyes is a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Beloit, WI. She was the 2018 Democratic candidate for Wisconsin’s 31st Assembly District. Brittany believes that leaders should act with a sense of urgency to secure our children’s safety and future. Legislative inaction on school safety, racial and economic justice, and the climate crisis drive her to pursue political office. Brittany is also a wife, mom, and member of Wisconsin’s Healthcare Professionals for Climate Action, YDW, Beloit Rotary, NAACP Beloit Branch, Beloit’s ABLCC, and founder of Beloit Plogging. She is excited to join the Emerge sisterhood and WIN her next election.
Focused on community health improvement, Annie Knudson strives to see a world where people can afford and access basic needs like healthy foods, clean water, safe housing, a competitive education, public recreation and quality healthcare. Recognizing intersections of access and social justice, Knudson values empathy, an open mind, and perseverance. With her three young children in mind, she advocates for safe neighborhoods and sensible firearm legislation. She values a pathway to economic stability for both individuals and in government. She deeply commits to volunteering in her Northwoods, rural Price County community, and appreciates the opportunity to potentially extend this commitment to public service.
Grace Lacke is a recent graduate of Edgewood College, earning a B.S. in Political Science, concentrating in law and politics. She is extremely excited to gain the tools and knowledge to run a political campaign, and after graduating Emerge, Grace hopes to attend law school, and eventually run for state or local office. Grace is passionate about social justice, workers’ rights, and the environment, and plans to use what she learns in the program to make progressive change in Wisconsin.
Lauren Lopez Gonzalez
Lauren Lopez Gonzalez is an energetic, forward-thinking, and much-experienced leader. A proud graduate of Milwaukee Public schools, she attended and earned her B.A at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lauren has over a decade of experience working and volunteering with families and youth. She has the drive, enthusiasm, and ability to support and give back to her community. She is extremely passionate about education, safe communities, and helping her city to reach its full potential. Lauren and her husband, Federico Gonzalez, are currently raising their two children and family dog Bucky in the city of Milwaukee.
Jameelah A. Love is an advocate, mentor, and young professional. Jameelah has spent 10 years advocating for issues within the community from increasing educational resources for foster youth to healthcare. As a former foster youth Jameelah has dedicated herself to seeing positive reform within our foster care system not only in Wisconsin but also nationwide. Jameelah has served as President of Wisconsin’s Foster Youth Advisory Council, Co-founded the Wisconsin Leadership Corps and created a non-profit organization aimed at enhancing the quality of life for young people. Jameelah currently works as a Community Outreach Specialist in Saint A’s YTA program.
Tanya McLean is a community volunteer passionate about food insecurity, veteran’ issues, equality in education, mental health policies, and prison reform.
Staci Nielson was born and raised in Wisconsin where she lives with her husband and two children. She plans to run for office in order to be a strong advocate for the disenfranchised. She is particularly interested in social justice, health care and gun control. Staci earned an undergraduate degree in Public Policy and Administration and a Masters of Public Administration. She has been a public servant her entire career and frequently volunteers in her community. Staci is very excited for the opportunity to be a member of the 2020 Emerge class, and looks forward to working with other progressive women determined to make a positive change.
Quinn Otero is currently working as a part of the Milwaukee Buck’s community relations team, where she is honored to team up with communities across Wisconsin. From rehabbing community basketball courts to collaborating with educators statewide she knows that partnerships are vital for cultivating community and driving change. When it comes to generating new ideas, she believes there is no bad idea in a brainstorm – so send ideas her way!
Jenny Priesgen is a public school teacher and small business owner who is passionate about serving her community and state. Jenny is co-owner of a family owned produce farm, and is employed as an elementary and middle school music teacher. She lives in Lomira with her husband and three children. In her spare time, Jenny enjoys reading, exercising, being with friends and family, and managing the Lomira Farmers Market during the summer months.
Maureen Purcell is committed to increasing access to opportunities for all people of Wisconsin. A teacher for twelve years, she built her advocacy skills as a teacher of English learners. She will earn her Master of Public Affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs in May 2020, where she studied the effects of growing up in poverty, and is looking forward to crafting thoughtful policy that respects people’s agency. She is excited to learn from her fellow classmates and other women in public service through this program.
Vanessa is an accomplished student with a diverse background that has allowed her the opportunity to develop leadership skills, integrity, and harness a strong sense of professionalism. She is a motivated change agent, dedicated to social justice with strong values in diversity, equity and inclusion. Vanessa is an outspoken advocate in her community as well as a committed volunteer. Overall, she is most excited to attain tools that will further her preparation into the political realm and developing a strong network.
Kerry Reis is an experienced leader committed to improving the lives of all children and creating a future that is inclusive, safe and sustainable. Committed to addressing the needs of her children, Kerry was a founding member of Camp Choson, a Korean Culture camp designed for adopted Korean-American children and their families. Many of the first campers have gone on to become core camp volunteers, fulfilling the long term vision of this non-profit. Kerry chaired the fund Development Committee and served on the Executive Committee for six years for a local YWCA. The community served by this organization included the homeless, women fleeing abusive relationships and disadvantaged youth.
Ruth Rohlich, Business Development Specialist, City of Madison, works with businesses from around the world that are interested in moving to Madison and with businesses in Madison looking to grow or expand. She graduated from the Executive MBA program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Spring of 2012. Before that, Ruth owned a floral and gift shop on Madison’s east side helping over 100 couples with their wedding days. Her view of Economic Development is if the work is not increasing economic equity…it is not working. Ruth enjoys hiking, traveling and reading. She serves on the YWCA-Madison Board of Directors. She was awarded the Top 40 Under 40 Award by In Business Magazine and has been honored as the SBA Women in Business Champion.
Jolene Schatzinger is a positive, passionate advocate for her community. Her work as a high school counselor, an outreach coordinator for the Ripon Chamber, and her professional experience at Ripon College helps her be a champion for diverse voices. As someone who grew up in 4-H, Jolene values community involvement. She is active in Kiwanis, League of Women Voters, FFA Alumni, and the Ripon Opioid Initiative. As a past Wisconsin Women in Government Scholarship recipient, Jolene is excited to be part of the Emerge program and she is running for Ripon’s City Council, where no women currently hold office.
Melissa Stoner is a young professional, passionate about supporting her community through her work and through community service. Originally from Maryland, Melissa moved to Wisconsin after college to pursue a career in higher education. Melissa knows to create positive change we have to be involved. She wants to start creating change on the local level.
Laura Valderrama is ready and unafraid to fight for justice because it is long overdue. She was raised by an immigrant, single mother so she knows from firsthand experience what growing up in a financially insecure household means. Laura learned very early in life how both community and public policy deeply affect families’ lives and has worked hard her entire life to reciprocate the love and support she and her family were given when it was sorely needed. Her aim is to make sure every family feels safe, happy and supported because when everyone does better, everyone does better.
Lindsey Vang is a first-generation Hmong- American student who is currently studying political science at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Her experience as a peer leader mentoring Hmong- American children and youth affected by gender-based violence, reiterated her passion for social justice reform on a larger scale. She is extremely passionate about unifying marginalized communities and becoming a more effective advocate. Lindsey is grateful to be a part of Emerge and is eager to see how this experience will continue to educate and challenge her own understanding of the political process.
Brittany is a proud southeastern Wisconsinite and alum of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she double majored in Global Studies-Security and Spanish and minored in Mandarin Chinese. After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and served in the inaugural cohort to the Republic of Kosovo from 2014 to 2016. As a career grant writer, Brittany has raised millions of dollars for nonprofits which provide education, health care, and social services to underserved communities. Brittany is running for public office to fight for quality of life for all and bring more accountability into the public service sphere.
Amanda L. WhiteEagle graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with liberal arts degrees. She attended the University of Wisconsin Law School, and graduated with a juris doctor degree. Amanda is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation; she has worked for the Ho-Chunk Nation tribal government in varying capacities for the past fifteen years. Currently, she resides in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, along with her husband and children. They have a family pet, a French bulldog named Charli. She is excited to run for office and contribute to Wisconsin’s governance, and she is very passionate about politics.