12-month program deepens leadership skills, expands perspectives, and encourages equitable collaborations
December 13, 2024 (Gig Harbor, Wash.) – The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) today announced its Class 11 cohort of Jane’s Fellowship Program (JFP), an initiative that supports grassroots and community-centered leaders in Pierce County who are making an impact on diverse issues in their communities.
JFP’s Class 11 includes 15 fellows who will participate in a year-long curriculum of experiential learning and personal development. These fellows will engage in a variety of activities and trainings to deepen their networks, address systemic inequities, and increase their understanding of issues impacting Pierce County.
“We are thrilled to welcome JFP Class 11, a group of remarkable community leaders who represent the rich diversity and vitality of Pierce County,” said Terrance McGehee, program manager at The Russell Family Foundation. “We look forward to learning with and from this year’s cohort and continuing our commitment to support and empower grassroots and community-centered leaders.”
Jane’s Fellowship Class 11 is made up of individuals who have shown an unwavering dedication to their communities. Whether they were born and raised in Pierce County or came to call it their home later in life, they all show a deep care and understanding of the communities they serve. The diverse Class 11 cohort supports the community in multiple ways, including fostering Black entrepreneurship, fighting hunger through access to fresh produce and supporting local youth.
The Jane’s Fellowship Class 11 includes:
Carmen Adams (she/they) is proud to acknowledge her Taino and Cherokee heritage. She currently resides in Tacoma, which is situated on the ancestral lands of the Puyallup Tribal Nation. She is currently in the advanced stage of her academic journey as a senior at Evergreen State College. Her academic focus lies in social-cultural studies, emphasizing food and medicinal sovereignty. This area of study has always captivated Carmen, as a traditional herbalist who is enthusiastically pursuing her bachelor’s degree in this discipline. However, her thirst for knowledge extends beyond her undergraduate studies. Carmen aspires to continue her educational pursuits by enrolling in a master’s degree program. The opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of social-cultural studies is something that excites her.
Moses Carter (he/him) was born and raised in the Hilltop Community. He is a single father and is currently in Union Local 242 working in Abatement and Demo Construction. For decades, Moses has watched his father create a legacy through Congo Productions (1998-2020) and now has taken the lead as president and CEO. Moses felt empowered to continue his grassroots experience, understanding the role of what it means to break the cycle and to be a mental powerhouse for the people he serves. With a deep-rooted commitment to positive relationship building and empowerment, Moses has dedicated his life to making a concrete transformation in the lives of people who are underserved. Moses recognizes the potential within each individual that he has the privilege to support and has advocated for equitable access to education, mental healthcare, and resources. By creating safe spaces for individuals or families to gather, organizing courageous conversations, and collaborating with multicultural organizations, Moses has successfully brought communities together to form lasting change.
Coreale (Crea) Forrest (she/her) is a mother and a grandma who wants to pave the way for other mothers who are suppressed and give them a voice, a healing, and an opportunity. She has worked in the medical field for 10-plus years and served in the Local OPEIU Union as a shop steward, executive board member and a RESJ (Racial Equality and Social Justice) co-chair. Coreale also has a certificate in 911 dispatching. Her goal is to open doors, reconcile and rebuild.
Andrea (Andi) Haug (she/they) Is actively involved in the South End Neighborhood Council and the Community Council of Tacoma. She is committed to community engagement and tackling litter issues. Andrea values kindness, curiosity, fostering relationships, and creating an environment where there are successful outcomes for all. Let’s work together to create a cleaner, more connected, and thriving community.
Nicole Jordan (they/she) identifies as a Black, queer, womxn; born and raised in Hilltop, Tacoma, WA, where their deep investment in advocacy, leadership and youth development began. They earned their Bachelor of Arts in Social Works from Pacific Lutheran University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Evergreen State College. Nicole has a range of work experience serving youth and young adults in non-profit, incarceration, and education settings. She strives to create opportunities for authenticity, growth, and advocacy because she wants queer and disabled black womxn to feel safe in their bodies and communities. They also deeply enjoy writing, singing, and creating pottery.
Gus Labayen (he/him) creates a world of healed peace. Listening with the ear’s heart and finding joy in the ordinary are the primary postures. He is the shop director for 2nd Cycle Community Bike Shop, is on its DEI committee, and currently serves on the board of Resilient Community Partners, a long-standing housing and advocacy group of neighbors in the Hilltop. A graduate in piano, pipe organ and voice, he plays music locally in the South Puget Sound. Gus and his wife Jordan live on the North Slope neighborhood of Tacoma. He is first-generation Filipino-American.
Deborah (Deb) Martinez (she/her) is a community advocate who has spent the last decade partnering with the Tacoma community through the work of various organizations. Following her passion to come alongside and uplift populations who are historically underserved, Deb has dedicated her career to serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness, addiction, and most recently, she was dedicated to serving youth and families in the Hilltop area. As a new mom to two Afro-Latinx children under two, Deb is taking steps to shift her focus to advocate for and serve Black and Brown birthing parents through their pregnancies.
Clarence (Mitch) Mitchell Jr. (he/him) was born and raised in St. Louis. He moved to Washington in August of 2007, excited to embark on a new journey. Fourteen years later, he was happily married and blessed with one son. In 2018, Mitch started a nonprofit organization called Just Dads. The mission was formed after a couple of meetings over wings and beer with a few men from the Tacoma area. They agreed that men should have a place to gather with their kids and be open, vulnerable, and free to express their struggles or needs. Mitch’s desire to positively impact the community of Pierce County also led him to take a position in workforce development. He is currently the outreach specialist at WorkSource targeting 16-24-year-olds seeking employment, education, and resources. Mitch’s first love has always been music and he grew up playing drums in his grandfather’s church. Today, you can find Mitch in his free time practicing instruments, jamming with friends, or performing for a crowd. And of course, he still plays every Sunday at his church. When not behind a drum set or a steel pan, Mitch is out golfing with his son or finding random pizza spots and new bars with his beautiful wife.
Willie Nobles (he/him) spent 25 years in prison, so he is aware firsthand of all the disparities that exist. Willie is in the documentary “Since I’ve Been Down” featured on Prime Video. He is a cofounder of TEACH (taking education and creating history), and co-president of Black Prisoners Caucus Community Group. Not only that, but he is also a certified life coach, certified peer counselor, reentry navigator, and caseworker. Willie’s drive is for criminal justice, at-risk youth, penitentiary reform, building our community, and advocating for racial and social justice.
Nicollette Combs (she/her) is a Pasifika woman, mother, and advocate in Tacoma, WA. After her family immigrated from Samoa to the Salishan community, her grandfather, Laupula Roe, instilled in her and her cousins the value of higher education. That message stuck with her as she moved through a system that was not made for her or others like her family. Currently serving as associate dean of high school programs at Renton Technical College, she previously served as a program manager and education advocate with one of her favorite organizations, Northwest Education Access. She is an elected precinct committee officer (PCO) for the 27th Legislative District, and volunteers in community whenever possible. She is committed to working towards justice in our education systems and uplifting the voices of young folks in our communities. She loves trips to Olympus Spa, karaoke, eating, laughing and spending time with her kids and husband David Combs.
Jose Miguel Rojas (he/him/el) holds a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Engineering with a major in agricultural industries from Chapingo Autonomus University in Mexico (1984). He has been involved in local community activities since then. For the last seven years, Jose Miguel has developed a strong passion for Spanish-speaking families in Washington. He is currently serving as a community health worker for the Family Support Partnership of TPCHD, and as executive director for Esperanza Mobil Family Resource Center whose mission is to serve the Spanish-speaking community in Pierce County. He has also been a certified Triple P Provider since 2021 in six different levels. His job is to serve his community, helping to access the resources that various organizations and the government provide for people and their families. Jose and his community are committed to fighting inequity and justice. He believes in helping people in need, in assisting recently arrived immigrants and helping them in the process of adapting to a new culture.
Erin Sarvis (she/her) is a Tacoma-native born and raised throughout Tacoma for 27 years. Currently in her second year at Evergreen State College Tacoma. Erin is a visionary changemaker. She transformed her passion for social impact into reality by founding The New Generation 2.0, a nonprofit focused on combating systemic racism and promoting Black generational wealth through support for Black entrepreneurship. Erin’s dynamic approach combines activism and financial empowerment, aiming to foster a resilient, thriving future for the Black community. Dedicated to breaking down barriers, she is committed to building a lasting legacy of prosperity. The New Generation has spent the last four summers supporting Black entrepreneurs through Tacoma’s first exclusive local Black farmers market, “Bite of Black Business,” held annually at Wright Park.
Anesia Smith (she/her) is an exuberant community member and enthusiastic mother, who was born in Bellingham and now resides and works in Tacoma, WA. She graduated from Pierce College and has gained both valuable experience across various job sectors and a strong commitment to improving the holistic health of her community. Anesia’s most fulfilling work has been as a compassionate home care aide, tending to the elderly, and more currently serving as assistant director at Tahoma Indian Center, assisting in running a day shelter and community center for Native people. Her unwavering dedication lies in helping others enhance their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
David Thompson (he/him) is the Founder and Executive Director of Food is Free Tacoma. David believes that everyone should have access to fresh produce, and that we have the power to fight hunger from our own gardens. In addition to being a farmer, he is a board member of the South End Neighborhood Council and a planning committee board member on the International Truth and Justice Tribunal. He has also received the Fresh Results Award presented by the Washington Food Coalition, the WSDA Food Assistance Programs, and the Most Sustainable Business Award from South Sound magazine. He is a certified master gardener through Washington State University.
Vannra Uok (she/her) Is a Khmer American woman who was born & raised in Tacoma. She spent much of her youth involved in the Khmer community before venturing off into other adventures and curiosities. She has spent much of her “after graduating college” life working in nonprofits supporting young people with youth development in exploring, learning and experiencing different college and career pathways.
The Jane’s Fellowship Program is named for Jane T. Russell, a community leader and businesswoman from Tacoma and co-founder of The Russell Family Foundation, whose life’s mission was to improve Pierce County by investing in its people. Jane’s Fellowship supports those who demonstrate exceptional creativity, courage and commitment to the diverse needs of Tacoma and Pierce County. To date, the Foundation has engaged 130 fellows.
About The Russell Family Foundation
The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) invests in people and places to advance environmental sustainability and address the climate crisis. Its vision is to support a thriving, equitable, and sustainable earth. It does so through its commitment to Net Zero in its investment portfolio and operations, grantmaking programs in environmental education and food for climate solutions, and a leadership development program for grassroots leaders in Pierce County. Founded by George and Jane Russell, TRFF has been a way for extended family members to make a positive philanthropic impact locally, regionally, and globally since 1999. For more information, visit www.trff.org.