Camille Gaji Expert

Camille Gaji

My name is Camille and I use she/her pronouns. I'm originally from California but have been living in New York for 6 years. I graduated from NYU in 2019 with a Bachelors in Psychology and minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. I currently work at the Hetrick-Martin Institute as the Health and Wellness Education Specialist. I've been teaching mental and sexual health education workshops now for 6 years; in-person throughout New York City and online all over the world. For the past 2 years, I predominately worked with LGBTQ+ youth to help them feel comfortable and knowledge about their bodies and their sexual health!

Michelle Greives Expert

Michelle Greives

Michelle (she/her) is a Black feminist, social justice worker, and the Chief Program Officer at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE). In her role at GGE, she works alongside an amazing team to inform direct service and advocacy work. Michelle has over 15 years experience in facilitating conversations about race, oppression, cultivating youth programming, and counseling services, to children and their families.

Rachel Simon Expert

Rachel Simon

Rachel M. Simon (she/they) is an advocate for queer youth currently serving as the Interim Director of Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQA+ Center at Pace University where she also teaches courses in gender studies, literature, creative writing, and film. She is Vice President of the Board of Pride Works for Youth, a nonprofit that holds an annual conference for ~600 LGBTQ+ middle and high school students and their adult advocates in the Hudson Valley. Rachel also serves on the Westchester County LGBTQ Advisory Board.

She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in Creative Writing, Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colby College in American Studies and Creative Writing. She is a published poet with two collections, Theory of Orange and Marginal Road.

Taryn Smith Expert

Taryn Smith

Taryn Delanie Smith is a graduate student at Saint John's University, aspiring to obtain her master’s degree in International Communications and Intercultural Studies. Pursuing a career in Public Diplomacy, Taryn is a passionate advocate for building stronger communities through open dialogue, and actively seeking to create spaces that are inclusive and diverse. She has spent the past five years as a shelter volunteer and advocate for community members experiencing homelessness.

As Miss City of New York, Taryn served as an ambassador to local shelters as well as facilitating dialogue about issues that directly contribute to inequity within our communities.

As a businesswoman, global community member, and a New Yorker, Taryn is proud to be among those who are ready to fight for a more equal world.

Youth Experts

Asha Lawrence Expert

Asha Lawrence

Asha Lawrence is a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School, headed to the University of Massachusetts Boston in the fall! With roots in London, Asha relocated to New York City seven years ago and currently resides in Harlem. Passionate about social justice, particularly LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform, and racial equity, Asha is a member of the New York City Commission on Human Rights YES Council. With strong convictions, she has been involved in youth advocacy throughout high school.

Hanging out with friends and biking around the City is how Asha likes to spend time when she is not fighting for the rights of young people.

Arieana Jose Expert

Arieana Jose

Arieana Jose is a spiritual Latinx Trans woman from the Bronx. She is proud of her Dominican culture and honors her ancestors through spiritual practices, music, food, and dances. As a member of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence (Youth Leadership Council), she advocates for young people like herself by speaking on ignorance that comes from societal norms that limit us from expressing our true selves spiritually, mentally and physically. Arieana’s endurance comes from being confident in her capabilities and the faith she has in her future. She expresses herself through dance, music, fashion, and cosmetics, using her voice to speak her truths letting it be known she feels and looks pretty while doing so.

Mario Smith Expert

Mario Smith

Mario Smith is a 20-year-old Trans non-binary immigrant who moved to the United States two years ago from Jamaica, initially living in Massachusetts until he moved to New York City where he is affiliated with the Ali Forney Center working on advocacy, work placement, and housing partnership. Mario has been featured in the Herald News for My Town's local fashion show, and The New York Times where he spoke about the Nearing Unity Works Project aimed at providing jobs for LGBT youth that are homeless or at risk. He plans to enroll in college and pursue an esthetician degree and license.

Mario is also a freelance model who enjoys conveying his creativity through imagery and fashion, ultimately striving to inspire and share his journey as a Trans immigrant so that whomever his story reverberates with will know that despite your background, success is possible if you stay committed.

Natasha McCombs Expert

Natasha McCombs

Natasha "Tasha" McCombs (she/her) is an alumna of Temple University and an alumna graduate student of Higher Education and Student Affairs at New York University (NYU), graduating in just one week! She previously interned at the LGBTQA Center at Pace University, as well as the College of Arts and Science at NYU.

As a professional, Natasha is interested in policy reform, equity education, college access, as well as broadening diversity initiatives in higher education. She finds joy in advocating for Black and Brown youth while providing information for access to education and mentorship. Currently, Natasha resides in New York City and is excited about expanding her activism because she approaches difficult conversations with self-awareness, reflection, and action.

SueSuilla Daley Expert

SueSuilla Daley

SueSuilla Daley has been a youth organizer with Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) since 2018 supporting the School Girls Deserve Campaign and other education campaigns in NYC. She is a current member of the National Young Women's Advisory Council 2020-2021 facilitated by GGE. She is a recent NYC high school graduate and made the transition to college during the pandemic and uprisings. She is now a freshman at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and is majoring in Sociology.

Chief Juanita N. Holmes

Chief Holmes was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in December of 1995. As a newly promoted supervisor, she was assigned to the 113th Precinct in Queens where she began to learn the fundamentals of police management. In 1998, she was assigned to Patrol Borough Bronx Investigations Unit and two years later returned to Queens in the 111th Precinct. She became a Lieutenant in 2002, first working in Police Service Area #8 and later Housing Bureau Bronx/Queens. 

In June 2007, Chief Holmes attained the rank of Captain, and in June 2008 was assigned as the Commanding Officer of Police Service Area #2, giving her the opportunity to display her leadership skills and dedication towards the community. On August 28, 2009, she was promoted to the rank of Deputy Inspector and in July 2010 she was assigned as the new Commanding Officer of the 81st Precinct, where she was promoted to Inspector on January 27, 2012.

Inspector Holmes excelled in her efforts improving community relations and reducing crime within the 81st Precinct. Looking to continue her work Citywide, she transferred to the Training Bureau as Executive Officer, helping oversee recruit and in-service training for the NYPD. While assigned to the Training Bureau she was promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief and later became Commanding Officer of the Chief of Department’s Domestic Violence Unit, where she coordinated the NYPD’s response to family violence. On September 16, 2016, Chief Holmes became the first African American woman to serve as Borough Commander when she was promoted to Assistant Chief, overseeing eight precincts in Patrol Borough Queens North. 

  Chief Juanita N. Holmes joined the private sector in December 2018, serving as Global Head of Corporate Security at BNY Mellon. She resumed public service in December 2019 and was named Commanding Officer of the NYPD’s School Safety Division, overseeing 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools, in approximately 1,400 physical sites Citywide. 

On September 25, 2020, Chief Holmes was promoted to Chief of Collaborative Policing, overseeing the development of non-enforcement options improving access for police services. History was made on October 29, 2020, when she was appointed Chief of Patrol, overseeing 16,800 uniformed members serving in 77 precincts and 8 patrol boroughs across the City. In this position, Chief Juanita N. Holmes is the highest ranking African American woman ever in the NYPD and the first woman to serve as Chief of Patrol, managing the department’s largest bureau. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from St. Joseph’s College and graduated from the Police Management Institute at Columbia University. Chief Holmes is one of 16 members of her close family to serve in the NYPD.

Kirk D. Burkhalter joined the full-time faculty of New York Law School (NYLS) in the fall of 2010. He teaches in areas of legal practice, criminal law, and has taught New York Law School’s extended version of the Summer Advantage Institute. He has also conducted workshops and seminars that focus on the substantive, analytical, and organizational skills specific to preparation for the New York State Bar Examination. Additionally, Professor Burkhalter is the director of the 21st-Century Policing Project (P21) at NYLS.

P21 is aimed at creating meaningful change in the relationship between police departments and the diverse communities they serve. Its activities include legal and policy advocacy, thought leadership, comparative analyses of different policing and Civilian Complaint Review Board models, on-site assistance to local jurisdictions, and robust engagement in the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Police Practices Consortium.

Professor Burkhalter has also worked on the development of and taught in NYLS’s Undergraduate Summer Pre-Law Program—a program designed to provide students from underrepresented populations with a dedicated set of opportunities to explore the law and create a pathway to earn their Juris Doctor degrees at the law school.

Prior to joining the NYLS faculty, Professor Burkhalter was the Visiting Assistant Professor of Academic Support at Hofstra School of Law and has also taught as an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Before working in academia, he was an associate in the Corporate Securities and Finance practice group at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Earlier in his career, Professor Burkhalter served 20 years with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) retiring as Detective, First Grade. He spent much of his career with the NYPD conducting long-term investigations into organized criminal enterprises and domestic, ecological, and industrial terrorism. Professor Burkhalter regularly appears on the Law and Crime Network and other media outlets, providing commentary as a legal analyst.

Omar Jackson

Mr. Jackson is a community leader. He understands the importance of engaging in community service. He has Harlem’s best interests at heart but most importantly he strives to ensure that todays youth are being steered in the right direction. Omar has the passion, skill and "boots on the ground" attitude needed to drive change in the Harlem community. Omar is committed to making Harlem a better and safer place, with a wealth of resources and opportunity for all residents. With Omar Jackson SAVE, has a leader that is fearless and dedicated to working tirelessly on their behalf to change the narrative and create the change that is needed.

Omar Jackson is currently the director of Stand Against Violence East Harlem (SAVE). S.A.V.E which is GOSO’s cure violence program utilizes the Cure Violence model, empowering high risk youth, ages 16-24, to make positive changes in their communities by working to change their mindset and providing supportive services, as an effort to reduce the rising number of shootings in East Harlem. Omar oversees and makes decisions for both SAVE sites (Johnson/Jefferson & Wagner houses). Omar started out as an outreach worker supervisor in February of 2016. In less than two years, he was honorably promoted to Program Manager. Due to his drive, work ethic and his demonstration of great leadership Omar is currently the director of SAVE.

In 2017 Omar obtained his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology. Outside of his work at GOSO/SAVE, Omar volunteers in his spare time as the head basketball coach for the 7th grade team at Children's Aid Society's or “Milbank”, as people like to call it. Milbank has always been a place for grass roots leaders, like Omar, to get involved and make a difference. Omar is Harlem. He stands by the community 100% and lives by the motto, "you are either a part of the problem or the solution." Omar’s philosophy is “Even if you have been a product of your environment, you have every opportunity to have a seat at the table and to make a better tomorrow for your community”.

Dana Rachlin

Dana Rachlin is a public safety advocate and co-founder of We Build the Block. Dana has been working over the last 11 years to support local communities facing over-policing, mass incarceration, and gun violence. She has created resources for youth impacted by system involvement and disrupting the school to prison pipeline. Dana has also worked with community organizations and law enforcement endeavoring to build new programs and protocols that replace traditional policing with community-led public safety models.

Tyler Campbell

Tyler is an educator, writer, and organizer hailing from the city of Philadelphia. He is currently studying at Columbia University double majoring in African-American Studies and Creative Writing. Tyler is the lead instructor and program coordinator for the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council sponsored by the Center for Justice. There Tyler designs curriculum and teaches an 8-week course which seeks to bring together justice-involved youth and city officials to create new policy ideas that will better support NYC's most vulnerable communities. Tyler is also a community journalist with the Credible Messengers project, working on a project to tell the story of how gun violence and trauma affects the lives of Black men in the inner city. Through his work as a writer and movement worker Tyler uses his voice to offer analytical insights that aim to elevate the lived experiences of those that often go unseen and unheard.

Youth Experts

Ethan Castro

Ethan Castro is a 16-year-old, Latino entrepreneur, and Podcast Host, from Brooklyn. He is extremely ambitious as well as excited to venture towards fulfilling his potential and purpose.

  As a Student-Athlete at Brooklyn Technical High School, Ethan is the Podcast Host for OK-Zoomer, where he oversees American Youth Fitness. He is partnered with Student Dream, an organization that works towards improving the lives of New York City youth through financial literacy. 

Ethan loves Philosophy, Psychology, “(Ph)itness” and People. He is honored to be able to assist the greater New York City community in any way he can! 

Karla Sterrett

Karla Sterrett is an 18-year-old Afro-Latina woman advocating for social justice and educating youth about voter suppression and civic engagement. Since 2016, Karla has been lobbying and speaking against social injustices. Her focus of work is understanding and educating others on the importance of voting, not only in presidential elections but also in local and state elections. Another important focus of Karla is gun violence prevention. Gun violence has impacted her family and doing this work is quite personal for her. She is passionate about taking up space in reclaiming what black and brown folks deserve.

Elias Hernandez

Elias Hernandez is an honorary member of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council (JAYC) at Columbia University. JAYC brings New York City youth together with City officials to discuss community challenges and to co-author policy proposals that seek to reform systems and institutions. His primary focus is bringing policymakers together with community members to work across differences that improve social challenges, particularly challenges facing youth.

In his work, Elias supports young people with policy advocacy leadership opportunities while explaining the extent to which mass incarceration and criminalization impacts minority communities and causes disenfranchisement. He collaborates with policymakers, civil servants, academics, community organizers and directly impacted communities, striving to create a new vision for the criminal legal system that can ultimately shape policies that help individuals, families and communities thrive.

The work of Elias Hernandez is driven around changing the narrative of the criminal justice system to ensure that justice and democracy are applied equally to everyone. As a result of his dedication towards transforming systems, Elias is aspiring to become a civil rights attorney. His goal is to help develop a national police-accountability tool that aims to prevent officer misconduct and officer involved shootings.

Royal Hyness Allah 

Royal Hyness Allah is a youth organizer in Brooklyn, New York. In 2020 he founded Crew Count, the youth organizing arm of We Build the Block. Crew Count is a coalition of young people dedicated to educating their peers on the importance of voting, how to vote, and getting people elected that represent overpoliced groups. They are organizing to fundamentally change how elected officials legislate and draft policies for over-policed and marginalized communities.