Chicago Leaders Class

By Brenna Conway, Malik Alim, Carlos Luna, Claudia de Bruyn, Denise Soriano, Elyse Fischground, Jacqueline Molina, Lauren Wynkoop, Jocelyn Bravo, Leroy Flex, Lillian Holden, Natalie Summers, Rodney Johnson |

From food deserts and police accountability to neglected schools and overfunded political campaigns, Chicago has problems that demand solutions. Chicago Leaders Class brings together undergraduate students from the Chicago area each semester for a crash-course in local public policy issues, grassroots organizing, and political advocacy. CLC is an incubator for leaders; past participants have started Roosevelt campus network chapters at Moraine Valley Community College and UIC, with more in development at Loyola, Harold Washington, Dominican, and beyond.

Through CLC undergraduate students  develop critical public policy and organizational leadership skills in researching, writing and enacting change on their campus and in their Illinois community. The spring 2017 class will focus on a policy topic chosen by the students during our application process. We build our meeting schedule, our topics, and activities all around students availability.

Applications will be accepted from December through January for the 10 week class which begins in February 2017. A class of 10-20 accepted students from colleges and universities across Chicago will have the opportunity to join the Chicago Leaders Class. During the semester-long workshop, students will learn the basics of researching, writing and advocating for local policy change, meet policy professionals at the state and local level, and prepare to launch Roosevelt chapters on their campus.

Check out our Chicago Leaders Class FAQ’s for additional information about the program.

Applications for the third Chicago Leaders class are now open. Use the form below to apply today.



Learn more about the fellows for 2016’s Chicago Leadership Class and the Roosevelt Institute Illinois team below.

Brenna Conway is the Illinois Director at the Roosevelt Institute. She is responsible for growing an Illinois based student network and working to involve students in both writing and enacting policy changes at the state and local level. In 2014 Brenna orchestrated the NextGen Illinois project, which brought together thousands of young people in person and online to create a youth policy agenda for the state of Illinois. Brenna comes from a background in political organizing and advocacy campaigning. Brenna is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison where she studied Spanish and French as well as political science.

Malik Alim is the Illinois Organizer at Roosevelt Institute. He is responsible for cultivating a diverse network of students and developing new Roosevelt chapters at colleges and universities. As a trainer, facilitator, and organizer, Malik provides students with the tools and resources to mobilize their peers around policy issues, build strong chapters, and develop conscientious leaders. Malik has previously been involved in several grassroots campaigns in Chicago, including the demand for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), the Chicago Police Torture Survivors Memorial, and the Coalition to Save Dyett High School. He also serves as the Chicago chapter Membership Co-Chair for the Black Youth Project 100, a national collective of young Black organizers. In his spare time, Malik enjoys taking road-trips, reading, and having spirited debates.

Carlos Luna is a student at Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, currently pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Science. He plans to transfer to a 4-year institution to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Luna’s interests revolve around social justice and the plight of marginalized communities; he is a passionate advocate for undocumented immigrant rights. His professional objective is to pursue a career within government or the nonprofit sector in order to help immigrants and others that are denied what should be basic human rights. Carlos believes that government has the ability to make a positive change in society and wants to contribute so that everyone, regardless of background, has equal access to a better future. His hobbies include going for morning runs, reading novels, and exploring new places.

Claudia de Bruyn is a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in philosophy and on the pre-med track. She is very interested in health care and social justice policies. She explores these interests as a Volunteer Engagement Director in Peer Health Exchange (PHE). PHE empowers young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions by teaching health education in under-resourced high schools across Chicago. Claudia loves the outdoors and always looks forward to camping and hiking every summer. Twitter: @claudia_debruyn

Denise Soriano is a student at Depaul University, majoring in Public Policy with a concentration in Environmental Studies and minoring in Spanish. Her interests lie in environmental issues, as well as Law and Politics. She is a transfer student from a community college in her hometown of Roscoe, Illinois. While only having been in Chicago for a short time, Denise sees the amount of resources she has had as enormous. She is currently involved in the Roosevelt Institute Chapter at Depaul University. After completing the Chicago Leaders Class, she plans to widen her horizons and implement information she attains in future academic and professional opportunities.

My name is Elyse, I am a person, living life in love with the present moment. My hair is red and I like to use my body to run, and dance, and I love to sing. My disposition demands that I use my life to fight for a better society. I am a strong worker and as a student and lover of education, I am improving myself to ultimately improve society. I currently intern at Center For Neighborhood Technology contributing to their equitable housing program, and volunteer for SOMOS Logan Square doing tenant organizing in attempt to curb displacement.

Jacqueline Molina is an undergraduate student at St. Olaf College studying Race and Ethnic Studies with an emphasis on education. She is interested in nonprofit management, community organizing, and postsecondary college and career access. She is currently in Chicago in partnership with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). “Through a social justice lens, we utilize exploration learning to study Chicago neighborhoods and art.” Currently, Jackie is an interim college advisor at a Chicago public school for the senior class of 2017. Her hobbies include watching Spanish telenovelas, visiting art galleries, and chillin with her cats.

Lauren Wynkoop is a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in urban planning. Her interests are social justice with a focus on homelessness and education. One way she explores these interests is by working through a local organization in her neighborhood called Chicago HOPES for kids, as well as volunteering at a local homeless shelter for women and children. Her interests include watching movies, enjoying time outdoors, and spending time with her family. Twitter: @lauren_wynkoop

Jocelyn Bravo is a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in Biology on a Pre-Dental route. She hopes to grow as a leader in her community and learn from others. She is currently a member of L.A.R.E.S (Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services) Leaders, Pre-Dental Club, Undergraduate Student Government and University Ambassadors. Her interests include volleyball, film, volunteering and learning languages.

Leroy Flex attends Harold Washington and is studying Pre-K through 12th Grade Physical Education. He is a Mentor and Program Assistant for Concerned Christian Men. Leroy has been working with youth since 2014 and considers it to be one of his best choices so far. He has a passion for working around youth and wants to develop programs for at-risk students. He would like to introduce at-risk students into various careers that they are unfamiliar with, better nutrition choices, community improvement programs. During his free time, he is either playing or watching basketball, playing NBA 2K, watching a movie, or watching the best show (Bob’s Burgers).

Lillian Holden is currently a sophomore at the City Colleges of Chicago-Harold Washington; set to graduate in the spring of 2017 with an Associates in Arts and Sciences. She is in the process of finding her passions and turning them into a career. Lillian is very passionate about wellness and food consciousness. She is highly interested in food justice in low income communities in Chicago through policy and other types of reform. Low-income communities are high risk of poor nutrition and adulthood/childhood obesity and as a part of the obesity statistics in the black community, she hopes to be one of the people who works behind the scenes in hopes to build stepping stones to end the obesity epidemic. She is thoroughly interested in helping expand neighborhood gardens and farms that are showing up in the city of Chicago. She wants these gardens to become a part of the culture of the community rather than only a continued manifestation from outside resources. Outside of her professional and academic realms, she enjoys fashion, eating Kimchi, being around her older sisters, wandering in solitary in the Garfield Park Conservatory, and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum butterfly Haven.

Natalie is a student at Harold Washington Community College. She plans to transfer to a four-year college in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Communication. She is originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin but moved to Chicago, Illinois to chase her big city dreams. Her goal is to become a radio host so she can have an influential voice in society while still being able to work with music and pop culture. Her interests are educating the youth in local and federal politics and the issue of recognizing mental health in the United States. Some of her hobbies include writing, painting, and playing chess. She is a strong believer in the Nelson Mandela quote “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.

Rodney Johnson is a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in Public Health. His interests include community health, social justice, institutional racism, and youth empowerment. He explores these interests by working through two local organizations in his neighborhood called Teamwork Englewood and Residential Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE). Together, they work to improve the lives of the residents of the south side of Chicago. Rodney also volunteers at the office of David Moore, the 17th Ward Alderman. His interests include playing the guitar, movies, and writing music.