2019-2020 Cohort

Guiding the Next Generation of Leaders

Mentors

John Jeanetta

John H. Jeanetta is the second of four kids who grew up in a military family, attending seven different schools in five communities before landing in Bellevue for high school. John has been drawn to social justice and cross-cultural learning since childhood. John didn’t recognize and accept the fact he is a gay man until he was married for over 30 years, with four grown children and a grandchild. John’s relatively recent move toward self-acceptance and authenticity has been the most difficult and rewarding thing he has ever done.

Abra Poindexter

Abra S. Poindexter, LICSW, LIMHP is a psychotherapist, consultant, and clinical social work supervisor in private practice. Her focus is walking alongside people who are redefining their life experiences and defining what they truly want for their futures. Abra specializes in LGBTQ+ well-being and trauma recovery, in understanding the role that trauma can have in limiting liberation, and in general mental health and well-being. Abra spends her free time writing, creating, and being with her wife Lara, their pups Gidget Maybelle and Eliot Speck, and their friends and family.

Jo Springer

Jo Springer is a social worker currently working as the Executive Director of SASA Crisis Center in Hastings, NE. Her work is focused on building an equitable, thriving society where all people can live and love without fear of violence.

Candace Bloomquist

Candace Bloomquist, PhD, believes in thinking differently, challenging the status quo, and reaching for opportunities. She is an assistant professor in the Ed.D. Interdisciplinary Leadership Program at Creighton University.  Her ongoing research interests include a culture of trust, health equity, quality improvement, interdisciplinary leadership, and teaching and learning in higher education.

Philana Blakely

Philana Blakely is the Administrator of Religious and Volunteer Services for Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), who partners with various community organizations and volunteers to bring a variety of non-clinical programming to all NDCS facilities. Philana is a positive, motivational and strategic leader regardless of the hat she is wearing at home or at work. Philana is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and is passionate about equality, women’s rights, diversity and inclusion.

Lydia Cooper

Lydia R. Cooper is associate professor of contemporary American and Native American literature at Creighton University. She has written numerous books and articles on masculinity and queer identity in American and Indigenous North American literature. She lives with her wonderful partner and a gay wizard cat named Gandalf.

Heather Holmes

Heather is a passionate intrapeneur and LGBTQ elder advocate who believes in the value of the human spirit. Her driving force is uncertainty and she needs constant change in order to feel truly alive. Heather thrives with variety, excitement, surprise, and diversity! Her life statement is “Impacting Individuals”.

Melissa Breazile

Melissa Breazile currently serves as the Communications Director at the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table and has previously worked in the political and nonprofit sectors in communications, research, and other roles. She earned a Master of Public Administration from UNO and a bachelor’s in digital media from Northwest Missouri State University. In her free time, she dedicates herself to volunteering, traveling, and exploring the great outdoors.

Dominique Morgan

Dominique Morgan

Dominique Morgan is an award-winning artist, activist, and speaker. As the Executive Director of Black and Pink, the largest prison abolitionist organization in the United States, Mr. Morgan works daily to dismantle the systems that perpetuate violence on LGBTQ/GNC people and individuals living with HIV and AIDS. Partnering his lived experience of incarceration as a youth (which included 18 months in solitary confinement), a decade of change-making artistry, advocacy, and an extensive background in public health, he continues to work in spaces of sex education, radical self-care, and youth development with intentions of dismantling the prison industrial complex and the impact it has on our community.

Amanda Gaither

Amanda Gaither is a social worker with experience working with older adults and people living with HIV. Amanda is working towards a graduate degree in Public Administration. Amanda is a nerd for database management and quilting.

Joe Shaw

Joe Shaw is the executive director of the LUX Center for the Arts in Lincoln. He is a leader and activist and serves as the chair of Nebraska Stonewall Democrats, a member of the Lincoln Library Board, and on the board of NeighborWorks Lincoln. Joe served as a City Councilman in Huntington Beach, California from 2010-2014.

Scholars

Eric Singleton

Curious; connected; with unbridled optimism. Originally from Charleston, SC, Eric relocated to Omaha in July 2018 to join the International Programs team at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Eric thinks that ensuring people bodily autonomy and equal access to opportunity can address most of the problems we face today, period. He is excited to join Huespring and further explore this idea through lenses of empathy, collective action, and leading by listening. He loves cats and last-minute adventures.

Lanea Hall

Lanae Hall (she, her, hers) is a provisionally licensed mental health therapist at Wholeness Healing Center in Grand Island. She is highly involved in advocacy and outreach efforts in and for the LGBTQ+ community in her capacity as the president of PFLAG Hastings. Lanae identifies as a queer, nonbinary human, and is the mother of 4 children, ranging from 14-9 years old.

Espen Schofield-Smith

Espen Schofield-Smith is currently working as a Mental Health Coordinator through the Connections program at Project Harmony. Espen is passionate about helping other people through work as well as in personal life and is currently in the process of applying to go back to school to obtain a masters in social work.

Jo’Von Pickens

Jo’Von Isaiah is a young, Black, Queer man from Omaha, Nebraska. Jo’Von is a recent 2019 graduate from UNO with a BMS in Women’s and Gender Studies. Jo’Von is currently employed as a Family Permanency Specialist through DHHS.

Daniel Alaniz

Daniel Alaniz is first generation, born in CA but grew up in Mexico. Daniel is the first in the family to go to college. Daniel discovered a passion for helping the community after moving to Omaha and starting work at HFS.

Tommy Young-Dennis

Tommy Young-Dennis, born in Omaha, Nebraska, is a gay Black man, LGBTQ+ advocate, HIV activist and educator. Tommy is currently employed at Nebraska AIDS Project where he serves as a Prevention and Outreach Specialist working with the BGBM (Black Gay Bisexual Men) community.

Kati Kough

Kati Kough is a Health Educator at Planned Parenthood North Central States in Omaha, where she works to educate the community on sexual and reproductive health topics. She is particularly passionate about pornography education, healthy relationships, and LGBTQ topics. When she is not at work, she enjoys cross stitching, hanging out with her cats, and watching true crime TV shows.

Darryl Brown Jr.

Darryl Brown Jr. 

Pastor Darryl Brown Jr. is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Kingdom Builders Christian Center (2009) as well as an Adolescent Health Educator at Charles Drew Health Center. Authoring two spiritual self-help books, Brown is committed to using spirituality as a tool for people’s personal development as well as social justice, including sexual health.

Elena Grace

Elena is a native Vermonter who loves hiking, reading, traveling, baking, snuggling with her cat, Pancakes, and singing in Omaha’s LGBTQ+ choir. She works full-time as a social worker advocating for the needs of incarcerated folks, and part-time providing mental health care to patients seeking reproductive healthcare. She is passionate about abolishing the prison system, pursuing reproductive justice, and expanding access to mental health care.

Emily Barker

Emily Barker is an EHR Support Specialist at Heartland Family Service, an agency where she has worked for more than three years. She graduated from Skidmore College in 2009, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys singing and is an active member (and section leader) of the River City Mixed Chorus, Nebraska’s Only LGBTA Chorus.

Sarah Cohen

Sarah Ashley Cohen was once called a “Development Diva” and honestly couldn’t agree more with this title. Sarah is a queer feminist in the non-profit and political world, just trying to work hard to be able to buy nice things for her cat and soon-to-be wife. She likes her pop culture and critical pedagogy like she likes her french fries and Wendy’s frosties: mixed.