Throughout January and February, the team at People’s Liberty hosted more than 75 one-on-one conversations with interested Haile Fellowship applicants. At the end of that process, a panel comprised of five Greater Cincinnati community leaders reviewed a diverse pool of thoughtful proposals. After weeks of deliberation and finalist interviews, we're proud to announce the two winners of the 2018 Haile Fellowship: Elisa Hoffman and Nicole Armstrong!
Elisa Hoffman is a parent, former teacher, and education advocate who has worked for over twenty years on issues of educational equity. After graduating from Colgate University, Elisa taught second grade in rural Mississippi for two years alongside a dedicated team of educators, students, and families. Elisa then moved to Washington, DC to help start a new school where she taught for five years. The academic growth of the students at her school reinforced Elisa’s belief that all children can succeed when we properly support them, their families, and their teachers. For the following eleven years, Elisa worked for Teach for America. In November 2013, she won election to a four-year term on the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education.
Elisa and her husband Sean have nine-year-old twins. As a parent raising sixth generation Cincinnatians, she knows our entire community benefits when we have a school system that works for all children. She is thrilled to launch her project School Board School with the People’s Liberty Haile Fellowship and help build a deeper and more qualified bench of equity-focused elected officials who are not just ready to run but are ready to serve. This first of it's kind program will focus on training individuals elected to local school boards with the skills and knowledge they need to be effective from the moment they take office. School Board School will provide opportunities for prospective candidates to attend board meetings, visit schools, and engage with current board members, district administrators, and education experts, as well as help ground participants in their values and motivations for this important work. School Board School will also provide ongoing support once participants are elected in order to continue to grow their effectiveness over time. Elisa will use the Fellowship time—and funds—to pilot this new curriculum for the 2019 CPS board election cycle; and if it proves effective, she has plans to offer it to other school districts regionally and nationally as a social enterprise.
Design and social justice were never separate career paths for Nicole Armstrong. After graduating with a graphic design degree from the University of Cincinnati, Nicole began her career at Franciscans International, an NGO in Geneva, Switzerland that advocates for the protection of vulnerable communities and the environment. Inspired by the work of Franciscans around the world, she realized that design’s role in social change doesn’t have to be limited to print campaigns and PSAs. She moved back stateside to pursue a Master of Arts degree at Suffolk University, focusing her thesis on the power of human-centered design.
Nicole continued to explore global development at Partners in Health, where she saw how working in partnership with community leads to better health outcomes and more sustainable solutions. In 2015, she joined Design Impact as a Social Innovation Specialist, leading mission-driven organizations through the human-centered design process and leveraging insights to develop innovative ideas alongside marginalized communities. Nicole currently works as a freelance designer and is a co-founder of Tico & Red wedding photography and Cub + Clover family photography.
Throughout her experiences, Nicole has witnessed firsthand how gender discrimination in the workplace is a systemic problem, from pay disparities to a lack of women in leadership to policies that make it difficult, if not impossible, to balance work and family life. Nicole will spend her Fellowship year developing Queen City Certified, the first locally-focused gender equity certification process for Cincinnati-based businesses and organizations. Borrowing from other certification point-system platforms—like LEED—Queen City Certified will be designed to encourage organizations of all sizes to participate in the certification process while learning best practices to enhance their policies along the way. By focusing on the positive practices many businesses and organizations already champion, Queen City Certified seeks to illuminate best practices to inspire those businesses and organizations that may require improvement.
Please join us in welcoming these two inspiring women to the People's Liberty family! Our Haile Fellows were selected by a community panel comprised of area creative, business and civic leaders. Project proposals were scored based on feasibility, novelty (specific to Greater Cincinnati) and projected community impact. Many thanks to this year’s panelists, listed below: