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Innovators and Idealists: Meet the 2019 Cohort of Rubinger Fellows

The winners of this year’s Michael Rubinger Community Fellowship award have long been focused on ways to expand economic opportunity and build safer, stronger communities. Through the fellowship program, they now have the chance to focus on transformative efforts they might not otherwise have the time or resources to pursue. “All of us in community development stand on the shoulders of local leaders,” said Michael Rubinger, the former LISC CEO for whom the program is named. “When we nurture them, we expand the nation’s capacity to create jobs, build housing, improve health and fuel cohesive communities.”

LISC announces 2019 class of Rubinger Fellows

Year-long projects will focus on economic opportunity, health, safety and education

NEW YORK (Nov. 19, 2018)—The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has named nine dynamic community leaders as winners of the 2019 Michael Rubinger Community Fellowship award.

The year-long fellowship includes a $40,000 grant to each awardee to fund new research, toolkits and models that improve the quality of life in American communities. This year’s cohort will focus on wide range of concerns, from disaster recovery and incarceration to small business development, domestic violence and youth empowerment.

“This is a remarkable group of innovators and thought-leaders,” said Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO. “We want to give them the chance to explore creative ideas for impact in their own communities, while fueling economic opportunity across the country and developing as leaders in their fields.”

The new cohort of fellows and their planned fellowship projects include:

  • Rudy Espinoza, Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (L.A.)
    Expand capacity for below-market finance and business coaching for street vendors/micro-entrepreneurs.
  • Damon Jiggetts, The Peter Paul Development Center (Richmond)
    Develop an after-school public transit system so public school children can access enrichment programs.
  • Helen Leung, LA-Mas (L.A.)
    Launch the Backyard Homes Project, a one-stop-development shop to help homeowners with available land finance and build backyard homes that can be rented affordably.
  • Kelly Orians, Rising Foundations (New Orleans)
    Improve employment outcomes and financial security for formerly incarcerated people.
  • Ana Natalia Otero, DC SAFE (Washington, D.C.)
    Research the relationship between trauma and fiscal health, especially for survivors of domestic violence; developing a tool that could be used to assess needs, overcome barriers and connect to services.
  • Lahela Williams, Hawaiian Community Assets (Honolulu)
    ​Research succession planning/leadership for nonprofit Pacific Islander organizations and community development corporations; develop guide to facilitate planning.
  • Juanita Woods, NOVA (Monroe, La.)
    Develop an apprenticeship and life-skills training program to address economic and social factors that disrupt the lives of youth in Northeast Louisiana.
  • Thomas Wyatt, Kettering University (Flint, Mich.)
    Research and develop a resource guide about building cross-sector partnerships; focus on collaborations that advance economic development in cities, corridors, and neighborhoods.
  • Javier E. Zapata-Rodriguez, Pathstone Corporation (Ponce, PR)
    Research the disaster response to Hurricane María, assembling data and stories that will become part of a documentary to help better inform efforts in the future.

The Rubinger Fellowship program was launched in 2017 in honor of Michael Rubinger, LISC’s long-time CEO, who was passionate about lifting up community leaders throughout his 40-year career. (Read more about the impact of the first cohort of fellows here.)

“All of us in community development stand on the shoulders of local leaders,” said Rubinger, who stepped down from LISC in 2016. “When we nurture them, we expand the nation’s capacity to create jobs, build housing, improve health and fuel cohesive communities. I’m so proud to be associated with this important program and these remarkable fellows.”

Learn more here.

About LISC

With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Since 1979, LISC has invested $18.6 billion to build or rehab 376,000 affordable homes and apartments and develop 63 million square feet of retail, community and educational space.



November 19, 2018


Meggie Lareau

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