Schedule of Events
8:30 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.
The Martin Professional Development Center
2400 Fairfax Ave
Nashville, TN 37212
8:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m.
Join us as we honor
- Commissioner Candice McQueen, Tennessee Department of Education
- Phyllis Nichols, President and CEO, Knoxville Area Urban League
- Renata Soto, Co-founder and Executive Director, Conexión Américas
6:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
2411 Blakemore Ave.
Nashville, TN 37212
Luis’ passion is to collaborate with others to create platforms, spaces and opportunities for empowerment. Migrating in 2000 from Mexico, Luis stayed in the U.S. to attend college, where he developed projects with people involved in arts, politics and social justice.
After 9/11, Arizona and other states became proving grounds for legislation criminalizing undocumented immigrants. Luis and other young organizers from all backgrounds effectively advocated and challenged these harsh policies.
In 2004 he learned about voting rights while registering voters in Jackson, Mississippi, as part of the American Freedom Summer program. Traveling the country and working closely with communities under attack, Luis learned that despite the toxicity of their political environments, communities are fierce in the fight for social change. These experiences were crucial when he collaborated with organizers and leaders to advocate for the DREAM Act, fight against SB1070 and challenge Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s discriminatory practices in Arizona.
His work with the Obama campaign in 2008 gave him insight on cornerstone aspects of electoral organizing. This knowledge, paired with technologies developed to boost volunteer engagement, are applied now in all his advocacy work.
Luis spearheaded Somos América in 2011, the largest immigrant-rights coalition in Arizona, and currently sits on the Boards of Advisors of Unidos US (formerly the National Council for La Raza), is an Aspen Global Fellow, and serves as Board Chair for The New Teacher Project, an organization working to end education inequality.
In 2013 Luis joined 270 Strategies, a cutting-edge consulting firm founded by Obama’s field leadership team, where he currently serves as an Advisor. There, he has designed and executed important national advocacy campaigns, created innovative family engagement models with school systems around the country, and coached a new generation of community organizers around the world. In 2016, he served as Nevada’s Democratic Coordinated Campaign Field Director, contributing to major victories in the state legislature, electing the first Latina Senator and delivering the state to Hillary Clinton.
Sharhonda is the Deputy Director at Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC). In her current role, Sharhonda focuses on identifying, equipping, elevating and sustaining talented Black and Latino leaders to thrive in the highest-level education roles and lead a more inclusive education reform movement.
Prior to joining EdLoC, Sharhonda Bossier worked with Education Cities, a national non-profit that supports and advises city-based education organizations on their efforts to grow great public schools. In addition to core advising work, Sharhonda utilized her experience launching and leading a multi-state education engagement and advocacy organization to help members develop the skills and capacity to engage much more effectively with stakeholders. Prior to joining the Education Cities team, Sharhonda co-founded Families for Excellent Schools where she developed their training program and overall parent engagement strategy.
A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Sharhonda started her career in education as a public school teacher and also brings years of legislative and electoral campaign experience in both volunteer and leadership capacities to her work at Education Leaders of Color.
Sarah Carpenter is a native Memphian and proud resident of the North Memphis community.
In 2015 she helped establish The Memphis Lift and in 2016 became its executive director. Sarah leads the organization with a parent-focused dedication to community engagement. She brings parents to the table to educate them about school performance in order to demand high quality education through choice and healthy competition.
Her proudest accomplishment has been seeing her grandchildren and other children in her community attend college, graduate and become productive citizens. Prior to founding The Memphis Lift, Sarah also served on several boards, including the Northside Family Resource Center Board and the board of KIPP Public Charter Schools.
Renata Soto is a Costa Rican-born social entrepreneur based in Nashville, TN.
She is co-founder and Executive Director of Conexión Américas, a nonprofit organization that annually supports more than 8,000 Latino and other immigrant families in Tennessee in achieving their own version of the American dream: purchasing homes, starting businesses, learning English, supporting their children’s school success and path to college, and becoming integral part of Tennessee’s social, cultural and economic vitality.
Renata is the visionary behind Casa Azafrán, a nonprofit collaborative and community gathering place that has become the de-facto gateway to Nashville’s International District. The 29,000 square-foot facility opened in December 2012 after a tenacious five-year effort and an unprecedented $6 million public-private investment in Nashville’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood. Today Casa Azafrán houses Conexión Américas and nine nonprofit and government partners under one roof. Together, they make Casa Azafrán a vibrant place for health services and counseling; adult education and after-school programming for children and youth; legal and financial services; entrepreneurship; community organizing; events; visual, performing and culinary arts. Casa Azafrán has become an iconic landmark in Nashville’s urban landscape and a source of local pride and national attention. Even President Obama took notice and hosted a nationally televised town-hall meeting on immigration policy at Casa Azafrán in December 2014.
Renata’s vision for equitable communities where all residents have access to beautiful shared civic spaces where to play, gather and participate extended further in August 2018 with the opening of Azafrán Park, a $2.6 million public park located next to Casa Azafrán. As with Casa Azafrán, Renata led the design team, fundraising and public-private partnership that made it possible.
After 23 years in the nonprofit sector, Renata was eager to support a new cadre of change-makers of color and build a strong network among them. To that end, in 2017 she conceived and launched the Mosaic Fellowship, a year-long, cohort-based program that brings together African American, Latinx and other leaders of color in Tennessee to learn about each other’s histories, discover shared values, foster deep bonds, and cultivate a common vision for their communities’ future. The fellowship was inspired by and is designed based on Renata’s own transformative experience in the Pahara Aspen Education Leadership Fellowship in 2015. There are 15 fellows currently participating in the inaugural class of the Mosaic Fellowship and the second class kicked off in November 2018.