Lauren Schandevel - Macomb County Organizer
Lauren is a regional organizer with We The People based in Southeast Michigan. Born into a working-class family in Warren, she recently graduated from the University of Michigan with her degree in Public Policy, where she raised hell on behalf of low-income students. Lauren grounds her economic justice work in a deep commitment to anti-racism and anti-colonialism, and she served for a year as We The People's first intern before coming on staff in June. Her vision for her community involves building strong alliances and solidarity across groups that have been intentionally divided for political purposes. She recharges with coffee, friends, and loud music.
Betsy Coffia - Northern Michigan Organizer
Betsy is a rural organizer with We The People and is based in Traverse City. She is a political strategist, social worker and former newspaper editor. She currently serves as the only female-identifying county commissioner in Grand Traverse County. Betsy is proud to honor her working class rural roots, and credits her mother for instilling a strong work ethic. She is passionate about centering the voices, experience, leadership and dignity of marginalized communities. Betsy is a feminist who found her way out of an upbringing of patriarchal, far-right religious fundamentalism. Of European descent and raced as white, she is learning how to show up for the work of dismantling systems of oppression. Betsy nurtures her introvert side by spending time alone with trees and water, or enjoying life with her sea captain social worker husband Brendan and rescue pup Pax.
Star Roland - Detroit Organizer
Star is a regional organizer with We The People in Detroit. She is the mother of three girls -- a third grader, preschooler, and infant. She is the President of HOPE Village Families Community Association, a community organization on the west side of Detroit that she helped found, and recently received the Michigan Community Resources Power of One dedicated women award for her work with HOPE Village Families. She also serves as an education organizer with Good Jobs Now and a fellow with Mothering Justice. Star believes that, in this work, you have to be the change you want to see in order to truly be effective.
Nelly Fuentes - West Michigan Organizer
Nelly is a regional organizer with We The People in Southwest Michigan. She is a native woman of Mesoamerica who migrated to the Michigan region at the beginning of the century, landing in Kalamazoo in 2006. She believes in the human right to free migration within Turtle Island and is passionate about migrant liberation efforts. Anti-colonial practices and healing are at the center of her organizing vision. As part of her healing practices, she invokes the guidance and wisdom of her ancestors through the art of tortilla making.
Shannon Sykes-Nehring - West Michigan Organizer
Shannon is a regional organizer with We The People based in Southwest MI, and a sitting Kalamazoo City Commissioner. She has spent most of her life in MI, living in various regions of the state. Her passion has always been social justice as she has extensive experience organizing around issues such as police brutality, reproductive justice, housing rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and environmental justice. She believes that this work requires an intentional focus on relationship building, trust, and healing, and as such, is a trained facilitator and healing practitioner. In addition to this work, Shannon has experience as a political field director, a public speaker, and a youth development professional. Her wide variety of experiences all come together to inform her daily work. She recharges by spending time laughing with her husband and four children. Her two therapy dogs, therapy cat, and therapy lizard also help.
Vidhya Aravind - Learning Director
Vidhya is the Learning Director for We The People and is based in Detroit. She originally moved to Washtenaw County to earn her Master's of Information from the University of Michigan, and now plans to call the area home forever. After coming out as trans while a student, she participated in immigrant, labor, trans, and police accountability activism, and was particularly instrumental in major wins by the Graduate Employees' Organization 3550. She hopes to honor the trans women of color that came before her by organizing material aid and community structures for local trans folks in need. In her spare time, she facilitates workshops for queers, plays games of all kinds, intentionally finds ways to spend time with her trans family, and is slowly transforming into an outdoors lesbian.
Gabriela Santiago-Romero - Policy and Research Manager
Gabriela Santiago-Romero is the Policy and Research Manager with We The People based in Detroit. She’s an immigrant from Mexico and Southwest Detroit native. She earned her master of social work studying Social Policy and Evaluation with a focus on Community and Social Systems from the University of Michigan. She’s a community activist and organizer who has extensive experience working for Detroit nonprofits and local government. Love and food fuel her work.
Megan Collier - Rural Organizing Director
Megan is the Rural Organizing Director with We The People based in Marquette, as well as a volunteer community organizer nested in rural America, and a former journalist. With an educational background in literature, she’s deeply interested in personal stories and storytelling, and how narrative can empower and disempower. Megan is also a member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, a mother, and an environmentalist and pulls a chair to the table for Native rights, intersectional feminism and environmental justice. Megan balances her work life with chocolate, yoga, and time on Lake Superior.
Maria Ibarra-Frayre - Deputy Director
Maria is the Deputy Director for We the People Michigan. She immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was nine years old and grew up Southwest Detroit and Dearborn. Maria has been fighting for immigrant justice for almost a decade, including grassroots organizing and political advocacy. She works closely with grassroots organizations to create alternative systems of immigrant-centered support and working to put people of color and women in positions of leadership. Maria graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a degree in English, and then went on to get a Masters of Social Work at the University of Michigan. On her free time Maria likes going for hikes, drinking expensive tea, and trying to publish her poetry.
Art Reyes III – Executive Director
Art is the founding Executive Director of We The People. He was born and raised in Flint, MI and hails from three generations of proud UAW members. Before WTP, Art was the training director at the Center for Popular Democracy, where he led national training programs for organizers, lead staff, and executive directors. He spent much of 2016 working in Flint responding the water crisis and helped launch Flint Rising. Previously he led Michigan Voice, a statewide civic engagement organization. He has a BA from Michigan and MPP from Harvard where he taught a community organizing class with Marshall Ganz. He’s filled with random facts about the state of Michigan and has a gigantic puppy named Kona the Coney Dog.