America Walks is honored to announce the 2023 National Walking College fellowship class. In its eighth year, the Walking College welcomes 26 impressive candidates from 16 states and the District of Columbia. This year’s class draws from one of the widest breadths of professional and personal experience to date. It includes teachers, planners, survivors of traffic violence, climate advocates, elected officials, and even a former school bus driver.
Photos and short profiles of our esteemed fellows can be found below.
Farmville, North Carolina
I am a nationally certified school psychologist and accessibility advocate/activist. I have worked in a great variety of residential, day, public/private, and military schools both in the US and internationally. I am an author, researcher, trainer, presenter, and practitioner in school-based psychological services. I am also an active cyclist, social justice advocate, sign language interpreter, and Aikido practitioner. Struck by a motor vehicle from behind while cycling, I am a disabled road violence survivor who advocates for all sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, and various locations to be in compliance with the federal civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
St. Louis, Missouri
I am a member of the Dutchtown South Community Corporation and the Community Empowerment Committee. Being a part of these organizations, I have started a walking club called Southside Strutters. The goal of this club is to safely walk the streets in the neighborhoods and develop meaningful relationships with neighbors. I am excited to be a part of the National Walking College so that I will be exposed to knowledge, and resources, and learn how to tell the story of my community with pride. With the administrative, time management, and organizational skills I have and with the new knowledge gotten from the program, I know we can create magic.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
I have served as the long-range/historic preservation planner for the City of Hot Springs since October 2022. I support the Historic District Commission in managing two locally-designated historic districts and work to implement the HS2040: Forward Hot Springs plan. I previously worked for the District of Columbia government as the neighborhood revitalization manager and for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center. Born and raised in Hot Springs, I am thrilled to be helping to preserve her hometown’s unique history as the largest illegal gambling operation in the history of the United States.
Asheville, North Carolina
I work as a public health associate at the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville. My work at NCCHW includes providing support on the CDC Arthritis grant and promoting walking across North Carolina through evidence-based health programs for aging adults. In 2021, I graduated with a Master of Public Health from Florida State University. I enjoy walking and playing basketball. I am passionate about public health and helping others. Furthermore, I look forward to developing skills to create and support more walkable communities in North Carolina.
I began advocating for safe roads after losing my son in a vehicular crash and have come to believe that the most effective way to address both our road safety and climate crises is to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road by creating robust, safe and viable alternate and active transportation networks. I, who recently relocated from St. Paul, Minnesota, am particularly concerned about the lack of sidewalks in southwest Portland and hope to address this problem in a meaningful way.
Jodi Winship, PhD, OTR/L
I am the founder and executive director of Richmond Aging and Engaging and assistant professor with the Virginia Center on Aging at Virginia Commonwealth University. As an occupational therapist, I believe that engaging in meaningful occupation – those things that we need to do (like getting dressed and taking our medicines), and those things that we want to do (like walking to the park with the grandkids) – is essential for our health and wellbeing. As such, my work focuses on reducing disparities in occupational engagement and supporting aging-in-place among low-income older adults in Richmond, Virginia.
I am a dad, teacher, poet, and sustainable transportation advocate. My young family and I get around by walking, biking, public transportation, and car-share. I hold degrees in ethnic studies, Spanish, and education policy.
Albany, New York
I am a passionate pedestrian, avid cyclist, and dedicated transit rider in Albany, New York, where I am a board member of Walkable Albany and Albany Bike Coalition. I am a former resident of Orlando who relied solely on biking, walking, and transit for over a decade, which revealed the inequitable and harmful aspects of un-walkable car-dependent cities. I was motivated to become an advocate for safe streets and multimodal transportation systems from having lost several family members to traffic violence and witnessing the carnage on Orlando streets, which is regularly ranked the most dangerous city for cyclists and pedestrians.
I am a self-made walkability and public transportation expert from Columbia, Missouri. I earned my stripes over the last 9 years endeavoring to walk 100 miles in all 50 states without the use of a car. After endless travel, I’ve now settled with my wife in the charming Driftless Area of Wisconsin. I currently am at work on a book on my adventures around the United States. I teach yoga, am an amateur photographer, and have finally held still long enough to adopt a dog.
Dexter Handy, LT COLONEL, USAF retired
I retired from the Air Force in 2004 and started volunteering for active transportation-related initiatives in Houston. I have served as chair of the Greater Houston Coalition for Complete Streets and the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition. I took the lead on the transportation section of AARP’s Age-Friendly/Liveable Community action plan for the City of Houston, and I am a member of the mayor’s Vision Zero Executive Committee, among other initiatives helping to facilitate improved conditions for all in his city. I am married to Dr. Beverly Handy, M.D., a chemistry pathologist and professor at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. My wife and I are avid marathon runners.
Princeton, New Jersey
I am an early career professional focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, with research and advocacy experience related to the intersection of land use planning and the environment. Originally from Los Angeles, I have lived in Princeton, NJ for the past five years and will be moving to Washington, D.C. in June 2023. In my most recent role, I worked on promoting vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction in New Jersey as a necessary complement to vehicle electrification. In 2018, I received my M.S. from the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan with a focus on Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Systems.
Jersey City, New Jersey
I am a Program Manager at Newlab, where I help pilot innovative solutions in coordination with NYC DOT and emerging start-ups to address transportation crises in New York City. Prior to Newlab, I worked at the NJEDA, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and the Federal Reserve Board. I studied urban planning as a Masters’s student at the London School of Economics and am a Fulbright Scholar. I live in Jersey City, New Jersey with my partner and enjoy volunteering at my community garden, salsa dancing, and reading contemporary fiction.
Laura Groenjes Mitchell
I am a former teacher and lifelong learner, living in Minneapolis with my wife and two young kids. Walking and biking with my kids every day has supercharged my belief that we need to put more work into ensuring our infrastructure supports the needs of people traveling outside vehicles. Professionally, I work for an education non-profit, designing and facilitating learning experiences and communities of practice.
Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
After a career in computer programming, project management, internal audit, and process improvement covering NY, UK, Switzerland, and NJ, my husband and I retired to MD. Here I started my second ‘career’ in volunteer work as the treasurer for a local wildlife sanctuary, member of our HOA board, and town councilwoman. On the town council, I co-chair our walkable advisory committee – we have a number of projects on our wishlist and I am hoping what I learn in the National Walking College will help move more of those forward. I love outdoor activities, especially walking in my neighborhood and long-distance bicycle rides. I believe the easier it is for people to have access to the outdoors, the more they will be able to get out and enjoy it too.
I am currently a community health specialist with the REACH program specializing in Black and African communities. In this capacity, I help to plan and implement efforts to eliminate chronic diseases through referrals to existing community health resources. She will also support the REACH Healthy Heart Ambassador program, lead classes in the National Diabetes Prevention Program, and engage in other opportunities to promote health and wellness. She is a community health educator and advocate who conducts outreach related to chronic disease prevention and health education to drive better health outcomes in previously underserved communities.
I am the West Georgia Sr. Outreach and Engineering Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Resource Center. I provide gap analysis and curriculum development for Polk County Florida’s SRTS program and support GA Road Safety Audit facilitation and reporting as well as SRTS research for PA Commuter Services. I am leading the development of the SRTS high school program for Georgia.
I facilitate, support, and coordinate activities and education events for 170 partner schools in the 50-county region of West Georgia. To date, I have planned and facilitated 35+ infrastructure analysis studies (Road Safety Audits, Walk Audits, and Safety Observations) with regional experts and advocates for student safety. I educate students, the community, and school staff on safety and best practices in walking and biking to school. I have 30 years of experience in project and product management, development and implementation of education and training for all ages, program development and implementation, community marketing, public speaking, and outreach. I am an avid learner, have completed Penn State’s professional GIS Certification, is a certified Montessori instructor, and am enjoying my 7th year with GA SRTS. I recently became a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) with the League of American Bicyclists. I enjoy living in the walk and bikeable community of Carrollton, GA, and frequently volunteer in the community and at my alma mater the University of West Georgia where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing. Go Wolves!
I, along with my partner and two dogs, live in Minneapolis and work as an organizer with the transportation advocacy nonprofit, Our Streets. Raised in a suburb with a near-zero walk score, his passion for walkability didn’t begin until a cross-country walk after college, in which I directly experienced the ways that the built environment has marginalized walking in American life. With a background in cognitive science, rhetoric, and creative writing, along with a love of listening and debate, and a belief in the power of incremental change, I hope to see positive changes in my own neighborhood.
Leland, North Carolina
I came to pedestrian advocacy by way of healthcare policy. Because of my lifelong career in long-term care services, I directly appreciate how a community’s built environment impacts its accessibility and health outcomes. While taking a professional detour to work at BikeWalk NC, I was introduced to America Walks. After hearing Mike McGinn during a presentation, I knew I wanted to apply to the Walking College, and am thrilled to have been selected. I am interested in analyzing how local land use policy impacts the pedestrian experience and will work to make a recently developed area near my home more pedestrian friendly.
Long Beach, California
I first got involved in urban and transportation planning by playing Cities: Skylines before I became radicalized by watching urbanist Youtube and listening to podcasts on parking. A child of the American suburbs, walkable places were something he only ever experienced at theme parks and inside shopping malls I drove absolutely everywhere. But now, many Youtube videos, chatrooms, and memes later, I found a community in my local chapter of the Sunrise Movement and organized group bike rides for Bike LB. I became a regular voice at city council, planning commission, and LB Transit Board meetings, and have made transportation advocacy part of my lifestyle. I am fighting for complete streets projects all over Long Beach and throughout Southern California. I work for the California State Water Project as a corrosion engineer.
Kansas City, Missouri
I am a software engineer in greater Kansas City, MO. I was inspired to get involved in bike and pedestrian advocacy after realizing that the 1.5-mile route from my home to a local trail was too dangerous and high-speed to bike. Since then, I have volunteered with local bike and pedestrian advocacy groups and became a Parks and Rec commissioner in my town, recognizing that change starts with regular people participating in local decision-making. I passionately believe in the power of better infrastructure to make communities more healthy, vibrant, and safe.
I am a wife and mother who lives in metro Atlanta, Georgia. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Boston University and a master’s degree in Middle Grades Education from Georgia State University. I taught in the Atlanta Public School system for 12 years. As a member of the Strong Towns organization, I developed a passion for promoting active mobility in my suburban community. When not busy managing the comings and goings of three busy teens, I enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, and – of course – walking.
I am a second-year PhD student at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University where I am studying transportation as a site of urban conflict, violence, and peacebuilding. When I am not preparing for my comprehensive exam, I am serving as a volunteer, part-time, hyper-local elected official advocating for safer streets (among other things). Before pursuing my PhD, I spent nearly four years consulting for FEMA on the design and implementation of national policy and programming to increase community climate resilience. I am an urban planner by training and have successfully mastered the art of reading while walking.
Cayce, South Carolina
I received an MPH from the University of South Carolina in 2001. I am a certified fitness professional, yoga instructor, and Lifestyle Coach. Currently, I am the Senior Community Health Coordinator for Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center Diabetes Intervention Program. I chair the Active & Accessible Community Transit (AACT) Coalition which is dedicated to making my county’s communities more walk and bike friendly. As a 20-year resident of Cayce, I serve as a Neighborhood Leader and on the Municipal Elections Commission. I look forward to helping make Cayce and surrounding communities more accessible to everyone.
I am a social health psychologist who examines disparities in chronic disease self-management and outcomes experienced by people with disabilities. I am an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where I conduct research projects promoting diabetes self-management among blind and low-vision people, healthy nutrition and exercise among Latinx families with children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), pre-and perinatal health of pregnant people with IDD, and clinician disability competence. Additionally, I enjoy parenting a toddler, strength training, and roller skating.
Villa Park, Illinois
I was born in the city of Chicago and spent most of my formative years growing up on the west and northwest side of the city. The neighborhoods that I grew up in were characterized by the presence of small neighborhood grocery stores, close links to bus routes, and close proximity to elevated commuter rail lines. Other important destinations like parks, churches, schools, and library branches were also close and reachable by walking or bicycling. I now live in the outer ring of west suburban Chicago. I want to be an advocate for helping develop my community as a more cohesive walkable place.
I am married with 3 grown children. I am active in local civic, political, and religious institutions. I am a graduate of DePaul University. I spent 32 years working for Bridgestone – Firestone (now Bridgestone North America) and finished my career there working in the Real Estate Department. I am currently serving on the Villa Park Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Transit Subcommittee.
Raleigh, North Carolina
I am an environmental professional working as a Clean Energy Training Program Manager. I work to educate, communicate, and bring people together to support the growth of clean energy and clean transportation options. With degrees in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, I have worked for various government organizations at the intersection of climate change and clean energy. I am a climate optimist and a lover of learning. When I am not working, I am usually in motion and like walking on greenways, dancing west coast swing, and hiking on local trails on the weekends.