VT-EJ Network Steering Committee

Sara Babcock, JD Law Student (she/her)

Sara is a third-year JD student at Vermont Law and Graduate School. She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree from George Mason University in 2020 concentrating in Equity and Environmental Justice. After graduation this May, Sara is particularly interested in using her legal degree to advocate for marginalized communities who are the greatest impacted by climate change and using the tools of the legal system to protect the environment.

Earl Hatley, President of LEAD Agency, Inc. (he/him)

Earl is a co-founder of LEAD Agency, Inc., a grassroots organization in northeastern Oklahoma, and serves as the Board President.  LEAD Agency is predominantly of Native American membership.  LEAD Agency is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and from 2003-2021, Mr. Hatley served as the Grand Riverkeeper, patrolling the Grand River and feeder streams of the upper Grand River watershed.  Earl currently serves as board member for Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition, and the board of Rural Vermont.  He is currently President of  the board for Ottauquechee Water Protectors Association in Quechee, VT. Mr. Hatley currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Western Mining Action Network, including their Indigenous Caucus. WMAN serves organizations dealing with the impacts of hard rock  mining in the US and Canada.  In Nov. 2020, Mr. Hatley was elected Co-Chair of WMAN and Chair of WMAN’s Indigenous Caucus.  In Oct. 2022 He was re-elected to both positions for another two year term.  Hatley also serves on the Waterkeeper Council for the Waterkeeper Alliance (the organization’s governing body) which governs over 350 Waterkeeper programs in 47 countries. Mr. Hatley is an enrolled citizen of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi with Cherokee/Shawnee heritage.

Zoraya Hightower, Burlington Ward-1 City Councilor (she/her)

Zoraya has worked on environmental and social justice issues for over ten years – from renewable energy finance in Kosovo and fishery sustainability in the Philippines to curbing no-cause evictions in Vermont. Zoraya also works as a Director for Nature for Justice, as an equity consultant with the Creative Discourse Group, and serves on the Burlington Vermont City Council after winning a seat as the first woman of color in 2020.

Alex Hilliard, Small Business Owner (they/them)

Alex spends much of their days as a competitive athlete and personal trainer in Poultney, VT. A Massachusetts native by birth, they moved to VT for college and decided to stick around and set roots. Alex uses their role as a community leader and local entrepreneur, and wields their knowledge from their environmentally-focused business degree to try to create a more just and equitable society for BIPOC and other underrepresented stakeholders. Alex is an Emerge Vermont leader and serves on the Vermont Commission of Women council.

Matthew LeFleur, Community Advocate (he/him)

Matthew LeFluer is from Alburgh Vermont. As a person of color with a disability, Matthew advocates and promotes diversity and inclusion transparency equity and acceptance of individuals across Vermont Statewide. Matthew opens himself to the community around him so other differently abled BIPOC community members can have equity. Matthew partners with many organizations across Vermont to advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion within Vermont organizations and government affiliations.

Kiah Morris, Executive Director, Rights & Democracy (she/her)

Kiah Morris is the executive director at Rights and Democracy. She served in the Vermont general assembly as a State Representative from 2014-2016 and 2016-2018. She is the first African-American and person of color elected from Bennington County and the second African-American woman to be elected to the legislature in Vermont history. She helmed the historic establishment of board and cabinet-level, director position to address systemic racism in state government; the establishment of the most comprehensive ethnic and social equity in schools bill in the nation and medical monitoring for victims of corporate pollution. Kiah is an award-winning, in-demand trainer, speaker and presenter. She sits on the Board of United Children’s Services, is a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America and is on the advisory councils for Emerge Vermont and Black Lives Matter Vermont.

Ana Mejia, VT Organizing Director, Rights & Democracy (She/her)

Ana has over a decade of grassroots organizing experience and is a firm believer in collective liberation. Her roots trace back to California where her parents settled after fleeing their home country of El Salvador when the U.S. backed military coup d’état that ignited the Salvadoran Civil War. Ana’s upbringing and experience advocating for immigrant rights and education justice as a young high school student in East Los Angeles fueled her passion for grassroots organizing. Since settling in Vermont in 2018, Ana has stayed true to her roots and continued to organize around environmental and racial justice.

Dr. Bindu Panikkar, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Rubinstein School of UVM (she/her)

Dr. Bindu Panikkar has been working on environmental justice issues since 2002. Her more recent work has looked into PFOA contamination and health issues in Merrimack, New Hampshire and environmental controversies surrounding relicensing of nuclear powerplants in Massachusetts, mine permitting in Alaska, and water conflicts around transboundary Kabul River between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bindu works at the intersection of environmental justice, environmental health and science technology and society studies. She leads the Research Core at REJOICE, examining social, environmental, and health inequities in Vermont.

Mia Schultz, VT Education Justice Organizer, Rights & Democracy (she/her)

Mia serves as the President of the Rutland-Area NAACP, which is one of the largest chapters in New England and services Rutland, Bennington and Addison counties in Vermont. Mia’s current political leadership also includes chairing the Town of Bennington’s Democratic Party. She is the first African American woman to hold office in the organization. She is an educator, organizer, and problem solver and regularly advocates for people of color throughout Vermont.

Britaney Watson, Environmental Justice Network Coordinator, Center for Whole Communities (she/her)

Britaney attended the University At Albany where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Public Sector Economics and a minor in Psychology. Determined to effect change within the foster care system, she spent six years serving children and their families as a caseworker and a supervisor. Following the tragic death of George Floyd, she joined a racial equity work group, which ignited her passion to be an advocate for the BIPOC community. She now serves as the Environmental Justice Chairperson for the Rutland NAACP branch and the Social Justice representative for the EJ Advisory Council and is dedicated to providing advocacy and support around racial justice, equity and discrimination. She is an empathetic leader with sincere interest and skill in learning about and assisting others to share their stories. She believes in the value that stories bring and their power in impacting important decisions.

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