Staff

Jay Travis, Co-Executive Director (she/her)

Jay’s commitment to racial justice and democracy at the grassroots level has led her to play leadership roles in building local and national organizing alliances for education justice, youth employment, affordable housing, and political independence. At age 28, she became one of the youngest executive directors of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), one of Chicago’s oldest black-led intergenerational grassroots organizations. Jay Travis has worked to highlight the intersection between gentrification and education issues, and played a vital role in building community and labor alliances fighting to protect public education and against mass school closings impacting black and brown students at the local, state and national level. Jay has also worked as a program officer at progressive foundations such as the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing. As a founding member of the People United for Action PAC, Jay supports efforts to build infrastructure to support independent candidates and policies to address the needs of low-income and working families. Jay was a trainer with the Midwest Academy for five years prior to becoming co-Director in 2019.

jay (at) midwestacademy.com
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Eric Zachary, Co-Executive Director (he/him)

Eric’s career has included deep experience in both community and union organizing, and has been distinguished by starting and directing new projects and alliances in the struggle for social justice. These have included developing a comprehensive leadership training program for neighborhood and parent leaders, serving as the founding director of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, and most recently establishing a new community engagement infrastructure at the American Federation of Teachers.  In this last position, he has helped to establish community-labor alliances fighting for educational and racial justice in a dozen cities, as well as the national Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. Working with a wide range of community, labor, university and faith-based allies at the neighborhood, city and national levels, all of these efforts have included a participatory and democratic culture at their heart, along with a deep commitment to racial, economic and gender diversity and justice. A life-long resident of Brooklyn, Eric is a product of both public housing and public education from kindergarten through his doctorate.  He has been co-Director since 2019.

eric (at) midwestacademy.com
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Kristina Tendilla, Trainer (she/they)

Kristina has been a lifelong Filipinx community organizer. They worked as the Executive Director of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment and a national organizer with National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum working to fight for reproductive justice. Before that, they were a community organizer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago for several years leading and winning campaigns on immigrant and racial justice. Kristina has worked with many queer/trans/non-binary BIPOC groups on the local and national level to build community and a collective movement abolition.

For over 10 years, Kristina organized alongside families and people to fight for environmental justice, immigrant/refugee rights, worker rights, Illinois TRUST Act, rejecting anti-Muslim and xenophobic executive orders. Kristina was recognized as a National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Everyday SHEroe and a Chicago Women and Femme to Celebrate. Through her work and other LGBTQIA+ APIDAs, i2i has received the National Queer Asian American Pacific Islander Alliance Advocacy Award in 2016. Driven by a love for community, Kristina has a deep commitment to build collective power for all people.

kristina (at) midwestacademy.com
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Aimée-Josiane Twagirumukiza, Trainer (they/she)

 Aimée-Josiane is an anti-racist organizer and cultural worker who is rooted in the struggles of Black, immigrant, trans and queer, survivors and workers. They are a certified life & transformational coach, who believes that organizing moves at the speed of trust. This mantra has defined their roles as a co-founder and sustaining member of Queer the Land, a QTBIPOC housing collective in Seattle, WA, and a founding member and current President of the National LGBTQ Workers Center, which fights against sexual and gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Aimée-Josiane has been a professional organizer for public sector employees throughout the South and Pacific Northwest with locals of the Communication Workers of America and the American Federation of Teachers. They have also coordinated large-scale anti-violence education for the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse, and before coming to the Midwest Academy, they worked at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) leading NDWA’s We Dream in Black program, which builds the power and leadership of Black homecare workers, nannies, house cleaners and unpaid family caregivers across the U.S. Aimée-Josiane is from Gikongoro, Rwanda, in the late 1990s, they emigrated from Zambia to the U.S. and were granted asylum. Since then they have lived on the U.S. coasts, and currently make home in Atlanta, Georgia with their wife who is a free-lance journalist, a sassy cat named Seven and a close-knit group of friends and family. They have a BA in Sociology from Georgia State University.

aimee-josiane (at) midwestacademy.com
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  Kaylee Tock, Administrative Director (she/her)

Kaylee started in the world of nonprofits as an intern for the Chicago Artists’ Coalition during her time at Bennington College.  From there, she dabbled in both the music industry and the world of women’s fashion.  Her meandering path eventually led to Midwest Academy, where she is able to put her administrative and accounting skills to use in a place she feels 100% fulfilled and morally aligned (how refreshing!).  She is thrilled to be part of such a strong group with such a vital mission, and is the person to holler at if you’ve attended a training and found the pastry selection unacceptable.

kaylee (at) midwestacademy.com
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Judy Hertz   Judy Hertz, Executive Director Emeritus

Judy served as Director of Special Projects at the Midwest Academy from 1999- 2010, lead the organization as Executive Director from 2011-2019, and is currently focusing on training (leading, updating curriculum, and training the trainers). She serves as a trainer at our core workshops, Organizing for Social Change and Supervising Organizers, and consults with a variety of organizations, from neighborhood organizations to state and national groups.

Prior to joining the Academy, Judy worked as a community organizer in Chicago for 20 years. She began with an institution-based organization on the southwest side, and then served for ten years as executive director of Rogers Park Tenants Committee, Chicago’s largest and most powerful neighborhood-based tenants’ rights organization. During her time there, she helped lead campaign to pass the Chicago Tenants’ Bill of Rights, which dramatically transformed renters’ rights in Chicago, and helped launch the Lead Elimination Action Drive, which improved Chicago’s response to lead paint poisoning. She guided the organization through a transition into a multi-issue organization, changing its name to Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN).

Following her work with RPCAN, Judy spent two years working on Organizing and Family Issues, conducting leadership training in a feminist organizing model with low-income Hispanic mothers. Judy was a member of the founding board of the National Organizers Alliance, a professional association for progressive community, issue, and labor organizers. She was also a founder and member of the Board of the NOA Retirement Pension Plan, a multiple employer pension plan for community organizers.

judy (at) midwestacademy.com
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Steve Max, Associate Director Emeritus