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our staff


Wendy Schaetzel Lesko founded Youth Activism Project in 2004 with the launch of its first campaign, School Girls Unite. She serves as President and is a nationally recognized expert on authentic youth civic engagement. She has written several books, including Youth! The 26% Solution. Her work as a community organizer with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers and a reporter covering the U.S. Congress strengthen her determination to encourage youth-driven policy advocacy as well as multigenerational collaboration. Check out Wendy’s TEDxYouth Talk.

Anika Manzoor

Anika Manzoor serves as Youth Activism Project’s first-ever Executive Director. Anika was introduced to activism when she “accidentally” co-founded School Girls Unite at the age of 12. Through Youth Activism Project, Anika discovered the power of her own voice and consequently, her own passion for youth empowerment. Anika is a graduate of Grinnell College and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Through Youth Activism Project, Anika is committed to helping as many young people as possible discover the power of their voices as well. Click here to learn more about her journey.

Avery S.

Avery is our Director of Youth Organizing and a junior in Montgomery County, Maryland. Avery is a passionate activist who co-leads her school's Black Student Union, co-founded her school's first Minority Scholars Program, and co-founded Students Toward Equitable Public Schools, a county-wide initiative furthering education equity and combating de facto segregation. Avery has led in-person and online events reaching up to 800 people. She is also proud to call herself a Youth Creating Change fellow.

Lulit Shewan

Lulit is our Director of Partnerships & Outreach and is currently a sophomore at the University of Maryland. Lulit started working with the Youth Activism Project in 2015 when she co-founded a group called Youth Uplifting Health to promote health and wellness in teens within her school and county. She was also a co-county coordinator for the Minority Scholars Program and worked on campaigns related to equal and clean water access within schools and mental health awareness initiatives. She serves on the Youth Activism Project’s board where her focus is working with several educational equity campaigns on both a local and national level. Her goal is to promote civic engagement and youth empowerment in BIPOC.

Anna denisenko

Anna Denisenko, our Program Director, first became passionate about activism when she joined the Occupy Orlando movement. After earning her master’s degree from the University of Central Florida, she received a Fulbright grant to Malaysia, where she spent 2 years teaching high school students and organizing weekend events focusing on environmental education and women’s empowerment. After witnessing the positive impact these events had on her students, she hopes to continue engaging young people in leadership and activism.




Contact our team:

our board

Hilary Binder-Aviles |Independent Nonprofit Consultant
Jonathan Johnson | Glover Park Group
Brian Callahan | Congressional Relations Manager
Vanessa Gomes Garcia | University of Maryland: Class of 2023
Chris Herrera | American University: Class of 2023
Maya Kagan| Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School: Class of 2020
Bella Noumba | Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School: Class of 2020
Lulit Shewan| University of Maryland: Class of 2023
Aria Miles | UPD Consulting