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. Hear about her journey.

Avery S.

Avery S. is our Youth Advisor 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. She is also proud to call herself a Youth Creating Change fellow. This year, she led a workshop on minorities in higher education at the Minority Scholars Program intra-county retreat, which had 800 people in attendance. She is also a member of the Montgomery County Racial Equity Network's (MORE) Education Committee. This year she was mentioned in the Princeton Prize in Race Relations award, as continuing the work of one of the awardees.

Anna denisenko

Anna Denisenko, our Program Manager, assists with all aspects of Youth Activism Project. Anna 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.

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