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Payton Kaiser is the Lansing and Western Michigan Organizing Specialist for the Michigan AFL-CIO.
As a passionate labor advocate, community organizer, and political activist, Payton seeks to advance the rights of workers in Michigan. Through his work history in politics, including canvassing, organizing, and his work in the Michigan House of Representatives, Payton has demonstrated a relentless commitment to empowering communities and promoting social change.
His journey as a fierce advocate for labor rights is a testament to his unwavering belief in the power of collective action and the pursuit of a more just and equitable society for all.
Antoinette McClain is the AFA Case Manager for the Michigan AFL-CIO WDI Division.
Antoinette has spent the past 13 years working with various nonprofit organizations, serving in several different roles, mainly in Flint, MI, where she is also a community member. Antoinette’s mission is to bridge the access to services gap in underserved communities.
When she is not supporting the Michigan AFL-CIO WDI Division, Antoinette provides project management and data consulting services to local non-profit organizations.
Antoinette is a graduate of Mott Community College and an AmeriCorps Alumni. She also holds certifications as a Community Health Worker and HUD Counselor.
Geovany is the new Career Coach for the Michigan AFL-CIO’s Workforce Development Institute.
Geovany received his Bachelor’s Degree in Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness from Western Michigan University. Geovany has several years of experience in customer service. For the past year, Geovany has utilized his customer services experience to provide support to community members seeking assistance in the workforce industry as a career navigator.
When Geovany is not serving as the new Career Coach for WDI’s Southwest Michigan Works! office, Geovany activities include; music, playing soccer, running, and hiking.
Payton is the Digital Director of the Michigan AFL-CIO. Vastly self-taught, he has been working in the e-commerce and design realm for 10+ years.
Payton worked on the Alaskan Railroad as the Lead Chef of the Wilderness Express for two years. He enjoys hiking, learning new skills, and anything that involves tech.
Isabella Palazzolo is the Organizing Specialist in Southeast Michigan for the Michigan AFL-CIO Campaigns Department. Prior to this position, Isabella has worked on local campaigns in Michigan. Her most recent campaign work was on Darrin Camilleri’s campaign for State Senate in 2022. In 2022, she received her baccalaureate degree with cum laude honors from the University of Toledo majoring in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration. During her time at UT, Isabella served as the President of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc., and the Multicultural Greek Council’s Vice President. She was recognized for being New Member of the Year in 2021 and having the Outstanding Service Event of the Year back-to-back in 2021 and 2022 by the university Greek office. Isabella is also a part of the 2023 Cohort of the Great Lakes Political Academy.
Jayce Bixka is the Training Specialist for the Michigan AFL-CIO State Federation Division.
Jayce Bixka is a grassroots organizer, educator, and technology specialist with a career focus on human rights and cross-cultural communication. Through their work, Jayce has developed a passion for supporting essential movements and leaders by building and developing activist communities, deploying digital outreach systems and field programming, delivering compassionate constituent services, and fostering coalition building.
Most recently, Jayce served as the Organizing Technology Director for Reproductive Freedom for All, enabling the grassroots effort of tens of thousands of passionate activists across the state.
Before that, Jayce also served as the Volunteer Manager for Rashida Tlaib for Congress during the 2022 and 2020 election cycles, where he supported the incredible community-focused work in the 13th and newly drawn 12th Congressional Districts.
Jayce is a Communications University of China graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Broadcast and Anchoring and international communications. Jayce often obsesses over locally grown produce at a farmer’s market when not advocating.
Benjamin Orjada is an Organizing Specialist at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Most recently, he served as a Field Organizer for the Michigan Democratic Party where he helped win multiple competitive seats in Macomb County during the 2022 cycle.
In 2023, Benjamin was elected President of the Young Democrats of Michigan. In his role with YDM, Benjamin connects young people across the state with jobs and training opportunities and helps young candidates run for office.
Benjamin’s passion is helping community members engage effectively with their government and find their voice in politics. A lifelong resident of Sterling Heights, he serves on the Citizens Advisory Committee as well as on the boards of several regional political organizations. Benjamin is a member of both IBEW 1106 and Teamsters 243.
Jasmine Kaltenbach was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan where she comes from a family of union members. While attending the University of Michigan, Jasmine participated in student activist movements on campus, in College Democrats, and wrote for the MichiganEnsian yearbook. She graduated from the Ford School with a BA in Public Policy, focusing on the Economics of Poverty and Inequality. She ran a competitive mayoral race in Jackson, Michigan and has experience in sales, field organizing, event planning, and fundraising. She continues to consult campaigns on field, finance, and communications. Jasmine is also a presenter at Great Lakes Political academy on Coalition Building, Coordinating, and Outreach to Partner Organizations and Progressive Internship Programs: Best Practices. She is excited to work at the Michigan AFL-CIO advancing policies that will help Michigan’s working families. Jasmine is a member of the National Writers Union.
Holly Simon is the Legislative Advocacy Coordinator for the Michigan AFL-CIO. A lifelong Michigander, Holly graduated from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and an additional major in Public Policy, as well as a minor in Peace & Justice Studies. Her previous work experience includes being the Campaign Manager for Kyra Harris Bolden’s non-partisan Michigan Supreme Court campaign, Event Manager for Gretchen Whitmer’s gubernatorial campaign, Internal Organizer for SEIU Healthcare MI, and more. While she has always loved being a part of the labor movement, she has especially fond memories of her time with IBEW Local 2325.
In her spare time, Holly enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her cat, Murphy.
Annabelle Hart is the Policy Analyst for the Michigan AFL-CIO. Annabelle grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies from Westminster College and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Utah. She has always been passionate about politics and social justice. She has previous experience working for various nonprofits and on the Hill.
Josephine Jabara is the Grants Manager for the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute.
Josephine is a mission-driven non-profit development professional with over 20 years of experience (in the Netherlands and the USA) in supporting non-profit organizations with her fundraising and communications expertise. Her interest in storytelling was born while working as a documentary film producer with her husband, Jim. To her, grant writing and management is the perfect combination of the nuts and bolts of fundraising, research, and the creative writing process.
During her community service as a committee chair of Fowlerville Boyscout Troop 333, she was glad to be part of the journey to Eagle of several scouts. She is a graduate of the Leadership Livingston program and an avid gardener focusing on organically grown vegetables. In her spare time, she loves to fish and hike.
She holds certificates in management, grant proposal writing, and fundraising, as well as First Aid, CPR, and AED. While working in Metro Detroit, she received extensive training in social determinants of health. Through the Netherlands Institute of Marketing, she obtained NIMA-A, which granted her the title of Marketing Practitioner.
Henrietta Hadley is the Fund Development Director for the Michigan AFL- CIO Workforce Development Institute.
Henrietta has spent over 25 years working in executive management, post-secondary education administration, workforce development, and grant administration for non-profit organizations & community foundations.
Recognition of Henrietta’s various leadership and advocacy endeavors ranges from awards from numerous organizations acknowledging her commitment to awards that honor her work in assisting individuals with achieving their highest potential for accomplishing their personal and professional goals.
When Henrietta is not supporting Michigan AFL-CIO in her director capacity, Henrietta is training entrepreneurs nationwide and volunteering for women veterans and youth events.
Henrietta is a Western Michigan University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Emily Smith is the Program Assistant for the Michigan AFL-CIO WDI.
Emily’s interest in Michigan AFL-CIO, Workforce Development Institute, is due to her love for communications and building relationships. Consistently commended for her passion, efficiency, and communication skills. In working with the Michigan AFL-CIO, she has committed herself to further her exploration of the intersection where communication, personal growth, and community growth flourish.
Emily spent time working as a professional blogger during her college years. She also garnered recognition for her writing abilities during that time for her essays and poetry. Previously, she worked in the banking industry and various other customer service roles as someone who was personable, service-oriented, and committed to quality work.
Emily is a tireless knowledge seeker who believes in the enabling power of developing and exchanging ideas. She seeks to invest in and enable others to fulfill their goals, allowing teamwork to propel her further into the workforce. With her specialization in communications, Emily strives to keep people first in pursuing entrepreneurialism, which results in individuals creating their discipline strategies and structure.
Emily is a Spring Arbor University graduate, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree. She has a passion and talent for music, having played the guitar, ukulele, and alto saxophone. She also loves fantasy books/video games and watching anime!
Anne Fairchild is the Program Assistant for the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute, Access for All Program in the Training Division.
Anne spent over 18 years in museum education and public programming/events before joining Teach for America, serving in the Appalachia region in southeastern Kentucky. She developed several school programs, including a series of preservation trades programs to encourage the next generation of preservation trades and historic preservation advocates for historical structures. She has spent most of her career connecting families and students to their community’s cultural heritage.
More recently, through the CERA Rental Assistance program, Anne has worked to help Detroit residents facing eviction due to COVID-related hardship.
Anne received her B.A. and Master’s Degree in American Studies from Michigan State University, focusing on American ethnic cultures, television production, and museum education. She is passionate about education, diverse cultural heritage, community development, and traditional arts. As a relative newcomer to the Lansing community, she has volunteered with two community organizations to provide a children’s activity space.
Dave Rowden is the Finance Director for the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute.
Dave spent the first part of his career in public accounting and the last 18 years working in private industry. His previous position was as Deputy Director for the Michigan State Disbursement Unit, which processes child support payments and provides a supporting call center to assist stakeholders with those payments.
Dave is a Michigan State University graduate, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting and a licensed CPA in Michigan. A lifelong Michigan resident, Dave lives in Dewitt with his wife Pat, a retired public education teacher. Outside of professional work, Dave enjoys travel, gardening, and spending time at a family cottage.
Ken Toll is the Training Director for the Michigan AFL-CIO’s Workforce Development Institute.
Before joining WDI, Ken fought for financial stability, health, and education through his work for the United Way of Jackson County. During his 20 years there (serving as CEO for 16), Ken diversified United Way’s funding base and developed numerous effective community collaboratives. He worked with his counterparts from the Battle Creek & Kalamazoo Region and Capital Area United Ways to merge the three entities into the United Way of South Central Michigan in 2022, creating the 37th largest United Way in the nation, where he served as Chief Operations Officer for a year.
Over the years, Ken has served on numerous Boards, including the National 2-1-1 Leadership Group. He was an active volunteer with Jackson Public Schools throughout his three children’s tenure there, helped found the Jackson COVID Action Network, and currently chairs the Human Service Coordinating Alliance.
Ken’s most recent, and rewarding, professional development has focused on diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism. He is a member of the MDHHS antiracism in Child Welfare Team. He was recently awarded the Diversity Award from the Jackson Human Relations Commission and the “More than a Funder” award from Nation Outside for helping found its Jackson chapter. Ken earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kalamazoo College, where he was awarded the Senior Fellowship in English.
Freddie R. Kelly is the Case Manager for the Michigan AFL-CIO 501c3 Workforce Development Institute Division in the Access for All Program.
Freddie has served ten years as a Data Support Specialist in Work First, Detroit At Work, and Michigan Works, driving the work of connecting individual capabilities to emerging from welfare to the workforce. She dedicates her goals to helping customers increase job readiness through skill development and improving the lives of working families.
Ms. Freddie serves both on the court and off the court, feeding the hungry through Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest, who partner with her church.
Freddie attended Baker College to study Surgical Technology. She develops a sweet sound of music, for she is a Gospel Recording Artist name “Freddi Rene.”
Trent Bronsink is the Career Coach for the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute.
He has been in customer service and insurance for the past 13 years. Providing positive resolutions in claims and connecting appraisers with homeowners to help with closing of loans.
Trent holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Insurance/Risk Management from Olivet College. He enjoys soccer, football, and basketball. Outside of work Trent coaches youth soccer and volunteers as his church.
Rayonte was elected to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners in November 2020 and serves on the Finance Committee, Twin Cities Transportation Authority, Community Corrections Advisory Board, Michigan Association of Counties Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, Mental Health Authority, and many other committees.
Rayonte volunteers as a board member of the Corewell Health Lakeland Hospital Board, Avenue Family Network (formerly Child & Family Services) executive board, local chapter of the NAACP, S.H.A.R.P. Foundation (Society Harmonizing Against Racial Profiling), and his home church, Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.
A native from Benton Harbor, MI, Rayonte is a graduate of Countryside Academy and is currently finishing a degree in engineering at LMC. He plans to transfer to Andrews University to complete a B.S. in architecture and a minor in religious studies. Ray is currently the Deputy Director of Berrien Forward, a local nonprofit organization in Berrien County, dedicated to community organizing and increasing civic engagement, advocating for equal and fair voting rights, and passing progressive policies across the southwest Michigan area.
Ivy Chandler is the Case Manager for the Michigan AFL-CIO’s Workforce Development Institute – Benton Harbor Division.
Ivy has spent the last 20 years working in the Public Service and Mental Health arenas to assist organizations and those they serve to accomplish their organizational, professional and personal goals. Ivy focuses on removing barriers, empowering individuals and providing resources information that will encourage growth, increase confidence and ensure hope.
She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Community Services from Sienna Heights University and is also a graduate of Western Michigan University, having earned a Master in Public Administration. When she’s not supporting the Michigan AFL-CIO and its Workforce Development Institute, she enjoys teaching Sunday school, spending time with family, traveling and cooking.
Hi, I’m Errin. I serve as a recruiter and case manager for AFL-CIO WDI. Before getting into overseeing the Flint and Saginaw area of Mid-Michigan. I have always been affiliated with the union, being a son of a man who got his start as a skill trade work. Post being a devoted educator within the field of education for over 10 years; I am now interested in leveling the playing field by aiding in individual’s opportunity to adding their skills in one of the 21 trades available. By guiding individuals to start with a readiness program and expand into their apprenticeship that could lead to becoming a journeyman; my vision is to see through the growth of people connected to the construction trade industry.
Hello, my name is Courtney Alexander, I’m originally from Louisiana and moved to Michigan in 2005. I live in the Muskegon area with my wife Tiffany of 16 years and our son Sargent. I’m a recruiter for the Grand Rapids/ Muskegon area. I like being outdoors, cooking, and being with friends and family, and I can’t leave out traveling. I’m hoping to really make an impact on our participants.
Vanessa is a student at Central Michigan University, studying Political Science with a focus on a master’s degree in Public Administration. Vanessa lives in Ada, Michigan, with her husband, mother-in-law, 12-year-old son, and two corgis. In her spare time, she and her family like to boat, camp, bicycle, and go to concerts.
Angela is a graduate of Davenport University with a BA in Business Administration and a specialty in Computer Science. She has 10 years of recruitment and admissions experience specializing in helping the individual improve their quality of life. Her platform developed with recruitment with the Federal Government for Job Corps.
On a personal note, Angela enjoys gardening as it beautifies the earth and ministry as it develops a foundation to start her day. She volunteers for Lutheran Social Services; Head start and her local church.
Si’Eirria Edmonds is the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek area recruitment specialist with Michigan Workforce Development Institute. She has resided and worked on the ground in the Kalamazoo community for over 15 years with various organizations such as Black Youth Vote, Black Women’s Roundtable, Mothers of Hope, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, Black Voters Matter, Northside Association for Community Development, Michigan United and many others. Si’Eirria has worked on local city and county campaigns, lead Voter registration drives and get out to Vote campaigns, canvassing, recruiting and organizing. She enjoys engaging, educating and empowering the community. The lack of obtainable employment opportunities and affordable housing are big issues impacting families, as the recruitment specialist with WDI offering them career opportunities and resources to further their education will have a huge impact. Si’Eirria is Invested in empowering communities to further their education and gain self-sufficiency. She wants to be a part of the solution so not only her family but the residents in her community can have a pathway to a better future.
I’m Shandra Dunn affectionately known as “Fay”.
I am an Access For All Alumnus and Recruitment Specialist with the Workforce Development Institute.
Because of this program I am also an award-winning Journeywoman for which I am eternally grateful!
My passion is to inform, assist, and guide women, people of color and disadvantaged individuals about the life changing careers in the construction industry.
Theresa Olvera is the Lead Case Manager in Kalamazoo. Her primary language is Spanish. She has over 30 years in the professional world and feels fortunate to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds. She is heavily involved in the Latino community. She knows it is her job to do her best to help everyone feel safe and secure when they are working with her and believes compassion and patience are two keys to do her job effectively. As she would say “Si Se Puede”! Anything is possible with hard work and a great attitude.
Daniel Mahoney is lifelong resident and longtime public servant in the City of Jackson. He is a former branch President of the Jackson County NAACP, former Jackson County Commissioner, current Mayor of the City of Jackson and natural advocate who all in his community. Daniel is the Case Manager for Access for All in Jackson and believes this program provides the chance to build a life changing career in the skilled trades.
As the Senior Case Manager with Access for All (AFA) I have over 20 years of working experience with Workforce Development. It has been my greatest passion to empower people who “dream the dream to become the very best they can”. I believe that all people no matter what ethnicity, sex, or origin, have the power to become and be who they are with little or no limits. The sky is the limit for anyone, and this is my motto in servicing all cultures alike.
My name is Kiah Esaw , pronounced-Kia like the car. Home Town to Detroit, MI east side. At age of 17 I graduated from high school and was off to Central State University in Ohio 2003. Two years later I decided to transfer and continue my education in Washington, DC at Howard University. I soon graduated in 2008 with a BA in Communication (Radio, TV, Film) Concentration: Telecommunication Management and Minor in business administration. I continued to do freelance work in public relations and business administration while working a full time job sometimes. I have acquired a love for the non-profit sector since my days in DC and continue to want to make a difference whether I am volunteering or working. Once I moved back to Detroit in 2018 I’ved worked with WDI formerly known as HRDI for about 4 years in workforce development and has moved fairly quickly up the rank starting as a Program Assistant, AFA Case Manager/Recruiter, AFA Lead Case Manager, AFA Statewide Coordinator, and final AFA Program Manager. I have acquired the following during this time Certification from the Department of Labor as a Workforce Development Specialist and License Trained Provider of the American Red Cross.
I have work in this industrial for 22 years in various positions here in Highland Park
from Security Guard to ES Specialist with Downriver Community Conference and now as a Greeter with WDI.
It has been a blessing to be able to work at the same location all these years.
I have worked in Workforce Development since 2019. As WDI W.I.O.A. Program Assistant, I am responsible assisting for front desk relief when needed, program support (scheduling, case noting in OSMIS, maintaining trackers, Assist with retention, employment verification and administer Work Keys and CASAS and any other duties as assigned when needed. Notifying management of any barriers that need to be addressed that would have any negative effect on WDI having a positive outcome for the program year. Performs all other related duties as required.
The best thing with my position and being an employee of WDI is being a part of a team with a passion for helping people.
Regina Jones has more than 20 years’ experience in Workforce Development.
She is extremely excited to be a certified Business Services Representative for Mi Workforce Development. She is passionate about utilizing artistic and creative up-to-date technology, multi-media, and social media to meet the needs of employers and job seekers. She works diligently to promote and market their skills, and to provide growth, guidance and fresh ideas to help them stand out and be unique. She holds a B.A. in African History and a B.A. in Film and Television.
Ms. Jones is also a workshop presenter and hosts unique events and fundraisers and teaches businesses and individuals how and where to get funding and volunteers.
Regina Jones has trained and placed thousands of disabled, aged out foster care youth, professionals and artists in jobs and careers in creative industries, such as, television, theater, film, fashion, music, art, writing scripts and grants and production editing, in addition to; green, blue, white and purple collar jobs. She has also written, directed performed and produced manuals, commercials, films, plays, workshops and conferences for employers, organizations and educational institutions. One of her productions which was about a training program featuring an employer and orphaned unemployed homeless aged out foster care youth entitled “The Way Home”, was featured at a Workforce Development National Convention.
I have been in Workforce Development for 34 years, working with multiple populations, including individuals with disabilities, felony backgrounds, homeless shelters, and returning citizens in a Federal correctional facility. Love to run workshops on interview skills and job fairs for job seekers. Volunteering and sitting on Board of Directors are a big part of my life.
Experienced advocate and problem solver committed to helping clients and communities overcome barriers in seeking workforce, and enrichment opportunities for themselves or their families. Native Detroiter with a huge network of community connections, including Wayne County, MI and passion for leadership, organizational and program training & planning. Always open for learning new skills to enhance my skills to provide services.
I have worked in Workforce Development since 2001 in which the name has been changed more times than I care to mention. As WDI W.I.O.A. Program Manager, I am responsible for tracking and creating reports on outcomes of all training and maintaining training records for the company. As a key member of the administrative team that works to support customers in the processes of selecting training that would make them self-sufficient in their career goals. In this position, I am responsible for maintaining the optimum enrollment of new and existing customers. I am the person that our customer meets while going through completing the process of trying to get approved for training, while in the training, and ensuring that employment is a part of the outcome. Maintaining quarterly retention for the required time frame to ensure as well a positive outcome for both the customer and the company. Making sure that files are maintained within the guidelines of the company and all necessary documents are being kept in a secure place setting. As well as maintain reports on enrollment, exiting and customer activities to ensure that all goals are being met by the end of the fiscal year. Notifying management of any barriers that need to be addressed that would have any negative effect on WDI having a positive outcome for the program year. Performs all other related duties as required.
Bachelor’s Degree in Leadership Management as well as I am a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), Certified Workforce Development Professional (CWDP), and National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.
The best thing is to be a team member and to contribute to the common good. I am motivated by using my experience and know-how to help and support others in their processes to bring value and achieve targets. Using methods and tools within communication that generate a structured and efficient way of working is my specialty.
Kevin has over 20 years of experience successfully providing businesses and job seekers with customized talent pipeline development services. Kevin has proven to be a skilled visionary in workforce development strategies, recruitment, and diversity. He understands the negative effects of globalization on the state of Michigan, its employers, and its workforce. As a result, he has advocated for and piloted strategies to retrain current and laid-off workers in high-growth occupations such as healthcare, advanced manufacturing, supply chain, electric vehicles, skilled trades, and others. Kevin works with organizations to develop demand-driven talent acquisition strategies, such as providing training services to their existing workforce and establishing connections with economic developers and institutions of higher learning. His workforce development strategies for organizations include developing inclusive sourcing practices and programs designed to help employers find qualified employees (human capital), retain them, and continuously develop their skills by fostering a culture of lifelong learning and implementing best practices in continuous improvement and operational excellence.
Kevin has earned a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree. Kevin is a Certified Business Solutions Professional, from Michigan State University’s School of Labor and Industrial Relations. Additionally, he’s a Certified Career Development Facilitator from Oakland University. In 2022, Kevin received a certification, in Talent Pipeline Management from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Additional affiliations include The National Association of Workforce Development and the Society of Human Resource Management.
My name is Tina Ferguson, I am a Career Coach for WDI in Kalamazoo and Three Rivers. I started in ES in Kalamazoo in 2018 and accepted the position of Career Coach for Kalamazoo in March of 2022. I am a single mother of 3 adult sons and 2 grandsons. I am originally from Kansas and have been living here since 1991.
What I love about my job is being able to help someone find their new career from the first day to the day they start and beyond. In ES, I helped with resumes and some job searches but never saw how the story ended. Now I not only get to follow along with the participants on their journey, now I actually get to see how it ends. Seeing them achieve their goals that they only dreamed about is my reward.
My passions are my family, country life and gardening.
Bri Ward is an experienced Career Coach and Business Services Professional with a passion for helping others reach their professional goals. She has over 15 years of experience in the professional world, working with clients of all ages and backgrounds to nurture their career paths. She excels at helping clients identify their strengths and weaknesses, create action plans to achieve their goals, and gain the confidence to take on any challenge. She is also an expert in helping individuals navigate their job search and interview process, offering tips and advice to make sure they present their best selves. Through her guidance and support, many of her clients have been able to land their dream jobs and achieve success in their careers
Nikki Romeri is new at being a Career Coach but has always had a passion for helping people. She was a dental assistant for 12 years prior to becoming a career coach but hold a variety of knowledge and experience. She is involved in her church and her children.
Megan Tappenden has been a Career Coach since 2021 serving the Branch County area. Prior to joining the Workforce Development Institute Megan worked in healthcare for 11 years. Megan has a passion for helping others achieve their employment goals.
Karen Knox is a Career Coach for WDI Southwest Michigan, covering St. Joseph and Kalamazoo Counties. She brings her experience as a career coach to WDI having previously worked for Michigan Works! Southwest employment services and Kalamazoo RESA’s youth program (YOU). She is a caring, empathetic, and compassionate career coach who enjoys helping individuals overcome obstacles on their journey towards achieving their goals, pursing their dreams, and changing the direction of their lives.
Karen is a member of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Committee, helping to plan social events and fundraisers for the chamber. She has a bachelor’s degree from The Robert B. Miller College, and an associate of applied science degree in paralegal studies from Kellogg Community College.
In her downtime she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, going to the beach, and painting.
As a Program Technician, MiChelle provides support to leadership and Career Coaches by performing administrative and clerical tasks. MiChelle has 25 years experience in workforce development; 22 years of which have been spent with WDI. She is a Workforce Development Specialist Journeyworker and a Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP) who worked on the front line with dislocated workers and other job seekers for many years.
MiChelle’s favorite part of her current role is providing support to Career Coaches and being part of the WDI Southwest team that works on continuous improvement projects, Standard Operating Procedures and professional development initiatives. She considers a day to be most meaningful when she can help make a colleagues’ job easier; if only in some small way.
I have been employed with WDI as a program technician for 27 years. During that time, I have worked in several different offices including Kalamazoo County, Calhoun County, St. Joseph County, Branch County, Jackson County, and Lenawee County. I am also a member of the OPEIU Local 459.
I have been Employed with Workforce Development Institute for over 40 years. I am determined to keep making a significant impact in our community and to continue to reach out to potential customers to provide life-changing opportunities in Employment and Training to help them reach their professional goals.
Thankful to be an active part of a caring community, it’s been a pleasure giving back in community services.
Blaine is the Program Manager with the Workforce Development Institute for Southwest Michigan, offering professional development for participants through one-on-one career coaching and training opportunities. Blaine is on top of trends in the career industry and has a knack for converting that knowledge into timely communication and workshops to disseminate his insights to hardworking colleagues. He holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management and a Master’s in Education, is a certified Career Services Provider (CCSP), Certified Business Services Provider (CBSP), and completed an apprenticeship with the Department of Labor for the Workforce Development Specialist (WDS) making him a registered journeyworker for workforce development.
Over thirty years of experience in mentoring and leading people to success. Sam is president of a nonprofit that is dedicated to serving people and sits on two boards of directors in the community. In 2022 Sam received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Marine Corps League for his work with disabled veterans. Proud to currently serve as Director of Operations in southwest Michigan for WDI, Sam is a previous member of the UAW and is currently a member of LiUNA 355. Serving people through WDI perfectly aligns with Sam’s 30 years of experience as a leader in industry and nonprofits.
Walt has worked for WDI through all of its identities. During this time he has served in nearly every position within the organization. He is a UAW member and lives in Grand Rapids.
Annette has worked in the non-profit sector most of her career with an emphasis in workforce development for over 15 years. The WDI team and their dedication to help others achieve success is the inspiration that motivates her in her role. Annette has held a variety of roles with WDI and all have helped her grow professionally and exposed her to great, caring individuals and organizations.
Colleen Sullivan joined the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute (WDI) 2 years ago as their Development Director. During that time, she was excited to collaborate on a variety of grants ushering in a multi-million-dollar expansion of WDI’s equity-focused apprenticeship readiness training program, Access for All. Colleen worked to cultivate relationships across emerging and in-demand sectors to ensure new and equitable workforce development pipelines are being built in industries such as energy, electric vehicles, childcare, cannabis, and broadband.
Before joining WDI, Colleen served as the AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison to labor for the United Way of Jackson County. There she played a key role in mounting a comprehensive response to residents’ essential needs during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was able to facilitate the distribution of millions of basic needs items and food to non-profits and grassroots organizations as well as assist with unemployment claims, launch a dislocated worker fund, and create a Labor food pantry.
Colleen has given to her community of Jackson, MI in a number of ways including her service as a Councilwoman, a Planning Commissioner, a member of the Public Arts Commission, the Skilled Trades Task Force, a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, and a member of the Ella Sharp Park Board. She now serves as a Board Member for the United Ways of Southeast Michigan and Open Door Family Services.
After receiving her BA in Psychology, as well as Sociology & Anthropology, she began work in an Adolescent Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility. It was there that she learned the powerful connection between having a voice on the job and outcomes for not only workers but recipients of critical services. Since that time she became a Union Organizer and has dedicated her professional life to raising up all working people to ensure dignity, respect, and fair wages.
In her new role as WDI’s Deputy Executive Director, Colleen will focus on program expansion as well as the performance on several Federal, State, and Local grants. She is excited to join the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Registered Apprenticeship Advisory Board where she will work with partners across the State to continue to expand awareness and access to Registered Apprenticeships. Colleen is committed to seeing all Michiganders have equitable access to thriving wage careers and is excited to develop new components of the workforce development pipeline to remove barriers and reach more communities.
Trent Varva is the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation Field Coordinator and a member of Laborers Local 499. After several campaign cycles working for political candidates, Trent went to work for the Laborers, both in the office and in the field. Now he serves all of the AFL-CIO affiliate locals in Huron Valley, coordinating political activity, community campaigns, and solidarity work, and supporting the newly formed Workers Organizing and Research Center.
John Taylor has served over 14 years as a Kalamazoo county commissioner. He was first elected in 2002 as the youngest commissioner in the state at that time. From 2017-2021 John exited politics and was owner and founder of one of the first vertically integrated cannabis companies in the state, growing to 3 locations and over 70 employees in just three years. After selling his company, John ran in 2022 and was elected back to the Kalamazoo County board of commissioners where he currently serves as chair.
Isaiah Minor is the Training Specialist for Western Michigan for the MI AFL-CIO. A Kalamazoo native, his specialty is in adult education as well as training and development, with a focus on ‘training the trainer.’ Isaiah holds an A.A. in Psychology and prior to his position with the Michigan AFL-CIO worked in the field of behavioral health.
Spencer Calhoun is an Organizing Specialist for the Michigan AFL-CIO. Previously Spencer worked for the Michigan Democratic Party as a Digital Organizer and later as a Field Organizer in Detroit. As a Campaign Manager for the Michigan House Democratic Fund, he helped to win one of the most competitive state House districts in the 2022 cycle.
Spencer takes pride in serving on the boards of Comprehensive Youth Services, Clinton Township Conservation Committee, and with several political groups. He has received recognition for his contributions to the community from Michigan United and the Michigan Democratic Party. Spencer is a former member of UFCW 876.
Spencer attends Macomb Community College while working full-time. He enjoys designing metaverse games and 3D models.
Dana LaLonde is an Organizing Specialist for the Michigan AFL-CIO. Her territory encompasses the great Northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The AFSCME Local 1852 was the first union she joined. She participated in contract negotiations with the public library which started her on her path with the labor movement. Before joining the Mi AFL-CIO team, she was actively involved with UAW Local 1950 and the UAW Local 2178 Unions at Northern Michigan University for 8 years serving in various leadership roles. In addition to her work in the labor movement, Dana recently completed her term as Mayor for the City of Negaunee and continues to serve as a member of the city council for a second 3-year term. Dana is a dedicated union advocate and public servant. The Labor Movement values align with her core beliefs for social justice, economic prosperity for the working class, community, and equality for all.
Carly is an Organizing Specialist at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Carly has worked in community and political organizing since 2017, when she first began environmental justice work around the Flint water crisis. In 2018 she worked with NextGen Michigan to lead youth organizing in the Saginaw region. Carly has also worked on state and local level campaigns.
Carly is a fifth generation Saginaw Bay area resident. She recently graduated from Oakland University with her Bachelor of Arts in History.
Over the past 15 years, Bellgowan has worked on a multitude of social, labor, environmental, human rights, and electoral campaigns. He has served as a senior-level consultant for various field operations in California, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Texas. His expertise is highly regarded and has been commended as one of the best young organizers of the past decade. Bellgowan’s ability to connect with people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, and races has provided unique insights to his collaborators and winning results for working people.
Joe resides in Lansing, MI with his daughter Emma Grace, partner Samantha, and golden retriever Marjorie. He is enticed by progress, biographies, trivia, percussion, and enjoying all of the pleasantries and potential that Michigan has to offer.
Maxwell Lewis is the Field Director for the MI AFL-CIO’s Campaigns Department. Originally from Ann Arbor, but now lives in Detroit. Maxwell graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Psychology.
Maxwell has been working with political campaigns full-time since 2018. He’s worked with For Our Future Michigan in Lansing, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with the Elissa Slotkin campaign, New Georgia Project in Atlanta during the 2020-2021 double US Senate runoff elections, and was previously the Michigan AFL-CIO’s Regional Field Coordinator in Metro Detroit before being made Field Director statewide.
Before working with campaigns, Maxwell spent three years working in public education teaching fifth grade in San Mateo County, CA where he was a CSEA dues-paying member.
Michael Kohler is the Campaigns Director. He previously served as the Deputy Campaigns Director and the Field Director at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Originally from Illinois, Michael has experience working on state legislative and federal electoral campaigns and is a former organizer for the American Federation of Teachers. He lives in Kalamazoo with his wife and son and is an avid board game enthusiast.
Stephanie is the Office Administrator at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Stephanie was raised to be union. It was her mother, Judy Pike, a longtime OPEIU member and employee of the Michigan State AFL-CIO, that instilled her with union values like social justice, collective bargaining, and solidarity. Employed with the Michigan State AFL-CIO since 2008 as the Executive Secretary to the Secretary-Treasurer, Stephanie is proud to be carrying on the union tradition as a member of OPEIU Local 459.
Jillian Dutch is the Graphic Designer for the Michigan AFL-CIO who has been a passionate and dedicated artist since she was six years old. Having grown up in Michigan, Jillian graduated from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. She has had experience working in freelance design since 2016 and has also worked for the Michigan State ASMSU Red Cedar Log for two years.
In her spare time, Jillian enjoys hiking, thrifting, and playing her violin.
Dylan Jordan is the Human Resources Director for the AFL-CIO and the WDI.
Dylan has spent 20 years working to align Human Resources and Human Capital, driving the work of connecting an individual’s capabilities and what the role in an organization those capabilities can solve for. Dylan focuses on empowering employees who want to help grow the organization and evolve to achieve the organization’s and employees’ professional goals.
When they are not supporting the AFL-CIO and WDI in their director capacity, Dylan provides training for multiple organizations focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion in a series of presentations called “The Art of Communication.”
Dylan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh, holding a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees. With a passion for music, they lend their voice to several ensembles and community choirs around the country.
Veronica Martinez is the Communications Director for the Michigan AFL-CIO and Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas, Veronica graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and immediately began working on Congressional, state, and local campaigns.
Veronica has nearly a decade of experience working in electoral, political, and labor communications and was most recently the Communications & Field Director for the Arizona AFL-CIO. Veronica is a member of the National Writers Union.
Carly is the External Organizing Specialist at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Carly has worked in community and political organizing since 2017, when she first began environmental justice work around the Flint water crisis. In 2018 she worked with NextGen Michigan to lead youth organizing in the Saginaw region. Carly has also worked on state and local level campaigns.
Ryan is Director of Government Affairs at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Ryan has more than a decade of legislative experience working for both the Michigan State House and Senate, including as Senior Communications Advisor for the Senate Democratic Caucus under the leadership of Gretchen Whitmer. Ryan has also worked on state and local level campaigns and currently serves as an Ingham County Commissioner.
A lifelong Michigan resident, Ryan was born in Lansing and is a graduate of Albion College. He lives in Lansing’s Westside Neighborhood with his husband, Cody. He has worked on the board of local non-profit organizations focused on LGBTQ rights including Michigan Pride and Suits in the City.
Conner Wood is the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Michigan AFL-CIO. Conner most recently served as our Campaigns Director, prior to which he served as Field Coordinator for the Huron Valley ALF and Monroe-Lenawee CLC. A fifth-generation Michigander, Conner was born and raised in Isabella County. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Electoral College.
In addition to his work in the labor movement, Conner currently serves as Board Secretary for the United Way of South Central Michigan, and as Chair of the City of Jackson Planning Commission. He and his wife Kelsey live in Jackson and are a proud CWA household.
Derek Dobies is the Chief of Staff of the Michigan AFL-CIO, the largest federation of trade unions in Michigan. He also serves as Secretary-Treasurer to its three subsidiary nonprofit organizations, including the Michigan AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute where he has been instrumental in securing over $12 million dollars in state funding to support apprenticeship readiness training.
Dobies is the former mayor of the City of Jackson, birthplace of the Republican Party, serving from 2017 through 2021. Prior to his election he served six years as a City Councilman and four years as the city’s Vice Mayor. He’s been a strong advocate for the policies, programs and projects necessary to support working families and advance a pro-labor agenda. In 2021, while leading the city through the pandemic, he created Workers Memorial Park as a tribute to frontline heroes and others who have lost their lives to workplace hazards.
In 2017, Dobies earned the Changemaker of the Year award from Equality Michigan, the state’s leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, for his work in spearheading the adoption of the city’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, providing protections from discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. In 2021, he earned the Legislator of the Year award from the Michigan AFL-CIO for his work on several policies that supported working families, including a Responsible Contractor Ordinance and a Living Wage Ordinance.
Dobies previously served as Campaigns Director of the Michigan AFL-CIO and as District Administrator for Congressman John D. Dingell. He has held positions working for both Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan State Senate and Michigan State House of Representatives, respectively.
Derek is an Eagle Scout, and a Partner with the Truman National Security Project. He earned a degree in Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy from James Madison College at Michigan State University.
Derek is a proud union member of LiUNA Local 499.
Derek Dobies is the current Mayor of the City of Jackson. Prior to his election he served six years as a City Councilman and four years as the city’s Vice Mayor. He’s been a strong advocate for the policies, programs and projects necessary to transform our urban cores into vibrant places where people and businesses want to locate.
As a city leader, he has spearheaded numerous policies that have worked to make Jackson a more tolerant, inclusive place that views diversity as a strength. By partnering with local anchor businesses, the city is currently undergoing unprecedented investment and growth. Dobies has worked to ensure that this growth is equitable – and that traditionally underserved populations are able to participate in new opportunities in the city.
While a smaller city, Dobies has helped to make sure that Jackson punches above its weight class: working to lead on issues of discrimination, poverty, fair housing, and criminal justice reform. He aims to have the city lead in adaptive policies to confront climate change by working with area industry to make Jackson the Clean Energy Capital of Michigan.
MyKale (Kelly) L. Garrett currently serves as Mayor of Lathrup Village; the first African American to hold this role. Prior to her ascension to Mayor, Ms. Garrett was Mayor Pro Tem from 2013 to 2017. Along with her work as a public servant, Ms. Garrett is passionate about serving the community through charitable service. She presently serves on the Board of the national non-profit Mothering Justice (positions held: Board President and Board Secretary) and Subsidiary Advisory Board Member for Community Health at St. John/Ascension Hospital. Recently, she was appointed by Governor Whitmer to the Michigan State Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity.
Throughout her political career, Ms. Garrett has received numerous awards. The awards include the 2021 SIStars Leadership Award from the National BLack Women’s Roundtable, the WONder Woman Award from the Women Officials Network, the 2014 Michigan Chronicle Woman of Excellence Award and the National Congress of Black Women – Oakland County Chapter, the Woman Pioneer of Distinction Award and honored by the Women’s Campaign School of Yale University for leadership.
Ms. Garrett currently lives in Lathrup Village with her husband and sons. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Rochester College and a Master of Information Systems from University of Phoenix.
Angela Rogensues is the President of Ignition Media Group, a Detroit-based full-service brand and marketing agency that specializes in strategic matchmaking, experiential marketing, public relations and event production.
Dedicated to philanthropy, Angela feels strongly that giving back to the community is one of the most imperative and rewarding aspects of being a leader in the city. Angela is an advocate for working class and low-income families, animal welfare, civic engagement, and arts and culture and works alongside nonprofits and other organizations that have similar goals. Currently, Angela participates in the following: Board Member and President of the Detroit Institute of Arts Founder’s Junior Council; State of Michigan Chair; National Board Member and National Labor Council Chair of the Democratic Municipal Officials; Board Member at Large for 4Paws1Heart; elected City Council member in Warren, Michigan.
In addition, Angela is an active member on many City of Warren’s commissions and committees including the Animal Welfare and Historical Commissions, Housing Commission, and the Environmental Action Committee, and most notably as a trustee on the General Employee Retirements System ensuring the wise investment of nearly $200MM in pension and health trust funds. In February 2021, Angela was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as Chair of the board and executive committee of the Michigan Municipal Services Authority.
Steven Rzeppa was elected to Trenton City Council in 2013 at age 21, and was re-elected in 2017 as top vote-getter and Mayor Pro-Tem. He was officially sworn in as Mayor in December 2019. Steven is employed as the Political and Communications Director for AFSCME Council 25. He is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor with a B.A. in Public Policy. He is the Vice Chair, and former Chair, of the 12th Congressional District Democratic Party.
As a lifelong Trenton resident and product of the Trenton Public School system, he has been involved in many community projects and organizations. He has been recognized for his service to the community by being named the 2012 Trenton Man of the Year, 2010 VFW Outstanding Voice for Freedom, and the 2009 Outstanding Trenton Youth.
Zinnia is Deputy Chief of Staff at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Zinnia is a seasoned political professional having worked for the Hon. John D. Dingell for 14 years. She has significant experience in fundraising, communications, event planning and grassroots. Zinnia started working for Congressman Dingell while she was still completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, and served as the Administrator of Mr. Dingell’s year round political operations until his retirement.
Zinnia is a proud first generation Chaldean American and lifelong Michigander. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. Zinnia is a member of UAW Local 1981. She enjoys traveling and the Detroit Tigers.
Micheal is Organizing Director at the Michigan AFL-CIO. Born and raised in Lansing, Micheal’s work in the labor movement, progressive issues and education reform has kept him active across the state.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, he served 2 years as an AmeriCorps VISTA working to address students’ achievement issues in Ann Arbor Public high schools. Since then, Micheal has been very active in nonpartisan campaigns, organizing students on college campuses nationwide, local community building and sustainability drives, and a host of other exciting work! Micheal is excited to contribute to a dedicated team and help engage activists and workers in support of Michigan’s working families. Micheal is a member of UAW Local 1981.
Daryl Newman is a skilled political organizer and grassroots activist and the youngest person ever elected to the Office of Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.
Immediately prior, he served as Member Mobilizer for the American Federation of Teachers, Michigan. At a time when classroom teachers and all educational employees are under attack from forces that would gut our public educational system, Daryl worked to make sure their voices were heard in Lansing.
The son of a union postal worker and a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, Daryl learned the value of trade unionism early on.
Upon his graduation from Michigan State University, Daryl found a talent for political organizing. He went to work for candidates and campaigns that shared his values, and rose quickly to positions of responsibility. As state political director of the Michigan Democratic Party, Daryl mobilized for key victories even in highly competitive races. Since 2000, he has been involved in every coordinated presidential campaign and has helped ensure that Michigan voters elected a labor-endorsed candidate. His career at the Michigan Democratic Party is notable as he was the youngest political director of a state Democratic Party organization in the country during his tenure. Daryl is a member of AFT Michigan.
Ron Bieber is President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. Ron has dedicated his entire career to fighting for working families. Ron is a third-generation UAW member, and the son of former UAW President Owen Bieber. Prior to his election as President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, he served as Director of the UAW’s Community Action Program, and before that, as Assistant Director of the UAW’s General Motors Department.
Bieber joined UAW Local 730 at age 18, after hiring into General Motors Metal Fabricating plant in Wyoming, Michigan. He currently lives in Grand Blanc with his wife, Patti. Ron is a member of UAW Local 659.
Stephanie Glidden is an experienced, resourceful, and effective political and legislative staffer who has worked for multiple political candidates throughout Michigan and spent time in both the House and Senate.
Most recently she was a senior staffer and regional field director for Gretchen Driskell for Congress. She is a graduate from Central Michigan University – Fire Up! – and the daughter of a union carpenter. Stephanie is also a proud member of UAW Local 1981.
Patty is Secretary to the Health and Safety Director. Patty was hired into the Michigan AFL-CIO in 1969 by then President August (Gus) Scholle.
She has held the following positions: Jr. Bookkeeper, Legislative Secretary, Staff Secretary, Secretary to Secretary-Treasurer Walter Oliver and Secretary to Presidents William C. Marshall, Frank D. Garrison and Mark Gaffney.
She is currently the Recording Secretary for Union Label and Service Trades Department and the Secretary to Health and Safety Director Derrick Quinney.
Meg is the Executive Secretary, and has worked at the MI AFL-CIO for over 5 years.
She is a proud member of OPEIU Local 459 for over 9 years, working at both the MI AFL-CIO and Lansing Auto Makers Credit Union. Meg has two wonderful children, and plans to continue her career with the MI AFL-CIO, and help people understand that so-called Right to Work is wrong for working families.