Announcing the 2022 Victory Empowerment Fellowship

LGBTQ Victory Institute is proud to announce the 2022 Victory Empowerment Fellows — our program designed for LGBTQ leaders of color and/or trans leaders. These 10 individuals are change-makers who have been identified to lead the LGBTQ community as elected officials or other public servants.

Since the Victory Empowerment Fellowship was launched in 2015, we have helped 77 LGBTQ leaders expand their skillsets and cultivate invaluable relationships. These individuals have taken the tools obtained through the program back to their communities, and they are currently working to change the current landscape of LGBTQ inequality.

They join a distinguished group of alumni such as Minneapolis City Councilmembers Andrea Jenkins ’16, Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton ’16, and North Carolina State Representative Vernetta Alston ’17. Whether it is running for office, working in local and city government, developing civil society organizations, or leading in the private sector – the alumni of the Victory Empowerment Fellowship are leading the fight for LGBTQ equality.

As participants in the Victory Empowerment Fellowship, the 2022 cohort will attend Victory Institute’s Portland, Oregon Candidate & Campaign Training in July and the 2022 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, DC this December. They will also be assigned LGBTQ mentors who will guide them in their path to Victory.

Meet the 2022 Class

Maliyah Arnold (she/her)
Chicago, Illinois

Maliyah Arnold was born and raised in Hazel Crest, IL., a suburb on the southside of Chicago. She attended high school locally and went on to attend DePaul University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Maliyah joined US Bank in October 2015 as an economic sanctions adjudication analyst. Shortly after joining US Bank, Maliyah made the decision to begin openly transitioning to her authentic self within the workplace. Through advocacy, she helped HR to draft a series of inclusivity trainings for senior management and a formal transition plan for transitioning employees. In 2020, Maliyah joined the board of directors of Howard Brown Health. Howard Brown is one of the largest federally qualified health care centers in the Midwest and has long been a bastion of affirming care for the LGBTQ community. Additionally, Maliyah serves on the LGBTQ Advisory Council for the City of Chicago.

City Clerk Nicole Bolden (she/her)
Bloomington, Indiana
Nicole Bolden, the Bloomington City Clerk, has been actively involved in public and political service for over 20 years. Nicole received both her undergraduate and law degrees at Indiana University in Bloomington. She currently serves the Indiana Democratic Party as a Deputy Chair, is the President of the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus, and regularly serves with several state and local organizations. In 2015, Bolden became the first Black woman elected to city-wide office and is the only Black LGBTQ+/SGL woman to hold elected office in Indiana. Born and raised in Iowa City, Bolden moved to Bloomington after graduating from high school. Here, she attended Indiana University, and eventually had two daughters, Taegan and Zora. In her role as Clerk, Bolden has continued to work for the betterment of her town, and as a fierce advocate for Black and Brown women in her community.

Shannon Cuttle (they/them)
Maplewood, New Jersey

Shannon Cuttle is a recognized national leader in the safe schools movement. As a leader and advocate for over 20 years, Shannon has driven innovation in education and civil rights policy including LGBTQ+ rights, advocacy and programming at the city, state, and federal levels. Their background in equity and inclusion, policymaking, advocacy, has led to successful statewide and international educational, LGBTQ and civil rights policy and programming including founding the New Jersey Safe Schools Coalition. In 2018, Shannon was elected to serve on the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education, making them the first known openly transgender non-binary elected official in the state of New Jersey, where they served as First Vice President. Shannon served as a 2020 New Jersey Biden Delegate to the Democratic National Convention. They also were the first known transgender elected official selected to serve as a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and DNC transgender caucus.

Councilmember Jonathan Estrada (he/him)
Pasadena, Texas

Councilmember Jonathan Estrada was born and raised in Pasadena, Texas. He grew up with his parents and grandparents. His grandparents retired from the University of Houston System as a custodian and maintenance workers. His father works as a crane operator and his mother is a custodian. Councilman Estrada understands what is to grow up in a lower-income family and the value of hard work. He was the first one to attend college in his immediate family. He attended Pasadena ISD public schools and attended San Jacinto College and the University of Houston-Downtown. Jonathan also studies Public Service Leadership at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. For the past eight years, he has worked for the City of Houston rising to the position of Senior Plan Analyst. Councilman Jonathan Estrada was the first openly gay person to run for elected office in Pasadena, Texas. He successfully won in a runoff election in June 2021, making history as the first openly LGBTQ+ Council member in Pasadena. During his first 10 months in office, he has increased constituent services, has been an independent voice on key issues, and has fought hard for working families in his district.

Rocío Fierro-Pérez (she/her)
Austin, Texas

Rocío Fierro-Pérez is a Mexican-American, immigrant, queer, first generation college graduate and proud fronteriza from El Paso, Texas. She has been an advocate for progressive issues and leader in the queer community for over eight years. Before making the move to Austin, she was nominated and currently serves as Director for New Leaders Council, where she leads the chapter to develop, connect and uplift inclusive, cross-sector leaders from all backgrounds who aim to transform our country through social and political change rooted in equity. As the Political Coordinator for the Texas Freedom Network, Rocío helps develop the policy and electoral strategy across multiple issues such as immigration, LGBTQ+ equality, criminal legal reform, voting, climate justice and reproductive rights at the statewide and local level. Rocío understands the need for intersectionality and works to advance a progressive inclusive agenda that counters the harmful policies that marginalized generations.

Kenneth Gonzales (he/they)
Denver, Colorado

Kenneth Gonzales is a formerly Undocumented, openly Gay, Filipino American. He has over 6 years of experience working on issue-based and political campaigns across the country including AZ, IA, CO, GA, MN, MO, and VA. He first got involved in his home state of IL fighting to pass the Illinois Dream Act when Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. He currently serves as the Organizing Director for the Colorado Coordinated Campaign. Prior to that he was the campaign manager for Delegate Dan Helmer’s successful re-election campaign for the Virginia House of Representatives and a fellow at the Blue Leadership Collaborative. Other notable experiences include Senator Jon Ossoff’s successful bid for the U.S. Senate during the Georgia runoff elections and Pete Buttigieg’s historic Iowa caucus victory. He is a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, an avid CrossFitter, and an aspiring yogi.

Stephan Kingsley (he/him)
Phoenix, Arizona
Stephan Anthony Kingsley has been in education for over 15 years, and is currently employed in the Tempe Union High School District. He earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, and an M.S. in Educational Leadership in Arkansas State University. He is now a doctoral candidate in industrial and organizational psychology at Grand Canyon University. Stephan consults and collaborates on diversity and inclusion initiatives with business, education, and community leaders as well as researchers at the national and international level. He is committed to ongoing personal growth, learning new things, and advocating for the inclusion of all perspectives. When Stephan is not working or researching, he enjoys staying active, writing, and traveling.

Kendrick Meek Jr. (he/him)
Miami, Florida
Kendrick Meek Jr. graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Political Science and a focus in public policy. In 2015, Kendrick served as an intern to the Committee on US House Administration, supporting the committee’s oversight of federal elections, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution. After graduating from college, Kendrick joined the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC as a legal assistant, advocating for dignity and equal rights for LGBTQ Americans. During his 1L summer at Miami Law, he served as an intern with the US House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee for Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Kendrick currently serves as the Vice President for Government and Political Affairs at the Miami-Dade Young Democrats and as a Board Member of SAVE LGBTQ, Florida’s longest-serving LGBTQ advocacy organization.

Justin Sia (he/him)
Chicago, Illinois

Justin Ian Sia serves as an attorney at Miner Barnhill & Galland, a national civil rights law firm, where he counsels non-profit entities on various compliance and transactional matters. Before joining Miner Barnhill, Justin served as a voting rights attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago where he led and organized community members around creating Chicago’s first Asian American majority ward in Chinatown during the 2021-22 redistricting cycle. Justin is also an LGBTQ+ rights leader, having drafted a groundbreaking statute and testified in front of state lawmakers to allow for gender-inclusive restrooms across Illinois, which are currently banned. Justin began his legal career as a corporate attorney at McDermott Will & Emery, an international law firm, working on matters ranging from mergers and acquisitions to corporate finance across industries such as healthcare and cannabis. He obtained his law degree at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Emory University.

Dwayne Steward (he/him)
Columbus, Ohio

Dwayne Steward, MPA, is an award-winning writer, speaker and activist. He is currently the Interim Chief People and Culture Officer at Equitas Health, a community health center focused on the healthcare needs of LGBTQ communities and their allies. He is the former Director of Community Affairs at Fenway Health in Boston, the founder/owner of Make It Better Consulting, and has been published in various local and national publications on topics surrounding the intersections of racial justice, sexual health, gender identity and sexual orientation. Dwayne also serves on the boards of Harm Reduction Ohio and the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts. Dwayne received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Ohio University and his Masters of Public Administration from Franklin University.