Meet the 2021 Victory Empowerment Fellows!

LGBTQ Victory Institute is proud to announce the 2021 Victory Empowerment Fellows — our program designed for LGBTQ leaders of color and/or trans leaders. These 8 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 67 LGBTQ leaders expand their skill sets 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 and Phillipe Cunningham ’15, 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 2021 cohort will attend Victory Institute’s Candidate & Campaign Training in October and the 2021 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 2021 Fellows

Deja Alvarez (She/Her)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Deja Lynn Alvarez is an award-winning transgender advocate and activist with a long history of representing and serving LGBTQ communities in Philadelphia. Currently, Ms. Alvarez is the Director of Community Engagement for World Healthcare Infrastructures and the LGBTQ Care Coordinator for the Department of Public Health. A core Trainer and Educator for the Transgender Training Institute. She is the first Transwoman in the state of Pennsylvania to run for public office. In 2019 Ms. Alvarez ran for City Council At-Large, where she placed in the top 10 out of 50 candidates. Ms. Alvarez is President of the Women’s March on Philadelphia and Chair-woman of the Philadelphia LGBTQ police liaison committee. Additionally, this year, Ms. Alvarez was asked to consult in creating the LGBTQ advisory board for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Jin-Soo Huh (He/Him)
Chicago, Illinois

Jin-Soo Huh is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. He is an experienced educator and school innovation leader and has expertise in school design, education technology, professional development, and personalized learning. He believes strongly in the power of collaboration and works to connect people in the education space so problems can collectively be solved. Prior to joining The Learning Accelerator, he spent over a decade as a math teacher and school system leader. He supported the implementation and scaling of models that incorporated blended and personalized learning at innovative school networks including KIPP Chicago and Distinctive Schools. As a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools, he served on the teacher leadership team that supported the implementation of one of the country’s first schoolwide 1:1 iPad programs. Jin-Soo is actively involved as a volunteer for causes including LGBTQ rights and high quality K-12 education.

Kendall Martinez-Wright (She/Her/Ella)
Palmyra, Missouri

Kendall Martinez-Wright is a resilient woman, community organizer, and a statewide LGBTQ and human rights legislative strategist. As a child, Miss Martinez-Wright, along with her mother and younger sister, made the move from Chicago, IL where Martinez-Wright was born, and moved to Palmyra, MO for a better quality of life. Upon graduating from Palmyra High School in 2012, Kendall relocated to the Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City, to attend Lincoln University. During her tenure at Lincoln University, she became a critical advocate for policy and legislative action that impacted funding for education and civil rights. She has served as the leader for social justice marches, fundraising campaigns, and statewide initiatives. What makes Miss Martinez-Wright unique is her ability to forge relationships with those of differing options and life experiences than her own. She believes in a collaborative leadership style that allows her to navigate decision making from a lens that is practical, empathetic and feasible. In serving as a leader in various organizations and organizing bodies, Miss Martinez-Wright understands the power of utilizing data to inform decisions and establishing options that disrupt binary narratives. Her focus is to create opportunities that provide District 5 residents with the agency and access to contribute to a community designed by the people, for the people. Currently, Martinez-Wright currently resides in her hometown of Palmyra.

Jaylin McClinton (He/Him/Él)
Chicago, Illinois

Jaylin D. McClinton is a life-long Chicagoan, having grown-up in the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side, and current law student at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Presently, McClinton is a Justice Summer Associate at Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based civil rights law firm. Previously, Jaylin held dual appointments as an Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711 Law Clerk in the Criminal Defense Clinic at his law school and as the Public Interest Law Initiative and Mary C. Russo Memorial Legal Intern at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois; served within the Northern District of Illinois as a federal judicial extern; and before that in the legal department at Motorola Solutions, Incorporated through the Association of Corporate Counsel. Prior to law school, McClinton completed stints as District Manager for then-Illinois State Representative Juliana Stratton, now Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, and as the Obama Foundation’s first-ever local Community Organizer.

Adri Perez (They/Them)
El Paso, Texas

Adri Perez is queer, transgender, and a first-gen immigrant from El Paso, Texas currently working as the LGBTQ Equality Policy and Advocacy Strategist for the ACLU of TX. In 2013, after the passage of HB 2 in TX, they co-founded West Fund, the first abortion fund in West TX, to help all people pay for access to abortion care. In recognition of their work, they received the Student Organizer of the Year award in 2015 before graduating with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2016. Adri has over 6 years of organizing experience, finding the most purpose in working to change the material conditions of marginalized communities. In 2018, they worked to start an immigration bond fund on the border. In 2019, the Fronterizx Fianza Fund received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award in recognition of their work to free detained people seeking to be reunited with their families. In 2021, they worked to successfully defeat 33+ anti-LGBTQ bills at the TX Legislature.

Representative Taylor Small (She/Her)
Winooski, Vermont

Taylor Small graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a minor in sexuality and gender identity studies in 2016 and has lived in the greater Burlington area since. Small was elected as State Representative in November 2020, making her the first out transgender person to serve in the Vermont Legislature. She has a strong background in mental health services, community organizing, outreach, and cultural humility education. She now lives in Winooski with her partner and two dogs.

Representative Mauree Turner (They/Them)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Mauree Turner is a born and raised American-Muslim and Oklahoma community organizer. Mauree’s life’s work is geared towards fighting for and maintaining the civil rights and liberties for all. They are also the current Representative for the state of Oklahoma’s House District 88. Representative Turner had originally gone to a PWI to become a veterinarian, but in their junior year experienced some life-changing events that lead them to lean deep into their community organizing, specifically around Oklahoma’s prison industrial complex and prison abolition. Before becoming the first Muslim Legislator for Oklahoma and the first openly non-binary person to be elected to a statewide office in the US, Mauree’s worked focused on community organizing around justice re-imaginment and rebuilding, religious freedom, LGBTQ2S+ rights, and race relations with the ACLU of OK, CAIR-OK, NAACP, Freedom Oklahoma and a number of grassroots organizations.

Brandon Wolf (He/Him)
Orlando, Florida

On June 12, Brandon Wolf escaped Pulse Nightclub when a gunman opened fire, killing his best friends, Drew Leinonen & Juan Guerrero, and 47 others. Since, he has set out to honor the victims’ legacies with action. Brandon co-founded and serves as the Vice President of The Dru Project, an LGBTQ youth organization. Brandon is on the board of the Ban Assault Weapons Now campaign and was a founding board member of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. He became the first survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting to testify before Congress in 2019. In 2019, Brandon joined Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, as its Media Relations Manager. He is responsible for earned media strategy and execution, including navigating the org’s media presence during legislative session and election cycles. He served as a national surrogate for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign and is a frequent contributor for MSNBC, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, and others.

Thank you to our supporters who make this work possible.

Fellows & Interns, Programs