Aspen Global Innovators Group Announces the 2024 Class of Healthy Communities Fellows

Washington, DC, February 28, 2024 Aspen Global Innovators Group’s Healthy Communities Fellowship is proud to announce the selection of its sixth cohort of fellows for the Healthy Communities Fellowship. This initiative maintains a steadfast commitment to nurturing leaders of color in the United States who are dedicated to advancing health and well-being in communities disproportionately affected by economic, racial, and health disparities.

This year’s cohort comprises a diverse and dynamic group of community leaders from San Antonio, TX, Tulsa, OK,  and Durham, NC, are actively confronting pressing community health challenges such as mental health, food security, sexual and reproductive health, criminal justice reform, and more. The fellowship will champion and support ten leaders by equipping them with tailored communication, narrative, and leadership training to increase their visibility, amplify their narratives, scale their innovations, and accelerate change within their communities.

“Community leaders are not just catalysts for change; they are the architects best positioned to design a brighter future. Their lived experience, passionate and authentic commitment to advancing health equity, and talent for innovative approaches are the foundation for transformation and long lasting positive impact on the lives of current and future generations,” said Lola Adedokun, Executive Director, Aspen Global Innovators Group (AGIG).

Dieter Cantu, a 2024 Healthy Communities Fellow, shared his motivation for joining the fellowship: “I joined this fellowship because it resonates with my belief in the power of collective action. It’s a space where passion meets purpose, where we can harness our energy to tackle systemic challenges head-on. With AGIG, we’re not just dreaming of a better future – we’re actively building it.”

Fellows view the year as a personal investment, actively participating in training and mentorship, engaging in thoughtful reflection and writing, and fostering a supportive network within their cohort. This U.S.-based fellowship, not only offers a transformative experience at the local level, but also leverages curated connections with global leaders, enriching the overall impact of the program.

Meet the Healthy Communities Fellows:

The 2024 Healthy Communities Fellows are based in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. 


Dieter Cantu is an advocate for youth impacted by the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and an expert in policy reform. His lived experience drives his passion for changing the conditions of confinement for underrepresented children. Cantu leads a multidisciplinary consultancy firm, Juvenile Rights, composed of formerly justice-impacted leaders, with whom he shares a lived experience of incarceration during their youth, dedicated to transforming the approach of systems towards philanthropic investment strategies and narrative change. Together, they leverage their collective expertise in program evaluation, technical assistance, and strategic advocacy to drive impactful change.

Elizabeth Lutz is a community advocate working to increase awareness of the needs of hidden communities in Texas.  Her work centers on the needs of those who have lost access to quality healthcare because of fear, threat, retaliation, or stigma. She uses stories to inform, align, and mobilize resources to improve the well-being of those living in silence and fear. As the daughter of immigrants, she brings a deep understanding of the challenges facing these communities. Using her skills in cross-sector coalition building, solution-focused facilitation, and collaborative partnerships, she is helping create a new narrative that will better inform how public and private resources are invested.

Leonora “Light” Walker,  a symbol of resilience and societal transformation, Walker emerged from incarceration and addiction to become a dynamic force for change. As the Founder and CEO of FREED Texas, a 501c3 nonprofit, she focuses on breaking the cycle of recidivism through education, employment, and divinity. Beyond FREED, she collaborates with organizations addressing homelessness, mental health, addiction, and re-entry challenges. Light’s impact extends to roles on the Child Welfare Board, Oversight Board for the Public Defender’s Office, and a member of Bexar County Re-entry Board. Recognized as a Nationally Designated Peer Support Specialist, she has held esteemed positions, including Vice President of the National Society Leadership & Success, New Leadership Council 2023, and participation in the Notley Change Makers Fellowship in 2023. 


Marcia Bruno-Todd is a leader in Oklahoma working to support and grow new and emerging leaders and broaden involvement within communities. Her work is driven by the need for growing who is at the table, with an eye toward diversity of cultures, industries, and beliefs. Working and creating connections across private, public, and nonprofit sectors, she breaks down silos and creates spaces for community leaders to design innovative solutions that advance equity, inclusivity and strengthen democracy. As the Executive Director of Leadership Tulsa, Marcia has worked diligently to create pathways and encourage participation in leadership opportunities for all voices across Tulsa, Oklahoma. Marcia accelerates change by aligning a wide range of leaders with a shared vision for deep and genuine community participation at all levels of community and government. Her efforts inspire a new generation of changemakers who are focused on a vision for a world with equitable access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

Jacqueline Blocker is a mother and lawyer with a decade of experience in legislative policy related to reproductive justice. Jacqueline is an indigenous woman and descendant of the original Greenwood, the home to a thriving commercial and residential district that was one of the most affluent Black communities in our nation’s history. Jacqueline channels the entrepreneurial attitude of her great-grandmother into streamlining community efforts to improve maternal health outcomes and eradicate barriers to reproductive health. To this end, Jacqueline played a critical role in increasing pregnancy coverage under SoonerCare, making Oklahoma one of the first states to provide reimbursements for doula care under Medicaid. Jacqueline’s favorite part of her work is that she gets the opportunity to educate her community about the intersectionality of the issues that impact women’s health while democratizing access to resources and data.

Shameca K. Brown is a dynamic, faith-driven public administrator and mental health activist who is dedicated to innovating systems of hope and change to create pathways for community mental health in Oklahoma. She excels in care coordination, leveraging her personal resilience and professional commitment to advocate for mental health and empower underserved communities, particularly in Black and Brown spaces. Integrated Mental Health was born from her passionate desire to establish a space where providers have access to tailored resources that support healing within their communities while nurturing voices of personal and professional identity. Later, she founded Harrison Hope, a nonprofit aimed at dismantling the stigma of mental health care by developing programming that infuses HOPE into mental health care practices. Her transformative leadership style, firmly rooted in the principles of empowerment and advocacy, has positioned her as a visionary leader in the behavioral health space. Her dedication to fostering intentional change and creating inclusive spaces for mental health support sets her apart as a driving force in the pursuit of mental health and well-being for all.

Lachelle King is a storyteller, researcher, and autist. After being diagnosed at an adult age, she became an advocate for improving health outcomes for other adult women with autism. Lachelle’s research focuses on the nuances of autism in women, as well as the implications of research bias for women’s health outcomes, regardless of socioeconomic experience.Lachelle’s vision is to see an autism-affirming shift in conversation, research, and acceptance. 


Dr. Dorian Burton is a husband, father, and faith-driven investor with nearly two decades of experience in social and impact investing. Growing up in Rialto, California, Dr. Burton witnessed first-hand the genius, ingenuity, and love that exist in highly capable but thinly capitalized communities. Dorian currently serves as the Managing Partner of SRF Capital & SRF Impact, an impact investment platform strategically built to increase the wealth and health of emergent and frontier communities, with a special focus on the domestic and global south. Dorian is firmly convinced that the communities he is purposed to serve do not have a human capital problem, but rather a capitalization problem, and works to invest in the world’s leading changemakers to build the sustainable and equitable economies of the future with a focus on health. Dorian is driven to find the highest and best use of capital so that everyone might have the opportunity to self-determine their joy and thrive with their community in place.

Mary Oxendine is the Lumbee and Tuscarora granddaughter of rural sharecroppers and a cultivator of relationships and traditional Indigenous foodways. As a financial activist, she is working to shift power and resources to reduce the wealth gap in the United States. She was the inaugural Durham County Food Security Coordinator and helped support the growth of a Black, femme-led community-accountable grocer and launched initiatives to develop an incubator farm centering Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). As a consultant with Potlikker Capital, she works with beginning and established farmers to develop and grow their businesses using environmentally sustainable practices and build intergenerational community health, wealth, and healing, especially in Indigenous, Black, and Latino communities. 

Courtney Smith is a daughter of Durham and of community organizers. She is a chef, an activist, and a storyteller who is deeply connected to her community. Her mission is to bring business owners, farmers, food producers, policymakers, and consumers together to heal through food, and to start imagining new food systems and communities. As a Black woman who has seen firsthand the injustices of our food system, which often discards the people at the frontlines of producing our food, (farm workers, food safety workers, cooks, and others) she wants to see a food system that honors the people who feed us. She is the co-owner of Piri and one of the co-founders of The Culinary Femme Collective, and her mission is to build support for femmes of color who want to impact their communities through food. She works with business owners, researchers, community organizers, farmers, and culinary creatives to support building a system that focuses on equity and a just food economy.

Learn more about the fellowship at

The Fellowship is supported by our generous funder partners Methodist Healthcare Ministries, H.E. Butt Foundation, and George Kaiser Family Foundation.


The Aspen Global Innovators Group

For over 30 years, the Aspen Global Innovators Group has empowered health and development leaders and innovators from 55 countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Island States to design, champion and advocate for innovative programs, policies, and partnerships that result in a safer, more equitable, and healthier future for all people and communities. Our network of 5000+ individuals and organizations has served 200 million people, improving health, well-being, and equity. We identify and amplify the voices of visionary, proven, and impactful local leaders, advocates, and practitioners. Join us in building a healthier, more equitable future at

The H.E. Butt Foundation
The H. E. Butt Foundation is an operating foundation focused on spiritual formation and health in families and children. Headquartered in Kerrville, Texas, the foundation has offices in San Antonio, though much of their work takes place deep in the Texas Hill Country on 1,900 acres situated along a breathtaking stretch of the Frio River Canyon. The foundation runs five programs—a youth camp, a family camp, an adult retreat center, an outdoor school, and a camp that provides free facility use to qualifying groups. Outside the Canyon, the Foundation operates a sixth program dedicated to fostering community engagement on behalf of families and children in the places they live and work—San Antonio, Kerrville, and Real County. Visit here: 

Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries (MHM) broadens the definition of healthcare by providing low-cost clinical care for the uninsured and by supporting community-led efforts that improve living conditions that cause people to be sick in the first place. The organization uses its earnings as co-owners of Methodist Healthcare to ensure that people who are economically disadvantaged and uninsured can live their healthiest lives. MHM does this by advocating for, investing in, and providing access to quality clinical care and addressing factors that affect health—including economic mobility, supportive relationships, food security, broadband access, and safe neighborhoods. Ultimately, MHM fulfills its mission of “Serving Humanity to Honor God” by advancing health equity so that more resilient individuals & families living in the 74 counties it serves can thrive. Visit here 

George Kaiser Family Foundation

George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information about the George Kaiser Family Foundation, visit   

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Contact: Ladin Bacakoglu, Communications Associate