Meet the Team

Start: Empowerment lives within each member of our team as we come from all manners of being but are bonded by our support of the principles of transformative justice, mutual aid, and healing. 


Our goal is to use education as a tool to build healthy communities and organize around decolonization of modern curriculum and education spaces.



 Our start was the result of our two co-founders visions to empower youth today in order to become the change agents of tomorrow.


Alexia Leclercq (She/They) is one of the Co-Founders of Start:Empowerment (S:E).

They handle S:E's internal affairs: our curriculum management, grant program, and communications with all current school and community partners. 

A graduate of NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Studies ('20), their concentration, titled 'The Politics and Economics of Inequality' combines the traditional fields of politics, environmental studies, and economics to understand the lasting effects of colonialism and perpetuation of structural oppression.


Because of their personal experience of the climate crisis, and through their time working at PODER, environmental justice non-profit in Austin, they were inspired to take action and create a better world through politics, community organizing, and improving education systems. 

When they aren't working with PODER, they are most likely focusing on fostering kittens (, helping out and riding at their local therapeutic riding center, spamming our Slack channel with cute animal pics, drawing sunrises and sunsets, or tree climbing.


 Kiersten Blake is the other Co-founder of Start:Empowerment (S:E).

They handle S:E's external affairs: our representation on the Climate & Resilience Education Task Force (CRETF), management of written, digital, and social media production, and establishment of new community partnerships.


A graduate of NYU ('20), they studied International Organizational Development & Management and have worked on and lead multiple organizational sustainability, human rights advocacy, and educational policy projects and initiatives across five countries and on three separate continents.


 Because of their love of public service and social-environmental resiliency, as an Urban Fellow they contribute to the welfare of historically marginalized peoples for the city of NY. 

When they aren't fulfilling their Fellowship duties, they are most likely engaging in policy work, snacking on dark chocolate, practicing their shadow boxing technique and/or vinyasa yoga,  dog watching, or exploring new things to do in NYC.






 Our work is a part of a team effort. 

We are fueled by a collective of  8 individuals who help us execute our mission day-in and day-out.

Scroll over their pictures for their bios!
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Ava Corey-Gruenes


S:E Curriculum & Content Development Coordinator

Albert Lea, MN

"Movements are most powerful when they begin to affect the vision and perspective of those who do not necessarily associate themselves with those movements."

- Angela Davis

Did you know?

I like being outside and learning about plants and small animals.


Kwaku Aurelien


S:E Staff Writer & Book Club Facilitator

New Fairfield, CT

Me quoting myself:

"If there's one thing I don't lack, it's confidence."

My advice to you...

Ghanaian cuisine and Ghanaian and Nigerian Highlife (Afrobeats) are undefeated. Don't make the mistake of missing out ;)


Alysha Berry


S:E Newsletter & Communications Manager

New Delhi, India

"There is a war that makes us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves."

- Arundhati Roy

I am trying to...

bake and cook my way through the recipes on Smitten Kitchen.


Shae Lifson


S:E Publications Editor & Mentor

Williamstown, WV

Current thought..

How do I make my cells self aware enough to unionize?

I enjoy...

being a doting plant and bird parent. 

My bird's name is Kiwi!

Resized Headshot - Joshua.jpg

Joshua Joel Anthony


S:E Media Design Lead & Videographer

New Delhi, India

"Soil creates things / Art births change / This is the honey / & doesn't it taste like a promise?"

- "This is Honey," Mahogany L. Browne

I love...

watching romantic movies, listening to podcasts, and eating pizza!

  • Instagram

Dax Craig


S:E Community Outreach Manager

Pittsburgh, PA

Advice to share...

"Don't let the bridges you cross become the bridges you burn."

I love to...

read for pleasure, learn to solve a Rubik's Cub, and mentor my fellow collegiate underclassmen. 


Keely Nguyen


S:E Social Media, Campaigns, and Partnerships Manager

Portland, OR

"People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution."

- Grace Lee Boggs

Did you know?

The above quote keeps me grounded and baking/cookies makes happy!


"Grassroots groups challenge the 'business-as-usual" environmentalism that is generally practiced by the more privileged wildlife- and conservation-oriented groups. The focus of activists of color and their constituents reflects their life experiences of social, economic, and political disenfranchisement"

-Robert Bullard-