Our Team

Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative Advisory Council

  • Bill Brown, Martha’s Vineyard Insurance
  • Doris Clark, Event Day Coordination
  • Sidney Morris, The Farm Institute
  • Mark London, Martha’s Vineyard Commission
  • Melinda Loberg, Dukes County Commission
  • Matt Malowski, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School
  • Bob Moore, Martha’s Vineyard Charter School
  • Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools

Stone Soup Leadership Institute Board of Directors

  • Marsha Reeves Jews, President
  • Hulas King, Vice President
  • Robert Corcoran, Treasurer
  • Marianne Larned, Secretary
  • Nane Alejandrez, Director

Youth Leadership Summit Faculty

 Nane Alejandrez

Daniel ‘Nane’ Alejandrez is a Chicano/Apache Vietnam veteran community activist for social change. He is the founding Director of Barrios Unidos and chairman of the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos. Barrio Unidos is acknowledged as one of the nation’s most impressive grassroots organizations addressing issues of youth violence in the U.S.  Nane is the coordinator for the Warrior’s Circle Rights of Passage for youth, a weeklong retreat focusing on traditional teachings. He has spread his message, which combines analysis of the root causes of crime and violence with concrete programs that offer youth positive alternatives. Nane believes a spiritual and cultural movement must take place to Rescue (their gifts), Release (their potential), and Restore (their promise). Nane is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Fellowship Reconciliation, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, SANCOFA Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Fellowship from the California Wellness Foundation and a Sabbatical from the Vanguard Foundation. He has been featured on the A&E Biography Series, Danny Glover’s TV Program “Courage”, and in Harry Belafonte’s movie, Sing His Song. Nane is featured in the book Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes and on the Institute’s video with Walter Cronkite.  Nane is a founding board member of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.

Marianne Larned

Marianne Larned

Marianne is the Executive Director of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.  She has the privilege of working with and learning from youth leaders from the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative and the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative.  Marianne is the author of educational series, Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes.  Ms. Larned developed the Institute’s eight initiatives that trained future and emerging leaders to build healthier communities and a sustainable world.  She has had the privilege of working with young people on island communities who are on the front lines of global warming in the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Martha’s Vineyard to develop a vision for their future and green initiatives. They humble and inspire her to have hope, passion and joy for our future.  While living on these islands, she experienced first-hand the effects of global warming, she is especially committed to empowering young people to build sustainable communities. Ms. Larned uses the Stone Soup metaphor to help people see that when we work together we can do more than we thought was possible. The book and educational curriculum give young and emerging leaders the tools to create invigorated teams, strong economies and healthy communities.  Previously Ms. Larned assisted Fortune 500 companies, healthcare systems, and Chambers of Commerce, and education, government, civic and community leaders to develop public-private partnerships to improve education, health care and economic development.  Her international work includes working with micro-finance NGO leader Marietta Goco in the Philippines to leverage People Power.  After presenting Mrs. Goco with the Institute’s Eleanor Roosevelt Award, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute supported Ms. Larned to document the Award’s impact on building a national coalition to restructure the Philippines Constitution to provide representation of indigenous leaders.

Sam Low

Sam is sailor, writer, photographer and resident of Martha’s Vineyard.  He is the cousin to Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society. Freelance Writer. Working on two books about Hawaii and Polynesian navigation. Ohana is the story of Rawhide Ben Low – a famous Hawaiian cowboy – and Hawai’iki Rising is the saga of Hokule’a and her famous navigator, to be published by the University of Hawaii Press.  Voyages - Robert C. Seamans, Sea Education Association, Hawaii-Marquesas, March 2003.Polynesian Voyaging Society, replication of ancient Hawaiian navigation. Photograph of Nainoa Thompson, in exhibition “Native Voices” – National Library of Medicine, Oct 2011 – 2013. Publications. Sailing Magazine – “Mystery Island” - sailing Downeast in 2007 – April 2009. “Nainoa Thompson’s Path to Knowledge: How Hokule’a’s navigator finds his way” - chapter inVaka Moana – Voyages of the Ancestors - K. R. Howe, editor, Auckland Museum, 2006. Waka Moana - a chapter entitled “Nainoa Thompson’s Path to Knowledge: How Hokule’a’s Navigator Finds his Way,” pages 186-196 – in book published by Auckland New Zealand Museum in December 2006 to accompany an exhibit of Polynesian navigation and sailing.  Soundings magazine - “Polynesian Navigation,” November, 2003. 
Orion magazine, “In the Wake of the Ancestors,” May-June, 2003.  Newsletter, Polynesian Voyaging Society, “Voyage to the Kupuna Islands”, Spring/Summer, 2002.

 Sidney Morris
The Farm Institute 

Sidney Morris spent the first six years of his life on a farm in Pennsylvania. He is now spending his sixties as a farm educator on Martha’s Vineyard. In between, he ate sheep in Russia, rescued a chimpanzee in the Congo, taught sailing in Zambia, learned Spanish in Mexico, made a movie in Ecuador, meditated in India, and started two schools on the Vineyard. He has lived on Chappaquiddick for 34 years, raising a family and working as carpenter, photographer, coffee house manager, tractor driver, film editor, community center coordinator, sailboat captain and teacher. As Education Director of the FARM Institute, he is devoted to helping people figure out how to grow good food – happily, efficiently and sustainably.  Sidney is on the Advisory Council for the Youth Summit for Sustainable Development and is the facilitator of the Sustainable Vineyard Map work sessions.

 Emma HallBilsback

Emma is a recent graduate of the MV Regional High School. Next year she will spend her gap year in New Zealand studying sustainable agriculture.  She will then attend Hampshire College. She received the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship for her studies.  Emma served as MVYLI’s representative to the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council. As a junior, Emma was a co-founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative.  She served as youth coordinator of MVYLI’s Job Shadow Day, where she was matched with Jon Previant, Executive Director of The Farm Institute, a teaching farm that educates and engages children and adults in sustainable agriculture through the diverse operations of a working farm.  This experience inspired her to want to be a more than a consultant – small farm lobbyist. She then had her senior project at The Farm Institute. In 2012, she was matched with the Massachusetts Farmers Bureau and traveled to Boston to meet with State Senator Dan Wolf. Emma has led the Sustainable Vineyard Map Project during the Youth Leadership Summits.  She made a presentation on the MVYLI Sustainable Vineyard Map at the 2nd Annual Walter Cronkite Awards Ceremony.

Emma and her team are now developing MVYLI’s Sustainable Vineyard 2020 Report and Map.  Developed in partnership with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the MVYLI Project originated last year in response to the Island Plan.  It’s about Vineyard youth involved with envisioning and planning for their collective future. 

Her speech is featured on our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbD9dU4XiCo

Amira Madisen 

Amira is a recent graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She aspires to become a doctor.  Amira is a graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (2007). A member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah she has represented the Wampanoag Tribe at the UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth Inc.) where she serves as its Co-President.  She has worked at the Aquinnah Cultural Center, Wampanoag Tribe of Gayhead Aquinnah, Native American Youth Enrichment Program, Boston and at Jumpstart as part of her Northeastern University work study.

“People from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah have fought long and hard to create things like the Aquinnah Cultural Center. This non-profit museum was created to “preserve, educate, and document the Aquinnah Wampanoag self-defined history, culture and contributions of the past, present, and future.  For years the tribe has invested time in the youth to make sure they are the best leaders they can be. This is done to insure a future. They are investing in the elders so as to make sure that other younger generations are being taught what is still known. There are some that are investing hard work, money, and time to ensure that a language remains alive. The tribe is also learning what it means to be a sovereign nation as there are several definitions that exist. From a youths perspective the vision is to be self sustainable in many ways. To be self-sufficient means that we have finally come to understand what it means to be a sovereign nation. My idea is to make sure all understand the true meaning of sovereignty because once that’s understood then can we change the things we’d like.”


Josue Cruz, Youth Leadership Summit Director

Josue Cruz, Youth Leadership Summit Director

Josue has transformed his life from a C-D student to first year law school student at the University of Puerto Rico’s flagship campus.  He graduated with a 4.0 in the top 5 at the University of Puerto Rico Carolina. In 2010, Josue received the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s first Walter Cronkite Award.  In 2004, Josue co-founded the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative to train young and emerging leaders to build a new Vieques. After reading the Brooking Report declaring that Puerto Rico was the poorest community in the U.S., he wrote The Challenges Facing Vieques Youth, which is the poorest community in Puerto Rico.  This report galvanized support from local, national and international leaders for this four-year bi-lingual demonstration project for the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.  Josue and VYLI college youth produced a 2020 Report on Sustainable Development for Vieques that was presented at the APEC Youth Summit in Peru in 2008. In 2008 Josue co-founded Comunidad Verde Vieques (Green Vieques). The Mayor dedicated 500 acres to 300 landless families. 

In 2010 Josue he presented this report as a youth delegate from Vieques at the Institute’s 6th Annual Youth Summit on Sustainable Development on Martha’s Vineyard.  His deep commitment to learning best practices for his island, he helped implement the first “Green Initiative” in Puerto Rico’s public schools where more than 5,000 students and 150 teachers created more than 100 school gardens.  In 2011, Josue served as the Institute’s Director for the 7th Annual Youth Leadership Summit.  An inspiring speaker, Josue has received tremendous press including Caribbean Business.

Marcia Reeves-Jews

Marsha is a leader in using technology for multicultural communities. Ms. Reeves-Jews Radio Show Keep It Moving is a one-hour weekly nationally syndicated show featuring leaders in education, political, social topical issues.  She has served on many boards and as a gubernatorial appointee commission for the Maryland Public Television.  Marsha was the Project Director at Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University overseeing three government grants: 1. Department of Commerce NTIA Harlem Renaissance 2001 Project; 2. Department of Education grant New York Online Neighborhood Network – portal development for 110 community technology centers in the 5 boroughs of Manhattan; 3. New York City Council grant for Community Technology Center (CTC) banks for a viral online supply center.  She develops culturally respectful educational programming and technology strategies for educational systems and community based organizations to address the digital divide and innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education technologies.  Marsha’s clients include: The City of Annapolis’ Minority and Small Business Economic Development Enterprise; The Baltimore Empowerment Zone; and National Urban League. 

Marsha is the President of the Board of Directors of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute. She served as the event manager and mistress of ceremonies of the Institute’s Celebration of Heroes with Walter Cronkite in New York City.  She assisted the Institute’s year-long planning in Baltimore; the Institute’s first technology grant from Microsoft for the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative; served as development consultant for VYLI’s Radio Station, creating a multi-faceted fundraising plan. Marsha has served as faculty for the Virgin Gorda Youth Leadership Initiative and for the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative. 

 Rebecca Rabeni

Rebecca Rabeni is the Project Director for the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative.  Born in a small town in Central Pennsylvania, she was raised with a strong foundation of family, friends and the importance of giving back to the community.  As the Project Director for the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative Rebecca assists with all programs and partnerships including Job Shadow Day, Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development, MVTV internship, and the Annual Walter Cronkite Awards Ceremony.  “I believe that building a better community begins with the education, training and development of our youth,” says Rebecca.  “Giving kids a voice and recognizing their potential is the first step to paving the road to a bright future.”

Noli Hoye Taylor
Island Grown Schools

 Noli’s greatest passions in life are helping create sustainable, locally based food systems and being an effective leader of community organizations. As a “mid-career professional” in the Martha’s Vineyard Fellowship, she followed a less traditional course of education by taking short courses off-Island and bringing that knowledge home. Noli and her team have created the Island Grown Schools (IGS) with the Island Grown Initiative (IGI).   They have put in learning gardens at all seven schools on the island and an inter-generational garden at Woodside Village, an Island Elderly Housing complex for low-income seniors right across the street from the Regional High School.  They also run three after school gardening and nutrition programs.  They have worked with food service directors at four schools with independent cafeterias, and they are all now regularly buying from island farms and providing the children with fresh, island-grown produce in school meals and snacks.  They have led dozens of field trips to our island family farms, and have used the food they’ve harvested to make soups, stir fries, cheese and more; and they’ve worked with more than 80 teachers at all of our schools and at every grade level to help them develop and integrate curriculum-based lessons on food, farms, and agriculture.  In the fall of 2009, they also launched a “gleaning” program to harvest food from island farms that would not otherwise be harvested (either due to lack of labor or time) and delivered more than 2000 pounds of fresh produce free to our school cafeterias.  The program is helping us raise a new generation of Vineyarders with the skills to create food security for themselves, their families and our community; with an appreciation for an understanding of the importance of local food systems; and an awareness about the power of eating fresh foods for their health, the environment, and our local farming community. As the coordinator of Island Grown Schools, I get to put all that I’ve learned through my time in the Fellowship to work in making our program a success–plus, the Vision Fellowship helped me find a job that I love here on the island! I couldn’t feel more grateful or excited about what the Fellowship has allowed me to do, and for what it’s doing for our community.  Noli is a speaker at the Institute’s Youth Summit for Sustainable Development and is part of a Sustainable Vineyard Adventure featuring the IGI showcase at the Edgartown Schools.

Bella El-Deiry

Bella was born on the Caribbean island of Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Her dream is to have a position for a company/organization working with developing nations and help develop a plan to maintain a better country. Bella has been an active member of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative for the last year.  She served as a youth delegate to the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development. She has been actively involved with MVYLI’s College Prep & Field Trip Program visiting Brandeis University and Babson College.  Bella helped pilot the MVYLI’s program to incorporate ACT testing (which is usually best for young people of color). Bella was the Project Coordinator of the MVYLI Orientation with Howard University.  For MVYLI’s 2nd Annual Job Shadow Day, Bella was matched with Rose Styron, Chairwoman of Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary.  An incoming senior at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Bella helped organize a food drive at Thanksgiving as well as a winter coat drive with the Young Sisters Mentoring Group.  As a member of Model United Nations Club at her high school, she was matched with the countries of Angola, Africa (2011) and Côte d’Ivoire, Africa (2012). She traveled to New York City and was in the UNICEF Committee studying children with AIDS and child trafficking.  Bella represented MVYLI at the prestigious “Minorities in the MV Public Schools: Panel & Public Forum” at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.

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