Debbie has been passionately involved in entrepreneurism and socially conscious activities for most of her professional life. She enjoyed a 25-year career working for legendary real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell, and in her role as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Debbie developed and led the company’s first social impact programs that engaged employees across the country. Believing that “one story can change the world,” Debbie steered the BeCause Foundation, a Chicago based nonprofit, as it produced five independent documentary films and related strategic impact campaigns. The theatrically released film “Bully” helped shine national attention on the bullying crisis in America. Debbie was also the driving force that led to 121help.me, the new North American crisis helpline for at risk children. A Chicago native, Debbie obtained an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of Chicago and a BS in business from Eastern Illinois University.
Gena DorrisDirector of Development and Communications
Gena Dorris obtained a BS in Communications from Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD) in 2003 and started her career developing and executing public relations and fundraising initiatives for a non-profit agency in Memphis, TN. She then ventured into the sports and entertainment industry, managing communications and executing events for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA Basketball team and FedExForum arena. After several years with the team she transferred those skills to Youth Villages, a nonprofit agency focused on helping families in need. As the spokesperson and community advocate for the foster care program, Gena created messaging and implemented strategy to recruit and retain foster parents.
In 2016, Gena decided to further her education and personal development by moving to the UK and completed a MA in Advertising and Public Relations from Richmond American International University in London. While living abroad, she gained experience building relationships with international media at Karla Otto PR and discovered a love of travel and cultural immersion.
Most recently, she served as Communications and Development Director of DeltaARTS, a nonprofit agency for arts education in West Memphis, AR.
In her free time, Gena enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and reading. She also loves history, museums, art, and is self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast.
Niko Soriano is the Chief Program Manager of Humanity Rising, Founder & CEO of Dynamo Leads & Lead Photographer of Soar Photography. His passions include backpacking, travel & volleyball to name a few. He believes that through empowerment we can create a more compassionate, caring and understanding world for generations to come. Youth have the power to create incredible impact, the time is now to help elevate humanity.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to bring people together through Humanity Rising. Young people truly have the power to change the world and I’m inspired every day by the passion and acts of service performed by students in the Humanity Rising Movement.”
Maja is a is a former professional tennis player and Olympian from Croatia, a war torn country that has inspired her to drive positive change around the world. When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991 Maja was 17 years old. She was one of the top juniors in the world and at the beginning of her professional tennis career on the WTA (Women’s Professional Tour). Experiencing war has had a huge impact on her tennis career, but more so, on her ambitions to have a positive lasting impact on others. Maja represented Croatia around the world by winning many international junior events and then as a professional tennis player for over a decade. Some of those events include all the Grand Slams, 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and Federation Cups. Winning two medals at the 1993 Mediterranean Games was one of the most memorable moments of her career as it was the first time Croatia competed as an independent country. Maja continued to play on the WTA Tour until the end of her career in 2000 when she dedicated the next 12 years to helping improve the quality of life for children with cancer. These experiences inspired her to expand her work and start her own not for profit organization in 2005 called Humanitarian Wave that works towards creating lasting positive effect in the quality of life of people and communities in need. In 2012 Maja took on her current role as the lead of Galactic Unite, a Virgin Galactic initiative that is harnessing the power of space to inspire and support the next generation to help solve many of our greatest global challenges. Maja is passionate about Galactic Unite and its unique opportunity to help change the perception of our place on this planet and in the cosmos through removing the barriers which have historically kept all but the elite few firmly on this side of the final frontier.
Dr. Rowley is CEO of Accelerated Alignment, a trusted advisor to business leaders and executives. She partners with them through complex challenges of personal and organizational strategy and transformation, using innovative approaches and intuitive intelligence. As a skilled intuitive, she supports strategic decisions with intuitive data and supports leaders to deepen their access to intuition. In addition, her work with Fortune 500 as well as small company leaders in facilitating large scale change in industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, market research, marketing/communications, real estate development, and financial services spans three decades. In 2008 Dr. Rowley founded The Conscious Business Network™ to highlight new business models and facilitate professional connections that are shaping the new marketplace of integrity, transparency and inclusion. She consults with YWCA-Chicago on Transformation and Social Innovation and is an 1871 Mentor. She believes conscious business and social enterprise are marketplace foundations for our future sustainability and is passionate about influencing youth to consider this mindset and have/co-create the tools to engage and co-design the future economy. Dr. Rowley has been adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco, the University of Chicago Graham School and Booth School’s LEAD Institute, as well as Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies where she teaches on topics of leadership, strategy, intuition and transformation. Her book Mapping a New Reality: Discovering Intuitive Intelligence offers a conceptual foundation and developmental opportunities for clients who want to accelerate access to their innate wisdom.
Steve Sarowitz is Founder of Paylocity (Nasdaq: PCTY), a leading U.S. provider of payroll and HR solutions. In addition, Steve also served as CEO of Blue Marble, an international payroll provider, and as Director of Payescape, a UK payroll provider. He is also an international philanthropist with an interest in promoting unity by and promoting universal education and advocating for the elimination of racism, sexism, nationalism and religious prejudice. He also serves on the board of NCAT, an organization that builds state-of-the art training centers in urban areas. He and his wife have a family foundation which supports over 50 worthy causes worldwide, including programs helping orphans, foster children, refugees and many other people in need.
Steve graduated from U of I in 1987 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. While at the U of I, he often ran barefoot through campus. He is still an avid runner, a member of the Chicago Area Runners Association Hall of Fame and a 3-time winner of the MSE Division of the Chicago Chase Corporate Challenge. Steve was raised Jewish and first heard of the Baha’i Faith at the Jewish Student Center while a student at U of I. Many years later, he began studying the Baha’i Faith and declared as a Baha’i in February, 2015. Three days after declaring as a Baha’i, a friend recommended that Steve make a film about the Baha’i Faith. Steve immediately began a new career in the film industry. He helped fund and promote the documentaries He Named Me Malala and Rosenwald. He served as Executive Producer for the award-winning documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Steve produced and released ‘The Gate’, a groundbreaking documentary about the founding of the Baha’i Faith.
Steve lives in Highland Park, Illinois with his wife, 2 children, 2 dogs and a turtle named Duchess. When he is not working or doing philanthropy, you can often find him guiding tours at the Baha’i Temple in nearby Wilmette, Illinois.
Alisha Gupta is the host of the What Cause Inspires You? podcast! She launched WCIY as a way for students to share the service they are doing in their communities and inspire a community-wide call to action. She hopes you join her and Humanity Rising in improving our society by transforming passion into progress. Alisha is a junior at UT Austin, double majoring in Business Honors and Marketing, minoring in Business Analytics, and with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Devin is the Founder of #RaceToSpeakUp, an anti-bullying organization. Devin is dedicated to getting a state antibullying law passed which will keep students safe in schools from bullying and implementing mandatory antibullying classes in schools.
An Advocate for Anti-Bullying, Devin designed #BehindTheScreen, an Anti-Cyberbullying Curriculum that teaches students, teachers, and parents, about what cyberbullying is, how to resolve it, and how to be upstanders. Devin Hosts Behind The Screen – The Harms of Cyberbullying Webinar with Co-Host Psychiatrist Dr. Sundeep Randhawa, who focuses on Child and Adolescent Bullying. The webinar offers open conversations about cyberbullying prevention and discuss ways to implement the #BehindTheScreen Curriculum into schools. As the Host of Humanity Rising’s Race To Speak Up Podcast, Devin interviews activists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs about how they create positive changes in their communities.
Faith is a high school student in the Chicagoland area. She is passionate about anti-bullying and positivity, since she believes that as long as everyone puts in a little effort to care about one other, we can easily make the world a better place.
Evelyn Jiang is an incoming freshman at the University of California San Diego. Her work at Humanity Rising focuses largely on peacebuilding and social justice –Positive Peace Curriculum in partnership with the Institute of Economics & Peace (IEP) in Australia, Spiritual Empowerment Circles, #StopAsianHate podcast, and more. She truly believes that the youth can change not only the future, but also the present. Evelyn loves engaging in meaningful conversations and expanding her perspective, feel free to reach out to her to share any thoughts or ideas.
Carys Mullins (She/They) is the founder of The Community Advocates for LGBTQ+ Mental Health, otherwise known as CALM. They are passionate about advocating for sexual and gender minorities.
Carys began CALM as a weekly blog and informational website. Now, CALM encompasses the original blog and website, plus a weekly podcast series that doubles as a youth program.
Carys has welcomed guests such as Dr. Gary Howell, Butterfly Project Founder and Curator Andrea Marie, and LMHC Kerri Timothy to highlight experienced allies and LGBTQ+ advocates. She has also features group such as The Queer Club and youth change makers like Equality Florida Youth Council member Shiloh Nikaj.
Through Humanity Rising and CALM, Carys hopes to expand mental health equality, representation, and awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. Carys also plans to continue her work as the founder and CEO of Volunteer Humanity.
Yara Ayache is the founder, producer, and host of the podcast and interview program The Spirit of Success, the founder and director of the youth volunteer orchestra Youth of the World Orchestra, and the founder and host of the program Breaking Barriers. Yara’s programs focus largely on sharing the stories, experiences, and work of people from different backgrounds, engaging in meaningful conversations to encourage service-mindedness and purposefulness in our lives and actions. Yara is also very committed to promoting cultural awareness and human rights, and through her efforts aims to encourage fellow youth and others toward positive change that moves society from mere tolerance to a genuine appreciation of our diversity to become engaged global citizens. If you would like to share any ideas with Yara or would like to learn how you can get involved in her programs, feel free to reach out to her at email@example.com
Jason has been involved extensively in Humanity Rising, specifically working on training members of the Institute of Economics & Peace (IEP) cohort and hosting several student outreach initiatives to share Humanity Rising’s opportunities with students across the US. Please reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or connect with him online to stay updated on his work at Humanity Rising!
Kayla Pilgrim is a college student in the Chicagoland area and is serving as the Outreach and Engagement Manager at Humanity Rising. Her passions include economic justice, civil rights, and mental health. Kayla aims to utilize technology coupled with service to help negate the effects of inequality in her community and worldwide. She believes that youth must be at the forefront of progress and makes an effort to empower her peers to follow their passions and create an impact. Join her in making a change by becoming a part of the Humanity Rising Movement!
Beth is a former director of Humanity Rising now serving as an advisor to the organization. She previously was Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Apollo Education Group, one of the world’s largest private education providers. Her experience includes a mix of corporate and non-profit positions, including leading investor relations for publicly-traded companies across a range of industries, serving as the director of the University of Iowa Executive MBA Program, and developing communications and programming for Rotary International. Beth believes education is the cornerstone to building a brighter future and is committed to empowering our future leaders to take the initiative to serve. She has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.
Allison is a former director of Humanity Rising and a vice president of Equity International, with her primary responsibilities in communications. Previously, Allison directed communications and philanthropic programs at Equity Office Properties Trust (EOP) for seven years. During that time she worked with EOP leaders in such major U.S. markets as New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver to develop volunteer and giving programs that directly involved employees and benefited their local communities. During her time at EOP, the company was regularly recognized as a Best Place to Work in local markets, thanks to high levels of employee engagement fostered by internal communications. She holds an MS in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University and a BA from Duke University.
Cheryl Romanowski has dedicated both her personal and professional life to empowering and motivating others. After playing Division I Volleyball in college, she began her career as a coach which led her on an international journey heading up clubs and teams in Europe. For over 20 years she lived in the Netherlands, where in addition to coaching and teaching, she worked with various organizations in Business Development with a focus on motivating sales teams to reach their highest potential. Cheryl’s passion is unwavering in her commitment to helping the next generation live an authentic and inspired life through service.
Cheryl holds an M.A. in Kinesiology from University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as a B.S. in Psychology from Loyola University.