An Intersectional Community

Stand in for Nebraska Community Leadership Team self-identify as community advocates and human rights ambassadors for the organization.

To best advance human rights and justice alongside multi-marginalized communities in Nebraska while dismantling systemic oppressions, Stand in for Nebraska Community Leadership Team enacts a diverse, shared, and supportive leadership model.

Our vision in 2021, is to enhance educational programming, outreach, and quality food security for Nebraskans.

Our Community Organizing Leadership Team

John Cartier

John Cartier

Stand in for Nebraska’s Attorney, John Cartier JD

John Cartier joined our team as legal counsel amidst the complex 2020 summer in which protest rallies focused our local and national lives. During that episode and ever since, John has walked unflinchingly alongside our grassroots-developing non-profit organization and offered invaluable guidance and advocacy. It is no exaggeration to say our integrity was protected and infrastructure made increasingly robust toward non-profit maturity because of John Cartier.

While John is an essential team leader, he leads with humility and is invested in our unique approach to non-hierarchical structure and equitable compensation. A partner in establishing a legally sound reparations-informed compensation structure, John walks the SIFN philosophy that white resourced leaders volunteer for the organization and leaders of color are fairly and generously compensated. This approach allows white allies to live their desire to divest from white culture’s tendency to accumulate for their own benefit—accumulations supported by a history of policies supporting white culture’s resources and denying such upward mobility for people of color—and invest in SIFN’s brilliant leaders of color. This approach to compensation constitutes “equity” for Stand in for Nebraska and models disruption of non-profit hierarchies which historically and currently too often reinforce white power.

Beyond his innovative partnering work allowing SIFN to walk the talk of “dismantling systemic oppressions” and de-center white supremacy within our organization, John is such a good and healthy man—truly a beautiful soul. He fully understands and supports rematriation, an intentional structure in a predominately women-led human rights organization. A powerful, steady, brilliant human, John walks alongside SIFN in an egoless way and is always there with immediate response and help. It’s common knowledge among our leadership team—almost a recurring joke—that John is totally disinclined to invoice us for his services. We have to remind him and insist.

As former counsel for Civic Nebraska, John led their recent Voting Rights campaign and was a major force in advocating for medical marijuana legalization. Now, John is serving as general counsel for the organization, For Our Future Action Fund. Though John’s focus now involves human rights and environmental advocacy nationally, we are thrilled he will remain our beloved attorney.

Jason Witmer

Jason Witmer

As a returning Stand in for Nebraska leader this year, Jason has graced our space in so many profoundly influential and subtle ways. He is a rare man—not driven to seek the limelight with his energies; and yet, his loving and ascending energies are deeply felt and impactful. A most remarkable team player guided by integrity in every movement, Jason uplifts and understands, values, and practices rematriation.

Jason’s tireless advocacy work to shift inhumane, non-restorative narratives and practices within the prison industrial complex, end juvenile solitary confinement, free an innocent man, Earnest Jackson, and promote effective transitional infrastructures post-incarceration are among his many superpowers. As a Nebraska ACLU Board Member as well, Jason is an ideal representative for justice advocacy in Nebraska.

As an MHA (Mental Health Alliance) professional, Jason is point of compassionate contact for many in crisis. His calm, loving, affirming essence and skillful support are gifts to those in need; gifts to us.

As an artist, Jason’s essence allows the subject of his film and photography projects to melt into their truth and open, shine. Just by being himself, the story or person on the other side can speak. He encourages voice.

Nichole Vesely

Nichole Vesely

As a 2022 leading force in SIFN’s Joy Space: A Wellness Community in partnership with Huddle: Yoga and Energy Coaching and key supporter of our Nourish the Plains program—especially when we feature food justice projects—Nichole brings momentum. The resolve she demonstrates through undaunted energy and commitment to realizing a more humane world is admirable.

Nichole is a natural leader—brings so much intellectual and heart-generating value to building our grassroots organization at macro and micro levels. During team meetings, we have grown to expect a visionary and a details-oriented thinker who helps us see and plan in both ways.

While Nichole is a detailed systems thinker, she equally trusts the ambiguous process—that the universe is conspiring for and with high vibration energies personally and collectively brought to our lives and projects. In other words, we love how she plans and executes, and we love how she freefalls and trusts. These qualities alchemize in expressed badass female power, her capacity to be a woman empowering other women, and a trusted force for good. Authenticity is one of Nichole’s many resulting super powers.

If you have had the pleasure of holding space with Nichole during her SIFN-sponsored HerStory event during International Women’s Month, on a yoga mat, or through an intersecting JuJu’s Vegan event,
you likely left feeling lifted and empowered; lighter and more held and respected. Nourished.

This is why it makes perfect sense Nichole was promoted to a leadership position in Girl Scouts of Nebraska, where more women have the ability to grow from realize greater community impacts for women and girls from her influences.

Nature Medicine Song Villegas

Nature Medicine Song Villegas

We are inspired to share Nature Medicine Song Villegas will continue shining her irrepressible, activating light.

Nature’s loving energy, fierce resolve, and irreverent, uplifting humor are among her many superpowers. There is nothing Nature and those lucky to be partners in change with her can’t do.

While some may struggle with overwhelm, finding hope, mobility, and a throughway when human rights assaults and systemic injustices occur, Nature says, “We ride before dawn!” Essential for a human rights organization is having a leadership team who keeps the work in daily motion—who, while exercising discernment, thoughtfulness, and centering of the organization’s mission and values—demonstrates courage to act. Nature is an intrepid and respected catalyst for SIFN.

Our “Sandbox Sistar,” Nature thrives as a creative—these gifts just pour from her as a visual artist, public speaker, poet, dancer, and activist-visionary. Those who have brainstormed—gotten in the imaginative sandbox—with her can attest to what a life force and font of hope and possibility Nature’s creativity is. Her imaginative capacities, we’re convinced, are unlimited and regenerative.

Like her most cherished partner in change, Jason Witmer, Nature’s life story defies the breathtaking odds. How is it possible, one wonders, to keep rising, loving, trusting, investing, hoping with humanity when life has given so few breaks? When the life story evidence points more logically to a bitter conclusion?

DEFY ALL LOGIC and REDUCTIVE EXPECTATIONS Nature (and Jason’s) life stories reveal.

Their answer to their own life story questions are daily instructions for us all.

Love always, fight hard for justice despite the odds against its realization in our lifetimes; link co-conspiratorial arms with those on a deep personal and community-healing journey, for they can more likely show up as trustworthy and reliable partners.
Center mutual aid like breathing and build confidence but not ego interference as we walk together.

Freedom Thompson

Freedom Thompson

Considering Freedom’s centrality to SIFN, she plays several indispensable official roles: Roots to Rise youth program Founder and Director, former Nourish the Plains Co-Director, and Lead Policy Advocate advancing restorative justice within prison reform and indigenous rights.

Freedom also is among the most expansively gifted, connecting, and nurturing humans we know.

As a culinary arts expert, Freedom often shares her gifts to teach and love through food. Her area of great passion: reminding our communities of healthy indigenous food histories and practices through her involvement. Her reach is extensive—whether invited to lead in schools or plan menus and cater for special events like Native student graduations at the Indian Center, the Roots to Rise summer camp, and the Malcolm X Hall of Fame Celebration.

Freedom nourishes through the loving sacredness and attentiveness she brings to her indigenous food masterpieces. It is ceremony for her.

Relatedly is her immersion within her own spiritual journey—her commitment to attending and leading within Inipi ceremonies. Freedom’s rarity allows her to be a seer in these contacts, so that affords her many honors and responsibilities within her Black and indigenous communities. She often serves as a spiritual guide within sacred threshold episodes and is responsible for helping grieving families move through traumatic times. As an indigenous apothecary, Freedom also nourishes her community—often Native elders—with traditional indigenous medicines. During COVID, she has been called on to offer reverent and desired community health support.

SIFN is thrilled about Freedom’s new professional position at Nebraska Appleseed where these rare gifts are being valued and amplified!

Beyond these enormous ways Freedom leads within SIFN, Freedom also gifts us with her healthy high vibration energies. Anyone who loves Freedom knows how powerfully held, seen, and valued one feels in her presence. She also brings lift and light wherever she goes. That ability, knowing her life story, seems like an unlikely manifestation. Freedom has known much challenge, struggle, and suffering; and yet, somehow she has converted those ingredients into an alchemy of ascension for herself and those impacted by her.

Cheri Stollar

Cheri Stollar

We are thrilled Cheri Stollar plans to continue co-leading Stand in for Nebraska’s Adult Educational Programming COC (community organizing circle)in 2023.

As a licensed mental health practitioner with Blue Valley Behavioral Health in Lincoln, Cheri contributes in profound ways to community wellness. Though broadly credentialed and experienced in her field, Cheri specializes in substance abuse therapy and youth wellness. We have especially loved witnessing her passion and growth in further developing indigenous philosophies and practices, as the field of psychology over-privileges Western orientations and methods.

To that end, Cheri’s fingerprints and skillful design and guidance helped create two new SIFN courses in 2022. The first was co-taught with Renee Sans Souci and featured somatic archaeology informed by indigenous therapist, Ruby Gibson’s book, My Body, My Earth. Here, Cheri and Renee expertly guided students through a multi-dimensional personal excavation. We learned and practiced storytelling techniques that helped us lean into our fuller “sacred stories.” Further understanding and respecting how “our bodies keep score” and more keenly, reverently listening to their intelligence led to central explorations and practices.

Later in 2022, Cheri partnered with Dr. Anh Le to develop a companion course this time rooted in Buddhist philosophies and meditative practices. Drawing from Buddhist nun and student of Thich Nhat Hahn, Sister Dang Ngheim’s book, Flowers in the Dark, students explored mindfulness and trauma healing processes and practices. Through this deep-diving experience, each participant got better acquainted with their life stories, grounding meditative practices, and more self-awareness around areas in need of healing.

The healing journey: This is among Cheri’s deepest life commitments—for herself and for her community. We so deeply respect this greatness in her and the gifts it has brought—and will continue to bring—to community self-awareness, growth, and healing.

We implicitly trust Cheri’s wisdom, her goodness, and authenticity. Standing in her truth and light, we are steadied and made better by her influences. Fully committed and unwavering to the practice of women supporting women, Cheri shares so much healthy energy in our organization that, in part, spills forth from the empowered daughters she is dedicated to raising.

Renee Sans Souci

Renee Sans Souci

We are honored to re-introduce Renee Sans Souci as an integral 2023 Stand in for Nebraska leader. Credentialed through UNL’s Indigenous Roots education program and co-leader of our deepening Adult Education Programming COC (community organizing circle), Renee has helped envision, build, and teach within the COC since its inception. She has been the wise constant and throughline to make this approach to community education possible. Partnering in directorship with Dr. Anh Le and Cheri Stollar in 2023, we can’t wait to witness and help support the ascension and reach of their programming.

Having earned her rare status as an Omaha (Omonhon) spiritual practitioner over decades of deep and rigorous vision questing and apprenticing, studying with Ojibwe leaders in Minnesota, Sundancing (an annual spiritually immersive event demanding of body, mind, and spirit in remarkable ways), mentoring, and ceremony officiating, Renee’s life work features decolonization and healing on all fronts. Those touched by her life’s mission and richly complex life experiences are seen, heard, and held in her deep and long commitment to the Red Road.

Renee’s wide range of professional consultancies and expertise earn trust and respect. As a result, she has contributed immeasurably to Nebraska’s human rights advocacy efforts as a Water Protector, MMIR (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives) leading force, and a Niskithe Prayer Camp leader resisting desecration of sacred lands and Lincoln’s only sweat lodge. Recently, Renee co-led the SIFN-sponsored Reimagining the Path Across Turtle Island course—an experience that further drew upon her land-informed, earth-protecting commitments. The sacred exists in all things, and Renee’s guiding hand helped challenge and shift generations-programmed colonizing orientations.

As a gifted writer, storyteller, and communicator, Renee has served as a Lied Center Resident Artist and often is called upon to speak courageous truth to power throughout Nebraska. She does so with seeming effortlessness, poise, clarity, and resolve. These qualities, again, are grounded in deep spirituality, commitment to rematriation, doing the on-going personal healing work required to be a healthy, egoless leader, and a conveyed seven generations-informed vision and truth.

Within SIFN’s cross-cultural, intersectional grassroots organization we have dreamed since our non-profit’s beginning of a cross-cultural, intersectional community center in which to house our programs. Renee’s early and continuing influence has been inestimable toward advancing that vision.

Yolanda Nuncio

Yolanda Nuncio

We are grateful for Yolanda’s involvement in leading SIFN’s 2022 Nourish the Plains program and eagerly anticipate her continued vision and expertise within this team.

As a lifelong Chicana social justice warrior, Yolanda has advocated for human rights and justice in many roles. In her young adulthood, Yolanda became a protesting voice in a rally and march led by legendary Civil Rights activist, Caesar Chavez.

As a lifelong educator whose career led to a principalship, Yolanda prized education as a site of personal enlightenment and development of a more humane and just world.

Supporting the mission of several justice-driven non-profits, Yolanda’s exceptional commitments culminated in a 2022 ACLU Lifetime Achievement Award. When SIFN’s leadership team learned of this most esteemed advocacy award, we were thrilled and also unsurprised, as Yolanda’s advocacy history is truly rare and widely impacting. What a tremendous and well-deserved honor that was!

Yolanda’s deep community involvement in Grand Island advocacy and mutual aid efforts are laudable and have enabled SIFN to support refugee families from Afghanistan with housing needs in 2022. Drawing on her deep, long term and trusted relationships with many GI non-profits, Yolanda’s SIFN leadership allowed us to understand refugee families’ most urgent and immediate needs and work to provide them. From sourcing furniture to stocking kitchens, gifting children with toys and educational resources, and providing grocery gift cards for the families, Yolanda helped ensure needs were met in a timely, welcoming, and loving way.

It is through summer of 2022’s Grand Island Welcome Project and the evolution of our non-profit as a support system for families in major transitions that we eagerly greet 2023!

Yolanda’s passion for family—her own and Nebraska’s families—is one of her many superpowers. Because family is sacred and revered, Yolanda works toward food justice (consistently filling highest need pantries in GI on SIFN’s behalf), culturally aware and responsive family support, and immigration justice. These are sources of inspiration and admiration for our organization.

Dr. Anh Le

Dr. Anh Le

As a respected academic authoring an anthology featuring Vietnamese refugee stories, scholar of Buddhism, UNL leader supporting international students, and True Home Now life coach, Dr. Le leads in many domains. All of her work arcs toward helping build the Beloved Community through personal and community wellness and healing.

In partnership with fellow SIFN leader and indigenous therapist, Cheri Stollar, Dr. Le offered a 10-week on-line course summer/fall of 2022 featuring mindfulness and trauma healing on personal and societal levels. This transformative course led to a full day retreat at Spring Creek Prairie. We are eager for more opportunities like these and are thrilled Dr. Le will be co-leading the SIFN educational programming COC (community organizing circle) in 2023. Here, she will continue developing innovative programming and sharing her expertise with local in-person and on-line communities.

Dr. Le is a deep river—a source of wisdom for all of us. She also is a font of joy (as evident in her photo below!) for those lucky enough to know and love her. We are eager to hear about Dr. Le’s recent trip to Vietnam, as SIFN values global perspectives and the developing cultural and identity revelations
occurring therein.

We have grown so much from Dr. Le’s positive influences and, again, are eager to participate in and promote her community education opportunities in 2023!

Abby Goss

Abby Goss

Abby Goss joins Stand in for Nebraska as a near-graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the field of Integrated Sciences. Passionate about sustainable agriculture, Abby’s multi-dimensional degree features horticulture–local, organic, and community-based projects, nutrition, and agricultural communication sciences. Blend all of that brilliance together, and Abby aims to be a leader in Public Health community projects, policies, and practices. Before heading to graduate school, Abby is building her senior capstone thesis around food insecurity in Lincoln, Nebraska. Here, she will study history, demographics, existing policies and programs that both help and hinder realizing food security for all Lincolnites. Not only will Abby study the problem within her capstone, she also will work to find solutions and grant resources to “be the change” she wishes to see.

Spending time with Abby quickly reveals a young woman who is mature well beyond her years. She is a natural fit for Stand in for Nebraska leadership in that her public health focus always includes addressing underserved communities and holistic and interlocking forces of poverty/accessibility to resources and empowering education,, racism, sexism, and the generational traumas that flow from them. Most recently, Abby developed a Youth Garden Club program at the Malone Center in Lincoln in which she focused on sustainable agriculture while also promoting mental health, nutrition and wellness, exercise, healthy meals, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) throughout the summer enrichment program. Abby even transported all children needing that support to reduce the barrier of entry. An artist herself as well, Abby draws from and synthesizes her many public health, human rights, and justice-focused interests to inform sculpting.

We are thrilled Abby will be joining Stand in for Nebraska’s Nourish the Plains team in 2023 to further innovate and positively impact Nebraskans’ holistic wellness and well-being!

Tanya Encalada

Tanya Encalada

Well before SIFN became a non-profit 501(c)3, Tanya Encalada offered valued, difference-making energies. Our first stand in campaign involved immigration justice in response to the horrifying family separations at the US southern border. Believing church communities should take a more visible stance against such human rights atrocities, a grassroots development took hold. We met Tanya at our first stand in; she was driving by, saw us around 27th and Sheridan, and turned around to park and join us.

Tanya has been with us ever since, and we couldn’t be more appreciative!

We admire Tanya’s deep personal commitment to growth and empowerment. Often we marvel at her capacity to raise her children, pursue her degree, and still advocate within the SIFN leadership team. Passionate about policy research and advocacy, Tanya plays a key behind the scenes role of engaging elected officials and sharing results from her on-going research. She is also involved in community activities, civic engagement and supporting other non-profits in Lincoln.

She advocates for policies related to disability rights, restorative justice/criminal legal reform, immigration justice, and human rights in general stemming from her lived experiences.

Ever-committed to a growth mindset and respect for community collaboration and improved wellness, Tanya reminds us that personal stretching and healing should be our norm; that coming together to better realize the Beloved Community need not remain an unreachable ideal.

We grow because, in part, of steadfast commitments like Tanya’s.

Dr Stephanie Bondi

Dr Stephanie Bondi

To say Dr. Stephanie Bondi is essential to Stand in for Nebraska’s entire story is an understatement. From the early days of sign-holding stand ins (too many to count—hundreds!), Stephanie and her family have been baseline voices and supporters of human rights and justice in Nebraska.

Gentle in spirit and heart, thoughtful, fiercely resolved and reliable, Stephanie offers a steadiness, a constancy not fueled by ego grassroots organizations need to build and realize potential.

As a fine scholar devoting her entire adult life to justice work, Stephanie loves to get behind and realize innovative programming with a team while laser beam-focusing on policy advocacy. From walking alongside the Roots to Rise program’s brilliant development and serving as a supportive program administrator, to assisting Dr. Anh Le and Cheri Stollar as they launched their highly successful Mindfulness and Trauma Healing course rooted in Buddhist philosophies and practices, to helping “build the SIFN plane while flying it” in terms of macro organizational structures and practices, Stephanie is present, invested, and deeply value-adding. Further, Stephanie’s advocacy efforts within the Niskithe Prayer Camp’s work to resist desecration of sacred indigenous spaces near Wilderness Park prove unyielding and again, egoless—completely in service of her indigenous colleagues leading that campaign.

Knowing white social justice advocates do not get to declare themselves allies—for such a self-identifier is earned from those with whom one aims to forge allyship—Stephanie confirms, without exception, her allyship. She deeply realizes and reveres her subject position as an aspiring ally, where she offers her love and substantial support in service of BIPOC visions and needs.

Stephanie is among the safest and most principled people we know. Demonstrating resilience that would make many white advocates wither and withdraw into self-protection, Stephanie understands that visible, organized, and substantial justice work comes with many resistances, from micro to macro-aggressions—both anticipated and unanticipated. Ever rooted in and demonstrating of our mission and values, Stephanie persists undaunted.

Thank you, Dr. Stephanie Bondi, for the countless hours you have selflessly given to grow this intersectional, cross-cultural grassroots non-profit. Your love, friendship, beautiful spirit and uplifting energies are beyond compare. Our community is served through your incalculable efforts—both subtle and profoun

Susan Alleman

Susan Alleman

Susan Alleman’s commitment to serving as a leading force in Nebraskans for Peace for decades, and more recently, as Director for Intertribal Spiritual Lodges, a non-profit her late partner, Leo Yankton, founded, reveal a steadfast and loving resolve to advance human rights and justice work in Nebraska.

Beyond her deeply felt and respected professional investments, Susan loves with her whole being. Those whose lives are touched by this superpower know how precious and rare Susan’s goodness and love are. It is a subtle but no less powerful gift that softens, connects, and transforms.

Our leadership co-op can’t wait to collaborate with Susan in 2023, as she approaches ideas, life in general, with mission-driven purpose, thoughtful and reliable resolve, and integrity. Her energy is life! Susan easily envisions the possible—will offer an invaluable lens as SIFN continues working on cross-institutional projects and deepening of trusted relationships.

Already, Susan has immersed in SIFN-sponsored wellness retreats, adult education programming featuring rematriation and uplifting indigenous women’s voices and causes, and volunteering her catering and serving support at the Malcolm X Hall of Fame Celebration Event. These few glimpses reveal someone highly accustomed to saying, “How can I get involved? How can I help?” in ways that advance her commitment to lifelong learning and servanthood leadership. Further, her uplifting and genuine essence clearly reveal Susan is a woman dedicated to supporting other women.