Chicago Leaders Class

By Brenna Conway, Adrienne Scott, Brian Gomez, Darius Ballinger, Maria Ralenkotter, Michael Gobbel, Raunel Urquiza, Ryan Burgess, Ismail Susan, Usama Ibrahim, Viviana Garcia-Blanco |

We’re bringing together students from universities  across Chicagoland, for a first-of-its kind leadership class designed for undergraduate students.

Students interested in researching, writing and enacting policy change on their campus and in their Illinois community will come together in this inaugural leadership class to develop critical public policy and organizational leadership skills.

From March to May 2016, select students from colleges and universities across Chicago will have the opportunity to join the Chicago Leadership Class. During the training students will learn the basics of researching, writing and advocating for local policy change, meet policy professionals at the state and local level, and prepare to launch Roosevelt chapters on their campus.

Check out our Chicago Leaders Class FAQ’s for additional information about the program.

Applications for spring 2016 are now closed. Please use the interest form below to be kept in the loop about future offerings and events in the Chicago area.


Learn more about the fellows for 2016’s Chicago Leadership Class Below.

Brenna Conway is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Roosevelt Institute. She is responsible for growing an Illinois based student network and working to involve students in both writing and enacting policy changes at the state and local level. In 2014 Brenna orchestrated the NextGen Illinois project, which brought together thousands of young people in person and online to create a youth policy agenda for the state of Illinois. Brenna comes from a background in political organizing and advocacy campaigning. Brenna is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison where she studied Spanish and French as well as political science.

Adrienne Scott: I am a freshman that attends Roosevelt University. I have an interest in traveling and want to learn about different cultures. I am currently a peacekeeper through Mansfield Institute at my school. I am in the process of finding my passion and turning it into a career.

Brian Gomez is studying social and Economic Development at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Brian has previously worked on projects with the Alliance for Climate Education to increase energy efficiency in the Chicago Public Schools. He is passionate about environmental issues and how they relate to communities and business development. Originally from Mexico City, Brian hopes to develop a sustainable community business model that is relevant to many corners of the globe. Currently Brian is working with the Sierra Club on the Clean Jobs campaign in Chicago.

Darius Ballinger is a student of City Colleges of Chicago Kennedy-King set to graduate in April 2016 with his associate in arts. Darius’ future plan is to transfer to the University of Illinois at Chicago where he intends to study urban planning and public policy. Darius’ ultimate career goal is to become an urban studies professor. Outside of pursuing professorship, Darius expresses a strong compassion for social innovation. He believes this innovation will come about through various ways one being public policy. Outside of his role as a student, Darius is a passionate leader building a social vehicle he calls “Chasing23.” Chasing23 is a social vehicle driven toward inner-city development and sustainability.

Maria is currently a sophomore political science and economics student at Loyola University Chicago. She eventually hopes to get a dual MPP/JD degree and work on economic development projects across the city. As a lifelong Chicagoan, she is deeply invested in her city and is dedicated to making it a better place for everyone. When Maria is not reading up on politics or doing homework, Maria enjoys volunteering within the disability rights community, watching classic movies, and trying all of the delicious foods Chicago has to offer.

Michael is a sophomore at the Roosevelt University. He is interested in International relations and Psychology. Those two apparently different fields represent his vision of this world. The global structure depicts the world we live in, however, only human relations make our stay in this world meaningful! Michael is currently working as a research assistant for the Roosevelt University. By assisting in the process of creating a new UN treaty for the rights of the elderly, he realized that policies are far from perfect. His goal is to not only find those imperfections, but also to bring them a step closer towards perfection!

Raunel Urquiza- I am a student at Dominican University, majoring in political science. My interests are social justice and civic engagement, one way I explore these interests is by volunteering at a local organization in my neighborhood called ONE Northside with the worker rights team. My interests include film and walking tours in historic neighborhoods.

Ryan Burgess is a first-year student at the University of Chicago, planning to major in Philosophy with a Specialization in Mathematics. He is particularly interested in policy relating to four main areas: poverty and welfare (which could more broadly be construed as economic justice), the built environment (housing, planning, infrastructure, etc.), science and technology, and global governance.

Susan is a returning adult student at Moraine Valley Community College. After her involvement with the Student Government Association on campus, Susan has found a passion for advocacy especially in the relation to poverty and education. Some of her interests outside of her studies and campus life are spending time with family and friends, art, and bringing awareness to others about issues that may impact their lives.

Usama, after having served nearly a decade of being an educator, is committed to improving education in the United States. Usama’s past experiences include serving on United States Senator Mark Kirk's (R-IL) Student Leadership Advisory Board - in an attempt to combatting bullying in Illinois classrooms and serving as the President of Healing Arts, a student organization he co-founded, that serves as a Chicago Public School supplement to the currently underfunded Arts program. Today, Usama is serving on the Leadership Council of Peer-Health Exchange - providing comprehensive health workshops to teens in "underprivileged" Chicago Public Schools. Usama is also critically attentive to international news and prides himself on not being limited to American news sources. He wishes to pursue a political career in hopes of not only improving lives domestically but also abroad.

Viviana Garcia-Blanco- I attend Dominican University and plan to graduate in 2017. I am pursuing a degree in Political Science and Corporate Communications. I hope one day to either work in local government or some kind of nonprofit. I am very passionate about helping my community. Some of my interests and hobbies include watching movies, going to museums, and playing tennis.