News & Ideas  -  Kettering Foundation Appoints 15 Dayton Democracy Fellows

Democracy and Community Elizabeth Gish News

New program launched in support of Democracy and Community focus area

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation today announced the appointments of 15 Dayton, Ohio, community members who will serve as the inaugural cohort of Kettering Foundation Dayton Democracy Fellows. These appointments are in service to one of the foundation’s five focus areas, Democracy and Community, and part of the foundation’s ongoing steps to implement its new strategic plan, which launched in January 2024. The Dayton Democracy Fellows are drawn from a wide array of backgrounds, including community organizing, higher education, business, and faith-based communities.

The Kettering Foundation Dayton Democracy Fellowship is designed to support innovative leaders, changemakers and dreamers who are building movements for inclusive democracy in their communities and in our wider world. The Fellows are distinguished by their commitment to building accessible on-ramps and pathways for everyday people to work together and experience the benefits of democratic collaboration firsthand.

The Dayton Democracy Fellows are as follows:

Keisha Anderson, licensed independent social worker, community advocate and mentoring collaborative partner, The Mentoring Collaborative of Montgomery County

Peter Benkendorf, founder, The Collaboratory

Jessica Bloomingdale, project director, The Mentoring Collaborative of Montgomery County

Destiny Brown, community organizer, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE)

Pamela Cone, founder and CEO, Curated Spaces, LLC, and assistant pastor, Dominion, CLGI

Steven Cone, pastor, Dominion, CLGI

Daj’za Demmings, community partnerships coordinator, Omega CDC, and founder and executive director, Dayton Young Black Professionals (DYBP)

Taylor Johnson, executive director, Spectrum New Beginnings

Fabrice Juin, regional equity initiative manager, Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission

Samantha Kennedy, director of grants and assessment, Community Engaged Programs, and director, Dayton Civic Scholars Program, University of Dayton Fitz Center for Leadership and Community

Jennifer McDermott, professor of social work and faculty associate for experiential learning, Division of Liberal Arts, Communication, and Social Sciences, Sinclair College

Tom Roberts, advisor, Sinclair College Ohio Fellows Program, second vice president, Dayton Unit, NAACP, and president, Ohio State Conference, NAACP

amaha sellassie, president, Gem City Market board of trustees, and coexecutive director, Co-Op Dayton

Vibes, project manager, Spectrum New Beginnings

Dee Wooding, president and founder, Westwood Right Project, CDC

Elizabeth Gish, senior program officer for Democracy and Community, led the development of the Dayton Democracy Fellowship. She notes that the program has been influenced by a refrain that comes from the disability rights movement: “Nothing about us without us.” Gish notes that “the program reflects the Kettering Foundation’s philosophy that holds that everyday people—that all people—are essential to creating a just and inclusive democratic society.”

“We are proud to name this inaugural class of Kettering Foundation Dayton Democracy Fellows,” said Kettering Foundation president and CEO Sharon L. Davies. “Their work illustrates that real, meaningful and substantive change for inclusive democracy happens everywhere. The work of democracy doesn’t just happen in state capitols and city halls but also takes place in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and houses of worship. Kettering’s first class of fellows provide exciting examples of the ways that democratic innovation starts in communities.”

In addition to providing robust research and compelling stories that help us understand how communities can counter authoritarianism, foster citizen engagement and promote accountability in governments, the program is also designed to provide stories of hope and inspiration to those who wonder if there is a place for them in our society. This effort supports the case that a healthy, robust democratic society needs everyone’s participation, even those who have historically been told they are not welcome or don’t belong.

These Dayton Democracy Fellows join other recent appointments: distinguished broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff as the foundation’s Katherine W. Fanning Fellow in Journalism and Democracy, former Secretary of HHS and former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as the first-ever David Mathews Democracy Fellow, and 13 Senior Fellows, including William J. Barber II, Kelley Robinson and Christine Todd Whitman.