Skip to main content

Rachel JeffersonRachel (Rah) N.R. Jefferson

Executive Director of Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group

Rah is the Executive Director of Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group (Groundwork NRG), formerly known as the Historic Northeast-Midtown Association. As Executive Director, she leads the organization in its efforts to champion economic, environmental, land, housing and food sovereignty and cultural identity and belonging to the community in Northeast Kansas City, Kan. Groundwork NRG connects local community members with programs, resources, projects and organizations to continue to develop the historically rich area.

As a resident of Kansas City, Kan. (KCK), Jefferson sees the impact redlining, predatory businesses and the need for community intervention have on the local environment every day.

As Executive Director of Groundwork NRG, she is committed to making meaningful changes to create an equitable Kansas City for all.

Jefferson is also the founder and former President of Isaac Eugene Jefferson Farms, which partnered with local youth and community groups to promote sustainable agriculture in the northeast area of Kansas City, Kan. She attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and is an alumni of the New School’s Tishman Center for Environment & Design Environmental Justice Movement Fellowship.

Angelica Nellie Chavez DuckworthAngelica (Jellie) Chavez Duckworth

Founder of LivZero and Director of Community Initiatives at Greenlink Analytics

Jellie Chavez Duckworth is a listener, meaning-maker and guide who blends the principles of community organizer and methods of non-extractive qualitative research to cultivate participatory processes with environmental justice communities.

Her work is centered in the human experience and focused on shaping narratives that invoke a deeper understanding of the interdependent nature of the climate crisis.

Dina Newman

Dina Newman

Director of UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods

Dina Newman has the honor of serving as the Director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods (CFN). As the Center’s first Director, Newman is instrumental in establishing and administering the internal office environment for CFN while also providing overall daily external management of the Center. A key part of her day-to-day efforts includes close collaboration with UMKC faculty on the Center’s curriculum development, programs, technical assistance, community engagement, development and outreach, fundraising, grant writing and neighborhood leadership development training.

Housed in Architecture, Urban Planning, and Design in the UMKC School of Science and Engineering, the Center for Neighborhoods opened in April 2016 and has contributed to the leadership development and capacity building of almost 100 neighborhood organizations and more than 200 neighborhood leaders. Under Newman’s unique leadership, the Center has grown to be an important advocate for community inclusion, authentic engagement and sustainable neighborhood development.

Kechia Smith

Tru-Kechia (Kechia) Smith

Director of Environmental Justice and Organizational Growth at Bridging the Gap

Tru-Kechia Smith began her role as Programs Director for Bridging The Gap (BTG) in December 2018 and has evolved into the Director of Environmental Justice and Organizational Growth. Under her leadership she provides oversight and direction for various environmental programs. Her community-centric approach ensures BTG’s program impact is equitable, diverse and inclusive by prioritizing people and partnerships within its natural environment focus.

Smith’s catalytic nature and strategic focus fuels her successful track record of leveraging organizational strengths into effective partnerships and mission driven results. In 2022, she was selected for the Justice40 Accelerator Cohort, a 12-month program designed to assist BIPOC leaders from climate and environmental organizations build capacity to access federal funding.