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Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative Announces Inaugural Fellows

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Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative Fellowship

The Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children Youth and Families builds a pipeline of informed, effective advocates to ensure all children are healthy, safe, learning and joyful. The late Karabelle Pizzigati spent her career striving to change that reality by empowering champions for children with the policy skills to make a lasting impact. In her name, the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative Fellowship, at the School of Public Policy and the School of Public Health, inspires the best and brightest students to pursue careers in children's advocacy.

Through summer internships, students gain experience and insight into the field by working in organizations who make a real difference in the lives of children. Students are empowered to use their voice as a powerful force for change, now and into the future. 

Throughout the fellowship, students learn from recognized experts in a 10-week paid internship. In addition to the required coursework and internship, students will be coached and mentored, preparing them to enter a career in children's advocacy. 

The inaugural fellows include: 

Headshot of Kelsey Burt

Kelsey Burt

Graduating Senior, double major in Psychology and Family Science

Originally from Fairfield, CT, Kelsey has participated in many service opportunities that have sparked her love of child advocacy. She has worked as a teacher to preschool students, a mentor to an elementary grade student, and a crisis counselor. These experiences sparked her desire to enact change in the lives of children, specifically those who, through no fault of their own, struggle emotionally, do not have stable parental or familial support, and face abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. As part of the Karabelle Pizzigati Fellowship, with the support of Voices for Connecticut’s Children, she will further explore her interest in protecting vulnerable children and encouraging more effective functioning within their families.

Headshot of McKenzie Funk

McKenzie Funk

Rising Senior, Neurobiology and Physiology major with minors in Public Leadership and Spanish

McKenzie is part of the Gemstone Honors College which is a four-year undergraduate led research program. Her team is currently studying the impact of nsp5 on Stat3 proteins to see if specific proteins can limit cancer proliferation. Outside of her academic curriculum, she is a biology teaching assistant, a medical scribe, an outreach director to increase harm reduction programs at Combating Overdoses in Rural Areas (CORA), and a coordinator for Terps for Change with a focus on popup/marketing campaigns. In her free time, she loves to roller skate, nanny the children in her neighborhood, hike, and give tours to UMD for prospective students. As a future pediatrician, McKenzie will take her academic experiences to help inform her work as an advocate for children. Kenzie will support Strong Schools Maryland with community organizing for the summer.

Headshot of Erin Greenstein

Erin Greenstein

Junior, Hearing and Speech Sciences with a Public Leadership Minor

As a preschool worker, Erin has supported young children and listened to their needs one on one. Recognizing that people do not listen to children, especially when they are struggling, Erin’s passion is helping children through policy.

When she learned about the prevalence of abuse and listened to the stories of children who have been victimized, she sprang into action. As vice president of her sorority’s philanthropy, she raised money for Prevent Child Abuse America. Through the Karabelle Pizzigati Fellowship, Erin wants to push herself to be a voice for children without a voice by learning how to help every child by lobbying for them and making policies that will create substantial change. With a focus on quality early childhood education, Erin will support the work of First Focus on Children.

Headshot of Jonathan Hernandez

Jonathan Hernandez

Senior, Economics with minor in Public Leadership

Jonathan is an honorably discharged veteran. While in the military, he supported aviation repair. He ensured that aircraft components were mission ready.

Aside from studying, Jonathan spends most of his time either with his family or trying to stay physically and mentally active by running, playing basketball, and reading various genres of books from ancient history to crime novels. Following graduation from the University of Maryland, he plans to pursue a MA in Economics and a Juris Doctor so that he can better advocate for those in need of help.

His lived experience makes him empathetic to the circumstances that cause children to inevitably fall through the cracks and drives him to advocate for children. Being one of five siblings to first-generation immigrants, Jonathan will support First Focus on Children’s policy work to support immigrant children and their families.

Headshot of Emily Howes

Emily Howes

Rising Senior, Government and Politics Major with Minors in Public Leadership and Law and Society

Emily has been working with kids at Camp JCC since her sophomore year of high school. As a Cornerstone Fellow she collaborated with other camps across North America to provide a more nurturing and inclusive environment to bring back to share with camp. Her passions include advocating for children going through the juvenile justice system. Emily will be joining the Partnership for America’s Children. She will support varied projects developing communications materials as well as offering policy analysis on the undercount of children in the most recent US Census and the opioid crisis. Ultimately, Emily hopes to pursue a career in family law.

Headshot of Jenny Lipof

Jenny Lipof

Graduating Senior, Hearing and Speech Sciences and minors in Public Leadership and Disability Studies

A graduating senior, Jenny will be pursuing a special education masters degree at Vanderbilt University in the fall with hopes of becoming a special education teacher and disability rights advocate. Her passion for advocating for disability rights through social change and public policy, have been developed through her experience with the (program at UMD) Jenny will join the team at the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress to advance policy to improve higher education experiences for students with intellectual disability.

Headshot of Maddie Long

Maddie Long

Junior, Public Policy major

Maddie is extremely passionate about children’s issues, with a focused interest in child welfare, human trafficking, and education. She believes that policy innovation is crucial to ensuring a thriving future for our children. As a previous intern in the Maryland General Assembly, she has refined her skills in policy writing and research to contribute to the exciting policy advances in our state legislature. Outside of academics, she is a Feature Twirler for the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band and currently pursuing her goal to become an adjudicator in the competitive sport of baton twirling. Maddie will be joining First Focus on Children in the fall.

Headshot of Alex Lord-Wilkerson

Alex Lord-Wilkinson

Rising Senior, Family Science and a minor in Public Leadership

Alex’s interests lie at the intersection of family health and public policy. She is passionate about advancing policies and programs that support economic mobility, community safety, and equal access to quality mental health resources for children and families. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, she intends to pursue a Master of Social Work with a concentration in macro practice. Alex will be exploring policy to improve children’s mental and behavioral health at the Child Welfare League of America.

Learn more about the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative

For Media Inquiries:
Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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