Our People

Puffin Democracy Fellows

Made up of exceptional young leaders from around the country, The Puffin Democracy Fellows will work on projects around civic policy issues like voting rights, civil rights, and social justice, or other forms of civic engagement, that yield high-impact results on the local and national level.


Usjid Hameed

Usjid Hameed

Puffin Democracy Fellow

Awarded Year: 2018-19

Usjid Hameed works as the Public Affairs Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Columbus, Ohio Chapter (CAIR-Columbus) where he is tasked with advocating for American-Muslims, monitoring legislation, conducting outreach, organizing civic engagement activities with the Central Ohio American-Muslim community, and much more. Usjid was born in York, Pennsylvania and raised in Baltimore County, Maryland. His passion for service was kindled at a young age thanks to his parents, Pakistani immigrants, frequently drawing attention to his many privileges, such as growing up in a two-parent home in America. Usjid credits the public school system in Baltimore County for providing him with a profound interest in history and government. Usjid attended Towson University for his undergraduate studies where he served as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation and as an editor for the Towson University Journal of International Affairs. In addition, Usjid was the field director for a state delegate campaign during the 2014 election cycle and interned in Congressman John Delaney’s (MD-06) D.C. office. In his junior year, Usjid was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for his Summer 2016 study abroad experience in Jordan. He graduated from Towson University with honors in May 2017 after earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and was the Spring 2017 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker for the College of Liberal Arts. Upon graduating, Usjid moved to Columbus in June 2017 to begin work with CAIR.

Project Summary:

Expanding the Ballot: Providing Election Assistance to Non-Native English Speakers

Central Ohio is an incredibly diverse region. The city of Columbus alone is home to the country’s largest Bhutanese population, 2nd largest Somali population and 8th largest Arab population. Given this diversity, it is necessary that voters of these populations be given the necessary support to participate fully in the democratic process. Unfortunately, the Franklin County Board of Elections currently has no formal mechanisms in place to assist these non-native speakers on election day.

Expanding the Ballot utilizes on-site and off-site interpreters to ensure that voters who are not proficient in English have the resources necessary to cast their ballot. Through this multi-pronged approach, thousands of voters will more easily be able to be active citizens and have their voice heard.

Maydee Martinez

Maydee Martinez

Puffin Democracy Fellow

Awarded Year: 2018-19

Maydee Martinez is a graduate of Miami Dade College in Florida, where she studied Political Science. During her time at MDC, Maydee served as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In 2015, Maydee founded Democracy YOUnited, an educational program that focuses on voter registration, education, and engagement. She also helped found Engage Miami, a non-profit organization with the goal of changing the culture of politics in her hometown of Miami, Florida. Maydee is a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow and recipient of The Andrew Goodman Foundation's 2016 Hidden Hero award for her outstanding achievement as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador. Maydee is currently a junior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., majoring in Sociology with a minor in Government.

Project Summary:

Democracy YOUnited: Revamping Civic Education

Currently, many civic education curriculums around the country do not include class lectures on how local government is structured, and why local representation is important. This leaves the next generations of voters without access to knowledge that would help them understand how their localities and states function- from who is making decisions on their school boards to who represents their interests at the state level. Without this knowledge, many students face barriers to becoming informed, active citizens.

The Democracy YOUnited project will collaborate with students, teachers, parents, and school board members to create a curriculum that is interesting, informative, and inclusive. The goal of Democracy YOUnited is to help students of all ages understand that the power of local government is within their reach.

Megan Newsome

Megan Newsome

Puffin Democracy Fellow

Awarded Year: 2018-19

Megan Newsome obtained a B.S. in Astrophysics from the University of Florida in 2017, where she also spent three years as The Andrew Goodman Foundation's Vote Everywhere Team Leader. Her Vote Everywhere team's accomplishments included registering over 2,000 students to vote, providing shuttles to early voting locations, and publicizing voting accessibility issues via local media. Her goal as a Puffin Democracy Fellow is to see Florida lead the South in taking down voting barriers by advocating for college campuses to serve as early voting locations, improving transportation networks to and from polling sites, and strengthening comprehensive civics education. Her work aims to prioritize science and evidence in policy-making. On a clear night, though, don't be surprised if Megan can't be reached - sometimes she just needs a little space. (Get it?)

Project Summary:

STEMocracy: Bridging Civics and Science

Data shows that college students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields vote at lower rates than their peers. At the same time, phrases like “evidence-based” have become controversial in political circles, and legislators, like Governor Rick Scott of Florida, have refused to discuss the gravity of scientifically-backed issues, such as climate change.

This is why we are launching STEMocracy- to ensure science is accounted for in legislation by bringing the ballot to tomorrow’s scientists. By thoroughly researching STEM students’ low voting rate, we will develop and implement the most effective methods that will transform these students into civic leaders. STEMocracy aims to make facts a priority so that policies are made in the best interest of all Americans.

Valencia Richardson

Valencia Richardson

Puffin Democracy Fellow

Awarded Year: 2018-19

Valencia Richardson is a first-year law student at Georgetown University and the co-chair of The Andrew Goodman Foundation's Alumni Association. She is also a certified Distinguished Communicator, recipient of Upper Division Honors from the LSU Honors College, and a Fulbright Scholar. Valencia graduated magna cum laude from Louisiana State University in 2016, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Political Communication with a minor in Spanish. In 2014, Valencia became an LSU Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation. She also co-founded Geaux Vote LSU, an on-campus student organization aimed at assisting LSU students with registering to vote, voting, and staying up-to-date on upcoming elections. Under her leadership as a Vote Everywhere Team Leader and Geaux Vote LSU President, her team was instrumental in registering hundreds of students to vote, advocating for higher education funding, as well as increasing voter accessibility for college students by leading the charge to change Louisiana’s state law to allow student IDs to become eligible voter IDs. She will continue to expand voter accessibility in Louisiana as a Puffin Democracy Fellow.

Project Summary:

A New Southern Strategy for College Voter Engagement

Access to the polls for young people (18-34) is particularly suppressed in the Southeastern United States. We know that voter suppression, through efforts to prevent access to registration and
voting, depresses overall turnout. Studies show that among other barriers, stricter voter ID laws can depress registration and turnout.

In 2016, Louisiana passed an ID law that will help thousands of college students in Louisiana be able to use their student IDs to vote. Now it is time to look ahead into other states to see how legislation can be created to increase accessibility to college students across the South. Beginning in Fall 2018, we will build a movement around increasing accessibility on college campuses. The first step will be voter ID, where we will aim to promote and promulgate a policy that allows students to use their student ID as voter ID, starting with schools already partnering with AGF in the Southeast.

Project Page

Dana Sweeney

Dana Sweeney

Puffin Democracy Fellow

Awarded Year: 2018-19

Dana Sweeney grew up reading books, telling stories, and dreaming of the world beyond the salt marshes of southeastern Georgia, where he was raised. With the aid of several generous scholarships, he was eventually able to pack his bags and attend school 423 miles away at The University of Alabama. While there, he studied English and continuously pondered how storytelling and language shape the world we live in (and how they might be used to build the world we'd like to live in, too). Today, Dana works as the statewide organizer for the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, where he continues to spend most of his time listening to peoples' stories and thinking up ways to connect and empower those storytellers as change agents. After serving as The Andrew Goodman Foundation's first Vote Everywhere Ambassador at The University of Alabama, Dana is so excited to continue growing with The AGF as a Puffin Democracy Fellow, and he cannot wait to bring new training, resources, and insights to his work in the Deep South.

Project Summary:

The Rural Restoration Project

More than 286,000 Alabamians have had their voting rights stripped away through felony disenfranchisement—a figure that includes nearly 8% of Alabama's total voting-age population and over 15% of all black men in the state. A law passed in 2017 effectively restored the right to register to vote for many of these citizens, but the state of Alabama has refused to mount any substantial efforts to notify impacted voters that they may now reclaim their voting rights.

The Rural Restoration Project is building grassroots capacity to reach and register these impacted voters. We are focusing on rural communities that may be overlooked by other voting rights restoration efforts to build public understanding of the new law, as well as providing step-by-step training and resources that empower local residents to lead voting rights restoration work in their own communities.

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