We are excited to announce RLD Champions in 2018.  These people are instigators in the community who embrace the idea of “remake learning” for our future generations. Get to know our Champions, follow them on social media and learn which RLD events they recommend.

Emmai Alaquiva

CEO, Ya Momz House, Inc.

Bio: Emmai Alaquiva, an Emmy Award-winning film director, composer and mentor is known for his impact across mixed-media art platforms. Once homeless and one who occupied the unforgiving streets of Pittsburgh Pa., Alaquiva shifted the trajectory of his life’s path to become one of the most distinct trailblazers in thearena of creative arts. Multi-award decorated, Alaquiva is the CEO of an Ya Momz House, Inc, Founder of Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K. and Curator of OpticVoices. He most recentlyreceived a 2017 Emmy nomination his international directorial premiere of Ghetto Steps, selected by the City of Pittsburgh to spearhead the Amazon Pitch Videofor their second Headquarters. Alaquiva is a national BMe Community Leader recognized by President Barack Obama and Pittsburgh Business Times, “Outstanding CEO of the Year” for 2018.      

Joy Cannon

Director of Programming, Center of Life

Bio: Joy Cannon is Director of Programming at Center of Life and has been involved with the organization and Hazelwood community since 2013. She is a graduate of Duquesne University where she studied Sociology and Social Justice/Policy. Joy is dedicated to providing minority youth with the academic support, access to arts and technology, and cultural self-awareness necessary for individual and community success.

Event Recommendations: Read this blog about Joy Cannon and her recommendations for RLD events in Hazelwood.

Noelle Conover

Founder, Matt’s Makerspace

Bio:  Noelle Conover is the founder of Matt’s Maker Space, Inc., an organization dedicated to inspiring a a new generation of creative, collaborative and experiential learners through STEAM focused programming. Founded by the Conover family to honor the memory of their son, Matt, who had big ideas and loved to build and create, Matt’s Maker Space began as a philanthropic gift to a public school system. Matt was only 12 when he passed away from cancer. Noelle looked for many ways to remember her son and over the years has been a dedicated supporter of Our Clubhouse (formerly known as Gilda’s Club) , where is she is on their Executive Board and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where she is not only a donor but an employee as well. Noelle coordinates the Survivorship program for survivors of pediatric cancer.  Read more about Matt’s Maker Space here.

Follow Matt’s Maker Space on their Facebook and Linked In pages. 


Marita Garrett

Mayor of Wilkinsburg


Recently, sworn in as the 10thMayor of Wilkinsburg, PA. Marita Garrett served on Wilkinsburg Borough Council from 2014-2018.

During her term on Council, Marita Garrett started “Wilkinsburg Community Conversations”, an initiative to connect and empower residents to work together for neighborhood improvement, co-founded CIVICALLY, a non-profit that also houses the Free Store Wilkinsburg -where donations of new and slightly used material goods are available to residents and families; and was elected Vice-President of Council, where she served as Chair of the Borough’s Social Media & Promotions Committee and sat on the Capital Planning & Public Safety Committees.

Ms. Garrett is the co-owner and managing partner of Admintrinsic, which provides a wide range of outreach and engagement services to small businesses, non-profits, and mid-level corporations. She has successfully coordinated small business educational events, 2016 Vacant Home Tour with the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC), consulted on a research study at Carnegie Mellon University among other outreach programming. Currently, she also serves as the Program Trainer for Coro Pittsburgh’s Women in Leadership, 2017-2018 Cohort.

Building on her mission of promoting women empowerment, Marita is also the co-host of Shattered Glass Podcast, where stories of extraordinary women shattering the glass ceiling are highlighted.

Willy James


Bio:  Willy James creates Pittsburgh videos highlighting and documenting the city’s culture. He’s done work featuring The Mattress Factory, Children’s Museum, mayor Bill Peduto, PWSA, and more. He recently finished up his fellowship with WQED in January of 2018 and plans to continue learning more about the city and make fun, collaborative video projects. Willy currently resides on the Northside.

Event Recommendations: Read this blog about Willy James and his recommendations for RLD events in the Northside.

Donna Peduto

Executive Director, West Virginia Public Education Collaborative

Bio: Donna Peduto currently serves as Executive Director of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative. The WVPEC is a non-partisan collaborative of diverse state and national leaders championing awareness and support of public schools through outreach, innovation, and convening of stakeholders to foster productive dialogue and respond rapidly to emerging issues P-20 in West Virginia and beyond. Under Peduto’s leadership, the WVPEC has convened the first and second annual Legislators’ Forum on Education and the Economy, with plans for a third Forum, among other outreach events, in 2018.

Event Recommendations: Read this blog about Willy James and his recommendations for RLD events in the West Virgini

Erica Peterson

Founder & CEO, Moms Can: Code

Bio: Erica Peterson is a mother of 2, entrepreneur, and TEDx speaker living in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the Founder & CEO of Moms Can: Code, a co-learning community that empowers moms through code. Erica is very passionate about exposing women and children to STEM. This past summer, Erica was selected as a member of The Incline’s Who’s Next: Education class for her work as Founder & Board President of Science Tots, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects families with the tools and instruction to power early childhood STEAM learning. Last year, Erica won first prize at the 2017 Invest in Her Pitch Competition and was a 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Finalist. Most recently, Erica graduated from Founder Gym’s second cohort and was selected for the Project Entrepreneur Class of 2018 for a weekend intensive in NYC.

Jordon Rooney

Founder, Never Fear Being Different

Bio: Jordon Rooney is the Founder/CEO of NFBD, which stands for Never Fear Being Different. Jordon is a social innovator, speaker, and content creator. He played professional american football in Poland, Serbia, and Brazil. He then created NFBD as a way to build excitement around positive messaging. In the past 2 years, Jordon has been the keynote speaker at over 100 schools in 10 states. This past summer, his videos reached 20 million video views with 250,000 shares. With over 160,000 followers on social media, you can see more about Jordon and NFBD by following @NFBDmovement.

David Shifren

Pittsburgh Police Officer

Bio: In November, 2015 Pittsburgh Police Officer David Shifren proposed teaching Hazelwood neighborhood pre-teens and teens the game ofchess.  The 1,300 year-old board game from India offers lessons in problem-solving and critical thinking, but also good sportsmanship, patience, and the benefits of thinking ahead.  Now, Pittsburgh Police Junior Chess Club meetings run weekly in other stressed neighborhoods, too, as devoted officers teach city kids lessons that apply both on the chessboard and in life.

Jeremy Waldrup

President and CEO, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Bio: Joining the Partnership in May 2011 as President and CEO, Mr. Waldrup is responsible for working with the Board of Directors, stakeholders and staff to create and implement a vision that ensures Downtown Pittsburgh remains a vibrant and innovative place to live, work and play.

Wesley Waldrup

Clinician, Summit Psychological Services

Bio: Wesley Waldrup is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a varied background in education, youth development and mental health.  Wesley is a clinician with Summit Psychological Services.  Wesley has served as a school leader and school counselor working with inner city youth in NYC.  She has been an educational consultant on promoting social and emotional learning, including teaching yoga and mindfulness classes to elementary age students. As an advocate for infusing social and emotional learning into K-12 education, Wesley is a Co-founder of Project Playground, an Edtech company providing a platform for teachers to assess collaboration skills for K-2 students.

Shimira Williams

Owner, Tekstart

Bio: Shimira Williams, an authentic change agent, that builds digital citizens through play and productivity. Williams integrates digital media literacy, tools, and learning materials to harness the power of technology, extending learning opportunities and retooling business operations in early learning environments. Her vision for technology seeks to improve people’s ability to communicate and collaborate and to allow people to focus on the human to human connection.

Event Recommendations: Read this blog about Shimira Williams and her recommendations for RLD events in Homewood.