Genesis Cooper

Genesis joined our team in the summer of 2019 as an unofficial – but very integral – participant in the Uptown Summer Youth Program. Even though she was the youngest person in the program, Genni stood out for her self-possession, sense of humour and willingness to learn new skills. During the Spirit of the Suffragettes Concert Series and Resource Fair, she was the leader of the face painting station, where she impressed us all with her patience and creativity. Genni’s artistic skills led to her being commissioned to design a pin design for Justice for Dahmeek. In addition, she has become involved with our radio station, WOOC 105.3FM, through which she has hosted the daily live news segment. We look forward to seeing Genesis continue to grow and we are so proud of all that she has already accomplished!

Check out Genesis being interviewed by Media Sanctuary Intern Mikaela Clark-Gardner on participatory education:

JJ Luceno

JJ Luceno joined The Sanctuary for Independent Media as the Uptown Summer Coordinator for the year 2019. We loved having JJ’s calm demeanor, positive energy and genuine smile around the campus.

Branda Miller

Branda Miller is the Arts & Education Coordinator at the Sanctuary.

She is dedicated to using art for achieving a more just and sustainable world.

Maya Sanders

Maya is an undergraduate student at RPI, in the Sustainability Studies program with a focus on Ecology. During the Summer of 2018, Maya volunteered with the Uptown Summer program, where she gave workshops about Grassroots Science, and helped the youth develop radio stories on Social Justice. This Fall (2018), Maya is an intern with the Sanctuary’s NATURE Lab, where she continues to give workshops in addition to developing curriculum and a community science network in preparation for the upcoming community science center. Maya also works with the WOOC 105.3 Hudson Mohawk Magazine  developing radio pieces. 

Maya and Natalie

Traevon Vautrin

Traevon Vautrin is the Sanctuary’s youngest intern. Traevon has been volunteering since he was 8 years old. As of 2018, he is 11 years old and attends Knickerbacker Middle School in Lansingburgh, NY. Through his experience at the Sanctuary, Traevon has learned how to use a Tascam, Vixia and learned how to engineer interviews for WOOC 105.3 FM. Traevon is featured on WOOC 105.3 FM and talks about youth events in the capital district. He’s also taken part in the Sanctuary’s summer youth program, Uptown Summer, and helped grow our green campus initiative Collard City Growers.

Traevon also created his own newspaper called Tvnews. He has had an amazing experience and has taught us very valuable lessons.

Sanctuary highlight: Traevon interviewed Coreal Riday-White, environmental activist from “Our Children’s Trust” about their lawsuit against President Donald J Trump and climate change policy.

Jordan Thomas


Jordan Thomas is a Junior at Green Tech Charter High Charter School. He was hired by the Summer Youth Employment Program by Rensselaer County to bring creativity, artistic ability, and passion to the community. Jordan hopes to gain skills related to photography, media, art, video editing and politics. The Media Sanctuary has opened is eyes to a perspective that can e used throughout every aspect of his future.

Daniel Lopez

Daniel Lopez is 16 years old and he is going to be a Junior at Lansingburgh High School. Daniel likes to play football and dancing. He applied for a summer youth job and he was placed at the Media Sanctuary Alliance and has had a lot of fun. His concern was garbage and we received 12 black city garbage cans but couldn’t place them on the streets. So he painted two garbage cans that are at Freedom Square. They look very nice now everyone will throw their garbage away in the first beautifully painted trash cans in Troy. Also Danny and Amarie would make smoothies everyday and they were delicious. They would always rap about the smoothies or anything in general. The Sanctuary gave Danny his own independence and character that he will carry with him throughout his life as he makes a good change to the community.

Veronica Fuentes

Veronica Fuentes is a Junior at Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls. She is 16 years old and was first introduced to the Sanctuary for Independent Media in the summer of 2013. She was hired by the Rensselaer County. By being apart of the Summer Youth Employment Program at the Sanctuary for 2 years Veronica has met many important people. For example, the Mayor, the Senator and many more. She has gotten the chance to inform them abut what goes on around the neighborhood with the hopes that they listen and hear what the youth in the community has to say. She has also learned many things that she will carry with her throughout her life, such as video editing skills, photography skills, communication skills and much more. The Sanctuary for Independent Media has had a great impact on her life and she hopes to change the community with everything she has learned.



Sinici is 14 years old. She just graduated from 8th grade. She’s going to begin Troy High School in September. Before school ended she signed up for a Summer job and they placed her at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. She was hired to take care and have more responsibilities. In Uptown Summer Youth Employment program she has done a lot of things but the things but the thing she liked most was making shirts. She liked it because it allowed her to use her creative ability. Uptown Summer has helped her learn about herself and gain work experience for the future. 


Rashawn is a Sophomore at Green Tech High Charter School. This year he’s involved in the Summer Youth Employment Program and works at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. Rashawn is looking forward to learning and experiencing new things. So far he’s learned about the history of North Troy, photography, and politics. The Media Sanctuary has opened him to express is ideas vocally and artistically.



Amarie has been working at The Sanctuary for Independent Media for a year strong now. Amarie is a hardcore member/volunteer of the Youth Media Sanctuary and a very powerful and open-minded individual. He has been active with every aspect of Uptown Summer thus far and has been involved with most of the changes happening in North Central Troy. He’s currently employed with the Sanctuary for Uptown Summer and has been proven to be a crucial part of our team. The Sanctuary has helped Amarie learn how to perfect his talents and discover abilities he never knew he personified.


Karina Wojnar


Karina Wojnar, Spring 2017 intern and Siena Scholar for Uptown Summer 2017. She is a Siena College student studying social justice, art, and economics. She is a reader, hiker, writer, and activist. She is from Northern New Jersey and holds strong ties to her Polish roots. She loves creating political and social oriented art. She is an asset to The Sanctuary for Independent Media by contributing to the community, working the website, actively engaging in community outreach, organizing events, and creating lively atmospheres.

Check out her blog:

Here are some pieces of her art:

Society vs. Women

Society vs. Women


i said no.

I said no




Nick Nerolien


Nick Nerolien is a senior at the University at Albany with a double major in Communication and Sociology. He interned at the Sanctuary of Independent Media during the spring 2017 semester. Nick came to the Sanctuary to gain experience using video editing software, video capturing, and community outreach.

At the Sanctuary, Nick is a part of an experimental social media team that produces content with smartphones. The idea behind the group is to put out content as quickly as possible without too much concern with production value. Nick also creates blog posts about the various events and activities that go on at the Sanctuary.

After graduation, Nick plans on pursuing a career in video production or media management.


Diajah Greer

Diajah Greer
Uptown Summer Youth Employee 2016

Project: Jerry Ford’s House

Listen to Diajah’s audio portrait here:


You used to live in the house next to Collard City Growers while the garden was starting and helped to start it. What was that experience like?

When I was younger, I used to draw cartoon characters. When there was first a shed at Collard City Growers, I used to draw smurfs and stuff and put them in the shed. When I lived there [in the house next to Collard City Growers] when they first started doing it, the soil was no good. Nothing would grow. Literally, I had to help Abby find new soil and to build the things that carry the water around the garden.


How does it feel, having gotten to watch it change so much?

It’s just funny. All the struggling that the people who first worked here went through, and now to see that it’s so easy just to plant something. They would get mad and stuff, because they weren’t doing as much as they could. The first group [of Uptown Summer Youth] – I knew a lot of people in the first group – they would feel that the job was too hard for them. The days were long and hard and they didn’t feel like they were making progress. It’s different now.


Do you have any other memories from working in the garden when you were a kid?

I was always with Abby during the summer. You could never catch me not by her side. As soon as they started doing it, she just knocked on my door one day to come out and help with this project. It was just a bond or whatever.


Do you remember what it was like living next to the garden when it was still a vacant lot?

Me and my cousin buried a butterfly in it when it was a vacant lot. I had a butterfly that I brought from school and it died, so we buried it. We really dug up dirt and put it there and covered it back up. That summer, that’s when they came [to create the garden].


What is the experience of having your first job like?

It feels good, because I can prove to my parents that I can do something for myself. As long as I providing for myself, I can call myself doing something, instead of just sitting on the couch all day like usual teenagers or being out on the street.


Why do you think it’s important for youth to be involved in stories?

 So that our stories can be heard, because it doesn’t happen a lot. Around here, usually, the youth have a reputation for not wanting to do better things because that’s what they’re taught. At the Sanctuary they teach us. Summer youth basically is a good way to see to it that you have a better future than what maybe your parents or their parents had or were brought up on.


Alan Thorne, Jr.

Uptown Summer: Youth Coordinator


Alan Thorne, Jr.

Alan is a new Troy resident and a recent graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. He will be working to ensure the Youth Employees have the best possible experience working with the Uptown Summer ’16 team.




e-mail: [email protected]




Jillian Naveh

Jillian Naveh is currently the chef at 9 Miles East Farm which offers a prepared meal CSA delivery program as well as delivers meals called Go Boxes to work places that are made with some of their own vegetables during the growing season. She has earned a degree in Culinary Arts Business Administration from SUNY Delhi. During her time there she was a committed member of the American Culinary Federation and cooked in over 15 competitions around the country and won multiple awards including the nationals for students in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. Other positions in the past include working for The Sylvia Center as a cooking teacher in project housing community centers for children in Brooklyn, the Department of Education where she worked on getting healthy local food into NYC public schools, and Capital District Community Garden as the outreach coordinator through Americorps. Since moving back to Troy she has been involved in community work through the Oakwood Soul Cafe participating by helping cook for its monthly dinners.