Our Origin Story
T&T was founded in 2018 by Meredith Stravers, Tha Par, EJ McGaughy, and Sara Johnson. The four met as colleagues at a grant-funded organization in Battle Creek, MI, called The Center for Diversity and Innovation. Despite the impact of the CDI's work in equipping individuals and institutions to implement effective racial equity strategies, the organization's grant funding was inexplicably cut - a rough blow to the community.
Meredith, Tha, EJ, and Sara founded T&T in the wake of that loss, seeking to continue the momentum of the work that had been started while firmly grounding in the local legacy of Sojourner Truth and Frances Titus. In 2019 T&T welcomed another partner, Shannon Sykes-Nehring; in 2020 Denise Miller joined as well.
Being a collective means that decision-making is shared among the partners. While each plays a distinct role in the organization, no one serves as CEO. In addition, the idea of collection is also one of expansion, which means T&T is much bigger than just the partners. We are honored to have incredible practitioners on our team.
Meet the Collective
from "TOWARDS A TRANSFORMATIONAL STRATEGY"
"We are like the bees of the movement world. Many flight experts don't understand how bees actually fly. According to their calculations, their wings are too small to be able to carry their relatively large bodies. Undeterred by the naysayers, bees fly around and play a critical role in supporting the ecosystem. Bees cross-pollinate. They carry pollen in the same way that social movement Leftists so often cross over the silos that constrain our movement work, bringing information and lessons from one movement to another.
Bees are social creatures. They draw their strength from acting in cooperation with the other bees in their colony."
EJ McGaughy (they/them) ~ T&T Founding Partner
Facilitator. Clergy. Writer. Activist. Ej seeks to use their gifts to embolden movements for social justice and institutional transformation for equity. They are a native Californian currently living in Battle Creek, MI, with their wife Kate and kids Maddie, Aurora, and Isaiah. They have a Master’s in Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion and specialize in trauma and spiritual care.
Meredith Stravers (she/her) ~ T&T Founding Partner
Facilitator. Writer. Activist. Educator. Black Feminist. Certified Coach. Meredith spent nearly two decades in higher education, working with students and adjunct teaching. Her most recent role in higher education was in the social justice/equity arena. Meredith is a Battle Creek, Michigan native and has two children, Jayden and Josiah (Josie), and is a podcast/documentary fan. Meredith holds a Bachelor’s in Family Life Education, a Master’s in Family Studies and recently received her coaching certification through Leadership That Works. Meredith believes in ancestral rootedness as a pathway to reparations.
Sara Johnson (she/her) ~ T&T Founding Partner
Learner. Educator. Facilitator. Activist. Sara left an enriching 16+ year career in teaching to pursue social justice work directly. Her partner Erik and children Matteus, Kieffer, and Owen fill her life with support, joy, and accountability as she seeks to create change toward a world that is worthy of them. She is a licensed teacher with degrees in secondary education, English, and Spanish; she holds a Master’s from Wayne State University. Sara enjoys speculative fiction and uses this passion to inform her vision of an equitable world. She specializes in curriculum development and design, content delivery, educational systems, and youth work.
Tha Tin Par (she/her) ~ T&T Founding Partner
Facilitator. Community Organizer. Activist. Life Coach. Social Worker. Tha’s passion for social justice and equity stem from her faith as a Christian and personal life experiences as Asian American immigrant womyn. She holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan. Tha is a limited licensed master social worker and certified professional life coach through Leadership That Works. Tha loves to spend quality time with her partner Ro, read young adult novels, and listen to podcasts.
Denise Miller (they/them) ~ T&T Partner
Denise has over twenty years of nonprofit, academic and anti-racism work. They are also a poet, an artist and a vegan chef who founded, owned, and served as executive chef of their own restaurant! Denise is the co-founder of the Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative. During their tenure at Fire they served as Public Arts Coordinator and, eventually, Vice-President of the Board of Directors. As a well-regarded anti-racism and intersectionality facilitator, Denise has facilitated trainings with the WMU School of Medicine, the Center for Diversity and Innovation at Kellogg Community College, and the ARCUS Center for Social Justice Leadership, among others. To view more of denise's work, go to www.denisemiller.studio.
Shannon Sykes-Nehring (she/her) ~ T&T Partner
Activist. Facilitator. Writer. Healing Practitioner. Homesteader. Shannon has roughly two decades of experience organizing for racial, reproductive, gender, immigration, economic, and environmental justice. She also has over ten years facilitation experience, specializing in discussions on implicit bias, self-care as a radical act, and healing as a practice of decolonization. In 2019 she launched Liberation Within, meant to build movement space focused on imagining a more just future, rather than fighting against a system currently imploding on itself. Her upcoming book, "There Are No Heroes: Liberating ourselves from within" is scheduled for release in 2020. When she's not facilitating, writing, or coaching, Shannon spends her time on the homestead, Quiet Creek Farms, laughing and loving with her partner and four inspiring young creatives. There they explore permaculture practices while raising goats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits.
Don Daniel (he/him) ~ T&T Practitioner
Don Daniel III is a musician and writer with an extremely low tolerance for injustice and more patience than he has a right to.
Elizabeth Garcia (she/her) ~ T&T Practitioner
Facilitator. Educator. Latina Activist. Learner. Interpreter. Elizabeth taught in Elementary schools for several years before transitioning to the after school sector where she could work toward social justice/equity. An avid reader of fictional stories, listens to audio books to continue growing in her work with youth and families.
Tyler Gilland (he/him) ~ T&T Practitioner
Principal. Teacher. Educator. Coach. Equity Practitioner. Activist. Father. Tyler is currently a high school principal at Battle Creek Central High School. Before then he spent five years as a social studies/history teacher with an emphasis on relationship building and connecting students to their ancestral roots. He also served individuals of all ability levels in community inclusion model as a vocational training coordinator at MRC Industries for seven years. Tyler holds a Bachelor's in Social Studies Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership, both from Western Michigan University. Tyler firmly believes that equity work is not just something educators should do, rather equity is the work of education.
Kathy Grosso (she/her) ~ T&T Practitioner
Kathy is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and was trained through Leadership That Works, an accredited coach training organization. In addition, Kathy completed the Civic and Community Leadership Coach Program in Battle Creek, Michigan, and is certified as a community coach. Kathy also serves as a trainer and faculty member at Leadership That Works.
Kathy’s focus as a coach is with individuals, groups, and organizations. With a strong focus on equity and coaching that serves community, Kathy’s clients range from nonprofit organizations and teams, City government employees, women medical doctors, and youth. Her coaching is fueled with a desire to embed coaching in communities and organizations and make it accessible to ALL members of the community.
Andy Helmboldt (he/him) ~ T&T Practitioner
Andy Helmboldt was born in a small rural town outside of Grand Rapids and grew up in a middle-class white family. Both of his parents were teachers in a nearby town's high school, where his father was also the wrestling coach. Andy attended Central Michigan University where he earned a teaching degree. After graduation he found a job teaching in Battle Creek and eventually left education to go into business with a friend. He began volunteering with community organizations and in 2011 ran for at-large city commissioner. He won three terms before deciding to step down to pursue equity coaching and writing. He is a Leadership That Works Certified Community Coach and has facilitated equity trainings in the Battle Creek area for three years. Andy has a wife who is a school administrator, and they have two children together. He lives in a diverse, older neighborhood on Battle Creek's Northeast side.
Maria Ortiz Borden (she/her) ~ T&T Practitioner
Facilitator. Non-profit Consultant. Certified Coach. Systems Change Agent. Maria brings over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector: fund development, program development + management, building organizational sustainability + capacity. Maria holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Trained anti-racism/anti-bias facilitator + organizer, Leadership That Works Certified Community Coach, Trained ABLe Change Framework, System exChange, Michigan State University facilitator.
Maria has a passion for working with individuals, organizations, and institutions committed to transforming systems serving children and families.
Sarah Lawrence (she/her) ~ T&T Equity Coach
Sarah is a poet, public speaker, community organizer, a white antiracist activist and mother. She travels a path committed to community, healing, knowledge and justice.
Jorge Zeballos (he/him) ~ T&T Practitioner
Jorge Zeballos was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Lima, Peru. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rutgers University and a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University.
For more than 20 years, Jorge has established himself as an equity professional, nationally and internationally. He has facilitated workshops on equity and has been a keynote speaker at various national and international diversity conferences, such as the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, the White Privilege Conference, the International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, and the National Association of Multicultural Educators. He has also worked with various organizations in the non-profit, education and faith communities.