Vermont Story Lab Summit 2019: Presenter Bios

Crafting & Using Stories that Challenge the Status Quo:
A Transformational Retreat for Nonprofit Storytellers

Thursday, September 19, 2019 • 9 am - 5:30 pm • Bread Loaf Mountain Campus, Ripton VT

Keynote Speaker

Sarah Springer

Sarah Springer is an Emmy-nominated producer, documentary filmmaker and journalist. She started her career at CNN where she reported stories about race and identity in America with Soledad O’Brien’s In America series and has since worked as a producer for ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS/60 Minutes and VICE Media. Additionally, she oversaw creative direction and production for immersive, branded and linear series for RYOT Media in New York and Los Angeles.

Currently, she lives in Los Angeles and is working as a Creative Director and Producer in unscripted and scripted development for production companies and labs on the east and west coasts. She was recently voted one of the top 28 most powerful black people in media by Blavity, is on the leadership council for an organization made up of over 117 leaders in media. She hopes to promote inclusion in the media space through the organization she co-founded, Advocates for Inclusion in Media, that works to create safe environments, community and advocacy for underrepresented people in the industry.

2019 Presenters

Charlotte Blend, Communications and Foundations Coordinator
Lund, Burlington, VT 

In her work at Lund, Charlotte has multiple opportunities to tell stories – in grant proposals, outreach materials, meetings with donors, community presentations and on the fly to anyone who asks and those who don’t!  Prior to Lund, Charlotte was the Director of Development at Rock Point School. She received her MA in English Literature from UVM where she also taught creative writing and composition classes.  She is a board member at Burlington Children’s Space and regularly volunteers as a photographer and fundraiser for other nonprofits. Charlotte never turns down a dinner table storytelling request from her kids. Their current favorites are, “Mom tell the one about when you fell in a hole…” and “Mom tell the one about grandpa and the KGB…”

Mieka Carey, Donor Communications & Fundraising
Vermont Foodbank

Mieka believes in storytelling (and listening) as a way to strengthen human connection and relate more closely to the world around us. Mieka joins with a curious spirit and experience in philanthropy, publishing, and food service. 

Rae Carter, advocate, coach, facilitator, herbalist, musician, strategist, speaker, and writer

Rae Carter is committed to co-creating heart-centered social change that honors the cycles of nature with compassion and empathy for all living beings. She is reinventing her career following a transformational healing journey from cancer. Rae serves on the VBSR Board of Directors and lives in Plainfield. Her 20-year career includes serving as the communications director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, owning a Vermont public relations business, and working with clients in agriculture, tourism, food, finance, education, consumer service, government municipality, and nonprofit sectors. Connect with her socially: RaeCarterEmpowr

Lydia Clemmons, Medical Anthropologist

Lydia Clemmons, PhD, MPH is a medical anthropologist with 35 years of experience integrating arts and culture into the design and implementation of community health and development programs. Her experience includes extensive work with international donors and nonprofit organizations in the US and in 20+ countries in Africa. Lydia grew up on her family’s 148-acre subsistence farm in Charlotte, Vermont, which her family operated for decades, enriching their rural agricultural lifestyle with visual, literary and performing arts, and lots of storytelling. On top of her full-time international career, Lydia serves as Director of the Clemmons Family Farm in Vermont– one of the few Black-led arts and culture nonprofits in Vermont. She is Executive Director of the A Sense of Place project, a $350,000 creative placemaking program funded by Artplace America.

Michael Dyke, Composer, Musician, Storyteller

In a teaching and performance career spanning 40 years plus, Michael has toured the Caribbean, North and South America, Europe and Japan as a musician, musical director, sound engineer and researcher. He has composed music for the BBC, University of the West Indies, Diageo NorthLac and provided the BRIM method and the Dancehall kit for the music classroom. Michael has created music with and/or for Bob Marley’s band, the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, The University of the West Indies Singers, and The Jamaican National Pantomime to name a few. He has lectured in and headed the departments of Popular Music Studies and Music Education at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. Michael is a Master Teaching Artist and part of the core team of artists engaged in planning, developing and leading the Clemmons Family Farm’s African-American/African diaspora arts and culture programming. Currently based in South Burlington, he and his wife, the acclaimed singer Judi Emanuel, together created the band Caribbean Rain whose music is deeply rooted in family traditions.

Gin Ferrara, Community Engagement Manager
RETN at the Media Factory

Gin considers herself a “multimediator” — a person who helps folks use media to tell their own stories and connect to their communities. She has taught storytelling, videomaking, and digital media to young people and community members across the country, and is thrilled to call Vermont home since 2011. Gin enjoys creating new projects, and is the co-founder of Baltimore’s Wide Angle Youth Media, the nonprofit communications company Spindle & Widget, and the Burlington story community Storytelling VT. Recently, Gin became a radio programmer and is co-host of “The Upside,” an upbeat and offbeat talk and music show on a weekly theme, on 99.3FM WBTV-LP.

Mark Hughes, Executive Director
Justice for All

Justice For All peruses racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship building. JFA led a Coalition that orchestrated the successfully passage of Act 54 (2017), a bill that created a panel to address racial disparities in the justice system and a task force to investigate racial disparities in all other systems and Act 9 (2018), a bill that created a Statewide Racial Equity Panel and Executive Director.  Mark is former Tri-Chair of the Vermont chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival and former Vice-chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel. An Iowa native, he has resided in Vermont for the past ten years

Cathie Pelchat, Fundraising and Donor Communications
Vermont Foodbank

Cathie is passionate about amplifying the voices of others and telling stories that not only move us to take action, but that also help move forward social change. Cathie’s work is built on the belief that, together, we can create a brighter and more equitable tomorrow. Cathie brings experience in philanthropy, facilitation and organizational development.

Jen Peterson, E-RYT, Reiki Master

Former Annual Fund Director for Planned Parenthood and Vice President of Program and Grants at the Vermont Community Foundation, Jen has also been studying and practicing yoga and meditation for more than 11 years. In 2017, she left a 25 year career in nonprofit development to start her own business, Yoga Grace, as a yoga therapist. She has over 1000 hours of yoga teaching experience and has been instructing and sharing yoga since 2012.

Ross Ransom, Education Coordinator
RETN at the Media Factory

Ross Ransom is the Education Coordinator at RETN. He first started producing video while in school in New York. Ross’ passion for teaching community media was solidified during an internship at RETN while completing his degree at Champlain College. Ross strives to help the community tell their stories by making it simple and fun to learn videomaking. Ross enjoys a variety of outdoor activities year-round, making music, and believes in local, dissenting, unfettered, informative, and accessible media productions.

Susanne Schmidt, comedic storyteller, Moth producer and an international speaker

Susanne Schmidt’s work has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, The Moth, National Public Radio, Stories from The Stage, and HBO’s Inspiration Room. In 2015, Susanne was named the “Best of the Valley Voices” by New England Public Radio. 

A teaching artist and organizational consultant, Susanne draws on her experience as a mental health professional to assist non-profits, groups and individuals embrace the power of true first person narrative. 

In addition to her work as a consultant and performer, Susanne is a graduate professor of clinical mental health counseling at Northern Vermont University and the mother of two amazing young men, who would probably prefer that she stop talking about them on stage. 

The Vermont Story Lab Summit is supported by grants from the Vermont Community Foundation, The Fountain Fund and anonymous donors.