May 26, 2017

Spring 2017 Alumni Impact Award Winners Selected for the Professional Fellows Congress

The Professional Fellows Program is pleased to announce the four spring 2017 Alumni Impact Award (AIA) recipients selected in recognition of the impact they are making on their communities after participating in the Professional Fellows Program. Their outstanding achievements will be acknowledged at the upcoming Spring Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C., May 29 – June 1st, 2017, where they will discuss their work and have the chance to connect with over 270 Fellows from 44 countries.   The winners are:

Ines Amri, Tunisia
U.S. Host Organization: Legacy International
U.S. Placement Organization: Office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum
Dates of Fellowship: Fall 2013
Program Theme: Legislative Fellows/Legislative Process & Governance

Ines Amri credits her Fellowship at the U.S. Congress in the fall of 2013 with widening her knowledge about how governments function. During her one-month fellowship at the U.S. Congress, she says her perception of the relationship between governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) completely changed.  There, she learned about the effectiveness and importance of policy analysis, policy-making, advice and recommendations developed and introduced by think tanks, universities and CSOs.  Today she bridges her previous activism with engagement with decision makers such as the Deputy Secretary General/ Director of the Maghreb Economic Forum, an independent think tank called Think-Do-Tank, which works on economic, cultural and political issues in the Maghreb region.

Ines is an activist, teacher, and expert in founding and establishing socially-minded start-ups. Currently based in Tunis, she originally hails from Gabes in Tunisia’s southern region, and became a respected community organizer and advocate through her work with local activist networks during the 2011 revolution.  In May 2012, Ines founded and served as  President of Organisation Volonté et Citoyenneté (Will and Citizenship Organization), a youth-led, post-Revolution NGO formed to promote the importance of civil society, social entrepreneurship and human rights in shaping Tunisia’s future.

Aria Widyanto, Indonesia
U.S. Host Organization: International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
U.S. Placement Organization: City Government of Iowa City, IA
Dates of Fellowship: Spring 2015
Program Theme: Economic Empowerment

Aria Widyanto is the Vice President of Amartha, an Indonesian financial technology startup that focuses its mission towards providing affordable financial access and mentorship to women villagers in the country.  After returning from his fellowship at the Iowa City Manager’s Office, Aria helped Amartha transform from a conventional microfinance institution into one of the largest financial technology lenders in Indonesia.  Operating as a peer-to-peer lending platform, Amartha channels more than US$7 million funds from nearly 5,000 lenders to over 30,000women borrowers living in rural villages in Indonesia.  According to Aria one of the key lessons he learned during his time in the U.S. was what he terms as a fundamental practice of good governance: collaboration among public, private and civic society in development is essential. Aria was therefore convinced that his community problems should not be surrendered to the government solely to solve, but that as a member of the private sector, he also had the responsibility to be part of the change that he wanted to see.  He therefore committed to doing his part.   Aria also actively advocates with the Indonesian Government, NGOs and private sectors to take part in Amartha’s effort in creating justice and equal opportunity for everyone to prosper through his campaign: microlending reimagined.

Toni Panetta, Colorado
U.S. Host Organization: American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL)
Foreign Placement: Philippines
Dates of Fellowship: Spring 2015
Program Theme: Legislative Process and Governance

Toni Panetta serves as deputy director for Susan G. Komen Colorado, where she provides strategic direction and oversight for implementation of the organization’s operations focused on saving lives by meeting the most critical needs in the communities served by Komen Colorado. Ms. Panetta served as a mentor to young political and health policy leaders in the Philippines through the Professional Fellows Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).   Working with one of her Fellows from the Philippines, Ms. Panetta helped with an initiative to train and mentor youth who want to become more active in their communities.  Ms. Panetta was named a 2012 fellow of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) to promote intercultural dialogue between the West and Arab/Muslim societies through meetings with religious and political leaders in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and she participated in the 2nd Annual World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2013.   Ms. Panetta is a political partner with the Truman National Security Project and was appointed to the Denver Women’s Commission by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. K She previously served on the board of directors of the Women’s Lobby of Colorado, a non-governmental organization that lobbies for economic, political, and social opportunities for women.

Tara Parrish, Massachusetts
U.S. Host Organization:  WSOS Community Action Commission/Great Lakes Consortium
Foreign Placement: Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia
Dates of Fellowship: Spring 2015
Program Theme: Legislative Process and Governance

Tara Parrish is a community organizer who has worked for progressive social change in communities across the U.S.  and internationally.  Tara is the currently the Director and Lead Organizer at the Pioneer Valley Project, an organization of people and institutions that  includes congregations, unions and other groups building community and power for justice in Springfield, Massachusetts. Tara has been a host and mentor for the Professional Fellows Program since 2015.  As director of the Pioneer Valley Project, she has hosted fellows from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Uganda, and Rwanda and has provided support and training to participants in the areas of community building, civic engagement and grassroots leadership development. 

At the center of Tara’s work is the belief that all people should have a voice in the political and economic decisions that affect their lives.   Tara has a long track record of bringing diverse groups together to work for a common goal.  In addition to her organizing work, Tara has successfully pursued other interests, which include co-founding the Capitol Cinema Collective and directing the Hartford International Film Festival.  Tara has also worked with grassroots leaders and refugees in South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia to improve educational and economic opportunities for people impacted by conflict.  Tara is a co-founder of Peace in Place, an organization supporting higher education for the youngest survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and bringing Americans to Rwanda to learn conflict resolution and restorative justice practices for building more peaceful American communities.