The Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Development Institute will graduate its next class of community leaders at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 31, at HACC’s Rose Lehrman Arts Center and Theater.
Since 2008, the institute has provided “personal and professional development training for all leaders committed to serving their community.”
While the institute was founded under the auspices of the Interdenominational Ministers Conference of Greater Harrisburg “with the initial intent of establishing a forum for training and equipping young minority professionals to ascend to positions of leadership.
However, since the inaugural 2009 Class, the Institute has attracted participants of varying race, ethnicity and religious beliefs in keeping with Dr. King’s concept of the Beloved Community.”
The institute’s mission, it said, is “To prepare and empower individuals committed to exercising creative leadership to improve conditions in the Greater Harrisburg community and beyond.”
The 2022 graduates are:
Carlos Alejandre was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. He is employed by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Pittsburgh Office, as a Human Relations Representative II. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Science from Penn State University and then went on to pursue a medical degree from Temple University Medical School. Alejandre began his government career with the Department of Human Services. Before joining the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, he served as director of the Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center and Emergency Youth Shelter, as well as vice president of the Juvenile Detention Centers and Alternative Programs, an affiliate of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. Alejandre has played the violin for 27 years and is the founder and first chair violinist of The FH Quartet.
Zahriah Balentine is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. She is a community reporter for PA Media Group – PennLive.com and The Patriot-News. One of the highlights of her career in journalism was serving as the Q&A moderator for the Juneteenth HBG Conference Reception featuring award-winning author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. A 2020 graduate of Jackson State University with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism and a minor in political science, she also played the piccolo in one of the top HBCU marching bands — the Sonic Boom of the South. While attending Jackson State University, she served as the vice president of the National Association of Black Journalist Chapter for two years. She also was a writer for the student-led “Blue & White Flash” campus newspaper.
Anthony Chambers, a Harrisburg native, joined the Air National Guard in December 2013. He graduated Client Systems technician school in November 2014 and received his security+ certification in 2016. He currently serves as a Client Systems Technician with the 271st Combat Communication Squadron, training, mentoring and leading all the airman that pass through. He has deployed in support of Operations “Freedom’s Sentinel” and “Juniper Micron.” In his civilian capacity, he serves as an IT customer support specialist (GS-11) with the 193rd SOW in Middletown where he provides cyber support to 1900 clients using conventional and remote tools to exercise precise customer resolutions, including classified and unclassified network administration to over 1800 various client systems, print services and network appliances. He is studying to complete his master’s degree from Penn State Harrisburg with an expected graduation date of December 2022.
Shalonda M. Cooke, a Philadelphia native, has bachelor’s degree from Temple University in communications and criminal justice. She has acquired extensive experience in the criminal justice and social work field as a police dispatcher, income maintenance caseworker and later as a parole agent for the Philadelphia region. Currently, she serves as a housing investigator with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission where she works to carry out the mission to enforce the PHRA and Fair Housing Laws.
Faye D. Fisher, a native of Harrisburg, is the director of human resources for Dauphin County. She graduated from HACC and Penn State University and began her master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in human resources. She serves as the chairperson of Dauphin County’s Cultural Celebration Committee and served as the board president of the Society of Human Resources Professionals of PA. She is an advocate for change and volunteers her time on various boards and organizations.
Merrick Green is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and lives in Harrisburg. He has a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University in political science and a master’s degree from Colorado Technical University in information technology management. He recently received his Project Management Professional certification from the University of Syracuse, through the Onward to Opportunity Program. He served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force as an Air Battle Manager flying on AWACS and JSTARS and working various staff jobs and several deployments overseas. He is the owner of MG4Tech Consulting and recently has started a nonprofit, Technology 4 ME, created to help children, veterans and elderly people navigate technology. Merrick is the president of the Theta Omicron Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity in Harrisburg. He is the president of the Sigma Investment Group and currently studying for his Charter Financial Consultant Certification.
Earl Harris is a graduate of Howard University, Pittsburgh School of Law, and became a Pittsburgh police magistrate. As a police magistrate, he had begun to implement bail reform. His actions put him at odds with the Pittsburgh police and politicians. Harris practiced law while obtaining his Divinity degree from the Virginia Union School of Theology. Harris said he, “has always been a strong voice for justice, using law and his position as pastor to make real change. He spoke for his community and justice against Hershey Foods and the practice of child labor. He represented his community and their needs regarding the Harrisburg Receivership. He worked with others to bring light to the Harrisburg Federal Courthouse construction contracts.”
Gregory Holts is from Mount Pleasant. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. He also is a student at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry. Prior to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, he worked as a service coordinator for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and licensing technician for the Office of Children, Youth and Families Western Region. He is employed by the PHRC, Pittsburgh Office, as a human relations representative II. He received the PHRC Community Outreach Award. He serves local churches as a licensed minster, leads Bible studies, participates in clothing drives, and community dinners. He is a member of Greater Pittsburgh Area Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder (MAD DADS).
Tettie C. Hunt III, was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He is a human relations representative for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission working out of the Harrisburg office. Before joining the PHRC, he worked as a human resource manager responsible for employee relations. He earned his MBA from Wayland Baptist University, Texas, while serving in the United States Army for 14 years. He is a third-generation minister and loves teaching and making people laugh.
Kurt Jung is the director of enforcement for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Prior to coming to the commission, he worked for the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, where he held positions as an investigator, civil rights trial attorney, enforcement supervisor, state and local program manager and administrative judge. As a trial attorney, he litigated cases in federal court on behalf of aggrieved individuals and the EEOC. In his role as an administrative judge, he was responsible for adjudicating cases filed by federal employees against their agencies. He previously managed the EEOC contracts with 12 state and local Fair Employment Practice Agencies including PHRC. He has been a speaker at community events and programs involving the Asian American/Pacific Islander and deaf communities concerning disability and discrimination law. He is the founder and chair of the board of directors of the West Jersey Music Academy, a nonprofit music school with the mission of bring music instruction and performance to all people, including the disabled, the indigent and the elderly. He is a graduate of Temple University School of Law.
Charlotte Lewis, a native of Harrisburg, attended John Harris High School and Hampton Institute. She was employed by Penn National Insurance Company and ACE American Insurance Company, starting as a business analyst and retiring as an assistant vice president in the Information Technology Department, where she managed projects and people including system programmers. She completed the CPCU, Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter and AIM, Associate in Management certifications from the Insurance Institute of America, as well as discipleship and outreach classes from Church of God Ministries. She is secretary/treasurer of North 17th Street Church of God where she also chairs the leadership team, is leader of the Anointed Sisters (youth praise dance team); works in the food bank ministry; and coordinates outreach programs such as vacation Bible school and a community outreach day event.
Brittany Mellinger serves as the Fair Housing Training and Outreach Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Prior to joining PHRC, she worked at the Housing Equality & Equity Institute at Tenfold, where she worked to foster community housing resources and cultivate fair housing knowledge through partnerships with stakeholders. Prior to jumping into the world of fair housing, she served in a variety of social service roles in the Philadelphia area, implementing trauma-informed practices into programming. She has a master’s degree in public health from Temple University. Mellinger said she “is passionate about the ways that housing impacts the well-being of our communities, and is working towards a day when all Pennsylvanians are able to choose safe and healthy housing that meets their needs.” She and her spouse hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. She lives in Lancaster County.
Darcey Mills joined the Elizabethtown College staff in 2016, after nearly a decade of service with the City Colleges of Chicago. He is a 2018 graduate of the college. Before joining the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging as associate director, he served as associate director of Development Research as a member of the Institutional Advancement Division. Prior to that, he worked with students as an academic advising coordinator within the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. His support of students also involved a period of service within the Office of Financial Aid. He also is a member of the Elizabethtown College Alumni Association.
Paula Eiland Murphy has worked for the Commonwealth for over 20 years, currently serving as the agency liaison for the Department of General Services’ Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities. Her responsibilities include oversight of the Agency Liaison Program where she coordinates diversity and inclusion strategies, planning and collaboration with 26 state government agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction to ensure increased diversity, inclusion and small business opportunities. She serves on the board of the Summit Terrace Neighborhood Association as secretary. She formerly served on the board of the Fair Housing Council of the Capitol Region as chair of human resources. She is the founder of Universal Impact Training Solutions and the “Rock Wha You’ve Got in Excellence” Women’s Empowerment Conference. She is co-founder of the Goodwin Memorial Baptist Church’s Vessels of Worship Adult Dance Ministry in Harrisburg. She has a master’s degree in education from Pennsylvania State University and holds additional degrees in humanities and communications.
Berlesha N. Palmer, born and raised in York, works for HACC in the Office of Human Resources as coordinator of employee relations. Working remotely, she lives in Mooresville, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the Consolidated School of Business, specializing in legal administration, and is enrolled at Johnson and Wales University majoring in human resource management. She fulfills her civic duty by giving back to her community through Bridge of Hope of Harrisburg, a nonprofit helping single mothers and their families reach and maintain stability, through goals focused on housing, education, career and finance.
Zulay Rojas is a clerical assistant with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She said she is one of the first voices residents of the Commonwealth encounter when reaching out to the PHRC Philadelphia Regional Office if they have experienced acts of discrimination or harassment. She served in the Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. And after nine years of serving in the military, she started her journey into civil service. As a criminal justice scholar she discovered the importance of equal rights to all and joined the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Audrey Smith has served as a procurement liaison with the Pennsylvania Department of General Services for five years, supporting the the needs of small, diverse and veteran business. That support includes conducting outreach programs to assist small business and small diverse businesses to actively compete for and be awarded Commonwealth contracts. Prior to joining the Commonwealth, Smith worked in the private sector for over 20 years. Her professional experience includes positions in Fortune 50 companies. She began her professional career as an account manager with Health America. She progressed to training and sales positions with Xerox Corporation, Johnson & Johnson and Grainger. She began her collegiate studies at Lincoln University and completed her bachelor’s degree in humanities at Pennsylvania State University.
Jenny Stalnaker is an intake investigator in the Pittsburgh Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the agency that enforces state laws on discrimination. She lives in Pittsburgh’s Northside with her family. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and serving on the board of her local community group.
Brian Tienter is a lieutenant for the Susquehanna Police Department. He has been a member of the department for 25 1/2 years, serving as a patrol officer, supervisor and as a trainer in numerous subjects. He has developed, or assisted in, numerous training programs and curricula for the department, the training commission and to inform the public. He also instructs at the municipal police academy at HACC and is a veteran of the United States Army, serving as a medic and paratrooper, deploying to Central and South America. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Penn State, and a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management from American Military University.
Veronica Thomas-Gladden has a background in finance, insurance, safety and human resources. She works at HACC as a human resources specialist on the Talent Acquisition Team. She previously worked in career services and academic affairs as an administrative office technician, and as benefits specialist in the Office of Human Resources. She serves on the Next Generation Task Force, the Strategic Enrollment Planning Committee and the Classified Employee Council. She earned a certificate in art and humanities from Franklin and Marshall College and graduated from HACC with a business degree concentrated in management. She plans to continue her studies at Millersville University in the fall of 2022.
Garth Warner is the police chief in Derry Twp., Dauphin County. After graduating from high school, Warner worked at Hershey Park in the security department and there developed an interest in law enforcement. He’s worked for Highspire Borough Police, South Londonderry Township Police, and ultimately Derry Township Police Department. He has served in the department’s traffic safety section and is one of the department’s certified traffic accident reconstructionists. His assignment for over 20 years was in the K9 Unit. He became chief in 2016. He is a member of Dauphin County Chiefs of Police Association (past president and current committee chair), Central Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (current first vice president), Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, and the International Chiefs of Police Association. He is also a member of the North American Police Work Dog Association, PA DUI Association, and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.
Stacey Waters began her career with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission investigating unlawful discrimination in 2008. She attended The Lincoln University and earned a bachelor’s degree in English/liberal arts. She earned her master’s degree in counseling/college student personnel from Shippensburg University. In 2014, she left the commission to work as an equal opportunity specialist at the department of Labor and Industry. In 2018, she joined the Department of Corrections as chief of investigations and training where she continued to investigate unlawful discrimination and provide a variety of trainings. In September of 2021, she returned to PHRC as an education and outreach coordinator educating the community about unlawful discrimination and other relevant topics. She is a member of the Harrisburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
The speaker for the graduation will be Bishop Nathan D. Baxter. Music will be provided by the Rev. Dred “Perky” Scott. The class speaker will be Merrick Green.
Face masks are recommended. A reception will be held afterward. An offering will be accepted.
Anyone over the age of 19 can apply to the institute. Sessions are held virtually on the third and fourth Fridays of each month, January to June, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lead instructor is Keith Ellison, MBA.
Training topics include leadership principles, King’s principles of non-violence, influencing public policy, team building, community mobilization, creating a strategic vision, law and justice, implicit bias training and conflict resolution.
There is a tuition fee but limited scholarships are available. For more information, contact Joseph Robinson Jr., president, Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Development Institute at 717-919-4392 or send an email to [email protected].