Meet the people who make the work happen.
Please use the form for general inquiries. We should respond with 24 – 48 hours and connect you with the appropriate team member.
Elona J Wilson
Elona (she/her) is Next Up’s Executive Director. Through her professional and community-based work, Elona has built a wealth of experience in community organizing, engagement and leadership development, policy and legislative agenda-setting, partner and coalition management, and outreach and communications. Elona comes to Next Up from the Coalition of Communities of Color where she worked as the Advocacy Director to pass impactful legislation like the abolition of post-prison supervision fees. Previously, she worked at Stand for Children, where she helped pass the historic Student Success Act. Experienced in electoral campaigns, including ballot measures and candidate endorsements, Elona has also emerged as a leader in the Reimagine Oregon project, working with Black leaders from diverse backgrounds. Elona grew up in Portland and was a first-generation college graduate, graduating from Pacific University with a degree in early education and is dedicated to ensuring that equity becomes the pillar that holds up our communities here in Oregon.
Movement Building Director
Contact about endorsements and community partnerships
Devin (she/her) is a queer Latina from Los Angeles, CA, and finds revelatory opportunities in community work. Devin has an unwavering commitment to centering Black, Indigenous, people of color, low-income people, LGBTQIA individuals, and youth in their grassroots community engagement work. She obtained dual degrees in Political Science and Women’s Studies from PSU and wrote her thesis on how white supremacy is reproduced through racial grammar. When Devin is not deep in theory or YouTube, you can find her at the spa or overdressed and trying to find any and all warmth in Portland (usually in the form of community, chisme, and food).
Iya C. McSwain
Community Engagement Organizer
Contact about opportunities for ages 13 – 18
Iya (they/them) is a young Black activist, who holds many identities that influence their desire to show up for the community and the future generations to come. Born and raised in Portland, OR, they have dedicated time to understanding the systems of our society and how they impact and have harmfully impacted the communities they belong to, but also the communities that share similar systemic oppression. With this knowledge of systems of power and their own lived experience, they intend to use their passion and longing for a liberated and free world, to push for radical change within the institutions that make our society. Outside of organizing Iya spends much of their time learning how they can practice holistic wellness as a form of radical self/community healing. They are a lover of astrology, literature, music, and nature!
Policy and Communications Director
Contact about policy, advocacy, and media inquiries
Isabela (she/her) is a queer Latina youth advocate and organizer who has been with Next Up since 2018. She received a BA in Community Development from PSU and currently serves on the Board of Directors and steering committee for Participatory Budgeting Oregon. Her experience organizing in high school and subsequent work with culturally specific community organizations instilled in her the power of youth and community work to bring about social and political transformation to marginalized communities. When not at work she enjoys chasing sun spots, reading afro-futurism, and eating anything made out of potatoes (especially curly fries and ajiaco).
Zave (they/he) is a queer Black activist and organizer. Born in Detroit and raised in rural Northwestern Ohio, they moved to Portland in 2021 to attend Reed College. At Reed, Zave is currently a sophomore majoring in Political Science. They have been an active youth leader in their community since middle school, organizing walkouts, protests, and rallies for gun reform, climate change awareness, and social justice issues with OHYCJ (Ohio Youth for Climate Justice) and the organization he co-founded in 2020, RENEW (Rise. Empower. Nurture. Educate. Wake Up!). They are committed to empowering the voices of fellow BIPOC peers as well as encouraging civic participation among youth, and are thrilled to continue to do so at Next Up!
Carolina Ruíz (she/her/ella) studies Hispanic Studies at Lewis & Clark College. This internship drew her in particularly because of Next Up’s mission to empower youth to build political power. She is excited to start working with Next Up and hopes to learn about fundraising and storytelling through an equitable/transformational lens. In her free time, she dances to bachata and salsa and hopes to travel all over the world to learn more about these genres and their diverse styles.
Development and Operations
Contact about donations and sponsorships
Em (they/them) is a queer white person committed to moving resources to grassroots community organizing. As a chapter leader with Resource Generation and then as a board member with Social Justice Fund NW, they have developed organizing and fundraising skills rooted in social justice principles, dedication to redistributing wealth and power, and a belief in personal transformation through collective action. Previously, they held a day job as a software engineer. Outside of organizing and fundraising, they appreciate book clubs, karaoke, beach days with their dog Buster, and personality analysis frameworks (personal stats: Enneagram type 1/INFP/Virgo).
Development and Operations Coordinator
Contact about monthly donations
Charlie (he/him) is a young queer activist from Seattle, WA who is committed to understanding systems of oppression that have impacted and harmed marginalized communities. Before entering the nonprofit sector, Charlie’s experience consisted of being a youth organizer in multiple spaces, voicing gender equality and diversity. In the fall of 2021, Charlie became involved in Next Up as a BSW intern where he worked on restoration of voting rights, voter registration, and fundraising. After graduating with a Bachelors of Social Work and Minor in Gender & Women’s studies, Charlie is pleased to return to Next Up as the Development and Operations Coordinator. In this position, he will prioritize grounding his work in equity and social justice – fostering a sense of belonging and collective power. Outside of work, you can find Charlie hiking, taking photos, or spending quality time with loved ones (especially his two golden retrievers, Tommy and Ralph).
Our Board of Directors is comprised of fierce community advocates who are deeply committed to the success of our organization.
Next Up Board of Directors
Lucy (she/her) is passionate about inclusive public engagement and building political power for underrepresented communities. She brings a variety of skills and experiences from working with the Oregon State Legislature, local community organizations, and a public relations firm dedicated to engaging the public and decision-makers in conversations that define our communities. Lucy is excited about building formidable relationships and working to expand access to political structures for youth and diverse populations in Oregon. *Also serves on the Next Up Action Fund Board
Representative WLnsvey Campos
Wlnsvey (she/her) is the daughter of immigrants and brings knowledge from growing up in Bandon, OR and making her adult life in Aloha. She works as a Case Manager at Family Promise of Beaverton and is the youngest woman ever elected to the Oregon legislature, serving House District 28 (Aloha & Beaverton). She has extensive organizing experience and a desire to see more Latinx representation in public service.
Akasha Lawrence Spence
Akasha (she/her) is a Black, Caribbean American woman who represented SW Portland in the Oregon State Legislature in 2020 and also was a state senator representing District 18 in 2022. She is the Founder & Principal Designer of Fifth Element, and Founder of Melanated. Her work is at the intersections of financial empowerment, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and community stewardship, with an emphasis on frontline communities.
Luis Balderas Villagrana
Luis (he/him) is a first-generation son of immigrants from Mexico and raised in Oregon. He served as Student Body President while at Portland State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2020. Currently, Luis serves as Program & Events Coordinator at Oregon Entrepreneurs Network. He spends his time advocating for immigrant rights, economic justice, and environmental justice.
Kenya (she/ella) is a Latina woman who is committed to pursuing social justice and empowering people from all walks of life. She grew up in Woodburn, Oregon with her first-generation Mexican immigrant family and is a communications professional who served as Next Up’s Interim Executive Director in 2021. *Also serves on the Next Up Action Fund Board
Aanna (she/her) is a second-generation Iranian-American high school student in the Portland area with a passion for all things politics. Aanna is dedicated to advocacy for voting rights and immigration as well as strengthening democracy. She works with immigrants across the world through her internship with Passage Immigration Law and serves on the Vote16USA National Campaign Youth Advisory Board. As the daughter of immigrants, she has the principal desire for people to gain perspective and view the world through a more critical lens. *Also serves on the Next Up Action Fund Board
Our Next Up Board of Directors provides oversight and support to our work. Our Board of Directors is comprised of fierce community advocates who are deeply committed to the success of our organization. They are people with a richness of experience, ranging in age from 16-32.
Next Up Action Fund Board of Directors
Josh (he/him) is a CHamoru and Filipino son from the island of Guam, and is currently a Master of Public Policy student at Portland State University. Studying decolonization and sustainable development, Josh is focused on the movement to restore sovereignty to Guam and the other currently colonized territories of the United States. Eight years an Oregonian, Josh is dedicated to deepening democracy, uprooting oppressive systems, and contributing to a more just, prosperous, and sustainable world. *Also serves on the Next Up Board
Joséluis Jimenez Maldonado
Joséluis (he/him) is a Latino immigrant that grew up in Salem, OR where his work in the community inspired him to take political matters into his own hands. He is a seasoned organizer and teacher, that believes collectively uniting and demanding action and accountability is imperative for political transformation
Senya is a second-generation, Sierra Leonean American, and is a senior at Ida B Wells High School. She was on the committee to change the school’s name from Woodrow Wilson and is also a youth leader in the youth activist group, Friday’s for Freedom. She strives to be a part of what creates the change for Black women in my community, by creating platforms that highlight their voices (Hot Tea with Senya) and facilitating discussion around racial identity.
Anjali (she/her) is a second-generation Sri Lankan American who is committed to civic engagement and social change. She is a current high school student and helps organize Race Forward as a leader of the Equity Team. She organizes around voting rights, social justice, and is passionate about the intersections of mental health and educating young people about racial justice. Anjali recognizes the importance of showing up for the community and works to increase civic engagement among young people in Portland.
Danielle (she/her) is from California and moved to Portland after graduating with a degree in International Agricultural Development and Environmental Issues from UC Davis. She is a committed climate justice organizer and particularly interested in advocating for investments in social infrastructure and a just transition in Oregon and beyond. Her previous work on a Metro Council campaign fueled her love for political engagement, and she is passionate about elevating the voices of young people for the purpose of creating a livable future.
Michelle (she/her) is a mixed, chronically ill, Korean American from California who currently works as a Field Organizer at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) where she lives and loves everything political. She is passionate about creating radical access to resources and movements through community organizing and democracy reform.
Our Next Up Action Fund Board of Directors provides oversight and support to our c(4) work. Our Board of Directors is comprised of fierce community advocates who are deeply committed to the success of our organization. (Additional members are listed under Next Up Board of Directors because they direct both organizations.) They are people with a richness of experience, ranging in age from 16-32.
Hear from our Board
Ep. 1 Joséluis Jimenez
Joséluis is a Latino immigrant who grew up in Salem, OR where his work in the community inspired him to take political matters into his own hands. He is a seasoned organizer and teacher, that believes collectively uniting and demanding action and accountability is imperative for political transformation. Learn more about the Oregon DACA Coalition at oregondacacoalition.org.
Ep. 2 Wlnsvey Campos
Episode 2 of Next Up’s Democracy Done Right Podcast featuring Wlnsvey Campos. Wlnsvey is the daughter of immigrants and brings knowledge from growing up in Bandon, OR and making her adult life in Aloha. She works as a Case Manager at Family Promise of Beaverton, has extensive organizing experience, and a desire to see more Latinx representation in public service.
Past Board Members
Jake Oken Berg
Representative Jefferson Smith
Amy Sample Ward
Lizzy Atwood Wills
Representative Brent Barton
Cyreena Boston Ashby
Representative Ben Cannon
Senator Lew Frederick