2024 Forward Leadership Program Overview

Project partner: VertueLab

VertueLab is an Oregon-based nonprofit organization fighting climate change by providing funding and holistic entrepreneurial support to climate tech startups.

VertueLab supports the creation of climate tech startups with innovative training, critical services, and access to capital provided to emerging inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, not to only help address the climate crisis but capture a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create lasting positive economic impact in the region.

The critical challenges VertueLab is addressing include: scarce funding for early-stage climate tech startups placing promising solutions at risk, Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs are rarely the recipient of capital investments, and a small percentage of climate tech businesses are owned and/or founded by Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs. 

Through the Forward Leadership Program, VertueLab is seeking help to develop and implement a campaign to tell the story of Pacific Northwest Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Inventors.

2024 Forward Leadership Program Scholars

Abikaila Ki is an undergraduate student at Warner Pacific University majoring in Social Science and minoring in Business Administration. She was born in the Mae Ra Moe refugee camp just inside the Thai border, and her family arrived in Portland in July 2010. As a first-year college student, Abikaila has worked hard to graduate from Reynolds High School, and in 2018, she started her college journey. In addition to her passion for learning, Abikaila enjoys volunteering and lending a hand to the community. She takes pride in taking chances and taking calculated risks to attempt new things that inspire her and others. She loves to spend time with her family and friends when she is not studying or volunteering. Abikaila also likes to visit her sister and go on new adventures.

Julie Louangchoumphonh is a second-year student at Oregon State, where she is pursuing a degree in Human Development and Family Science with a specialization in Human Services. Her dedication and tenacity are focused on fighting for equality, establishing an environment free from discrimination and racial stereotypes. As a member of the Honors College Inclusive Excellence Plan and a volunteer at the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center, Julie aspires to leverage her newfound knowledge to encourage everyone to recognize their capabilities beyond societal assumptions. Drawing from her personal experiences, Julie finds inspiration in her nephews and the individuals who have aided her throughout her challenging journey to self-improvement. Julie is determined to demonstrate that she is the architect of her own destiny as she feels proud of her present accomplishments and future aspirations.

2024 Forward Leadership Program Mentors

With her family hailing from Hawaii, Lavina grew up spending the summers of childhood and formative years visiting her grandparents on the island of Oahu. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Portland State University, Lavina began her career at the university in the Admissions office. She has navigated through various departments since 2016 including the PSU Dental Office, the Diversity & Multicultural Student Services, Registration and PSU New Student Programs. Lavina’s current role is the University Welcome Center Coordinator. 

Lavina has stayed close to her heritage and community by serving on boards for various campus organizations (including the Pacific Islanders Club and Kaibigan) throughout her undergrad and continues to support the Pacific Islanders Club with their annual luau by using her training as a Polynesian dancer to teach them dances to showcase. Outside of her commitment to PSU and its students, Lavina has an 8-year-old white Labradoodle named Ninkasi. Lavina will begin her journey as a Mentor in the 2024 Forward Leadership Program today!

Dr. Christie Dudley is a bi-racial adoptee who was born in South Korea and adopted at 3 months old. She’s the oldest of 7 and the only one to graduate from high school who eventually obtained a doctorate in educational leadership from George Fox University in 2017. For the last 23 years, she has and continues to serve in leadership roles in PK-20 public education in Washington and Oregon with a passion in creating equitable learning experiences for BIPOC students and educators.

Additionally, she is the CEO & owner of CM Intellilead which is an organization Cultivating Inclusive Excellence through Strategic Partnerships across learning entities. She envisions a more just and peaceful world through a collective action of IDENTITY strong people. She believes mentoring does just that as it creates unifying spaces where diverse identities feel belonged as they are seen, heard and cared for the valuable assets they are.

Program Results

Daisyli Dick, Min Uk Jeong (Left to Right)

$6,000 Scholarship for Team The 3 Ps

What the Team has to say:

“Over three months in the program, I experienced teamwork, humility, and time-management skills. I balanced my schoolwork during the week, and set aside an hour of time every Wednesday to meet with my group and mentor, Ashlan.”

“I learned how to filter out a large data set to variables using pivot tables and equation shortcuts for calculating an average or count of data set.”

“The program helped me network with like-minded people with the same interests as me.”

“With this experience, it gave me confidence and motivation I couldn’t get anywhere else. I am very confident in using excel to create graphs and understand bigger data.”

“I have learned how to communicate effectively and worked under stressful situation. This project helped me learn dedication and self-actualization.”

“… had it not been for this experience, I wouldn’t learned about the eviction rate here in the Multnomah County. The knowledge, experience and confidence, I owe it all to this incredible experience.”

Andrew Jackson, Anita Tang (Left to Right)

$3,000 Scholarship for Team The A Team

Team Reflection:

“Working with my partner in the A-Team, I was able to lean on him to offer support when my nerves were getting the better of me and I was able to do the same for him.”

“[I have learned that] it’s important to advocate for myself and take action rather than wait for someone to check-in.”

“[I have learned that] building a rapport with my teammate(s) needs to be a focus at the beginning of the project process to help each other get comfortable communicating with one another to move forward with the project.”

“[I have learned that] keeping my ego in check; asking for help when needed and admitting when I don’t know something are important parts of being a leader.”

“Navigating through work, school, and anything in general post COVID — has proven to be a difficult yet worthy learning experience for me. Participating in this project was a true testament of perseverance to me.”

“… the great resources API Forward offered in providing help, and any needed accommodations. It all made for a good project environment.”