All about WeRISE for Greater Westerville

The mission of WeRISE is to eradicate individual and structural racism in the greater Westerville community. This organization will lead collaborative anti-racism efforts, driving meaningful, lasting and equitable change.

WeRISE will:

  • Promote an equity and justice lens in order to dismantle systems of oppression.
  • Advance collaboration with governmental entities, residents, community partners, and institutions to develop coordinated equity and justice efforts.
  • Cultivate learning spaces that further racial healing and normalize a culture of equity and justice.
  • Monitor outcomes to ensure the goal of racial equity and social justice is being achieved

Staff

Vashitta Johnson, Executive Director

Vashitta has 20 years’ experience working in politics, on campaigns, and in policy.

She is currently a doctoral student with aspirations of becoming an economist working to shape and change policies that will fix systemic racism and close the gap that exists between the wealthy and the poor.

As a community organizer, Vashitta’s volunteer experience includes being the President of the WeRise Board, Vice – President for the Westerville Library Foundation Board, and Co-Chair of the Westerville Black Parent Association. Vashitta was also a volunteer at Children Services crisis center for a few years.

Vashitta holds a master’s degree in International Business and a bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration as well an associate degree in Business Management Technology.

Being involved in the community is a passion for Vashitta where she advocates for children, voting rights, lgbtq+ rights, racial equity, abortion rights, and low-income communities. Vashitta has been a resident of Westerville for 11 years and is a mother to two beautiful children ages 7 and 10 who attend Westerville City Schools.

WeRISE Board of Directors

Dr. Tiyi Morris – Board President

Associate Professor of African American and African Studies 

Tiyi Morris is Associate Professor of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University at Newark and a co-founder/co-director of the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project (OPEEP). She is a civil rights historian who studies Black women’s social and political activism. She received her B.A. in African & African American Studies and Liberal Studies from Emory University, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University. Dr. Morris’ research and teaching combines the fields of American History, Black Studies, and Women’s Studies. With this focus, she has taught courses such as 20th century US History; Gender, Sex and Power; The Civil Rights-Black Power Movements; and Social (In)Justice and the Black Experience: An inside-Out Prison Exchange Course. Teaching in African American and African Studies, a discipline that emerged from social justice movements, her curricula underscore the need to create a more just and equitable society. Dr. Morris believes her role as an educator is to help dismantle systems of oppression by liberating the minds of students and empowering them to challenge the oppressions they face and/or perpetuate.

James E. Chaffin – Board Vice President

APM, Quantum Health – Vice Chair

James Chaffin is a long-time resident of Westerville, and currently works as a supervisor at a local healthcare navigation company. Prior to his current position, James worked for Habitat for Humanity International for 14.5 years, serving in multiple roles and leading domestic and international project teams. James and his wife serve as ministers at a Columbus-area church and are raising two daughters – an incoming H.S. freshman and senior in the Westerville City Schools system.

Emily Swanson – Board Treasurer

Emily Swanson is the owner of a consulting business, working with non-profits, private schools,  churches and other organizations all over the country in both the United States and Canada.  She has worked in nonprofit as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society and in the business sector as a Director of Human Resources.

Emily received her bachelor degree from The Ohio State University and her Juris Doctorate from Capital University Law School.  She lives in Uptown Westerville with her husband Mark, her two children, and two golden retrievers who bark at everyone who passes.  

Dr. Dorian Harrison

Assistant Professor of Education, The Ohio State University at Newark

Dr. Dorian Harrison joined the OSU Newark campus in 2019 as an assistant professor of Teaching and Learning. She received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Memphis, M.A. in Learning and Teaching from Lipscomb University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018 with an emphasis on Language and Literature. Dr. Harrison’s research interests center on equity issues in literacy education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning. Drawing on her experiences as a K-6 educator, she seeks to encourage critical approaches to literacy in the classroom. By using theories of critical literacy, diverse literature, and multilingual learners, she works towards impacting classroom practice and preservice teachers in developing skills for literacy instruction in a global world.

Devray Kirkland

Chief Diversity Officer – Cardinal Health 

Devray Kirkland is vice president, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and chief diversity officer (CDO) for Cardinal Health, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company, providing customized solutions for hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories and physician offices worldwide. As CDO, Devray has led the development and implementation of a comprehensive, enterprise-wide diversity strategy through related programs, initiatives, and projects. He also provides direction to business segments on tactical programs and systems related to attracting, retaining, and promoting a diverse workforce. In partnership with the Cardinal Health Executive Committee and Diversity & Inclusion Council, Devray fosters critical dialogue and strategic counsel across the business to progress and sustain an inclusive work culture. He was integral in the formation of both the D&I Council and employee resource groups at Cardinal Health.

He resides in Westerville, Ohio, with his wife, Nicky, and their son, Devray II. Devray is a sports fan, loves traveling, working with the youth community, and most of all – spending time with his family.

Colleen Moidu

Executive Director, Westerville Education Foundation 

Colleen Moidu is a Westerville South Graduate and currently lives in Westerville with her husband and three children. Colleen serves as the Executive Director for the Westerville Education Foundation and co-chaired the 2019 levy campaign for Westerville City Schools. Colleen also serves on Boards for several other community organizations including Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), Kids Voting Ohio and Support Ohio Schools.

James E. Prysock III

Director, Social Justice and Activism at Otterbein University 

James Prysock III is the Director of Social Justice & Activism at Otterbein University. He received a B.A. degree in Sport Management from Otterbein University in 2009 and MBA in 2019. Immediately after college, he began working in an after-school ESL program for Somali refugee elementary and middle school students in Columbus, Ohio. James has developed curriculums that include goal setting, conflict resolution, networking, establishing healthy relationships, trauma informed teaching, civic discourse and identity development. He has implemented these curriculums with students, faculty/staff, community members and companies of varying industries. His experiences include business consulting, event planning, teaching, addressing campus climate needs, increasing alumni engagement, driving community service initiatives, advising student groups and branding organizations.

Judith S. Ridgway, Ph.D.

Asst. Director for Life Sciences Education, The Ohio State University – Secretary

Judy Ridgway, resident of Westerville, Ohio since 1987, is a semi-retired science educator at The Ohio State University. Her professional focus is improving undergraduate biology education, with a particular focus on teaching professional development. Much of her diversity, equity, and inclusion work has been related to investigating and promoting teaching practices that support undergraduate biology learning.

Judy and her husband have enjoyed Westerville as a community and place to raise their two children, who are both alumni of Westerville City Schools. As a result of her personal and professional experiences, Judy finds her work with WeRISE for Greater Westerville to be an important continuation of her dedication to support student success and the health of our community.

Lee Rutherford

Teacher/ELA Department Facilitator, Blendon MIddle School 

Lee Harris-Rutherford is a long-time Westerville resident and proud parent of two Westerville South Wildcats.  She is also a teacher of English Language Arts in the Westerville City School district.  In addition to her work with WeRISE, Lee serves on the board for the Westerville Education Foundation and the Westerville Black Parent Association.  Lee is an active community member who believes strongly in making a positive impact in our community and the lives of our young people. 

Jon C. Walden

Board of Trustees, Westerville Public Library

Jon Walden, a long-time resident of Westerville, works as Chief Legal Counsel and Chief of Staff for the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Jon also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Westerville Public Library. Jon previously worked for one of the top law firms in Central Ohio.

Jon and his wife, Lesley, are raising one child in the Westerville City Schools system and are active in various school volunteer organizations.

Last updated: 1/23/2021