WEC 2019 Awards Dinner
Marie Blistan, a high school special education resource center teacher in Washington Township public schools, is the President of the New Jersey Education Association. Blistan previously served as NJEA’s vice president and secretary-treasurer. She was elected to a two-year term as president effective Sept. 1, 2017 and was re- elected to serve as president from September 2019 until August 31, 2021.
No stranger partnering with like-minded advocates, the effects of Blistan’s leadership resonates in classrooms throughout New Jersey. As one of three founding members the Healthy Schools Now Coalition, she helped spearhead efforts that led the School Development Authority to release funds that would go directly to public schools.
Active in NJEA since early in her career, Blistan served as president of the Gloucester County Education Association. She has held numerous county committee positions and successfully spearheaded opposition to an involuntary pilot program to consolidate all of Gloucester County’s school districts. She was an NJEA consultant in the UniServ and Professional Development and Instructional Issues divisions.
Luke H. Gordon first became a Union member when he went to work at Service Die Cutting in lower Manhattan in 1977. Luke has been a Staff Representative of the United Steelworkers (USW) for the past fourteen years.
Previously, he was an International Representative with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union (PACE), until that union merged with the United Steelworkers of America in 2005. PACE itself was the result of a merger between the United Paperworkers and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, in 1999. Luke had been an International Representative with the Paperworkers since 1985.
Brandon McKoy, President, is the chief executive of NJPP and leads the organization’s efforts in shaping policy debates to advance economic justice for the many, not a chosen few. Prior to being named President of NJPP in February 2019, Brandon served as NJPP’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, where he designed and implemented the organization’s outreach, advocacy, and government relations activities. He also produces timely, credible and accessible research and analysis on issues including, but not limited to, economic security, the social safety net and economic opportunity.
Brandon’s research interests include: state tax policy, the minimum wage, paid sick leave, the earned income tax credit, urban planning and criminal justice.
Doug O’Malley is director of Environment New Jersey, representing more than 20,000 dues-paying citizen members. Doug has worked on multiple environmental issue fronts over the last 18 years in Trenton.
His work has focused on campaigns to fast-track New Jersey’s clean energy economy via off-shore wind, solar and energy efficiency programs, to keep New Jersey in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program and expand clean hybrid, low-emission and electric vehicles across the state.
Elizabeth “Liz” Smith is the Executive Director of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee (SEOC). SEOC is a grassroots organization with a mission to educate and organize parents, students and community members to address issues of educational equity and improving student outcomes. She had been involved in the organization as a volunteer, member and Board member before assuming the role as Executive Director.
Her community organizing career began when she served as a co-facilitator for a Smart Growth School Project in Plainfield. She later became an organizer for the West End Community Revitalization Project in Plainfield directed by Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She went on to serve as an organizer for the community organization – Plainfield Organization for West End Revitalization.
Yolanda Hernández is a parent activist and the founder of Unidos por Escuelas Dignas, a New Brunswick parent advocacy group. She was born in Mexico in 1987, and immigrated to the US in 2006. She is married with three young children. Her oldest son, who is starting second grade, was the reason why she began to ask why children are forced to study in hot, unhealthy classrooms. What she learned was devastating, and led her to form the campaign that became Unidos por Escuelas Dignas in September 2018.
Kason Little of Elizabeth, NJ serves as the youngest Community Leader in Elizabeth’s history. Ever since the age 12, Kason has been an active and involved leader, activist and “rising star”. During the beginning of his high school career, he took the initiative in serving the Elizabeth School System as a Student Advocate to his peers, parents and the entire community. Kason has always aided and assisted the community whenever problems arises or to be an empowering voice of change.