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2024 Breakout Sessions

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Morning Breakout 1
(10:30 AM - 11:30 AM)

Grand Ballroom

Regional Climate Collaboratives
from the Ground Up

Greater Cincinnati is now home to the largest RCC in the country (that's Green Umbrella!) but the model is one that has been used across the country for over a decade to coordinate communities to take decisive action in the face of climate change. This panel will bring together leaders who run collaboratives at the metropolitan, state and multi-state level to share what RCCs look like on the ground and how they structure their programming for high impact in urban, rural and suburban communities. You will walk away with next steps for getting involved in an existing RCC in your community or practical steps to start a new one.

Speakers TBA Soon!!

Junior Ballroom A

Empowering Communities to Drive Change:
The RISE Communities Air Sensor Program

Levels of particulate matter (PM) are often higher in environmental justice (EJ) communities. Low-cost air quality sensors may provide measures of air pollution for these neighborhoods, but community members face technical challenges when using these sensors.

The Research Innovations using Sensor Technology in Environmental Justice Communities (RISE Communities) was formed with three specific aims: 1) foster community-academic partnerships through education, training, and team development, 2) provide technical training for low-cost, outdoor air monitoring in EJ communities, and 3) establish a community of practice to address air quality.


The session will be moderated by Jackie Knapke, who will describe the content of our free, annual training in team science, sensor data collection, analysis and visualization, community-engaged research, and use of air sensors. Program participant panelists will share experiences with the training and current projects, focusing on strengths that enable successful project partnerships and overcoming logistical barriers.

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Andrea Ankrum

Infection Control Practitioner - Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Andrea Ankrum has BS and MS degrees in microbiology, an MS in Epidemiology and is currently working on a PhD in Epidemiology from the department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati. Andrea has worked as a clinical microbiologist for 12 years and currently works in infection prevention and control at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Andrea has been the Environmental Health Chair of the Northern KY Sierra Club, a local chapter of the national Sierra Club, since 2021. The Sierra Club consists of volunteers who are passionate about enjoying, exploring, and protecting our planet. The Environmental Health Chair’s role is to assist local communities in addressing pollution issues affecting air, water, and soil. Andrea is the project manager for an air quality study in Newport, KY in collaboration with the Clifton Neighborhood Association and the Federal EPA Region 4.

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Meriel Vigran

Environmental Epidemiologist - City of Cincinnati Health Department

Meriel Vigran is an Epidemiologist for the City of Cincinnati Health Department focusing on Environmental Health. In her current role, Meriel has worked on public health analytics, research and policy reform, infectious disease control, process improvement, and project management on large-scale public health initiatives such as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and COVID-19 response. As an advocate for environmental justice, the focus of her work is to solve complex public health challenges regarding human and environmental rights through data-informed approaches and the strategic development, scaling, and optimization of programs and policies. She strives to use her work to improve the health and quality of life for the people of Cincinnati.

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Josh Tunning

Executive Director - ReNewport  

Josh Tunning is the current Executive Director of ReNewport, a small non-profit community development organization based in Newport, Kentucky that is dedicated to equitable community based development. Josh received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Northern Kentucky University and his Master of Public Administration from Northern as well. Josh is an active volunteer in the community and especially with the neighborhood association of WestNewport, the Westside Citizens Coalition in ensuring residents are involved in city decisions and are able to make direct impacts in their community.

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Stacy Porter

Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies - Wittenberg University

Stacy Porter is an assistant professor in environmental science at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Her current research focus entails both local impacts of climate change and the history of global climate. She received her B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from University of North Carolina-Asheville. She investigated the effects of ship emissions on coastal landscapes and received her M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. She then received her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from The Ohio State University working on ice core paleoclimatology as well as education and outreach. Stacy’s current research looks at how climatic changes in the Arctic impact extreme weather events over the mid-latitudes and Ohio’s climate. She also works with her students to understand how climate change directly affects the health and well-being of the Springfield community. Stacy is also engaged in outreach efforts to communicate the science of human-caused climate change.

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Jackie Knapke (Moderator)

Assistant Professor - University of Cincinnati

Dr. Jackie Knapke is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She is a researcher with specialization in curriculum development, learning theory, program evaluation, and mixed methodology with an emphasis on qualitative methods. In addition, she conducts research in primary care education, including effective recruitment methods, pipeline engagement, and quality improvement for clinicians related to patient care and outcomes in cardiovascular health. She has worked in research education for over 15 years and is a principal investigator of the NIH-funded RISE Communities grant, a program aimed at training community-academic research teams in using low-cost air sensors to monitor air quality in environmental justice communities.

Junior Ballroom B

Advancing Clean Energy Finance: National, State & Local Strategies for Federal Funding

New federal funding opportunities are available at an unprecedented rate under the Inflation Reduction Act. Strategies and new financing programs are being developed to subsidize clean energy and energy efficiency improvements that enable healthier communities throughout the Midwest. Learn more about programs taking shape in your state to improve public health, reduce severe levels of energy burden, and support economic development in traditionally underserved communities. The conversation will also center on capacity building, strategic partnerships, market barriers for implementation, and your questions, challenges, and opportunities. This is part 1 of a 2-part Clean Energy Finance Track sponsored by the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority.

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Tom Hucker

Senior Consultant - U.S. Department of Energy

Tom currently serves as a Senior Consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy, working with state and local officials to access the unprecedented funding for the nation’s clean energy transition. Previously, Tom served in the Maryland General Assembly for eight years, where he authored over 40 state laws, including Maryland’s original offshore wind energy mandates, stormwater protections, and groundbreaking laws to address mercury and arsenic. Tom served eight years on the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council, where he was elected by his colleagues to serve as President of the County Council and the Board of Health. There, Tom championed groundbreaking initiatives that removed lead from drinking water, expanded public transit, authorized community solar, and expanded transit-oriented development. Tom currently serves on Maryland’s State Commission that oversees rail, bus and paratransit for the Washington region, and served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

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Christina O'Keeffe

Executive Director - Ohio Air Quality Development Authority

Christina O’Keeffe serves as the Executive Director of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA). She was appointed to the position by the Authority members in October 2018. O’Keeffe is a recognized energy and air quality expert with 20+ years of leadership experience at the local, state and national levels. She brings to OAQDA extensive knowledge in sustainability, economic development, policy and financing. As Executive Director, O’Keeffe provides the strategic direction and focus in fulfilling the mission of the Authority as an independent, non-regulatory state agency that provides financial and technical assistance for projects contributing to cleaner air. She oversees all financial transactions and develops new programs to ensure the environmental infrastructure financing needs of the State are met by maximizing the use of OAQDA’s financing. Prior to joining OAQDA, O’Keeffe served in leadership positions for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the State of Ohio’s energy office.

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Chris Meister

Executive Director - Illinois Finance Authority

Chris Meister is the Executive Director of the Illinois Finance Authority/Climate Bank and a proud member of Governor JB Pritzker’s Administration. Notable collective accomplishments include: - Climate Bank Impact: From 2022-2023, IFA/Climate Bank mobilized approximately $627 million in private capital for climate finance projects, 54% of which are in or benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. - Federal Funding: Submitted/participated in at least nine federal funding applications/awards. To date, received $60 million in federal awards, with more anticipated. USDOE Loan Programs Office designated IFA/Climate Bank as a State Energy Financial Institution. Multiple public stakeholder engagement sessions regarding federal funding opportunities. - IFA Commercial PACE Program: In 2022, IFA formed the C-PACE Open Market Initiative, an Illinois nonprofit corporation and component unit of IFA, to administer the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program for counties and municipalities. - Clean Water Initiative: $2.6B issued of ‘AAA’-rated Illinois Environmental Protection Agency State Revolving Fund Bonds with diverse teams/best execution.

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Luke Sulfridge

Executive Director - Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council

Luke Sulfridge has served as SOPEC’s Executive Director since 2019. SOPEC is governed by the thirty-six different government entities it serves. Approximately 1 TWh of annual load is served by SOPEC. All SOPEC CCA electric programs are 100% green, and 100% are predicted to save against their respective standard service offers resulting in estimated tens of millions in savings. SOPEC is a council of governments serving as a shared energy office focused on sustainability. SOPEC has secured millions this year in renewable energy and electric transportation grants for the benefit of its communities and beyond. SOPEC also provides technical assistance to its members. Sulfridge holds a BA in Political Science from Berea College, an MA in Political Science from Appalachian State University, and an MS in Emergency Management from Eastern Kentucky University.

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Oliver Kroner (Moderator)

Director, Office of Environment & Sustainability - City of Cincinnati

Oliver Kroner is the Director of City of Cincinnati Office of Environment & Sustainability. His work focuses on climate science and urban policy, including energy, transportation, waste, and food systems. He has served in the office since 2016, leading collaboration of government and community partners to advance and track the sustainability, equity, and resilience strategies of the Green Cincinnati Plan. He has presented his work around the world, including the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, ICLEI World Congress, National League of Cities, Project Drawdown, International Congress on Sustainability Science & Engineering, GreenBuild, and more. His recent non-profit board rolls focused on sustainability and community development include the US Green Building Council LEED for Cities Working Group, Mill Creek Alliance, and Sew Valley. He is a graduate of Miami University and Northeastern University, and a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Junior Ballroom C

Moving CPG Forward: 
Planning for a More Circular Future

We live in a world with finite resources. Moving from a linear economy to a circular one allows us to use those resources more efficiently. Consumer packaged goods, especially those expected to have a long shelf life, like beauty products and home goods, present opportunities for new models of consumption. This discussion will showcase how reuse, in a variety of forms, fits in as one of the solutions to reducing waste & carbon in Cincinnati, the Midwest, and across the country. 


Coming from the point of view of a brand, a retail outlet, a collective, and a multinational corporation, all of the presenters are actively engaged with the solutions they are discussing and will present tangible actions and models that other businesses can use to reduce waste and carbon in the short term. The goal of the panel is to provide a diverse perspective on reuse as a sustainable solution.

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Lindsey McCoy

CEO & Co-Founder - Plaine Products

Lindsey McCoy is co-founder and CEO of Plaine Products, which offers premium personal care products in aluminum bottles that can be returned, refilled and reused. She was inspired to start Plaine Products after spending 10 years working on environmental education in the Bahamas, islands full of single-use plastic. All of the products are vegan, non-GMO, cruelty-free, biodegradable, color-safe and free of parabens, sulfates and toxins, good for the body and the planet. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio Plaine Products is B Corp and a member of 1% for the Planet. Lindsey has a master’s degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs from Indiana University. She is currently on the Board of Plastic Ocean Project and a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby.

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Gabrielle Buckley

Founder - Fill More Waste Less

Gabrielle Buckley is the founder of Fill More Waste Less (FMWL) an organization that offers sustainable resources and values community above all else. She has spent the past 4 years learning and growing right alongside those who support FMWL and is honored to be able to continue to add to the conversation about living sustainably and be of service to the community.

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Todd Cline

Senior Director of Sustainability - Procter & Gamble

Todd Cline is Senior Director of Sustainability for Procter & Gamble’s North American Fabric Care organization. In this role, Todd is responsible for leading the sustainability ambitions and programs to achieve them for industry leading brands such as Tide, Gain, Downy, Dreft, and Bounce. He plays a critical role in leading sustainability efforts, including focus on cold water cleaning, reducing overall emissions, and design of Tide Purclean, the first plant-based detergent with the cleaning power of Tide. Prior to joining the North American Fabric Care team, Todd spent more than 20 years in a variety of R&D leadership roles at P&G and has led product innovation launches across the U.S. and Europe. Todd earned an MBA from Xavier University and a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky.


Jaime Durheim 

Founder - Refillery Collective

Jaime Durheim is the founder of the Refillery Collective, an online platform that provides resources, tools, support, and valuable connections to help refill store owners build a profitable business and make a bigger impact in their community. With a refillery directory that anyone can search by zip code to find their nearest refill store, Jaime is able to connect local residents to 600+ refill stores across the United States and Canada so they can easily make sustainable changes in their home. Jaime brings refillery owners together to share best practices and connects them with sustainable vendors who are transparent in the life cycle of their products. A native Wisconsinite, Jaime now lives in Florida with her husband, 3 daughters, and dog.

Junior Ballroom D

Grow Your Own: Nurturing the Next Generation of Green Leadership

As part of the Green Cincinnati Plan, Cincinnati Public Schools is working towards 100% of our schools having “safe and accessible outdoor learning spaces” by 2028. We are also collaborating with partners to “amplify the local workforce” to meet the demands of a green economy. We are fast approaching that first goal through our partnership with Green Umbrella and the Green Schoolyards Action Network. But, how do we develop a workforce that’s ready for future green jobs? We give preschoolers garden towers, build pollinator gardens on elementary school yards, and have high-school students practice animal husbandry. Cincinnati’s green future is being built every day in the green spaces and outdoor classrooms of Cincinnati Public Schools. Join students and teachers as they discuss the regional importance and personal relevance of their experiences in CPS green spaces.

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Kendra Alexander

Educator - Aiken New Tech High School 

ELL and Agriculture Career Tech Pathway Educator Character strengths: Appreciation of Beauty, Honesty, Love, Gratitude, Curiosity B.A. Middle Grade Education in Language Arts and Social Studies M.Ed. Reading (K-12 Reading Endorsement) M.Ed. Literacy and Second Language Studies (TESOL Endorsement)

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Aaron Parker 

Educator - Aiken New Tech High School 

28th year as an Educator in TESOL, Agriculture, Science, and Social Studies. Agriculture Career Tech Educator, Cross Country Coach, and FFA Advisor. Language Strengths: English. Character Strengths: Creativity, Curiosity, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Honesty, and Humor.

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Student - Aiken New Tech High School

Asifiwe Shema

7th grade Agriculture Career Tech Pathway Student in her 1st year. Middle School FFA leadership at Aiken. Honor Roll Student. Congolese-Burundian Heritage. Language Strengths: Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and English.

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Peregrina Sanchez-Jose

Student - Aiken New Tech High School

Senior Agriculture Career Tech Pathway Student in her 4th year. President of Aiken FFA. Honor Roll Student. Varsity Soccer. Guatemalan Heritage. Language Strengths: Spanish, Mam, K’iche, English. Character Strengths: Gratitude, Love, Love of Learning, Fairness, Honesty

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Aminata Sarr

Student - Aiken New Tech High School 

7th grade Agriculture Career Tech Pathway Student in her 1st year. Middle School FFA leadership at Aiken. Honor Roll Student. Malian Heritage. Language Strengths: Bambara, English.

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Diana Matias-Pano

Student - Aiken New Tech High School 

Senior Agriculture Career Tech Pathway Student in her 4th year. Vice- President of Aiken FFA. Honor Roll Student. Varsity Soccer. Guatemalan-Mexican Heritage. Language Strengths: Spanish and English. Character Strengths: Leadership, Kindness, Fairness, Social Intelligence, Teamwork.

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Dr. Sarah Tierney (Moderator)

Director of Instructional Equity - Cincinnati Public Schools

Over the last 26 years, Dr. Sarah Tierney has worked in urban, public school settings in a range of roles from reading teacher to the coordinator of district magnet programs. Currently, she serves as the Director of Instructional Equity for Cincinnati Public Schools. Her mission is to prepare students for opportunities and experiences beyond graduation in order to end generational poverty.

Morning Breakout 2
(11:30 AM - 12:30 PM)

Grand Ballroom

Navigating the Federal Funding Ecosystem for Climate Action

This interactive workshop offers participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and practical knowledge in navigating the complex federal funding ecosystem for climate action projects. The workshop will guide participants in identifying and securing the most suitable federal funding opportunities for their climate action initiatives through a step-by-step process. By outlining project ideas, conducting research and analysis, and engaging in group discussions, participants will gain insights into the importance of securing federal funding and learn how to assess and evaluate funding opportunities. The workshop aims to bridge the gap between vision and action by empowering participants to transform their climate action visions into tangible projects. Participants will actively navigate the complex federal funding ecosystem, gaining practical knowledge and experience in identifying suitable funding opportunities for their climate action initiatives.

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Cassandra Clevenger

Deputy Director - Power a Clean Future Ohio

Cassandra Clevenger (she/they) has successfully raised and built capacity for community projects, businesses, and coalitions. Her expertise in leading projects has resulted in numerous successful initiatives that have positively changed the communities she serves. As the Deputy Director of Power a Clean Future Ohio (PCFO), she oversees many aspects of the organization's day-to-day operations. Some of her responsibilities include financial management, managing federal awards, program development, and coordinating the Infrastructure Grant Assistance Program.


Alyssa Johnson

Program Manager - Power a Clean Future Ohio

Alyssa Johnson (she/her) is a Program Manager with Power a Clean Future, joining the PCFO team in September 2023. At PCFO, Alyssa supports communities that are actively working to reduce GHG emissions through program delivery and coalition building. Before joining the PCFO team, Alyssa completed a two-year fellowship with The George Gund Foundation, where she supported grant-making across the foundation, with a particular focus on the Climate and Environmental Justice program area. Her previous work experience includes managing service and civic engagement programming for the Office of Student Life at Ohio State University. She is a two-time alumna of AmeriCorps NCCC, where she supported and worked alongside nonprofits across the southwestern United States.


Matt Stephens-Rich

Director of Technical Services - Electrification Coalition

Matt is Director of Technical Services for the Electrification Coalition. Matt oversees the implementation of Electrification Coalition programming, focused on rapid electric vehicle and charging adoption across public and private sectors to improve America's energy security and reduce emissions. Overall, these programs are focused at working with various public, private, and non-profit partners at local, state, and federal levels; accelerating deployment of EVs and charging, at-scale. This work also includes the development of various tools and resources, such as the Dashboard for Rapid Vehicle Electrification (DRVE) Tool, EV Funding Finder, and EV Purchasing Collaborative.

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Elena Stachew

Director of Operations - Citadel Impact Consulting

Elena Stachew, based in Cleveland Ohio, is Director of Operations and Lead of Sustainability & Environment at Citadel Impact Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in growing capacity and impact of mission-based organizations and social enterprises. As part of Citadel, Elena works with Power A Clean Future Ohio (PCFO) as a Northeast Ohio Strategy Consultant, working with 16+ cities in project planning, scoping, and implementation in the areas of clean energy, energy efficiency, transportation electrification, and land use that contribute to wide-scale decarbonization. Additional experience and expertise include polymer science & materials science, mining & manufacturing, humanitarian engineering, human-centered design, and corporate sustainability. Elena is completing her PhD in Integrated Biosciences and Biomimicry, focused on hybrid biological–engineering approaches to coastal restoration in the Great Lakes. Elena has been a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum since 2017, a Climate Reality Project Leader since 2022, and a Climate Fresk facilitator since 2023.

Junior Ballroom A

Co-Creating Space for People and Wildlife in an Urban Neighborhood

Thriving urban green spaces aren’t just important for wildlife – they can play a major role in the health, safety, and overall wellbeing of people. As we seek to create vital habitat in increasingly urbanized spaces, taking a holistic approach informed by the perspectives and experiences of neighboring communities is crucial. Speakers will share the story of how the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden worked collaboratively with Avondale neighbors and other local organizations to transform a nearby park from a high-crime, low-use idle green space to a family-friendly, ecologically valuable community space. This session will highlight the importance of relationship-building, acknowledging power dynamics, and practicing humility, while also recognizing the impact of systemic racism and red-lining on under-resourced neighborhoods and the people and wildlife who live there.

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Mollie O'Neil

Director of Community Partnerships in Conservation - Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Mollie O’Neil is the Director of Community Partnerships in Conservation for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden where she co-creates with communities a variety of experiences, opportunities and landscapes for people and wildlife to coexist and thrive. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Cincinnati and her Master of Arts in Zoology from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly Advanced Inquiry Program, a global network of premier organizations working to co-create new solutions to the vital social and ecological issues of our time. Mollie is passionate about community-building, creating habitat for pollinators, birds, and other beneficial wildlife, connecting people with job opportunities, and expanding access to nature for health and well-being.


Jamar Batchelor

Founder - Neighborhood Heroes 513 

Jamar Batchelor (Batch) is a long-time resident and advocate in Avondale. He started Neighborhood Heroes 513 as someone who grew up in a community that experiences gang-related violence, drug use, and high crime rates because he wanted to change the narrative of urban communities, especially Irving Street. His work with youth in Avondale is driven by not wanting them to experience the same things he did growing up in Avondale, and he encourages young people to be leaders instead of followers and instead of becoming a statistic.


Officer LaDon Laney

Neighborhood Liaison, Avondale District 4 - Cincinnati Police Department


Junior Ballroom B