Meet The Faces Of Rising Earth

We're fueled by an amazing group of enthusiastic educators, activists, researchers, artists, and youths. We believe in the reciprocal relationship of gifts that humans and all other living systems share.




Lauren Wigo - Visionary, Co-Founder, and Producer

Lauren is a mother, activist, and movement educator. For over twenty years she has incorporated body work, experiential anatomy, yoga, and meditation into her private practice. Her work helps clients understand and identify their movement patterns and provides support for new pathways of moving and being. Through the years she's also had the privilege of teaching the awareness practices of yoga and meditation to youth organizations like The Door, The Lower Eastside Girls Club and various New York City schools. 

After finding most of her free time dedicated to environmental activism, the ideas and desires to be involved with youths and the environment led to the creation of Rising Earth. Lauren is the main writer for the graphic series and all around producer for the organization. She is thrilled to be involved in work that will help youths understand and cherish our Earth’s finite resources and become the ones to shift our patterns of impact towards a more positive pathway for this and future generations. 


Maggie Chang - Co-Founder, Art Director, and Producer

As an artist and educator, Maggie has written several, interdisciplinary art curriculums for the New-York Historical Society and has helped hundreds of teen artists at LaGuardia Arts High School (aka New York City's acclaimed "Fame" school) develop their artistic skills and harness them for good. With her remaining hours, she's led the non-profit, Orange Giraffe Project, in guiding a multitude of people living with cancer to transform and celebrate their bodies through personalized jewelry making. Maggie recently received an AmeriCorps Leadership Award from Comcast NBCUniversal, and she was honored by the School Arts League with a Mentorship Award.

Maggie is currently working on projects that cultivate empathy and empowerment and that bring important stories to life through art, including her own children's books and organizations like Rising Earth. For Rising Earth, she guides the art team in creating its graphic novels, from manuscript edits to sketches to final art, and oversees the curriculum writing team. She also supervises the youth programs and is an all around collaborator, having played an integral part in establishing the organization as a non-profit. Maggie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University's Teachers College. 


Isabel Marte - Production Assistant

Isabel is recent graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, where she majored in 3D Animation with an immersion in Portuguese. Although her studies were in animation, graphic design has remained a significant part of her life. At RIT, Isabel was involved in the Desano Language Documentation Project with linguist Wilson Silva, who works on the documentation of the language of an indigenous group named Desano located in Brazil. Their goal was to gather more interest within the Desano community to preserve their language, which Isabel assisted with by creating animations for their traditional spoken stories. She even got to travel to Brazil to work on this project and meet the community.

Isabel’s goal is to use her love of graphic design and animation to teach others in a more interesting and entertaining way. She keeps the Rising Earth team organized and assists on just about every part of the organization. (She's also the artist who drew the team portraits!)


Joseph Baiz - Production Assistant

Joseph Baiz is a citizen of the Comanche Nation and a descendant of the Onondaga, Oneida, and Otoe-Missouria nations. Originally from Syracuse, New York, he is currently studying for his PhD in linguistics at the University at Buffalo, with an emphasis on the indigenous languages of North America.

In 2014, he received a BA in linguistics and a Certificate in Iroquois Linguistics from Syracuse University. Having a lifelong interest in storytelling and creative writing, he is excited about the possibility of art and story to communicate an indigenous view of the relationship between humans and the natural world.




Nguyen Tran - Graphic Novel Sketch Artist and Storyboard Artist

Nguyen is an illustrator whose wide range of happy clients include The New York Times, Amazon Education, and Elle Magazine. His works have been recognized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators LA, Applied Arts Magazine, and more. He also has experience with non-profits doing creative work for the Chicago Children's Theatre.

Originally from Vietnam, Nguyen is a kind human being who lives and works in Chicago, IL. When he is not drawing and illustrating, you can find him playing and coaching table tennis professionally.

See more of his work at


Julia Yellow - Graphic Novel Artist

Julia is a New York based illustrator and designer from the tiny little island Taiwan and graduated from Savannah College of Art & Design.

Julia's clients include: The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Scientific American, Ogilvy & Mather, Houstonia Magazine, Il Corriere della Sera, Eastern Publishing, Liberty Times, Mandarin Daily News. Her work has been recognized by: PRINT Magazine 2014 Top 20 under 30, Society of Illustrators NY, Society of Illustrators LA, Applied Art Magazine, CMYK Magazine #55, American Illustration #31, 3x3, Greater China Illustration Awards, Addy Awards.

See more of her work at




Eris Johnson-Smith - Civics and Community Engagement Educator

Eris earned his BA in Creative Writing and African American Studies from Hampshire College and his Master's degree in the John W. Draper program in Humanities and Social Thought at NYU. Eris currently supervises curriculum development for high school and middle school programs and trains Global Kids staff in youth and program development. Global Kids is an internationally recognized youth development and global education non-profit and one of its primary goals is to develop youth to lead the movement to address climate change and create a more sustainable world.

While working in schools, Eris developed and facilitated programs that provided students with opportunities to address climate change and sustainability in their communities. Eris also co-led student trips to Costa Rica and New Orleans that focused on youth action and leadership in response to climate change and environmental racism.


Molly Stern - Mathematics Educator

Molly has taught math in NYC public and charter schools, most recently at Academy for Young Writers, where she was the Math Department Chair and an instructional coach for fellow math teachers. She has a B.A. in mathematics from Boston College and an M.S. in mathematics education from Pace University. Molly has extensive experience developing and teaching inquiry-based math curriculum.

She is especially passionate about math coaching because she believes that helping to ensure that all students in public schools experience excellent, rigorous, inquiry-based mathematics instruction is one way to address the systemic inequities of the public school system.


Derek Dubossi - Environmental Science Educator

Derek Dubossi is an Advanced Placement Environmental Science educator at the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art & the Performing Arts in New York City. During the summers, He works as a research mentor with the Secondary School Field Research Program at Columbia University, where he co-authored a scientific poster “Sediment Accretion in a Hudson River Saltwater Marsh”. He earned a Master’s of Arts in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

 Derek was awarded a Fund for Teachers grant to study the geology of Iceland and was selected to be a member of the Math for America master teacher fellowship. He has presented at the National Science Teacher Association Conference and Geological Society of America Conference. Derek was a finalist for the PolarTrec program to the Arctic and was nominated for the Muller Award for professional influence in education. He has spent nearly twenty years in public education both in the United States and South Africa, the latter as a Peace Corps member.


Katie Fuller - Social Studies Educator

Katie Fuller had been an educator for eleven years before curating her first show, Race and Revolution: Exploring Human Injustices through Art, in the summer/fall of 2016. The exhibition became the first in a series that examines historical memory around systemic racism in the United States. Still Separate – Still Unequal, a critical examination of school segregation, traveled throughout the Northeast for two years. The most recent exhibition in the series, Reimagining Monuments, was on view at the Old Stone House inBrooklyn from March – June 2019. In February 2020, the Lewis Latimer House will host Race and Revolution: Home/Land, an examination of the systemic family separation, bounty hunting, and incarceration of runaway slaves in the past and migrant families in the present. She writes curriculum and presents the content of the shows at education conferences, universities, and after-school programs.

Her exhibitions have been reviewed by Hyperallergic, Vice Magazine, Artsy, ArtForum, Daily Kos, The Believer, among others. In Fall 2019 Katie will begin pursuing a PhD in Art Education at Florida State University.


Christina Lee - English and Speech Educator

Christina is a middle school teacher whose students regularly draft, rehearse, and deliver presentations. She received her English major at UC Berkeley and is a graduate of the San Jose State University teaching program. 

 She guides her sixth graders to find their oratorial confidence through practice, strategy, and technology. When she is not updating her units with cross-curricular connections, she enjoys hearing others' stories and learning more about our universe. She is convinced that there is always something more we can do for our planet.




Barbara Zahm, P.H.D - Board President and Advisor of Product Development

Dr. Zahm received her Doctorate in Anthropology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School in New York in 1980. After teaching in the City University of New York, CUNY, system from 1980-1982, she became a full time documentary film and video Producer/Director for public television and educational distribution. She has received multiple awards as a film and video Producer/Director. Her awards include: the Ester Award, the Earth Watch/National Geographic Society Award, the Silver Cindy Award, the American Film Festival-Blue Ribbon Award, and several Cine Golden Eagle Awards, among others. In addition, she was field producer for the Emmy Award winning television series, Big Blue Marble and 3-2-1 Contact.

In 1998, Dr. Zahm joined It’s About Time (IAT) as the Director of Product Development and Grants. At this global leader in research-based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curricula for K-12 and college students, she supervised the publication of all IAT print, video, and multimedia products since that time including: Active Physics (3 Editions), MathConnections (3 Editions), EarthComm (2 Editions), Investigating Earth Systems, Active Biology, Active Chemistry (2 Editions), Investigating Environmental Science, InterActions in Physical Science (2 Editions), BioComm, and Project Based Inquiry Science (PBIS) a 3 year middle-school science curriculum.

In addition, Dr. Zahm served as the Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project Overcoming Obstacles to Scaling-Up with a Cyberlearning Professional Development Model (PBIS CyberPD Project) (NSF Award # 1119202). She also served as the Principal Investigator on the Active Chemistry (NSF Award # 0137872) and Active Physics Revision (NSF Award # 0352516) curricula development projects.


Viney Maykut - Secretary and Non-Profit Fundraising Consultant

Lavina is a development professional with significant experience writing and managing all aspects of foundation, corporate and government grants. She currently works as a freelance fundraising and grant writing consultant, as well as part-time with the Office for College Advancement at Kingsborough Community College.

She is an active board member of City Growers – a young non-for-profit that provides hands-on environmental education to children of all ages on two working rooftop farms in New York City. Lavina holds an MA and BA in Environmental Studies and has worked with a range of organizations, from environmental justice and social justice to advocacy, education, and more. 


Gabriel Concha - Treasurer

Gabriel is originally from Lima, Peru. He holds a Masters in Zootechnical Engineering from Agraria La Molina. In 2003 Gabriel spent a year working with Savehre River Wildlife Rescue center in Costa Rica that sparked his interest in conservation work and had began studies for a second masters in Wildlife Conservation, until the blessing of fatherhood shifted his plans. For more than a decade now, Gabriel has worked as a movement educator with a private practice. He has also worked with youth in NYC public schools, housing shelters and various summer programs, helping young people connect with themselves and others through a variety of movement practices from drumming, Capoeira, team building and self-awareness practices.

He was drawn to Rising Earth because it combines his two joys, helping youth connect with themselves and their own patterns and helping them pave the way toward a new ecological paradigm.




Gabriella Saccocio

Gabriella is an undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Geography/Environmental Studies with a minor in Geospatial Information Systems and Technology (fancy words for creating maps and conducting research with satellites). Gabriella serves as the coordinator for Rising Earth’s Youth Advisory Board program which you can read about here. In her freetime, Gabriella is happy to be sketching or exploring LA, but is usually doing homework.

After her first summer interning at Rising Earth, she decided to continue working with the organization throughout the school year as she finds the work exciting and extremely rewarding. She is currently completing her internship at National Geographic in their Geographic Visualization Lab and helping to create a platform called "Earth Pulse".

For her, nothing is better than making young people excited about the environment through art.


Cierra Djokovich

Cierra is a recent graduate of UCLA where she earned a degree in Communications and minored in Entrepreneurship. Her studies taught her that being successful is about serving your own aspirations, the Earth, and all the people around you. She has dabbled in many startup businesses including a magazine, a public relations firm, and an event planning company, but really enjoys education and the environment. Cierra has always been in love with the written word and believes stories have a way of teaching people like nothing else can.

At Rising Earth, Cierra served as the coordinator of our Teen Production Council for high school students. She also helped coordinate the creation of our new curriculum in human impact education. Cierra now sits as a member of the Youth Advisory Board because she loves Rising Earth and its mission and hopes to support Rising Earth’s growth into the future.


Kendra Djokovich

Kendra is a recent graduate of UCLA where she studied Communications and Entrepreneurship. In her senior year at UCLA she completed a thesis on the role of social media in modern feminism wherein she investigated user’s acceptance and interaction with feminist content. Throughout the last few years she has gained experience in the startup world working for a wide variety of companies, each coincidentally female run. Outside of her studies and work, she is a serious foodie with a knack for cooking. 

Having been raised in a family of outdoor enthusiasts, she finds the mission of Rising Earth to be all the more important in today’s world. After her first internship with Rising Earth as a marketing and public relations intern she stayed on as part of the Youth Advisory Board in order to continue helping make a positive impact.  

Team portraits illustrated by our very own, Isabel Marte!