Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education
Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education

Featured Speakers


Dr. Bettina Love

Dr. Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. She is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the areas of how anti-blackness operates in schools, Hip Hop education, and urban education. Her work is also concerned with how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged schools rooted in intersectional social justice for the goal of equitable classrooms. 

For her work in the field, in 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She is also the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE. In April of 2017, Dr. Love participated in a one-on-one public lecture with bell hooks focused on the liberatory education practices of Black and Brown children. In 2018, Georgia’s House of Representatives presented Dr. Love with a resolution for her impact on the field of education. 

Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including: antiblackness in schools, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, Hip Hop feminism, art-based education to foster youth civic engagement, and issues of diversity and inclusion. In 2014, she was invited to the White House Research Conference on Girls to discuss her work focused on the lives of Black girls. In addition, she is the inaugural recipient of the Michael F. Adams award (2014) from the University of Georgia. She has also provided commentary for various news outlets including NPR, The Guardian, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

She is the author of the books We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, The Urban Review, and Journal of LGBT Youth. In 2017, Dr. Love edited a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies focused on the identities, gender performances, and pedagogical practices of Black and Brown lesbian educators.


Pious Ali has spent the better part of his career focused on engaging youth and creating dialogue across cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic and faith based groups.  He is the founder and Executive Director of the Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance, whose mission is “Building Bridges through Youth, Faith and Culture.”

He is the current Director and Co-founder of the King Fellows, a Portland based youth group dedicated to creating meaningful opportunities for youth leadership and civic engagement based on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Often working with diverse groups of individuals who are predominantly immigrants, Pious has built strong relationships with many communities, non profits, institutions and leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Pious had spent many summers working as a facilitator for Seeds of Peace (Maine Seeds).  He has also worked as a Site Coordinator for PROP’S Peer Leader Program, youth worker for Preble Street’s Lighthouse Shelter, and PROP’S Parkside Neighborhood Center.  At Volunteers of America, he was a Residential Counselor, working with formerly incarcerated men on addressing issues such as substance abuse and mental health as well as getting them ready to go back into their communities.

With the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP- Portland branch) Pious Ali served as Education and Community Engagement Coordinator.  Pious has also volunteered at Long Creek Youth Development Center and currently serves in the following capacities:

● Executive Board for The YMCA of Southern Maine.
● Board of Directors of The Maine African Film Festival
● Advisory Board for the Schair Memorial Lectures.

Pious is studying Sociology at Southern Maine Community College.  A native of Ghana, Pious worked as a photojournalist for a range of print publications.  He migrated to the United States of America first to New York City and has called Maine his home for the past decade.


Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

Areas of Research
Racial Literacy
Urban Teacher Education
Critical English Education
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
Black and Latino Male High School Students
Black Girl Literacies
Black College Reentry Women

Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz (Ph.D., New York University) is as an Associate Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Yolanda is former Research Associate with the NYU Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, and has worked for Business Week, The New York Times, and New York University in Marketing and Promotion positions. Her research interests include racial literacy development in urban teacher education (with a specific focus on the education of Black and Latino males), literacy practices of Black girls, and Black female college reentry students. 

Yolanda’s work has appeared in several top-tier academic journals. Yolanda is co-editor of three books including (with Chance W. Lewis and Ivory A. Toldson Teacher Education and Black Communities: Implications for Access, Equity, and Achievement (IAP). At Teachers College, she is founder and faculty sponsor of the Racial Literacy Roundtables Series where for ten years, national scholars, doctoral, and pre-service and in-service Master’s students, and young people facilitate informal conversations around race and other issues involving diversity and teacher education for the Teachers College / Columbia University community. She is also the co-founder of the Teachers College Civic Participation Project which concerns itself with the educational well-being of young people involved with the juvenile justice and foster care systems in New York.

Yolanda and two of her students appeared in Spike Lee’s “2 Fists Up: We Gon’ Be Alright” (2016), a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement and the campus protests at Mizzou.