AMISHA UPADHYAYA, Founder
I create powerful stories and also ensure they reach the right audience. I’m a writer and producer for film and TV with several national awards for my films and for TV writing. I’ve also been a content strategist and marketer for tech, including companies such as Facebook and IBM, where I collaborated cross-functionally across teams to create results oriented copy and experiences for product and brands using SEO, analytics, UX, and the latest in digital communications to distill complex messaging and to create personalized customer journeys.
I have worked on social justice issues focused on mental and physical health for underserved communities leveraging both strands of my professional life. I spearheaded campaigns for HIV/AIDS outreach for the Government of India, oral cancer in the NY/CT/NJ tristate area for New York University, and video campaigns for Planned Parenthood. The more work I did in these areas, the more it became obvious that trauma was at the root of many social justice issues from domestic violence to the prison pipeline. This led me to study trauma further in a graduate degree.
Mental health information was blocked by lack of policies or infrastructure that failed to reach the communities most needing it. Thus: Citizens Rise, a unique communications organization with a two pronged approach of civic engagement and trauma-focused outreach content. Policies are at the basis of ensuring access — and policies are created by lawmakers that you and I put into office. All politics is local. Your health, your family’s well-being, and even your child’s very life is dependent on the politics that govern you.
The belief that every child deserves to live out their potential and a dedication to education has been instilled in me since birth. What I’ve most admired about our country is its unfailing commitment to the Constitution and its belief in the power of the law — even when those laws were turned upside down, even when we went through wars, division, and social justice fights both violent and nonviolent. But the Constitution and democracy are social contracts. We can ensure the legal and judicial systems, and politicians do their part — as long as we do our part! Citizens, Rise!
ESTHER SELK, Co-founder and Educator
Esther Selk is a storyteller, a listener, an educator, a reader. She is a mother, a dancer, a cancer survivor. Graduating from UC San Diego with a BS in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, an MS in Biology, and a Minor in Theater, Esther has since immersed herself in middle school education. She is a Teach for America, ‘96 Corps Member, and is currently the Drama Teacher and Alumnae Affairs Director at The Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto.
Esther ran for public office for the first time on January 8, 2017. She lost the election and gained a new set of skills and passionate friends. She deeply believes in building community and making connections. Esther considers growth mindset the most powerful tool for both teachers and students, of all ages and subjects. She brings this conviction to middle school math and drama classes, adult dance classes, community theater productions, and now to her engagement in democracy. Esther knows that if we can each embrace a growth mindset as individuals, we can embrace it as a community and as a nation.
MANSI GOEL, Co-founder and Strategist
Previously a tech executive, Mansi is currently a consultant, board member, or volunteer at non-profit organizations engaged in work such as refugee resettlement, domestic violence victim advocacy, and meditation practice.