Program Leadership


Michal Helman,

Program Co-Director


Michal Helman is an avid explorer with a lifelong passion for social and environmental justice. After receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in Philosophy and Environmental Science, Michal completed her M.S. in International Conservation and Development at the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation. Michal’s academic research has focused on water governance and climate change impacts on the livelihood of agro-pastoralists in the Chilean Patagonia and the Indian Himalaya mountain ranges. From Montana, Michal went on to work in water resource management in both the greater Los Angeles region and in the Bay Area of California, before returning back to her Michigan roots. 


Michal is passionate about working within the EcoWorks team on bridging the gap between environmental issues and social policy through engaging and empowering our youth to participate in their communities and to recognize their roles as leaders.

Latia Leonard,

Program Co-Director

 Latia began her journey with Ecoworks in January 2020. She is a lifelong Detroiter, with deep passions for youth and social justice.

 After graduating from Southeastern Technical High School in 2011, she attended Michigan State University where she received her BA degree in Communication from the school’s College of Communication Arts and Science. While attending MSU, Latia remained actively involved in community service and want to help others. She spent much of her undergraduate career volunteering for causes dear to her heart.

 Latia is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and remains committed to national service and engaging others in community service. Latia brings her unique experiences in youth development, STEM facilitation, and grassroots mobilization to the Youth Energy Squad. She is passionate about achieving equitable climate solutions, water justice, and economic inclusion in the City of Detroit. Latia is excited about the opportunity to grow YES as a program, and water the seeds for “our next wave of sustainability, government, and community leaders”.    


Josh Musicant,

STEM and Career Coordinator


Josh is beginning his third year serving with the Youth Energy Squad. This is his first year as the STEM and Career Development Coordinator, following two years serving as a Green School Coordinator. Josh cherishes all the time he gets to work alongside youth in Detroit, in particular, the youth he partners with at Hope Park across from Cody High School.


Josh is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) and Women’s Studies. He loves to read, have fun for fun’s sake, and moderate nonpersonal debates between students.


Josh sees the mission of the Youth Energy Squad as integral to the survival of the planet and the long-term health of all communities worldwide and feels grateful for the privilege of seeing young Detroiters grow and seek the justice the planet and the people on it require.

AmeriCorps Green School Coordinators 

Ela was born and raised in Hamtramck, Michigan by a wonderful family of 5 that immigrated from Poland. She grew up falling in love with her community by playing and later coaching recreational soccer and grew to recognize the awesome tenacity that so many people in Hamtramck and Detroit have.

She recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences. During her time at U of M, she became passionate about social and environmental issues that affected her hometown, inspiring her to research how grid-scale renewable energy can replace fossil fuel infrastructures in southeast Michigan.

Ela is super is excited to be serving her community through YES! In her free time, her hobbies involve collecting rocks, playing soccer and volleyball, and learning new languages.

Ela Ratajczyk
Harmon Headshot.jpg
Matt Harmon

Matt (he/him) is an educator, playwright, and theatre facilitator currently living in Royal Oak, Michigan. He holds a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Playwriting from the University of Michigan.

He is the co-founder of Playwriting for Peace, an applied theatre initiative that uses drama to prevent security force recruitment and promote mutual understanding among youth in post-conflict countries. Currently he is a Program Assistant for Sofa Stories Detroit, a participatory theater project that aims to empower young Detroiters who have experienced homelessness

Keem hails from the east side of Detroit, although at any time you might spot him in various parts of the city cruising on his skateboard with a few handful's of wild plants that he probably foraged from some unkempt land. He has a passion for life in all forms, "just pass it to the little guy" is a saying that was never valid in his existence. There is no such thing as the "little guy" or someone who gets to be looked over, the value in Keems personality can be felt almost instantly example, he picks up a plant that I walk over everyday and begins to eat it, then he goes "taste this" this caused me to take a second to think about things a little more. The way he values life and meaningful work has brought him to YES. Life is rare yet important and on Earth specifically it should be sustainable.

 Keem King 

Tamera Middlebrooks is a Detroit community organizer with a passion for environmental justice, anti-racism and pro Black women activism, who plans to use entrepreneurship to promote sustainability in beauty products.

Tamera Middlebrooks

Recently relocated from California, but born and raised in Detroit, Za’von is passionate about his home city Detroit and unique ways he can be a service to the city.


Za’von is really excited to serve with YES so he can be inspired by the passion, struggles, creativity, and dopiness of young Detroiters. 


His hobbies include serving in ministry, time with family, traveling, reading, and super active activities. Za’von hopes to implement his own organization into the school's curriculum in the Detroit area. 

Zavon Eichelberger

Logan is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan from rural Mid-Michigan. At U of M, he studied environmental science and urban studies and was passionate about creating professional opportunities for environmentalists. Logan has previously interned with the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan of Detroit, MI and Sustainable Urbanism International of Bangalore, India. In the future, he would like to connect planning, social justice, and the environment through community-based planning. His hobbies include watching copious amounts of baseball, cooking, supporting independent bookstores, and exploring public transit systems around the world.


Logan is excited to serve with YES and work at the intersection of social justice, youth leadership, and environmentalism.

Logan Applebee

Janisa Nelson considers Flint, Michigan home but has lived between Flint and Detroit for most of her life. As a graduate from King High School she feels a strong connection to DPS and its students.


For her, watching her family and friends have the misfortune of dealing with the Flint Water Crisis became the catalyst for her interest in environmental justice. She's been very passionate about her community and the people within it ever since.

As an artistic

being she hopes to engage the youth in creative ways to beautify their surroundings. She strives to be the educator that students can look up to all while learning from them as well in the process.

Janisa Nelson

Vashti is a native Detroiter who has worked on various projects with Gleaners Food Bank, Michigan's Veteran Foundation, and buildOn. Driven by her love of youth, she takes pride in researching, facilitating, and implementing programs that engage and empower students to take ownership of their surroundings. A few of her passions include community development, grassroots initiatives, and sustainable agriculture. 


Recently, she worked as an Education and Development Specialist in Ethiopia, where she focused on student enrichment programs, gender empowerment, and permaculture gardening.  


Vashti has a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in Creative Writing and Literature. Her leisure activities include writing, drinking lots of tea, and studying herbalism.

Vashti Armstrong

Mekiah grew up in Ann Arbor before deciding to go to Michigan State University where he got a degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. 


He moved to Detroit almost 2 years ago, gaining  experience in community sustainability working jobs from farming, to setting up farm stands throughout the city with Eastern Market. In his free time Mekiah loves cooking, dancing and going to find live music.


Mekiah is excited to be a part YES and have the opportunity to empower youth leadership in Detroit communities

Mekiah Austin