Dr. Debbie Almontaser


As human beings, we must recognize that each and every one of us has unique traditions, values, and beliefs that that make us who we are as human beings. These unique traditions derive from our racial and ethnic identity, language, religion and formal/ informal community, neighborhood, and family connections that formulate our identities as individuals. When people openly share their lives, cultural identities, and life experiences, they are able to build trust and foster stronger relationships. A climate of openness that enables us to learn about each other’s culture leads to engagement and encourages a culture of learning and collaboration. Sharing our lives with others not only builds our self-esteem, self-confidence, and pride, but it also does the same for our counterparts. When students are engaged in learning that is reflective of their racial and cultural identities, it fosters academic success. Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) develops students’ ability to communicate and connect across cultures as well as empower them to become agents of social change.


Dr. Simran Jeet Singh is an award-winning educator, writer, activist, and scholar who believes deeply that love, equity, and justice are closely intertwined. He writes and speaks regularly on issues of diversity, inclusion, civil rights, religion, and hate violence, and his thought leadership extends to a number of audiences, from the White House and the Pentagon to university campuses and social justice groups.

Simran is a professor of religion at Trinity University and Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization based in New York City. This year, Simran serves as the Henry R. Luce Fellow for Religion and International Affairs at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media. He frequently contributes opinion pieces to various news outlets, and he has become a consistent expert for reporters around the world in television, radio, and print media. Simran is also on the board for Religion Newswriters Association, a fellow for the Truman National Security Project, and a term-member with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Simran Jeet Singh
Hana Mangat


Hana Kaur Mangat is currently a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Maryland. She will be attending Columbia University in the fall of 2018 as a hopeful major in Political Science and Human Rights. She is an active believer in the power of student voice, empathy, and dialogue building.

In 2012, Hana co-founded the youth-run organization, Sikh Kid 2 Kid, with the mission of eradicating ignorance with the power of education. Through Sikh Kid 2 Kid, she has played a key role in developing and implementing a religious literacy professional development program for educators. She facilitates the student-run Sikhism portion of the program, and develops resources for educator use. Hana has been a Sikh student advocate, speaking to the bullying of Sikh students and overall school climate issues at the Obama White House, the Department of Education, the National Academies of Science, Facebook HQ, etc. She served as a steering committee member to organize the first ever National Interfaith Bullying Prevention Summit.


Dr. Salma G. Waly is an educator and a life-long learner who strongly believes in the power of dialogue in bridging gaps and bringing communities together. She started her career as a special education teacher; an experience that helped her realize the role that one can play in the lives of others. She then realized that for her to make the biggest impact, she has to become a well-rounded educator who specializes in more than one area of education. Therefore, she started her Master’s program in TESOL through which she began to teach refugees from Asia and Africa, adults and undergraduate students. She helped prepare Arabic-speaking groups of students to study internationally by teaching them English as well as introducing them to the culture of the United States. She also trained professionals in the business and medical fields to better communicate in English and develop the skills and capacities to work in multicultural and multilingual settings. Throughout her teaching career, Dr. Waly developed TESOL programs to cater to the needs of various groups of learners.

Dr. Salma G. Waly