Faculty Bios

Josué Cruz Morales J.D. Vieques
Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative

In May 2016, Josué realized his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. In 2015 h graduated from the University of Puerto Rico Carolina, Forensic Investigation, Law & Society Interactions in the top 5. He is officially admitted into practicing law in Puerto Rico and this fall is taking the Federal Bar Exam for the First Circuit (Boston).

This 27-year old aspires to change the social, economic and educational destinies of his Island of Vieques, seeking to offer his Pro Bono services to communities in need. Josue worked as co-director of a pipeline program called Enlace to expose high school students from marginalized areas to real law school classes every Saturday. Over 250 students participated in this program during his time there. Josué’s main role was to train students in legislative affairs and community involvement. His final project was to create a database program capable of tracking students through their college careers after they finished law school classes in the Enlace Project. This program is the first software of its kind in the legal field, and will help identify the needs of students and provide them help to ensure they will be able to reach their goal of being accepted into law school. During Law School, Josue worked closely with the very first Legal Profession Self Study in Puerto Rico. This was a combined effort between the University of Puerto Rico and the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

Josué’s dream of enriching his community began early – when he was a shy and very quiet 14-year-old, he discovered at the Institute’s first Youth Leadership Summit, his dream was to become the Mayor of Vieques and inspire other youth to become leaders of their island. Josué took that goal seriously and created a strategic plan for the short, medium and long term to accomplish his dreams.

In 2004, Josue co-founded the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative to train young people to build a new Vieques. Josué wrote The Challenges Facing Vieques Youth that became the foundation for the Institute’s four-year bi-lingual demonstration project. Josue and VYLI college youth produced a 2020 Report on Sustainable Development for Vieques that was presented at the APEC Youth Summit in Peru in 2008. In 2009 Josue co-founded Comunidad Verde Vieques (Green Vieques) where the Mayor dedicated 500 acres to 300 landless families, the second- generation victims of the US Navy land expropriation in the 1940’s. Josué’s deep commitment to designing the best practices for his island inspired him to help implement the first “Green Initiative” in Puerto Rico’s public schools in which more than 5,000 students and 150 teachers created more than 100 school gardens. At his Law School graduation, Josué received the prestigious Award for founding VYLI and his dedication to his Vieques community.

Josue serves as Co-Director of the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit and works with the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative and Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative. In 2010, Josue received the Institute’s first Walter Cronkite Award.


PoshPacker COO & Co-Founder

Tania Cruz has a diverse history of community leadership and management. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of PoshPacker, a booking site for finding design-led places to stay that are affordable. With presence in over 460 cites and 60 countries, Tania is in charge of leading their worldwide operations, product management and design strategies. As a startup founder, Tania and her team has been selected to receive funds and to participate of prestigious international accelerators such as such as Lisbon Challenge, Startup Chile and Techstars Metro in Berlin. Tania is a mentor for Parallel18, the first accelerator program in Puerto Rico; and she helps current teams at Lisbon Challenge and Startup Chile with early stage startup challenges. Previous to PoshPacker, Tania consulted startups and enterprises such as Kimpton Hotels in the Bay Area, using design thinking and agile innovation approaches to solve marketing and operational challenges. Tania holds an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico. Tania has a deep commitment working with organizations and the government to create a better future for Vieques, Puerto Rico.She served as a co-founder and youth representative for the Comunidad Verde Vieques Initiative, re-gaining 200 acres of land for 500 Viequense families. She also worked as a social worker for the Family Department. And Tania is a spokesperson for Vieques including the Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon School of Law. While in college, Tania worked as a Project Coordinator for the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative, a program of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute. VYLI’s mission is to train young and emerging leaders to build a new Vieques. Tania helped develop VYLI’s Eco- Tourism Initiative and Entrepreneurship Initiatives. Under Tania’s guidance, VYLI’s college youth developed a VYLI 2020 report to address the island’s socio-economic crisis and develop a vision for 2020 with innovative solutions. At VYLI, Tania also helped design a comprehensive plan for rebuilding the island, involving preserving cultural arts, promoting sustainability, marketing as an eco-tourism destination, and more. By marketing Vieques as an eco-tourism destination, VYLI hopes to educate and engage tourists to preserve the islands, protect national landmarks, initiate reforestation, and protect indigenous species of wildlife. Tania is also the founder of Ecotour, the first eco-tourism organization in the University of Puerto Rico. Created to encourage college students to protect and enjoy the natural resources in Puerto Rico and participate in beach cleaning, cultural activities, museums and tree planting activities with the believe of “one person teach another”.

Kassandra Castillo Cruz
Youth Leadership Summit Co-Director

Kassandra Castillo Cruz is the Co-Director for the Institute’s 10th Annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development. A successful entrepreneur, Kassandra served as faculty for the 2012 and 2013 Youth Leadership Summits where she inspired island youth with her presentation on Sustainable Entrepreneurship. She has mentored the 2012 and 2013 youth delegates from the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative.

Kassandra received her Business Marketing Degree from Inter American University in Puerto Rico, including a semester abroad at the Barcelona, Spain Business School. She moved to Boston to join the Harvard Business School community.

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Kassandra is a top fashion model from Puerto Rico. When she was 14 years old, she joined the Institute’s four-year bi-lingual demonstration project, Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. Her dream was to become a professional model and a fashion designer. With VYLI’s support she participated in her first beauty contest; created her portfolio; received her first press; was introduced to the fashion industry leaders who organized her first professional photo shoots; and gave her first speech at VYLI’s Youth Leadership Summit. For VYLI’s Job Shadow Day, Kassandra was matched with Ileana Cambó, former Ms. Puerto Rico and VP of L’Oreal. Her modeling career skyrocketed – she has received many awards and professional modeling jobs. In just 3 years, she became a model for UNICA, the top-modeling agency in Puerto Rico.

Kassandra helped develop VYLI’s Entrepreneurship Initiative in partnership with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and the Stone Soup Leadership Institute. Kassandra conducted workshops to train young people to turn local natural resources of seeds, beads, shells, glass and stones into unique jewelry. Every Saturday night during the tourist season, VYLI youth sold their wares. They raised funds to travel to the neighboring Tortola, British Virgin Islands to exhibit their wares at the 3rd Annual Caribbean Artisan Festival. Youth experienced quality craftsmanship from ten other Caribbean countries; learned how to preserve their unique culture and contribute to the economic well-being of their Island.

Kassandra studied swimwear design at Centro de Las Artes del Diseño y la Alta Costura and designed her own line of bathing suits and accessories. After realizing her own dreams, Kassandra helps young aspiring models by providing guidance, organizing fashion shows and professional photo shoots and College Prep Workshop to strive towards higher education.


daniel-gainesDaniel Gaines

Daniel is a young visionary who hopes to become a innovative leader among sustainability industries. Daniel has always dreamed of working in cutting-edge research fields, and facing the challenges that plague our current society. Daniel loves to think on the grand scale, and dreams to generate solutions that help the world become more sustainable. He understands the importance of taking small steps to achieve these goals, and that is why he has jumped into several projects geared towards creating a more sustainable island.

Collaborating with the Vineyard Conservation Society to ban single use plastic bags has taught Daniel about how large scale solutions can be achieved through political means. Daniel’s work with VCS includes assisting in drafting bi-laws, surveying businesses, speaking at information sessions, and attending meetings with the Board of Health and Board of Selectmen.

Working under scientist supervision, Daniel has developed a process that recycles Styrofoam and converts it into dense blocks that can be used to replace concrete. Concrete is detrimental to the environment, and produces 5-10 percent of global man-made CO2 emissions. Daniel’s “plastic sidewalks” would greatly reduce this negative impact.

Daniel is also a member of the Environment Club at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He is working on a project constructing indoor hydroponic irrigation systems in island middle schools. These irrigation systems would allow schools to grow large quantities of their own sustainable food year-round.

Outside of these activities Daniel is an excellent student, thriving in AP level science classes. He enjoys AP chemistry the most out of his because he can theorize different ways of using science to better the world. Daniel greatly values physicalfitness,andenjoysbiking,swimming,andrunningcompetitively. DuringhisfreshmanyearDaniel completed a 20-mile race. He was determined to finish, even though he had never run that far before. He takes the same approach to life; with training and determination, any goal can be reached.

Daniel believes that the major challenge facing Vineyard youth is underestimating how profound an impact youth canhaveontheisland. Hisdreamistosolvesomeofthedauntingenvironmentaltaskstoleavefuturegenerations with a clean world. Daniel’s role model is Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 15-year-old environmental activist indigenous to a tribe in Boulder Colorado. Xiuhtezcatl has made changes on a global level, and this has inspired Daniel to act. Xiuhtezcatl has achieved so much at such a young age, and this has brought Daniel to the conclusion that everyone has the potential to make great changes.

Juanito V. Moises, Jr.

Juanito Moises, Jr. is a second year college student at University of Hawaii at Manoa pursuing his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. As a future engineer, he wants to help with Hawaii’s infrastructure and/or sustainability.

It has always been his dream to become an engineer. In elementary school, he enjoyed drawing, from cartoons to mechanical drawings. At Waipahu High School Juanito used computer-aided design programs such as AutoCAD and Solidworks to design structural models. For SHYLI’s 2016 Job Shadow Day Juanito is shadowing Natalie Waters, Design Thinking Hawaii/Oceanit and her team of Civil & Coastal Engineers at Oceanit. For SHYLI’s 2015 Job Shadow Day Juanito shadowed Oceanit’s Mechanical Engineer Robotics; Quantum Optical Technologies; Machine Vision.

Juanito was born in the Philippines and moved to Hawaii in 2005. For years he was shy and quiet until he joined Waipahu High School’s Design Thinking Academy. As one of its first students, he has trained, facilitated, and coached students, teachers and staff in using DT tools to address important issues at his school.

Juanito served as a facilitator at the Design Sustainable Hawaii Forum. Held at Windward Community College, The Forum was organized by Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative and Design Thinking Hawaii. At the Design Sustainable Hawaii Forum teams of youth and adults applied DT tools to solve a real-world problem, a sustainable Hawaii. Leaders from business, government, and civic groups worked together with talented Hawaii youth to see how we might design a sustainable future for Hawaii and build a green workforce.

In 2013 Juanito was chosen as the GEAR UP Youth of the Year, receiving his Award at the NCCEP/GEAR UP Conference in San Francisco, California. It was one of his greatest achievements in his life. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a program that supports students to be well prepared for college. At Waipahu High School Juanito was a member of the National Honor Society and President for at least a year in three clubs: GEAR UP Club, Science Olympiad Club, and SkillsUSA. He was also on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams. As part of the Waipahu’s Early College Program Juanito earned college credits while in high school. Thanks to these college credits, he considered to be a college junior. Juanito is very motivated and dedicated to help younger students to be successful. He now works with the new GEAR UP grant to assist the 7th grade students of Waipahu Intermediate School through to their first year of college. It is such a great opportunity for him to work with the program that helped him to grow to the person he is today. He aspires to be a good role model to the younger students so they see that anything is possible to reach their dreams no matter what they are going through. Juanito enjoys taking every opportunity that is offered to him because he loves to learn and grow with different knowledge and skills. Juanito and his inspiring story are featured in the award winning documentary movie, ‘IKE.


Daniel ‘Nane’ Alejandrez
Peace Warrior

Daniel ‘Nane’ Alejandrez is a Chicano/Apache Vietnam veteran community activist for social change. He is the founder and Executive Director of Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos and chairman of the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos. Barrio Unidos is acknowledged as one of the nation’s most impressive grassroots organizations addressing issues of youth violence. Mr. Alejandrez has spread his message, which combines analysis of the root causes of crime and violence with concrete programs that offer youth positive alternatives. He believes a spiritual and cultural movement must take place to Rescue (their gifts), Release (their potential), and Restore (their promise).

He follows his Native traditional ways and is involved with the International Indian Treaty Council on Indigenous affairs supporting cultural and ceremonial rights. He also works in collaboration with the Fair Trade Movement for Indigenous coffee growers in Central America and African Countries to help educate the public on Fair Trade and farmer’s sustainability. He is actively involved in decreasing the incarceration and recidivism rates of youth, adults, and those at risk of the criminal justice system by providing cultural and spiritual programs within the institutions.

He has been invited to speak in many Native Reservations addressing issues facing those communities. Mr. Alejandrez is the coordinator for the Warrior’s Circle Rights of Passage for youth, a week long retreat focusing on traditional teachings.

Mr. Alejandrez has been recognized for his inspiring efforts. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Fellowship Reconciliation, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, SANCOFA Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Fellowship from the California Wellness Foundation and a Sabbatical from the Vanguard Foundation. Mr. Alejandrez has been featured on talk shows and as a radio guest on many stations. He has been on the A&E Biography Series, Danny Glover’s TV Program “Courage”, the Christina Show, and he was a featured hero on the Stone Soup for the World: video with Walter Cronkite. In addition, Mr. Alejandrez has been a featured on various local and community television programs.

Also, he has been featured in many magazines and several books including Stone Soup for the World: Life- Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes The History of Barrios Unidos by Frank Acosta tells this man’s journey.

Arun GandhiArun Gandhi

Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun is the fifth grandson of India’s legendary leader, Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi. Growing up under the discriminatory apartheid laws of South Africa, he was beaten by “white” South Africans for being too black and “black” South Africans for being too white; so, Arun sought eye-for- an-eye justice. However, he learned from his parents and grandparents that justice does not mean revenge, it means transforming the opponent through love and suffering.

Grandfather taught Arun to understand nonviolence through understanding violence. “If we know how much passive violence we perpetrate against one another we will understand why there is so much physical violence plaguing societies and the world,” Gandhi said. Through daily lessons, Arun says, he learned about violence and about anger.

Arun shares these lessons all around the world. For the past five years, he has participated in the Renaissance Weekend deliberations with President Clinton and other well-respected Rhodes Scholars. Other engagements have included speaking at the United Nations, Chicago Children’s Museum, the Women’s Justice Center in Ann Arbor, Young President’s Organization in Mexico, the Trade Union Leaders’ Meeting in Milan, Italy, the Peace and Justice Center in St. Louis, Missouri, The Scottish Parliament and many more. Arun’s travels have also take him across the world to Australia, Croatia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Lithuania, Nicaragua, South Africa, China, Scotland, England, Japan and many others. He is also a very popular speaker on college campuses. Arun has now spoken at Universities and Colleges in all 50 states of the USA.

Arun is very involved in social programs and writing, as well. Shortly after Arun married his wife Sunanda, they were informed the South African government would not allow her to accompany him there. Sunanda and Arun decided to live in India, and Arun worked for 30 years as a journalist for The Times of India. Together, Arun and Sunanda started projects for the social and economic uplifting of the oppressed using constructive programs, the backbone of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. The programs changed the lives of more than half a million people in over 300 villages and they still continue to grow. Sunanda died in February of 2007 and the family is working to establish a school in poorest rural India in her name.

Arun is the author of several books. The first, A Patch of White (1949), is about life in prejudiced South Africa; then, he wrote two books on poverty and politics in India; followed by a compilation of M.K. Gandhi’s Wit & Wisdom. He also edited a book of essays on World Without Violence: Can Gandhi’s Vision Become Reality? And, more recently, wrote The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur, the Wife of Mahatma Gandhi, jointly with his late wife Sunanda.