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Strong Schools Maryland Leadership Team
Shamoyia Gardiner Headshot

SHAMOYIA GARDINER (SHE/HER) is the executive director of Strong Schools Maryland. Shamoyia is a first-generation American, first-generation college graduate from Miami, Florida. Due in part to her identities and experiences as a former educator, she’s determined that life is best spent working at the intersection of education, advocacy, and youth development. Shamoyia's other professional experiences include directing the education policy portfolio at Advocates for Children and Youth, cradle-to-career-spectrum policy analysis at the Family League of Baltimore, and project-based work with the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the DC State Board of Education, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site.


Shamoyia has chosen to live out her values as a board member at B.O.N.D. (Building Our Nation's Daughters), a board member at The Intersection and as a coordinating “mama” with A Revolutionary Summer.  Shamoyia earned her Masters in Education Policy and Leadership from American University and her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Florida. She can be reached at

Dave Heilker Headshot

DAVE HEILKER (HE/HIM) is the communications specialist at Strong Schools Maryland. Dave is a community organizer who has been involved with education organizing in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland since 2015. He has served as the communications chair of Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) and has been a fierce advocate and activist in Baltimore and Annapolis for schools, social justice, and racial equity. He is a graduate of public schools, of the Baltimore City Planning Academy, and of Baltimore Rising, a community organizing and leadership development training. 

Dave grew up in Hamilton (northeast Baltimore City) and currently resides in the Remington neighborhood with his wife Emily, and his dog, Tomato. He can be reached at

Maya Bond, Local Organizer

MAYA BOND (SHE/HER) is the local organizer at Strong Schools Maryland. Maya grew up in the Bronx, New York and has lived in Baltimore since graduating from Loyola University Maryland where she majored in Communications. She is a Baltimore Corps alumni allowing her opportunities to work for the Baltimore City’s Mayors Office and Baltimore Police Department. Her work is grounded in her communications background and is influenced by human-centered design practices.


Maya’s passion for educational advocacy stems from the influence of her mother, a special education teacher working in the South Bronx, and her journey to advocate for her brother to receive the services he needed in the New York public school system. Maya enjoys Baltimore’s local coffee shops, art, music and cultural spaces. She can be reached at

Strong Schools Maryland 2023 Fellows
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RIYA GUPTA (SHE/HER) is the Policy Research Fellow at Strong Schools Maryland. She is originally from northern New Jersey, but has lived in and made Baltimore her home for the past 5 years. Today, Riya is completing her Master’s of Science in Public Health with a concentration in child health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she is conducting an equity analysis of Baltimore’s 21st Century School Buildings Program as her thesis. Riya’s work is centered around both public health and data — she aims to create change through data and research that is expressed in an accessible and equitable way.


Riya's enthusiasm for high quality, safe education for all students is rooted in her work within Baltimore City school system including at the William S. Baer school and the Academy for College and Career Exploration as well as the community she found along the way. Riya enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of Baltimore as well as experimenting in the kitchen. She can be reached at

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MADDIE LONG (she/her) is the Policy Analyst Fellow at Strong Schools Maryland. Maddie is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy, where she concentrated on child and family policy through crises. She created this unique concentration after observing policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the areas of education and child poverty. Maddie was honored to be part of the 2022 inaugural class of Karabelle Pizzigati Fellows through the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and School of Public Health. This child advocacy fellowship helped her gain important skills in navigating complex issues facing today’s children and youth. Maddie has a diverse range of internship experience, including the state and federal government, and child policy advocacy on the federal level. 


Born and raised in Prince George's County, Maddie is committed to improving education in the state that she loves. She can be reached at


McKENZIE FUNK (SHE/HER) is the 2022 Summer Organizing Intern at Strong Schools Maryland. She grew up in the Baltimore County area and now attends the University of Maryland as a rising senior. She is currently majoring in neurobiology and physiology with minors in Spanish and public leadership through the Gemstone Honors College program where she works on an undergraduate research team to complete their thesis on the inhibition of cancers such as Lymphoma and serves as the program’s vice president of strategic outreach. 


Outside of her academic curriculum, she works as a medical scribe and a biology teaching assistant. A few things that she is involved with on campus include Terps for Change, CORA non profit organization (Combating Opioid Overdoses in Rural Areas), and the University of Maryland Ethics Bowl - Speech and Debate Team. She is a coordinator for Terps for Change and volunteers with schools in the Prince Georges Area, and she is a strategic outreach coordinator for CORA, focusing on communication and engagement with community members and health departments throughout seven Maryland counties. Her UMD Speech and Debate analyze real world issues through a practical, political, and ethical lense. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and rollerskating. She can be reached at

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