Stone Soup Leadership Institute

Team Testimonials

At the Institute, I am thrilled to leverage my personal passion to help others and professional strengths in marketing, analytics, and social media to be a part of a team dedicated to making a positive impact on the world at scale.

Nina Potsiadlo, CA

In 2013 I served as the first Brazilian delegation to the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit on Martha’s Vineyard. As the first to be going to college in my family, I had no idea what the application for college consisted of. Through Stone Soup’s program, I was given the necessary tools and the support to understand the college process. During MVYLI’s College Prep Program, I was able to visit my first college, and later the college I would then attend. I was also given the opportunity to shadow many physicians which all enhanced my passion for medicine and confirmed my decision to pursue pre-med in my undergraduate studies. Later, I served as an MVYLI Visioneer to create the 2014 & 2015 Summit; and then at the Walter Cronkite Awards. In 2015, 2016, and 2017 I served as an Emerging Leader working with the Brazilian youth on Martha’s Vineyard to envision and develop their dreams for their lives, their community, and world. In 2018, I worked with Holyoke and Rhode Island Youth during the Summit at Roger Williams University, RI, and in 2019 at Salve Regina University, Newport, RI. Stone Soup has given me opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. It has not only guided me to achieve my dreams but has allowed me to help others in achieving theirs. Being a facilitator has allowed me to grow as a leader and has brought many blessings.  I have learned from world-changing forefront leaders in sustainability who are passionate, eager to make a difference youth. I am graduating from Gordon College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a pre-medicine concentration. I’m excited and honored to continue to participate in the difference Stone Soup makes in every youth’s life.

Taynara Goncalves
SustainWDN™ Facilitator
Martha’s Vineyard

As the Project Coordinator and Facilitator for the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, I am continuously inspired by our support for youth welfare. Since 2018 I’ve had the opportunity to work closely on of the Institute’s TouchStone Leaders Learning Tools & Courses. I’ve been fortunate to build personal connections and support the youth to achieve their dreams. The Institute’s educational curriculum never fails to inspire young people to craft their futures and I am blessed to have witnessed each individual journey. I’m especially proud of the youth who have struggled and are now heading to college.  I’ve collaborated with the Tech Team to ensure each lesson learnt from our weekly session with the youth translate to improve the Institute’s Toolkit including Sustainability is Fun, Sustainable Hawaii Toolkit and the SustainWDN™. Having worked on these projects and beta test ideas with our youth has given me perspective and allowed me to ensure they are user-friendly. Working with the Institute, I have been fortunate enough to witness not only the youth who have changed their lives, but also a team that cares enough to want to bring that change to millions. The Institute is doing powerful work and I am honored to be part of the team.

Namgyal Gyaltshen
Facilitator & Project Coordinator
Boston & Bhutan

It is an honor to be the newest facilitator joining the Stone Soup team.   The first and most apparent undertaking at the institute is the focus on community.  The tangible level of care and connectivity has been lovingly cultivated over years by Marianne as it’s master gardener.  Youth and adults alike benefit from participation within the institute and it’s vision is one that seeks to improve outcomes for individuals, communities, and the planet.  As an educator, I have adopted many tools from Stone Soup into my own classroom.  The resources available through the book and website are beyond helpful, especially in a time of virtual learning.  The educational components of Stone Soup were easy to integrate for me and engaging for the students – no easy feat with groups of teens.  It has been an unforgettable experience; I look forward to continuing to bear witness to the ripple effects set in motion by Stone Soup.  

Lauren Mathias
Providence, RI

Four years ago, when I embarked on a journey with the Stone Soup Leadership Institute. I really didn’t know where it would take me.  In the beginning, I was a little nervous about how to manage all my responsibilities.  At that time, I was working full time, finishing college and raising two children.  I couldn’t imagine how I would have time for something else.  When Marianne explained about the program and my responsibilities, I was intrigued. As a mother of two children I understand the needs of young people. As a teenager like many of these multicultural youth, I had dreams and many complications on my path.  Some obstacles interfered with my dreams.  I am happy to work with the Institute’s youth. I’ve come to see them as family. As we work together, we are all achieving our goals. At first, I started working “behind the scenes” as the Institute’s Summit Logistics Coordinator.  After I graduated college, I helped organize the Institute’s Community Service Projects – the youth fed homeless people, collected and organized clothes for people that suffered from Hurricane Maria, and collected backpacks for children in a remote village Guatemala. My passion is to help people in need and with the help of the Institute I have been able to accomplish my goals. I can see through the youth’s eyes that they are eager to help others and that makes it easy for us to work together. During the Institute’s year-round program, I’ve been trained as a College Prep Program Facilitator and serve as mentor for teens applying to college. The transition from High School to College is difficult for young people. We help them by doing small things or through emotional support. Working with Institute I have grown from one job to another and I’ve learned how to multitask. I enjoy the harmony we have as a group of Program Facilitators working with these youth. I’m excited to now be translating of the Institute’s book, Pan Y Vino Para El Camino’s education curriculum into Spanish. Now we can reach many more young people with these inspirational bi-lingual education tools.  I work with our youth leader, Maria Rodriguez who lost her job during the pandemic. Working on these stories, makes me believe that together we can make a better world. Life is a learning process, and I am delighted I took this adventure. We teach our youth many things that we have learned through life, and we are also learning from them.  It is my desire to keep growing as a person and learning from the Institute. 

Berta Pelaez
Program Facilitator
Providence, RI

The Stone Soup Leadership Institute is wonderful organization spearheaded by the committed and passionate Marianne Larned. The Institute provides guidance and a voice for youth who would’ve otherwise remained in silence.  The Institute’s founder strives to build and maintain a personal level of connection with the youth members as well as her staff. I was fortunate to be sponsored by the Institute to attend the Northeast YES! JAM 2020, to explore personal, interpersonal, and systemic transformation. It was a very unique and intimate experience that I would’ve never had the opportunity to attend if it wasn’t for the Institute’s commitment to the growth of our team. I joined the Institute’s Tech Team as a developer to help build the Sustainable Workforce Development Network, to connect youth, blue-green companies, and educational institutions to build a sustainable workforce to power the future of the blue-green economy. It is a great opportunity to help change the world. I’ve also worked with the youth members of the Institute’s Rhode Island chapter and being trained as a SustainWDN™ Facilitator for the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit 2020. The Institute has provided me different opportunities for growth and a chance to help make a difference. And that is a beautiful gift.

Patricia Pires Dias
SustainWDN™ Facilitator & Tech Team
New Bedford, MA

I have worked with the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s Tech Team since 2910 to create an online platform to connect multicultural youth to blue and green jobs by providing them with their own career pathways. The project will have a big positive impact on millions of youth around the world. I’ve learned about the importance of sustainability through this project. I’ve enjoyed being trained as a SustainWDN™ facilitator, working with an amazing youth group every week.  We help them achieve their goals and help them find their career pathways. These weekly sessions do a great job showing us exactly what the youth need and want on the SustainWDN™ online platform, to help them get connected to blue and green jobs to save the planet. Working for Stone Soup has really shown me many times, why it is important to connect the youth to blue and green jobs. I am very excited to see this platform completed and in action. I am honored to be part of this amazing organization who values the youth so much and really cares about the future of this planet.

Andi Grozdani
Web Designer & Facilitator
Dartmouth, MA

It was an honor to be nominated in 2019 to serve as the first Cape Cod youth delegate to the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s 15th Youth Leadership Summit in Newport, RI.   At  the Summit, I was introduced to a plethora of new ideas. I have been an activist, guided by my Mom to attend protests and care about a great deal of issues. But until the Summit, most of my activism was an abstraction. While protests or petitions are important, my name was just one among many. The Summit introduced me to the concept of sustainability, how it can affect one’s life, and organizations I can join to participate in direct action to help people. Since the Summit sustainability has permeated all aspects of my life. My clothing brand is focused on ethical and sustainable practices, as well as art. For my senior project in high school I am developing a modular hydroponics system, to increase access to food for those struggling in my community.  At the Summit, I was especially inspired by the presentation by the presentation by the Sunrise Movement. After the Summit, I created the Cape Cod hub of the organization.. I’ve enjoyed working with the Institute’s Tech Team to help design the Institute’s to connect youth to sustainable careers, and an accessible database of sustainability resources. I am thankful for the opportunities the Institute has given me. I eagerly await the future, one which I hope can be more sustainable via my actions.

Jack McCoy
Cape Cod Youth Leader
Sustainability is Fun!

Marianne is a kind and nurturing leader, and the community around her is passionate, driven, and above all, welcoming. In a time of rapid change and confusion, Stone Soup is a guidepost that those in need of some assistance can look to for direction. For young people seeking out community, education, and any/all the intangible skills needed to succeed in our trying times, just reach out. All collaborations are towards the good.

James O’Neill
Tech Writer
New York City

I’ve been thinking about Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes in the “light” metaphor  —now more than ever it is very uplifting to be able to share good cheer  Thank you for everything for this project.   Being part of this project has truly been a gift that has reignited my love for mission-driven work. Researching and interviewing these young leaders has infused me with a new sense of optimism that I had not realized I’d abandoned. Learning about the inspirational work and real change from youth worldwide is a much needed reminder of real action taking place globally. Stone Soup for a Sustainable World provides a much needed reminder that none of us are alone in making our communities and world a better place for all. 

Kayla Hellel
Research Coordinator
Milwaukee, WI

Working on the Stone Soup writing team for the Stone Soup for Sustainable World book is an inspiring experience. You learn about amazing youth all over the world who are fiercely determined to fight for the future of our planet, and they won’t take no for an answer! The stories we have gathered prove to all of those who say it is too late anyway. All of these young activists and change makers know better—everyone can do their part and every little contribution is a step in the right direction. It is a pleasure to be part of this project and tell the stories of everyday heroes who are making a difference.

Felix Hoffmann
Media Team

The collection of stories of young people from all around the world featured in Stone Soup for a Sustainable World is inspiring. It is also comforting to know that, far from being discouraged by the frankly desperate current state of the world, these young people have chosen to push aside fear, take a deep breath, and do something about it. If humanity survives, if balance is restored to our world, it is this generation we will have to thank. And we will have Marianne to thank for shining a light on their bold, brave, ingenious and generous efforts to make our earth safe for future generations.

Janet Hulstrand

As a researcher, writer and Summit Facilitator for the Institute’s Sustainable Hawaii Toolkit and Sustainability is Fun websites, I have helped the Institute spotlight empowering environmental education and activism opportunities around the globe. Sustainable Hawaii Toolkit connects youth, educators, business and community organizations to blue-green career paths, educational curriculum, programs and more. Sustainability is Fun connects K-12 youth and educators to educational and career curriculum and opportunities in the blue economies of New Bedford and San Diego. At the 14th Annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development, I helped youth delegates write their life stories and craft Sustainability in Action plans. As a grant writer, I told the stories of the myriad youth who have had their lives transformed by the Institute. I have talked with youth who, before the Institute came into their lives, felt lost and hopeless. With the Institute’s guidance, these youth turned their lives around —writing and following five-year plans, organizing clothing drives and earning full-tuition college scholarships. As an Institute team member, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with inspiring environmental leaders from around the world. My time with the Institute has enlightened and educated me about the many people and organizations working tirelessly to make the world a more sustainable and loving place.

Emily Garland
Researcher and Writer
Hilo, Hawaii

In 2011 I was nominated to serve as a youth delegate to the Institute’s Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative (SHYLI) chapter. I have witnessed the growth of the Institute as a high school student, young adult and now a Stone Soup team member. I’m most impressed that the Institute’s initiatives are driven by the interests of youth. The Institute and its partners are focused on creating a path for youth to become young adults who care about the environment and find ways to make an important impact on the world. As a high school student, I envisioned and championed a Resolution in the State of Hawaii to incorporate sustainable education and environmental stewardship at the classroom level. As a college student and alumni, emerging leader and Stone Soup team member, I have assisted at the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summits in Martha’s Vineyard (2016) and Rhode Island (2018 & 2019). The Summits allow youth delegates to work with other inspiring youth, emerging leaders and faculty; develop presentations on innovative sustainability within their community and develop sustainable projects within their community. I am honored to have been a part of the Institute’s team for over seven years. Now that many people are finally realizing the importance of sustainability, the Institute has developed a 15-year track record and awesome learning and training tools that will assist the next generation of leaders.  I’m excited about the TouchStone Leaders Platform and the SustainWDN™’s potential to connect multicultural youth to sustainable career pathways.  to be part of this global organization impacting so many people around the world. 

Trevor Tanaka
Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative

I have been involved with The Stone Soup Leadership Institute for more than 14 years. It began one summer when I joined the first ever “Youth Leadership Sustainability Summit held in Vieques, Puerto Rico. I’d never been asked “What Are Your Goals?”. As a founding member of the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative (VYLI) we focused on what young people wanted for their lives and found ways to guide them and plan for their next steps towards their goals. What I experienced and what I found out about myself changed my life forever. Sometimes we are not aware of our own capacity and talents until someone who believes in you and shows you how they see your potential. We shared our opinions, determined what to do next and given the support that is much needed at that important stage of our lives. I helped develop VYLI’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and developed my own fashion business. After a successful modeling career and graduating from business school, I became the first employee for the startup company It is now Rebag, a $5 million enterprise and I serve as Head of Operations leading a team of 20 people from around the world. I now serve on the Institute’s faculty for Sustainability Summits and it’s programs in Martha’s Vineyard, Holyoke and Hawaii. Marianne stays connected with the young people always focused in how to make their dreams come true. I personally found a friend and counselor in Marianne and admire her determination and commitment to make a positive difference in our lives. 

Kassandra Castillo
Director of Operations, ReBag
Vieques, Puerto Rico

The Stone Soup Leadership Institute has been a vital part of my life for over 15 years.  I began in 2004 as the first Project Coordinator for the Institute’s Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative where I led the bi-lingual demonstration project using the Institute’s book and curriculum to inspire young people to transform their lives.  Sponsored by the Institute, I traveled to New York City and received the Entrepreneurship Training from the Institute’s partner: Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). I then began a social entrepreneurship business together with Viequense teens. We created a successful mobile store on the Malecon (local boardwalk) that educated tourists on rich local Cultural Arts while developing business skills and soft skills.  It was so valuable to see our jewelry, craft and T-Shirt making skills, create monetary resources for all of us! It was so powerful for us to feel proud of our Isla Nena (little girl island) despite always being schooled to see others as better than us.  Through my work with the Institute, I have been able to share knowledge and resources with Initiatives from Hawaii, California, Martha’s Vineyard, Holyoke, Vieques and Rhode Island, reinforcing the power of young people to change their lives and their communities.  Today I am a Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D candidate at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  The wealth of information and travel offered to me by The Stone Soup Leadership Institute has greatly influenced my stance on Desire Based research. Therefore, focusing on how communities such as my own have managed to thrive despite unfavorable circumstances. I’m honored to help develop The Institute’s Train-The-Trainer Program to reach millions of people around the world.

Kutasha Silva
Facilitation Training Program & Summit Co-Director
Vieques, Puerto Rico

The world needs compassionate and effective leadership more than ever, and our youth are our greatest resource. For over 10 years as webmaster of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, I have seen the impact of its efforts on young people to grow and reach their potential — to lead their peers and adults alike to effect positive change, to offer light in the darkness. From updating the Institute’s websites to creating email blasts and newsletters, I’m happy to have played a small part in the Institute’s past, present and future.

Robin Harper
Martha’s Vineyard