Isles’ 2021 Virtual Forum

Isles’ Forum was a week-long virtual series of webinars, workshops, panels and more to explore community development and environmental challenges and solutions. This Forum was free and open to the public as part of Isles’ 40 Years of Impact celebration. 

To see the recording of a session, click on the session title and then click the “watch video” button.

You can also see all the videos on one website page here.

Monday, June 7: Sustainable Cities

On Monday, we explore topics related to climate change and the future of cities. How can we make densely packed, urban areas sustainable? How do we ensure places like Trenton don’t get left out of the green economy? What role does urban agriculture have to play in inner cities?

Sessions include:

10 AM: Climate Change, Environmental Hazards, and the City: What’s an Organization to Do?

Description: Join Isles’ Founder Marty Johnson as he explores why the environment and critical urban issues need your attention.  Hear lessons from 40 years of starting and growing Isles.

Who should attend: General public, environmentalists, climate change activists, anyone interested in sustainable development

12 PM: Advancing Equitable & Clean Transportation for All

Description: Join us for a discussion on how cities throughout the nation are advancing clean transportation solutions to support mobility, equity, and employment.  We will also discuss lessons learned and preview new projects, including an electric vehicle pilot under development in Trenton. 

Who should attend: General public, environmentalists, anyone interested in electric vehicles

Panelists Include

  • Kate Miguel, Clean Energy Advocate, Isles
  • Pam Frank, CEO, ChargeEVC
  • Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director, Greater Mercer TMA

Sponsored By:
3 PM: Urban Agriculture and Climate Change

Description: Urban agriculture is primarily seen as a way of providing local, healthy food to underserved neighborhoods, but it also plays a key role in making cities more resilient to changing climate and helps to reduce a city’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Come learn about the role urban agriculture plays in protecting Trenton’s future in a climate changing world.

Who should attend: general public, garden enthusiasts, anyone interested in starting their own community gardening efforts


Sponsored By:

Tuesday, June 8: NJM Urban Placemaking Day

On Tuesday, we explore redevelopment efforts that build on historical and cultural strengths of neighborhoods. How can creative arts help revitalize downtowns? How can local housing policy create safe, strong neighborhoods? What role does NJ’s first-ever Social Profit Center play in local redevelopment and regional trends?

Sponsored By

Sessions include:

10 AM: Partnership and Planning for the Future: Donnelly Homes and Battle Monument/North Trenton Choice Neighborhood Initiative

Description: In 2019, the City of Trenton and the Trenton Housing Authority, with Isles as partner, was awarded a competitive HUD grant to develop a plan for the future of Donnelly Homes and the surrounding North Trenton Neighborhood. Join this session to learn about the progress to date, the potential for neighborhood transformation through the Choice process, and how the many partners in this project are working together to create a healthy, safe, sustainable neighborhood.

Who should attend: general public, community members, planners, anyone interested in helping move the neighborhood forward

Panelists Include:
  • Michael Nordquist, Managing Director, Community Planning and Development, Isles 
  • Jelani Garrett, Executive Director, Trenton Housing Authority
  • Jeff Wilkerson, Supervising Planner, Division of Planning, City of Trenton
Sponsored By:

12 PM: Stronger Neighborhoods through local Housing Policy: Building the Foundations of a Housing Policy Coalition

Description: Housing policy and enforcement shapes and defines the character, strength, and health of neighborhoods. Isles and Trenton Health Team have partnered to establish and support a city- and region-wide housing coalition. Come hear about what we’ve learned and done so far, and be a part of crafting housing policy improvements as we move forward.

Who should attend: housing advocates, policymakers, residents

Panelists Include:
  • Michael Nordquist, Managing Director, Community Planning and Development, Isles 
  • Julia Taylor, Senior Director of Programs & Partnerships, Trenton Health Team
  • Laura Mora, Community Organizer, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF)
  • Cynthia Mendez, Director of Housing Stability Services, Arm in Arm

Supported By:

2 PM: Creative Arts and Economic Development: Sparking and Sustaining Downtown Trenton

Description: The Creek to Canal Creative District builds upon the energy and activities of key creative groups and individuals in and around downtown Trenton. Join a conversation of representatives from the creative scene in downtown to learn about their activities and the broader movement to use the arts and creative activities to spark and sustain momentum in downtown.

Who should attend: residents, artists, theater goers, people interested in becoming involved in the downtown creative arts scene

Watch Video
Panelists Include:

  • Michael Nordquist, Isles
  • Chris Shimchick, Isles
  • Meaghan Singletary, Trenton Downtown Association
  • Lauren Otis, Artworks
  • Leon Rainbow, Artist
  • Ryanne Domingues, Passage Theatre

Sponsored By:


4 PM: Social Profit Center at Mill One

Description: Earlier this year, Isles opened the Social Profit Center at Mill One, a space for nonprofits, social impact businesses, and artists located in the Bromley neighborhood of Hamilton. Join us to see updates on the opening of the 75,000 square foot Center, hear from tenants on how it’s designed to strengthen collaboration and capacity across the region, and learn about making a place-based impact in the surrounding neighborhood.

Who should attend: General public, anyone interested in shared space, potential tenants

Sponsored By

Watch Video

Panelists Include:

  • Sean Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Isles
  • Ronald Wong, Program Director – Economic Development, NJ Community Capital
  • Jeanene Leppert, Executive Director, Inspired Threads
  • Mark Iorio, Executive Director, Trenton Digital Initiative

Wednesday June 9: Lead Safe New Jersey

More than 5000 kids in NJ are poisoned by lead each year. Lead’s toxic legacy affects not only the health and futures of children, but impacts education, healthcare costs, and criminal justice. As a society, what can be done to protect children and speed the removal of lead-based paint from homes and schools?

Sessions include:

10 AM: Lead & the Law: Tenant & Homeowner Protections

Description: Currently, New Jersey residents are either unaware of, or have little ability to protect their right to a habitable home free from lead-based paint hazards (and other lead exposure.) While lead poisoning prevention and enforcement varies across the United States, best practices have been identified in Maryland, Rhode Island, Rochester, NY and other municipalities that can serve as a platform for positive change. Panelists will discuss the existing legal remedies and the pending new lead safe legislation in NJ that can chart a powerful path forward in NJ towards permanently removing lead from New Jersey homes and communities.

Who should attend: General public, anyone interested in tenant’s rights and protections.

Panelists Include:
  • Ben Haygood, Environmental Health Policy Director, Isles
  • Peter Chen, Policy Counsel, ACNJ
  • Matthew Chachére, Attorney, NMIC
  • Jill Heaps, Attorney, Earth Justice

Sponsored By:

12 PM: Doing Better at our Primary Mission – Protecting Kids

Description: There is more that we can do to prevent lead poisoning and to improve services for children already affected by lead. Panelists will discuss the state of housing code enforcement in New Jersey, national models for how to craft better housing codes, ideas for more effective enforcement and recommendation protocols for helping families mitigate the impacts of early exposure.

Who should attend: General public, home visitors, social workers, and others.

2 PM: Community-led Lead initiatives to Protect Children from Lead

Description: Community led initiatives across the US have resulted in significant and sometimes revolutionary changes in the political will to remove lead-based hazards from the environment for children and families. Panelist will provide case studies for several of these citizen/community led initiatives, discuss why they were so effective and how such a movement could be generated in New Jersey.

Who should attend: General public, activists, community-based non-profit leaders, and anyone interested in lead safety.

Panelists Include:
  • Ben Haygood, Environmental Health Policy Director, Isles
  • Dan Cohn, Vice President, Strategy, The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, Lead Safe Cleveland
  • Elizabeth McDade, Program Director, Rochester area Community Foundation

Thursday, June 10: Building the Future

On Thursday, we focus on Isles’ commitment to building the current and next generation of safe and engaged youth in Trenton and the region. How can we integrate academic, career, and leadership training to ensure Trenton’s youth are ready to face the future? How can youth help address the key issues that affects all of them: youth violence? How can statewide alliances and partnerships strengthen the impact of local efforts?

Sessions include:

9 AM: Isles Youth Institute Open House

Description: For 26 years, Isles Youth Institute (IYI) has empowered young adults in Trenton to gain an education and embark on a self-reliant career path. Hear from IYI staff and alumni about the academic, vocational, life skills, job development, and community service opportunities that IYI has to offer.

Who should attend: community partners, potential students and/or their families, anyone interested in alternative secondary education

Download Slides

Watch Video

Sponsored by:

11 AM: New Jersey YouthBuild Panel

Description: The YouthBuild model employed by IYI aims to engage young people in their communities, all while gaining valuable education and work experience – building both the individual and the community. Come learn about specific goals of YouthBuild as well as participate in a panel discussion of regional realities and best practices.

Who should attend: YouthBuild program staff and board members, civic leaders, those interested in workforce development.

Panelists Include:

  • Jeremy Hanson-Gutierrez – YouthBuild USA
  • Jasmine Joseph-Forman – YouthBuild Newark
  • Anita Wemple – Isles Youth Institute


  • Staff of Isles Youth Institute
  • Mi’Quel Blackshear – IYI Alumni
  • Mickey Rios –IYI Student
  • Louise Flamo – IYI Student
  • Kevin Perez – IYI Student


1 PM: Violence Prevention Panel

Description: Youth violence is a significant public health problem that affects thousands of young people each day, and in turn, their families, schools, and communities. You are invited into an exploration of realities and violence prevention strategic responses led by a panel of Trenton youth and community development leaders.

Who should attend: Trenton stake-holders, young adults, community practitioners

Panelists Include:

  • Stacy Heading, Youth Services and Outreach Manager, Isles
  • Brittany Aydelotte, Director of Community Engaged Institute, Center for Community Engagement, TCNJ
  • Michael Nordquist, Managing Director, Isles
  • John Hart, Chief Operating Officer, Isles

3 PM: Challenges and Lessons in Developing Anti-Racist Organizations

Description: The anti-racism protests of last summer once again drew attention to the legacy of racism and the history of slavery ingrained into American culture, including in the nonprofit and social services sector. Come hear a panel of experts discuss what organizations can do to address racism in their service delivery, and what proactive anti-racist steps can be taken to contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy.

Who should attend: general public, organizational leaders

Panelists Include:

  • Dr. Rahsaan Harris – CEO of the Citizens Committee for New York
  • Yvette Murry – President and CEO of YRM Consulting Group
  • Adriana Abizadeh – President, Catalyst Consulting Group and Executive Director, Kensington Corridor Trust
  • John Hart – Chief Operating Officer, Isles
  • Michael Nordquist – Managing Director, Isles

Friday, June 11: Healthy Housing, Healthy Families

Substandard housing is associated with increased risk of disease, crime, social isolation and decreased mental health. How can families better protect themselves from asthma triggers, lead dust, pests, mold and other indoor issues? Why are housing improvements so critical to individual and community health? How does NJ build a “green workforce” to tackle the issues of lead and healthy housing?

Sessions include:

10 AM: Healthy Housing/Healthy Families

Description: This session introduces participants to the concept of “housing as a vaccine” and outlines the role of community development agencies in the process of tackling health through healthy housing services.

Who should attend: Community development leadership and staff

Download Slides

Watch Video

Sponsored by:

12 PM: Opportunities for Future-focused Green Jobs for New Jersey

Description: New Jersey has set considerable goals for reducing energy consumption, improving electrification and making homes lead safe. This panel will discuss the barriers and opportunities for creating green jobs to provide energy efficiency, lead safe work and solar installation.

Who should attend: Nonprofit and community development leaders and staff, policy makers and their staff, and business owners.

Panelists Include:
Peter Rose – Managing Director, Isles
Andre Thomas – Senior Training Manager, Isles CEET
Kyle Haddock – Director, CLEAResult
Patrick McNamara – Community Solar Project Developer, Solar Landscape

3 PM: 8 Keys to a Healthy Home

Description: Want to learn how to avoid asthma triggers in your home, create green cleaning products, safely deal with pests, and more? This overview of 8 keys to a healthy home provides you with practical information and handouts to use to help keep your homes safe and healthy.

Who should attend: Anyone interested in a healthy home, especially families who have children with asthma or for residents of older homes or apartments.

Watch Video

Download Handout

Sponsored by:

Saturday, June 12: Welcome Home Fair for First-Time Homebuyers

Thinking about buying your first home? Find out what it takes to become a homeowner at Isles’ Virtual Welcome Home Fair!

Through this virtual Welcome Home Fair:

  • Learn who are the TEAM PLAYERS
  • Learn about CREDIT and how to access to your REPORT
  • Make an appointment with a HOUSING COUNSELOR

Isles is a HUD-certified housing counseling agency. We help first-time home buyers throughout Mercer County and the surrounding areas.

Thank You to all of Isles’ Forum Sponsors

Daily Sponsors

Urban Placemaking Sponsor

Session Sponsors

Interested in sponsorship opportunities?  Contact Patricia Walker at 609.341.4734.