Top row, from left: Malika Jenkins, Anabella Poland, Gianluca D’Elia, Kei-Sygh Thomas, Luisa Ortiz Pérez. Bottom row, from left: Pat Cicchetti, Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh, Hiral Patel, Denise Clay, Asia Martin.

Meet the latest round of 2019 diversity, equity and inclusion grantees

The awards are meant to help NJ journalists attend events hosted by organizations working to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in media

Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media
6 min readOct 28, 2019

Last year, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University launched an award fund dedicated to helping New Jersey journalists attend trainings, events and conferences hosted by organizations that work toward improving diversity, equity and inclusion in media.

Such organizations include the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and NLGJA — The Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

The grant provides stipends of $500 on average for these local journalists to attend eligible events. The funding for these stipends is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund, a partnership between Democracy Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

We’re thrilled today to announce our latest round of grant recipients!

Below you’ll find bios of our next ten grant winners. We expect to announce another round of grant funding in January 2020.

Our latest 10 grant winners

Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of an all-inclusive media site known as Muslim*, which sets to create a community and amplify the voices of Generation Z and millennial Muslim youth through the use of digital media.

Pat Cicchetti is a morning show host and disc jockey with more than four years of experience in broadcast media and on-air reporting. He is also a guest panelist on SiriusXM Entertainment Weekly Radio. He is currently a Montclair State University sociology major and is dedicated to broadcast media, with aspirations of working on-air full time. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Pat has a deep care for news stories in politics and entertainment concerning LGBTQ+ rights, perceptions, and acceptance.

Denise Clay is the co-host of “Mark and Denise In The Mornings” on WWDB-AM 860 in Philadelphia. She also works as a copy editor, proofreader, and columnist for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, and she is a columnist for the Philadelphia Public Record. From 2003–2005, Clay served as president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, a founding chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Gianluca D’Elia is a multimedia journalist, photographer, social media specialist and audio producer who currently covers communities in Central and South New Jersey for The Burlington County Times. He is a former news intern for and The Star-Ledger, where he covered criminal justice, local government and features, and contributed to the strategy for a social media brand that reaches more than 1 million followers. His senior capstone, “Slavery In Our State,” explored human trafficking as a local issue in New Jersey.

Malika Jenkins is a social media producer with more than three years of experience in broadcast media and digital platforms. She has held multiple roles at the Montclair State University radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, including morning show host, news contributor, and social media director. She recently worked on a campus-wide collaborative reporting effort titled, Focus: Immigration. She is a currently a communication and media arts major, with a minor in business. Her expected graduation date is May 2020.

Asia Martin is a personal finance writer at Forbes. She got her financial writing chops as a business reporter for the trade publication Financial Advisor magazine. While still pursuing journalism, but desiring to help local communities during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Martin worked as a Community Partnership Specialist for the non-profit Ocean County Family Success Center (OCFSC). Martin graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in journalism and media studies and is a proud former student of the Douglass Residential College for Women.

Hiral Patel is a radio talk show host and producer with more than three years of experience in broadcast media and on-air reporting. She has held multiple leadership roles at the campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, including news director, assistant program director, and station manager. She has written articles for the independent student newspaper, The Montclarion, and collaborated on a variety of topics for specialty programming with WMSC, the Center for Cooperative Media, and the Montclair NewsLab. She is currently a political science major at Montclair State University, with a minor in public professional writing. Her expected graduation date is May 2020.

Luisa Ortiz Pérez is a disruptive communicator, design thinker and non-violent political action organizer. She is a co-founder of and the CEO/founder of She has taught and trained journalists, activists, organizers and change makers on how to use digital technologies safely and effectively around the globe since 2003. She holds a PhD in Ideology and Discourse Analysis from the University of Essex.

Anabella Poland is the general manager and adviser of WMSC 90.3 FM. She also teaches radio production and podcast production at Montclair State University. Before joining Montclair State, Poland was director of talent and industry relations at SiriusXM Radio, where she negotiated and managed interviews, events and performances with A-level Hollywood actors, celebrities and musicians for more than 135 SiriusXM channels. Prior to joining SiriusXM, she was a Segment Producer at ABC News Good Morning America. Her work has also appeared on ABC World News, 20/20 and Nightline. As a foreign correspondent for Argentine radio since 2002, she has reported on four U.S. presidential elections, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, relevant breaking news, feature stories and entertainment news.

Kei-Sygh Thomas is a reporter who previously covered New Jersey’s largest school district for TAPinto Newark. Prior to joining TAPinto, she worked as an editorial fellow at The 74, a national educations news outlet. Her work has been featured in Chalkbeat, NJ Tech Weekly, The Grade, and more.

There is still time to apply!

And good news in case you didn’t know about this opportunity: You can still apply! We will keep the application window open through June 15. But don’t wait; get your applications in today, funds are limited!

Click here to submit a request.

Note that the stipends can be used to cover registration, travel costs or member dues related to the event. If you need more than $500, let us know that, too, so we can consider the request.

Eligible events could include, among others:

And also note that the stipends can be applied to more than just the events and organizations listed above; you will be asked to indicate which training or conference you’re applying for funding for on your application.

I mentioned some of the larger organizations that focus on increasing diversity in media in this post; if you’re looking for more info on this subject or want to find other institutions and opportunities for training, conferences and mentoring, check out this Journalism Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tracker spreadsheet (it’s incredibly useful!).

NOTE: The stipends are open to journalists of all backgrounds.

To qualify, journalists must:

  • Reside or work in New Jersey.
  • Provide proof of employment in media, or proof of being a student studying journalism or a related field.
  • Detail which event they’re like to use the grant to attend.
  • Agree to share information about what they learned after the event, for the benefit of others in the New Jersey ecosystem.

Stipends will be awarded on a rolling, first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information, or if you have any questions, let us know. Drop us an email at

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact him at or on Twitter at @jsamditis.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit



Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media

Associate director of products + events, Center for Cooperative Media; host + producer, WTF Just Happened Today podcast.