Who we are
Roderick 'Rudy' Bankston
Roderick “Rudy” Bankston is the founder of i am We Global Village. He is a committed educator, entrepreneur, Restorative Justice practitioner, and author. His powerful story describes his experience as a survivor of the school-to-prison pipeline and surfaces and explores intersecting themes of identity, equity, justice, trauma and resiliency. Wrongly convicted and sentenced to life at 19 years old, Rudy spent 20 years in prison before winning back his freedom on appeal.
After his release from prison in 2015, Rudy began working for the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), first serving as a Community Liaison at Memorial High School. He added a second position guiding students’ learning and growth within ‘Restore’, the district’s expulsion abeyance program. The following school year, he transitioned into a Central Office position as a Restorative Justice Coach to support engagement of Restorative Justice across all levels of the organization. He left MMSD in 2019 and continues his work engaging Restorative Justice as a founding member of Small Fire and founder of i Am We Classics and i Am We Coaching & Mentoring. In 2021, Rudy founded, i am We Global Village, to deepen the work of creating spaces of healing for individuals and communities as they adopt, center, and practice restorative values.
Rudy has served as an adjunct professor at Edgewood College and currently is a consultant with the National Equity Project, serves on the board for the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRI), and is a member of the Black Educators Network.
Rudy’s published works include a novel, Shed So Many Tears; two collections of Haiku, Snippets of Soul in Seventeen Syllables and Snippets of Soul, Too; and a book of poetry, Buried Alive.
Dr. Donna Hart Tervalon
Dr. Donna Hart-Tervalon has more than forty-five years of combined experience in the field of education/special education that includes cross categorical teaching, early childhood and special education consulting, grant writing, developing, implementing and evaluating projects for public and private preschools and Head Start programs and coordinating birth to three home based early intervention programs and services. She has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses and provided professional development and technical assistance to educators on issues of equity, diversity, cultural awareness, culturally responsive practices and multiculturalism. She is also a published author and the recipient of several awards and honors for her work in addressing issues of racial disproportionality and advancing racial equity for all students and families. She was a consultant on the special education team with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction from 2001 until she retired in 2018. She also served as Assistant Director of Special Education. during her tenure. Her work focused primarily on providing statewide assistance and support to projects and initiatives focusing on racial equity and addressing issues of disproportionality. In retirement Donna continues to engage in activities and projects that support youth of color and promote racial equity and social justice. She now has more time to devote to other passions such as knitting, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Heidi Elder Ropa
Heidi Elder Ropa is a community educator and restorative justice practitioner. Heidi taught community-based yoga classes for seven years before transitioning to work with an Episcopal School Partnership in Haiti. The work in Haiti, ignited Heidi's determination to listen to and align resources with community-based leadership. This experience reinforced her belief that people and communities have the collective wisdom they need to thrive when resources align to support their work.
In recent years, Heidi received her certification with the UW Health Mindfulness Teacher Program and assisted Dr. Carmen Alonso with the Path of Freedom class offered at Fox Lake Correctional Facility. Education and creating healing spaces are common threads weaving through her work.
Heidi's Masters in Teaching Secondary Social Studies and her early years working on Capitol Hill, inform her passion for learning and listening to the voices of those most impacted by policy.
Tina is the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health. She believes in the incredible impact of positive early relationships in preventing later disconnection from school, family, and community and the power of connection to enrich lives and help dismantle the trauma to prison pipeline.
Tina Hogle holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and an A.A.S. in Human Services. Following her years as a social worker, she worked in both New York and Wisconsin for associations that provide professional development and support to school administrators.
She spent several years tutoring in the county jail, and served in leadership positions in a local criminal justice reform organization. She is a member of the racial justice committee at her church.
Tina is the author of a children’s picture book entitled The Place Where Love Lives. Has published a book of haiku poetry entitled Everyday Haiku: small moments that make a life, three lines at a time, and she has started work on a second book for young children entitled Feelings Come and Feelings Go.
Jenni Vondrak received her MSW from UW-Madison, and has been a community and school social worker in the Madison area for over 20 years. She most recently was Student & Family Engagement Specialist at West Middleton Elementary. Jenni is passionate about creating school environments where students feel safe, loved and worthy - where they can be their whole selves and can discover and nurture their passions and talents, while also learning to be a compassionate member of the community.
Jenni’s hobbies include reading, being on the water, playing board games and watching sports with her family. She also spends time learning more about dismantling structural racism, and believes we can and should use our privilege for progress towards a more equitable and just society where everyone can thrive.