About Our Blog

Welcome to 'By the People'

Whether you know us through the Jane Addams School, Public Achievement, Minnesota Works Together, or our efforts on the West Side of St. Paul, we are the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. All of our work is grounded in the belief that a healthy democracy requires everyone’s participation, and that each of us has something to contribute.

It is our intention that this blog, By the People, will keep you informed—and inspired to get involved—with real-life stories of civic engagement that works, reflections on democracy, and suggestions and examples of how policy makers, elected officials and citizens can work together to solve public problems and build the common good. The name of the blog comes from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech at Gettysburg, where he described a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.—Abraham LincolnGettysburg Address
November 19, 1863

We hope you’ll help the blog live up to its name, and add your own perspective and ideas by posting comments. We’ll occasionally feature guest bloggers, and are interested to hear your suggestions for topics and useful links. This is our way of keeping you connected to the work that you have something to add to—so don't forget to join us.

Blog authors

Aaron Hokanson

Aaron Hokanson is the research assistant for the Crossing Borders project through the Jane Addams School for Democracy. He is a Ph.D. student in the Culture and Teaching track in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. His research interests are in intergenerational interaction, the educative processes of everyday life, and action research. He worked previously as a first grade teacher in a Reggio Emilia-inspired state school in Melbourne, Australia.

Caritza Mariani


Caritza Mariani is coordinator of the youth circle at Jane Addams School for Democracy. Previously, she mentored and tutored students in St. Paul Central High School's African American Mentor Program, and logged student teaching hours at several schools while studying elementary education at Augsburg College.

Daniella Fisher


Daniella Fisher is a second-year student in the master's of public policy program at the Humphrey Institute, with a focus on nonprofit and public leadership. Her professional background involves citizen efforts to enhance policies, and her academic interests include the study of a robust civil society as part of an enhanced democracy.

Danielle Peterson


Danielle Peterson is the Minnesota organizer for Public Achievement. She works in schools and community based organizations where she coaches, trains, educates and mentors young people and adults in civic, community and cultural organizing.

Deb Klein

Deb Klein coordinates the Hmong Circle at the Jane Addams School for Democracy. She also plays a role in the center's other collaborative youth work, including All Around the Neighborhood, the Youth Apprenticeship Project, and West Side Youth Guides.

Dennis Donovan

Dennis Donovan is the national organizer for the Center for Democracy and Citizenship's Public Achievement initiative. Since 1997, Donovan has worked with school, university and community groups across the country and abroad as a speaker, trainer and coach. Donovan is also a member of the Warrior to Citizen campaign working group.

Derek Johnson


Derek Johnson is the director of the Center's civic partnership initiatives on the West Side of St. Paul, including the Jane Addams School for Democracy, the West Side Neighborhood Learning Community, and collaborative community-based work with the City of Saint Paul.

Elaine Eschenbacher

Elaine Eschenbacher is the Programs Manager at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

Ellen Tveit


Ellen Tveit is communications and partnership coordinator for the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. She is also a member of the Warrior to Citizen Campaign working group.

Erik Skold

Erik Skold coordinates work with high school and middle school students on the West Side of St. Paul, including after-school and summer learning opportunities, as part of the Neighborhood Learning Community. In addition, he coordinates the Teen Circle of the Jane Addams School for Democracy, which brings new Hmong immigrant youth together with other high school and college students to engage in education-related democratic work. Erik previously coordinated Neighborhood Learning Community work with elementary school students.

Harry Boyte

Harry Boyte is founder and co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Boyte has been an architect of the center's public work approach to civic engagement and democracy, and a conceptual framework on citizenship that has gained world-wide recognition for its theoretical innovations and its practical effectiveness.

Jim Lewis

Jim Lewis serves as the overall coordinator of grants development and financial services for the center. His programming interests include community organizing, community as place and issues of youth development and citizen engagement at the local level.

Maria McNamara

Maria McNamara coordinates All Around the Neighborhood activities on the West Side of St. Paul, working primarily with elementary school-aged youth. She has been involved in the Neighborhood Learning Community as a neighborhood organizer and parent since its inception.

Nan Skelton

Nan Skelton is co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. Skelton leads the center's external public work around issues of civic education, reclaiming neighborhoods, and the democratic renewal of public education. She is a co-founder of the Jane Addams School for Democracy and the Neighborhood Learning Community, both based in the West Side neighborhood of St. Paul.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs