Vickash Mohanka, Acting Chapter Director
Vickash Mohanka is currently the Acting Chapter Director at the Massachusetts Sierra Club. Prior to joining Sierra Club, he worked as the Transformational Climate Finance Manager for The Chisholm Legacy Project, a national environmental and climate justice nonprofit centered in the frameworks of Just Transition and Black Liberation. He has experience consulting companies and nonprofits to support innovative solar justice and economic development projects. He was an organizer and advocate for Clean Water Action, supporting BIPOC communities with the Green Justice Coalition, leading the largest environmental coalition in Massachusetts with Mass Power Forward, and running the Clean Water electoral program which endorsed progressive candidates and issues statewide. Before organizing, he was a legislative staffer writing energy policy at the Massachusetts State House.
Throughout the last decade, he has worked with many communities, activists, academics, and politicians across Massachusetts to further climate and economic justice. An experienced public speaker, he enjoys educating youth and has developed trainings to introduce the energy system and environmental justice to various audiences.
He holds a B.A. in Economics from UMass Amherst and an M.S. in Climate Science and Policy from Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy.
Veena Dharmaraj, Director of Transportation
Veena leads efforts to accelerate the electrification of transit fleets and the adoption of electric vehicles through policy advocacy, public outreach, and coalition building. She also supports the clean buildings campaign at the Massachusetts Sierra Club.
Veena brings more than 15 years of experience running multi-stakeholder programs focused on climate action. Previously, at the Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future, Veena facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing between businesses to advance solutions that address climate change. At the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC) she managed the multi-state implementation of a green housing certification program in India. Veena has a master’s degree in Pollution Control Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Mumbai University, India.
Michele Brooks, Boston Lead Organizer
Michele started as an intern for the Massachusetts Sierra Club during the summer of 2015. As an intern, Michele represented the chapter at outreach events to recruit new members and volunteers, and designed handouts on the chapter’s work. She also organized a floating protest on the Charles River against Shell Oil’s drilling operations in the Arctic, as part of a national Sierra Club day of action. After her internship Michele continued to volunteer with the chapter, and joined the staff in April 2017. Now she represents the chapter as a member of the Boston Clean Energy Coalition advocating for the City of Boston to speed its transition to clean energy and away from fossil fuels. Michele earned a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Regional Planning from Westfield State University in 2016. In her free time, Michele enjoys exploring nature, practicing yoga, and singing.
Emma Brown, Digital Strategist
Emma has a background in composting and food scrap hauling and has been active in the community composting movement since 2016. She has been a member of the Sunrise Movement since December 2018, and co-led the Internal Communications team of the Boston Hub throughout 2019. Emma has been working on Digital Communications for the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club since June 2019. Emma received her B.A. in linguistics from the University of New Hampshire, her Certificate of Technical Ability in Composting from the Maine Compost School (UMaine Extension), and Masters in Data Analytics from Northeastern University.
Jess Nahigian, State Political Director
Jess joined Sierra Club in the fall of 2021 after being part of Sunrise Boston and Sunrise National, where Jess led partnerships work and helped steer the Mass Renews Alliance, as well as organize and support volunteer teams and coaches around the country. Before Sunrise, Jess worked with Indivisible Massachusetts, where Jess honed digital organizing and chapter management skills. Jess also has electoral campaign experience as a high school organizer for Obama's 2008 campaign, as an intern and campus organizer with Senator Warren's 2012 campaign, and as the interim field director of Bob Massie's gubernatorial 2018 campaign, as well as 2 years of municipal government experience in energy planning and policy with the City of Cambridge. Originally from Cambridge, Jess earned her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Studies and a Senior Thesis on the Massachusetts Bottle Bill campaigns of 1982 and 2014.
Kira Liu, Chapter Coordinator
Kira joined the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter in November 2022 as the Chapter Coordinator. Originally from Massachusetts, Kira earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. She spent the next several years working on climate change organizing in Minnesota; engaging communities around the state in collective action, advocacy, and movement building. Kira is passionate about storytelling as a tool for activism, and co-edited Eyewitness: Minnesota Voices on Climate Change, a chapbook of stories, poetry, and artwork representing Minnesotans’ experiences of climate change. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, baking, and hiking around New England.
Daniel McCarthy, Transportation and Toxics Organizer
Originally from upstate New York, Dan earned a B.A. in Political Science and English from Boston College, where he got his start in activism with the college divestment movement. After spending a few years volunteering for campaigns, researching legislative policy, and organizing for climate action, Dan started as a legislative intern for the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter. As an intern, he organized rallies across the state and mobilized volunteers to push through major climate legislation. Dan is thrilled to join the Chapter to work on transportation and toxics campaigns. In his free time, you can find Dan playing trombone in the wedding band American Midnight.
Celeste Venolia, Forest Protection Coordinator
Celeste joined the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter in April of 2023 as the Forest Protection Coordinator. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy and Biological Sciences from Smith College and a M.S. in Biological Science from the University of Rhode Island. Her thesis focused on modeling the growth of sugar kelp in Rhode Island Aquaculture systems. She has also worked broadly in environmental spaces as an outdoor educator, farm hand, trail steward, and most recently, a volunteer coordinator with Boston Harbor Now and the National Parks of Boston. Originally from Western MA and currently based in the greater Boston area, Celeste is thrilled to be supporting public lands in her home state and connecting folks to those spaces through outings. She first got involved with the chapter as a volunteer supporting political policy compliance and then later as the treasurer for the Massachusetts Sierra Club Political Action Committee. In her free time, Celeste enjoys hiking/backpacking, cooking/baking new plant-based dishes, knitting, and playing board games.
Sam Lambert, Political and Municipal Coordinator
Sam joined the staff of the MA Chapter of the Sierra Club in April of 2023 as the Political and Municipal Coordinator. Sam was most recently a longtime volunteer and staff member at Everett Community Growers, a food justice organization located in her hometown. There she held various roles such as Youth Development Manager and Urban Farm Manager, supporting healthy food access, food sovereignty, and meaningful career-building experiences for youth. She is also a local politician and is passionate about introducing community to the power of constituency, regardless of voter status, and supporting entry points into our electoral process, especially at the local level. Sam was Chair of the Everett Public Library Board of Trustees, a founding member of the Everett Education Coalition and is currently Vice-Chair of the Everett Democratic City Committee and serving her second term on the Everett School Committee. She will be working to build an electoral program that will support electing climate champions throughout the Commonwealth and supporting those advocating for just climate policy and practices across Massachusetts.
Sierra Club National Staff (Mass. Chapter office)
Deb Pasternak, Chief Field Officer (Chapters)
A lifelong environmentalist, Deb Pasternak studied marine ecology and fisheries management and worked in the photovoltaics industry during college. After college, she pursued a career as a singer-songwriter for 15 years, writing and recording four albums while touring nationally. During this time Pasternak worked to organize electoral campaigns in her hometown of Jamaica Plain, MA. In the early 2000's, Pasternak decided she needed to get back into the fight to mitigate climate change, working for a wind farm development consultant firm and later a German utility scale wind turbine manufacturer. During that period of time, Deb worked with developers through the processes of siting, permitting, securing financing, interconnection with the grid, construction and commissioning, and exploring US manufacturing for the machines. Deb left the wind industry to become a step-Mom in 2010, but continued to follow the industry closely, and once the kids were off decided to re-enter the environmental world as an educator and policy advocate. Deb began volunteering with the Massachusetts Sierra Club, serving on their Energy Committee and giving Activist Trainings across the state. In 2017 she joined the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Chapter and in 2018 was elected as Chair. Upon the resignation of Director Emily Norton, Deb took over as Director in August 2018. In 2023, Deb transitioned from Massachusetts Chapter Director to a new role, Chief Field Officer (Chapters).
Melanie MacInnis, National Director of Outdoor Engagement
Mel MacInnis is a whitewater raft guide, walker and sometimes open water swimmer. Having moved to the Boston area in October 2017, she looks forward to getting to know the outdoor spaces New England has to offer. As Director of Outdoor Activities, Mel trains and supports volunteers and staff across the country to connect ALL people to meaningful outdoor experiences. Her favorite part of the job is working and playing with Sierra Club volunteers and partner organizations who are working for inclusive outdoor spaces for all. Mel is also a member of the Equity Support Team assisting volunteers as we transition to become a more welcoming and inclusive organization.
Mel’s introduction to the outdoors took place when she was twenty three as a participant on a Sierra Club Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) rafting trip. Mel's passion for the environment, people and herself was realized after becoming a volunteer Sierra Club ICO leader. Over the last 24 years, she has gone outdoors with thousands of participants on day hikes, backpacks and river rafting trips and served as a volunteer in many national Sierra Club roles.
Mel holds a Masters of Arts and a Bachelor’s degree in the Humanities from San Francisco State University. Earlier this year, Mel was quoted in Outside Magazine as one of ten women leading the Outdoor Industry.
Adrienne Frazier, Deputy Chief Financial Executive
Adrienne joined the Sierra Club in 2008 from the audit division of KPMG with a desire to apply her skills as a CPA to an organization with a mission she cared deeply about. Adrienne serves as the Deputy Chief Financial Executive responsible for the National organizations budgeting, overseeing chapter and group financial reporting, serving as a Sierra Club-wide risk manager, corporate officer and fiscal agent responsible for regulatory and tax compliance. What Adrienne enjoys most about her position is the opportunity to work with chapters and groups all around the country and is working to improve the financial systems and reporting from those entities. Adrienne relocated from San Francisco to the Boston area and can be found on the weekends sharing her love of the outdoors on as long of hikes as her young kids will allow all around Massachusetts and New England.