Notley Welcomes First Three Changemakers in San Antonio

Published: November 16, 2022

We’re welcoming our first three individuals to the Changemaker Program in San Antonio – Stephen Lucke of Gardopia Gardens, Alex Bailey of Black Outside and Leonora Walker of Freed Texas!

Over the next year, Notley will distribute $10,000 in unrestricted funding to each individual in support of their organization. In addition, Notley will provide connections, national exposure, and strategic guidance from our growing bench of support to help further their impact, including Leslie Chasnoff, San Antonio Market Director at Notley.

Stephen Lucke

During his undergraduate years at the University of the Incarnate Word, Stephen became enamored with health and wellness, first starting a student & employee wellness program, and then a community garden on campus. It wasn’t long before Stephen founded Gardopia Gardens to address obesity and climate change.

The mission of Gardopia Gardens is to grow healthy communities through garden-based learning. The organization’s approach to urban agriculture provides individuals, families, and community members with awareness of food security, nutritional improvements, environmental vigilance, physical activity, and climate stewardship. Every workshop, garden, volunteer, and community event progresses the agency towards realizing its vision.

In just five years, Stephen and Gardopia have built over 250 gardens, impacted 10,000+ participants, grown close to 5,000 pounds of food, and most importantly provided a proof of concept for South Central Texas to become a leader in urban agriculture to address economic, social, and environmental inequity.

From the Market Director: 

“Stephen is like a walking encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to urban agriculture, and using it as a means to address systemic issues (health, environmental sustainability, economic mobility). He has bold visions and ideas, is fearless in his approach, and dedicated to building Gardopia into a leading example for the nation.”

Alex Bailey

Alex’s love for the outdoors was reinvigorated as a summer camp counselor. Spending three summers working at one of the premier summer overnight camps in the country, he witnessed the transformative power of the outdoors. Alex soon joined Teach for America and served as a classroom teacher for four years and later became an instructional coach with Teach for America San Antonio. Throughout his experience in both the classroom and as an instructional coach, he saw the “gap” in outdoor programming opportunities for youth of color in San Antonio.

Between 2018 and 2019, Alex embarked on a journey to observe and shadow summer camps and outdoor programs across the country to better understand the impact outdoor programming has on youth. He took those learnings and, alongside an amazing community of people, began building a culturally relevant outdoor program (Black Outside) in the city of San Antonio which today collectively serves 400+ Black/African-American youth across Central Texas with some camp attendees across the nation.

From the Market Director: 

“Alex is a fearless entrepreneur that is applying a unique and creative approach to fostering economic mobility, health, and education to black communities and youth. He’s an impressionable leader building a nationally recognized program right here in San Antonio.”

Leonora Walker

Leonora was once incarcerated, but has been set free and delivered for over 8 years from imprisonment and addiction. It was through her years of overcoming so many prison system barriers, personal healing through education, and her strong faith in God that Leonora believed that her past didn’t need to dictate her future in a negative way. She realized that her lived experiences can help many people overcome hopelessness through compassion and her expertise in supporting justice involved people. Leonora is now the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a holistic educational 501c3 nonprofit called FREED Texas, formed in 2019 at Geekdom. FREED stands for Finish Recidivism through Education, Employment and Divinity.

Leonora extends a helping hand to the formerly incarcerated and their families through education, employment, peer mentoring, life coaching, civics and spiritual support. FREED participants, referred to as Scholars, receive a stipend of $15 per hour during the nine weeks, as well as cell phones, laptops and school supplies. And she believes that the formerly incarcerated can successfully and permanently free themselves through education: a foundation that no one can take away!

From the Market Director:
“Leonora is a force to be reckoned with, and also the brightest light in the room. She is gaining support from key stakeholders that will be game-changing in disrupting the systemic issues that cause recidivism.”

Looking to get connected to our San Antonio Notley network and programs? Reach out to our San Antonio Market Director, Leslie Chasnoff at [email protected].

If you’re interested in keeping up with our expansion efforts, we encourage you to follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn, stay tuned to the latest news on our Cities page and join our email list to be the first in the know.