Cassandra Stephenson

Cassandra Stephenson

Cassandra Stephenson covers issues impacting rural West Tennessee for The Tennessee Lookout. Prior to joining The Tennessee Lookout, Cassandra covered Metro Nashville government at The Tennessean for nearly three years, chronicling the consequences of policy decisions for residents in one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Cassandra's post-collegiate reporting career began in West Tennessee in 2018 when she moved from her hometown in Ventura County, California after graduating from Pepperdine University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. There, she reported on breaking news and justice for a 13-county region, publishing award-winning investigations on local physicians’ involvement in the opioid epidemic and conditions in local for-profit prisons. Cassandra joined The Tennessean as a business reporter in 2020, covering pandemic-related business challenges including unemployment, workplace safety and eviction. Outside of the newsroom, you'll find Cassandra immersed in her latest art project or baking endeavor.  
PR Lockhart

P.R. Lockhart

P.R. Lockhart covers politics and power in Greensboro, North Carolina, for The Assembly. Before joining The Assembly, Lockhart worked as an economic development reporter in West Virginia covering labor and tax policy, workforce development, and business impacts on rural communities. Her background is in national reporting on race, justice and equity, and she has previously worked as a race and identity reporter for Vox, a Ben Bagdikian Editorial Fellow for Mother Jones, and as a freelance writer covering Black communities, voting rights, and policing for various outlets, including NBC News and the Guardian US. She is a 2024 Gwen Ifill Fellow through the International Women’s Media Foundation. Lockhart graduated from Duke University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a certificate in policy journalism and media studies.  
Grace Fiori

​Grace Fiori

​Grace Fiori covers how agricultural and other industries environmentally impact the Tribal Nations along the Missouri River. The tribes have a long and storied history with the sacred waters of the Missouri. Prior to joining Buffalo’s Fire, Grace reported on the intersection of local economies and agricultural systems, first as an intern and then as a contributing reporter for the Harvard Press in Harvard, Massachusetts. She will graduate in May from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sustainable agriculture, having served as the managing editor of the student newspaper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Grace has been passionately involved in both journalism and agriculture since her teenage years, spending multiple seasons on diversified vegetable farms, most recently with the UMass Student Farming Enterprise.
Lia Salvatierra

Lia Salvatierra

Lia Salvatierra covers all local government for the Ouray Plaindealer. Prior to joining the Plaindealer, she reported for a number of non-profit news organizations, including an internship at Wyofile, where she reported on Wyoming's education systems and Latinx and Indigenous communities. She has completed additional research internships from Minneapolis, MN, to Berlin, Germany. Lia is a California native and recent graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. When she’s not hopping on an interview, she loves leading outdoor excursions from North Carolina’s mountains to beaches for her peers.
Esteban Candelaria

Esteban Candelaria

Esteban Candelaria covers child welfare and the state Children, Youth, and Families Department for The Santa Fe New Mexican. He is based in Albuquerque. Prior to joining The New Mexican, he covered education at the Albuquerque Journal. There, he tackled accountability stories about the state education department's administration of services for students to stories about the proliferation of guns in Albuquerque schools. Before the Journal, he covered criminal justice and the local courts at The Colorado Springs Gazette. Esteban graduated with a bachelor's degree from Colorado College, where he also won an award for his time and contributions to student journalism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elise Plunk

Elise Plunk

Before joining Louisiana Illuminator, Plunk earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida, where she worked as editor-in-chief of Atrium magazine, a narrative nonfiction outlet on campus. She also worked as an environmental communications intern for the Thompson Earth Systems Institute, where she wrote feature stories and produced social media content on environmental topics relevant to Floridians, and as a climate journalist fellow at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Plunk's favorite class in college was environmental journalism, where she learned to connect her passion for the natural world with her studies in reporting. When she isn't working, she loves making art from upcycled materials.
Gisselle Medina

Gisselle Medina

Gisselle Medina covers religion, culture and community development in the Central Valley for Fresnoland. Prior to joining Report for America, Medina built an education beat from scratch at The Frisc, a small newsroom in San Francisco. Their work has been published in the L.A. Times, The Oaklandside, The Daily Californian, Greater Good Science Center, and much more. Medina was a 2023 White House Correspondents' Association scholarship recipient and was part of the 2023 NAHJ and NLGJA student projects. Medina received a master's degree in journalism, with concentrations in investigative reporting and multimedia, from UC Berkeley, where they also studied English as an undergraduate. Originally from Los Angeles, Medina lived in Fresno for 10 years, where they cultivated a passion for helping people while residing in a room and board facility and uncovering the disparities faced by the residents. Outside of work, Medina loves to spend time with loved ones, playing board games, dancing to music, traveling to new places, and reading poetry.
Isabella Aldrete

Isabella Aldrete

Isabella Aldrete is a bilingual journalist for The Nevada Independent. She covers political races up and down the ticket, as well as the Legislature and how policies affect Latinos. Prior to joining Report for America, Aldrete interned for NBC News. There, she covered everything from Sam Altman’s investments to the CHIPs Act. Aldrete also worked at the Dow Jones News Fund, covering workplace benefits for Employee Benefit News. She’s a 2024 graduate of Barnard College.

Billy Jean Louis

Award-winning journalist Billy Jean Louis is a senior editor and reporter for Miami Fourth Estate in Florida. He covered litigation for Bloomberg Law; diversity, equity, and inclusion for The Baltimore Sun; and health and education for The Baxter Bulletin before joining Report for America. His reporting on education has earned him prizes from the Virginia Press Association and Associated Press Media Editors. Jean Louis, a journalism graduate of the University of Florida, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He speaks French and Haitian Creole. He was first drawn to journalism during his youth in Haiti when he was exposed to the coup d’état of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. At the time, the Haitian press didn’t act as a strong watchdog, inspiring Jean Louis to become a journalist to expose corruption in Haiti — and around the world.

Julie Freijat

Prior to joining Report for America, Freijat served as a data reporter for Kansas City PBS through the Dow Jones News Fund, where she produced data-driven articles about local and state issues. She also held two internships at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where she gained valuable experience in science communication working across platforms. Freijat was also heavily involved in her campus newspaper at Kansas State University, where she served in multiple leadership roles and won awards for her design and writing at the state and national levels. While at Mizzou, Freijat worked as a research assistant for Investigative Reporters and Editors and served as a student staffer at the Reynold’s Journalism Institute Innovation Lab. Freijat received her master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2024, and graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in biology in 2022.