Meet the Fellows

Congratulations Fellows of 2024!

After a careful selection process based on applications and interviews, weighing a number of criteria – including the candidates’ expressed values, the impact that the Fellowship could have on their futures (career & otherwise), and their commitment to making their own impacts – The HRTS Foundation is thrilled to announce our 15 Fellows, the Class of 2024. The selections were made by the Fellowship Committee, appointed by the HRTS Foundation Board of Directors. Congratulations Fellows! We cannot wait to begin our work together.

Meet the Fellows

Lawnyá Benton

TV Writer/Creative Producer, JHRTS

“I like to joke that I didn’t choose the entertainment industry, the entertainment industry chose me. I love to help people and put smiles on people’s faces, so becoming an entertainer in any form was just a natural progression. No matter how many times I tried to find a path that was more “realistic” (hello Journalism), something would always pull me back to my love of TV. Whether it was forcing people to help me recreate scenes from TV shows, working on my elementary school’s TV news program, or creating new characters to portray in my favorite soap operas, the desire to be a part of television production wouldn’t leave me. During my teen years my dream was to be an actress and director. Although writing stories had always been a passion and outlet for me, I never considered screenwriting to be an option for me until I took my first screenwriting course in college – that’s when it all came together. There’s something so magical about great storytelling. Not to mention the power it has to impact and influence people all over the world. Once I learned that I could make a career out of writing TV and film, I felt that it was my calling, rather than a decision that I made. It gives me a platform to express myself, uplift, and bring comfort/joy to people. Most importantly, I want to be a part of the of the change to make Hollywood better– to create indefinite opportunities for people of color in front of and behind the cameras at all levels.”

Isabella Boccasino

Associate Producer/Coordinator, JHRTS

“In navigating life’s challenges, television has been my calm amidst the storm. My passion for the industry emerged through my love for creating in the world of entertainment, originally through theatre technology, to now through crafting decks, spotting anything in decks, and connecting with talent. Truly, I cannot imagine pursuing any other career. I love creating fun, but impactful stories, and pushing the limits wherever we can.”

Grace Fang

Center for Scholars & Storytellers, JHRTS

“From very early on, I was fond of storytelling. From reading a plethora of books as a kid to writing fanfiction in my free time throughout middle school, it’s always been part of my life. Whenever I stepped into a movie theater (which was quite often as I grew up in a small town in Florida with not much else to do), I became immersed in the lives of the characters, consumed by the emotions they felt and feeling as though I’d lived a new life when the movie ended. However, I realized it wasn’t very often that people who looked like me were the heroes, let alone on the screen. While Mulan and Jackie Chan’s filmography were positive influences, I wanted to see more people like me in roles that varied. When I began to question my sexuality in middle school, I didn’t have many films or shows I could turn to that truly portrayed the experience of not being straight. Even in recent years, I’ve seen how powerful diverse and authentic stories in mainstream media can be – seeing shows like The Owl House and Heartstopper and envying the adolescents who get to have such positive LGBTQ representation. The entertainment industry holds a tremendous amount of power on the youth today, to change their perspective and teach them valuable life lessons. I hold storytelling, particularly through film and television, close to my heart because of how impactful it can be. I would like to be part of that impact as well.”

LaCreshia Griffin-Pope

NBC Universal, JHRTS

“I’m interested in a career in the TV and entertainment industry because I am extremely passionate about storytelling and entertainment overall. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, deserves to tell their story and everyone deserve to see some aspect of themselves reflected in stories. Ever since I was a kid I wanted be a part of entertainment but at the time I didn’t know what or how. I spent my childhood immersed in music which was my first love and TV/film using it as a tool for everything, from entertainment to learning. That eventually involved into wanting to tell stories that impacts people in positive ways. I recently lost my dad very unexpectedly this year in August and entertainment specifically TV/Film and Music has been helping me cope, entertainment has been a huge part of my grieving and healing. Entertainment is a powerful tool that can be used for many purposes and I want to tap into as many of those purposes as I possibly can. I’m avid about representation in storytelling and want to see more of it on screen and I hope to be apart of impacting someone like I was impacted.”

Petra Holness

Goldberg Segalla LLP, JHRTS

“From a young age, I harbored a deep-seated aspiration to become a lawyer, driven by the desire to play a role in the very processes that shaped my childhood. The era spanning from 2000 to 2010 marked a pinnacle in children’s entertainment, fostering an environment of creativity and nostalgia that remains unparalleled. It is this unique blend of personal passion and professional ambition that propels me toward a career in entertainment law.

The magic woven into the fabric of children’s entertainment during that decade left an indelible mark on my formative years. Whether it was animated series, films, or iconic characters, these elements not only entertained but also contributed significantly to my growth and imagination. My pursuit of a career in entertainment law is, at its core, a means of reciprocating the joy and inspiration that I experienced firsthand. I am driven by the conviction that I can contribute to sustaining and evolving the industry to create similarly impactful experiences for future generations.”

Sana Hussein

FOX & Diverse Representation, JHRTS

“During a challenging period in my life, marked by the passing of my father and the responsibility of caring for my severely disabled mother, who returned from the Army with significant disabilities, television emerged as a crucial source of solace and escape. Throughout high school and into college, my role as a caregiver for my mother was emotionally taxing, and the weight of these responsibilities was often overwhelming.

Television, however, became a beacon of light in those dark times. It not only served as a distraction but also as a source of inspiration and comfort. The diverse array of shows and content became a lifeline, transporting me to different worlds and allowing me to momentarily escape the challenges of my reality.
I hope to become a TV development executive to create shows that give people a break from their tough realities, just like TV did for me. I believe in the power of stories to inspire and bring hope, and I want to be a part of that positive impact.”

Nadira Johnson

Made Up Stories, JHRTS

“My passion for entertainment comes from being an only child to a single mom. I’ve always been entranced by the art form and learned from the many stories on screen like it was another parent. In terms of a career in the TV and entertainment industry, I’m allured by its significant intersection of personal enjoyment and global impact. I’m extremely compelled by entertainment’s role in facilitating an increasing interconnection between diverse countries, cultures, and companies, serving as a meaningful marker in preserving society’s history. Entertainment is special to me because it offers the unique opportunity to stay connected to the cultural zeitgeist in responsiveness to audiences while wielding influence over and insight into our society.

Additionally, the industry’s dynamic and multifaceted nature promises continual challenges, aligning with my forward-facing perspective. The demand for mindfulness regarding geopolitical factors in distribution and the importance of economic understanding of markets is a particularly enriching experience that aligns with my priority of being a global citizen. Ultimately, a career in the TV and entertainment industry encapsulates the perfect blend of personal passion, global connectivity, and continuous intellectual and creative challenges that I am eager to embrace.”

Ingrid Nin

3 Arts Entertainment, JHRTS

“I am passionate about pursuing a career in the TV and entertainment industry because I am dedicated to creating equity within the entertainment industry for BIPOC creatives on screen and behind the scenes. I have always aspired to create a space for all filmmakers of color to share their narratives in the most authentic way possible, and help to elevate the voices of those who typically would not have the opportunity to in the first place. After seeing how many DEI programs were casualties of the recent strikes, I want to continue championing for the stories that, some may easily discard, but can be the thing to continue advancing the impact of underrepresented filmmakers in Hollywood.”

Mackenzie Rohan

Script Anatomy, JHRTS

“My passion for storytelling has been with me from my earliest memories. In home videos, at the age of two, I’m seen making up songs and dances and forcing my parents to watch my living room concerts. By high school, I was accepted into the prestigious Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, where I had the opportunity to perform throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and fly across the country to make my Carnegie Hall debut. When I graduated high school, I went on to pursue a BFA in the Department of Drama at Syracuse University, where my love of storytelling grew, and my passion shifted from being a performer to a screenwriter.

I write projects that position young women as leaders, highlight LGBTQ storylines, and showcase characters like my immigrant parents, who made endless sacrifices in the hopes that their children will achieve the dreams they never got to realize. I explore what enrages and excites me, question my preconceived notions of right and wrong, challenge the impossible standards for women that society shoves down our throats, and use my experience as a dual citizen growing up in Ireland and the United States to comedically critique our country’s ideas and institutions.

I’m pursuing a career in the TV and entertainment industry because I believe in my work, I trust that I can make a positive impact, and I’m eager to create opportunities for underrepresented and marginalized voices to shine. I understand that it’s a challenging, long road, and success takes hard work, perseverance, and patience, but I refuse to be intimidated. I dare to be excited by the challenge and trust that my passion and resilience will allow me to excel and create opportunities for myself and others to thrive in this industry.”

Hankai Yan

Walt Disney Company, JHRTS

“My journey in the TV and entertainment industry is rooted in the profound desire to craft narratives that evoke joy, resonate with diverse audiences, and visually captivate the imagination.
I am a storyteller. With every design I embark on a narrative journey, capturing fragments of the world, the details of my surroundings. Through a story, I hold up a mirror finding an endless well of inspiration, waiting to be brought to life.

Art and design, to me, are not just tools but the very fabric of storytelling. It’s the medium through which stories come alive, finding their resonance in the hearts and minds of viewers. I see myself as a visual person, someone who believes in the extraordinary power of images and aesthetics to transcend language and cultural barriers. In the vast canvas of the TV and entertainment industry, I find a limitless playground to express my creativity and bring stories to life through the magic of design.”

Lauren Delisle

UCLA, Academic

“I’m interested in a career in television because I believe story has the capacity to change the world, and I’d like to bring my perspectives — and the perspectives of my fellow struggling writers, directors, creators — into conversations that happen at a global level. Growing up, I always heard stories about how my grandmother was homeless. She lived on the streets of Quebec City with her mother. A precocious artist, she wanted to learn dance as a little girl. Since she couldn’t afford classes, she watched the little girls in the studio from out the window and pretended she was one of them. When my father migrated to the states, his intellect was questioned and, though he’s a storyteller at heart like my grandma, he committed to a real estate path as a means of supporting our family. Having the opportunity I do to make my dreams happen is a living out of an ancestral dream. I’m not just creating for myself, but for all those who came before me, who didn’t have the means.”

Alfredo (José) Facio, Jr.

California State University Fullerton, Academic

“I am drawn to a career in the TV and entertainment industry because, from my formative years, television has been my primary gateway to a world of imagination and understanding. As a child navigating the landscapes of a queer identity, television became a nurturing companion, guiding me through the complexities of self-discovery and acceptance. The characters and narratives on screen were more than just stories; they were mirrors reflecting the diversity of the human experience, including my own.

My identity, intricately shaped during those early years, mirrors a mosaic of characters and scenarios borrowed from the rich tapestry of TV and film. The very essence of who I am, with all my quirks and eccentricities, finds its roots in the narratives that captivated me during my youth. This immersive exposure ignited a profound passion for storytelling, fueling my desire to craft narratives that speak to the unique intersection of my Mexican American, queer, and overall human identity.”

Jessica Li

NYU, Academic

“I am drawn to a career in the TV and entertainment industry because of my deep passion for storytelling and its profound impact on people. From a young age, I’ve been captivated by the ability of television, film, and media to transport audiences, inspire emotions, and shape cultural narratives. However, growing up as a young Asian American girl in New Jersey, I didn’t see a lot of faces that looked like mine on the screen — I am especially passionate about uplifting underrepresented communities and voices, and I strongly believe media can be a powerful avenue of representation and social change. Furthermore, the collaborative nature of the industry and filmmaking itself, where diverse talents come together to create compelling content, is something I find exhilarating. Through creative development and production, I am eager to be part of the process that brings stories to life. Ultimately, my love for storytelling and the collaborative, transformative nature of the TV and entertainment industry motivates me to pursue a career in this dynamic field.”

Tamar Sebesta

California State University Northridge, Academic

I am a part of a lot of percentages; 2% of teen parents who graduate college, 3% of former foster youth, and 26% of first-gen students. It isn’t easy to take risks to pursue your dreams, and these statistics have hovered over me as I have had to pave my way through hurdles that have made me stronger, more passionate. I am proud of where I came from because it made me who I am. These things have shaped my worldview and I have a passion to light the way for others. We are all just a sum of our experiences and where we choose to go from there. Throughout my career and academic journey I have had a lot of accomplishments. As a soon graduate of next December, my voice has been crafted through my experiences interning and volunteering in social impact roles in the nonprofit industry, transferred into advertisement, and found my passion in the entertainment industry; notably gaining valuable skills at impact-leading companies such as NBCUniversal, Lionsgate, and Outfront Media. These experiences have helped my credentials in my pursuit of helping others, and I have been able to guest speak on panels, podcasts, and conferences, further allowing me to share my story and help other students find their dream. I have found ways to connect my roles in social impact, marketing and communications, and publicity in a way that understands how to create messaging that speaks to diverse audiences, connect each other through engaging storytelling, and build out relationships through fandoms within communities. I have applied this in personal projects, recently being a guest speaker this semester and flying across the country to present my research on sexual health education for foster youth. I am even starting my own podcast on how to learn to craft your own story to help others innovate within their own communities. I am curious to learn everything, and that is why I want to be a part of an industry that helps discover, create, and connect visual arts into the stories that shape us as humans.”

Jee Hoon (Fred) Seo

NYU, Academic

“As an undergraduate student filmmaker at NYU Tisch I have taken advantage of every opportunity and the resources within my academic environment to create narratives that explore human relationships within Drama and Romance. As I near graduation I am certain that I have discovered my calling as a writer/director as it has given me the privilege to tell compelling stories while collaborating with fellow artists in a collective mindset. Filmmaking has become a lifelong career I aim to continue in Hollywood as I plan to move to Los Angeles after graduation in May 2024. My next goal is to pitch and sell my TV Pilot and work in a writer’s room to hone my craft, so that one day I can write and direct feature films like the great Christopher Nolan.”