From Death to Life

Mary Johnson-Roy feels called to build bridges. After her son was murdered, Mary founded "From Death to Life,” an organization dedicated to ending violence through healing and reconciliation between families of victims and those who have caused harm. Since 2005, it has offered support groups empowering parents to come to terms with the impact of homicide through emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical healing. 


In addition, From Death to Life sponsors an annual prayer walk, community gatherings that celebrate life, and talks that invite others to witness the healing power of forgiveness and use that vision to heal in their own lives. Mary has travelled the U.S. and overseas, bringing her inspiring story of hope to students, prison inmates and correction officers, churches, and community groups. Her story has been featured by the CBS Evening News, People magazine, The View, and StoryCorps on NPR. As an Alafia Foundation Fellow, Mary seeks to take her organizational skills to a new level, to oversee the growth of From Death to Life, and to be empowered to focus on her cause full-time. 


Learn more about Mary’s story and important work through this short video produced by award-winning filmmaker, Dawn Mikkelson.


Visit From Death to Life website.


Project DIVA

"In my career, I have taken a stance to change the trajectory of girls' lives by choosing to stir their souls, liberate their minds, and heal their hearts.” Since 2008, after a successful pilot program at Dunwoody Academy, Neda Kellogg’s Project DIVA has been “Motivating One Young Lady at a Time” by empowering girls on Minneapolis’ north side to make positive choices as they transition into adulthood.  


Neda’s mentoring model covers six key focus areas: academic, social, emotional, career, financial literacy and health & wellness. Success measures include quarterly grades, annual grade transition, self-worth surveys, financial literacy surveys, speech feedback/video, and end of year presentations. Participants often return, or keep in touch to celebrate their goal achievements, and a number of alumni are finishing two and four year degrees. 


Neda attributes her leadership roots to her role as the oldest of a large family of cousins. “It comes naturally for me to love and embrace those that I care about,” she says. "Seeing a need for our youth to truly be listened to, guided through understanding why school is important and that there is truly a hope for their futures if they are willing to be open to learning is my passion. As an Alafia Foundation Fellow, Neda says, "I will be able to continually educate myself in best practices and get help in creatively finding ways to access human and financial resources that will benefit Project DIVA.” 

Visit Project DIVA website.


To Succeed You Must Read

Community leader and long time north Minneapolis resident A.J. Briscoe leads by example. Having risen above a troubled past, A.J. went to work mentoring and guiding disadvantaged, inner-city youth on the north side as a valued member of the Urban Youth Conservation team. He was inspired by his experiences with violence prevention, conflict resolution, and gang mediation to create an organization focused on preventing these issues––by building literacy in K-3rd graders. 


To date, A.J. has created a set of tools and activities that have increased classroom participation and brought poor readers to their grade level reading ability. This includes getting over 150 kids registered with public library cards and introducing them to library resources. Building on this success, he’s also set up a “Legacy Leadership” program for high school students to become reading tutors to younger students.  


In addition, A.J. is a motivational speaker and author who is clear about his broader vision. A.J. intends to develop leadership linking skills through Alafia Foundation in order to "solidify relationships with literacy initiatives in a joint effort to assist in achieving the goal of improving literacy levels in the Greater Twin Cities area. I would like to see a community effort adopted to enhance the community’s interest in reading.” .

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

–Helen Keller


Our inaugural cohort of Alafia Fellows:

Mary Johnson-Roy, Founder and President of From Death to Life

A.J. Briscoe, Founder and Director of To Succeed You Must Read

Neda Kellogg, Founder and Executive Director of Project DIVA


Meet our inaugural cohort of Alafia Fellows!