REAP member and Oral Historian, Sara Jacobs, interviewed five REAP member activists for her Master’s Thesis at Columbia University, NY. Sara captured the resilience and spirit of REAP activists and encouraged interviewees to reflect on the factors and influences that have led to their activism. These deeply personal stories of five of our REAP activists highlight the influences, obstacles and remarkable struggles they have overcome to devote themselves to helping others.

Click the short audio clip to hear highlights of the member’s activism and the full Oral Histories for member’s life stories.

  • Aaron Pinkston-EL

Aaron Pinkston-El

Aaron has been an activist in Springfield for many years. He is known for bringing a positive attitude and a touch of humor to his wise mentorship of others. Aaron currently serves as a Neighborhood Outreach Worker with UAct and assists in coordinating the REAP community clean up days. Aaron is also a passionate advocate with the Faith Coalition for the Common Good where he provides thoughtful insight and leadership to the Restorative Justice Task Force.

Listen to Aaron’s full history here.

  • Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson

UAct President Sheila Stocks-Smith met Sam Johnson after a forum for the Springfield Mayor’s race in 2015 and they have worked together ever since. Sam was not the typical Springfield candidate and he passionately spoke truths long avoided and dismissed in Springfield. Sam is an entrepreneur with deep knowledge of and passion for how technology and innovation can help to revitalize East Springfield. He also is a strong advocate for helping build communities by building strong minds.

Listen to Sam’s full history here.

Ashley Stapleton

Ashley was a regular member of the REAP community solutions engagement sessions and has been active ever since. She generously volunteers of her limited time and often brings her daughter to activities to instill a legacy of service within her. Don’t be fooled by Ashley’s quiet demeanor, she is a fierce advocate for her community with a caring heart which guides her service and makes her a model leader.


Listen to Ashley’s full history here.

Deandre Neal

DeAndre Neal simply won’t take no for an answer. He is an amazing networker who continually pushes his agenda – helping youth and young adults avoid the negative choices that left him imprisoned at age 17 and helping his community to thrive. He has a keen intellect and has an uncanny ability to work with the establishment and at the grassroots. Deandre has been with UAct from its inception and is the backbone to much of our work.


Listen to Deandre’s full history here.