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This month the NLC Miami 2015 Institute crossed the halfway mark. The 20 Fellows have completed their training in Life Entrepreneurship, Strategic Relationships, Government Structure, Fundraising, and Communications. Speakers have included notable personalities such as Mike Moschella, David Lawrence, Aaron Podhurst, Caitlin Howarth and Evelyn Greer to name a few. As the Fellows prepare for their graduation fundraiser, we encourage you to read about their prestigious and varied backgrounds.
Lili Bach currently works for America Votes, a nonprofit aiding in field strategies and operations for various campaigns across the state. Elected President of the Miami Dade Young Democrats in June 2013, she helps with youth voter education and engagement and encourages young democrats, and women to get involved and get out the vote. Voted Florida Young Democrat 2014 Woman of the Year as well as 014 SEIU’s Local 1991’s Leadership Award. Her passion is Social Justice primarily in voter engagement, women’s issues, and climate change.
A California girl at heart, she enjoys snowboarding, wakeboarding, and going to the beach. For fun you can catch her breaking it down on the dance floor or channeling her inner pop star at any karaoke joint.
Aaron Bos-Lun is in his third year teaching at Homestead Senior High School, where he was recently a regional finalist for Rookie Teacher of the Year. He is an alum of both Teach for America ('12) and of City Year (DC ’08) and has taught in three countries on three continents. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wheaton College. Believing a strong education includes but is not limited to literacy and numeracy, Aaron is a Justice Teaching Fellow of the Florida Supreme Court to advance civic education, and a Freedom Writer Teacher to advance student self-expression.
Aaron recently wrote a Miami Herald Op-Ed about how sponsoring a Gay Straight Alliance showed him the deep need for safe spaces in all schools. He is especially proud of the number of straight students, including boyfriend-girlfriend couples, who attend the GSA, showing it is truly a safe space for all students. He has since helped teachers and students throughout the county develop their own GSA’s in low-income schools, and continues to strengthen this network of safe spaces. Aaron was honored to be recognized as one of SAVE's "Luminaries of Equality" for this work in South Florida. The impact of these GSA’s has reached the broader Miami community, showing the potential all young people have—gay or straight, of any socioeconomic level—if given a safe space to find their voice.
Ben Brodsky is a partner with Coffey Burlington. Ben joined the firm following a two-year clerkship with the Honorable Judge Joan A. Lenard in the Southern District of Florida. Prior to his clerkship, he practiced with an international law firm in New York. Ben has first chaired jury trials in both federal and state court, and his practice encompasses all aspects of business, commercial, and employment litigation.
He is a Miami native and a graduate of Ransom-Everglades School, University of Michigan, and New York University School of Law. Ben is the First Vice President of the South Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He previously founded and served as the chairperson of the Federal Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Initiative, which works to promote the interests of female lawyers in the community. He served as County Counsel for the Democratic National Committee’s Voter Expansion 3initiative in the 2014 election cycle. And he is a graduate of the 2012 class of Leadership Miami.
Oscar Corral spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter covering crime, politics and investigative stories. He swapped his pen for a video camera in 2008 and never looked back. He now runs his own video-production company, Explica Media Solutions, which specializes in corporate videos, live webcasting and documentaries. He may still call himself a journalist , but will gladly settle for entrepreneur, writer, father, husband or book club dude. He lives in Miami with his wife and fellow journalist, Cecile, his two daughters and his trusty pound mutt, Daisy.
Born in Managua, Nicaragua, Ana Carolina Corrales has called Miami home since the age of eight. She completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Coral Gables Senior High and received a scholarship to Swarthmore College. Upon graduation, she worked as a business analyst for Columbia Energy Group, a Fortune 500 company in Virginia, as part of its management development program featuring rotations in financial planning, tax services, corporate communications, and corporate benefits. While working full-time, she earned an M.A. in Applied Economics at The Johns Hopkins University.
Returning to Miami with her degrees in hand, Ana’s first opportunity to engage the business community was as Executive Director of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce, where she represented and promoted its more than 300 members. She briefly left the non-profit sector to be Managing Director of Research and Client Services at The Washington Economics Group, a consulting firm founded by former Undersecretary of Commerce, Tony Villamil. Despite loving her government relations and business clients, Ana was unable to resist her teaching vocation, joining Miami Dade College as faculty. Currently Senior Associate Professor of Economics at the Wolfson Campus, she enjoys helping students navigate the transfer application process and achieve their career goals. She served as adviser to Phi Beta Lambda, the premier business student organization, leading chapters to victories in state and national competitions. Ana has collaborated with the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies, Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Economic Education, Federal Reserve Banks of Boston and Atlanta, and the Center for International Business Education & Research in Michigan.
Jorge Damian de la Paz is a Policy Research Associate at the Miami Coalition for the Homeless. A Miami native, he completed a postgraduate degree with honors in Philosophy and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and was a recent participant in the inaugural class of the University of Miami’s Community Scholars in Affordable Housing program. His primary interests are in housing policy, urban design, and political philosophy.
Dwanita L. Fields, MIBA is a highly motivated Senior Site Director for Breakthrough Miami’s all-girls program at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. She joined the Breakthrough Miami staff in 2010, but her involvement with the program goes back two decades when she entered the program as a student in 1993. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree at Howard University, she was inspired by her previous experience as an intern for the program to enter Miami-Dade County Public Schools as a Middle School Mathematics teacher. Her extensive experience in the classroom contributed to her success as a Director in the Breakthrough Miami program. Her focus as a Director has been bridging the achievement gap by developing and designing supplemental curriculum which enhances her scholars’ academic growth as well as ensuring that they remain on a positive trajectory towards college. She is extremely passionate about mentoring young girls, which she gets an opportunity to do in her Co-Chair position with the Junior League of Miami for the CHARLEE Project, which was designed to equip young girls with necessary skills in preparation for their transition out of foster care. Her passion for mentoring young girls exceeds far beyond the classroom. Whether on the field or on the court, she commits herself to developing their character and drive as a coach for multiple sports at Ransom Everglades Upper School. Dwanita continues to actively seek enhancement of herself and her surrounding community one day at a time.
Maria Escorcia is the Director of Ashoka South Florida. Ashoka is the largest global network of social entrepreneurs, with 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 86 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. In her role, Maria is working to bring to Miami the leading global social innovators to help solve the most pressing social problems. She was recently featured in an article in the Miami Herald for her work advancing the social entrepreneurship environment in South Florida.
Before joining Ashoka, Maria spent six years managing a corporate social responsibility program for a large Colombian multinational corporation. During the first three years, she was based in Bogotá. She designed and implemented a project that aimed to eradicate child labor in rural mining areas which resulted in an invitation to participate as one of the first private sector representatives in the government-led Colombian Forum of Child Labor Eradication. During the company’s expansion in Latin America, she was offered the opportunity to create a corporate foundation in the newly acquired plant in Cabaret, Haiti. The Foundation she established played an active role in the relief and reconstruction efforts after the 2010 earthquake.
Gaby is a Digital Marketing Strategist currently launching her own content and social media agency. She is passionate about communications and using the right platforms and message to generate action for organizations. Her experience spans from non-profits to fashion, and her expertise includes the US Hispanic and Latin American markets. Gaby is committed to greater civic engagement in Miami and to authentic, grassroots social programs that bring about positive change in our communities.
She grew up in Dominican Republic and later moved to Miami where she completed a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Miami. She received a Masters in Industrial Relations from Penn State University. Gaby lived in NYC for eight years, where her work included health and advocacy organizations (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) and digital agencies (iCrossing). She returned to Miami in 2012 where she now enjoys a year-long summer, discovering new spots - particularly in Wynwood - and spending time with her son, Matias.
Matt Haber is an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Miami where he advises on ethics, public records law, environmental and energy regulatory matters. He earned his BA from the University of Florida, concentrating on Political Science and Religion. Upon graduation, Matt worked as an organizer for the Obama for America campaign, beginning with the Iowa caucuses, and later joined the Presidential Transition Team. Prior to law school, Matt entered the private sector to work for The Nielsen Company as the Outreach Coordinator for the state of Florida.
Matt is a graduate of Duke University School of Law. During law school, he mentored incoming students as a LEAD Fellow, co-chaired the Innocence Project’s outreach team, and served on the executive board of the Hispanic Law Students Association.In his spare time, Matt enjoys barbecuing, drawing, and lying on the beach.
Mélodie Kinet is French but was schooled mostly in the US. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2007 with a degree in medical anthropology, and worked on trauma-informed portfolios with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in Tanzania and with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Interested in grassroots initiatives, she also trained trauma survivors in Bolivia in advocacy and helped manage a disaster medicine field hospital in Haiti. Melodie completed a joint MPH and MBA at Johns Hopkins University in 2011, and has since worked in healthcare consulting with Huron Consulting Group, and as a consultant for a health tech startup in New Dehli, India.
Now a proud resident of Miami, she directs the only national program, a partnership between Harvard, NYU, and a local nonprofit, that provides technical assistance to communities that resettle survivors of torture across the nation. Having founded and directed a cross-school incubator during her graduate studies, and being involved in various social design projects locally, she is also starting a social enterprise to provide health services for torture survivors through a community farm.
Mara Leventhal is a communications specialist who is passionate about public engagement, social justice and women’s rights. She is the Communications Director of the Genetics Policy Institute, the non-profit science advocacy organization that produces the annual World Stem Cell Summit. Mara honed her writing and producing skills during three years at MSNBC, producing segments with expert guests and NBC News correspondents during breaking news. Her freelance writing has appeared in Forbes.com, Miami New Times and Huffington Post and her PR campaigns for theatre and non-profit organizations have garnered print and TV stories in outlets including The New York Times, Time Out and NBC Miami.
Mara is proud of her work in the non-profit sector, beginning as a disaster relief volunteer in post-Katrina New Orleans. This experience led to a full-time job in the communications department of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. After relocating to Miami in 2007, Mara served as Event Coordinator and then Communications Director for Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade. In 2008, she co-managed a State Senate campaign. Her experience also includes connecting businesses and government agencies to build public-private partnerships. Today, in addition to her work with GPI, she is the Director of WMN Miami, a local chapter of the national Younger Women’s Task Force (YWTF), powered by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). WMN is a grassroots network of more than 500 Miami women, creating space for civic and political engagement. For four years, she has also been a producer and Co-Host of Let’s Talk About It!, a radio talk show created to highlight social justice and political stories.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Mara earned a bachelor's degree in English from The Ohio State University. She lives in Miami Beach with her husband and toddler.
Rebecca Mandelman is a nonprofit management consultant currently focused on an initiative with the Miami and Knight Foundations. Prior to this role, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the Americas Business Council (abc*) Foundation, where she managed the scaling of the Foundation’s grantees, oversaw its day-to-day management, and supervised its large-scale events and marketing. Before her work with the abc* Foundation, Rebecca led corporate and event fundraising as the Senior Director of Development at the New World Symphony (NWS) during the construction and grand opening of its Frank Gehry-designed facility in Miami Beach.
Rebecca has specialized in corporate fundraising, marketing, event production, and public relations for a variety of nonprofit organizations and public sector entities such as Gen Art, the City of Miami Beach’s Tourism and Cultural Affairs division, the City of Miami Mayor’s Office, Miami-Dade College, and NWS. She also launched a company to bring the international media company Time Out to Miami. Rebecca started her career in international public relations with the National Basketball Association in New York.
An active member of the Miami community, Rebecca currently serves as the Vice-President of the Georgetown Alumni Club of Miami, an Advisor for start-ups Whereby.us, Our City Thoughts and amp.it, a Board Member of the Overtown Music Project and a National Council Director of Friends of the New World Symphony. She is also her business school class' Alumni Representative.
Originally from New York City and fluent in Spanish, Rebecca graduated cum laude from Georgetown University and received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern).
Kevin Marra has been a management consultant for thirteen years. His main areas of expertise are e-commerce business models for industrial companies, business process re-engineering for service parts and the application of technology to initiate business transformation.
Raised in Connecticut, Kevin has lived in Miami for ten years and is committed to investing in Miami through its development as a world class city in every regard. Kevin volunteers at the Overtown Youth Center as a standardized test tutor and serves on the board of the Kellogg School of Management’s Miami area alumni association. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Aleyda K. Mejia is the Director of Global Health & Social Ventures at CappSci. She joined the organization in 2012 to manage the development, implementation and launch of a global million-dollar competition focused on reducing child mortality, known as the Children’s Prize. In her current role, Aleyda leads the organization’s effort to consistently deliver high impact execution of competitions under Global Health. She is responsible for day-to-day operations of the program, broadening and deepening engagement, identifying innovative approaches to refining prize operations, translating the program’s field work to visual impact as well as overseeing portfolio and management for active project collaborations in Pakistan, Uganda, Angola, Kenya and Nepal.
Prior to CappSci, Aleyda focused her efforts on advocacy, education, engineering and entrepreneurship for organizations that include Voices for Children, DHL and the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University. Aleyda received regional recognition for outstanding work performance on behalf of the children and youth she represented while at Voices for Children. She was also recognized on multiple occasions by the Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools for her dedication to education and advocacy. She is passionate about education, especially work with STEM and minorities. Currently, she is pursuing the expansion of science and urban sustainability education in Miami.
Aleyda serves on the board as Treasurer for both the USGBC Miami Branch Governing Council and the United Nations Association Miami Chapter. She received a B.S. and M.S. degrees in Industrial Systems & Engineering from Florida International University. Her master’s research was in the area of High Velocity Human Factors and focused on cognitive and affective science for visual engineering implications.
Mikhaile founded and currently serves as Director of Prizm Art Fair, a cutting-edge art fair that expands the spectrum of international artists from the global African Diaspora and Emerging Markets during Art Basel Miami Beach. Prizm’s mission is to exhibit a diverse roster of artists whose works reflect global trends in contemporary art, through a series of cultural events which culminates in our annual curated fair.
Additionally, Mikhaile is the Director of Public Art for the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation where she fosters development of programming and facilitates the implementation of arts projects in Opalocka and the South Florida region that create artistic encounters to advance and strengthen the culture that characterizes the uniqueness of the Opa-locka community. Mikhaile’s varied professional background has instilled a great capacity for leadership and her continued service to the Greater Miami community. Her hope is to help strengthen Miami’s cultural offerings and to participate in the creation of more economic opportunities for its residents.
Art enthusiast. Leader. Philanthropist. Activist- words to describe Cassandra Theramene, a native from the beautiful island of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At an early age, Cassandra proved that leadership and community involvement had no age bracket; with current memberships in: Florida A&M University Miami-Dade Alumni Chapter, Member; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.- GZO Chapter, Global Poverty & Family Strengthening Chair; Haitian American Chamber of Commerce, Member; Miami-Dade Democrats, Member; Miami-Dade Young Democrats, Outreach Director; and Casa Valentina, Board Member.
Through her leadership and tireless work in the community, Cassandra was named as Legacy magazine’s South Florida 40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrow (2009), Top Hat Women of Excellence Award in Social Entrepreneurship (2010), In the Company of Women Community Spirit Award (2015), and nominated for the African-American Achiever’s Award. Academics at the forefront of Cassandra’s upbringing, in 2004, she became a very proud alumna at the only and only, Florida A&M University (FAMU), with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing.
Michael D.K. Thompson currently serves as Business Development Director of Kroll, Inc’s Miami office. Kroll is a leading corporate investigations and risk consulting firm, headquartered in New York with offices in 45 cities across 28 countries. Michael is in charge of developing business in Florida as well as for Kroll offices in Latin America and the Caribbean. Previously Michael worked on complex litigation support, fraud and asset search investigations for Fortune 500 companies in the region. Before moving to Miami, Michael worked as an Adjudicator at the UK Financial Ombudsman Service and was a specialist in mediating disputes between individuals and their financial services provider – mostly UK banks.
Michael, who grew up in London (United Kingdom) to an American Father and a Brazilian mother, graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an M.A. in Politics before qualifying as a Barrister (attorney) in England and Wales from BPP Law School, London.
Michael has worked extensively with NGOs and civil society organizations including Streetlaw Prisons, a group which gives interactive legal presentations to prisoners in London jails; legal charity reprieve and anti-corruption pioneer Transparency Intentional (Kenya). He has traveled extensively in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Michael decided to focus his career on Latin American issues after spending a year studying politics at the Universidad de San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Michael is passionate about running and has completed several marathons, half marathons and a half iron man. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese.
Charo Valero is the Field Organizer at SAVE, South Florida's largest political advocacy organization for people who are LGBT. Since she was hired in May 2013, SAVE has been working on TransEquality, to secure protections in Miami Dade County for people who are transgender. Charo is also one of the founding members of PUSH, the collective that organized the first-ever LadyFest Miami, a two day festival in celebration of womanhood for women and their allies that empowers the local community and showcases local talent through art, music, and educational workshops and discussions.
Before working at SAVE, Charo worked in the private sector in operations, accounting and finance. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Religious Studies at Florida International University.
Born and raised in Panama, Charo moved to Miami 8 years ago. In every one of her undertakings, Charo strives to build community and empower other women to be leaders. Most recently, her organizing work has focused on deconstructing and raising awareness about the intersectionality of the most salient social justice issues facing Miami.
Justin S. Wales is a progressive activist and constitutional litigator with the law firm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. His practice is primarily focused on the First Amendment (freedom of speech, access to government proceedings/records, freedom of assembly, etc.), but also includes election challenges, civil rights and environmental claims, and intellectual property disputes.
Justin became an attorney to represent individuals and organizations interested in preserving, protecting, and extending their rights under the Constitution. Through an amazing amount of luck and some well-placed effort, he was able to find such a practice. Since graduating from law school he has had the good fortune to participate in a number of high-profile cases that have had the effect of preserving Florida's parkland from commercialization, protecting endangered species from industrialization, and ensuring civil rights for the LGBTQ community.
When not at work, Justin is an organizer with Emerge Miami, a grass-roots activist group aimed at strengthening Miami’s progressive community. He is also an active participant with Code for Miami, where he leads a brigade of civic hackers in an effort to implement an Open Data Policy for Miami-Dade County, and Buskerfest Miami, where he advocates for legislation aimed at protecting the First Amendment rights of artists to perform on Miami’s streets.
Justin grew up in South Florida but spent most of his teen years running around Los Angeles listening to punk music. After calming down a bit, he attended college at the University of California, San Diego and received a degree in history, magna cum laude. He returned to South Florida in 2009 to attend the University of Miami School of Law where he graduated summa cum laude.
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