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New Leaders Council

2012 NLC Fellows: Chicago



Reema Ahmad, Co-Founder, Project Mobilize

Reema Ahmad is a long time advocate of political engagement - first in her hometown Milwaukee and then in a number of capacities throughout Chicagoland - and a firm believer that civic responsibilities are inherent to a full realization of patriotism. This past year, Reema co-founded and was executive director of Project Mobilize, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing civic participation and representation from politically marginalized communities. In its first year, Project M recruited, trained, and ran seven Muslim American candidates for local offices. Reema majored in Economics and International Affairs at Marquette University. She worked with numerous activist groups throughout Milwaukee, including Peace Action Wisconsin, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. She interned with a rising leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Gwen Moore. As a McNair Research Scholar, Reema presented her research on the impact of international intervention in development work as well as the economics of religion at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research for two consecutive years. Reema is currently on the executive board of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and continues her commitment to bridging ethnic and religious divides in local communities through outreach efforts across the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.

Bernada Baker, Professor, Kendall College

Bernada Baker serves as an Adjunct Professor at Kendall College and is the Founder/CEO of The Princess Within Foundation, where she is empowering girls to discover the princess within. She has had the privilege of working as a Chaplain at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, as a Program Director at TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), and as a Health Research Specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Unlock The Treasure: Discover the Princess Within, a self help guide for girls to embrace their identity and to love themselves unconditionally. She has also conducted research in Ghana, West Africa, where she facilitated the Princess Within Program to girls who had been sold as sex slaves. Bernada is a trailblazing leader, an advocate of social change, and a history maker. She is committed to the cause of being the change that she wishes to see in the world. She is a professional who believes in displaying the spirit of excellence in everything that she does, and is relentless in her quest to help to positively transform the lives of people and communities.

Chase Bassignani, Consultant, Morningstar Inc.

Chase Bassignani is a California transplant living in Chicago. After growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chase decided to leave sunny California to attend the University of Chicago where he double majored in Economics and Geography. Having graduated in 2010, he currently is employed as a Consultant at Morningstar Inc within the Institutional Software business unit. Here, he works with clients at major financial institutions with their research so that they can make the most informed investment decisions. While in college, Chase helped found a non-profit called Moneythink, an organization that sends highly trained college mentors into high school classrooms to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Since September of 2008, Chase has helped Moneythink grow from a mere seedling of an idea to a fully fledged 501(c)3 organization with 17 chapters operating across the country. As a member of the alumni board, Chase continues to guide the organization by issuing strategic advice to the executive board, fundraising, and helping fuel the national and international expansion. Chase is an avid world traveler and has been a competitive swimmer for 17 years.

Brandon Bodor, MBA Candidate, University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Brandon Bodor is an Army Military Intelligence captain who recently returned from a 12-month deployment with the 10th Mountain Division to Kandahar. A distinguished honor graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Brandon served outside of West Point’s classrooms as the Class of 2005 Treasurer, and director of both the Special Olympics and Big Brothers Big Sisters programs. His passion to explore the world has taken him to the southern African country of Lesotho to work on HIV/AIDS awareness projects; to Istanbul, Turkey for language immersion; and throughout Europe while stationed for 4 years in Bavaria, Germany. He is the recipient of two Bronze Star Medals and the Combat Action Badge for combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a graduate of both the U.S. Army Ranger and Parachute schools. Brandon will continue his service as an Army Reservist at Fort Sheridan, IL as he devotes some quality time to his beautiful wife, Alison, and son, Grayson, who was born during his tour in Afghanistan. As he continues his career in Chicago, Brandon will also study for an MBA at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Brandon proudly hails from Boyertown, Pennsylvania, but is looking forward to calling Chicago his home for the foreseeable future.

Carla Bruni, Sustainability and Historic Preservation Consultant, Self Employed

Carla Bruni has been saving historic buildings and making them more energy efficient as an independent contractor since 2007. She has worked with a number of local historic preservation organizations, as well as with Sears, the Chicago Department of Environment, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the U.S. EPA to find creative solutions and educate professionals in both fields. Carla has also worked regularly with the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association to create free, educational programming for homeowners, and is developing another National Landmark district on the South side of Chicago. She also works with designers on various history-related projects, teaches, is a freelance writer, and is part of various Latino-focused initiatives to expand the mission and audience of preservation. Carla has a BA in English from Loyola University Chicago and a MS in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is from, you guessed it, Chicago. Carla travels to New Orleans as much as possible to help with post-hurricane rebuilding efforts, and has done extensive restoration work in the Pacific Northwest. Her favorite things include road trips, folk art, bluegrass, a good joke, and meeting people she has seemingly nothing in common with.

Jacqueline Diaz, Legislative & Policy Analyst, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority

Jackie Diaz currently serves as the Legislative & Policy Analyst for the Illinois Tollway. In this role, Jackie serves as the Intergovernmental Affairs contact person for both members of the Illinois General Assembly and local elected officials regarding legislative issues and constituent concerns. She works with elected officials on matters relating to policy and existing or proposed legislation. In her role, Jackie also works out of the Planning department on various projects. She is currently coordinating the I-90 Corridor Planning Council, a team aimed at reaching a consensus on a plan for the I-90 Corridor from Chicago to Rockford. Prior to joining the Tollway, Jackie worked the Metropolitan Planning Council, providing research and analysis for transportation-related projects. She advocated for and did outreach in support of policy issues including congestion pricing, bus rapid transit, and public-private partnerships. Jackie received her undergraduate degree from DePaul University in Chicago, where she majored in Public Policy with an urban studies concentration. She is completing graduate work in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Jackie is a lifelong Chicago resident and is proud to be ‘bicoastal,’ having grown up on both the far southwest and far northwest sides of the city. In her free time she enjoys volunteering, scouting out the Chicago food scene, concerts, and exploring neighborhoods.

Jesse Edwin Evans, Co-founder, New Chicago Beer Co.

Jesse Edwin Evans a progressive entrepreneur and is currently the co-founder of New Chicago Beer Co., a 100% sustainable brewery being created in a refurbished meat packing plant on the south side of Chicago. He has previously created a small craft brewery in Oakland, CA and worked on several political campaigns in field and fundraising. His education is from the University of Illinois in print journalism and he worked as a newspaper photojournalist and photography editor in Illinois and California. Evans is a passionate recreational cyclist and spends about 15 hours a week in the saddle including his trip to work. His over-arching goal in life is to fight the apathy that is present in American society, especially in the realm of political involvement. He believes that the more involvement the better for anyone irregardless of political affiliation. His wish is that Americans would all be citizens and not simply consumers. Evans also likes craft beer and interested, curious, involved people. Evans lives with his wife and two cats on the north side of Chicago.

Tamara Fouche, Special Projects Assistant, Cohen Law Group

Born in the Chicagoland area, and having spent most of her formative years in Skokie, IL, Tamara Fouche currently works as a Special Projects Assistant working on fundraising efforts in Chicago. She is also actively engaged in bringing social impact documentary films to Chicago and the link between film and action. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Fouche is fiercely passionate about political engagement and access, civil rights, social justice and choice issues. She has experience as a student organizer during the 2007 and 2008 Primary and General Election for now President Barack Obama, and as a student leader on her college campus. She is looking forward to making her name known in Chicago and join the progressive leadership in the city.

Isaac Hammond-Paul, Education Mentor, Cook County Sheriff’s Day Reporting Center at Cook County Jail

Isaac is a high school teacher at the Cook County Jail’s Day Reporting Center, an intensive supervision program that offers substance abuse treatment services, cognitive behavioral therapy, and education for non-violent offenders. There, he is responsible for the education and supervision of two 18-person classes of young men aged 17 – 22, most who are either pre-trial or on probation. He also works closely with Sheriff Department’s Investigators, psychologists, and drug-counselors to develop comprehensive educational, correctional, and treatment plans for each student. Prior to working at the County Jail, Isaac was a master’s student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. While studying criminal justice policy there, he was an evaluation intern at CeaseFire, a Chicago-based organization that aims to reduce gun violence by mediating street level conflicts. He was also a research assistant at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, where he worked on evaluating the impact of a residential mobility experiment. Isaac graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Economics. He loves to cook, plays Irish music, and enjoys traveling. Isaac grew up in New York, but he is originally from Chicago.

Abdul-Aziz Hassan, Alderman's Assistant, 22nd Ward Alderman's Office

Living and working in the Little Village Community for a number of years, Abdul-Aziz Hassan now works in the 22 ward as the assistant to Alderman Ricardo Muñoz. He is responsible in the ward for community outreach and constituent concerns. While completing his Bachelor's degree at Roosevelt University, Mr.Hassan was awarded the Matthew Freeman Award for Social Justice, by Roosevelt, for his leadership deelopment work with High School students in the greater Lawndale area. He has been working within the political arena for over a decade, with a speciality in voter outreach and community engagement. Mr. Hassan is a seasoned activist, always working with friends and neighbors to address community needs and national issues.Grounded in political theory and strong values, he strives to find the balance between theory and practice, to synthesize the experience and knowledge he has gained at peoples doors with a larger global politic. A native New Yorker, raised in Harlem, Abdul-Aziz Hassan now lives in the community he serves with his beautiful and supportive wife Docia and baby son Lucius.

Rachel Hoge, Leadership Giving Manager, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

Rachel Hoge leads United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s fundraising and donor relations for their Leadership Giving program. She also runs the organization’s Young Leaders Society, which engages young professionals in philanthropy. Rachel also manages her small business Part Time Personal Assistant Chicago, which launched in August of 2009. Prior to being in the nonprofit sector, she worked in media buying and radio promotions. Rachel attended University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Advertising and an Interdisciplinary Minor in Gender & Women’s Studies. Rachel is a member of Step Up Women's Network and the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce. She is also involved with MissRepresentation and The White House Project. She volunteers in the community by tutoring in after school programs and conducting mock interviews with individuals getting back on the job market. She currently resides in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, and is originally from the suburb of Tinley Park. In her free time, Rachel enjoys visiting with family and friends and taking trips to her favorite vacation spot of New York City.

Hannah Lehman, Director of Finance, Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park

Hannah Lehman is the Director of Finance for the Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park, a position she has held since August 2010. Her responsibilities include management of financial, HR and administrative operations for the annual classical music festival which entertains over 340,000 people in the Pritzker Pavilion for 10 weeks each summer. Previously, Hannah worked for Citizen Action/Illinois, the state’s largest progressive public interest coalition, where she began as a federal campaigns organizer and then served for over four years as Administrative Director. Prior to moving to Chicago in early 2005, she worked in grassroots fundraising and organizing in Iowa for three years, and led a five city non-partisan GOTV project during the 2004 general election. Born in Evanston and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Hannah received her B.A. in Political Science and Communication Studies from the University of Iowa. Hannah serves as Treasurer for DL21C, a state PAC that raises money for progressive candidates and provides networking and education opportunities for young professionals in Chicago. She also serves on the Management Committee for the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans. Hannah and her husband live in Old Irving, on Chicago’s northwest side.

B. Loewe, Communications Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network

B. Loewe currently works as the Communications Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an organization working to turn the tide against Arizona-style policies and promote migrant worker rights. Previously, B. joined the Latino Union of Chicago as a Public Ally in 2003 and served as its co-director from 2004 - 2009. In between those posts B. acted as a national organizer for the US Social Forum, a 18,000 person grassroots event in Detroit, MI gathering under the banner, "Another World is Possible." B. graduated from NEIU with a bachelors in community development, though life has always been his best classroom. Having grown up in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC, B. has been in and in love with the Midwest since the year 2000. B. is excited to join NLC as part of efforts to make the City that Works into the city that works for everyone. Follow B. on twitter @bstandsforb.

Brian Miller, General Counsel, Office of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin

Brian Miller is General Counsel in the Office of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. Prior to working for Commissioner Suffredin, Brian ran a legal aid organization, worked as an associate at a large law firm, assisted a federal judge and worked for both the City of Chicago Law Department and Illinois Attorney General. Prior to attending law school, Brian was a community organizer in Evansville, Indiana where he built a broad-based network of congregations that led to reforms of local education, housing and healthcare policies. He also worked for organizations addressing homelessness, economic development, living wage issues, immigration reform, unfair tax policies and a host of other issues. Brian received his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern University and his Bachelor of Arts from the George Washington University. Brian lives in Chicago, Illinois with the love of his life, Anna. He is involved in a number of organizations, including serving as Secretary of the Democratic Party of Evanston. In his free time, Brian likes scuba diving, watching stand up comedy, playing poker, reading and watching women's flat-track roller derby.

Ryan O'Leary, Chief of Staff, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie

Ryan O’Leary is the Chief of Staff to Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who has served in the Illinois House of Representatives for 32 years. He manages the 25th District office and works to foster productive relationships between constituents, local community groups and the State of Illinois. He grew up in Minnesota and attended Gustavus Adolphus, followed by William Mitchell College of Law. During law school he volunteered with the Anoka County Public Defenders Office and worked for the Adult Violent Crime Unit of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Upon graduation, Ryan focused his legal practice on real estate, first as an associate attorney in a private law firm and later for a commercial real estate investment company. Unfulfilled in private practice and wanting to focus on public service, he returned to academia and received his M.A. in Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. Since then, he has worked on Toni Preckwinkle’s successful campaign for Cook County Board President along with several other local campaigns.

Suraj Patel, Special Projects, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago International Charter School

Suraj Patel works for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Chicago International Charter School (CICS). At CPS, he works for the Career and Technical Education department, focusing on strategy and marketing. He works on special projects for the Chief Strategy Officer of CICS. Prior to working for the public schools, he was a Consultant for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). At BCG, he worked with Fortune 500 companies in the agriculture, industrial goods, healthcare, and consumer goods. In his spare time, he leads the KIPP Chicago Associate Board and conducts alumni interviews for the University of Pennsylvania. Suraj studied mechanical engineering, finance, and product design at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2008. Though he is originally from New Jersey, he is a midwesterner at heart.

Sarah Resnick, Assistant Public Defender, Cook County

Sarah Garza Resnick is an Assistant Cook County Public Defender. Before joining the Public Defender’s Office, Sarah served as the Executive Director of First Defense Legal Aid ("FDLA"). Prior to working at FDLA, she volunteered for the organization and clerked for the Cook County Public Defender’s office. Ms. Resnick graduated from Cardozo School of Law, where she worked on the Innocence Project. Ms. Resnick received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics from Brandeis University and her master’s degree in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics. Prior to law school, Sarah worked on Democratic political campaigns, as a Field Director, for four years.

Carlos Rosa, Congressional Aide, Representative Luis V. Gutierrez

Carlos Daniel Rosa serves the people of Illinois’ fourth congressional district as an aide to Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez. Carlos has been involved in local progressive politics since 2007, when as a high school senior he worked as field staff on two aldermanic campaigns. In 2010 Carlos worked for the AFL-CIO as a Union Summer for Jobs Intern. In this capacity he assisted the Chicago Federation of Labor and their local affiliates with organizing actions, carrying out strategic research, and creating a new media presence. Committed to spurring social change, Carlos has successfully promoted progressive causes via new and traditional media. He has produced videos that have received over 12,415 views on YouTube and organized actions that have been covered by The Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader and major television network affiliates. Carlos graduated in 2011 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in Political Science and Minor in Latina/Latino Studies. At the University of Illinois, Carlos served two terms on the Student Senate and one term as a Democratic Committeeman. He is a lifelong resident of Chicago’s north side and a proud product of the Chicago Public Schools.

Amelia Showalter, Senior Digital Analyst, Obama For America

Amelia Showalter is passionate about progressive politics and playing with data. Fortunately, it’s possible to do both at the same time. Amelia leads the Digital Analytics team for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Her team is responsible for running experiments, building models, managing data, and improving efficiency within the campaign’s large digital department. Amelia has provided strategic analysis and micro-targeting models to dozens of campaigns and organizations in the progressive political sphere. As Director of Media Strategies with Changing Targets Media from 2009-2010, Amelia developed cutting-edge television targeting tools for campaigns at the local, Congressional, and statewide levels. Just prior to joining the Obama campaign, Amelia became an expert in redistricting, using advanced simulation techniques to ensure Oregon’s legislative and Congressional districts would be fairly drawn. Originally from Olympia, Washington, Amelia graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and later from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master’s degree in Public Policy. Amelia loves gardening and co-founded the ‘DC State Fair’, an organization that hosts vegetable contests and baking contests for the DC community. She hears they grow some pretty good beefsteak tomatoes here in the Midwest, and plans to eat a lot of them this coming summer.

Cathy Yu, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Illinois Attorney General

Cathy Yu is currently an Assistant Attorney General with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, where she litigates public utility issues. Before her current position, she served as Assistant Counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. There, she worked primarily on energy legislation, along with some mass transit and municipal legislation. Prior to that, she was a commercial litigator. Cathy graduated with a Biology degree from the University of Illinois, where she spent her summers immersed in climate change and conservation research in the prairie and soybean fields surrounding Urbana-Champaign. After deciding to approach environmental and energy issues from a policy and legal angle, Cathy attended law school at the University of Chicago. During law school, she also explored other areas of interest and worked on juvenile justice cases at the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. She was a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Intern at the Environmental Law and Policy Center as well, and later, a PILI Fellow at the Center for Disability and Elder Law. Having grown up all over the country, the longest Cathy has ever lived in one place is the seven years (and counting!) she has been in Chicago.
Atlanta - Augusta - Austin - Boston - Broward - Capital District NY - Chicago - Cincinnati - Cleveland - Connecticut - Dallas - Denver - Des Moines
Detroit - Houston - Kentucky - Los Angeles - Louisiana - Madison - Maine - Maryland - Miami - Montana - Nashville - New Hampshre - New Jersey - New York City
North Carolina - Oakland - Omaha - Orlando - Palm Beach - Philadelphia - Pittsburgh - Rhode Island - Sacramento - San Antonio - San Francisco - Silicon Valley

New Leaders Council is a 501 (c) (3) public charity dedicated to educating a new generation of leaders and to providing those leaders with the tools they need to succeed. NLC does not engage in political or legislative activities of any kind, does not support or oppose any candidate for public office, and serves only as an educational leadership training ground.