2012 NLC Fellows: Louisiana


Westley Bayas III, New Orleans Director, Stand for Children

Westley Bayas III is the New Orleans City Director with Stand for Children. In this capacity, he ensures effective collaboration with existing city neighborhood and constituency groups, develops and manages the execution of state and city-level strategic electoral and legislative advocacy plans, and organizes parents, teachers, and community-members motivated to help improve New Orleans Schools. He formerly served as the Deputy Director of the Neighborhood Engagement Office with the City of New Orleans, where he served as the liaison between the Mayor's Office and neighborhood associations/organizations for citywide efforts including blight reduction, neighborhood revitalization and grassroots communications. He also previously served as an Assistant to Mayor Mitch Landrieu for Constituent Services and Correspondence, Southern Louisiana Regional Field Director for the Democratic National Committee (Organizing for America) and the Director of Community Outreach & Development for local nonprofit The Phoenix of New Orleans. Bayas, a New Orleans native, also serves as a team liaison for the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans. He holds a B.G.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Louisiana State University & A&M College.

Brittany Brown, People Services Human Resources Coordinator, Goodwill Industries of North Louisiana

A Buckeye born and raised, Brittany is a 2010 graduate of the Ohio State University. In August 2011 she relocated to Shreveport, where she serves as the People Services Human Resources Coordinator for Goodwill Industries of North Louisiana. In this role, she is able optimize employment opportunities for members of the community in 26 parishes, including those with disabling or disadvantaging circumstances or conditions. Currently, she is developing an internal mentoring program that will pair upper management with newer employees to develop professional and personal skills and create lasting relationships within the organization. In 2010, Brittany was a lead organizer for Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy’s reelection campaign, one of the most competitive Congressional races in the country. In this capacity, she worked with local progressive groups and unions to gain voter loyalty and educated voters on local and national issues. Prior to joining the campaign, Brittany interned in Congresswoman Kilroy’s Columbus office, where she assisted staffers with constituent case work. Brittany holds a B.A. in Journalism and International Diplomacy. While attending OSU, she was selected to be in the Humanities Scholars Program, and was involved with a variety of advocacy and awareness organizations, including local branches of Amnesty International and Students for the Congo. Brittany was a staff writer for OSU's official newspaper, The Lantern, where she published stories on local awareness and student advocates.

Dawn D. Collins, Chief Executive Officer, Cogent Concepts and Project Management

Dawn D. Collins, a Baton Rouge native and proud mother of two, has a diverse public service background. Her professional experience began in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH). During her employment there, she developed a desire to empower families. This soon led Dawn into the world of grassroots organizing, and she became a Staff Field Organizer with Obama for America during the 2008 presidential election. In addition to obtaining a Master's of Public Administration, Dawn's training and leadership includes work with national organizing agencies such as New Organizing Institute (NOI) and Democracy for America (DFA). As one of a 30-person cohort chosen from 500 applicants, Dawn participated in NOI’s 2010 New Media Bootcamp. She received immense instruction from leading practitioners in Washington, D.C. to enhance campaign strategy for both political and issue based campaigns. Dawn collaborates with other local activists to develop grassroots trainings and events in Louisiana. She wears other hats as well. She is chairwoman of the local East Baton Rouge Parish Young Democrats; founder and chairwoman of The Louisiana Movement, a progressive coalition of activists; and serves on the boards of Louisiana Connections Academy and Common Cause Louisiana. In 2010, Dawn started Cogent Concepts and Project Management, LLC. Cogent Concepts exists to empower a more progressive community by developing effective issue and political campaigns, as well as by contributing towards productive non-profit and small business organizations. Through Cogent Concepts, she fights alongside policy advocates for the rights of women, children, the disabled, the aging, and many others.

Tasha Dennis, Community Organizer, Organizing for America

Tasha Dennis attended Tulane University, attaining a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Sociology. After Tulane, Tasha answered the call to teach third grade at J.A. Hernandez Elementary in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Tasha’s work at J.A. Hernandez resulted in enormous strides for her students as well as an improved school performance score. Currently, she works as a fifth grade teacher and English Language Learner Specialist at Raintree Elementary in Baldwin, Louisiana. As a citizen of Post-Katrina New Orleans, Tasha worked for organizations such as KIPP Believe NOLA and New Orleans AIDS Task Force. In addition to her passion for teaching, Tasha is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education at Grand Canyon University. She has engaged her position as a figure in South Louisiana as Community Organizer for Organizing for America’s “Obama 2012” Campaign. This year, Tasha will pursue the greater good for the people of St. Mary Parish by representing them as a member of the Parish Democratic Committee. Tasha is a native of Houston, Texas and is an alumna of the KIPP Foundation of Houston, Texas and the Jackie Robinson Foundation of New York, New York. Tasha and her husband, Troy, reside in Franklin, Louisiana.

Micah Fincher, Associate, Jones Walker, LLP

Micah Fincher is currently a resident of Baton Rouge and he works as a patent attorney in the Baton Rouge offices of Jones Walker, LLP. In May 2011, Micah received his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the Paul M. Hebert Louisiana State University Law Center. A true book-lover at heart, Micah worked at Barnes and Nobles for almost five years before beginning law school. During this time Micah also attended Louisiana State University where he majored in Biological Engineering. Micah is a New Orleans native, and he was raised in Slidell, Louisiana. Micah has long been active in student-led and community organizations. While attending LSU, he was an “honorary member” in the LSU Chapter of W.O.W. (“Women Organizing Women”). In law school, he served as an officer for the LSU Chapters of the International Law Students Association and the Intellectual Property Law Association. Throughout law school Micah also served on the Ethics Committee of LSU Law’s Student Bar Association and during his third year he was nominated as its Chairperson. Micah is currently active in a community organization promoting access to healthcare for women and family planning called SNAPP.

Jared Fox, English Teacher, West Jefferson High School

Jared Fox is a high school English teacher at West Jefferson High School. He has taught over 10 subjects during his three years, accelerating the academic growth of over 200 students a year. In addition, he serves as the Positive Behavior Intervention Support Facilitator and cheerleading coach. He began his career in education as a Greater New Orleans Teach For America corps member, where he has also had the pleasure of serving as a School Operations Manager at the Atlanta Institute and an intern for Kira Orange-Jones, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans region. Jared is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and began his career in activism as a Midwest Organizer for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. In 2005 he moved to the Chicago area to pursue a degree from Lake Forest College. While in Chicago, he served on the Board of Directors of Test Positive Aware Network and was a public affairs intern for then-Senator Barack Obama. Jared holds a B.A. from Lake Forest College with a concentration in community organizing/activism and politics. While at Lake Forest, he spearheaded a movement to add gender neutral housing. The policy, and other changes he implemented, earned him the Oppenheimer Memorial Prize, given to the two students who contributed the most to the college community. In addition, he was given the Human Rights Campaign Chicago Student Activist of the Year award and was a finalist for the Windy City Times 30-Under-30.

Letitia Clark George, Director of Government Affairs, New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors

Letitia Clark George is the current Director of Government Affairs for the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors. Her past work experience includes being a Legislative Aide for the Speaker of the House in the State of Georgia, Government Relations Specialist for the American Red Cross and Councilmanic Aide for the New Orleans City Council. Letitia has earned a Master's Degree in Public Policy from New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire and a Bachelor's Degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana. Letitia serves as the Chairman of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Louisiana Young Leadership Council, as a board member of the Neighborhood Development Foundation (NDF), the National Association of University Women (New Orleans Chapter)and the Independent Democratic Electors Association (IDEA). She serves on volunteer Committees for the National Association of Realtors, Louisiana Realtors and the Ogden Museum. Letitia was recognized as one of Gambit Magazine's "Top 40 under 40" in their 2011 issue. She is a graduate of the Young Leadership Council's Leadership Development Series and the Committee for a Better New Orleans Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum.

Allison Hansen, Teacher & Administrative Intern, Lanier Charter Elementary

Allison Hansen is thrilled to be joining NLC’s Baton Rouge chapter. She is originally from West Des Moines, Iowa and attended Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois as a history and political science major. After hearing about Teach For America, she celebrated her placement in Baton Rouge, where she currently teaches and is an administrative intern at her placement school, Lanier Charter Elementary. Allison has taught 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade reading, writing and social studies—social studies and history being her favorite! Allison is currently pursuing a Masters degree in School Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania and travels to Philadelphia once a month for classes. Allison intends to stay in education leadership when she completes her program and hopes to focus on charter school reform. Allison loves to travel and can be spotted frequently at the Baton Rouge airport! She also enjoys European art and history, going to movies, watching Big 10 football, and keeping in touch with her TFA and college friends spread out all across the country. She very much looks forward to getting to know and learning from the new NLC cohort!

Adrian Mendez, Strategy Director', Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools

Adrian Mendez was born in Nicaragua, and lived in Mexico City and Montreal before moving to the city of New Orleans, and is trilingual (Spanish, French, English). He attended New Orleans public schools, Audubon and McMain, and graduated from the University of Chicago. After college, he helped his community and family business (Taqueria Corona) to recover from the hurricane, and later moved to New York to work at a corporate law firm (Skadden Arps). Adrian returned to New Orleans because he deeply believes in the future of the city. He worked for New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) for three years, and was critically involved in the launch of 12 charter schools across the city. In his current role at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS), Adrian supports the advocacy efforts to promote quality charters schools. Adrian also co-founded a community rebuilding real-estate investment group, Crescent Gulf Global Investments, LLC, he is a member the 2012 class of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI), the 2010 class of Emerging Philanthropist of New Orleans, and has supported the organizing of the “The Welcome Table: An Era of Dialogue on Race” in New Orleans.

Minh T. Nguyen, Executive Director, Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA)

Minh T. Nguyen, founder and executive director of Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA), has dedicated his life to giving voice to the Asian American community in the Gulf Coast region. His long-term advocacy and organizing efforts have invigorated the political energy of the Vietnamese youth in New Orleans to unite, fight, and protect their communities from environmental injustices, such as negligible flood protections planning, water contamination, and the conversion of their largely African American and Vietnamese American community into a toxic dumpsite. Through his tenacious leadership, the first youth center in Village de l’Est opened in 2007, which currently serves as a hub for youth-focused leadership development and youth-led community organizing activities in this still under-resourced area of New Orleans. In 2008, Minh engaged college and high school students in civic engagement through his coordination of a voter mobilization drive that aimed to enfranchise the Vietnamese American vote in the critical November election cycle. Minh graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans with a double major in Management and Marketing. His leadership as a student includes his services as the External Vice President of the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association (uNAVSA).

Bruce Parker, LGBTQ Project Coordinator, The Office of Multicultural Affairs at Louisiana State University

Bruce Parker is the LGBTQ Project Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Louisiana State University where he is also completing his Ph.D. in Curriculum Theory and Women's and Gender Studies. He is an advisor to Spectrum, the organization for LGBTQ students and their allies at LSU. He also serves as Chief of Staff for Capital City Alliance, the only education and advocacy organization working to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Baton Rouge. In addition, he is a founding board member of Louisiana Trans Advocates, Equality Louisiana, Business Partners in Pride, and the Greater Baton Rouge PFLAG chapter. Before moving to Louisiana, Parker taught multicultural education to pre-service teachers at Purdue University, where he also received his masters degree in Curriculum Studies. While living in Indiana, he served as advocacy coordinator for the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance and Director of Curriculum Development for Trans Youth Family Allies. After completing his undergraduate studies in Cultural and Interdisciplinary Studies at Antioch College, he served as Community Manager and Diversity Coordinator. Parker was raised by a single mother in the hills of Pikeville, Kentucky.

Bob Payne, Manager, Expanded Schools, Partnership for Youth Development

Bob Payne is the ExpandED Schools Manager for Partnership for Youth Development. Bob works with three charter schools and community organizations as they partner to expand the school day. In ExpandED schools, students stay 30% longer, and take high-quality enrichment and academic support courses from community educators, in addition to their regular classes. Originally from Jackson Heights, New York, Bob moved to New Orleans in 2004 to attend Loyola and continue his Jesuit education. During college, through volunteering with rebuilding organizations and exploring New Orleans, Bob fell in love with the city. After graduating summa cum laude in 2008, Bob taught in nearby St. Bernard Parish at St. Bernard Middle School for three years through Teach for America. Bob led his Social Studies and English 7th and 8th graders to make significant gains every single year he taught, and received his school's Teacher of the Year Award for 2010-2011. After working with Teach for America to train new teachers in Atlanta and New Orleans, Bob is now serving students in New Orleans by ensuring they have high-quality, expanded school days. When Bob isn't, he enjoys running (two marathons so far), the Saints and Jets and listening to local music.

Christopher Stow, Student, Tulane University Law School

Christopher Stow joined Teach for America immediately after graduation from Tulane University. He chose to stay in New Orleans and teach Government and Economics at a “academically failing” high school in the city’s historic Treme neighborhood. While his students made significant gains, Christopher was frustrated by the school’s systemic failure to hold high expectations and to provide adequate special education services to his students. Hoping to gain the tools to become a better advocate for this and other causes, Christopher enrolled in law school. Christopher Stow is currently finishing his final year at Tulane Law School and clerking for the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. At the EEOC, he works with both investigators and attorneys to investigate and resolve discrimination claims. At Tulane Law School, Christopher ranks in the Top 10% of his class and is a senior member of both the Moot Court Board and the Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. In his free time Christopher teaches New Orleans high school students about their constitutionally protected rights through the law school’s “Street Law” program. Christopher will clerk for Judge Wicker at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of Louisiana after graduation.

Erica Thomas, Owner','Ad Pros Promotion & Advertising Agency, Inc.

Erica Thomas is the owner of Ad Pros Promotion & Advertising Agency Inc., a full service advertising agency specializing in promotional products. Additional services offered are business etiquette, customer service training, and social etiquette. Ms. Thomas was also a certified speaker with Monster’s “Making it Count” program. In 2010 Erica became certified from the Protocol School of Washington which is the nations only accredited etiquette program. Erica Thomas hard work was recognized when Ad Pros became Small Business of the Year in 2010 from the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Thomas was also selected as Top 40 under 40 with Young Professional Initiative in 2008. She is a graduate of Southern University A&M College where she earned a B.S. in marketing. Ms. Thomas, a native of Shreveport, is a member of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce where she has been active with the Minority Business Council and Business Development Connection. She also was on the marketing committee with United Way of Northwest LA from 2007-2009. Erica Thomas is a member of the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier where she is the Education Co-Chairperson, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Delta Lambda Omega chapter.

Barry Tucker, Political Director, Capital City Alliance

Barry Tucker is currently serving as the Political Director of Capital City Alliance and the Development Assistant in the College of Education at Louisiana State University. Tucker is quickly carving out an exciting career in grassroots based community organizing and is very passionate about the incredible work being done by the queer community in Louisiana. Through organizing with groups like Equality Louisiana, Louisiana Trans Advocates, Capital City Alliance, and Business Partners in Pride, Tucker is able to bring together ideas, resources, and people from across identities and purposes. After moving from Lafayette to Baton Rouge and while obtaining a degree in English and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at LSU, Tucker served as the president of Spectrum, the student organization for LGBTQ students and their allies. It was that service that sparked an entirely different college experience and from there, a desire to work for the rights, autonomy, and safety of LGBTQ people and their allies. After spending time organizing in Louisiana, Tucker plans to go to law school and work in other parts of the country doing organizing and movement building.

Tia Vice, Neighborhood Liaison, Neighborhoods Partnership Network (NPN)

Tia Vice is a neighborhood liaison with Neighborhoods Partnership Network (NPN) in New Orleans, Louisiana. From 2006 to 2007 she served as a Volunteer In Service To America (AmeriCorps*VISTA) with an adult literacy nonprofit organization in Greenville, South Carolina. As a VISTA, Tia served as a Spanish-English translator and interpreter in addition her projects focused on volunteer and student recruitment and increasing the use of technology in the adult literacy curriculum. Tia received a B.A. in Spanish with a Concentration in Latin American Studies from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina in 2006. From 2008 to 2010, she received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship to pursue an M.A. in Latin American Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her research on the history and social movements of the African Diaspora in Latin America along with a Tinker Field Research Grant to conduct research in Havana, Cuba culminated in a thesis titled, “Minerva Magazine and the Modern Afro-Cuban Woman: Redefining Race and Gender Expectations in Late-Nineteenth Century Havana.” Tia is from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, has studied music (clarinet and piano) and is an avid social salsa dancer.