2012 NLC Fellows: Miami



Ashley Arostegui, AmeriCorps VISTA, UM Office of Civic and Community Engagement

A Miami native, Ashley has a passion for non-profit work, education, and film. She holds BA degrees in English and History from Florida International University where she graduated magna cum laude, and recently completed her MA in Media Studies at The New School in New York City with a 3.97 GPA. While at the New School, she worked as a course assistant in a number of graduate-level classes, including Media Studies: Ideas, where she lectured incoming MA candidates in media theory. Since graduate school, Ashley has worked on a number of Miami-based arts projects that have strengthened her commitment to her community. At the Miami World Cinema Center, she taught at-risk students about film, providing them with hands-on experience and instruction in video journalism, interviewing, oral history, cinematography, and editing. Ashley also helped organize the 2011 Borscht Film Festival, a sold-out event that premiered to over 2,000 people at the Adrienne Arsht Center. She is currently serving a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the University of Miami's Office of Civic and Community Engagement, where she works to promote academic service-learning and foster community partnerships.

Adele Bagley,Attorney, Forman Law Group

Adele Bagley grew up in Miami and returned to practice law in her hometown in 2010. She is an attorney with the Forman Law Group, an internationally-focused criminal law practice. Ms. Bagley received her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2009 and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Miami in 2005. Having spent time living and studying abroad, Ms. Bagley speaks Spanish. A member of the Bar in both California and Florida, Ms. Bagley is also actively engaged in Miami's civic life, supporting the work of the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless, Catalyst Miami, MUJER, and Miami-Dade Young Democrats.

Meredith Beattie, Senior Training Manager City Year

Meredith Beattie has spent the last decade working to help those most in need by optimizing the organizations that serve them. Ms. Beattie began her career at a national workforce development nonprofit managing six sites, with combined $3M in contracts, to transition women from poverty to self-sufficiency. Upon arriving in Miami in 2004, she fully launched her own consulting practice specializing in project management and grant writing, working on the first phases of scenario planning projects like Imagine Miami, and, for the last 4 years, secured over $12M in grants for the City of Miami for their homeless, Mayor's Office, fire rescue, public works, and economic initiatives departments. She is a White House Project "Go Run" training graduate, trained Theater of the Oppressed facilitator, and because of her passion for the electoral process, a trained poll worker. Ms. Beattie volunteers for Inner City Outings as an outings leader taking inner city children on outings. Ms. Beattie is founding member of the Younger Women's Taskforce chapter in Miami which, among other projects, launched a voter recruitment campaign "Voting Vixen" which was replicated nationally. She is founding member of Legal Arts young patrons group, The Foundry, and is a pending member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ms. Beattie has given talks at the national level on women and workforce development, conducted local conferences on nonprofit capacity building in South Dade, alternative health information sharing platforms, and youth summits. Her article on best practices for grant writing was included in the 3rd Edition of Technical Writing for Success. She recently took the position of Senior Training Manager for City Year Miami, and is charged with getting their Americorps funded volunteers prepared to combat the dropout crisis in schools, and provide professional and civic engagement training throughout their year of service.

Ronald Bilbao,Senior Legislative Associate, ACLU-FL

Ron is a native Miamian, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a B.A. in political science and a minor in social and economic justice. He is no stranger to the ACLU: as president of the Miami-Dade Student Government Association, he and the Association became plaintiffs in our 2006 lawsuit against the Miami-Dade County School Board challenging the removal and banning of the hotly debated children’s book Vamos a Cuba(A Visit to Cuba) and the entire series of children’s books from the school’s library system. He founded and chaired the Hands on Miami Youth Advisory Corps, an organization that serves and advances the interests of students and young people. Ron was also active in the Miami Dade Election Reform Coalition (MDERC), a voting rights watchdog group the ACLU helped to create following voting problems that began after the state installed touch-screen voting machines in 2002. Ron went on to distinguish himself at UNC as a leader and advocate on issues affecting Latinos and Latino students. He founded the North Carolina Coalition for College Access, the Carolina Latina/o Center, and the UNC Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a multi-cultural fraternity. Through his prior work at the Tallahassee lobbying firm of Robert M. Levy and Associates (one of the masters of the trade), Ron worked on a range of issues with legislators on both sides of the aisle. He served the ACLU-FL with distinction during the 2011 legislative session, which was one of the most horrendous in recent history. In May 2011, Ron joined the ACLU-FL full-time as Senior Legislative Associate and Advocacy Coordinator.

Michael Borja,Private Wealth Manager, Wells Fargo

Michael Borja was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He returned after getting his Masters degree in Information Sciences at the University of Florida to pursue a career in Financial Planning. Michael is eager to give back to the city that he loves and to help build a stronger progressive community.

Kevin Bulger, ADR Accounting Manager Collins Center for Public Policy

Kevin Bulger is a graduate from the Honors College at Michigan State University with a BA in Anthropology and Wayne State University with a Masters in Public Administration. Kevin is an Alumnus of the AmeriCorps CTC VISTA program where he served at the Collins Center for Public Policy, where he currently works as the ADR Accounting Manager. Kevin has a passion for service and has donated hundreds of hours volunteering with dozens of community-based organizations to make Miami a better place for all residents.

Juan Cuba,

Juan was born in Lima, Peru and was three years old when his parents immigrated to the United States in search of a better future. His parent's taught him the value of hard work and determination. And it is his family's struggle that fuels his passion for social justice. After graduating from Florida International University, he joined Barack Obama's presidential campaign. He traveled to Iowa, Chicago, Texas and West Virginia during the primaries and was named Regional Field Director of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in the general election. After the election, Juan joined the Obama Administration as a Staff Assistant in the White House Office of Urban Affairs and then as a Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Among his many accomplishments, Juan is most proud to have coordinated HUD's domestic violence policy and was the point person in drafting the legislative recommendations for the 2011 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Juan moved back home to Miami at the end of 2011 and has taken leadership roles with the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and the Miami-Dade Young Democrats.

Roxanna Elden,Teacher and Author, Miami-Dade Public Schools

Roxanna Elden is a National Board Certified high school teacher, a Teach for America alumna and an active member of United Teachers of Dade. Her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers (Kaplan, 2009), is widely used as a tool for teacher training and retention. Ms. Elden has been a keynote speaker at district teacher orientations and local National Board events, and she presents often at professional development workshops. She also writes commentary on “the teacher corner of the researcher/policymaker/teacher communication triangle.” Numerous media outlets, including Education Next, Rick Hess Straight Up, Educational Horizons, Teacher Magazine, and The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet have featured her work.

Kamalah Fletcher,Community Prosperity Director, Catalyst Miami

Kamalah Fletcher is the Community Prosperity Director at Catalyst Miami. She studied at Boston University where she began her career in public service as an AmeriCorps member. She has directed her career by always doing work that she feels passionate about, doing her job to the best of her ability, and not being shy about her ideas for how to make things better. Her definition of “progressive” suggests the answers to what ails us are not exclusively Democrat or Republican ideals. Rather, those answers should be based on logic and proven best practices and more often than not will incorporate the best of both. “I live somewhere between feeling like there is nothing I can do to truly make a change and feeling like there is still some point in going to work every day and fighting the good fight. With the political climate in our cities, states and nations threatening to take us all to ruin, I plan to apply the same passion I have for community development to making sure my fellow citizens have access to opportunities and information that will help them lead the best lives possible.” She plans to do so through her involvement in New Leaders Council.

Binsen Gonzalez,Special Projects Manager, City Year

Binsen J Gonzalez Mejia is currently Assistant & Special Projects Manager to the Chief Marketing Officer of City Year Inc. In his new position he supports the CMO's daily activities and the national marketing team for all of the 22 national sites across the country. Before his new position he worked in Miami as a Marketing and Development Associate for City Year Miami. Prior to his most recent role he worked with Nation Branding Expert, Gregory Payne, collaborating with the Icelandic government and Inspired by Iceland Campaign. He has interned with Generation Engaged, The Fuentes Consulting Group, and Social Miami. As a free-lancer he has produced works for Dolce and Gabbana, Valentino, Vecna Technologies and has created over a dozen political campaign websites with social media capabilities. He is an Alum of The Washington Center, where he focused on US media trends, and The Salzburg Global Seminar, where he focused on globalization and hyper-consumption patterns.

Meghan Hammond,Commercial Managers, Americas Region, SVITZER Americas Ltd.

Originally born in El Paso, Texas to a military family, Meghan has travelled extensively both within and outside the U.S. from an early age. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from University of Tennessee in 2006 with a degree in Mandarin Chinese and International Business, Meghan went to work for the A.P. Moller Maersk shipping conglomerate in Madison, NJ. After two years, Meghan was transferred to Singapore to work within the Asia region as Assistant Commercial Manager for A.P. Moller's towage subsidiary. Moving to Miami in July 2010, Meghan is now the acting Commercial Manager for the Americas Region, the youngest of her counterparts and the only female. Besides her professional work, Meghan is also an active member of the Miami Dade Young Democrats, an occasional contributor to Instapundit, and plays for Miami's Vice City Rollers flat track roller derby team.

Michael Laas,Founder, Environmental Creative Solutions

Michael Laas is a Miami Beach resident who is passionate about his community. He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and was raised overseas in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Kuwait, and Texas. He attended the University of Miami for Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Environmental Engineering. Michael is currently an environmental engineer and LEED Associate Professional working at Gannett Fleming Inc., a multidisciplinary engineering firm, and serves as their South East Sustainability Director. He is also the founder of Environmental Creative Solutions, a sustainability consulting firm focused on providing solutions to companies, municipal governments, and non-profit organizations who are committed to think differently about environmental strategy, policy, and related opportunities. Services include corporate sustainability program development, greenhouse gas inventories, efficiency engineering, green building/facilities development, green business development, and environmental marketing strategies. Michael's love for his community is evident through his deep commitment and involvement with the numerous non-profit organizations he founded and serves on. He is a current board member and former board President of ECOMB (Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches), current board member and former Chairman of the Miami Surfrider Chapter, Co-Founder and Board Vice President of Sails for Sustenance (a Haitian non-profit organization), and Co-Founder and Board Member of the Miami Surf Archive Project (a local non-profit). Michael’s commitment to the community extends into cultural and philanthropic groups. He is a member of the New World Symphony's Friends Executive Committee, MAM Young Contemporaries, MOCA’s Leadership Circle, and Community Partnership for Homeless’ Next-Gen. Currently Michael is working with local partners on the establishment of an Environmental Film Festival here in Miami for October of this year. He is also working with ECOMB and the City of Miami Beach on the creation of an environmental community center; slated to be a LEED-certified and carbon-neutral building in the heart of Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco district.

Sze Lee,CEO, Social Capital Management

Sze Lee is the Chief Executive Officer for Social Capital Management. Lee earned her B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies at Florida International University. Sze serves as an instructor on digital strategy for Miami Dade College and a speaker on new media for University of Miami.

Audwin Levassuer Adjunct Professor, FIU School of Law

Audwin Levasseur is commercial litigator and an adjunct professor at Florida International University School of Law. A New Jersey native, he earned his J.D. from Columbia University and completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University. Audwin previously served at the Legal Resources Center as a Columbia Law School Human Rights Fellow in Durban, South Africa.

Jaime Raich, Attorney, US Government

Jaime Raich is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the George Washington University Law School. Jaime is an Assistant United States Attorney in Miami, Florida where he prosecutes the perpetrators of crimes committed against the environment and public health of South Florida. Previously, Jaime served as an assistant judge advocate in United States Coast Guard’s Seventh District.

Jennifer SmithTeacher, Miami-Dade Public Schools

Jennifer Smith is a teacher, writer, and union activist currently living and working in Miami, Florida. She received a Master degree in French Literature from Indiana University in 2003. She lived and worked in France and Italy before coming to Miami in 2006 and beginning a public school teaching career. In addition to teaching French, she is the designated building steward for her school for United Teachers of Dade, the local teachers' union, and is the co-chair of the legislative committee for the same organization. She frequently lobbies state legislators on education issues, and has been a guest speaker in public forums on education issues. She writes political commentary concerning education policy for her own web page, and her articles have also been published by the Miami Herald and on the Washington Post education blog.

Michael Thakur,Attorney, US Government

Mike Thakur is a government attorney in Miami. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In law school, Mike was the President of the Harvard Law School Democrats, the Head Class Marshal, and an Editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was awarded the Dean's Award for Community Leadership. After graduating from law school, Mike clerked for Judge Stanley Marcus on the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Miami, and worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C. prior to returning to the Sunshine State.

David Truong,Owner and President, DCT Designs

David is currently the owner and president of DCT Designs, a freelance engineering and media arts design company. Prior to that, he was a junior engineer for a leading MEP Design firm in the healthcare industry before finding himself in Miami to be a district manager for a start-up GC firm. David is very active in USGBC-South Florida, volunteering for many networking and promotional events as well as serving as a co-chair for Miami-Dade’s Emerging Professionals. He also serves as a National Chair for USGBC Students helping to promote sustainable lifestyles beginning at the college level. On the weekends, you can often find David training for his next triathlon, enjoying one of the many beautiful beaches of South Florida, or hitting the road with friends embarking on his next adventure.

David Valk,Community Organizer, SAVE Dade

David Valk was born and raised in southern California and is a recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. David began his involvement in the fight for LGBTQ equality as he marched with thousands of students in the streets of Los Angeles following the passage of Proposition 8. Upon graduation, he continued to organize students and traveled across the country to build support for the National Equality March, and in October 2009, co-authored the National Student's Call to Action with civil rights giant, David Mixner. The Call to Action garnered the support of over 100 college and university student body presidents who endorsed the March. As a community organizer with SAVE Dade, Florida's largest local LGBTQ political advocacy organization, David is working to build sustainable grassroots support, taking advantage of new tools including online and social media. Through political and non-political community engagement, David continues to produce necessary support for SAVE Dade's initiatives, including electing pro-equality candidates. In his spare time, David enjoys swimming and reading about issues in American social justice.