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New Leaders Council

2013 NLC Fellows: Miami


Jonathan De Leon, Director, Museums & Communications Magnet Programs, Enrichments Department Chair, North Miami Middle School

Jonathan De Leon graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2007 from The College of New Jersey with a degree in History and Secondary Education. A member of TCNJ's inaugural Phi Beta Kappa class, De Leon joined Teach For America in 2007 to help close the achievement gap for high-need students in Miami-Dade County. During his first year teaching civics and US history to middle school students in North Miami, De Leon co-founded the North Miami Guitar program. Since its inception in the fall of 2007, the North Miami Guitar program has grown from an after school program to an established pillar of North Miami Middle School’s enrichments curriculum. What began with a few guitars purchased with the help of a private donor is now a full-fledged music program that has served over 700 students through accredited Guitar I and Guitar II courses and after school programs. The North Miami Guitar program has also partnered with the Guitars Over Guns Organization (GOGO), a 501(C)3 group led by Dr. Chad Bernstein, to offer music instruction and mentorship opportunities with professional musicians from Miami's most celebrated bands, including Suénalo and the Spam Allstars (For more info see In addition to teaching and administering the guitar program, De Leon serves as Director of the Museums and Communications Magnet Programs. In this role, he plans and oversees the implementation of magnet curriculum through academic and enrichment courses, and co-facilitates all countywide recruitment efforts along with the school’s International Baccalaureate Magnet Program. Through these responsibilities, as well as his Enrichments Department Chair and Activities and Athletics Director positions, De Leon hopes to provide North Miami’s high-need students with every opportunity to develop and further their own passion for music and the arts. To this end, he earned a Master’s degree in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami in 2011. In the future, De Leon hopes to expand the impact of the North Miami Guitar program to offer music and mentorship to youths across Miami-Dade.

Celeste DePalma , Outreach and Education Coordinator, Tropical Audubon Society

Born in Argentina, biologist and environmentalist Celeste De Palma moved to the U.S. in 2000. Immediately after completing her B.S. in Biology at Florida International University in 2011 she joined Tropical Audubon Society as their Conservation and Restoration Intern. In a twelve month period she was promoted to a stipend position within the non-profit and then to full-time position as the Outreach and Education Coordinator, a position she currently holds. Celeste’s passion for the protection of natural resources and habitats is one that she grew out of direct experience with social issues related to the exploitation of natural resources. During her last year of studies as an undergraduate student Celeste went on a research-based study abroad program to the Peruvian Amazon with the FIU Honors College. She specifically worked on gathering baseline data regarding the presence of heavy metals in various watersheds used by indigenous communities of the area. Aside from gaining field practice, this experience also shaped her character as she saw how dramatic are the effects of poor resource management and how critical it is for people to be informed and aware of the environmental impact of human activity. Her work, partially funded by a grant from the Explorers Club, has been published in the Explorers Club website and in Saraswati: the Journal of Advanced Research and Creativity in Honors, FIU Honors College. Celeste’s passion for the environment manifested early during her childhood. And her leadership skills have always been a trait of her character. As a competitive gymnast during her childhood and, until recently, a dance instructor, Celeste has always been exposed to the importance of team work and the effort that takes to efficiently and effectively lead groups of people. A true outdoors person, when not engaging in environmental protection efforts, Celeste enjoys kayaking at Biscayne Bay and running on the beach. Celeste intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. She intends to dedicate her life to the defense and advocacy for the well-management of natural resources, and she aspires to become the voice of underrepresented minorities within the environmental movement.

Katherine Gorell, Grants Manager, Miami Art Museum

After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in English, Katherine Gorell began her career at a K-8 South Bronx Catholic school. As a young teacher she mentored her students as the faculty adviser for the student newspaper. For the past 12 years Katherine has built her career as a non-profit fundraising and communications professional by developing successful relationships with institutional and individual donors, government representatives, organizational stakeholders, and members of the media. She has secured millions of dollars in general and project support grants and managed a successful $5M endowment campaign. To complement this advancement work and connect with constituents and members, she has produced persuasive, engaging copy for websites and blogs, online and print newsletters, annual reports, and press releases. Katherine currently serves as grants manager at Miami Art Museum. In this capacity she focuses on seeking and managing foundation and corporate funds to advance the museum’s mission. Concurrently she is earning her MBA with a concentration in marketing at Florida International University. Katherine is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Miami Chapter, and MBA Women International. When not busy raising grant funds or studying, Katherine can often be found organizing for a variety of progressive causes. A founding member of The Military Project, an anti-war committee involving active duty troops, she has also campaigned to end the death penalty and advance immigrant rights.

Sarah Greenblatt, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Miami

A native of Washington DC, Sarah holds a B.S. degree in Biology and Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She recently completed her Ph.D in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Johns Hopkins where she studied the genetics of leukemia. Sarah is continuing her work in blood diseases at the University of Miami where she currently a Research Fellow. Throughout college and graduate school, Sarah has worked to increase minority involvement in the sciences through the development of peer driven mentoring programs. She hopes to apply these skills to develop programs to improve minority recruitment and retention in the sciences for the diverse community of students at the University of Miami.

Bahreddine 'Bobby' Hannat, Esq.

Bobby Hannat currently works as Associate General Counsel for a Florida based insurance provider. He holds a B.A., in Economics from Keene State College and a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, he joined the U.S. Army in October 2001 in response to the horrific attacks of 9/11. Trained as a Combat Engineer specializing in reconnaissance operations, Bobby deployed to Iraq in April of 2003 with the 1st Armored Division and returned from combat operations in July 2004. He arrived in Miami in 2008 in pursuit of realizing a lifelong dream of becoming an attorney. As a law student, Bobby served as a Judicial Intern to the Honorable Stanford Blake. There he began to develop his legal aptitude through exposure to high-profile criminal cases such as the murder trial of rogue FBI agent John Connolly. Bobby also interned at the Complex Litigation Division of Florida’s Unified Family Court, a position that afforded the opportunity to champion the best interests of children with families engaged in multiple pending cases within the judicial system. After graduating with a Juris Doctor in 2011, Bobby began his career as a prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General of Florida. During his tenure, he prosecuted organized white-collar crime groups engaged in rackets such as mortgage fraud and pharmaceutical drug diversion.

Sandra Hinderliter, Manager of Teacher Leadership Development, Teach For America

Sandra grew up internationally, gaining various perspectives of the world along the way. She received undergraduate degrees in International Studies and Asian Studies from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. During her time there she was an advocate for Latino immigration rights on both sides of the border. She founded a community center in the rural town of El Gusano, Mexico as well as a summer program for students from her university to travel to rural communities to support towns highly impacted by emigration. In the states, she delivered Know Your Rights trainings to undocumented immigrants, provided support and services for immigrant mothers and worked closely with an advisor to share knowledge of the history and implications of immigration in NC communities, encouraging cross-cultural collaboration. Sandra arrived in Miami in 2009 and taught kindergarten in West Little River/Liberty City with Teach for America. Through founding a program to help enable her students' parents to be life-long advocates for their children and raising money for her school's United Way campaign, she got to know her community in a meaningful way. She received her Masters in Education and Social Change at the University of Miami and spent the last two summers involved in the training of incoming Teach For America corps members as an advisor in Philadelphia and a School Director in Tulsa. Currently, she supports and develops Teach For America public school teachers working in the lowest performing elementary schools in our city, fighting for equity.

Brett Hudson, Consultant, Knight Foundation

Brett Hudson is a consultant to the Knight Foundation’s “Tech for Engagement” strategic initiative, a multi-million dollar initiative aimed at fostering citizen-centered solutions to modernize and enhance community engagement and democratic processes throughout the U.S. Hudson has always been quite the entrepreneur--he has been involved in all sides of startup ventures internally, including the organizational management, strategy and business development, and externally, including finance and deal flow development. His passion for entrepreneurship extends to innovation policy more broadly; he enjoys studying the effects of community engagement, creative communities and entrepreneurial ecosystems on economic development. As a native of Phoenix, Arizona, Hudson initiated and led an advisory group of young entrepreneurs for the Discovery Triangle, the Phoenix area's largest multi-city redevelopment initiative, to develop strategies to attract and retaining talent in the metro area. As a strong advocate of the arts, he also served on the Board of Directors for the Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix's premier performance venue and arts incubator. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work in business and community development, including being named one of the Phoenix Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” in 2010. Hudson graduated with honors from Stanford University and was summa cum laude at NYC’s Baruch College, where he received his MPA.

Ashanti Johnson, Regional Account Manager, Rosetta Genomics

Ashanti Johnson is currently a Biotechnology Account Executive, Mentor, and Social Entrepreneur. Prior to returning the field of Cancer Diagnostics and molecular testing, Ashanti co-founded The B Holding Group, LLC, a full-service provider of health-related services and consumer products dedicated to decreasing health disparities within at-risk populations. It is also the distributor of b condoms®,, the world’s only minority-owned, socially responsible condom company. The company’s mission is to change the trajectory of health disparities within the most at-risk communities by providing access to education and testing while reinvesting revenue into organizations dedicated to prevention within these communities. While in charge of business development, The B Holding Group was awarded the “Top 10 Entrepreneurs to watch in 2010” award by Black Enterprise magazine. Ashanti has held various roles within R&D setting as well as several sales and marketing franchises within Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Rosetta Genomics. Johnson’s clinical areas of expertise have spanned from Analytical chemistry, oncology therapeutics and genetic, molecular diagnostic testing to the field of personalized medicine. Most recently, Ashanti served as the Community Economic Development Coordinator of the Ralph Kenol for Hollywood City Commissioner, District 2 campaign, during the November 6, 2012 national election. Ashanti graduated from Morehouse College where he obtained a B.S. in Chemistry and is a past honoree of the South Florida Top 40 under 40 by Legacy Magazine and the Miami Herald. More importantly, Ashanti is a proud father and has dedicated himself to changing the lives of at-risk youth within his community. He co-founded Basketball Science®, a South Florida based non-profit that provides urban youth with FCAT/SAT/ACT standardized test taking strategies, financial literacy, sportsmanship and basketball skills development.

Kubs Lalchandani

Kubs Lalchandani is co-founder and partner of Lalchandani Simon PL, a specialized law firm designed to assist start-up technology businesses protect their intellectual property, raise capital and expand operations. Lalchandani counsels clients in various industries including healthcare, technology, finance, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, marketing and advertising. Lalchandani currently serves on the advisory boards of several technology companies, including WedWu, Inc., a wedding services bidding platform,, a high-tech weather reporting technology provider, Razient, LLC, a global incident management and supply chain risk assessment company, and 1Apeiron, a technology start-up incubator. Prior to founding Lalchandani Simon, Lalchandani served as general counsel to a premier Manhattan restaurant group, as a federal law clerk to the Honorable Patricia A. Seitz, United States District Judge, and as an associate at the law firms of Jones Day and White & Case. Lalchandani speaks at technology conferences nationwide and serves as a mentor to various accelerator programs. Lalchandani also serves as a guest lecturer at Cornell University. Lalchandani graduated from the Cornell Hotel School in 1999 and Cornell Law School in 2004.

Melissa McLain, Psychologist, Clinical Director, Oliver-Pyatt Centers

Dr. Melissa McLain, is a licensed psychologist practicing in Miami, Florida. She is Clinical Director of Oliver-Pyatt Centers, an intensive treatment center for women working on recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and excessive exercise. She received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her doctoral degree in counseling psychology from the University of Southern California. Dr. McLain has presented nationally on eating disorders, body image, food rules and self-care at conferences by the National Eating Disorder Association, the Binge Eating Disorder Association and the International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals. She is an active member of the Miami community and has served on the Kappa Alpha Theta Miami Alumnae Chapter board as well as the Fairchild Palms Young Professionals.

Kevin Michael, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Invizio

Kevin V. Michael serves as co-founder and Managing Partner of Invizio, LLC, a South Florida IT services and consulting firm. Overseeing business development, strategic relationship development and client relations for the company, this Antiguan-born entrepreneur is one of South Florida’s brightest minds in the IT industry. Mr. Michael, his company and his work have been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, the Miami Herald, the Miami Today, and Mr. Michael has made appearances on NBC 6 (WTVJ) daytime show "South Florida Today", WLRN (91.3FM) and 880AM "The Biz". Under his leadership, his company has been selected by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce as a 2012 Top 100 Minority Business Award recipient and among the 'Best IT Consultant Services' by the Daily Business Review's 2012 'Best of' Reader Survey. In 2011, Mr. Michael was named one of South Florida’s 40 Under 40 Professionals of Today and Tomorrow by Legacy Magazine in partnership with the Miami Herald, and was recognized in 2012 by ICABA Media Holdings as a Rising Star among South Florida's Most Accomplished Entrepreneurs and Community Leaders and named one of South Florida's 100 Most Accomplished Caribbean Americans. Prior to Invizio, Mr. Michael was part of the highly selective Citigroup Operations & Technology Management Associate Program and based in Dallas, TX. In his role at Citi, Mr. Michael served as a Technology Project Manager in the Project Management Office of Technology Infrastructure. In this capacity he managed cross-functional engineering and operations teams in the implementation of both national and international technology infrastructure projects. Mr. Michael, a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology & Software Engineering from the University of Miami, with majors in Computer Science and Computer Information Systems. Mr. Michael is active in the local business community as a member of both the Coral Gables and the Miami-Dade Chambers of Commerce. He has served as a Membership Committee Member & Leadership Trainer with the Miami-Dade franchise of Business Network International (BNI) and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the University of Miami College of Engineering Alumni Association. In 2012, Mr. Michael was nominated to the New Leaders Taskforce at the Beacon Council to collaborate on issues affecting Miami Dade's young professional population.

Tobias Packer, Communications Coordinator for New Organizing in Florida, 1199SEIU - United Healthcare Workers East

As a communications professional, Tobias specializes in the development of digital civic engagement programs and groundbreaking new media strategies that bridge the gap between the grassroots and the netroots. In 2005, after receiving his BA from Smith College, Tobias returned to his home state of Florida to begin his career at Equality Florida – the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. During his tenure with Equality Florida, Tobias spearheaded numerous community based campaigns both responding to far right political attacks and building support for anti-discrimination ordinances, safe schools policies, and domestic partnership laws at the local level. In 2007 the South Florida Blade named Tobias South Florida's "Best Transgender Activist." Most recently Tobias was a featured speaker at the National Equality March on October 11th, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Currently he leads a regional communications operation for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – the largest and fastest growing healthcare union in the country. His primary focus is the continual growth and development of our membership by producing materials to effectively inform, engage, and inspire through a unique mixture of traditional organizing principles and incisive deployment of new technologies.

Daniel Palugyai, Esq.

Raised in Miami, Daniel received an American Civil Liberties Union National Youth Activist award in high school and, with a full scholarship, went on to earn his B.A. at the University of Miami. He worked in fundraising for the ACLU of Florida’s Miami office before earning his law degree at Georgetown. Along the way he’s interned and worked in our nation’s capital for two congressmen, a lobbying firm, and a congressional committee. His research for a leading National Lawyers Guild professor is cited in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. His drafting of immigrant entrepreneur legislation is recognized in various American Bar Association and Florida Young Lawyers Division reports. As a board member of the ACLU's Greater Miami Chapter, Daniel served on a local law school voting rights panel alongside a prominent election law attorney. Daniel also addressed county commissioners and is quoted in The Miami Herald advocating for the constitutional freedoms of people who are homeless.

Samia Taoulost , Organizational Learning Director, Catalyst Miami

Samia Taoulost currently serves as the Organizational Learning Director at Catalyst Miami, where she develops and manages an AmeriCorps VISTA program and various capacity-building initiatives to further the organization’s strategies to develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education, and economic opportunity in all our communities. Prior to joining Catalyst Miami, Samia was a leader in the healthcare industry, working as a Patient Access Manager at the University of Miami’s International Medicine Institute. In this capacity, she represented UHealth International overseas and managed strategic partnerships with foreign health ministries, embassies, consulates, and corporations to increase the volume of international patients seeking treatment at UHealth medical facilities and to enhance the profile of Miami as a medical tourism destination. Samia is also an active member of her community. A former Young People For (YP4) Fellow and StartingBloc Fellow, she was recently appointed to serve as a Board Member on the Miami-Dade Commission for Women, after serving an appointed term as Board Member on the City of North Miami Beach’s Commission on the Status of Women. In addition, she blogged as an Issue Analyst at Americans for Informed Democracy, a national organization dedicated to educating, empowering, and mobilizing citizens to take informed action around our individual and collective roles as global citizens. Mrs. Taoulost graduated from University of Miami with a Master’s Degree in International Administration, with a thesis on social entrepreneurship and hybrid models as sustainability-solutions for the non-profit sector. Fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic, Samia believes that entrepreneurship, social justice, public-private-community partnerships, transparency, and an informed citizenry are critical ingredients necessary for both a flourishing democracy and a thriving economy.

Brenda Torres, Vice President, Citi

Brenda Torres grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem as the oldest of three children to Ecuadorian immigrant parents, and graduated with honors from Fordham University obtaining a Bachelors of Science in International Finance and Marketing and a Minor in Italian. A true global citizen, she has traveled, worked, and/or studied in close to 30 countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe. Brenda began her career in banking with JPMorgan in New York and has worked on their Global Equities ADR Product team as a Junior Product specialist and as an analyst on their Fixed Income Commodities and Currencies Sales & Trading floor. In 2005, Brenda moved to Miami to join Citi as part of their Global Transaction Services Regional Latin America team. In Miami, she worked as a Regional Client Sales Manager and was responsible for the GTS Latin America relationship for many multinational corporate clients with a specialized focus in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector. As a Regional Client Sales Manager, Brenda also provided treasury and trade solution structuring to clients operating in Latin America. More recently, she has relocated to Shanghai, China to launch Citi’s first Latin America-Asia Trade Desk. As a Regional Trade Product Manager, she is responsible for strategy, product and business development supporting Latin America corporate clients trading with Asia. She has successfully launched new products and cultivated new business opportunities in this important trade corridor. While she will be repatriating to Miami in 2013, she will continue to lead and ensure the successful development and implementation of new trade services solutions structured to support Asia-Latin America import and export activity while also expanding her professional responsibilities. She has also dedicated her time to volunteering with the Junior League of Miami, participating as a Big in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami as well other partaking in other service projects in the South Florida area. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, running, and traveling.

Andrew Velo-Arias, Financial Analyst, Goldman Sachs

Andrew Velo was born and raised in Hialeah, Florida. After graduating as Salutatorian from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School, Andrew went on to Harvard University. In 2011, Andrew graduated Cum Laude from Harvard with a B.A. in Economics. He also earned a Foreign Language Citation in Portuguese, having studied the language for three years and traveled to Brazil his senior year as part of a language and public service program. While in college, Andrew was active in various student organizations including the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Cuban-American Undergraduate Students Association. Andrew also worked with the Harvard College Admissions Office to recruit minority students and raise awareness of the school’s financial aid initiative. He spent his summers working at the City of Hialeah, in Washington D.C. through the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, and at Goldman Sachs. Having returned home to Miami, Andrew now works with Goldman Sachs as a Financial Analyst in the Private Wealth Management Division. In his year-and-a-half as a young professional, Andrew has devoted time to several community service activities such as Habitat for Humanity and the Chapman Partnership. He is excited to work with the New Leaders Council to develop the skills and network that will enable him to give back to Miami in a meaningful way.

Lilly Weinberg

Lilly Weinberg joins the Knight Foundation as Special Assistant to the President. Weinberg will support President Alberto Ibargüen on strategic projects that promote informed and engaged communities. Weinberg graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School and the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she concurrently earned master’s degrees in public and business administration. While there, she worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in both cases creating strategies to promote economic development, entrepreneurship and business growth. Prior to entering graduate school, Weinberg worked with the Connected by 25 Institute, where she specialized in simplifying and implementing complicated foster care policies. She has a degree in both economics and environmental studies from Emory University, which allowed her to study and research sustainable development in Botswana, Namibia, Peru, and Turks and Caicos.
Atlanta - Augusta - Austin - Boston - Broward - Capital District NY - Chicago - Cincinnati - Cleveland - Connecticut - Dallas - Denver - Des Moines
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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.