2013 NLC Fellows: Nashville


Tierney Bates, Director of Programs & Services, Urban League of Middle Tennessee

Tierney Bates is from Cleveland, Ohio and received his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media Communications with a minor in African-American History from the University of Akron, and his Master of Arts degree in Higher -Education Administration from the University of Akron as well. He came to Tennessee as the Assistant Director of Minority Student Affairs where he served for 3yrs in the role from 2005-2008. Tierney is responsible for creating and founding numerous programs that still exist today at the University of Tennessee campus in Minority Student Affairs such as the Black Issues Conference, African-American Image Awards, Mahogany Soul Cafe, SAAB and MAP Success Skills Workshops. He has worked in many roles supporting diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee and in the Knoxville community which garnered him a Chancellors Citation Award in 2008. He sets out to help people reach their goals, potential, and success. A member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., A Knoxville Business Journal Top 40 under 40 selection 2008, a Leadership Knoxville Class of 2009 graduate, an American Express and National Urban League Emerging Leader Program graduate 2010, and named by Urban Voice Magazine 2010 Upcoming Leader, while also serving on 4 major community boards. Recently Tierney has worked in the UT Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Mr. Bates served as the Director of Development at The University of Tennessee College of Architecture & Design from 2008-2011. He is now pursuing an MBA and has taken a role with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee in Nashville as the Director of Programs & Services.

Kathleen Coffen

Kathleen Coffen has a history of being highly involved in the social programs of any town she has called home. At the age of 19, Kathleen began demonstrating her belief in the value of education joining the summer staff of the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC). In 2004, after graduating from the University of Houston, Kathleen moved to Chicago, IL to join the NSLC where her passion and drive for success positively impacted the future of hundreds of our nations best and brightest youth. After living in Chicago for four years, in 2008, Kathleen moved to the Middle-Tennessee area and began working with the US Army Wounded Warrior Project as a volunteer therapy coordinator assisting service members who suffered from traumatic brain injuries while deployed overseas. She has been also been involved in corporate event management and has invested herself in the development of her private endeavors where she holds the title of Principle Designer & CEO of Black Gardenia Design – a Nashville based boutique millinery service. In 2011, she recruited and lead the volunteer staff for democratic candidate Darren Jernigan for the District 60 race for the Tennessee State House. Also serving as Campaign Manager, she played an instrumental role in successfully reclaiming a historically Democratic seat from the Republican incumbent. Kathleen and her husband, Cole Stant, live in the Pennington Bend area of Nashville where they raise their daughter, Isabella, and enjoy organic gardening, interior design and the restoration of antique furniture.

Alfred Degrafinreid II, Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of Congressman Jim Cooper

Alfred is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. He moved to Nashville to attend Tennessee State University on a Presidential Honors Scholarship in 2002. He received a B.S. degree in Health Sciences (2006) and a Master's Degree in Public Administration (2008) from Tennessee State University. Alfred is a May 2012 graduate from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He is currently working as Counsel for Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-5). His work experience includes lobbying; political consulting; fundraising; legislative work; community organizing and increasing voter turnout in political races.

Jane Mantey, Graduate Student, Meharry Medical College

Jane Ama Mantey is a doctoral candidate for a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Pharmacology from Meharry Medical College. She is currently studying how the metabolism of a common toxicant, benzo(a)pyrene, is altered by the homeostasis of animal subjects. Jane received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, MD. Her career goal is to work within the government sector after receiving her doctorate. Originally from Bayonne, New Jersey by way of Brooklyn, NY, Jane has been a member of the Nashville community since 2007. Jane is an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated as well as a number of student organizations at Meharry and professional organizations such as the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and Sigma Xi. She also spends her time volunteering with local community-based organizations. Jane has a strong passion for community activism and social justice and equity, and was recently involved in an effort to mobilize student voters in the Nashville-area.

Lonnell Matthews, District 1 Metro Councilmember, Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County

Lonnell Matthews, Jr., at age 33, is currently the Operations Executive for the School Age Services department of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee and an aspiring author/publisher. Lonnell Matthews earned an Honors Diploma from Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School for Health Sciences and Engineering in 1997. Afterwards, Matthews matriculated through Tennessee State University as an Accounting/ Business Law major, where he crossed the graduation stage in December of 2002. In order to further his education of Real Estate and Urban Development, Matthews enrolled in the Continual Learning Institute and later was granted his Real Estate License (now retired) in April of 2003. Lonnell was first elected to the Nashville Metro Council’s District 1 seat in a run-off race in September of 2007. He was re-elected by a convincing majority to represent District 1 in 2011. Having served on several Metro Council Committees, Lonnell has had the opportunity to lead as the 2007 Vice Chair of the Convention & Tourism Committee, the 2009 Chair of the Parks & Library Committee, the 2009 President of the Metro Council Minority Caucus & the 2011 Chair of the Education Committee. Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors recently appointed the Honorable Lonnell Matthews as the 2012 Chair of Metro Council’s Budget & Finance Committee. Budget & Finance being considered the Metro Council’s most powerful committee, Councilman Matthews is the first African-American Chair appointed by Vice Mayor Neighbors. As a member of Nashville’s City Council, Lonnell Matthews, Jr. co-sponsored the city’s procurement, living wage, and non-discrimination ordinances. Mr. Matthews was also a fearless, vocal opponent of the English-Only referendum that was defeated in 2009. Councilman Matthews’ response & leadership during the May 2010 flood, the 5th largest natural disaster in U.S. history, was commendable. Lonnell was instrumental in the creation of Nashville’s Workforce Development Program that has employed nearly 1/3 of the workforce for the Music City Center project and provided technical job skills training for thousands of Nashvillians. His civic engagements include involvement with Metro Parks/YMCA Youth Sports Coach, Tennessee State University National Alumni Association, Sigma Psi Omega High School Fraternity (Alumnus), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Alumnus), Generation of Educated Men (Co-Founder), GreatConvo.com (Founder) and many others. Matthews also volunteers for Bethlehem Center of Nashville, Habitat for Humanity, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Salvation Army and Nashville Rescue Mission. Council Matthews is the proud husband of Johari Matthews and a strong advocate building families & communities.

Aaron McGee, YMCA of Middle Tennessee

By day, Aaron serves as a youth development professional for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee specializing in secondary educational advancement, workforce and leadership development. In 2011, the nonprofit hired Aaron to lead its signature program aimed toward minority youth. As Program Director of the YMCA Black Achievers Program, it is Aaron's job to help youth identify their gifts, talents and areas of interest. The program prepares youth of color for college and professional careers.

Wesley Rhodes, International Environmental Urban Planning, Land Use and Urban Planning

Wesley Rhodes earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Tennessee State University, and is currently seeking a professional career in environmental urban planning, international development and diplomacy. His minor in nonprofit management also prepares him to work in the nonprofit sector. Wesley has served as a moderator at the International Youth Forum for Urban Sustainability and has also been published by the American Planning Association. He also served as the sole student representative on the Tennessee State University President’s Retention Task Force. Wesley interned a year for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Mayor’s Office, primarily with the Office of Economic and Community Development, and the Office of Environment and Sustainability. He also interned for the nonprofit Nashville Civic Design Center. At the NCDC Wesley served as a research assistant for a publication about achieving positive public health outcomes through urban design, and assisted with grant writing. In addition to his formal education and internships, Wesley has gained invaluable cultural experiences from visiting nineteen countries, working with a French family on a sustainable organic farm in Provence, France, and studying urban planning, urban design, and business in China. He is actively involved in local and national organizations that have a direct impact on the urban planning, urban design, and political landscape. During his leisure time Wesley enjoys running, listening to music, cooking, reading, traveling, and watching sports.

Heather Sanders, Professional Contractor

Heather Sanders became an advocate for justice as a primary learner when she acted as a civil rights attorney during a mock trial at Brick Church Elementary. As she excelled in the classroom, she used her influence to challenge authority surrounding issues of injustice. As a high school student, Heather was a part of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Forensic/Debate Team and the Honors/Advanced Placement student group. She also served as a Peer Leader through the Metro Davidson County Counseling Department and the National Honor Society President. Early in her college career, Heather became a mentor through the Junior Achievement Program of Middle Tennessee and a steering committee member, specializing in the development of business curriculum for Metro Davidson County Schools. Also during this time, Heather became involved in discussions surrounding equality while employed at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, TN. As a continuing learner, Heather is working closely with the Vice-President of Belmont University in Nashville, TN to develop a customized diversity and inclusion curriculum and community life department for the university. Heather also serves as a facilitator for diversity dialogues as a part of her internship with the University School of Nashville and is also developing a curriculum for the Social and Political Action Ministry of Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Nashville. As the wife of Brian Sanders (10 years) and mother to Kennedy (3 years old) and Brody (20 months), Heather continues to seek opportunities for growth while challenging systemic injustice.

Cara Sweeney, Director of Community Relations and Advocacy, Conexion Americas

A Nashville native, Cara Sweeney graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.S. in Human and Organizational Development and from the George Washington University with a M.A. in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies. She currently works as the Director of Community Relations and Advocacy for Conexión Américas, a local nonprofit that helps Latino families integrate into the community in Middle Tennessee. She currently serves as Chair of the American Cancer Society Junior Board and on the Advisory Board for the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee's Tomorrow Fund.

Taylor Walker

Taylor Walker was raised in small town Pegram, TN, and is currently a senior at Vanderbilt University. Taylor will graduate this May with a major in Public Policy Studies in the College of Arts and Science. Her specific policy track focuses on women’s issues, women’s health and safety, and gender equality. She hopes to attend law school in the fall of 2014 and receive a joint degree in social work. For nearly five years, Taylor has been involved in Democratic politics in Tennessee, volunteering with and working on local and congressional campaigns, and has learned much from these experiences while making great, lifelong friends along the way. This past election cycle Taylor managed Jason Powell’s campaign for State Representative of District 53. She plans to continue her progressive political involvement in the future. Taylor has become increasingly passionate about rape victims’ rights. Our women and men deserve safe spaces in which they can learn, heal, and prosper. Taylor has had the opportunity to be involved in great organizations and programs that are making those changes in people’s lives everyday such as the Sexual Assault Center, the YWCA, You Have the Power, Mending Hearts, and Metro's Victim Intervention Program. They affirm Taylor's desire to study law and empower those who often remain silent. Taylor is privileged to be a fellow in the first Nashville chapter of New Leaders Council, and is excited to meet other passionate progressives. Tennessee needs more leaders who will fight for equal opportunity, open-mindedness, and the continued improvement of our cities, schools, and businesses. Let’s move Nashville forward.

Zach Young, Commissioner, City of Goodlettsville

Zach Young is one of the youngest elected officials currently serving in the state of Tennessee. At age 20, Young won an at-large seat on the Goodlettsville City Commission, a Nashville suburb with a population of 16,000. Zach is the Communications Officer of his county Democratic Party, and a member of the Democratic Municipal Officials, PETA, Sierra Club and Progressive Democrats of America. Zach is currently a part-time college student while serving on the City Commission. He is most interested in education and transportation policy--as those are the two most important issues in his community.