2013 NLC Fellows: Washington D.C.

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Sujata Bhat, Director of Operations, DC Prep

Sujata Bhat Sujata serves as the Director of Operations at DC Prep, the highest-performing charter network in DC. In her role she manages human resources, technology, student enrollment, and afterschool programs. Prior to DC Prep, Sujata served as a special assistant to the director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, managing the agency’s performance management system and other child welfare and education policy initiatives. In addition, Sujata served as an Education Pioneers Fellow at NewSchools Venture Fund. Sujata holds an A.B. in human development from the University of Chicago and a Master's in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Brianne Burger, Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Brianne Burger Brianne Burger is the Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator for the National Resources Conservation Services at the US Department of Agriculture. Prior to NRCS, she served with the Administration for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she supported the work of Legal Advocacy Centers, University Centers, and State Councils throughout the U.S. States and Territories for the continued access to services for people with disabilities. Brianne has coordinated several federal grants that were to create new accommodations and trainings for people with disabilities, innovative strategies to educate deaf children, and a website that provided writing tools for children and adults with a variety of disabilities. She has also done field work abroad in several countries, focusing on emergency preparedness, sports & recreation, and media awareness for the Deaf. Brianne has more than 10 years of experience in vocational services on employment development for people with disabilities. Her in-depth knowledge of public policy with disabilities led to her appointment as the Americans with Disabilities Act Access Coordinator for the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the 2010 VSA International Arts and Disability Festival, and on a variety of boards and committees within the local, national and international scope as an advocate for disability rights and services. Brianne holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Northridge, a Master's degree in Administration and Supervision from Gallaudet University, and a Master's certificate in Media Management from Emerson College. When Brianne is not travelling, she resides in Washington, DC, with her Boston Terrier/Brussels Griffon mixes, Luke and Leia, and her husband’s Chihuahua, Willow.

Sam Drzymala, Digital Outreach Director, American Bridge 21st Century

Sam DrzymalaSam Drzymala works at the intersection of technology and political communication. In 2012, he ran the progressive outreach and email programs for American Bridge, the research hub for progressive outside groups. Prior to his work at American Bridge, Sam spent two cycles helping Democrats use digital media to augment communications operations. After learning digital tools on the 2008 Obama campaign, Sam went to the senate, where he was able to blunt the handy-cam video tactics Tea Party activists used to blow up Congressional town halls in 2009 by giving Senator Claire McCaskill's communications team their own digital tools. In 2010 Sam managed crisis communications during an intensive crush of press scrutiny on Rep. Alan Grayson's reelection race. This past cycle, before joining the 2012 campaign at American Bridge, Sam spent 2011 building a national profile for Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri by successfully pitching national cable channels using web content he developed in-house.

Ryan J. Evans, Military Legislative Aide, U.S. Senate, Office of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Ryan J. Evans Ryan J. Evans is a Military Legislative Aide to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Committee. In this role, Ryan serves as the legislative adviser to the Senator for issues relating to defense, foreign relations and veterans’ affairs. In the 112th Congress, Ryan worked with committee staff to include provisions in a bipartisan Farm Bill to benefit veterans as they return home and transition back to civilian life. Prior to joining Senator Stabenow’s staff, Ryan was a Fundraising Fellow for Former Congressman Scott Murphy’s (D-NY20) reelection campaign in Glens Falls, NY. During graduate school, Ryan served as a Presidential Administrative Fellow in The George Washington University’s Office of Government, International and Community Relations. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in International Affairs and Latin American Studies, and a Master of Arts in Security Policy Studies from The George Washington University. Ryan is active in the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity alumni association and continues to volunteer at the American Red Cross at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is a native of Niskayuna, NY and is an avid Syracuse basketball fan.

Tyler Frisbee, Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Tyler Frisbee Tyler Frisbee is a legislative assistant for Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). She primarily handles energy, environment, transportation, and agriculture issues for the Congressman. Her main interest is in encouraging community planning in order to meet local goals and promote safe, healthy, and economically secure neighborhoods, as well as finding ways to connect urban and rural systems. Hailing from Oregon, Tyler graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in American government and geography before moving to DC to begin working for Congressman Blumenauer. While at Dartmouth, Tyler led Vote Clamantis, a nonpartisan voter turnout program focused on Dartmouth students and staff, and participated in New Hampshire and Oregon state and local politics. In Tyler’s free time, she enjoys running, baking and playing out of doors.

Christina Henderson, Coordinator for Special Projects, Office of Human Capital, District of Columbia Public Schools

Christina HendersonChristina Henderson serves as the Coordinator for Special Projects for the District of Columbia Public Schools’ Office of Human Capital. In this role, she supports the district’s cutting edge reforms to improve teacher and school leader quality and effectiveness through budget management and organizational systems building. Prior to joining DCPS, Christina worked as a consultant with the New York City Department of Education and the National Association of State Boards of Education on projects related to the equity, politics, scalability, and sustainability of public school choice mechanisms. Earlier, she served as a legislative staffer for U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) on a range of domestic policy issues including the federal budget, taxes, and child nutrition. A Brooklyn-born, Southern-raised army brat, Christina fell in love with politics and public service in high school as a writer for the local newspaper. In college, she was elected the first African-American student body president in the university’s 187-year history. When not engaged in campus politics, Christina was on the campaign trail working on national, state, and local races. After a fourteen-month stint with Hillary Clinton’s campaign her senior year, she finished up the 2008 cycle with EMILY’s List, a fundraising PAC for pro-choice Democratic women, as the Assistant Finance Director for a top-tier congressional candidate. Christina continues to volunteer and consult on races. Christina received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Furman University in Greenville, SC and her Master in Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.

Jack Huerter, Senior Legislative Assistant, United States House of Representatives

Jack HuerterJack Huerter currently serves as the Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman Mike McIntyre. In this position he is responsible for shaping the legislative outlook and strategy for Congressman McIntyre on issues before the House of Representatives affecting agriculture, energy, the environment, natural resources, trade, commodities futures markets, telecommunications, coastal restoration and infrastructure, and appropriations. In this capacity he serves as the principle advisor to Congressman McIntyre on all issues before the House Agriculture Committee, where the Congressman is the second ranking Democrat on the panel. Prior to his time in Congressman McIntyre’s office, Jack worked at the United States Department of Agriculture as the Confidential Assistant to the Under Secretary for Rural Development. In this position Jack managed the day-to-day activities of the Under Secretary, the senior Obama Administration official overseeing the rural development efforts of the Department of Agriculture in the areas of housing, utilities, and business services. Jack has also served on the staffs of United States Senator Chuck Schumer and U.S. Congressman Harry Mitchell (AZ-05). Jack hails from Omaha, Nebraska and is a graduate of Marquette University, where he met his wife Claire and studied political science. He is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences where earned a Master of Arts degree in Government.

Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson Curtis Johnson is a native of Chicago, Illinois who moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in public service. Fascinated by the legislative process and opportunity to impact communities, particularly in the area of enhancing economic empowerment and promoting voter’s education and rights. Curtis began his tenure on Capitol Hill, spending his days working for Congressman Bobby Rush and his evenings attending classes at American University pursuing his MPA. He left the Hill in 2008 to serve as a field organizer in Columbus, Ohio for the 2008 Presidential Campaign for Barack Obama. Upon returning to Washington, Curtis served as a Presidential Appointee in the U.S. Department of Transportation. In his first year at DOT, Curtis was a member of Secretary LaHood's Office of Governmental Affairs where, among other responsibilities, he served as the Team Leader for the Secretary’s Senate Confirmations Team; additionally, he was detailed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help implement the successful CARS program and to manage the related Congressional inquiries stemming from the implementation of this program. As Associate Director of Governmental Affairs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Curtis led FMCSA’s work with Congress and other stakeholders in advancing the administration priorities and legislation. Curtis recently returned from an assignment in Jakarta, Indonesia serving as the @america project coordinator for the U.S. Embassy. @america is the only state of the art, 21st century cultural center sponsored by the U.S. State Department. In this role Curtis advanced the mission of the United States Embassy by developing programming that seeks to engage Indonesia’s youth and strengthen U.S.-Indonesia relations through cultural exchange. To date, @America welcomes approximately 5,000 visitors each month. Curtis is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he earned his bachelor's degree and holds a Masters in Public Administration from American University in Washington, DC. He is a big fan of the UNC Tarheels basketball team and also an avid participant in D.C.’s softball leagues, where you will likely find him coaching a team every summer.

Ayofemi Kirby, Communications Director, Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives

Ayofemi KirbyAyofemi “Femi” Kirby currently serves as Communications Director for the Congressional Black Caucus. In her role, she supports CBC Members and the CBC’s policy agenda through strategic media relations and communications tactics. Formerly the Communications Director for Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Femi brings 10 years of communications experience to the CBC across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Prior to working on the Hill, Femi empowered young adults across the country to become leaders in their communities and more active participants in our democracy. For her efforts, she was awarded the American Express NGEN Fellowship, the New Leaders Council’s “40 under 40” Media award, and was honored as a “Community Hero” and as “One of Seven Shaping Our Region” by The Charlotte Observer. Prior to her work in the independent sector, Femi spent three years working in online marketing and corporate communications in the financial sector. Ayofemi is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University, and recently graduated with her Masters of Arts in Public Communication from American University.

Bonnie Kwon

Bonnie Kwon Bonnie Kwon was born and raised in Tucson, AZ where her father immigrated from South Korea to study at the University of Arizona. She grew up tending the cash box at the small business her parents still run, and quickly developed an appreciation for the hard working people she interacted with. After undergrad at Brown University, Bonnie became a Fulbright Scholar in Korea and eventually got her J.D. from U.C. Berkeley. While in Northern California, she met her now-husband and they moved out together to Washington, D.C. following President Obama's successful 2008 campaign, which they both volunteered on. Bonnie spent her first four years in D.C. working for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a worker organization dedicated to raising working standards for restaurant workers. She established the D.C. affiliate of ROC, and was elevated to the national staff in 2011 where she served as Communications Director and Operations & Program Director. Bonnie dedicates the bulk of her free time to her beloved Welsh Terrier, and has been known to read a book in one sitting.

Matt Martin, Political Director, The NewDEAL

Matt MartinMatt Martin is the Political Director of The NewDEAL, a national network for rising state and local elected leaders to share ideas for building progressive economic growth. Previously, he worked for Third Way, the Obama campaign, Genocide Intervention Network, and as the Finance and Policy Director for a congressional campaign in Maine. Matt is a Partner at the Truman National Security Project and has a bachelor’s degree in government and religion from Bowdoin College.

Katherine Martinez, Senior Associate, AECOM

Katherine Martinez Katherine 'Katy' Martinez is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and is a 2005 graduate of the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio. Her time in Ohio was split studying Political Science with a focus in International Relations and working as a board member of her local community development center. As a founding member of her community development center, she established several programs for youth and adults that are still going strong today. One program Katy is especially proud of is a financial literacy course that teaches participants how to live debt free. In 2006-2007, Katy joined the CHCI Public Policy Fellowship program. She successfully completed placements at the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies-Western Hemisphere Division and at the Department of Defense in the Office of the Secretary of Defense-Western Hemisphere Affairs where she is currently still employed. Katy is also working on obtaining a master’s in Cyber security Policy from the University of Maryland, University College.

Emily Morrison, Manager, Political Research, Planned Parenthood Federation of America/Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Emily Morrison Born in New York, but raised in Texas and Massachusetts, Emily moved to Washington, DC to pursue a degree in political science and women's studies in 2005. After completing her thesis in 2009 on sexual assault policy, she stayed in DC, working at advocacy nonprofits, research institutes, and political organizations to advance progressive causes and candidates. Emily has been working at Planned Parenthood Federation of America/ Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2011, serving as the research brain behind their unprecedented political operation widely praised for delivering the best return on investment in the 2012 cycle. In her role with Planned Parenthood Action Fund, she spent a very successful October stationed in Helena, Montana as a lead organizer working to elect Democrats to statewide office. Emily also volunteers her time for many DC organizations dedicated to empowering women, LGBTQ individuals, and her low-income neighbors. She serves on the board for Collective Action for Safe Spaces, a DC non-profit dedicated to combating gender-based street harassment. She is an avid biker, traveler, and cook.

Catherine Murray, Legislative Assistant, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr.

Catherine MurrayCatherine has worked in the office of United States Senator Bob Casey, Jr. for over four years, handling a policy portfolio that includes appropriations, budget, transportation, disaster relief, small business and economic development issues as well as project and grant support. Prior to her position in the Senate, Catherine worked for Dublin City University where she led the development and launch of an adult education center in a low-income community of Dublin, Ireland. This community-based learning center serves over 180 adult students annually and provides a bridge for the local community to access higher education. While in Ireland, Catherine also earned a M.A. in International Relations from Dublin City University. Before her time in Dublin, she acted as community organizer for formerly homeless individuals in Chicago as an Americorps volunteer. Catherine originally hails from Pittsburgh and holds a B.A. from Villanova University in Political Science.

Rajesh Nayak, Special Assistant to the Solicitor of Labor, US Department of Labor

Rajesh NayakRajesh Nayak is Special Assistant to the Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor. Prior to joining the Department in early 2010, Raj practiced law for four years in New York City, first with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and later with the National Employment Law Project. At both organizations, Raj supported campaigns around the country to strengthen workplace protections: raising the minimum wage, expanding the coverage of employment laws, and enhancing the enforcement of those laws. He spent the previous two years as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago. There, he pursued litigation on behalf of families living in public housing and seeking a seat at the table in the Chicago Housing Authority’s redevelopment process. Over the past decade, Raj has successfully advocated for legislation, regulations, and ballot initiatives in more than 15 states and municipalities around the country. Raj received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his A.B. in public policy studies from the University of Chicago. He grew up in Effingham, Illinois, and he enjoys travel and working on campaigns, often at the same time.

Kate O'Gorman, Political Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Kate O'GormanKate O’Gorman is the Political Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. Her work provides political analysis to guide IAVA’s Policy Department to create lasting policy change for veterans. In 2012, Kate led the development of IAVA’s first voter guide, Vote Smart for Vets, that educated veterans and the public on the critical issues confronting new vets in the 2012 campaign. She also managed Storm the Hill, IAVA’s signature advocacy and leadership program that brought 30 veteran leaders from across the country to Washington to share their stories and jumpstart IAVA’s 2012 policy work. Prior to joining the IAVA team, Kate worked on the research team of New Partners during the 2010 election cycle. She was formerly an Equal Justice Senior Fellow and Summer Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. Kate holds a B.A. in Political Science from Barnard College. While at Barnard, Kate was included on the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee’s Future of Women’s History list that featured forty women primed to make an impact in New York. She also led the Columbia University College Democrats as President. Despite being born in San Diego, Kate is proud to claim Cleveland as her hometown. She is an avid baseball fan and cyclist, and is often found trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Andrew Rabens, Special Advisor for Youth Engagement, U.S. State Department

Andrew Rabens Andrew Rabens is the Special Advisor for Youth Engagement at the State Department in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, where he focuses on regional youth initiatives and outreach to young leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. Andrew previously worked on youth efforts in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Prior to joining the State Department, Andrew worked for Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington, DC and for the Rt. Honorable Ed Miliband in the UK Parliament. He also interned for Senator Ted Kennedy and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He graduated from Harvard University and holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics. Andrew is a former Presidential Management Fellow; an Associate Fellow with the Truman National Security Project; and in 2012, was named one of the Top 99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33 by Diplomatic Courier Magazine and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

Jason Tengco, Advisor on Public Engagement, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Jason TengcoJason Tengco serves as Advisor on Public Engagement for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). In this capacity, Jason works closely with AAPI advocacy organizations and leaders, organizes community engagement events and briefings, and solicits input from AAPI communities on ways to increase awareness and participation in federal programs. Previously, Jason was an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Fellow in the Office of Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15). His issue areas included AAPI affairs, homeland security, and immigration, and he also served as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) taskforce staff lead on immigration and appropriations. Prior to his fellowship in Congress, Jason worked for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), where he helped organize APALA’s largest national convention and launched APALA’s mentorship program and Young Leaders Council. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason graduated from UCLA with Honors with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Public Affairs. Jason has also served as a White House Intern with the National Economic Council, Center for Progressive Leadership Fellow, and a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

Christopher Torres, Campaign Director, New Organizing Institute

Christopher Torres Christopher Torres works with the Latino and Immigrant Rights organizations and leaders to build the community's power and make it a force in our politics and elections. Chris grew up in Brooklyn, New York with his mom, 4 siblings and pet Chihuahua. He first learned about Organizing at his Catholic Church where he was enlisted by his Priest Father John Powis to join him in many direct actions against Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Together with his church, he fought back against police brutality and for more resources for the community. Before joining NOI, Christopher worked at the Center for Community Change as their Elections Manager. He supported and ran issue based campaigns in partnership with the major Immigrant Rights organizations throughout the country For the past three years, he's worked with volunteer leaders at Promise Arizona on their fight against SB 1070 & Joe Arpaio where they registered over 50,000 voters. He also helped lead the field operation as the Deputy National Field Director for the Reform Immigration For America legislative campaign. During the 2008 Presidential election, Chris served in many capacities during the primary on the Obama Campaign; Starting in Iowa as an organizer for the Caucuses and finishing as the Regional Field Director in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chris worked on several other political campaigns including the Rhode Island Senate Campaign for Sheldon Whitehouse, the State Senate campaign for Grace Diaz and the Philadelphia Mayoral Campaign for Tom Knox . Chris is an alum of Brown University and lives in Adams Morgan in Washington, D.C.

Kiva Wilson, Program Manager, Office of Diversity & National Outreach, Peace Corps

Kiva Wilson Kiva Wilson, Ed.M., currently manages Peace Corps’ Office of Diversity and National Outreach. In this capacity, she develops the agency strategy for recruiting and retaining historically under-represented populations in international service. She works with Peace Corps’ senior leadership and regional recruitment teams to perform market analysis, assess recruitment trends and implement strategic partnerships. Prior to assuming this role, Kiva served as Peace Corps’ Diversity Outreach Specialist where she worked with the United Negro College Fund, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and other national organizations to cultivate international awareness and promote global citizenship among their membership. Kiva is a native of South Carolina and is proud graduate of Dartmouth College. She earned her graduate degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University. She has eight years of training experience, and has used those skills to facilitate diversity workshops in South Africa and Togo. Kiva served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador from 2004 – 2006. As an Environmental Education Volunteer she worked as a teacher and trainer at Centro Escolar de San Fidel. Two of her most exciting projects were the revitalization of a youth run recycled paper making business and the construction of a computer center where she taught small business development courses. Kiva has also worked as a Peace Corps Technical Trainer for Youth Development and for the national non-profit organization KaBOOM!.

Past NLC Fellows: 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012