2014 NLC Fellows: Broward

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Geena Batista, District Aide, Florida House of Representatives

Geena Batista currently serves as the District Aide to State Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Originally from Puerto Rico, she has been a resident of Broward County for more than 15 years. Geena is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and English Literature. After various experiences at the local, state, and federal level of government she has developed a passion for education and economic issues and hopes to use policy as a means of finding a viable solution to those complex problems.

Victoria Beatty, Commercial Litigation Associate, Broad and Cassel

Victoria Beatty, Esq. is a Commercial Litigation Associate with the Fort Lauderdale office of Broad and Cassel. She is a proud alumna of Spelman College where she earned a Bachelors degree in Economics and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. Her life has been dedicated to implementing the lessons and morals she learned from her family, her church and her alma maters.

Victoria is in the 32nd class of Leadership Broward and is a proud member of The Links, Incorporated. She was the first African American inducted into The Cushman School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2012. She was honored as one of the ñ40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrowî by Legacy magazine, a South Florida publication for black business leaders.

She also is presently serving as the pro bono legal counsel to The S.T.E.M. Academy School of Early Learning and The Miami Youth Garden, programs founded to develop and educate youth from the blighted areas of South Florida.

Ebonni Bryant, Founder, The Idea, Inc.

My idea is to radically move people and ideas in a way that shook the way we saw ourselves, our institutions, and our beliefs. I execute ideas and cause businesses to be successful. We all have work we love doing. I call this “good work”. For me, good work was taking my degree in organizational communication and marketing, years of experience working with companies like Coca-Cola and Lebhar-Friedman, and a love of connecting people and causing change to happen in businesses, events, and initiatives.

I started a company that makes ideas work and makes work worthwhile. The people I do this with don’t always have a clear sense of what they need to do next or have the resources, structure, or community to get it done. I give focus to the guy in London who wants to do something with his Ph.D., or the woman in Arizona who works with people and addiction.

I believe in working in the community you hold dear and expanding into communities beyond, who will also benefit from your idea. I, and the people I work with, take some of the work tasks that are holding you back and work with you to develop a more streamlined approach. The Idea, Inc. is more than a business development company; it is a support system, a net designed to catch you when things donÕt go as you planned. The Idea, Inc. allows you to follow your dream and take that leap, safe in the knowledge that the net will appear.

Mike Gelin, Vice President, CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services

Mike Gelin is a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist and Commercial Insurance Advisor with CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services. Mike works with the senior leadership of major firms to design health and welfare benefit strategies that are in line with corporate, cultural and financial goals.

Mike graduated from Morris Brown College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. He received the Certified Employee Benefits Designation, a joint program of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Mike serves on the board of the Youth Survivors Foundation. He is also on the Family Picnic Committee of the Hanley Center Foundation and is a member of the Broward Center’s Ghost Light Society.

Mike believes in living a healthy lifestyle and enjoys participating in local 5K events, competing in USA Track & Field Masters events and playing in recreational basketball leagues. Mike has been married for six years and his wife practices Immigration Law as the Assistant Chief Counsel for the U S Department of Homeland Security.

Jason Haber, Managing Partner, Haber, Stief & Blank, LLP

Jason Haber grew up in South Florida and now raises a family in South Florida. He co-founded, and serves as managing partner for, the law firm of Haber, Stief & Blank, LLP. Jason’s practice focuses on business transactions, real estate transactions and litigation, family and matrimonial law, civil litigation, community association law, personal injury claims, and appellate practice. Prior to forming Haber, Stief & Blank, LLP, Jason together with partner Jonathan H. Stief, operated Haber & Stief, P.A., and a solo practice, Jason H. Haber, P.A. Jason earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Nova Southeastern University and his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami, where he also completed Master’s level graduate work.

During law school, Jason served as an officer of the Moot Court Society and Phi Alpha Delta. In consecutive years, Phi Alpha Delta’s International Executive Board awarded Jason the Alex A. Hotchkiss Outstanding Justice Award and Frank E. Gray Outstanding Clerk Award for his contributions to the community, legal profession and law school, making Jason the second person in Phi Alpha Delta’s history to receive both awards. Upon completion of law school, Jason was inducted into the Order of Barristers. Jason currently serves as President of the University of Miami Broward Alumni Club, on the University of Miami Alumni Council, and Phi Alpha Delta’s District Justice for District XXXII and Broward County Alumni Chapter board member. Jason resides in Plantation, Florida with his wife, Ilea, and daughters, Elliot and Ivy.

Robyn Hankerson, Account Supervisor, Bitner Goodman

hankerson.jpgRobyn Hankerson is a Fort Lauderdale native and graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations. Hankerson recently completed her Master of Science in Organizational Leadership at Nova Southeastern University and is currently working to obtain her APR (Accreditation in Public Relations).

Hankerson serves as an account supervisor at Bitner Goodman, a public relations, marketing and advertising agency in Fort Lauderdale. In her capacity, Hankerson works to create and publicize events and other opportunities that help increase visibility, drive traffic and further brand her clients. She has been instrumental in managing crises and assuring delivery of clear and concise messaging to the media, public and all stakeholders, as well as overseeing community outreach efforts and programs. As a public relations and marketing specialist, Hankerson has represented Tri-Rail, seven of Sawgrass Mills’ sister properties in California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona, in addition to Winn-Dixie, John Offerdahl’s Gridiron Grill-Off, Seminole Casino Immokalee, Holy Cross Hospital and more.

Hankerson is an active community member and has served as secretary of the board of directors for ArtServe, South Florida’s premier arts organization. She is heavily involved with the Urban League of Broward County, where she has served as Senior Vice President and Vice President of Programs for the Young Professionals Network, as well as a member of the Red Gala committee. Hankerson also served on the steering committee for the first-ever, tri-county South Florida Youth Summit, a 3-day event that attracted more than 1,000 youth with featured distinguished speakers Dr. Cornel West and Jeff Johnson.

Amongst her various affiliations, Hankerson is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and is the youth coordinator for the sorority’s annual Debutante Cotillion & Masters Ball. She works alongside the youth on a weekly basis to facilitate workshops, provide cultural experiences and prepare them to enter adulthood through college preparation and development of interpersonal skills.

Abigail Langweiler, Assistant Regional Counsel, Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel

Abigail R. Langweiler, Esq. is an Assistant Regional Counsel at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for the Fourth District, working specifically in Broward County, Florida. Ms. Langweiler zealously defends indigent accused persons in circuit criminal court, advocating for their rights and ensuring the justice system works fairly within the constraints of an inherently unjust system.

Ms. Langweiler studied at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, where she competed in various mock appellate and trial law competitions and served on the executive boards of several extracurricular organizations. In 2008-2009, Ms. Langweiler acted as president of the mock trial organization.

After graduating from Nova in 2009, Ms. Langweiler joined a boutique litigation firm as an associate, working in civil litigation and getting a taste of criminal defense. From there, she became an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County, gaining extensive experience in DUI and misdemeanor defense. Ms. Langweiler joined the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in 2012 to defend clients against all types of felony charges in Broward County.

Ms. Langweiler returns to Nova as a guest speaker for first-year classes and to judge litigation competitors to help mold new attorneys who are dedicated to the change and progress of the legal field.

Ms. Langweiler also holds a bachelor of arts in journalism from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where she minored in politics, Spanish and dance and a passion she still enjoys today in class and performance.

Jason Liechty, Environmental Projects Coordinator, Broward County

Jason Liechty is Environmental Projects Coordinator with the Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division, where he manages state and federal environmental policy and legislative issues and contributes to many of the County’s climate change initiatives. He is one of two Broward County representatives on the Staff Steering Committee of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, the nation’s leading example of regional cooperation on climate issues, and serves as the Compact’s de facto policy and legislative coordinator.

Jason began his career as an urban planning consultant in Chicago and later served as director of policy and service office manager for Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (now a congressman) for six years. His work included a much-lauded focus on Chicago’s controversial tax increment financing program; several comprehensive reports outlining potential governmental and environmental reforms that earned praise from local media; and a successful nomination of the historic Cook County Hospital building to the National Register of Historic Places, helping to save the structure from demolition. Jason was also a Democratic precinct captain in Chicago’s 44th Ward.

Jason also served as a member of the board of directors of the Edgewater Community Council, a neighborhood nonprofit in Chicago, for five years, including two years as board chair, before assuming the position of executive director. He led the Council for one year, pursuing many long-overdue reforms before recommending his own layoff to the board as a cost-saving measure. Later, Jason was hired into the much-coveted position of office manager at Koval Distillery, an organic, kosher craft distillery in Chicago. At Koval, he streamlined tax preparation, cash handling, and retail procedures, and led hundreds of public tours of the distillery.

Originally from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Jason graduated summa cum laude with honors from American University in Washington, DC, with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, and earned a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jason also spent a year in Bonn, Germany, as a Fulbright Fellow, and tells himself that he is still reasonably fluent in German.

Soon after moving to Florida in December 2012, Jason was elected to the board of directors of Lambda South, a nonprofit organization hosting dozens of 12-step recovery meetings each week in Fort Lauderdale for GLBT people and allies. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and wasting way too much time on Facebook.

David Mariutto

David is a recent graduate of both the University of Central Florida (B.S. Public Administration) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc Politics and Communication), where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and With Distinction, respectively. As the oldest son of two former journalists, one of whom also served as Press Secretary for a member of Congress, David grew up in a house where current events and politics were frequently discussed around the dinner table. Born and raised in Plantation, he has always held Broward County and the South Florida area close to his political heart, even while his academic pursuits had taken him elsewhere for the past five years.

At UCF, David got his political start as a volunteer on-campus for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President. At the end of his Freshman year, he was elected to the Executive Board of the College Democrats at UCF. The following year, David was elected as Director of Communications for the Florida College Democrats, and served in that post for two years until his graduation. David also worked with several other people and organizations while living in Orlando, including as an intern for the Dick Batchelor Management Group, a Digital Media Producer for Florida Watch Action, and as the UCF community’s liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In 2012, David interned at OFA Florida’s headquarters in Tampa, assisting the Youth Vote Director in outreach to Florida’s high schools and college campuses. Immediately afterwards, David moved to London to pursue his Masters degree and became the Social Media Director of TEDxLSE, the largest annual student-run event at the London School of Economics, and served as a member of the Democrats Abroad UK Council. While in London, he studied the quantitative and qualitative research methods behind the development of political messages and campaigns. Building off his interest in opinion polling from his studies, David’s thesis, “Polls as Political Weapons”, investigated the commissioning of opinion polls by interest groups for the primary purpose of using their results to generate earned media coverage or challenge predominant political narratives.

David returned to Florida after graduating in December 2013, and plans to continue aiding his favorite causes, candidates, and organizations through his work in communications strategy and opinion research.

Anna McMaster, Empowerment Coordinator, South Florida Community Land Trust

mcmaster.jpgAnna McMaster’s unique background provides a perspective that emphasizes a people-based approach to urban planning by working towards equitable access to opportunity through engagement. She is a graduate of the Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning Program at Florida Atlantic University where she focused on affordable housing and community driven action as it relates to quality of life and economic development. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California San Diego.

Anna is the founder of two organizations. While in school, she co-founded the non-profit, UrbanMatters CoLab, with two peers to create and support collaborative environments and incubate grassroots action for more vibrant, sustainable and resilient places. Work completed through this organization catalyzes change by organizing people together and by supporting agency in others for making the change they want to see in their communities. The organization’s projects have received local, national, and international accolades. Anna is also the founder of Urban Links Consulting, which provides services areas of fair and affordable housing, urban planning, community land trusts, economic development, community engagement, and neighborhood revitalization.

Currently, Anna’s primary work is as the Empowerment Coordinator for the South Florida Community Land Trust, an affordable housing provider located in downtown Fort Lauderdale. In this role, Anna develops and manages innovative programs that take the organization beyond housing to holistically and sustainability address community revitalization by fostering engagement, upward mobility and increased quality of life for residents.

Anthony Quackenbush, Attorney, Dell & Schaefer, Chartered

quackenbush.jpgAnthony Quackenbush is a trial attorney. Over the course of his career, he has tried over 70 jury trials. These include criminal and civil cases.

Anthony was raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attending and graduating from Pine Crest High School. He is a graduate of Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut. Anthony also graduated from the University of Miami School of Law.

After graduation, Anthony began his career at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. There, he tried numerous jury trials as first chair. These included first, second and third degree felonies.

After leaving the Public Defender’s Office, Anthony entered private practice and began handling civil cases. He has tried numerous civil personal injury trials as first chair. These resulted in numerous Plaintiff’s verdicts.

Anthony is a member of the Broward County Justice Association, a group of Plaintiff trial attorneys. He is on the Board of Directors, as well as the Vanguard Committee, of that organization. He is also a member of the Florida Justice Association. He is on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Section of that organization. Finally, Anthony is a member of the Broward County Bar Association. He is on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Section of that organization. In his spare time, Anthony participates in the Legal Aid Mission United Veteran’s Pro Bono Project.

Anthony is admitted to practice law in the State Bar of Florida. He is also admitted to practice in the Federal Courts for the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida.

Outside of law, Anthony is also active in government. He sits on the Broward County Health and Sanitary Control Board as well as the Fort Lauderdale City Community Appearance Board.

Anthony is married to his wife, Katy. Anthony and Katy reside in Fort Lauderdale.

Christi Lyn Rice, Grants Manager, Broward Partnership for the Homeless

rice.jpgChristi Lyn Rice is the Grants Manager for Broward Partnership for the Homeless, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing homelessness in Broward County through advocacy, housing and comprehensive services. Originally from Tennessee, Ms. Rice studied journalism and American history at the University of Florida, where she also worked as a freelance reporter for a number of local publications and completed internships with the High Springs Herald and the Ocala Star-Banner. After graduating in 2006, she joined AmeriCorps, through which she completed a year of intensive full-time community service focused on domestic violence prevention at Women in Distress of Broward County.

In addition to marketing and media relations, she delivered community-based training for adults and provided violence prevention programming to youth (K-12) within the Broward County Schools. Her experience with Women in Distress inspired her to embark on a career in the non-profit sector. She spent two years as Community Relations Manager at Habitat for Humanity of Broward County, working in the areas of fundraising, marketing and special events, before joining the Broward Partnership for the Homeless in 2011. In her current role, Ms. Rice is responsible for securing private and public grant funding for the Partnership’s Central Homeless Assistance Center, a full-service, short-term housing facility with an annual operating budget of more than $5 million. Outside of her professional experience, Ms. Rice has been involved extensively in the local community.

An active member of Emerge Broward since 2008, she served on the executive board as co-chair of the DEVELOP Committee and served two years as co-chair of the Board Engagement Program, helping to recruit, train and place young professionals on the boards of directors for more than 50 local non-profits. She served as Community Affairs Chair for Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale, which presented her with the “Woman to Watch” award in 2012. She has also served on numerous event committees to support a variety of causes, including Fort Lauderdale Turkey Trot, Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Broward Center for Performing Arts and National Philanthropy Day. Current activities include serving as a mentor with United Way ReadingPals, volunteering with Flagler Village Community Garden and participating as a member of Emerge Broward and Club 2-1-1. Ms. Rice is also an avid reader and enjoys living an active lifestyle, including training for half marathons and other races throughout the year.

George Rich, Program Manager, WorkForce One Employment Solutions

10+ years of program management and workforce development experience, in capacities ranging from case management of hard-to-serve customers to program manager/director over multiple programs across multiple sites. Possess proven competency in exhibiting healthy leadership and driving operational success for programs with budgets exceeding $20 million.

Achieved documented success in developing and implementing new programs, coordinating marketing efforts with print/radio/social media, evaluating program performance, working with community partners, board members and contracted providers. Known by peers as a “tactful liaison” with elected government officials, private business, education providers, community-based & faith-based organizations and department heads.

Performance-oriented approach to implementing programmatic guidance and change management processes to ensure productivity and overall goal achievement.

Joanna Rondon, One Voice Specialist, 1199 SEIU Healthcare

rondon.jpgBorn in Cuba, I came to this country as a child after my father was granted entry into the United States as a political prisoner of our country. I have worked in the healthcare industry for most of my life, obtaining a bachelor’s in psychology from Florida International University and currently gearing up to obtain my master’s in mental health. I am presently employed by 1199SEIU Healthcare and love the work that we do and the thousands of members we help to achieve a voice, especially in a right-to-work state such as Florida.

From a personal standpoint, I am passionate about literature and writing, as well as progressive thinking and learning new things/traveling. I’ve visited over 20 countries and seize each opportunity to see new places and learn about new cultures. Coming from a country where people do not have the means nor are granted ways of seeing the world, I feel extremely blessed to do these things and open my mind to what the world has to offer. I have four dogs, whom I’ve rescued over the years from the streets and make a great addition to my life by grounding me, all the while teaching me new and inventive methods of keeping my house clean and my mind humble. As an only child I am a bit impetuous at times but also very detail-oriented and hard working. Overall, I consider myself well-rounded and open minded.

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to meet people who are like-minded and progressive in thought and share the same passions as myself.

Mitchell Rosenstein, Principal, Green Mills Group

Mitch Rosenstein a co-founder and principal of Green Mills Group and affiliated companies. Green Mills is a full service real estate firm focused on mixed-use, in-fill, affordable housing, and public/private partnership finance and development. On behalf of Green Mills, Mitch was appointed as special consultant for three, complex public/private partnership affordable housing developments involving HUD, a state financing agency, a local Housing Authority, and a private developer. Mitch successfully represented Carrfour, Miami’s premier nonprofit supportive housing provider, in several financing opportunities and equity partner buyouts. Mitch was recently appointed to the Board of Neighborhood Lending Partners, a consortium bank focused on affordable housing and community redevelopment. Prior to founding Green Mills two years ago, Mitch was the Vice President of Finance for one of the nation’s largest multifamily and affordable housing firms; he procured, negotiated, and closed financing for more than $1 billion of real estate development.

Mitch was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and moved to Hollywood, Florida when he was three years old. A proud product of Broward County’s public school system, Mitch graduated from Cooper City High School and was awarded a full academic scholarship to the University of Florida. He graduated UF with honors, earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Finance and Minors degree in Economics, earning a 3.91 overall grade point average. He was the annual recipient of Golden Key’s National Honor Society and Ravin Memorial Scholarships.

Mitch has been an active mentor and fundraiser with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami; his little brother, Gregory, continues to inspire him. As a Downtown Fort Lauderdale resident, Mitch is a member of its Civic Association. Mitch enjoys spending time with is wife, Brooke, and Old English Sheepdog, Theo. Much to his wife’s annoyance, Mitch critiques most current television series and provides alternative (and improved) dialogue or music. He plays basketball weekly and enjoys fishing with his father.

Caton Schlotthauer, Technician, EuroSpress

Caton began developing a passion for leadership while in ministry. He was the first intern to develop an Artist Relations track while serving at the Center for Creative Media. Currently is pursuing entrepreneurial startup in Fort Lauderdale while studying Business Administration.

Sara Shake, President/Founder, Exposed PR & Events

Sara Shake is the Founder of Exposed PR, a boutique fashion, beauty, and lifestyle firm representing clients in South Florida and New York City. She has garnered a reputation for providing new media strategies for emerging designers and brands that are willing to take risks and think unapologetically outside the box.

A graduate of_the University of Central Florida, she began her public relations career by accident as a freelance writer and has been published and featured in various online and print publications. Shake approaches public relations with an editor’s eye and sense of humor in order to cut through the clutter and present a cohesive, and most_importantly„compelling _glimpse into the brands that she represents. As a card-carrying member of the new school, Shake is a self-proclaimed social media addict and uses new media to her advantage whenever possible. She is deathly afraid of being boring.

Precious Symonette, Creative Writing Teacher, Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami Norland Senior High School

symonette.jpgA native of Broward County, Precious Symonette grew up demonstrating a love for writing and realizing the importance of community involvement. After graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a Bachelor of Arts in English , Precious became a world traveler, visiting such places like Costa Rica and Ghana where she strengthen her love for teaching. At the completion of her studies at Chicago State University, obtaining a Master of Arts in English, her teaching career sparked as a result of her participation in the Miami Teaching Fellows Program. Since her involvement as a Miami Teaching Fellow, Ms. Symonette has been teaching for nine (9) years and has remained active in the community.

Recently, Ms. Symonette obtained a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Thomas University and is currently pursuing her doctorial degree in Educational Leadership and Management.
As a Phi Delta Kappa Star Educator Honoree, AFT Delegate, AFT/UTD Teacher Leader, an active United Teachers of Dade member, and a recent Teacher of the Year Finalist, Ms. Symonette strives to share her passion of writing, teaching, and community involvement. Due to her educational accomplishments, experiences, and lifelong goals, Ms. Symonette states, realized that education should function as a relay race team-substitute the runners of the team as the household unit, the school unit, and the community unit.

The baton in this case would be children, because children pass through these units on a daily basis. The track represents life. Due to the fact that students are the primary concern of education, dropping, damaging, neglecting, or hindering their success should never be an option.î As a life-long learner, educator, and mother, Ms. Symonette knows this ideology pertains to the Teaching Profession as well. She believes that the role of public education should always be a team effort of shared values and common objectives; it should always be a community effort.

The launching of her idea of a Writing Gala last year was a huge success because it allowed children to write themselves into existence and it brought all members of the community together to acknowledge, celebrate, listen, and encourage children to evolve into contributing citizens of their individual households, schools, and communities. Ms. Symonette’s ultimate goal is to create a non-profit organization that helps to develop strong relationships among all invested stakeholders as it relates to improving the educational experience of all children.

Ashley Turner, Community Manager, Cadence

Ashley Turner is a Fort Lauderdale native and a Community Manager for Cadence – a Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Planning firm located within FAT Village Arts District in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Ashley is also the creator and iPhonegrapher behind the social media outlet, @DowntownFTL. Originally started as a daily living documentation project in early 2012, she captured the city as a local through the perspective of a tourist. The account grew an eager following and has continued as a way to bring locals together and to promote a sense of unity in our community.

Bryan Wilson, Director of Training and Development, SunServe

wilson.jpgBryan began his work in lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) research and initiatives during his undergraduate career at Vanderbilt University.

South Florida’s burgeoning gay community led him to relocate to Fort Lauderdale where he is currently the Director of Training and Development for SunServe, a social services agency offering LGBTQ youth programming, senior services, mental health counseling, housing case-management and much more to South Florida.

He continues his research into LGBTQ issues under the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, with a special emphasis on Ally Initiatives.