Meet the 2017 Capital District - NY Fellows
(back to NLC 2017 Fellows)
Zakhar Berkovich, Director of Undergraduate Student Services, University at Albany, SUNY
Zakhar Berkovich currently serves as Director of Undergraduate Student Services at the University at Albany's Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. In his role, he is responsible for developing and maintaining meaningful undergraduate engagement opportunities. Prior to his appointment at the Rockefeller College, he was the Assistant to the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Staten Island/CUNY where he worked with ten departments and over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Zakhar also served as President of the Board of Directors of the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad and Vice President of the Pride Center of Staten Island. Zakhar double majored in Biology and Judaic Studies at the University at Albany and earned his M.S. in Education Administration from the School of Education at UAlbany as well. Zakhar is proud alum and a zealous Great Dane.
Hanna Birkhead, Excelsior Fellow, New York State Department of Health
Hanna currently works for the New York State Department of Health as a Fellow in the the State's Excelsior Fellowship Program, which trains young professionals in public service and policymaking. In her capacity as Excelsior Fellow, Hanna works in the Outreach and Education Group of the Center for Environmental Health, where she develops marketing and communications materials for the Department's environmental health initiatives. Hanna earned a BA in Politics from Bates College, and is a graduate of Syracuse University where she earned a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Hanna is a passionate advocate for women's issues and has focused her professional work in this area, both as Policy and Programs Fellow at the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass NOW) and as Writing Consultant with the League of Women Voters of New York State. Hanna also honed her communication and editing skills working as Editorial Assistant for Jones & Bartlett Learning, an academic publishing company. Hanna has served on the board of Mass NOW as co-chair of the Fundraiser Planning Committee, and also on the board of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Syracuse, New York, as treasurer. Her hobbies include singing, playing the oboe, and canoeing in the Adirondacks.
Charlene Bradt, Doctoral Research Assistant, SUNY Albany - School of Social Welfare
Charlene is currently pursuing an MPH at SUNY Albany’s School of Public Health while also completing her PhD at SUNY Albany’s School of Social Welfare. Concurrently, she researches issues such as food scarcity, housing instability, and community economic development as a Doctoral Research Assistant at SUNY Albany’s School of Social Welfare. Charlene’s interest in overlapping health and social welfare policies was born out of her experience growing up in a low-income, female-headed household. This experience figured prominently into shaping Charlene’s vision for global social justice, as well as her interest in public service leadership. Charlene began pursuing these interests while studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, where she volunteered at a hospital for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and worked at several local orphanages. Later, she worked in Malawi developing HIV/AIDS prevention programs for women and children. Locally, Charlene honed her skills as an activist and community organizer at United Tenants of Albany, where she advocated for permanently affordable housing and provided homeless prevention services to families facing eviction. Most recently, Charlene was a 2016 Fellow on Women and Public Policy through the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at SUNY Albany's Rockefeller College. As a Fellow, she worked for the New York State Department of Health in the Bureau of Housing on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Supportive Housing Initiative aimed at creating affordable, accessible, and sustainable housing for high-need Medicaid beneficiaries. Charlene’s interdisciplinary interests also led her to obtain an MA in Africana Studies along with an MSW. Moving forward, Charlene plans to combine her academic background with her commitment to social justice to generate policies and programs that serve vulnerable people locally and globally.
Jason Chura, Healthcare Program Specialist, IPRO
Jason Chura currently works for the Island Peer Review Organization (IPRO) as embedded staff in the Medicaid Waiver Management Unit in the NYS Department of Health. Prior to IPRO, Jason was a Graduate Student Intern in the AARP New York Legislative Office in Albany, where he played a key role in advocacy efforts and volunteer engagement. In the past, Jason has worked for the Association Development Group (ADG) as an Association Manager and Communication Director for state trade associations. He has also worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a Community Reports Writer following Hurricanes Irene and Lee and as a freelance journalist for Metroland. Jason recently earned his Master of Public Administration degree from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy – University at Albany with a concentration in Policy Analysis. Jason also graduated from the University at Albany with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in Sociology and a minor in Psychology. Throughout his college career, Jason took every opportunity to align his studies with community needs by providing management consultation and case study work for local non-profits—including the Albany Damien Center and Habitat for Humanity Capital District—and through freelance reporting. In his free time, Jason enjoys reading non-fiction and science fiction, writing fiction, writing music, journalism, and fostering shelter animals with his wife. Additionally, Jason hopes to use his degree and new-found free time to serve by becoming more politically active and identifying additional volunteer and advocacy opportunities.
Rebecca Daniels, Digital Communications Leader, Onshore Wind GE Renewable Energy
"Rebecca Daniels works full time for GE Renewable Energy as a Digital Communications Leader for the Onshore Wind business, where she manages content strategy for the website, social media and marketing communications. In addition to her day job, Rebecca recently launched her own consulting business, Little Pond Communications, LLC, offering digital marketing and website development services to small businesses and nonprofits with the mission of teaching and empowering small business owners and nonprofit leaders to take charge of their online presence. A native of Schenectady, NY and graduate of Schenectady High School, Rebecca is passionate about giving back to the Capital Region and highlighting all it has to offer. With this in mind, she co-founded and co-hosts a local podcast and blog, The Small Town Socialites, showcasing the interesting people, places and events that make our community wonderful. She is also involved with a number of community organizations, including fundraising for The Albany Symphony Orchestra, serving as the Vice President of Communications for the Junior League of Albany and as President of the Syracuse University Alumni Club of the Capital District. Rebecca earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and English & Textual Studies and her Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Syracuse University. She is particularly interested in social justice and community and economic development and is looking forward to increasing her skills and knowledge in these areas through the NLC Institute."
Diane Girouard, Policy Analyst, New York State Senate
"Diane’s interest in education policy began in college while volunteering at an after-school program in Syracuse’s Southwest neighborhood, followed by an internship at a Syracuse City School District high school. These experiences gave Diane significant insight into the disparities and inequalities that exist between school districts nationwide. Diane then interned with the New York State Assembly after a semester studying abroad in Hong Kong. Upon graduation, Diane knew she wanted to pursue a position where she could tie her experience interning with the legislature to her passion for ensuring all students are provided with equal educational opportunities, despite their zip code. Diane’s current roles as the Education Policy Analyst for the New York State Senate Democratic Conference and as an Albany Youth Soccer (AYS) Board member, volunteer and coach are ways she is currently fighting for change for students from our most struggling neighborhoods. Diane’s current position with the Senate requires her to be the lead on education policy issues, which includes briefing Senators daily on important education-related policies, meeting with advocacy groups and constituents, drafting legislation in response to concerns that arise, and preparing members for potential floor debates. Diane has also coached multiple soccer teams of all ages over the last six years through AYS, an entirely volunteer-driven program, and was recently made a Board Member and Age-Level Coordinator. Before working with the Senate, Diane previously worked as the Education analyst with the Assembly, where she was able to successfully assist in negotiating the enactment of several progressive initiatives, including, but not limited to: increased funding for struggling school districts, expanded universal pre-kindergarten access, and the establishment of community schools in New York State. Born and raised in New England, Diane moved to Upstate New York to pursue her studies at Syracuse University, graduating with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Policy Studies, with a minor in Chinese Studies. In her spare time, Diane can be found in the Adirondacks working on becoming a “46er,” or coaching at the soccer fields at Albany High."
Christin Guilder, Social Worker, St. Peter's Health Partners
Christin Guilder is a Licensed Master of Social Work currently working at the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program, a non-profit Comprehensive Victims Assistance Program at Samaritan Hospital with St. Peter’s Health Partners. In this capacity, Christin is involved in a number of program areas, from providing direct clinical services, prevention programs, trainings and awareness initiatives as well as grant reporting and clinical care coordination. Prior to this, Christin served as the Assistant Director of the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence at the University at Albany, State University of New York, in the Division of Student Affairs. Throughout her tenure at the University at Albany, she served as an advocate for student victims of sexual and interpersonal violence with regard to navigating their rights under Title IX and New York State Penal Law in the course of state and federal progressive leadership. Christin began her career working in child advocacy in the Capital District followed by employment with Albany County government under Daniel P. McCoy with the Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center. As a native upstate New Yorker, Christin has dedicated her career to serving and advocating on behalf of victims/survivors of oppressive forms of violence, which is evident in her professional and personal accomplishments. As a first generation college graduate, she received her Bachelor of Science in Social Welfare and Master’s in Social Work from the University at Albany School of Social Welfare, and transfers her advocacy and community building skills broadly to benefit social and economic justice causes.
Roman Vidal Guzman, Immigration Program Specialist, The Legal Project
A native of Mexico and member of the Triqui indigenous group, Roman A. Vidal Guzman is an Immigration Program Specialist for The Legal Project, Inc. He assists individuals navigate the complexities of immigration law, who are unable to afford private attorneys’ fees, organizing Pro Bono consultations with private and staff attorneys, as well as completing various USCIS forms. Additionally, he helps coordinate efforts with other regional nonprofits and private stakeholders to better serve the needs of the immigrant community at the local and state level. Prior to coming to The Legal Project, Roman was employed as Program and Office Coordinator at Literacy New York Greater Capital Region. In this role, he managed data, prepared reports, and implemented strategies to achieve the goals of the New York State Office for New Americans’ grant. Roman is a member of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, Capital Region Chapter, a coalition of attorneys and voting rights advocates who share the common goal of protecting each citizen’s right to vote, and currently serves as Albany County Liaison. He graduated from Union College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Although not fluent in the Triqui language, he is a proud ambassador of his indigenous roots and participates in different activities and groups, such as “Triquis Sin Fronteras” (“Triquis Without Borders”), to promote his culture. An avid soccer fan, Roman likes to follow international news and to play the guitar.
Zorana Lavin, Project Assistant, NYS Office of Information Technology Services
"Zorana Lavin, Project Assistant, New York State Integrated Eligibility System Project, NYS Office of Information Technology Services Zorana works as a Project Assistant for the Integrated Eligibility System, a business transformation project that will guide New Yorkers to access health and human service programs that enhance their well-being and self-sufficiency. While serving at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, as a Legal Assistant and Budget Analyst, she made strong contributions to the start-up of the new agency by crossing various program and administrative areas. Zorana’s work spanned setting internal procedures for legal counsels, translating business needs to technological enhancements needed to the case management system, assessing staffing needs based on agency’s workload, financial and procurement management. Before crossing the ocean, Zorana studied law at the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Zorana has lived in the United States for the past eight years. During that time, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany. Zorana was awarded the prestigious Stanley M. Schoenfeld Scholarship by the NYS Government Finance Officers' Association, and Thelma Pelych Award by the NYS Society of Municipal Finance Officers. In her free time, Zorana enjoys her role of a Big Sister, and tutors young students at the Boys and Girls Club of Albany. Zorana is excited to learn about new ways of helping her community through the NLC."
Omar McGill, Committee Assistant, New York State Assembly
"Omar McGill is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Educating Progressive Influential Changers, Inc (EPIC, Inc). EPIC, Inc is a non-profit organization that focuses on cultivating youth and young adults through programs and projects centered around academic enrichment, health awareness, and social consciousness. Omar currently works at the New York State Assembly where he serves as a Committee Assistant for the Insurance Committee. He is from Schenectady, NY. Omar McGill at a young age developed a passion for community service and helping others. The Albany Academy played a vital role in instilling in him a sense of leadership and social consciousness, as he served as the Student Council and Senior Class Presidents. During his tenure he was able to conduct school wide community service days where students would go into the Capital District area and help organizations in various ways. Omar continued his education at Morehouse College where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration. His matriculation at Morehouse furthered his passion for giving back to his community and cultivating the next generation. Omar McGill is a determined individual who wants to make a difference in the world and people's lives. His favorite quote is ""Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation."" C. Everett Koop"
Michaelle Mugisha, Community Impact Manager, United Way of the Greater Capital Region
Michaëlle Mugisha is a global citizen. She is originally from Burundi, Center East- Africa. She speaks five languages: Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, French and English. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Applications in 2008 from Symbiosis International University in India. During her years in India, Michaëlle cofounded the Burundian Student Association in Pune to form a collective voice aimed at finding solutions in their community. Afterward, she returned to Burundi and worked with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a health project consultant for three years. The objective of the project was to improve the mother and child healthcare and their satisfaction by improving the work environment for public health staff. Michaëlle moved to the Capital District to pursue her MBA from The College of Saint Rose, and graduated in 2015. While at The College of Saint Rose, she worked as a graduate assistant in the Diversity Office, focusing on increasing the retention of students. She also founded the Saint Rose International Student Organization with three other international students and was elected president for 2 consecutive terms. By providing a forum where members could meet and exchange ideas, as well as share their culture with the Saint Rose community, the forum allowed international students to increase success in both their academic and social lives. Upon graduation, she created her own consulting company Rumuri Services focusing on economic and community development. As part of the Sheridan Hollow Brownfield Opportunity Area Project, Michaëlle conducted an economic development gap and resources analysis aimed at evaluating existing resources and needs, and identifying what is outsourced in Sheridan Hollow. She has now joined the United Way of the Greater Capital Region as its Community Impact Manager. She is responsible for United Way’s Impact Initiatives addressing Basic Needs and Education as well as sustaining productive relationships with diverse stakeholders and demonstrating a thorough understanding of community needs. Michaëlle is very passionate about issues such as economic equality, social justice, the gospel and education for all. She is involved in the youth leadership movement in her country of origin and is contributing as a proud member of the diaspora to eradicate the issues of impunity and injustice in Africa. She enjoys learning from people of all cultures and nationalities which has been one of her strengths and has improved her cross -cultural leadership skills. She strives to empower the communities she works with through innovative solutions and sustainable programs. In her free time, Michaëlle enjoys traveling with her friends and family, and volunteering at her local church.
Roland Nzaou, Lead Engineer, Core Tech Industrial
Roland is an electrical engineer currently working for a firm based in Upstate New York near Albany. The company designs, builds, produces, and sells electrical devices used by a wide variety of power plants. Roland Nzaou is originally from Republic of Congo, not to be confused with Democratic Republic of Congo. Roland fluently speaks French and two Congolese languages as well as English. In the late 1990’s, due to civil war, Roland fled the country into the neighboring country of Gabon, where he spent the next 10 years as a refugee. During that time, he taught himself how to use and fix computers and worked as an educational coordinator for 2,000 student refugees for a French organization, Handicap International. In that role, he created a useful students’ database for the United Nations (UN). Not long afterward, Roland started a small computer store which grew in size to include 8 employees. In 2009, thanks to a refugee relocation program led by the UN, Roland eventually found his way to the United States. Once in the United States, Roland attended Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) after completing one year of English and cultural submersion. During his second year of college Roland became the first instructor for a programmable LEGO-Mindstorms Robotics program, part of a PVCC Workforce Services project. The subsequent “Robot in Action” program was a set of courses designed by Roland for children between 6th and 9th grades and was offered as afternoon and summer enrichment classes. Roland then went on to attend the University of Virginia where, in 2015, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in electrical engineering. Despite his busy schedule, Roland is actively involved in activities such as Toastmasters International, a public speaking improvement club. Roland also serves on the Board of Trustees for a non-governmental organization, which sponsors an effort known as FOSS Server Project. The FOSS Server Project is a not-for-profit organization which promotes free, open source software in underdeveloped countries. Additionally, Roland is involved in Espace-OPOKO. This organization is based in the Republic of Congo and its purpose is to encourage 24 indigenous children and 70 children from poor, rural families in the Bambama district, to get an education.
Julianna Obie, Caseworker Schenectady, County Children and Family Services
"Julianna Obie received a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Communications from the University at Albany in 2012. Her undergraduate experience exposed her to theories, research findings, and applied experiences which have helped her to recognize and resolve challenges in communication in interpersonal, intercultural, and organizational contexts. Her future plans include attending the University at Albany Graduate Education Administration and Policy Studies Program with the goal of becoming a school administrator and positively impacting and providing education and training to our communities’ youth. Julianna currently is employed as a Case Worker for Schenectady County Children and Family Services, where she leverages direct positive relationships developed with families and children and providing critically needed services and resources. Julianna's passion for serving the community, education and enrichment programs began during her early years spent living in Northern New Jersey. She attended preschool at a local community college, where her single mother was employed. As a child, she enjoyed attending evening college classes with her mother. Julianna developed many supportive friendships with members of the college's faculty and staff which have endured to the present time. Julianna's family later relocated to the Capital Region, where Julianna’s relationship with Girls Incorporated of the Capital Region began at age 12. Julianna attended Girls Incorporated after school programs daily, and was later employed as a Program Specialist for the organization, where her responsibilities included developing and facilitating life skills, leadership and civic engagement programs. Julianna would eventually become Girls Incorporated’s youngest Albany Site Manager at the age of 23. Julianna's extensive work with youth and individuals in need of special services includes past employment as a Skills Specialist for the Center for Disability Services, and part-time work as a Residential Counselor at Equinox, Inc. She possesses critical traits required for professionals working with diverse communities -- motivation, compassion, ingenuity, and the ability to communicate effectively. She is currently developing several entrepreneurial projects, one of which has been delivering personal growth programs to girls and their providers at local schools and organizations. Julianna collaborated with close friends to establish most recently (summer 2016) #allblkeverything -- a social media initiative to promote Black-owned businesses, events and services throughout the Capital Region. Julianna is committed to serving our communities and enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and skills to make progress on the big challenges facing the Capital Region, New York State, and our world today."
Brittany Peoples, Evaluation Specialist II, New York State Department of Health, Health Research Incorporated
"Brittany Peoples was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and relocated to East Greenbush, NY during grammar school. She is a graduate from Buffalo State College with her Bachelors of Science in Forensic Chemistry and Criminal Justice. Ms. Peoples is also a graduate of the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute where she earned a Master’s of Science in Epidemiology. Brittany is currently an Evaluation Specialist in the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Epidemiology with the New York State (NYS) Department of Health and AIDS Institute. In her role she is oversees the evaluation, analysis, and maintenance of the biannual match of the NYS AIDS Drug Assistance Program recipient data and NYS HIV/AIDS surveillance data. Prior to this position, Brittany worked as a Research Scientist in the Office of Quality and Patient Safety at the NYS Department of Health where she evaluated and analyzed hospital admissions for various populations in NYS. Brittany is currently an Adjunct Faculty Member at Excelsior College in the Public Health Program within the School of Health Sciences. She has also completed fellowships with the National Science Foundation Bridge to the Doctorate Program and Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Graduate Program. Brittany currently resides in the City of Albany and is actively involved in her community. She is the Director of Operations for a Common Council Member for the City of Albany. In this capacity, Brittany works with a team of volunteers to coordinate and plan community events for constituents focused on health, economic development, and youth. Brittany is a member of Metropolitan New Testament Baptist Church and serves as a board member for the City of Albany Board of Zoning Appeals"
Mayleen Rivera, Project Assistant, Policy Research Associates
"Mayleen Rivera is a Bronx native passionate about leaving a legacy through her progressive efforts. She is currently serving as a Project Assistant for Policy Research Associates where she provides technical assistance and training to stakeholders interested in improving their wellness initiatives. Prior to her work at Policy Research Associates, she was an Excelsior Service Fellow for the New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative and the CORe Initiative where she was tasked to improve state policies and procedures alongside expert speakers and consultants. In addition to working full time for New York State, she created a non-profit organization named I Am Strong, Inc. As the CEO and Founder of I Am Strong, she mentors incarcerated youth between the ages of 14 to 20 years old in a maximum security facility located in New York once per month. The mentor workshops are opportunities to empower, uplift and inspire incarcerated youth in the hopes of reducing recidivism. I Am Strong seeks to provide personal and professional development to young girls that have faced repeated traumatic experiences. Mayleen envisions her non-profit expanding within the upcoming years to high school students and other vulnerable populations, including young boys. She received her Bachelors of Science in Pre-law from Sage College of Albany and is excited to join this progressive network. Her goals for joining the New Leaders Council Fellowship are to forge meaningful relationships with community leaders, enhance the foundation of her non-profit, and gain the skills needed to become an impactful public leader."
Kyla Rolfe, Member Service Advisor, SEFCU
Kyla Rolfe is the Founder and CEO of Mom Starts Here, a nonprofit organization that empowers young pregnant women by connecting them to community resources, and helping them plan their futures as mothers. Kyla is a Member Service Advisor at SEFCU and a Psychology major at Northeastern University. She is also a Voice Teacher at Rocky's Music Studio, and a singer in the Silver Arrow Band. Outside of her involvement in Mom Starts Here, school, work, and music, Kyla is a member of the Rensselaer County Wellness Committee and a Resource Volunteer for the American Cancer Society. She is passionate about helping others grow to their full potential and looks forward to being a 2017 Fellow if the Capital District New Leaders Council Institute. Kyla loves spending time with her fiancé Brandon and her five hear old son, London. They enjoy exploring, hiking and paddle boarding together.
Francesco, Sainato Media Specialist, New York State Assembly
"Francesco Christopher Sainato grew up around the corner from New Scotland Elementary School (then known as P.S. 19,) and would go on to earn his B.A. in Journalism just a couple miles away at the University at Albany, SUNY. Years of ballet and musical training shaped a strong sensibility for sound and motion. At a young age, Frank learned that audio and visuals are powerful tools that can influence not just our emotions but our perceptions about the world around us. As a Great Dane, Frank channeled his creative efforts into video production with Albany Student Television, where he would co-produce his own comedy show, serve as a campus news correspondent, and take on executive responsibilities as the director of new productions. Frank also studied Political Science and Philosophy, which gave him greater insight into the state government beat as an intern with the New York State Emmy Award-winning WMHT program, New York NOW. His career in campaign and government communications has helped him hone his photography, video production and social media messaging skills. Frank has contributed photos, videos, fliers, and more to candidates and elected officials across the state. Frank currently works as a media specialist for the New York State Assembly, and in April 2016, he was elected to serve as the director of membership for the Albany County Young Democrats. He still lives with his mother in that house around the corner from his elementary school. He looks forward to participating in the 2017 New Leaders Council Institute."
Erica Smitka, Contract Specialist Policy, Research Associates, Inc.
"Erica Smitka is a Contract Specialist at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA) a nationally recognized leader in technical assistance and research in behavioral health. As a Contract Specialist, Erica works to expand the reach of PRA’s projects through the development of proposals, management of contracts and evaluation of financial standing. In 2016, Erica earned her Masters in Public Administration (MPA), with a focus on Nonprofit Management, from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. While pursuing her MPA, Erica worked concurrently as a Graduate Assistant in the Campbell School of Public Affairs. Upon completing her degree, Erica was a consultant for Interfaith Works of Central New York’s refugee assistance program. During her engagement with Interfaith Works she created and implemented a framework for performance measurement and program evaluation while facilitating the organization’s shift towards data driven decision making. Prior to graduate school Erica worked in Los Angeles and Boston as an advocate and community organizer with Grassroots Campaigns Inc.(GCI). During her tenure at GCI she directed several offices, raising thousands of dollars on behalf of national and international non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Save the Children. In addition to her development work for GCI, Erica was active in several political campaigns and was the State Administrator for GCI’s “Organizing for America” Colorado offices in 2012. As a native of the Capital District, Erica has served various roles as a volunteer and staff member with local organizations such as Unity House of Troy Inc., Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood and NYPIRG. Erica holds her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from SUNY Geneseo, with a dual minor in Africana Studies and Anthropology."
Katherine Stephens, Education Program Manager, Proctors
Katherine is a proud arts administrator and ardent feminist. She works with Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre as an Education Program Manager, connecting students to meaningful theatre and careers in the arts. Katherine is also a vocal advocate for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood and LGBTQ rights. She is most proud of being the recipient of the Broadway League’s Education and Engagement Grant three years in a row for projects connecting non-traditional community groups to arts programming at Proctors. She connected Gay Straight Alliances at Albany and Schenectady High Schools to the tour of Kinky Boots with gender identity workshops; provided individuals with disabilities served by Wildwood Programs choreography classes connected to the tour of Motown The Musical; and most recently in the fall of 2016, she worked with Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus by bringing painting workshops to the themes of An American in Paris. Katherine has lived all over the country, and at times in England, due to her father serving in the Air Force for over 30 years. Katherine attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA, now the University of Mary Washington, and graduated with honors and a B.A. in Theatre. She enjoys reading, hiking, cats, working with various community theatres as a performer, traveling, and visiting her family. Katherine lives with her husband Drew in Schenectady, NY and is thrilled to be a fellow with the New Leaders Council Institute.
Tabetha Wilson, Professional Government Specialist, Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA)
"Tabetha Wilson, is the third born, of six children to two immigrant parents. As a first generation American, her parents put an emphasis on education, grades, reading, but also pride in her culture and history as a person of color. She attributes this upbringing to her motivation for continuous self-improvement, the pursuit of consistently delivering her personal best and championing causes of the underdog. An Albany resident since the age of five, she feels a personal responsibility to shape the vision of her city's future. Accordingly, she works tirelessly through her work and volunteer opportunities to transform this vision into a reality. Some recent volunteer activities/events were free yoga in the park, a canned good drive, and a free dental clinic for those in need. A graduate of the SUNY College at Brockport, where she was an Anthropology major her studies had an emphasis on research methods, critical thinking and analysis. As a result this has allowed her to develop problem-solving and interpersonal skills that are not only essential in the workplace, but imperative to tackle and confront the issues plaguing our society. While there she presented papers at two NEAA Northeast Anthropological Society Conferences, and did an independent study, internship with Action for A Better Community (ABC Rochester) that resulted in her being hired as a summer employee. In her career, she has made a habit of setting ambitious and bold goals, for example, she wanted to become a professional trainer in five years, and accomplished it in two. In addition to being promoted three times in a period of two years, as well as proposing and implementing various process improvements. Lastly, volunteering for an Employee Resource Group, The Young Professionals Resource Group and ultimately becoming the Chairperson and leader of a group with a membership of approximately 2300 employees. In her current role, she works for the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, where she feels uniquely situated as a woman of color to fulfill her agency's purpose “To oversee a range of the State’s most important programs for its low-income residents.” As a new state employee she sees it as her mission to continue to improve and refine processes, work collaboratively and continue to champion the causes of the less fortunate, vulnerable and at risk."