Meet the 2018 Columbus Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)
Public Information Specialist - Somali Community Liaison, Franklin County Sheriff's Office
Ahmed is a community organizer and public servant who currently works as a Somali Community Liaison for the Franklin County Sheriff's office. In his current role Ahmed works to create a bridge between local law enforcement and the Somali community in central Ohio. Prior to working in his current role Ahmed worked in the non profit arena and also worked in education. Ahmed was the founder and president of Somali Political Action Group also known as SPAG. SPAG is a volunteer grassroots organization that's mission is to help Somalis in central Ohio become civically engaged, by brining together elected officials and Somali youth in roundtable discussions to talk about current policies and issues effecting there community. Ahmed went to school for Economics and is really passionate about economic development within immigrant communities in the US especially the large Somali American population in Columbus.
Advocacy & Community Outreach Manager, The Women's Fund of Central Ohio
Monica Cerrezuela is the Advocacy & Community Outreach Manager at The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, where she is responsible for developing the organization’s advocacy program. In this position, she helps foster collaborative partnerships for impact, educates lawmakers on issues, and creates opportunities to mobilize the community to promote social change.
Prior to joining The Women’s Fund, Monica worked in the Ohio Senate for over three years. She began her time in public service as an Ohio Legislative Service Commission Fellow in 2014. After the completion of the fellowship, she was hired as Senior Legislative Aide to Senator Kenny Yuko. She most recently served as Special Assistant to Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni.
Monica earned her B.A. in Public Policy and minor in Spanish from the University of Michigan in 2013.
Digital Communications Manager Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio
Rhiannon, Executive Director and Community Organizer for Women’s March Ohio, mobilized over 20k people on January 21, 2017, around the state of Ohio and onward to Washington D.C. for the largest march in U.S. history. Ohio was one of the top 10 states to mobilize in the country.
On International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2017, Rhiannon organized over 1,000 people to rally for A Day Without A Women honoring women and femmes and their economic power and contributions in our communities. In addition, Rhiannon called on local businesses to close in solidarity – advocating for equal pay for equal work, immigrant employment rights, and equal employment opportunity for Black women who face disproportionate lower wages than their white male and female counterparts and under representation in leadership roles.
Rhiannon’s background in the United States Air Force military as a healthcare professional was just the beginning of her compassion and dedication to social justice and uplifting voices of marginalized and oppressed communities. She is also the Chair of Community Outreach for Lean in Ohio, a member of the King Art’s Complex Women’s Service Board, and the Health and Legislative Chair for the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Columbus Chapter.
Rhiannon’s most proud accomplishment is writing the foreword for The Women’s March: Signs of a Movement global picture book from sister marches around the world. Rhiannon is also featured in the book Lean in Ohio 100 Women Archives: A Keepsake of Interviews with Women Trailblazers.
Rhiannon has received her Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Management from Franklin University College of Business and Respiratory Therapist certification from the National Board of Respiratory Care. She is also resuming graduate school in the spring to major in Social Justice at Marygrove College.
Rhiannon is compelled to continue her work to protect the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our society –and bring communities together in solidarity to further expand and enhance equity for all people. Rhiannon is committed to her Women’s March pledge allegiance to fight for the liberation of all people no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual identification, gender, ability, or disability.
In her downtime, she enjoys family time with her daughter Milan, 10 yrs. old, who loves performing arts – and watching her son Dajon, 20 yrs. old, play football for Bowling Green University!
Digital Strategist (AMP) / Social Media & Policy Director (DVO), AMP Digital Collaborative, contracted by Democratic Voices of Ohio (DVO)
Colleen wears many hats as a digital strategist and her favorite is Social Media and Policy Director for Democratic Voices of Ohio. Democratic Voices exists to amplify Ohio voters’ digital engagement with progressive causes by providing nonprofits with digital media content production and consultation services. Her expertise in digital strategy across various platforms equips their partner organizations with flexible and effective digital advocacy infrastructure at rates they can afford. Colleen began working with Democratic Voices in October 2014 as a second-year Public Affairs major at the Ohio State University’s John Glenn College, specializing in Urban Policy & Management. She joined the team in a full-time leadership position upon graduating at the end of Summer 2016. During her undergraduate studies, Colleen gained experience at the Ohio Senate before working with Democratic Voices and also spent Summer 2015 interning at the U.S. Department of Education, working with federal grant program managers to award STEM-related funding to minority-serving institutions of higher education. Simultaneously that summer, she completed a full semester of undergraduate studies and a policy analysis capstone project measuring the effectiveness of community policing strategies in American cities. Prior to graduation, Colleen studied abroad in Northern Europe, researching sustainable community planning practices applicable to Central Ohio with Ohio State’s department of City Planning. As an emerging young professional, Colleen is committed to building meaningful community engagement around issues centrally important to the future of Ohio. In her spare time, Colleen enjoys cooking, singing, and weekend road trips.
Tara Anise Gould
Human Services Program Consultant, State of Ohio
Tara Anise Gould got her spark for politics when she was a little girl volunteering with her parents to campaign for elected officials in Toledo, Ohio. Her earliest memory is walking in a parade to elect former Mayor of Toledo, Jack Ford, and later phone banking to garner support for his campaign. She has since previously worked on presidential, statewide, and local campaigns. That spark has only intensified, as Tara now aspires to devote herself to the advancement of underrepresented populations through public service. Her current goal is to help bridge the gap between minorities and their access to technology and innovation.
Tara is a Human Services Program Consultant for the State of Ohio. She works specifically for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in the Office of Family Assistance. She is also a freelance business consultant specializing in the areas of Public Relations and Social Media Marketing. Tara formerly served as a Social Media Ambassador for Ashland University, where she was responsible for managing some of the University’s social media accounts. Tara is an active member of the Central Ohio Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc., and serves on the technology and service committees.
No stranger to Columbus, Ohio, where she now calls home, Tara is a proud alumna of The Ohio State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Tara also earned a Master of Business Administration with specializations in Global Management and Finance from Ashland University. She has studied international business in the Czech Republic, Spain, and Portugal. She plans to continue her education as she earns a doctorate in Leadership Studies.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Tara enjoys spending time with family and friends, cuddling with her dog Blush, and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube.
Public Affairs Coordinator, CAIR-Columbus
Usjid Hameed works as the Public Affairs Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Columbus, Ohio Chapter (CAIR-Columbus) where he is tasked with advocating for American-Muslims, monitoring legislation, conducting outreach, organizing civic engagement activities with the Central Ohio American-Muslim community, and much more. Usjid was born in York, Pennsylvania and raised in Baltimore County, Maryland. His passion for service was kindled at a young age thanks to his parents, Pakistani immigrants, frequently drawing attention to his many privileges, such as growing up in a two-parent home in America. Usjid credits the public school system in Baltimore County for providing him with a profound interest in history and government. This interest led him to pursue an internship in Congressman Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s (MD-02) district office during his senior year of high school. Usjid then attended Towson University where he served as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation and as an editor for the Towson University Journal of International Affairs. In addition, Usjid was the field director for a state delegate campaign during the 2014 election cycle and interned in Congressman John Delaney’s (MD-06) D.C. office. In his junior year, Usjid was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for his Summer 2016 study abroad experience in Jordan. His senior undergraduate thesis focused on examining the Saudi-Iranian rivalry from the Foreign Policy Analysis approach, a perspective not commonly used in international relations, to argue that the rivalry is motivated by both power and ideological concerns. Usjid graduated from Towson University with honors in May 2017 after earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and was the Spring 2017 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker for the College of Liberal Arts. Upon graduating, Usjid moved to Columbus in June 2017 to begin work with CAIR.
Lead Social Worker, Lighthouse Youth and Family Services
Reginald Harris, LISW, CTP is a political social worker, therapist, and arts educator. A former professional ballet dancer with ten years of professional performing experience, he danced with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Ballet Austin, River North Chicago Dance Company, and Dances Patrelle. Reginald’s teaching experience began in Ballet Austin’s Academy in 2003, and included a two-year stint as resident choreographer for the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas and four years as a company teacher for River North Chicago Dance Company. In 2009, Reginald was one of a small group of arts educators to open The Chicago High School for the Arts (Chiarts) - Chicago’s first and only public performing arts high school. In 2011, Reginald became dance department chair at Chiarts and worked to build a comprehensive and intensive dance curriculum. Currently, Reginald works as the Lead Social Worker for BrightLife Transitional Living Program, an LGBTQ youth homeless housing initiative of Lighthouse Youth and Family Services. He is the Region 6 Chair for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) committee, and sits on the board of directors for the NASW Ohio chapter, Equality Ohio, Caracole, and the Hamilton County Community Development Advisory Committee. Additionally, Reginald is a member of policy committee for the Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County, and was appointed chair of the Human Services Chamber transportation subcommittee. As a certified trauma practitioner (CTP) - Reginald has developed an arts focused training that addresses trauma and the ways in which it impacts students’ cognitive and emotional development and academic achievement, and works closely with arts education organizations on becoming trauma informed. He holds a Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Organizational Leadership from Roosevelt University and a Master of Social Work from Boston University. Reginald has dedicated his life to service, social and economic justice, and arts education through activism, community engagement, and advocacy.
Manager, Hall Hunger Initiative
Etana Jacobi serves as Manager of the Hall Hunger Initiative, working to further issues of food equity and justice in the greater Dayton area. Previously, she worked on the program staffs of the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute where she researched the impacts of robust deliberative engagement on public life. Prior to her time in Dayton, Jacobi taught seventh-grade English Language Arts in Boston Public Schools, supported college students working to advance local progressive solutions in their communities as the National Training Director at the Roosevelt Institute, and fostered more deliberative dialogue on Long Island as the Harry H. Wachtel Leadership Scholar at Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement.
Jacobi is unapologetically passionate about progressive policy change and is committed to building inclusive networks through the development of authentic relationships across difference.
She currently serves as Treasurer of the Greater Dayton Union Co-op Initiative’s board and sits on Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement Board as well as the Kailkow School of Government, Public Policy, & International Affairs Dean’s External Advisory Board. Jacobi is an active member of the Dayton community and volunteers regularly with several local organizations and initiatives including the Gem City Market, a community and worker-owned cooperative grocery store, UpDayton, YWCA, Professionals United for Sexual Health (PUSH), and The Hearth Community Place Food Pantry.
Jacobi graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Political Science and Global Studies from Hofstra University Honors College and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
When she isn’t working, Jacobi can be found taste-testing throughout the region on her quest to find the best donut in the Midwest.
Consultant, Global Strategy, Siemens AG
Born and raised in Germany, Anthony moved to Cincinnati in 2013. He is the proud product of a U.S. military family and Department of Defense schools in Europe. Anthony is a consultant at Siemens AG focusing on global strategy, strategic communications and compliance.
Anthony is engaged politically, from public service and diplomacy to community and economic development. He serves as Policy Director for Cincinnati City Councilmember Tamaya Dennard. In the past, Anthony has staffed for former U.S. Senate candidate and Cincinnati City Councilmember PG Sittenfeld, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, among other officials in the Midwest. Anthony serves on the boards of World Affairs Councils of America, The Urban League, and Roosevelt Institute.
Formerly, Anthony served as a fellow with Ohio Innocence Project where he identified and advocated for inmates in Ohio prisons who are innocent of the crimes they were convicted of committing. He is a former editor of Human Rights Quarterly (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press) — the world's leading academic publication in the field of international human rights law.
During time off, Anthony loves to travel and listen to new podcasts. He helps emerging leaders develop themselves to run for public office, and enables people to develop meaningful policy and strategies around issues of critical importance to the communities they serve.
Anthony holds degrees in Political Science (B.A.) and International Affairs (B.A.) from University of Cincinnati, and professional certificates in Arabic and International Human Rights.
Managing Director, Community Development for All People
A Columbus native, Sheldon Johnson recently moved back to his hometown to pursue the goal of working to make it a more equitable city. He currently serves as the Managing Director of Community Development for All People, a faith-based community development corporation with a mission to improve the quality of life for residents living on the South Side of Columbus.
As Managing Director, Sheldon is responsible for overseeing the execution of CD4AP’s suite of programming, serving as the principal relationship manager for external stakeholders, and functioning as the chief of staff to the Executive Director.
Sheldon is a 2008 graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor where he received a Bachelor in General Studies with concentrations in Black Studies, Political Science, and Education. He also holds a Master of Public Policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School.
He is a lover of neighborhoods and believes that strengthening third places and bridging social capital with residents is a key ingredient for building people power for social and political movements. He lives in the amazing Weinland Park neighborhood with his wonderful wife, LC, and their precocious 9-month old baby boy, Sheldon Junior. When not trying to save the world one neighbor at a time Sheldon can be found watching HGTV with LC, taking their dog Huey on longer than planned walks, or enjoying the food and craft beer scene in Central Ohio.
Utility Billing Specialist, City of Gahanna
Ryan Polster Jolley’s mother taught him the importance of service from an early age. He put her words into action in 2001 when he was elected to the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education at the age of 18, just five months after graduating from Gahanna’s Lincoln High School. Over the past decade and a half, Ryan has both broadened and deepened his understanding of and interest in public service, working in the Ohio Senate, serving on the boards of several non-profit organizations, and working on multiple candidate and issue campaigns.
Ryan learned the value of hard work throughout 10 summers carrying golf clubs at Winding Hollow Country Club in New Albany. His caddying earned him a full scholarship to The Ohio State University as an Evans Scholars Fraternity member. Upon graduating from OSU in 2005, Ryan joined Teach For America, one of the most selective post-graduate programs in the country. Ryan spent the next two years teaching math and science at a public middle school in New York City, just north of Harlem.
Since leaving the classroom, Ryan has worked in the private sector in sales, consulting, and management, ultimately overseeing a workforce of more than 200 employees. Since 2016, Ryan has continued to serve the public as a member of the Department of Public Service and Engineering at the City of Gahanna.
From 2012 to 2015, Ryan served Gahanna as a member of City Council, representing the entire city at-large. He sat on Council’s Finance Committee and on the Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors. Ryan ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2012 and for Gahanna Mayor in 2015.
Ryan earned a B.A. in Political Science from Ohio State, a B.S.B.A. in Economics from OSU’s Fisher College of Business, an M.S.T. in Adolescent Mathematics from Pace University’s School of Education, and an M.B.A. from Franklin University’s Ross College of Business. He has studied at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, OSU’s Michael E. Moritz College of Law, and Capital University Law School. In the spring of 2018, Ryan will complete the Public Administration master’s program at Franklin University.
Samuel Leath, III
Samuel Leath, III is a Columbus native and currently employs his knowledge of American Sign Language, Spanish, and English in his work as a trilingual interpreter.
Samuel’s passion for languages, multiculturalism, and social justice was sparked while attending Olney Friends School—a small, independent, Quaker high school in Southeastern Ohio—where he has served as a trustee for the past five years.
In 2006, Samuel, a first generation college student, was awarded Haverford College’s Ira DeA. Reid Scholarship—a full scholarship for black and Latino students with strong academic and extracurricular records. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, with a concentration in Latin American and Iberian Studies, in 2010. During his undergraduate career, Samuel studied and volunteered abroad in Costa Rica, and gained leadership roles in several multiculturalism-focused campus programs.
In 2012, he graduated magna cum laude from Columbus State Community College’s Interpreting/American Sign Language Education program. Shortly thereafter, Samuel formed part of the interpreting team at the inaugural African American/Black Interpreters Summit held in Salt Lake City. Samuel subsequently earned his National Interpreter Certification, relocated to Northern California, and worked at San Francisco State University. Additionally, he served a two-year term on the Diversity Council of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Board of Directors.
In 2016, Samuel moved to Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain to pursue a Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ESADE Business School. In addition to earning the Unity in Diversity scholarship, he collaborated on a consulting project with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Comitè Català and was a finalist in his school’s 2017 Hult Prize @ ESADE competition—an international business model competition that encouraged small teams of entrepreneurs to build sustainable, scalable social enterprises that restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022.
During his time in graduate school, Samuel was grateful for opportunities to travel to Amsterdam, Berlin, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Seoul, and Windhoek, Namibia. The highlight of his travels, however, was participating in a week-long intensive course focused on entrepreneurship and social enterprise in Africa, hosted by the Graduate School of Business - University of Cape Town.
Samuel is deeply committed to racial justice, LGBTQ equality, disability rights, and the rights of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Today, he aspires to venture into the world of social entrepreneurship, starting mission-driven businesses that change our communities and the world.
Talent Development Consultant, NiSource
Alysha Noorani, a Talent Development Consultant at NiSource, is passionate about the employee space, specifically inclusion and diversity, organizational culture, employee engagement, and using data and analytics to drive evidence-based management. She holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in the Arts and Sciences and Honors Research Distinction in Psychology from The Ohio State University along with a Master of Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University. Active within NiSource, she is a member of the Greater Columbus Inclusion & Diversity Council and serves as the State Liaison for a new employee resource group. Within the community, she has volunteered with many animal shelter and rescue organizations in Central Ohio, co-founded a student organization at OSU dedicated to fundraising and volunteering at shelters and rescues (Buckes for Canines), and was excited to be selected as a grant reader this year for the the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. She has also volunteered and worked with numerous cancer and research-based non-profits, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Cancer Society, and Pelotonia. Alysha currently serves on the board of OSU’s Women in STEMM Alumni Society as President-Elect. The daughter of an immigrant and retired Air Force officer, Alysha has lived in multiple states, two countries, and moved over 20 times and grew up in a multicultural home. Her semi-nomadic lifestyle has given her an appreciation of differences, an adaptable nature, and a love for travel and new experiences. She has traveled to 6 continents and over a dozen countries and plans to visit the last continent in 2018.
Regional Coalition Specialist, The Salvation Army
Bhumika Patel is currently the Regional Coalition Specialist for The Salvation Army's Anti-Human Trafficking Program. In her role, she facilitates training, awareness, and coalition building activities on the issue of human trafficking in Southwest Ohio. Before joining The Salvation Army, Bhumika first learned about human trafficking as a Human Trafficking Education Specialist through the Americorps Prevention and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons (PATH) grant program facilitated through the Office of Criminal Justice Services. Bhumika sees human trafficking as an issue that is often misunderstood and unrecognized and seeks to address misconceptions and offer resources.
Bhumika is a first generation immigrant, born in rural India and raised in small town Georgia. She holds an MA in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Cincinnati and a BA in Women's Studies from Agnes Scott College. Bhumika spends her free time volunteering on the events committee of PAR-Projects and as a pro-bono instructor of ""Feminism 101"" and ""Social Justice Dialogues"" at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. Bhumika, growing up as one of the few people of color in a predominantly white community, could see how gender, race, class, and immigration impacted how she navigated the world. Because of how her experiences impacted her, she sought an education that would help her understand the complexities of power and oppression. From her education and background, she works day to day, either in her position at The Salvation Army or in her volunteer efforts, to make safe spaces for marginalized groups.
Title IX Program Coordinator, The Ohio State University
Molly Peirano is a civil rights activist and lifelong learner. Molly serves as the Title IX Program Coordinator at The Ohio State University. In this role, she supports efforts to eradicate sex- and gender- based discrimination. Molly serves on the Central Ohio Sexual Assault Response Team and multiple university committees, including the Afrikan American Farewell Celebration Committee. Molly volunteers as an advocate for the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), supporting survivors of sexual violence in local hospitals. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD in Social Work and looks forward to researching pregnant and parenting students in higher education. Molly serves as the secretary for the Doctoral Student Organization in Social Work. She is a graduate of the Fisher College of Business and also earned her Master of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs from University of South Carolina. Molly volunteers for Delta Gamma Fraternity in several capacities, including as an adviser to the collegiate chapter at OSU, a national facilitator of Alcohol Skills Training Program, and the Columbus Alumnae Chapter president. As a Columbus native and current resident of Italian Village, Molly is passionate about serving her community and is dedicated to continuing to make a meaningful contribution.
President and Founder, Root + Branch
Laura Recchie is the President and Founder of Root + Branch, a benefit corporation working to create equitable development and inclusive investment in neighborhoods. Ms. Recchie’s world is wrapped around communities and coalition. Her career in policy and economic development has taught her to identify community challenges; pinpoint resources and broker winning partnerships that achieve shared goals and she founded Root + Branch, Inc. to do just that. Ms. Recchie grew up on the East side of Columbus and left Ohio to earn her bachelor’s in Economics, Philosophy and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She moved to Washington, D.C. to earn her Master’s in Public Policy at Georgetown University, specializing in economic development and international policy. In D.C., she worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, and then joined the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs as a Presidential Management Fellow. Her community roots drew her back into the domestic economic field as the Director of Strategy and Project Development for a community development firm, Praxia Partners.
After founding Root + Branch, she returned to Columbus, Ohio where she now operates Root + Branch in both Ohio and Washington, D.C. She works closely with neighborhood organizations, not-for-profit associations and developers to create community solutions that serve neighbors. Through Root + Branch, Ms. Recchie has spearheaded the development of projects to implement community-centered renewable energy projects that serve nonprofits and neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. She has helped envision and execute numerous projects in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, D.C. that have led to community cleanups, block watches, neighborhood festivals, the reuse of vacant spaces and other experiences that break down social barriers and catalyze community engagement. Above all she promotes, inspires and encourages equitable and inclusive investment within her communities and champions economic and environmental justice. In her free time, Ms. Recchie enjoys exploring neighborhoods with her canine sidekick, and obsessing over her nieces and nephews.
Project Manager and Community Organizer
Kiara Richardson is a passionate community organizer, activist and change agent. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio. Kiara is a homegrown Buckeye. Kiara proudly graduated from Columbus Public Schools and The Ohio State University where she majored in consumer and family science. Kiara developed a passion for energy equality at her job with Ground Level Solutions, Inc. where she became a Certified Energy Manager and worked to lower the energy burdens for low to moderate-income families throughout Central Ohio. She became program manager of the Electric Partnership Program and the American Electric Power Community Assistance Program shortly after starting with the organization. Thanks to her leadership, the program became one of the most successful in Ohio.
In 2016, Kiara took a brave leap and left her job to join the Ohio Coordinated Campaign so she could help elect Democrats up and down the ballot. During that time, she juggled her campaign duties and schoolwork to complete her MBA at Ashland University. After the campaign, Kiara took a job with American Electric Power where she served as the senior project coordinator for AEP’s Indiana and Michigan substation engineering operations. Because of her passion for energy and energy equality, Kiara joined the American Association of Blacks in Energy where she has served as a board member, Vice-President and is the newly elected President for the 2018-2020 term. In addition to energy equality, Kiara is highly engaged with local politics. During the 2017 general election, she campaigned for candidates endorsed by Yes We Can Columbus to help get progressive Democrats elected to City Council and School Board. She currently volunteers for Run for Something and is a local volunteer organizer for Not One Penny. When she is not campaigning or volunteering Kiara likes to cuddle up with her dog Winnie and watch reality TV.
Clinical Pharmacist, Aetna
Jen Rudy is a clinical pharmacist currently working for Aetna Medicare. Her multidisciplinary team collaborates with provider groups as they strive to improve medication use and population health outcomes. She has a variety of healthcare experience which has influenced her motivation to change the system. Jen has worked in community pharmacies, a small town hospital, a specialty and home infusion pharmacy, and within a physician-hospital organization. She is passionate about preventative health care and promotes a plant-based vegan diet. Let food be thy medicine! She believes all people deserve equal access to high quality health care regardless of employment status or ability to pay. Jen is also an active volunteer at her county dog shelter and is an advocate for improved treatment of companion animals and all sentient beings. She earned both her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and maintains pharmacotherapy certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Jen is a founding board member of the Women in STEMM Alumni Society which will be chartered in 2018. When she is not working or volunteering, Jen enjoys spending time hiking and birding in one of the many parks around Columbus and Franklin County.
Property Claims Adjuster, Nationwide Insurance
Elvis Saldias is currently a property claims adjuster with Nationwide Insurance, where he specializes in serving Spanish-speaking policy holders in the continental United States. Elvis recently earned a degree in political science from The Ohio State University. Outside of work, Elvis is a mentor at Columbus Global Academy and active in pro-immigrant advocacy. Elvis was born in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and moved to Ohio as a child with his family. Being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, Elvis had extra obstacles to overcome on his way to attaining a college education. His immigration status combined with his financial background resulted in him having to hold over a dozen jobs throughout college to afford tuition and expenses.
Since graduation, Elvis has been advocating for a permanent legislative fix for DACA recipients as well as the general undocumented population. With the rescinding of DACA in late 2017, Elvis increased his advocacy and has taken part in press conferences and meetings with elected officials to encourage them to pass legislation to provide him and others the ability to continue their lives in the States. Elvis has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Columbus Dispatch, Toledo Blade, WOSU and other print and radio media outlets. Elvis has traveled to Washington D.C. on several occasions to share his story with members of Congress and to continue urging Ohio elected officials to act sensibly on immigration. Aside from his immigration advocacy, Elvis has also contributed to political campaigns in the role of a field organizer and as an intern for the Ohio House of Representatives Democratic Caucus. In the near future, he is looking to enroll in law school and has interests in immigration law and international relations. Elvis enjoys following Ohio sports teams, trying out different types of cuisine, and traveling to new places.
Attorney/Associate, Bricker & Eckler
Leonard Schoponhove is a resident, promoter, and advocate of the Old North. The area south of Clintonville and north of The Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio. Aside from being a resident of the Old North, he is also an attorney with the law firm, Bricker & Eckler LLP, where he primarily works on, among other things, matters relating to healthcare and energy litigation. In 2014, Leonard earned his undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey ("TCNJ") where he studied International Studies with a Concentration in Trade and Economics. Thereafter, he earned his law degree from Rutgers Law School in 2017. Aside from studying law, while at Rutgers, he founded the Leonard & the Scarlet Supper Club, a group with the simple mission of bringing individuals from diverse backgrounds together to share a meal. Prior to moving to the Old North, Leonard was actively involved in an inner city outreach program in New Jersey and Florida, which provided mentorship and educational tutoring to teenagers and primary school children. At the moment, Leonard is actively involved in providing pro bono legal services to Ohio residents.
Senior Legislative Aide, Ohio Senate
Originally from Toledo, OH, Nate Shipman currently serves as the Senior Legislative Aide to Ohio State Senator Sean J. O’Brien, a position he has held since July 2014. As the senior staffer in Sen. O’Brien’s Statehouse office, Nate is responsible for all matters involving policy analysis and the implementation of the Senator’s legislative agenda, as well as all daily office operations. In this role, Nate has worked hard to redefine the role of a legislative staffer, having organized and executed several innovative initiatives including the state of Ohio’s first-ever legislative business research mission to Havana, Cuba in October 2015 and the creation of the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus – the United States’ inaugural state-level legislative caucus committed solely to outdoor recreation and trails.
He holds a master’s degree in political science, with a focus on comparative politics and international relations, from Loyola University Chicago, and received his bachelor’s degree in international studies from Bowling Green State University. He is also TEFL certified to teach English as a foreign language. Nate’s professional policy interests include environmental and alternative energy issues, foreign policy, and issues related to increasing equality for marginalized groups and protecting the rights of women and minorities. In his spare time, Nate enjoys traveling, listening to and playing music (guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele), photography, hiking, biking, and is also an avid soccer player.
Electric Vehicle Specialist
Matt Stephens-Rich loves to share his passion for environmental conservancy and alternative energy through his work as Electric Vehicle Specialist for the Electrification Coalition, a national non-profit organization focused on rapid deployment of Electric Vehicles to break American dependence on oil. A Bearcat and Buckeye, Matt attended the University of Cincinnati for his Bachelor's in Communication, where he first learned about how to apply his passion for the environment in meaningful ways to help audiences understand the need and urgency to take action against Climate Change at local, state, and national levels. Upon graduating, Matt headed to the Pali Outdoor Education Institute in Running Springs, California to join educators in connecting local students with the outside world through various scientific and outdoor curriculum. Still, Matt felt he had more to give towards his passion, which led him back to Ohio to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. With a focus in Energy Policy, Matt continued to work and study on a variety of energy and environmental topics.
During this time as a student, Matt was hired as a Program Assistant to Clean Fuels Ohio, a statewide non-profit organization focused on promoting alternative fuels in transportation, and the largest U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Coalition in the nation. Matt continued on with Clean Fuels Ohio upon graduation as Projects Manager for five years, and helped oversee the deployment of dozens of alternative fuel vehicle projects throughout the region, while educating public and private fleets on the benefits of adopting alternative fuels and fuel efficiency technologies. Matt also helped write on a variety of grant opportunities reaching over $60M in total award, including the City of Columbus application to the US Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge, subsequently known as Smart Columbus. Electric Vehicles play a major role in the work of Smart Columbus and helping demonstrate the emission savings potential grid decarbonization and rapid vehicle electrification can have in tandem. To assist with the program's overall implementation, Matt was hired by the Electrification Coalition as a local expert and liaison, directly embedded in the Smart Columbus office. His current work now focuses on assisting fleets and organizations to rapidly adopt electric vehicles and charging, providing meaningful benefit to Central Ohio's emissions and economic bottomline.
Medical Specialist--Investigation, Nationwide
Helen Stewart is a 31-year-old gender non-binary community activist based in Ohio, who identifies as African American, Afro-Dominican, and Native American. Growing up in Cleveland Ohio, Helen recognized at a young age that good education was something purchased, not given. In response, they began to focus on access to education for minority children at 16 years old. As a teen, Helen wrote a paper discussing the difference in the experience of receiving a private school education in a suburb of Cleveland, and the Cleveland public school system after taking two weeks of classes at a public school. Upon completion of their paper, they were invited to speak to local city council members and provide a copy of the paper to local legislators, advocating for healthier lunches, textbooks for all students, and better technology.
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at Denison University, Helen began working on both marriage equality campaigns and President Obama’s 2008 campaign. They would continue advocating for marriage equality for 10 years through the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Ohio, and Why Marriage Matters.
In 2015, they were chosen as an affiliate of the Progressive Leadership Academy, led by Senator Ray Miller and Senator Charleta Tavares. It was here that they began to learn what it takes be a public servant and practice effective ways to serve the most disenfranchised populations. They additionally joined local and national campaigns in resisting police brutality and showing more visibility for queer and trans people of color in the LGBTQ community. Helen currently works on the #blackpride4 campaign supporting queer and trans people of color who were brutalized by police during the Columbus Pride festival in 2017. Through this work, they have become a core organizer for Black Queer Intersectional Columbus (BQIC), where they work to create safe spaces for the most disenfranchised populations in an effort to resist police brutality, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and sexism.
Helen’s passion for politics led her to accept a leadership role in the Central Ohio Young Black Democrats (COYBD as vice president.. In this role, they are committed to increasing the number of black candidates who run and take office while educating the black community on political processes and issues. During the most recent election cycle, they worked on the Yes We Can campaign helping to elect local progressive Democrats in Columbus, OH.
Helen enjoys making funny faces and playing sports as a guardian ad litem for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Franklin County in their spare time.
Consultant - B2C SWAT, Verizon
Michael is a technophile, writer, finance operations consultant and project manager, and singer with the Columbus Symphony Chorus. He is a 2008 graduate of The Ohio State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts. He has worked with the Ohio Democratic Party as a campaign volunteer through several elections, and worked the 2017 election as a Machine Judge in Franklin County. Michael has helped lead writing workshops with Dr. Joy Reilly and tOSU, volunteered with Stiles Elementary with the Verizon Foundation, had two poems published, backpacked Europe for a month with a train pass and no plan, and has edited and directed a one-act play. He is a member of Team Internet, and a staunch supporter of Net Neutrality. His colleagues nicknamed him the Accountant Whisperer, and everyone usually refers to him by his last name, ‘Toland.’ Most would say he’s filled with an abundance of positivity, and working with him is, “a delight.” Michael enjoys the local arts scene in Columbus, and is overly enthusiastic about nachos.
City Planner, OHM Advisors
Conor is a City Planner at OHM Advisors, an integrated architecture, engineering, and planning and urban design firm in Columbus. He works regularly with communities, neighborhoods, and downtown organizations in the Midwest to help develop strategic plans that move communities forward. Conor earned a graduate degree in City and Regional Planning from Ohio State University and an undergraduate degree in Economics and History from the University of Rochester. Prior to his career as a City Planner, Conor spent time apprenticing on an organic farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico and working as a Street Outreach Worker for runaway and homeless youth in Rochester, New York. A resident of Downtown Columbus, Conor is passionate about community planning and public policy. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, practicing public speaking, exploring new cities, and obsessing over regular season NBA box scores.
Owner, Verve Creative, LLC
Brooke Wojdynski (wooden-ski) is CEO of Verve Creative LLC, a purpose driven marketing and communications organization focused on supporting ambitious companies and organizations in sharing their stories. She is active in Democratic politics and arts organizations. Brooke previously worked in campaign politics doing stakeholder engagement and activation at the local, state and national level. Most recently, Brooke was the Campaign Manager for Elizabeth Brown's successful race for Columbus City Council. At the crossroads of emerging technology, and civic empowerment, she integrates traditional communication models with digital media platforms to further the public policy reform and financial objectives of community-based organizations. Brooke also was chosen as a speaker for the White House Young America Series in 2012, where she spoke about the millennial generation and their influence on social and political change. She is honored to be chosen as one of the Columbus’ Top Young Professionals You Should Know' by CityPulse Magazine, is a Class V graduate of the YWCA Chase Gen Y Leadership Program, and has served two years as the HRC Columbus Gala's Marketing and PR Co-chair.