Louisiana 2018 Fellows

Meet the 2018 Louisiana Fellows
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Antonio Alonzo

Entrepreneurial Community Coordinator, Fund 17

Louisiana_Antonio_Alonzo_-_Antonio_Alonzo.pngAntonio Alonzo is a community builder and social entrepreneur. He cofounded Dig Easy, a nonprofit compost pickup service and a food waste education project. Antonio is the Entrepreneurial Community Coordinator for Fund 17, an organization that addresses opportunity inequality by helping entrepreneurs grow their small businesses. He chaired the Global Shapers New Orleans hub for the preceding 2016-2017 term, which is a World Economic Forum organization to engage youth in social impact locally and leadership convenings regionally and internationally. As a steering committee member of the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee, Antonio works on policy efforts to improve equity, opportunity, and collaboration in our food system. For more than a year, he has been organizing Freelance Friday, a once-a-month event for freelancers and entrepreneurs to get together to cowork and network. In 2017, Antonio joined the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans and has since awarded $20,000 to local organizations that are innovating the New Orleans workforce.


Candice Battiste

Former Staff Attorney, Mental Health Advocate, Community Activist, Peaceful Alternatives Counseling and Therapy Center

Louisiana_Candice_Battiste._-_Candice_Battiste.jpgProgressiveness is a constitutional directive. Our own Preamble instructs us to strive for 'a more perfect union.' That requires boldly embracing and working towards a future free of phobias and 'isms which would impede that progress." This philosophy drives Candice's outlook on advocacy. She was born in Haughton, Louisiana and is the daughter of a retired elementary school teacher and retired Air Force Sgt. Her passion for accessible quality education, gender and racial equality, and mental health advocacy for veterans and other at risk populations stemmed from the issues she witnessed her parents champion while growing up. She was taught leadership begins foremost with having a heart to serve. Candice has enjoyed an interest in politics since childhood and coordinated her first successful campaign at fourteen where she became the first student body president of Haughton Middle School. While attending Haughton High School, Candice was selected to attend Girls State and invited to the state capitol where she learned her first lesson in political leadership: 90% of making a difference is collaborative and requires dedication to putting in hours of hard work behind the scenes. Candice went on to run for Senior Class President of Haughton High School where she was elected as the first black female president in the school's 100 year history. Candice's passion for politics and justice led her to attend Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge so she could more easily attend hearings while legislation was in session. Pursuing her childhood dream of becoming an attorney and advocate for her community while ensuring justice for all, Candice attended the Southern University Law Center where she was selected as a Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project Fellow and elected President of her school's chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Upon graduation in May 2015, Candice was hired as a Staff Attorney at Legal Services of North Louisiana and chosen to assist with establishing the law firm's Family Law Unit where she was instrumental in assisting low income and under-served residents with their legal needs. She has also been a volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocates where she assisted children in navigating the foster care system. As a member of the Women's Democratic Club of Northwest Louisiana, Candice is active with the membership committee and assisting with political initiatives and the election of progressives whose values align with the benefit of the greater good.


Claude-Michael Comeau

Contract Attorney, Caddo Parish Office of the District Defender

Louisiana_Claude-Michael_Comeau.__-_Claude_Comeau.jpgClaude-Michael Comeau is an Attorney practicing in the Shreveport-Bossier area. His expertise lies in the areas of immigration law and criminal defense. Claude-Michael received his Juris Doctor from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where an interest in laws affecting technology and art led him to becoming the vice president of the Intellectual Property Law Association, and interest in giving back to the community led him to teaching basic law to middle and high school students as part of the Street Law program. Claude-Michael graduated from LSU Law in 2013. Prior to law school, Claude-Michael was employed in various technology-focused positions. He hopes to able to merge his passions and expertise to create tangible improvements to legal practitioners and clientele alike.


Jason Gale

Insurance Coordinator Supervisor, Fresenius Kidney Care

Louisiana_Jason_Gale_-_Jason_Gale.jpgWhile Jason D. Gale is a native of Milwaukee, WI, he was called to relocate to New Orleans, LA in October 2013. Mr. Gale has served as a healthcare professional for the past decade. He is currently an Insurance Coordinator Supervisor with Fresenius Kidney Care, the nation’s largest dialysis provider. In his current role he is responsible for the development, implementation, and monitoring of the national training program for newly hired insurance coordinators. Ultimately, he would like to help address the need for more price transparency in healthcare through policy, technology, and social entrepreneurship. Mr. Gale is also an entrepreneur. He recently opened J. Gale Holdings, LLC; an organization that is aimed to help address the affordable housing needs of New Orleanians. In his spare time he loves to travel, experience new cuisine, and spend quality time with friends. Mr. Gale received a BA in economics and sociology (law, crime, and deviance emphasis) with a minor in African American studies from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a MBA from the University of Florida. While at the University of Florida he studied abroad in the United Arab Emirates and Cuba. Mr. Gale serves on the board of The Juror Project and is a current member of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans – Young Professionals, National Black MBA Association New Orleans Chapter, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated.


Rachel Gassert

Policy Director, Louisiana Center for Children's Rights

Louisiana_Rachel_Gassert_-_Rachel_Gassert.jpgRachel Gassert is the Policy Director at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit law office that advocates for juvenile justice reform. In 2016, she ran a successful campaign to pass Raise the Age legislation, which will include 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system as the vast majority of states already do. In New Orleans, she was the driving force behind a city ordinance allowing police officers to issue juvenile warning notices and summonses, which will reduce juvenile arrests by up to one-third; and has led ongoing efforts to eliminate the pre-trial detention of adolescents in the city’s adult jail.

Previously, Rachel spent nearly nine years as a program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. At Casey, Rachel worked with jurisdictions around the country to reduce their reliance on incarceration in the juvenile justice system.

Rachel received a Master of Arts in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Thomas Huseby

Digital Communications Content Writer, Digital Turf

Louisiana_Thomas_Huseby_-_Thomas_Huseby.jpgThomas Huseby is a Digital Communications Content Writer for Digital Turf. In his current role, he is responsible for crafting engaging and innovative digital messaging for democratic candidates and progressive campaigns across the country. He is currently working on gubernatorial and congressional races and previously worked on a successful campaign to increase voter turnout among racial minorities in the state of Virginia. Thomas has nearly two decades of experience in community engagement and service-based work with LGBTQ populations, people living with HIV, and women’s rights. As a teenager, Thomas started on his path when he was elected president of an LGBTQ social support group for youths aged 13 to 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, he has served a variety of roles for LGBTQ, feminist, and HIV-service organizations. For the past 7 years, Thomas has held a variety of positions with Louisiana-based HIV-service organizations that seek to counter negative health outcomes for people living with HIV. In 2016, he was the recipient of Equality Louisiana’s Outstanding Community Advocate of the Year award for his HIV-related advocacy. Currently, he sits on the board of the Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network, an organization that strives to amplify the voices of people living with HIV in the state of Louisiana. Thomas is a graduate of the University of Arizona where he was a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology.


Kelli Jordan

Senior Director of Student Services, New Orleans College Prep

Louisiana_Kelli_Jordan._-_Kelli_Jordan.JPGDr. Kelli Jordan is the Senior Director of Student Services for New Orleans College Prep. She is a cum laude graduate of Hampton University, where she earned her BA in Psychology. She obtained a Masters degree in Applied Educational Psychology in 2008 and a Ph.D. in School Psychology in 2010 from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Jordan moved to New Orleans as part of the Louisiana School Psychology Internship Consortium (LASPIC) to work for St. Bernard Parish Public Schools where she served as a certified school psychologist from 2009-2013. She has been a Nationally Certified School Psychologist since 2012.

Dr. Jordan is also an active member of the community and gives back through various organizations in the New Orleans area. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Orchid Society and a founding member of The National Association of Black Women Doctorates. She is also a graduate of the Urban Leaders for Equity and Diversity Leadership Program (ULEAD), sits on the advisory board for the Special Education Leader Fellowship (SELF) and is on the Kingsley House Health Services Advisory Committee Dr. Jordan is also a member of Citywide Services and Resources Task Force for the unification of New Orleans Schools and serves on various committees and working groups in the city and at the state level, that focus on improving services for traditionally underserved populations.


Nishi Kumar

Legal Fellow, Promise of Justice Initiative

Louisiana_Nishi_Kumar_-_Nishi_Kumar.jpgNishi Kumar is currently a legal fellow at the Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, where she focuses on civil rights litigation on behalf of inmates at Angola. She received her J.D. from N.Y.U. Law School and her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Columbia University. During law school, Nishi was a Hays Civil Liberties Fellow and worked on LGBTQ youth issues at Lambda Legal and on the Raise the Age project at the Correctional Association. She served on the Executive Board of the Suspension Representation Project and was the Co-Chair of the South Asian Law Students Association. During her 1L summer, Nishi was an intern at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. She spent her 2L fall in Montgomery, Alabama working with Bryan Stevenson's organization - the Equal Justice Initiative - and her 2L summer in New Orleans working for the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights. After graduating from law school, she worked as a law clerk for federal judges on the Southern District of New York and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Nishi began her career as a middle school math teacher with Teach for America at New Orleans College Prep. She is passionate about education policy, youth justice, and reforming the criminal justice system.


James Logan

Reentry Program Manager, Mayor's Office, City of New Orleans

Louisiana_James_Logan_-_James_Logan.jpgJames Logan serves as the Reentry Services Program Manager for the City of New Orleans under the NOLA FOR LIFE Initiative. He is charged with designing and facilitating a strategic plan to improve the outcomes and opportunities for people transitioning out of incarceration through rapid attachment to work and linkages to wraparound services for non-employment needs. He is the also the author of the City of New Orleans’ Ban the Box policy, granting a fair chance at government employment to individuals with criminal histories.

Prior to his work with the Mayor’s Office, he was the Project Director for iMapVentures, a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth and their communities through youth development and resource mapping.

Prior to his work with iMapVentures, James worked as a Community Development attorney working primarily with low-income individuals and nonprofits. He has participated in the creation and maintenance of numerous nonprofits and community businesses. James has also devoted significant time to causes and campaigns for underrepresented people throughout New Orleans and New York City. He serves as the Secretary of the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans, is a Board Member of KID smART - New Orleans and previously served as the Vice-President of the Better Choice Foundation, dedicated to the governance of the Mary D. Coghill Charter School in New Orleans.

He is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland and Fordham Law School.


Robert McKnight

Staff Attorney, Orleans Public Defenders


Robert McKnight, a native New Orleanian, is a staff attorney at the Orleans Public Defenders office. Robert decided at age 8 that he wanted to be a lawyer and drew interest from Charles Hamilton Houston’s quote, “a lawyer is either a social engineer, or he’s a parasite on society.”

Prior to joining the Orleans Public Defenders, Robert held legal externships at the United State House of Representatives for a Louisiana Congressman, the Texas State Senate, the Louisiana State Senate and the Louisiana Attorney’s General’s office. Robert also clerked for an Orleans criminal district court judge.

Robert is a graduate of St. Augustine High School and a cum laude graduate of Southern University Law Center where he served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Race, Gender and Poverty.

While in law school, Robert served as a teaching assistant for Torts, Constitutional law and Criminal law, as well as earning CALI awards for the highest grades in Torts and Obligations. Robert is a member of the Louisiana Bar, the Louisiana State Bar Association, the Louis Martinet Society and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.


Caroline Meehan

Director of Government & Community Relations, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana

Louisiana_Caroline_Meehan_-_Caroline_Meehan.jpgCaroline Meehan is Director of Government & Community Relations at Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, headquartered in New Orleans, which reaches more than 50,000 vulnerable Louisianians each year through a network of programs and services. Caroline is responsible for advocating on behalf of these individuals to federal, state, and local elected officials and engaging other community leaders on issues of importance to Volunteers of America. Prior to assuming this role in September 2017, Caroline spent four years at Volunteers of America’s National Office in Alexandria, VA, working with Volunteers of America affiliates across the country to expand and innovate their services, with a particular emphasis on programs for military veterans and at-risk children and youth. In 2015 Caroline launched the National Veterans Resource Squad, a group of veterans who provide peer support and suicide prevention services across the country to their fellow veterans. Caroline also previously worked as Assistant Director of Development at N Street Village, a community of services for homeless women in Washington, DC, and at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, also in DC, where she managed the National Committee for the Performing Arts. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Notre Dame, where she completed an honors thesis studying the civil rights movement in her hometown of Shreveport. She also earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan with a concentration on domestic social policy. While at Michigan, she served as a graduate research assistant for the Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies and worked as a case manager for formerly homeless individuals living in supportive housing. A sixth-generation Louisianian, Caroline is pleased to be back in her home state after 16 years away. In her spare time, Caroline enjoys reading, listening to live music, exploring the fine food and drink of New Orleans, keeping up with her niece and nephews, and adventuring with her beloved Australian Shepherd, Tilly.


Sarah Omojola

Policy Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center

Louisiana_Sarah_Omojola_-_Sarah_Omojola.jpgSarah Omojola is the Policy Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Louisiana. Based in New Orleans, she conducts statewide and local policy advocacy regarding children's rights, criminal justice reform, immigration, economic justice and LGBT rights. After graduating from Louisiana State University, Sarah worked in the Recovery School District as a high school English teacher. She then attended Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and co-founded Stand Up For Each Other, an organization that provides advocacy services for K-12 students facing disciplinary action. After graduating from Loyola, Sarah lived in California where she worked on education equity and juvenile justice issues. She is glad to be back home in New Orleans working towards social and racial justice in Louisiana.


Neel Pandya

Reproductive Health Training Manager, Louisiana Department of Health Office of Public Health Bureau of Family Health

Louisiana_Neel_Pandya_-_Neel_Pandya.jpgNeel Pandya has been working in public health for 15 years, and has developed and implemented programming in the areas of tobacco control and prevention, intimate partner violence prevention, HIV/AIDS, adolescent sexual health, and family planning. Neel serves as the Reproductive Health Training Manager within the Bureau of Family Health at the Louisiana Department of Health. In this role, she is responsible for developing and implementing training activities for contracted healthcare providers across the state to provide sexual and reproductive services to all Louisianans. Neel believes in enhancing the skills and knowledge of health care providers so they may better meet the needs of their patients. Ultimately, she wants her work to empower individuals to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being, and have agency over their bodies. Prior to relocating to the Big Easy, Neel was living and working in the Big Apple. She worked at CAI, a non-profit capacity-building center, as a Project Director and Senior Trainer. Neel holds a Master’s degree in Social Work, with a certificate in International Health and Social Development, from the University of Michigan. When she is not working, you can find Neel shopping at Trader Joe’s, getting a stamp in her passport, or frolicking at a festival.


Vincenzo Pasquantonio

Benefits Planner- Community Work Incentives Coordinator, The Advocacy Center of Louisiana

Louisiana_Vincenzo_Pasquantonio_-_Vincenzo_Pasquantonio.jpgVincenzo is a certified benefits planner at the Advocacy Center of Louisiana’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program, a federally funded grant that helps people with disabilities navigate complex federal benefits, return to work, and improve their financial outcomes as fully integrated members of the community. Vincenzo also assisted with developing best practices for this program, which has since become a model for similar efforts in the rest of the country. In addition to his work at the Advocacy Center, Vincenzo has assisted with field organizing efforts for several local, state and national political campaigns as both a volunteer and as paid staff. He has hosted events, recruited and trained volunteers and assisted with voter identification and get out the vote efforts. Following Katrina and the 2005 flooding, Vincenzo served as the Legislative Liaison for Levees.Org, a flood protection advocacy group that seeks to improve the quality of federal infrastructure projects and restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. During his tenure as Board Secretary of the Louisiana Language Access Coalition, Vincenzo has focused on facilitating dialogue between Louisiana’s Spanish-speaking and French-speaking communities. He also currently serves on the Board for Forum for Equality- Louisiana, a statewide LGBT rights organization and C’est La Vote, a group that seeks to increase voter outreach and participation in Louisiana. He has an undergraduate degree from The George Washington University and a Master’s degree from Louisiana State University where he studied Louisiana politics, relationships between government policy and race relations, and the southern realignment. His passions include traveling, making music and martial arts.


Tiffany Tate-Logan

Attorney and Intake Specialist, Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC

Louisiana_Tiffany_Tate-Logan_-_Tiffany_Tate.jpgTiffany Michelle Tate serves as an Attorney Representative and Intake Specialist at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. She is charged with conducting initial consultations, submitting medical evidence to the court, brief writing, hearing preparation and advocacy for disabled clients throughout the Gulf Coast.

Prior to working at Ascend Disability, Tiffany founded Tate | Logan, PLLC, a Texas-based law firm specializing in criminal law, probate and personal injury.

Prior to incorporation, Tiffany served as a law clerk for a New Orleans-based employment law firm. She analyzed EEOC findings, conducted initial consultations, drafted pleadings, filed briefs, negotiated settlement, deposition scheduling and handled client contact. She was also solely responsible for legal research to assist with the lead attorney’s advocacy.

Tiffany graduated from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. At Loyola, she served as the 2008-2009 Association of Women Law Students student bar association representative, 2009-2010 president of the Black Law Student Association, 2009-2010 secretary of the Association of Women Law Students, 2009-2010 secretary of the International Law Society, and moot court staff member. In her final year, she served as 2010-2011 South Regional Black Law Student Association Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition Director, Inns of Court member, as the brief writer on the winning team at the 2010 Tulane Law School Moot Court Mardi Gras Invitational Sports Law Competition, and clinical practitioner in both criminal defense and tax.

At present, Tiffany serves as a Screener for the New Orleans Film Society and Praise Team Member for two music ministries: Irish Channel Christian Fellowship and Rhema Ministries.


Matthew Tuttle

5th Grade Teacher, Morris Jeff Community School


Matthew Tuttle is a fifth grade teacher at Morris Jeff Community School. He came to New Orleans after receiving his B.A. in Applied Behavioral Analysis and MSEd in Childhood, Early Childhood, and Special Education. While he originally planned on becoming a special education teacher, he was drawn to the general education classroom teacher to reach more students: His focus in the classroom is the inclusion of all students, and celebrating, rather than stigmatizing, their differences. A native of Long Island, Matthew came to Louisiana intending to stay for one semester of student teaching. At the end of that semester he signed on as the founding fifth grade teacher at Morris Jeff Community School. Matthew works to create a justice-based curriculum for his students, incorporating revisionist histories, current events, and environmental stewardship into his lessons.

He was a member of the New Teacher’s Roundtable collective, engaging with new and transplant educators in conversations about racial, cultural, and economic justice in New Orleans public schools. Wanting to advocate for his students and fellow teachers, Matthew joined the Morris Jeff United Educators (MJUE), an affiliate of the United Teachers of New Orleans, and the first charter school union in Louisiana and the first teachers union recognized in New Orleans after 2005. He was part of the bargaining team that negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement at Morris Jeff, codifying teacher voice and providing a pathway to job security. Matthew is now the President of MJUE and oversees contract implementation, representing his coworkers during disputes, and clarifying contract language. He sits on the executive council of the United Teachers of New Orleans as the representative from Morris Jeff, and also represents New Orleans in the American Federation of Teacher’s Charter Advisory Group. Matthew is also a part of the curriculum development team of the Ripple Effect, working to bridge the gap between environmental science, urban planning, design, and education, Matthew works with local water experts to create curriculum for schools in which students learn about New Orleans’s unique relationship with water and design solutions to the protect their home and their coastline.


Monica Vaughn-Flam

K-12 ESL Program Coordinator, KIPP New Orleans

Louisiana_Monica_Vaughn-Flam_-_Monica_VF.JPGMonica Vaughn-Flam is a K-12 English as a Second Language (ESL) Program Coordinator who excels in cultivating and maintaining positive and productive relationships with all educational constituencies including parents, students, administrators, and the community to allow an environment for students to gain English Proficiency. Monica believes in teaching English in a way that is meaningful and relevant, so that students embrace its importance and leverage their deep passion for learning a new language to influence the world around themselves. Monica recognizes that all stakeholders (students, parents, educators, community members, etc.) share the responsibility of ensuring that English Language Learners (ELL) to develop linguistic, cognitive, and academic skills to become competitive citizens of our society. Monica advocates for students who do not speak English as their first language to participate in academically challenging settings that respect and build upon the unique cultural and linguistic attributes they bring to the learning community. Monica has created the ESL Program for KIPP New Orleans where she has developed and implemented instructional and administrative policies. A constant advocate for students and families, Monica works tirelessly to ensure students have access to an excellent education. While working as the K-12 ESL Program Coordinator Monica also serves on the board for “Louisiana Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (LATESOL)” where she helps create resources for fellow ESL teachers. Monica recently presented at the Dream Day Conference this fall and at the Louisiana Teacher Summit in June for teachers on how to best support ELLs in the content classes. Monica is also a member of the international organization of TESOL where she has been trained on how to advocate for ELLs on the local, state, and federal level. In 2016-2017 Monica was a recipient of The Louisiana Educator Advocacy Development (LEAD) Fellowship where she was able to put into motion advocacy efforts through a structured program to help elevate participant voices as advocates for all students. As an educator Monica is comfortable with being flexible, trying new strategies, and passionate about innovating instructional decisions that will best support students.

Monica holds a B.A. in Psychology and Human Development from The University of Connecticut and a Master of Education from Johns Hopkins University.