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Meet the 2016 Maryland Fellows
Gabriel Acevero, Business Development Manager, M&M Development
Gabriel Acevero was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago and later moved to the United States to pursue a college education in Maryland. He attended Montgomery College, where he earned his Associate’s Degree in International Relations and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he was a student activist and co-founded the Political Science Student Association (which is still in existence today). He has worked on Democratic as well as issue campaigns as a political staffer and field coordinator, most notably Vincent Gray’s successful Mayoral bid in 2010. He currently works in Real Estate Development and is the Vice President of the African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County (AADCMC). Additionally, he’s a member of the Black Youth Project where he mentors young men of color. Gabriel is passionate about community service, advocating for civil and human rights, politics and environmental conservation. He is fluent in both English and French.
Folayemi Agbede, Business Development Coordinator, Chester Engineers
Folayemi Agbede (pronounced: Foh-la-yem-ee Ahg-bed-ay) is a business development professional, designer, researcher, and activist in Montgomery County, Maryland. She graduated with a BA in African American Studies from Northwestern University in 2009 which led her to demographic change research at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. Following her professional work on race, equity and public policy, Folayemi undertook her graduate studies at American University in economic policy and inclusion at the School of International Service. She has since gone on to work for the United Nations and Chester Engineers, the nation's largest African American-owned civil engineering firm, on economic development and market strategy, respectively. She is currently volunteering with the Capitol Innovation Lab to reduce incarceration in the District of Columbia; developing an intersectional lens that leverages tech, design thinking, research and community interventions to encourage freedom. She likes to spend weekends on civic tech projects that stoke her creativity, meditating and nurturing her mindfulness practice.
Sarah Elfreth, Government Affairs Director, National Aquarium
Sarah Elfreth currently serves as the Government Affairs Director at the National Aquarium where she advocates for conservation policy issues and capital funding at the local, state, and federal levels. Prior to joining staff at the National Aquarium, Sarah graduated with a Master's in Public Policy from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Towson University. Sarah spent two years working in the Government and Community Affairs office at Johns Hopkins and interned in Congressman Steny Hoyer’s Whip Office while in graduate school. While at Towson, Sarah was appointed by Governor O'Malley to serve as the student member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. In her free time, Sarah serves on the Board of the Towson University Alumni Association, the Board of her local residents association, and as President of the District 30 Democratic Club. She is also a graduate of inaugural class of Emerge Maryland, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of Democratic women elected to office. Sarah was recently named one of Maryland’s “20 in Their Twenties” by the Daily Record and received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Towson University Honors College.
Alex Garcia, Recruitment and Placement Specialist, Peace Corps
Alex Garcia was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended college at Creighton University, obtaining a B.A. in History with a focus on the Middle East/North Africa region. Inspired by the example of his grandfather, who served as Mayor of nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa, he was active in student Democrats in High School, and volunteered on several local and statewide campaigns. From 2007-2009 he served in the Peace Corps in the Eastern High Atlas mountains of Morocco as a Community Health Promotion Volunteer. His service included conducting dental hygiene education, leading numerous regional health seminars, facilitating a local school renovation project, assisting with a maternal and child health workshop, and helping to start an English language club in a nearby town.
He met his future wife in Peace Corps, and moved to Baltimore upon completing his service, where he began working for one of the larger faith-based AmeriCorps programs, Notre Dame Mission Volunteers. As their Baltimore Site Director, he was responsible for recruiting volunteers, conducting their initial and ongoing training, volunteer support, and building relationships with Partnering Sites. He has also recently served a term on the Maryland Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism, to which he was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, and in this role, he promoted and supported service opportunities for Marylanders while acting as a spokesman for volunteerism in the state. For the last year of his term, he served as the Commission's Chairman. Most recently, Alex has joined the Latino Leadership Council for the Maryland Democratic Party, where he has helped to engage and mobilize Latino progressives in Baltimore City.He is currently a part-time student at Loyola University of Maryland, where he's working on a Masters in Spiritual and Pastoral Care, and has recently begun a new job as a Recruitment and Placement Specialist for the Peace Corps.
Kory Gedin, Process Manager, Capital One
Kory Gedin is a thoughtful and engaging leader, who has spent his career cultivating and leading highly successful teams. During the past 6 years Kory has worked in Financial Services Industry working within multiple business areas (retail banking sales, business operational management, and corporate compliance). Currently Kory serves as a Process Manager at Capital One in its Anti-Money Laundering group. In this capacity Kory works to bring alignment across horizontal groups within AML and build out and enhance key processes that impact AML and the front-line business units within the bank. While in his current role Kory does not get the opportunity to interact with customers, he has a strong interest in financial literacy amongst young adults and actively volunteers with Junior Achievement in the Greater Washington, D.C. Area. Kory obtained his secondary education from Gonzaga College High School in D.C., and received his Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and a Master of Business Administration in Management from Wagner College in New York City. While in school Kory was actively engaged in mentorship programs of inner city youth and also in linguistic studies and the politics of language change. Also during his time at Penn and Wagner he was a letter-winner playing intercollegiate football.Kory is currently a proud resident of Baltimore City, and hails from Washington, D.C. Kory has become actively engaged member in his community working with multiple community organizations on activities such as community planning and economic development. Kory serves as Board Member for the Midtown Community Benefits District and looks to get more involved in the community. Growing up from a humble background, and personally experiencing the importance and effects of opportunities and the lack thereof in underserved communities he has developed a strong interest in ensuring that their is access to the key indicators leading to economic empowerment for all residents.Kory is a Washington Sports fan, and in his spare time enjoys traveling, learning random facts, and spending time with his wife and family.
Alexandra Gilbreath, Deputy Chief of Staff, Maryland General Assembly
Allie Gilbreath is a native Marylander and Annapolitan. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008 with a degree in Political Science. Allie most recently served as Campaign Manager for Speaker Mike Busch. Her involvement in State politics began in 2009 when she worked as a Legislative Aide for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). After the 2010 legislative session, Allie moved to the position of Political Action and Legislative Advocacy Coordinator for AFSCME International where she worked on campaigns in Arkansas before returning to Maryland and serving as Field Organizer for all of Prince George’s County and parts of Baltimore City during the 2010 election cycle. On the weekends, she volunteered for local campaigns including State Senator George Della, Delegate(s) Veronica Turner and Kris Valderrama, Senator Jim Mathias, Delegate Norm Conway, and the District 30 Team (Astle, Busch, Clagget, and Legum). After the close of the 2010 cycle, Allie then worked on campaigns in Wisconsin for the Recall Elections before returning to Maryland to join the lobbying firm Capitol Strategies. She currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Delegate Pete Hammen, Chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, and the Deputy Director of the House Democratic Caucus.
Marlin Jenkins, Labor Relations Specialist, American Federation of Government Employees
Marlin J. Jenkins, is a Major in the Army, lawyer and community activist committed to being an inclusive voice of the underrepresented populace. Marlin was born and raised in Vidalia, LA. He graduated Cum Laude in Political Science from Southern University A&M College - Baton Rouge, LA. While at Southern University, he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc. Marlin also graduated Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University School of Law (NCCU). While at NCCU, Marlin demonstrated his commitment to the community by participating in the Low Income Tax Payer Clinic, Small Business Development Clinic, and Veterans Law Clinic. Marlin is licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland. Marlin is also a 16 year veteran of the Army National Guard, having served in Louisiana, North Carolina, and now Maryland. Marlin is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and earned a Bronze Star Medal for his command of a Forward Support Company in Balad, Iraq in 2008 - 2009. He served in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita relief duty in Louisiana. He has served on humanitarian missions in Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize building schools and assisted in strengthening these countries infrastructure. He is currently a Major, serving as the Deputy J-4, on the Maryland National Guard, Joint Staff. In this role, he is tasked to provide logistics support to requests for assistance during domestic incidents to include terrorist threats or attacks, major disasters, civil disturbances, and other emergencies. As a dedicated member of the American labor movement he currently works as a Labor Relations Specialist with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). In this role, he acts a chief negotiator conducting collective bargaining for Union employees throughout the country. Additionally, he acts a strategic planner and trainer assisting the National Councils in developing membership; obtaining legislative and political objectives; and issue organizing. He was previously employed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).Marlin is also an elected member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee representing Legislative District 20 in Montgomery County, MD. In this role, he is responsible for engaging and mobilizing voters to build the Democratic base and elect Democrats to local, state, and federal office. Additionally, he serves as the Membership Director for the African-American Democratic Club of Montgomery County (AADCMC). In his role, he is responsible for recruiting registered Democrats to join AADCMC and contribute to the enhancement of community engagement through the political process.Marlin and his wife, Keisha live in Downtown Silver Spring, MD. Keisha is a Maryland licensed attorney specializing in Trademarks. They enjoy adult co-ed sport leagues and volunteering in the community.
Larissa Johnson, Coordinator Climate Change Outreach and Communication,
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
For the last ten years, Larissa has dedicated her life to working with and for communities; helping people create sustainable, walk-able, bike-able, healthy neighborhoods that cultivate hale and hearty children and invigorate the communities’ livelihood. Prior to receiving her MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs she worked predominately in the field of nutrition, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention and what she gleaned through her work is that the environment is at the center of literally everything we do in life. Without clean air to breathe – how do we stay healthy and combat preventative illnesses? Without clean water – how do we grow nutritious, locally produced food? And without green spaces – how do we learn to play and enjoy the outdoors again the way it was intended?
She is a huge proponent of working smarter, not harder and the only way to accomplish big things with limited funds and limited time is through partnerships. As a leader with New Leaders Council, she hopes to cultivate meaningful relationships that will benefit Marylanders from the mountains to the coast and across political and socioeconomic subgroups.
Keith Nolan, Faculty, Maryland School for the Deaf
Keith R. Nolan has long wanted to serve our country in the US armed forces, following the example of his grandfather and great uncles who fought in World War II. From 2010 to 2011, he participated in the Army ROTC program at California State University, Northridge where he was able to complete the first two levels of the program and be recognized in the top 20% of his class. He however could not advance to the next level because of his deafness and the Army’s current policy on hearing losses. His cadre nevertheless encouraged him not to give up and to go to Congress. After countless of meetings and emails, two identical Congressional bills were introduced last year, S. 1864 and H.R. 5296, which proposes to have a demonstration program for deaf and hard of hearing Americans to receive training to become officers in the Air Force. Furthermore, a report language for a feasibility study on a disability pilot program was inserted in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which was just signed into law this year. Keith is tremendously honored to be part of the inaugural Maryland class for New Leaders Council as he continues to push for the demonstration program. He believes that the accession into the military services of deaf and hard of hearing members can help the military save on force attrition, retention, and replacement and ultimately advance the rights of all Americans with disabilities.
Dan Reiner is a proud 29-year old father of two, with a deep commitment to education and economic justice. His professional experience has focused on teaching or supporting teachers, and he's an avid reader. His strengths lie in communications and strategic planning honed through his many successful professional projects.
Gwendolyn Rogers, Secretary, Allen & Overly, LLP
Gwendolyn C. "Gwen" Rogers is a native of the Washington, DC area. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, GA where she received her bachelor's of arts degree in history and was inducted into Phi Alpha Theta honor society. It was while matriculating at Spelman that she became impassioned on social and political issues. She volunteered for a number of causes on campus, including "Protest the Katrina Vote", in conjunction with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, as a student volunteer coordinator. In 2011, she helped organize "The State of Young Gay America", a panel discussion and event to bring awareness to the disparities facing young LGBTQ youth of color. In 2015 she was named as one of NBJC's 100 to Watch Emerging Leaders. A member of the African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County, Gwen was also recently elected to the executive board of the Montgomery County Young Democrats. She currently works as a legal assistant and resides in Silver Spring, MD.
Ousseynou Sonko, Budget Analyst
Ousseynou Sonko is a New Leaders Council Fellow. A naturalized U.S. citizen with a rich international background, Ousseynou is also a veteran of U.S. Army, a member of the Maryland Air National Guard and a Budget Analyst in the U.S. Federal Government.
Ousseynou was born and grew up in Dakar, Senegal. He migrated to the U.S., under the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. Ousseynou has devoted most of his adult life to public service. In 2002, Ousseynou enlisted in the U.S. Army as an active duty Combat Medic. He completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He then trained in combat medical skills at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, graduating second in a class of 182 soldiers and receiving the Honor Graduate distinction. Subsequently, while stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado, Ousseynou served two tours of duty in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division and the 10th Combat Support Hospital. For his actions in combat, Ousseynou was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, two Army Commendation Medals, two Expeditionary medals and the Army Combat Medical Badge. Ousseynou completed his Army active duty enlistment contract in 2006 with an Honorable Discharge.
After his time in the Army, Ousseynou moved to Maryland to attend the University of Maryland - College Park and enlisted in the Maryland Air National Guard. As a National Guardsman, Ousseynou has served the “Old Line State” with distinction. Ousseynou was nominated the Maryland Air National Guard 2012 Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year. He continues to serve in the Military. In his civilian career, Ousseynou joined the U.S. Federal Government in 2015.
Ousseynou is an alumnus of Georgetown University where he received a Master of Science in Foreign Service from the Walsh School of Foreign Service (2014) and a Master of Public Policy from the McCourt School of Public Policy (2014). Ousseynou was presented the School of Foreign Service Dean’s Citation for Service in 2014. Ousseynou received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Maryland - College Park (2010). Ousseynou speaks Wolof, French and English with a native or bilingual proficiency. He also speaks Portuguese and Spanish with a limited working proficiency. Ousseynou’s hobbies include playing soccer and rugby and spending time with his friends and family.
Ryan Trout, Public Information Officer/Legislative Liaison, City of Baltimore
Ryan Trout is the Legislative Liaison and Public Information Officer for the Department of General Services in the City of Baltimore. He is a seventh generation Frederick County resident who worked his way through college in his family’s restaurant, doing everything from washing dishes and cooking to managing and representing the business in the community. After college he participated in Global Youth Connect’s Human Rights Delegation to Rwanda where he learned about the atrocities from Rwandan students and promoted peace and reconciliation through sport and art at Amahoro Great Lakes. He then returned home to serve a year in AmeriCorps at a mediation center in Washington County. In 2010 Ryan ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. He was then hired in the office of Maryland State Senator Ron Young serving as the Chief of Staff. During this time Ryan was welcomed onto the United Way of Frederick County Board of Directors and the Frederick County Affordable Housing Council. In these roles, Ryan became increasingly passionate about economic issues facing working families.
In pursuit of his desire to create lasting community change Ryan began working for the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick. As the Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator, Ryan helped families develop long term education, career, and financial goals. While at the Housing Authority, Ryan also developed programming that he believes will alter the landscape of poverty in Frederick. One project is the Nutritious Foods Initiative. This is a three-pronged approach to providing access to healthy food options that includes a community garden, nutrition and cooking classes, and grocery delivery to a low-income neighborhood. Another provides a healthy living environment for low-income residents by disallowing smoking in public housing. For this initiative, Ryan was invited to speak on a Housing and Urban Development regional panel about smoke-free policies and to a White House Convening on the proposed HUD smoke-free rule. Ryan also championed an educational and employment program called Success, Opportunities, Advancement, and Readiness (SOAR) in Employment. He conceived of the program and brought multiple local actors together to serve low-income residents of public housing. Frederick Community College, Workforce Services, the Building Industry Association, and the United Way all joined the Housing Authority in this effort. The program resulted in a near 70% success rate, more than double the state average for similar programs serving comparable demographics. Additionally, Ryan was integral in the formation of a partnership between the Housing Authority and the United Way of Frederick County. This partnership created a Prosperity Center at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center. Ryan believes the Prosperity Center will become a beacon of economic justice for working, low and moderate income families. It will engage the community by providing financial literacy, credit counseling, home ownership education, retirement and college planning, as well as computer and career training.
Through these and his future endeavors, Ryan plans to continue working towards making Frederick a city where families and individuals of all economic backgrounds can reach their fullest potential.
Ryan is a Leadership Frederick County graduate. He has been selected as a fellow in the inaugural class of the Maryland chapter of the New Leaders Council and to serve on the Stronger Neighborhoods Results Team, charged with setting priorities as a part of the Baltimore City budgeting process. He lives in New Market with his wife and son.
Adam Umak, English/Language Arts Teacher, Frederick County Public Schools
Adam Umak is an English/Language Arts teacher living and working in Frederick County Maryland. He is a committed teacher leader, public education advocate, and active member of the school community. As an experienced educator, Adam enjoys working with students to achieve their individual reading, writing, and academic goals. His focus includes instruction, curriculum development, classroom management, and community outreach. Adam serves on the Board of Directors for Frederick County Teachers Association and is an active member in Maryland State Education Association.
Outside of the classroom, Adam works as a teacher consultant and freelance writer. He is the author of Folks - Book One: History Repeats Itself (2012), Tax Returns (2013), and Positive Disintegration (2016). Creating quality young-adult fiction with an independent spirit and voice is his passion.
Adam serves as a Board Member of Rochdale Initiatives, an organization that seeks to impact areas including the environment, agriculture, education, and arts/entertainment while promoting quality economic growth in Frederick County. This approach is guided by a deep commitment to a future based on sustainability, local resilience, wise resource stewardship, community engagement, and shared prosperity.
A native of Pennsylvania, Adam is a graduate of Shippensburg University. He lives in Thurmont, Maryland with his wife. In his free time, Adam is an avid comic book reader, a podcast enthusiast, and community volunteer.