New York City 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 New York City Fellows

Ryan Adams, Growth Consultant & Founder, HZQ Consulting


Ryan Adams' passion is bringing communities together. The proud graduate of Fordham University and Harvard Divinity School believes that with the right technology, communities can organize themselves to go beyond routine charity. By utilizing people and passions to tackle the problems of social and economic injustice, communities can truly affect change. Currently, Ryan provides technological, marketing, and development strategy at HZQ Consulting. He acts as “Chief Technology Officer (CTO)” for small businesses, startups, and non-profits: building websites, advising on which tools allow for best practices to reach an audience, as well as just keeping the servers running. Ryan Adams focuses on how he can assist an organization in its efforts to ‘grow mighty.’ Recently, Ryan co-founded The New York State Education Initiative (NYSEI) which raises funds for innovative local programs focused on connective issues in education. These programs seek to prove their effectiveness with their NYSEI grant and scale up to a city or state level, through public and private sector partners. He was also named the Associate Director of The Florence Belsky Foundation, which fosters inter-generational mentoring through intentional networking, both online and in-person. While at Fordham, Ryan founded the Bronx's Theatrical Outreach Program (TOP). TOP abridges classic works of literature and performs them for schools and community centers in the Bronx. The performances are followed with workshops where the students get to be a part of the play they just saw, while continually building relationships with college-age mentors. The program has brought arts to the masses for over 7 years. Ryan is actively involved with the Citizens Committee of New York City, the Futures and Options mentoring program, and the New Shul synagogue. He is excited to learn and grow with the other incredible fellows of the New Leaders Council.


Jarret Berg, Incoming Executive Director, New York Democratic Lawyers Council


Jarret Berg is a New York attorney with a passion for protecting and advancing civil and political rights. He has worked in Democratic politics for several election cycles as a legal consultant, voter protection attorney, and constituency organizer. In 2016, Berg will begin his tenure as the executive director of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a political organization of legal professionals dedicated to protecting and advancing the right to vote through election monitoring, policy advocacy, and education. During the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions, Berg served as legislative counsel to a member of the New York State Assembly representing New York City. In this capacity, Berg drafted legislation, memoranda, and public letters relating to a wide range of policy areas, helped to build progressive coalitions, and worked with stakeholders to advance bills through a divided legislature. In 2013, Berg served as a judicial fellow to a New York Appellate Division Judge before directing the 2013 Democratic voter protection operation in New York City. During the 2012 election cycle, Berg helped re-elect the President, serving under OFA’s National Jewish Outreach Director. There, he developed messaging and outreach materials, and trained and mobilized hundreds of supporters and volunteers around issues of concern to the American Jewish community. In addition, Berg trained dozens of voter protection attorneys who were deployed as election monitors on Election Day. Berg closely follows developments in U.S. foreign policy, international law, and human rights. Prior to returning to his New York roots in 2011, Berg studied international law in the UK and worked in The Hague, where he clerked for the Chambers of the International Criminal Court, assisting with Darfur, Kenya, and Congo. His 2010 article on high seas Somali-piracy suppression was published in the New England Law Review, where he also served as an executive editor. Berg holds an LL.M. from the University of Cambridge, a J.D. with high honors from New England Law | Boston, and a B.A. in Political Science from Boston University, where he worked as a staff writer for the Daily Free Press.


Hernan Carvente, Program Analyst, Vera Institute of Justice


Hernan Carvente is a Program Analyst for the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, where he works on program development, improving conditions of confinement, and incorporating youth and family partnerships in facility-based and statewide juvenile justice policy reform. Mr. Carvente has conducted trainings with diverse stakeholders such as policymakers, researchers, students, and professionals in probation, child welfare, juvenile justice and corrections.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Mr. Carvente to the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (NYS JJAG) and the Citizens Policy and Complain Review Council (CPCRC). As a JJAG member, Mr. Carvente collaborates with system stakeholders to develop and implement New York State’s federal juvenile justice plan as well as manage funds from the federal government. As a CPCRC member, he ensures that local correctional facilities are acting in accordance with correctional standards and treating individuals fairly. Mr. Carvente also currently serves as the Acting Youth Chair for the Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s (CJJ) National Youth Committee, as well as a member on advisory boards with the National Academies of Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  His passion for criminal justice system reform stems from his own personal experience in the juvenile justice system.
Mr. Carvente was awarded the “Next Generation Champion for Change Award” by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the “Spirit of Youth Award” by CJJ and. He graduated from the CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a degree in criminal justice and is a first-generation Mexican American, who was the first male in his family to graduate from college.


Juliette Cho, Major Gifts Officer, U.S. Fund for UNICEF


Juliette Hye-Young Cho is a Major Gifts Officer for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, following a career in non- profit consulting, management and development. In her current capacity, Juliette is responsible for stewarding individual donors in the New York region to make major investments in UNICEF programs around the world. During her tenure she has secured funding for projects in Chad, South Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal and Syria and has secured leadership funding for UNICEF programs that provide support to children in emergency situations through the arts, education and sports. Juliette previously served as the first Major Gifts Officer at Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic (a chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation) where she launched the chapter’s first major gifts campaign. She also founded the Chapter’s Young Professionals Council and Women’s Leadership Council. Prior to that, she was an Account Manager at Odell, Simms & Lynch where she managed multimillion dollar capital campaigns for international projects including the Korean War National Museum, Library and Cultural Center and worked on campaigns including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Campaign and the National Museum of the United States Army. During her career, she has also worked for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in both New York City and Washington, D.C. and the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. Cumulatively, she has raised nearly $10 million for the organizations that she has worked for and the missions that she has been honored to serve. Juliette currently lives in New York City and is involved with the New York Public Library and the the Brooklyn Public Library. She is also an active alumni member of her national multicultural sorority, Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc., the UVA Club of New York, and the Korean American League for Civic Action (KALCA). Juliette holds a B.A. degree in foreign affairs and gender studies from the University of Virginia and has completed programs at the Lily Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and Yonsei University in South Korea.


Quintin Haynes, Director of Human Resources and Diversity/EEO Officer,
Office of the Mayor of the City of New York


Quintin has a public service career that spans over several years. He served as trusted adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Prior to that appointment, Quintin managed the daily operations of the White House's fiscal year appropriation, as well as had direct oversight of the political billing, procurement and contract, travel financial management, and goods and services portfolios. Quintin is currently a Master’s in Public Administration candidate at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. Quintin’s interests are at the intersection of public and nonprofit management, with a focus on organizational development. Quintin is the Founder and Chairman of the White House Internship Alumni Network. He also is the Director of Human Resources and Diversity/EEO Officer at the NYC Mayor’s Office.


Talib Hudson, Deputy Director of the Community Partnerships Unit, Manhattan District Attorney's Office


Talib Hudson is the Deputy Director of the Community Partnerships Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. His role is to help lead a team charged with building community partnerships to prevent crime and enhance public safety. Talib joined the Office in 2013 as a Reentry Coordinator, focusing on improving the reentry process for people returning from prison to Manhattan, as well as reducing gun violence.

Previously, Talib worked on community-based anti-violence initiatives with Street Corner Resources. Prior to that, he served as the Legislative Affairs Associate for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), focusing on federal economic development policy. 

As a Harlem native, Talib is deeply passionate about the vitality of urban communities of color.  He is particularly interested in comprehensive strategies that include multiple factors such as economic development, education, housing, and social & criminal justice.

Talib earned a Master of Science degree in Urban Policy Analysis and Management at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy; part of The New School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies with a minor in Africana Studies from The George Washington University.  He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.


Karume James, Lead Community Organizer and Attorney, Bronx Defenders


Karume James is currently the Lead Community Organizer for Bronx Defenders. Karume directs the organizing and outreach strategy to recruit Bronx Defenders' clients, and Bronx community members into advocacy campaigns and build local grassroots leadership to achieve transformative change in the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Karume has also worked as an attorney at Bronx Defenders in the Criminal Defense Practice, representing hundreds of clients in misdemeanor criminal cases. Karume received his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 2014, where he was an Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellow, Associate Research Editor for the Brooklyn Law School Journal of Law & Policy, a member of the Brooklyn Law School Moot Court Honor Society, Trial Division, and a recipient of the Regina Crea Memorial Prize at graduation for the most devoted and disinterested service during law school. While in law school, Karume was the Co-Chair of the National Lawyers Guild-Brooklyn Law School Chapter, Vice President of Alumni Relations for the Black Law Students Association, and Co-Chair of Community Development for Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest. Prior to law school, Karume worked as a grassroots organizer, first representing nearly 1,000 unionized healthcare workers at UCLA Hospital, and later as a community organizer in South Central Los Angeles, where he led a neighborhood transformation campaign to increase youth recreational programming, build grassroots resident leadership, and reduce rates of crime and violence. Karume holds a B.A. in African American Studies with a concentration in Psychology from UCLA.


Erin Kennedy-Rogers, District Director, New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic


Erin Kennedy-Rogers was born in Philadelphia, PA, raised in rural Maryland and is now proud to call New York City home.  She is currently the District Director for Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of the 25th NYS Assembly District in Queens.  Previously, Erin was the Campaign Manager for Elizabeth Redenbaugh's State Senate race in North Carolina's 9th Senate District.  Outside of her work, she is a staunch advocate and volunteer for issues such as gender equality, homelessness/hunger relief and veterans and military issues.  Erin attended St. John's University in Queens, NY where she received a degree in Government and Politics and English.




Takako Kono, Associate Director, Master of Social Work Program at New York University


Takako Kono is the Associate Director of New York University’s (NYU) Master of Social Work Program. In her role, she oversees advisement and academic operations for a program committed to advancing social and economic justice in complex urban environments. Prior to joining NYU, Takako worked in the non-profit sector through Success Academy Charter Schools and the early childhood education organization, Jumpstart. She also held research assistantships at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She has worked on National Institute of Mental Health funded research on mental illness stigma and discrimination in interpersonal processes. As a first-generation college student, she is deeply committed to public service. Since 2013, she has served as a Mentor Coach with America Needs You, a non-profit that provides intensive mentorship and career development to low-income college students. She is currently Vice President and Nominating Chair of the Board of Directors for St. HOPE Leadership Academy, a Harlem middle school. In her local community, she is engaged in civic leadership as a Participatory Budget Delegate for City Council District 35 and through Committee positions on Brooklyn's Community Board 8. She is also a proud AmeriCorps alumnus. Takako completed a BA/MPA dual degree program, earning her undergraduate degree in Urban Studies from Barnard College and graduate degree in Urban and Social Policy from SIPA. At SIPA, she was a Fellow of the DACOR Bacon House Foundation.


Ousman Laast, Special Assistant for Community Affairs, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand


Ousman Laast is a native New Yorker born in the Bronx, NY. He currently serves as the Special Assistant for Community Affairs to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. His management of multiple policy areas includes Healthcare, Senior, LGBT and Disability issues. Ousman’s experience in public service was been honed through campaign experience in the Chicago area and time spent on Capitol Hill and in congressional district offices. Ousman’s commitment to public service developed from experiences in the Bronx, attending boarding school and significant time spent abroad in Tunisia and Egypt. Unique opportunities particularly as a State Department Critical Language Fellow in Tunisia provided invaluable cultural knowledge and perspective. Today, Ousman’s engagement in the community as a Board Member with the New York Urban League Young Professionals, particularly serving as Chair of the Civics and Economics Committee blends his passions for public service, civic engagement and individual empowerment. He is a graduate of Seton Hall University holding a B.S. in Diplomacy and International Relations.


Sabrina Lakhani, Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene


Sabrina Lakhani is the Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner in the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). In this role, she works closely with the Deputy Commissioner to promote the overall mission of the office to prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies. She also works on several special projects and initiatives, involving both health equity and risk communication from an emergency management perspective. Previous to this role, Sabrina worked at the Children's Aid Society, managing non-profit programs aimed at advancing financial empowerment within underserved communities in NYC. She has also worked in Government Affairs in Washington, DC where she assisted in lobbying efforts on behalf of the retirement industry. As an immigrant brought to the US at a young age from the Middle East, she hopes to advance a positive image for Muslim Americans living in the United States. Her passions include addressing racial and gender inequities, immigration reform, and economic policy. During her undergraduate degree, she was a Women’s Campaign fellow, working to elect pro-choice women to political office. She currently serves as an Ambassador for NYC Women in Network (WIN). She holds her Masters of Science in Public Policy and Administration from the London School of Economics and her BA in both Political Science and Women's Studies from the University of Florida. In her spare time, she loves traveling and exploring different cultures.


Dan MacCombie, Co-Founder, Runa & Consultant + Advisor

nyc-MacCombie.jpgDan MacCombie lives for his passion of reconnecting humans, ecosystems, communities, and has been working to enact his visions for this for over a decade. This started with Runa, a conservation, development, and social enterprise as well as an increasingly significant beverage brand founded by Dan and his business partner right out of college in 2008. Runa is the world’s first and foremost supplier of guayusa, an Amazonian super-leaf with millennia of history in Kichwa communities that is made as a tea-like drink. They created a system that has planted hundreds of thousands of guayusa trees in sustainable forest gardens, supports 3,000 farmers in 80 communities by multiplying their incomes, processes and exports over 20,000 (and growing) tons of guayusa per month, and is creating a new model for sustainable economic development in the Amazon. Runa is now sold in 8,000 stores, and has created a full operation in Ecuador, including a large guayusa processing facility, all the flows and processes to support it, the Runa Foundation, and a number of other initiatives. Over the course of Runa’s growth, Dan was Co-CEO and led the company’s finances, operations, sales, and numerous other aspects as the company grew. Dan has recently transitioned to a role as an advisor, board member, and shareholder for Runa, while he refocuses his work on reconnecting people, livelihoods, ecosystems, and communities. He in particular is building an integrated urban farming project in Africa, and developing a community-focused retreat and living center in the Hudson Valley. When he’s not focused on that work, Dan is an avid adventurer as well as photographer, woodworker, guitarist, and sportsman, and feels lucky to be able to integrate all of those things into his work and a balanced life.


Karla Magaña Figueroa, Senior Consultant, Ernst and Young LLP


Karla Figueroa is a Senior Consultant in Ernst and Young’s (EY's) Advisory division. Prior to joining EY, Karla was a Strategy and Analytics Consultant for IBM Global Business Services. Karla’s experiences include the delivery of a securities-based lending product in the wealth management division of a financial services corporation and a front-to-back assessment of the investment banking division of a financial services holding company. Karla provides strategy, technology, and operations recommendations to address business priorities across organizations. Her skills include project management, business analysis, and process improvement. Outside of EY, Karla continues to advance her work in economic empowerment and educational opportunity. At Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), an organization dedicated to assisting students from underserved backgrounds reach their academic and career potential, she founded the Scholars Mentor Council and currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Junior Leadership Board and an SEO Scholars, SEO-U, and SEO Career mentor. Additionally, Karla is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees at the Bronx Lighthouse Charter School, where she provides strategic oversight to ensure the success of the school. Karla is a 2016 Management Leaders for Tomorrow (MLT), Forté Foundation Launch, and New Leaders Council Fellow. Karla attended Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and graduated magna cum laude in 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations and Economics and a minor in Chinese. In her free time, Karla likes to participate in running series, try her hand at her mother’s unequaled Mexican recipes, and read long journalism pieces.


Paola Martinez, Office Manager & Scheduler, New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams

nyc-Martinez.jpgPaola currently serves as the Scheduler and Office Manager for Council Member Williams.  A former community organizer with the New York Civic Participation Project (NYCPP), Paola’s interest in education policy, immigration and labor rights allowed her to lead city wide campaigns to demand public funding for schools at risk of closure in New York City, particularly in Washington Heights and the South Bronx. Paola is an experienced coalition builder. She has worked at the national level with organizations such as the National Disability Network (NDRN), the UCLA Labor Center and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) developing advocacy campaigns on issues of access to quality education, voter ID laws and labor rights. She has been featured in articles in the Daily News and the Huffington Post for her advocacy work to gain access to quality education for students in the U.S. and abroad. In 2013 she was nominated “A Rising Star” by National Roosevelt Institute and received the President’s Founder Award from her chapter at The City College of New York (CCNY). From 2012 to 2014 she was a fellow at Colin Powell Center for Leadership and Public Center at CCNY and graduated cum laude with a major in political Science and public policy in 2014.  An avid language learner, she is proficient in Spanish, French, Italian, and is currently learning Chinese-Mandarin.  


Amanda Matos, Founder and Director, The WomanHOOD Project


Amanda R. Matos, lifelong resident of the Bronx, New York, has devoted her work to alleviating barriers to reproductive health care and education in communities of color through capacity building, political education, and lobbying at the local, state, and federal level. She is the Founder and Executive Director of The WomanHOOD Project (Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination), which is an innovative after school mentorship program for young women of color in the Bronx. Amanda also works in the reproductive rights field, supporting Planned Parenthood of New York City expand its community organizing efforts across the city through an intersectional and multi-issue lens. Amanda serves as Co-Chair of the Young Women’s Advisory Council and Steering Committee Member for the Young Women’s Initiative, launched by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as a multi-sector approach to addressing the barriers young women and girls of color face locally. Her dedication to racial and gender justice has been recognized by the United Nations Peace Day, the national Peace First Prize, Young People For- a program of People for the American Way, and Columbia University. Amanda is a graduate of Columbia University, where she studied Ethnic Studies and Human Rights, focusing on the intersections between sexism and racism in the United States.


Kate McDonough, Director of Organizing, Girls for Gender Equity 

nyc-McDonough.jpgKate McDonough is the Director of Organizing at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an intergenerational organization committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women. In this capacity, Kate oversees GGE’s major advocacy campaigns and policy initiatives, which center the intersections of gender, race, class and sexual orientation.   Previously, Kate was Lead Organizer at the Empire State Pride Agenda, where they led the successful marriage campaign in New York State and coordinated faith-based organizing for LGBTIQ equality and justice, in particular working with faith-based communities to become trans-affirming. Kate grew up in the Bronx and also has experience in electoral campaign management on the city, state and federal level.  Kate is also a performing artist and filmmaker. They achieved a BA from Emerson College with a double major of Political Communications and Filmmaking. 


Jerelyn Rodriguez, Co-Founder and CEO, The Knowledge House

nyc-Rodriguez.jpgJerelyn Rodriguez is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Knowledge House. Previously, she coordinated STEM after-school programming at Beyond Z and was the Bronx Field Director for Reshma Saujani's 2013 campaign for New York City Public Advocate. In 2011, Jerelyn joined Students for Education Reform (SFER) as the National Program Director, organizing and coaching college students in 35 states to advocate for education reform. Prior to SFER, Jerelyn worked in the public school system, teaching and designing student programs. Jerelyn has recently spoken on panels at SXSWedu, the New York City Social Innovation Festival and NASA’s SpaceApps Challenge. She is on the leadership council for South Bronx Rising Together, a founding Datanaut at NASA, a fellow at Camelback Ventures, and the Entrepreneur in Residence at the BXL: Bronx Business Incubator. Jerelyn has a degree in film studies from Columbia University.


Varun Sanyal, Project Manager, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce


Varun joined the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in August 2015 as the Project Manager, Economic Development. He is responsible for the industrial and manufacturing efforts, including the management of the Brooklyn-Made certification program. Varun’s portfolio also includes real estate development, policy advocacy, Brooklyn Goes Global exporting assistance, and the WIN for Manufacturers workforce development initiative. Varun has also worked at the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation as the Project Manager, where he was responsible for the planning, coordination, management, and implementation of real estate planning and development programs across the borough. He also served as the main liaison to elected officials, public authorities, and government agencies. Before joining the SIEDC, Varun worked at the New York City Council as the Legislative and Land Use Analyst for the Assistant Deputy Majority Leader (2011-2013). He also served as National Governor of Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity, Inc. and was recognized by the SIEDC as a Top 20 under 40 Rising Star in 2013. Varun has also served on the Board of Directors of Neighborhood Housing Services of Staten Island, New Partners for Community Revitalization, and the Alice Austen House. He is also on the Young Leadership Board of America Needs You- New York Chapter. Varun is currently earning a Masters of Urban Planning at New York University Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service with a specialization in Economic Development and Housing. He earned a B.A. in Urban Studies and Geography at Temple University and graduated as part of the Temple University Honors Program. Varun is a native New Yorker and is a product of Staten Island public schools.


Sandra Shelly, Political Consultant

nyc-Shelly.jpgSandra has dedicated her career to working in progressive politics. She decided to pursue a career in public service after working abroad in Nairobi, Kenya where she assisted caretakers in Nairobi Orphanages, then later on while interning at the White House for President Obama, where her passion for progressive politics was forged. Since then, she has lived in over 6 states working for various progressive Candidates and issues, most notably, President Obama's reelection campaign in Ohio, Cory Booker's Senate Campaign, and for Planned Parenthood Federation of America in Texas where she managed the Affordable Care Act Outreach campaign in Dallas/FortWorth, followed by managing the Field Strategy in Austin for then Senator Wendy Davis and the 2014 Health Center Shutdowns after the passing of the legislative ban restricting access to Women's healthcare across the State. She recently returned to New York to work on Mayor De Blasio's Veteran's anti-displacement initiative. She is a native New Yorker, and a graduate of Baruch College.  


Girmay Zahilay, Associate, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP


Girmay Zahilay is an attorney in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, an international corporate law firm, where he practices in the Mergers and Acquisitions and Investment Management groups. Before corporate law, Girmay was a legal extern in the White House, where he assisted President Obama’s legal team by conducting research and writing memos on various legal issues ranging from policy implementation to federal ethics laws. Girmay also participated in the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship through the Congressional Hunger Center, a yearlong public service program that develops leaders to fight domestic poverty. Emerson Fellows conduct community development work in low-income neighborhoods across the United States, followed by policy- and advocacy-level work in Washington, DC. Girmay serves as a mentor coach through America Needs You, an organization that provides low-income, first-generation college students with transformative mentorship and intensive career development. Girmay also serves as the co-president of Stanford’s Black Alumni Association of New York, through which he develops community service, professional development, and social programing for Stanford Alumni and underserved communities across New York City. Girmay is originally from Seattle, WA, where his family still resides. He graduated with a B.S. from Stanford University in 2009, and earned his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2014. On his free time, Girmay enjoys mentorship, basketball, photography, and high-energy outdoors activities.