Meet the 2017 Omaha Fellows
(back to NLC 2017 Fellows)
Luper Akough, CEO, Akough & Associates LLC
Luper Akough is a entrepreneur to his core. He currently owns a franchised agency with Farm Bureau Financial Services and has for the past 5 years. He also is a newly proclaimed real estate investor to which focuses on improving the inner parts of the city. When not at work, Luper enjoys volunteering at Habitat for Humanity helping new homeowners learn the ins and outs of owning a home and dealing with Banks, Insurance Companies, and Contractors. Everyday Luper strives to be apart of the solution in making the world a better place.
Rebecca Armstrong Langle, Director of Annual Fund, Nebraska Humane Society
Born and raised in Omaha, Rebecca Armstrong Langle has committed herself to improving the community where she lives, works and plays. While attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as an undergrad, Rebecca interned at US Senator Ben Nelson's office. Here, her eyes were opened to the vast inequalities that exist in our city and she was introduced to some of the passionate people who work to solve these issues. Right out of college, Rebecca served as a staff assistant to Senator Nelson for two years. Here she worked on issues that affect all people, from large nonprofit organizations to individuals navigating the federal government. This experience gave her passion to help others. After getting her undergraduate degree in political science, Rebecca went on to get her master's degree in public administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNO). She honed her skills in public policy analysis and evaluation through several projects, including research on tax increment financing and school busing impacts. Upon Senator Nelsonís retirement in 2012, Rebecca began working at a local nonprofit. In this position, she focused on fundraising and marketing for workforce development and job placement programs. Her work included membership with the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska and acting as a the agencyís legislative policy liaison. More recently, Rebecca started working as the director of the annual fund at the Nebraska Humane Society. Outside of work, Rebecca is active with the League of Women Voters. After serving as the voterís guide director on the Omaha league board for three years, Rebecca began serving as the voters service director on the board for the League of Women Voters-Nebraska. Here, she oversees efforts to create voterís guides statewide. Rebecca also serves on the alumni advisory board for UNOís MPA program. Rebecca is passionate about education and equality issues. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Ryan, and dog, Delilah.
Jodi Benenson, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Omaha
Jodi Benenson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her research focuses on the intersection between civic engagement, nonprofit organizations, inequality, and social policy. Previously, Jodi was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. At Tufts, she worked on several projects in the areas of youth civic engagement, political learning and engagement in higher education, and national service and employment. Prior to returning to graduate school, Jodi worked in the nonprofit sector in the Twin Cities. Jodi is actively involved with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) and currently serves on the organizationís national Board of Directors. Jodi received a B.S. and M.P.A. from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in social policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
Alexis Bromley, Talent Manager, Greater Omaha Chamber
Alexis Bromley is a native of Omaha, Nebraska and serves as a talent manager for the Greater Omaha Chamber ñ a champion for a thriving business community. Her focus is placed on attracting, retaining and developing young talent. Alexis is passionate about opportunities to hear the voices of diverse professionals and ways to strengthen their ability to impact our community. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she majored in International Business and was an active member of the Husker Spirit Squad. Her major was inspired by the love of traveling and gathering a broad perspective of the business world. Alexis serves on the board for ACE Mentor Program of Greater Omaha, a nonprofit that collaborates with Omaha Public Schools to engage high school students in building industry careers through hands-on mentoring. She previously served on the board of Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals, where she helped with marketing and public relation strategies. Alexis lives in midtown Omaha and is a self-proclaimed foodie who loves trying new restaurants (ask her for recommendations!).
Brent Crampton, Marketing Director, Maven Social Group
Brent Crampton has dedicated the past 13 years of his life to using music, art & nightlife as a vehicle to bring people together & promote social progress. Having made the decision to become a DJ at the age of 17, and now at the age of 32, in that time Crampton has founded a successful 11-year running multicultural dance event named loom, owned & operated the House of Loom nightclub for 5.5 years, brought his music to various locales around the world, collaborated with Red Bull Music Academy, and has received a number of awards for his work in nightlife & music. Crampton founded the dance celebration titled, ""loomóWeaving the Social Fabric Through Dance"" in 2006. loom has established itself as the longest running dance party in Omaha. Not only did loom create a new dance scene in Omaha, but the momentum of the event and the community loom created in the process forged the path for Crampton and partners to open up a venue called House of Loom that operated from 2011-2016. It was there that Crampton was able to give the progressive community a place to mobilize, dance, celebrate & connect.
Brian Fahey, Judicial Attorney, U.S. District Court
Brian Fahey is an Omaha native and a graduate of Omaha Central High School. He holds a B.A. in music and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and a Juris Doctor, High Distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Prior to attending law school, Brian worked as the manager of a non-profit arts organization and a church choir director. In law school, Brian was named the 2015 Theodore Sorensen Fellow and served as an Executive Editor of the Nebraska Law Review. He has written on constitutional issues involving the school-to-prison pipeline and on plaintiffsí remedies under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. His articles have been published in the Nebraska Law Review and the Benefits Law Journal. A third-generation graduate of the Omaha Public Schools, Brian is committed to ensuring that all children have strong public schools and a quality education available to them. He currently serves on the Central High School Hall of Fame Committee. As a musician, Brian believes in the power of classical music to transcend barriers between people and reveal the shared human experience. He sings regularly with the Omaha Chamber Singers and is an active baritone soloist, specializing in baroque and renaissance music. Brian lives with his wife and daughter in the ak-sar-ben neighborhood. He enjoys reading about Omaha history and is an avid home cook.
Wendy Hamilton, Fund Development Director, Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska
Wendy Hamilton is the Fund Development Director at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre from Coe College (Cedar Rapids, IA) and her Master of Fine Arts in theatre management from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). After living on the East Coast for several years, Wendy ìboomerangedî back to Omaha in 2007 when her mother was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Wendy has since become a disability advocate, particularly for adults. She served for several years as the Vice President of the Autism Society of Nebraska (ASN). During her time with ASN, Wendy had the opportunity to attend ìAutism Day on the Hillî in Washington, DC, where she met with legislators to discuss priority disability policy. Additionally, she served on the Nebraska ABLE Act Team, which worked to successfully pass legislation for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act in 2014. Her familyís story has been featured in Autism Aspergerís Digest and the book, ìDifferent, Not Lessî by Dr. Temple Grandin. She has presented and moderated at many state and national autism conferences as well as spoken at TEDxOmaha. In 2013, the Omaha Jaycees named her a Ten Outstanding Young Omahan (TOYO), and she is a graduate of Leadership Omaha (Class 38). Wendy serves on the Board of Directors of the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, is the Vice Chair of the Omaha Mayorís Commission for Citizens with Disabilities, and is a committee member for the Mosaic Human Rights Committee, the Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Search Committee, and the Autism Society of Americaís Lifespan Planning Committee. Wendy has been with Girl Scouts since 2012, where it is her honor to support the organizationís mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. She is the mom of a fat cat who doesnít know heís fat, and twin sister greyhounds who donít know theyíre dogs. Wendy thinks she is hilarious and is available for mediocre celebrity impressions and sweet dance moves.
Tracy Hightower-Henne, Attorney/Partner, Hightower Reff Law
In 2012, the common goal of helping people with their personal legal needs brought Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower-Henne together with Susan Reff to form Hightower Reff Law. The two women have created one of Omaha's premier family & criminal law firms. Before partnering with Susan Reff, Tracy practiced corporate law for Union Pacific Railroad. An Omaha native and Burke High school alumna, Tracy received her Juris Doctorate degree and a Master of Laws in Taxation in 2007, from Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. A notable legal advocate, Tracy's work through the Nebraska Innocence Project on the high profile case of Juneal Pratt that has gained much media attention. Pratt has maintained his innocence since his 1975 conviction in the rapes of two women. Tracy successfully fought, all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, to get Pratt DNA testing to prove his innocence. Tracy's many professional involvements include serving as President of the Nebraska Innocence Project from 2011 to 2014, and she served as the President of the Nebraska Women's Bar Association for 3 years. Tracy is an adjunct professor at Creighton University Law School, teaching Wrongful Convictions. As Executive Director of Nebraska Innocence Project, Tracy is passionate about this area of law. When she isn't working, Tracy enjoys baking, cooking and spending time with her family, including her Great Dane, Maya.
Maureen Irish, Development Director, Ronal Catholic High School
Maureen Irish is an Omaha native with nonprofit experience both locally and abroad. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, Psychology, and Women's Studies. The following year Maureen began her service as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia. In addition to working as an English teacher, Maureen partnered with community members to implement leadership camps for girls, secured a grant to enhance her school's access to and proficiency with technology, and collaborated with local organizations to facilitate programs. Maureen is currently the Development Director of Roncalli Catholic High School, a small college preparatory high school located in Northeast Omaha. She strives to expand the reach of the department through new initiatives and by connecting community members with the mission of the school.
Lucas LaRose, Capture Manager, Ho-Chunk, Inc.
Lucas LaRose is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, and is a descendant of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Lucas is a Capture Manager at Ho-Chunk, Inc.ís Federal Services Division. Ho-Chunk, Inc. is the award winning economic development corporation wholly owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. In his role, Lucas identifies federal government contracting opportunities; gathers relevant intelligence; and develops winning strategies to earn contracts. In turn, the profits from these contracts fund scholarships, provide housing, and generate jobs for the tribal members on the Winnebago Indian Reservation. Before joining the government contracting industry, Lucas was an associate attorney with the law firm Fredericks Peebles & Morgan, LLP. In his years of private practice, Lucas advised Indian Tribes and Tribally-owned businesses on legal matters pertaining to tribal governance, legislation, and economic development. In 2013, Lucas earned a law degree with a focus on Federal and Tribal Indian Law at the Arizona State University, Sandra Day OíConnor College of Law. In 2010, Lucas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lucas serves as the Vice Chair of the Nebraska State Bar Associationís Indian Law Section, and is a member of its Legislative Committee. Throughout his law school and undergraduate career, Lucas also served as an executive of many student associations and organizations.
JoAnna LeFlore, Public Engagement Coordinator, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
JoAnna LeFlore is a young professional who prides herself in activating her community through the cultivation of creative entrepreneurs and arts-based programming. Currently working as the Public Engagement Coordinator for the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, she promotes extensive artist collaboration and localized program development for this internationally known artist residency institution. Her passion for working with artists and entrepreneurs has influenced her development as a freelance writer and public relations professional. She is known for helping her clients excel in special events, brand recognition and development working with organizations like the Omaha Small Business Network, Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corporation, Stacey Flowers, Inc., as well as over a dozen creative entrepreneur brands. Previous clients have noted her as a trustworthy member of their team delivering healthy communications strategies in the realm of social media, event planning, copy writing and multimedia development. With a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Masters Degree in Managerial Communications from Bellevue University, JoAnna has developed a strong network with individuals across industries like cultural community development, entrepreneurial agencies and contemporary arts. She believes that her experiences have led to an affinity for understanding the dynamics of multicultural communications and how to empower those who are hungry for building a better platform for their business and living in their purpose. In her spare time, JoAnna explores her love for traveling and reviewing live music productions, sharing her experiences regularly on her personal blog at joannaleflore.com.
Amanda Ponce, College Success Navigator, Metropolitan Community College
Amanda Ponce is a proud Chicana from Omaha, Nebraska. If I had to describe Amanda, I would say she is a servant-leader, especially when it comes to her family, students and her community. It is not uncommon to see her behind the scenes making sure everything is running smoothly, putting the needs of others before her own. Amanda is an experienced student advocate, with a proven commitment to uplifting underserved communities. Amanda received her Bachelorís degree in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). While at UNL, she became a chapter founder of the Latina-based sorority, Lambda Theta Nu Sorority Incorporated. After graduation Ms. Ponce was accepted into the 9-month Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Fellowship in Washington D.C., where she worked with Congresswoman Hilda Solis and the Campaign for Youth Justice. Amanda returned to Nebraska to serve at the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Juvenile Services as a Juvenile Service Officer and caseworker. During this time she found a deep passion for working with youth, especially those who shared similar life experiences. The past several years Ms. Ponce has been able to support many first generation, low-income and underserved students by providing college access. She served as the Assistant Director of Diversity and Community Outreach in the Office of Admissions at University of Nebraska-Lincoln by assisting students and their families. Most recently she moved into the position as a College Success Navigator at Metropolitan Community College, focusing on the retention of students by providing intrusive academic support to a cohort of students in the Avenue Scholars program. In addition to breaking down systemic barriers in education, she loves traveling, dancing and digging deeper into her cultural heritage. Amanda's sense of humor and willingness to trying new things makes it enjoyable to be around her. As a way to give back to those who helped her become the woman she is today, Amanda aspires to help others be the best version of themselves.
Danielle Powell, Member Services Representative, Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska
Danielle, proudly calls Omaha home, after relocating there nine years ago. As a college motivated transplant, her first engagement with city began by building relationships and sharing resources with the house-less community. Today she organizes and hosts the only recurring event catered to queer women. That event, 'REVEL', was created as a direct response to an absence of safe spaces for the lesbian demographic. During business hours, she works alongside recipients and providers of healthcare insurance. Additionally, she serves as a liaison to the community in various capacities. Her current activism takes shape through organizing and facilitating dialogue and action surrounding race, LGBTQIA+, and women's issues.
Yvonne Sosa, Assistant Public Defender, Douglas County Public Defenders Office
Yvonne Sosa is an attorney at the Douglas County Public Defenderís office, where she has held various positions since 1999, fostering her dedication for indigent defense. As a South Omaha native and graduate of South High School, class of 2001, Yvonne has dedicated much of her time to improving the lives of those in the South Omaha Community. As a single mother, Yvonne graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, cum laude, with a Bachelorís of Science in Criminal Justice. While at Creighton Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor with a concentration in Criminal Law and Procedure, Yvonne was also President of the Latino Law Students Association. Currently she is admitted to the practice of law in the States of Iowa and Nebraska. As a member of the Board of Directors at the Latino Center of the Midlands, Yvonne has served as President and is now Acting Secretary. She is the Chair of the Hispanic Lawyers Section of the Nebraska State Bar Association and is active with the Barristerís Ball Auction Committee. Yvonne is also serving on the Scholarship Committee of the Bennett Hornstein Endowment Fund, a scholarship she received as a student. Outside of her professional life, Yvonne is the mother of three daughters, one of which she adopted after serving as a foster parent.
Dave Sund, Attorney
Dave Sund is a 32 year-old attorney and political professional born and raised in Omaha. After graduating high school from Creighton Prep, he received his degree in political science from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2008, and his Juris Doctor from Creighton University in 2016. He has worked on several campaigns in the Omaha area, including Jim Esch's 2008 campaign for Congress, and Jim Suttle's campaign for Mayor. After Suttle's victory, Dave joined the Mayor's Office as a policy analyst, working closely with the Mayor and his staff on legislative, policy, and budget priorities. In 2013, he enrolled at Creighton University School of Law and received his degree in 2016. While at Creighton, Dave clerked for Nebraska Appleseed, was admitted to and published in the Creighton Law Review, and became a member of the Law Review's Board of Editors. Dave passed the Nebraska Bar in 2016 and is now a licensed attorney. Over the past decade, Dave has been deeply involved in progressive politics in Omaha, serving in volunteer capacities on party committees and campaigns, as well as official campaign capacities. He was an active member of the UNO College Democrats, Secretary of the Nebraska Young Democrats from 2007-09, a contributing editor for the local progressive blog New Nebraska Network, and a supporter of dozens of local campaigns including Heath Mello, Gwen Howard, Sara Howard, Jeremy Nordquist, Tony Vargas, and Chuck Hassebrook. In his free time, Dave is a big sports fan, a Facebook and Twitter pundit, and an occasional comic book nerd.
Korey Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, Douglas County Public Defender's Office
Korey Taylor is an attorney and Assistant Public Defender in Douglas County, Nebraska where he practices criminal and parental rights law representing the indigent and others in need of legal assistance. Korey is an experienced legal professional with over 25 jury trials new to the Omaha area as of August 2015. Prior to joining the office of the Douglas County Public Defender, Korey was an Assistant Public Defender in Orlando, Florida for five years where he practiced criminal law in misdemeanor and felony divisions. Korey relocated to Omaha with his wife, who is tenure-track faculty at Creighton University, his son, who is a high school freshman, and his dog George, a Cavalier King Charles-Brittany Spaniel mix who the Taylors adopted from an animal humane society. Previously, Korey also worked for Sidley Austin LLP as a Real Estate Associate after his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2008. He is a licensed attorney in Texas, New York, Florida and Nebraska. Prior to attending law school, Korey worked for international healthcare companies in the accounting and finance fields in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Titusville, New Jersey. Korey is a graduate of Florida A&M University, a historically black college, where he obtained his Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees with a concentration in Finance. While attending law school, Korey also earned a Certificate in Business and Public Policy with an emphasis in Real Estate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Korey, who grew up in Texas, is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and was initiated into the Beta Nu Chapter of the fraternity while attending Florida A&M. During his educational and professional experiences, Korey has served as Treasurer of the Black Law Students Association chapter at his law school, Treasurer of his collegiate fraternity chapter and most recently was Treasurer of the Paul C. Perkins Black Bar Association in Orlando, Florida. Korey enjoys playing basketball, working out with his wife, cheering on the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Rockets and traveling when he gets the opportunity. His passion is advocating for others.
Julia Tse, Policy Associate, Voices for Children in Nebraska
Julia Tse is a Policy Associate at Voices for Children in Nebraska, which is a nonprofit with a 30-year history of being the independent voice building pathways to opportunity for all children in the state. In her current role, she is responsible for identifying data-driven policies to improve public systems impacting the lives of Nebraska's children and families. Julia works and coordinates with stakeholders to ensure that the best interests of kids are kept at the forefront in policy decisions and public discourse when it comes to issues of economic stability, health, child welfare, and juvenile justice. She is especially passionate about using research, mapping software, and data to fight for social justice and race equity. Julia first joined Voices for Children through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a national volunteer service program. For a year, she lived with 10 other recent graduates working in social justice nonprofits across Omaha in intentional community. As a proud second-generation immigrant to the United States, Julia is dedicated to building strong, inclusive communities that offer equality of opportunity to all people. A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, she graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. In her spare time, Julia enjoys cooking, reading the news, and training for her next powerlifting competition.
Brittany Vovolka, Internal Auditor, Kiewit Corporation
Brittany Vovolka is currently an Internal Auditor at Kiewit Corporation after spending two years as a senior accountant in the Accounts Payable department. She enjoys the challenge of evaluating controls in other departments in a company focused on continuous improvement and stewardship. In 2016, Brittany passed the Uniform CPA Exam and became a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the State of Nebraska. In addition to working full-time, she is also pursuing her Master of Accounting degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Since October 2013, Brittany has been involved with the Omaha Jaycees, joining the board as Treasurer in 2016 with another term in 2017. She has had the opportunity to plan and organize several community-oriented events, including volunteering at the Siena/Francis House and planning the Beer & Bacon Festival, which raises money for local charities. The oldest signature event of the Jaycees is Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (TOYO!), a banquet honoring young professionals making an impact in our community. Brittany has been on the planning committee for this event since 2015. Brittany lives in Dundee with her husband, Robin. They met each other at UNO College Democrats in 2007 and have been interested in progressive politics ever since. Brittany earned her BA in Mathematics and BSBA in Accounting at UNO. When she has spare time, she enjoys reading, knitting, and walking her 11-year-old poodle mix, Boomer.
Amy Wall, Software Consultant, Agape Red, Inc.
Amy Wall is a Software Consultant at Agape Red, an Omaha based Software Consulting Agency. An Omaha native, Amy attended Central High School before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, to pursue a degree at Saint Louis University. She received her BA with a major in Art History and a certificate in Business Administration. Shortly after graduating, Amy began working as the Director of Internet Content for a web based community platform for artists, professionals, musicians and writers in St. Louis. For two years prior to returning to Omaha, Amy developed marketing strategy and ecommerce platforms for small businesses as a Project Manager and Content Manager for a local Media Marketing Agency. She returned to the Omaha area in January 2015 to attend Omaha Code School, an Advanced Software Engineering Immersive Program. Amy has since enjoyed becoming involved in the Omaha Tech Community, including volunteering at DoSpace with the Omaha chapter of Girls Who Code. Amy strives to bring an interdisciplinary approach to software development that draws upon her experience in marketing, art, and technology. She believes that lowering the barrier of entry for training in Information Technology and working to increase employee diversity in technology related fields will have a profoundly positive impact on the future of the tech industry, and the global marketplace as a whole.