Meet the 2018 Palm Beach Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)
Community Engagement Director, Florida Democratic Party
Alexandria Ayala was born in San German, Puerto Rico and moved to Palm Beach, Florida at 7 years old. She has a Political Science and Journalism Studies degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. While at university, Alexandria continued to pursue her passion for music and the arts by playing the piccolo in the UCF Marching Knights for four years. She was recognized as an outstanding leader and band member through membership into Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity.
She is currently a Community Engagement Director with the Florida Democratic Party for Region 4 of the state, which includes Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast. Her primary goal is to energize and empower local communities, recruit and train candidates for office, and help to deliver Democratic victories up and down the ticket in 2018. Alexandria has worked as a political consultant for a few years now and has a background in government affairs as well as local, state, and national campaigns. She has previously worked on Representative Joe Saunders’ 2014 House District 49 re-election campaign, with Florida Competes as they sought to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act in the Florida Legislature, and served as Executive District Secretary to Central Florida State Senator Victor Torres. During the 2016 election cycle, Alexandria was a Finance Assistant on Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate campaign. Through April 2017, she served as Campaign Manager for Rachelle Litt who is now a Councilwoman in the city of Palm Beach Gardens. Afterwards, she joined West Palm Beach City Commissioner Paula Ryan’s reelection team as a Campaign Coordinator.
Alexandria is extremely passionate about U.S.–Puerto Rico relations, gender equity, and particularly youth political engagement. She currently serves as Statewide Political Director for the Florida Young Democrats and is on the board of the Palm Beach County Young Democrats as Vice President. Through those roles, she is able to engage with a variety people from diverse backgrounds who are all excited to be involved and impact change where they can. Alexandria is a lead strategist for the Stamp the Vote campaign- a joint effort between the PBCYD's & the Palm Beach County Democratic Party that seeks to register active Democratic voters for Vote By Mail in hopes of increasing turnout and engagement. She constantly aspires to inspire those around her into becoming the best versions of themselves and channeling their talents into positive, effective action.
Dr. LaToya Benjamin is a native of Riviera Beach, Florida. She graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, where she received a doctoral degree in Pharmacy. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Dr. Benjamin was an active student leader at Florida A&M University. During her reign at her alma mater she severed in various capacities ranging from the University’s Surgeon General to chapter President of Kappa Epsilon Pharmacy Fraternity, Inc. Her professional memberships also include Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society, and Florida Pharmacy Association.
Following graduation, Dr. Benjamin relocated to the District of Columbia to complete a one-year postgraduate experience. While in DC, she was able to serve the HIV/AIDS population where she assisted with providing free health screenings and immunizations to individuals that are not only uninsured but also underinsured. This opportunity allowed Dr. Benjamin to serve the community while also increasing her clinical knowledge. She also made it a priority to serve as a mentor for Be Polished; an organization designed to empower young women and encourage higher education.
Dr. Benjamin later returned to Palm Beach County to serve her community members. She decided to join New Leaders Council to use her training and skills to further serve her community and the next generation of leaders. Dr. Benjamin is extremely passionate about raising healthcare and political awareness. She will continue to work in the community pharmacy setting with the hope of establishing a nonprofit organization to help at risk children.
Brown Management Consulting / American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M)
Ms. Giselle Bodden believes in looking at life from a holistic point of view. Everything is connected. Every decision feeds into another. These choices compound and become life experience.
Ms. Bodden is a communications professional and dancer who experienced a rude health awakening in 2014 after entering a position at Discovery Communications, her dream company. Thankfully, the same company provided access to health services which sparked the idea to redirect her path towards holistic medicine.
On her 25th birthday, she took a huge leap of faith by jumping out of a plane, then spent the rest of the year discovering new ways to take care of herself. In order to refresh from a corporate burn-out, she traveled abroad to Southeast Asia to spend time learning more about nutrition, yoga, and mind-body medicine.
Ms. Bodden is currently an integrative medicine conference planner at the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. She is also preparing to launch a wellness lounge that will enable corporate employees to rest, recharge, be mindful, and take real breaks. Her overall mission is to help others learn how to infuse self-care into their daily routine and to spread the teachings of holistic practices to everyone seeking to live more healthful and well-balanced lives.
Ms. Bodden graduated from Florida State University, Magna Cum Laude, in the Spring of 2012, with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.
President / Captain / Member Representative, Voice for Veterans / US Army Reserve / NFIB
Eric Bruns is a Palm Beach County native, social entrepreneur, and combat veteran. He is a 2007 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute with a BA in Military History. Eric served 10 years on active duty as a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army, serving in leadership roles from the platoon to theater headquarters level. He has been stationed all across the United States and is a veteran of multiple overseas tours to areas such as Afghanistan, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. He currently serves as a mission command trainer in the United States Army Reserve.
Eric is the founder and president of Voice for Veterans, a nonprofit organization that strives to heal the growing civil-military divide in the United States by promoting veteran employment. They work to educate the business community about the strengths and advantages of hiring veterans as well as providing mentorship and networking opportunities to the South Florida veteran community.
Additionally, Eric works with the National Federation of Independent Business by meeting with small business owners to get their input on national and state level issues. He helps bring their voices together, giving the small business community the power to stand up to big business and special interest groups.
Eric is heavily involved in local politics. He serves on the board for the Palm Beach County Young Democrats and devotes as much time as possible to building a brighter future for all Americans. He currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens with his wife, Jinny, and their daughter, Evelyn.
Election Specialist, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections
Ashley Cacicedo is a graduate of Lynn University, Cum Laude, class of 2014, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, in American Studies and a minor in Media and Politics. She is a recipient of the Female Student Leader of the Year Award (2013), and the Bradley Middlebrook II Student Service Award (2014).
Ashley completed a Master of Science degree, at Lynn University in Communication and Media, with a specialization in Media Studies and Practice in 2015. Prior to her current position at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office, Ashley served as an intern for Florida State Representative Mark Pafford, District 86. As an Election Specialist Ashley regulates 3rd party voter registration organizations, runs the office Facebook page, registers and prepares voters for Election Day. Through the Supervisor of Elections office, Ashley visits local High Schools to teach students about the importance of voting and the Florida election process.
Ashley is a natural humanitarian who has always been dedicated to serving her community and helping others. She has volunteered with several organizations and has coordinated many community service projects. Ashley, being a native of New Jersey, spearheaded a donation drive through Lynn University to provide hurricane relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Ashley is a member of the League of Women Voters, where she is an active member of the planning committee for the Young Leaguers -a group that involves individuals ages 16 to 45 for the purpose of promoting good government. She is also an active member of the Leaders Recognizing Leaders organization, as well as the Young Professionals of the Palm Beaches Society.
This past July, Ashley was honored as one of five recipients to be awarded the DCCC 2017 Political Boot Camp Scholarship. Upon completion of the program, Ashley was recommended to apply to the New Leaders Council. Ashley is honored to be selected as a 2018 fellow for the New Leaders Council; and is very excited about attending. Ashley is pursuing a career as a public servant in the State of Florida, and will continue her involvement with local, county, state, and national organizations.
Legislative Assistant, State of Florida, Representative Matt Willhite
Kasey holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science with a focus on Political Campaigning and Public Affairs from the University of Florida. She has dedicated her life to public service through her work in government and is no stranger to local and state politics.
Kasey has extensive experience working on local, state and federal political campaigns and most recently worked for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Currently serving as the legislative assistant to State Representative Matt Willhite, she works to formulate policy to solve problems in our community. Her policy areas of interest include mental health, transportation issues, and economic development.
A native Floridian, Kasey moved to Palm Beach County with her cat, Penelope, in 2016. She hopes to meet other forward-thinking young professionals through New Leaders Council. She also hopes to learn new skills to help improve the lives of those in her community. Kasey aspires to continue a career in public service and government by advocating for responsible policy and fostering economic opportunity.
Loss Prevention Engineer, AIG
Rob Long is an engineer, a public servant, and a leader. Rob's educational background (B.S. Civil Engineering and MBA) has shaped his professional life as he's worked in several engineering and business leadership roles. His current job is as a Loss Prevention Engineer with AIG. In the client-facing arm of AIG's Global Property division, he analyzes risk exposures from natural catastrophes to high valued properties. In Rob's life as a public servant, he has been elected to the county-wide office of Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor, where he currently serves as Public Relations Chair. Additionally, Rob serves on the City of Delray Beach's Site Plan Review & Appearance Board and as the President of the Palm Beach County Young Democrats. Rob is also the creator of the Stamp the Vote campaign, which is a growing, targeted effort spearheaded by the Young Democrats to register warm Democratic voters for Vote By Mail for the 2018 election cycle.
Alex Newell Taylor
Executive Director, Summer Festival of the Arts
Alex Newell Taylor grew up in Palm Beach County, where she attended Palm Beach Day School and The Benjamin School. She graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2005. She also received her certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA in 2015. Alex recently moved back to West Palm Beach after time in California and Texas.
After many years in the education, arts, and fitness industries, Alex jumped into political activism and community organizing after the 2016 election. She initially organized Palm Beach County residents to attend the Women's March on Washington, and has continued on as a founding member of Women's March Florida, the nonprofit organization that grew out of the march. She currently serves as Vice President of the Executive Board, as well as Palm Beach County area co-captain.
This volunteer work led Alex to also become an organizer with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, working on the Voting Restoration ballot initiative. If passed in 2018, this constitutional amendment would restore the right to vote to 1.5 million Floridians with previous felony convictions who have completed their sentence in full and repaid their debt to society. She is passionate about this work because she believes our democracy will never be truly healthy and strong until every person is able to make their voice heard.
Since 2014, Alex has also been the Executive Director of Summer Festival of the Arts, an arts education non-profit based in Maine. She is a proud progressive who believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to not rest until all people enjoy a life free of fear, prejudice, and injustice. She is also passionate about environmental activism and education, and nothing makes her smile more than a good hike in a beautiful location or the sound of a child laughing. She is married to a handsome feminist and has the best dog in the world.
Debbie Origho Manigat
Program Specialist, Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County
Impacting people and communities for positive growth and holistic wellness is Debbie’s mission. As an existential Wellness Counselor and Mental Health Advocate, Debbie leads the “Your Life Matters” or #LifeMatters social change initiative for bringing global attention to mental wellness and suicide prevention in diverse and disadvantaged communities. Under President Obama’s Administration, Debbie was invited to the White House for their “Making Healthcare Better Series on Suicide Prevention” and created the “Mental Health Pledge” GoFundMe Campaign to raise funds for at-risk youth and disadvantaged families to receive free mental health services.
Locally, Debbie serves as a motivational speaker, mindfulness teacher, and holistic event organizer for numerous nonprofit and corporate organizations throughout South Florida. Most recently, she served as a panelist for the inaugural “Your Health is Your Wealth” event for the Broward Chapter of the Urban League Young Professionals as well at their Young Professionals Annual Retreat in Fort Lauderdale. In Palm Beach, Debbie created and hosts the annual “Dinner with Doctors” and “Mental Health Masterclass” events in partnership with the Urban League of Palm Beach County Young Professionals.
In 2016 and 2017, Debbie was recognized by Legacy Magazine as one of South Florida's 40 Under 40 Black Leaders of Today and Tomorrow in the Sun Sentinel. She was also selected in 2016 as the Education and Empowerment Honoree from the National Council of 100 Black Women (South Palm Beach Chapter) for her outstanding commitment to mental health awareness.
Additionally, Debbie is a purpose-focused Communications Specialist, Freedom Coach, and Family Therapist. She believes that words are transformative which is why she uses her communications and therapeutic background to help people rebuild their self-esteem, use their words effectively, improve how they relate to challenging people or situations to ultimately resolve conflicts peacefully and professionally. Leveraging the power of relationships, she empowers families to reconnect through learning how to heal past trauma. An integral part of her work is helping people heal from adverse childhood experiences or ACES using mindfulness. ACES are traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. She especially helps young professionals resolve ACES and discover their resilient potential- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Overall, Debbie’s character is contagious as she uses her life experiences and expertise to inspire everyone to- in her words, “Shine on”! In closing, Debbie is genuinely grateful for her journey. She attributes God’s grace and guidance for her opportunities to serve.
Community Health Educator, Planned Parenthood of North, East, South Florida
Geraldine Pierre has successfully completed her Bachelors of Science in Psychology and Political Science at Florida A&M University. As a forward thinker dedicated to progressive outreach and development, she considers herself a professional when it comes to organizing, community outreach as well as managing and executing successful campaigns. Geraldine is always eager to continuously use her knowledge and skills to help in the advancement of each individual's rights; regardless of the small things that makes us different.
Community Health Educator, Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida
Brieana Salter serves as a Community Health Educator for Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida where she speaks to youth about making healthy decisions and the importance of sexual and reproductive health throughout Palm Beach County.
In addition, Brieana stands as a strong advocate and supporter for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), a devastating chronic illness that attacks the immune system. She is the founder and author of the blog, The Journey of The LupieGirl, where she informs readers about Lupus by raising awareness, giving factual information, and sharing her personal testimony as a Lupus survivor. She also speaks to other survivors of Lupus, giving the hope, advice, and encouragement that they may need to continue as a fighter of Lupus.
As a Palm Beach County native, in 2015, Brieana graduated from Palm Beach State College with a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science with a concentration in Health Management. Brieana is currently studying to earn a Master of Science Degree in Health Law with concentrations in Regulatory Compliance and Risk Management and is expected to graduate May 2018.
Regional Director, For Our Future
Justine Scott is a graduate from the University of Florida and received her B.A in Criminology with minors in education and anthropology. In 2017, She received her masters of science degree from Nova Southeastern University in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
With her drive in the realm of politics and a passion to organize her community at a grassroot level, it is no wonder that her path has led her to a position as a Regional Director at For Our Future-FOF; a Super PAC, and c4, organization that incorporate issue advocacy and a robust electoral program. As a regional director, she manages programs that develop capacity to meet metrics-based goals on data-driven campaigns while building crucial relationships with leaders of the progressive community to work together on pressing issues. As a director for four counties in South Florida, she has built strong political and non-profit coalitions to create the foundation needed in the community for change and progress.
Her involvement in politics has opened opportunities beyond the state of Florida. As 2014, she was a part of the Clay Pell for Governor campaign aiding in the governor’s race in Rhode Island. This road of politics has also opened new arenas for Justine, as she has learned from experience in campaigns the different angles involved in running the race. She has thus learned to develop and coordinate media press coverage and conferences, in addition to implementing new communications and digital strategies to effectively report data up and down the chain of command. Aside from her studies and career, Justine is an Enthusiastic motivator who seeks to promoting causes and justice for the greater good. She enjoys working with individuals and groups across diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds and hopes to one day bridge the gap on social justice and economic issues.
District Aide, Florida House of Representatives - Rep. Matt Willhite
Thomas Joseph Valeo was born in West Palm Beach, where he currently lives with his family. In 2016, he completed his undergraduate education by graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Throughout college, he made it his mission to engage students in the political process and worked as an advocate for environmental and sustainable energy policy. As such, he served as the Vice President of the College Democrats at Florida Atlantic University and as a field organizer for NextGen Climate Action.