2014 NLC Fellows: Tallahassee

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Keisha Calderon, Education, Outreach and School Finance Director, Tallahassee Ballet

Keisha Calderon currently serves as the Education, Outreach and School Finance Director for The Tallahassee Ballet, a regional dance company that has been a cultural keystone of the Tallahassee area for over forty years. Besides her full-time job, she also teaches as an Adjunct Faculty member at Tallahassee Community College and serves as an accounting consultant for small businesses.

Keisha has earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Business Administration with an Accounting concentration from Emory University. Always a dancer at heart, she choreographed and performed with the Emory Dance Company and directed a multicultural artistic collective during her college years. Outside of her college community, she worked for the Atlanta Ballet and interned over the summer at The American Dance Festival. After college, Keisha worked for public accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City. She used her background as a dancer and accountant to transition into the arts field. She has extensive experience organizing arts outreach and educational programs for cultural organizations. Enriching dance education and expanding community engagement in the arts is one of her passions.

Keisha is still developing as an artist and dance instructor. She is a National Dance Institute certified teacher and has held master classes all over the country with American College Dance Festival, Suzanne Farrell Young DancerÍs Workshop, Bates Dance Festival and recently received a training scholarship to the Boulder Jazz Dance Intensive. She was featured in the August 2012 issue of the internationally circulated Dance Magazine for her work as a graduate student. Her choreography has been accepted into The Florida Dance Festival, the Atlanta Hawks Half-time show, and the D.U.M.B.O Festival in New York. She hopes to keep building artistic collaborations and relationships around the Florida area.

Keisha has visited over 20 countries and hopes to have many more world adventures in her near future.

Joy Dixon, Program Manager, American Lung Association

Joy Dixon is a Program Manager with the American Lung Association where she oversees a Tobacco Prevention program in North Florida. Her work includes mobilizing community members to change policies in the areas of smoke-free housing and tobacco-free schools, to name a few. Joy also is the owner of Edenic Wellness, a health and wellness company that provides health coaching and health products to women who desire weight loss, increased energy, and guilt-free lifestyle so they can create their authentic lives.

Travis Etheridge, Teacher , Leon County Schools

 	Travis	Etheridge	Travis Etheridge has served as the 5th Grade Reading and Social Studies teacher at Woodville Elementary School for the past two years. Over the past two years he has assumed the roles of Safety Patrol Director, Woodville Extraordinary Gentleman’s Club sponsor, and Positive Behavior Support member.

His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science Degree (Elementary Education) from Florida A&M University with Reading and ESOL endorsements.

Sakeena Gohagen-Kenton, Advisor, Florida State University

Sakeena Gohagen-Kenton is an alumna of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies. Her activism was birthed through her involvement with the Student Coalition for Justice. During her time as a student, she served as a national fellow of Young People For, a national board member of the United States Student Association, a Grassroots Organizing Weekend Trainer and a Congressional Intern for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Her most significant work came during her time as the campus organizer for the Florida State Vote Coalition, where she led the mission to register, educate, and mobilize the university campus in the 2008 election cycle.

After graduating, Sakeena worked as a Fellowship Associate for Young People For, a national non-profit, focused on developing student leaders in various areas of social justice. She also participated in the Center for Progressive Leadership’s New Leaders Fellowship and the Clinton Global Imitative University.
Sakeena has a strong commitment to civic engagement and electoral involvement of youth and communities of color. Through her work, Sakeena has developed a passion for positive sustainable change. She facilitates workshops that focus on mentoring, leadership and community organizing.

Currently, Sakeena serves on the Events Outreach Committee for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Alumni Association. Sakeena works full time as an Academic Advisor, as she works to complete dual Master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Administration. She notes Ella Baker as one of her most significant personal influences, whose “quiet-storm” approach to her work was able to challenge people to push themselves to unlock their own power- while still being able to pick up a megaphone if necessary.

Sheria Griffin, Teacher, Leon county schools

Sheria Griffin is 35 years old. She has been an educational professional for over 10 years and is a native of Miami, Florida.

Stanley Hardy, Graduate Assistant, Student

Stanley Hardy is a current MasterÍs of Public Administration graduate student at Florida A&M University. Living by the belief that “”What a child hears, he will believe. What a child believes, he will do!î driving him to develop and utilize his leadership skills by volunteering for youth mentoring programs throughout Tallahassee, Florida, to ensure that at-risk students become empowered and pursue degrees of higher education.

Developing a passion for public service, Stanley has served in various leadership capacities including; SGA Director of Government Affairs, SGA Junior and Senior Senator, Finance and Development Officer of the United States Student Association. His politically astute nature has afforded him rewarding opportunities to intern with the Florida Legislature, Becker & Poliakoff, P.A Government Affairs Division and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. These opportunities have thoroughly prepared and vastly expanded his knowledge of the FloridaÍs legislative process.

Stanley received his Bachelor’s of Science in Political Science from Florida A&M University. He is a member of College Leadership Florida Class XV, Collegiate 100 Black Men and FAMU Pre-Law Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity.

Christopher Hudtwalcker, Assistant General Counsel, Florida Department of Health

Chris is a recent graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, where he was an editor of the school’s Law Review. Chris is currently an Assistant General Counsel in the Prosecution Services Unit of the Florida Department of Health where Chris works in regulating health care practitioners who are alleged to have violated the Medical Practice Act. Chris is deeply interested in policy and the law, and the ways they can be used in tandem to create a better socioeconomic environment for Americans.

Erin Jensen, Communications & Development Manager, League of Women Voters of Florida

Erin Jensen is the Communications & Development Manager for the League of Women Voters of Florida. In her current position, she manages the communications plan for the organization, develops the LeagueÍs public relations and marketing materials, and oversees correspondence with the press. Erin graduated from the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg with a B.A. in English Literature. She has spent much time working for the progressive causes and campaigns she believes in, in both her hometown of Tallahassee and the Tampa Bay area, as well as other parts of the country.

Prior to working for the League, she was the Field Coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Vote No Committee, working to defeat several amendments on the 2012 ballot. Erin has also held positions with other progressive causes and elected officials, including working for the Florida Democratic Party’s 2010 coordinated campaign, an internship with Congresswoman Kathy Castor, and a summer volunteering with NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon to help advance womenÍs reproductive rights.

She credits her progressive ideology to her family, who has always encouraged political astuteness, and to her first campaign internship in 2008, which helped awaken her political activism. As an English major and a communications professional, Erin understands the power of words, and is interesting in using them to further the causes she cares deeply for, including voting rights, womenÍs equality, and economic and racial justice.

Wallace Knight, Teacher, Leon County Schools

Wallace Knight is an educator from Tallahassee, FL. Currently he teaches math and science at Apalachee Tapestry Magnet School of the Arts. Wallace attended Florida State University as a biology major and Flagler College as a elementary education major. Combining his interests in science and early learning, he became a science advocate. Wallace’s passion is helping create equitable opportunities of learning for all students. He supports efforts to provide all students with a quality education. In the future Wallace would like to continue to educate youth and provide other educators with the resources they need to become more effective. He plans to do this by developing research-based methods of instruction, consulting with public and private sectors, and advocating for science and the arts.

Sarah Lee, Program Assistant, Florida A&M University

 Sarah LeeSarah B. Lee serves as the Program Assistant for the Pre-Preparatory Legal Scholars program at the Florida A&M University. Most of her work is focused on building and creating ways to allow students a less tedious route when applying and preparing for law school. Sarah also provides leadership and direction in the areas of individual assessment, educational choices/career planning and development, and placement strategies for all students. She is aiding them in ways by teaching them how to challenge themselves physically and emotionally, as well as setting and achieving goals while developing a tolerance for adversity and uncertainty.

Further than her program at FAMU, Sarah consults non-profit organizations, foundations, and businesses, strategically planning ways to expand and achieve their mission. She currently consults Wholistic Growth for Generations, a non-profit organization that targets obesity awareness, in which she serves as their internship director. Sarah assists What Matters Foundation created by Charles Clark, a USA Olympic runner. What Matters focuses on educational, career focus, and foundational motivation for students and student-athletes to become a positive impact in society.

Sarah believes heavily in leadership, self-awareness, and life sustainability. As a personal initiative of her own, from her independent 13 year study on human interaction and relationships, Sarah uses her study and life experiences to consult others on career and personal development. Just this year, Sarah was offered and accepted an opportunity to write an article on combating stress tailored towards the working woman, in Magnificent Living Magazine’s December issue. During her undergrad career, Sarah has been a part of numerous organizing and outreach activities. For 3 years Sarah has worked alongside of county commissioner Bill Proctor, targeting those goals as well as local community initiatives.

Sarah was born in West Palm Beach, FL and raised in small town Ocala, FL. She earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science and a concentration in Pre-Law, from Florida A&M University. With her whole life ahead of her, Sarah is confident to have found her purpose, and is hoping to help others find theirs. She lives daily by her personal quote that says, “In all things, success will manifest with finding self; and once you’ve found that, you’ve found success.

Woodjerry Louis

Woodjerry Louis is the definition of a servant leader. He currently serves as a community organizer for the Dream Defenders, a social justice advocacy group. In this capacity, he has been leading grassroots initiatives against the issues of Stand Your Ground, School to Prison Pipeline, Private Prisons.

While attending the University of Florida, he was involved in different organization, and holding leadership positions in most of them. As an advocate for youth and social justice, Woodjerry is committed to and passionate about improving the lives of youth and families and their communities through public policy and law. In his spare time, Woodjerry enjoys spending time with his family and reading books on how to create a beloved world.

Carlos Nathan, Legislative Analyst, Florida House of Representatives

A native of Tallahassee, Carlos has had a passion for public service since childhood. After working on a research project on John F. Kennedy in middle school, he became captivated by the political process and the willingness to serve others. While at Florida State University, Carlos focused on Political Science and interned for the Florida State Senate for then Senator Frederica Wilson. After graduating with a BachelorÍs in 2005, he spent time working on various campaigns across the state and working for the Office of the Secretary of the Florida Senate as a Clerk. In 2009, he graduated from Florida A&M University with his Master in Public Administration. After obtaining his MPA, Carlos was then hired on as an Administrative Assistant for the Minority Caucus for the Florida House of Representatives.

Four years later, Carlos has since been promoted in the Minority Caucus to a Legislative Analyst and covers the policy areas of Economic Development, Transportation, and General Government. Outside of work, Carlos spends time mentoring children from his old neighborhood and educating his church on personal and financial responsibility.

Nicole Robinson, Co-Manager, Express

Nothing is ever too complicated. My personal philosophy is no exception. I live to learn, understand, serve and write. Since there are infinite lessons to be learned, much more to understand, thousands of empty pages waiting for a pen and millions to serve; I will always be driven forward with purpose. I also can be a tad grandiose when writing. A former Youth Leadership Tallahassee participant and president of the International Student Organization at University of Tampa and current Dream Defender.

Samantha Sexton, Associate Director of Government Affairs, PACE Center for Girls, Inc.

Samantha, 25, spent her summers as a child visiting America's finest Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites, which provided the platform for her interest in American History. Her parents not only exposed her to the stories of our countryÍs brightest and darkest hours, but stressed the importance of giving back to those who gave before us through volunteerism. They brought her along to participate in hurricane relief efforts, coastal cleanups, and holiday gift giveaways; and although her activities varied as a young adult, Samantha proved at an early age that she was committed to serving and bettering her community.
As a Gator living in enemy territory, Samantha is proud to state that she received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Florida. While at UF, she participated in Dance Marathon, Florida Blue Key and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program while excelling as a leader in Kappa Delta Sorority, Order of Omega and Student Government. During these years, Samantha focused on civic engagement by initiating voter education drives on-campus and working several local and state campaigns before eventually shifting her focus to the national spotlight. Her resume includes work with State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and OFA. During her final years at the University of Florida, Samantha was honored as a Bob Graham Civic Scholar and awarded the Ralph Gonzalez Memorial Award for her work in campaigns.

Since completing her M.A. in Political Science and Political Campaigning, Samantha succeeded at implementing a statewide field plan with Pew Charitable Trusts and advocating for stronger environmental regulations to ensure our stateÍs resources for future generations. Her work has been recognized at the state and national level. However, in her current role, Samantha is advocating for our stateÍs girls as the Associate Director of Government Relations with PACE Center for Girls, Inc.
In her free time, Samantha can be found trying the latest food craze, traveling or cheering on her favorite sport team, the Gators.

Jennito Simon, Assistant State’s Attorney, State Attorney’s Office

Jennito Simon was born in Cite Soleil, Haiti, considered by some as the worst city in the world and certainly one of the poorest. He is the fourth child of Joacina and Wilfrid Simon. In 1992, his father decided to escape the poverty by risking his life and catching a boat to Florida as a refugee. His father spent the next four years working hard to try to reunite their family. On August 24, 1996, Jennito, his mother, sisters and brother traveled from Cite Soleil to Pompano Beach, Fl.

Jennito went to a pre-law magnet high school, then on to Florida State University through FloridaÍs Bright Futures Scholarship. From an early age, Jennito wanted to be a lawyer thinking it would be the best avenue for him to take in order to make a difference in Haiti. But in his freshman year of college, he took a class in Economics. There he realized that economics and law together were tools needed to accomplish his life goal of fighting poverty in Haiti. Since then, he has taken a number of economics classes, including Economics of the Caribbean and Economics of Development. Those classes have helped prepare him to think critically about the problem of poverty and, moreover, deepened his desire to make a difference in Haiti. It is that desire to make a difference that has led him to work with Keven Leveille, a business partner and good friend, to start SoH and write Haitian As Human.

Currently, Jennito is in his third year of law school at the Florida State University of College of Law. In addition to serving as a member of the FSU Mock Trial Team, Jennito has served as regional treasurer for the Southern Region of the National Black Law StudentÍs Association, Chair of the Law School Council, former student General Counsel for Florida State University, student Attorney General and Co-Founder & President of Sons of Haiti Sounds of Hope, Inc.

In the future, Jennito plans to work at a law firm practicing immigration law, criminal defense, and personal injury. Jennito describes his goals as the following: successfully raise money for the rebuilding of Haiti; fulfill my life’s purpose; and make my parents proud.

Lily Stolc, Project Director, Florida State Government

Lily Stolc currently serves as a project director with the Florida government. She earned a master’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University and in social work from Florida State University.

Last spring she interned with the Foundation Beyond Belief, working with the Crisis Response program to raise $45,320 for tornado relief in Oklahoma. Her interests include prevention-focused programs; social and economic development; and trauma-informed direct services. She hopes to build her career around inspiring others to believe in humanity’s capacity to solve even the most intractable problems.

Max Solomon

Max is finishing his MS in Political Science at Florida State University, from which he also holds a BA in History and International Affairs. As an undergraduate, he researched and wrote extensively on 19th century European history with a special interest in nationalism, imperialism, and state formation. After graduating in August of 2014, he plans to further his education in law school with the eventual goal of working in election law or some subset of international law.

Outside of class, he continues to volunteer with Alpha Phi Omega Community Service Fraternity as the Membership Chair for Southeastern US and Service Chair for North Florida. He also serves on a special event steering committee for the AlzheimerÍs Project of Tallahassee. Because of his interest in teaching, he coaches high school speech and debate, an activity he credits for forming his political and academic interests.

Max has worked on the 2012 Supreme Court Merit Retention for Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis and currently serves as a research intern for the Florida Democratic Party.

Ciara Taylor, Dream Defenders

Ciara TaylorCiara Taylor serves the Dream Defenders as the Political Director. The Dream Defenders is a civil rights organization directed by black and brown youth who are committed to ending systemic oppression in Florida by training and organizing youth and students in nonviolent civil disobedience, civic engagement, and direct action while creating a sustainable network of youth and student leaders to take action and create real change in their communities.
Ciara previously served the Southern Poverty Law Center as the Community Outreach Liaison for Juvenile Justice and as the state Voter Registration Coordinator for the League of Women Voters.