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New Leaders Council

Tallahassee 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 Tallahassee Fellows

Haykmanot Belda, Grant Manager, Office of the Attorney General


Haymanot Belda is a 2015 M.P.A graduate of Florida State University Askew School of Public Administration and Policy. She currently works for the Office of the Attorney General as a Grant Manager. Originally from Ethiopia, Ms. Belda came to the United States as a child and was raised in Tampa, FL. Her interests include small business development, the cross sector of public and private partnership and empowering the future through mentoring at risk youth. Ms. Belda is passionate about international development and received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Politics and a minor in Non Profit Management from the University of Central Florida. Along with her family, Ms. Belda has started an elementary school in Ethiopia with the conviction that an educated populace is the building block of political and economic power.


Lauren Calmet, Legal Assistant, Allen Norton & Blue


As a high school student in Wisconsin, Lauren Calmet first developed an interest in politics and leadership after taking part in the 2009 Wisconsin Girl’s State citizenship and leadership program. Lauren, a first-generation American, joined the Girl’s State staff in 2015 in an effort to mold the country’s next generation of female leaders. Lauren is a 2014 graduate of Florida State University with a major in International Affairs and minors in Social Work and Education. Before joining the Allen Norton & Blue team as a Legal Assistant, she worked as a Business Analyst for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Fluent in Spanish, Lauren is certified to teach English as a second language and is also a graduate of the FSU Citizen's Police Academy. She has volunteered with the Leon County School Board and Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library as a tutor for Tallahassee’s ESL and ELL students. In her spare time, Lauren loves to volunteer and share laughs with her friends over at The Junior League of Tallahassee. She is a new member placed on the Public Affairs Committee and could not be any more thrilled to join the League’s brilliant group of women in their efforts to examine Florida’s public policies. Lauren also volunteers with the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle and finds herself continuously counting down the days until cookie season!


Evan Ernst, Executive Director, FL, Who We Play For


Born and bred in Brevard County, FL, Evan Ernst is an entrepreneur with a passion for social impact. Having recently graduated from Florida State University with three degrees, Evan is working full time on Who We Play For, a product of FSU’s Center for Leadership & Social Change and the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship. He credits his success tremendously to the guidance, the resources and the friendships of both departments. Ironically, and Evan loves to say it, both organizations initially denied Evan's acceptance into their competitive programs. Who We Play For started as an idea between a group of best friends, in room 114 of Phi Kappa Tau, and has grown to become one of the biggest non-profit heart screening organizations in the world. In total, across 200 schools and seven states, WWPF has screened over 70,000 young hearts and identified 61 life-threatening heart conditions. Evan simply believes that every student athlete deserves the opportunity to check their heart; no matter the level of athletics, socio-economic status or geographical location. Evan is also a longtime volunteer and passionate advocate for the SeriousFun Network and Camp Boggy Creek. In his free time, Evan loves to fish, surf, play a little golf and a lot of soccer.


Vincent Evans, Aide to Commissioner Curtis B. Richardson, City of Tallahassee


Vincent Evans serves as Aide to Commissioner Curtis Richardson in the Office of Mayor and City Commission. He is responsible for the day to day operations of Commissioner Richardson’s office in City Hall. Evans supports Commissioner Richardson in responding to the various needs of his constituents, works closely with internal and external stakeholders, and exercises considerable discretion and initiative in advancing the Commissioner’s short and long term vision for the City of Tallahassee. He began his political career working as deputy campaign manager for a state senate candidate in Jacksonville. In 2011, he went on to work as a legislative analyst in the Florida Senate Minority (Democratic) Office. He was assigned to cover the regulated industries, military affairs & domestic security, higher education, and appropriations committee in this role. Evans was responsible for examining legislative initiatives and advising members of the Legislature on the affect and influence those measures would have on their constituents. Later, he worked as political director for a Democratic congressional candidate in North Florida in 2012 and field organizer for a gubernatorial candidate in 2014. Prior to his joining the Office of Mayor and City Commission, Evans worked as a policy and rules research assistant with a cabinet level state agency. There he was tasked with the formulation and coordination of the rule making process, providing technical assistance, and preparing policy memorandums. Evans, the recipient of the 2014 Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals award for public service has for the past three years served as chair of the Emerging Leaders Summit on behalf of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. He has been active in various civic and business organizations and boards. He’s an alumnus of the Young People For (YP4) fellowship program and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) campus cadre. He was recognized in 2010 by the Lumina Foundation Lessons magazine for his policy advocacy. A Jacksonville native, Evans received a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Florida A&M University.


Ishante LaToya Hunter, Visiting Assistant Professor, Florida A&M University


LaToya is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Florida A&M University and an Adjunct Lecturer for the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. Upon completion of her doctorate, LaToya would like to continue working as a professor, developing academic and leadership programs to prepare undergraduate students for careers in public service and academia. LaToya’s academic career has led to a number of different opportunities to work for the enrichment and support of underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students. In 2012, she worked as an interim director and graduate assistant for Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at the University of Florida. In this position, she helped carry out a number of university-wide programs to help students explore issues of diversity, learn leadership development and create meaningful relationships throughout the university community. LaToya also worked diligently as a member of the Black Graduate Student Organization (BGSO), serving on the executive board for two years. As parliamentarian and public relations chair, respectively, LaToya helped to plan, promote and raise funds for events, including the university's Martin Luther King Celebration keynote addresses featuring Danny Glover (2012) and Michael Eric Dyson (2013). LaToya has also participated in the effort to organize student support for the development of the UF African-American Studies Bachelor's degree program. Furthermore, she also participated in a student-led demonstration for the support of the family of Trayvon Martin and helped plan a UF Division of Student Affairs townhall meeting on blackface. In her transition to full-time academic, LaToya is serving on two curriculum committees at Florida A&M University. As a member of the Political Science Curriculum Committee, LaToya is helping to revise the Community engagement and Sustainability curriculum and helping to develop new exciting courses for the next academic term. Additionally, as a member of the African-American Studies Curriculum Committee, LaToya is also helping to revise current course offerings and developing methods to increase student engagement. LaToya is committed to student development and enrichment. She believes that participation in the Tallahassee New Leaders Council will provide her the additional training and resources necessary for her to help develop the next generation of civic leaders.


Raquel Jones, Membership Coordinator, Young Elected Officials Network


Raquel Jones is the Membership Services Coordinator for the Young Elected Officials Network. Originally from Orlando, Florida, Raquel is a graduate of Florida A&M University where she majored in Political Science with a focus in Global Security. Most recently, she served as an intern with the YEO Network, where she was instrumental in the successful execution of the 2014 National Convening. Prior to that, Raquel served as a legislative intern for a state Representative in the Florida House of Representatives. There she managed constituent relations, assisted in organizing legislative events, and reviewed pertinent policy analysis in preparation for committee and constituent meetings. Raquel is passionate about giving back and helping others; she hopes to leave a lasting impact on her community.


Audrey Kidwell, VGF Program Manager, Volunteer Florida


Audrey Kidwell was born in Franklin, Indiana. She attended the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana were she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies in 2008. After receiving her B.A. she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa (2008-2012). She was assigned the role of community health development worker in a rural village. In preparation for her service, she participated in an in-country, three month training, which combined several elements including language education in French and local languages, technical skills to be applied during service, cross-cultural skills and also personal health safety and security. During her three year service, she collaborated with community health agents, which resulted in increasing the effectiveness of health promotion and disease prevention activities, along with the improvement of community-managed preventative services. After her Peace Corps service, Audrey moved to Miami, FL to pursuing her Master’s (M.S.Ed) in Community & Social Change at the University of Miami - Coral Gables Campus (2013). While in Miami, she served as a Florida Campus Compact/AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership. After the completion of her year of service she was hired on as a full time volunteer coordinator for the Butler Center at the University of Miami. Since 2015, Audrey relocated to Tallahassee, Florida to work with Volunteer Florida. Audrey is a program manager for the Volunteer Generation Fund, a program that increases the capacity of organizations to recruit, manage, support and retain skills-based volunteers to serve in high-value volunteer assignments. Audrey is a State and National Park enthusiast, an active lifestyle blogger, and loves to spend time organizing!


Clare Letmon, Legislative Research Assistant, Florida House of Representatives


Clare Letmon works as a Legislative Research Assistant for the Florida House of Representatives Minority Office. She assists House Democrats in researching and tracking issues relating to education and regulatory affairs. This position offers her a first-hand glimpse into the state-level political process which first captured her attention during her undergraduate education. Clare studied political science at New College of Florida in Sarasota with a heavy focus on state politics and direct democracy. During her time at New College, Clare pursued internships and service projects that allowed her to delve deeply into the issues of reproductive rights, education, and economic inequality which form the back bone of her passionate progressivism today.



Tineshia Morris, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General


Tineshia Morris is an attorney with seven years of experience in criminal litigation, bankruptcy and tax law. She was previously a prosecutor in Orlando, Florida, working her way up from prosecuting traffic cases to prosecuting murder cases. Currently, she is an Assistant Attorney General, at the Attorney General’s office, litigating in the area of death penalty appeals. Tineshia was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and initially grew up in Miami, FL. As an “Airforce brat,” she lived in Turkey, Germany, and throughout the United States. Tineshia attended the University of Florida for undergraduate, graduate, and law school and is a proud triple gator. While at the University of Florida, Tineshia was involved in many organizations, including being president of the Caribbean Law Students Association. As an attorney, she is involved in her community as a member of the Central Florida Women Lawyer’s Association, Central Florida Inns of Court, Hispanic Bar Association, Perkins Bar Association, and Caribbean Bar Association. Tineshia moved to Tallahassee in April of 2015, and enjoys touring Florida’s capitol. She enjoys meeting new people, taking advantage of the incredible parks and outdoor activities in Tallahassee, and volunteering her time to Big Brothers Big Sisters.


Kruti Patel

Tallahassee-Patel.jpegAs a native of Tallahassee, Kruti has been active in her school and community for years. She was an active leader throughout high school and brought those skills into her college career. As a recent graduate of The Florida State University, Kruti received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and International Affairs. During her college career, Kruti created a charity program for her local Hindu Temple, and also founded and presided over a Registered Student Organization at Florida State. As her never-ending need for bettering her community, she is currently interning at the Florida Senate with Senator Joseph Abruzzo in order to attain knowledge and experience in public policy. Kruti also worked on the Gwen Graham for Congress campaign, in which she was given the opportunity to get college students interested in voting and giving back to their community and realizing that voting and advocating will help them get the change they want to see in their state and local community. With strong desires to take initiatives for creating safer and more reliable home care ad nursing facilities for the elderly, her desire for advocating for those who are the most vulnerable in our community stems from her close ties with her grandfather and his experiences with the healthcare system as a patient with a degenerative neurological disease. She wholeheartedly believes that making a change and being a leader is not a one-person job, and that it takes a whole team to make change happen. Being a native of Florida, on her down time Kruti spends a lot of her time in the water since she is very active in water sports and she has an immense amount of love towards Florida State Football (GO NOLES). 


Ivanna Pengelley, Post-Secondary Education Support Specialist,
Florida Department of Children and Familes


Becky Pengelley is the Post-Secondary Education Support Specialist at the Florida Department of Children and Families, where she is works to develop on-campus programs to serve current and former foster youth enrolled in post-secondary education around the state. Prior to this, Becky served as the Program Coordinator of the Fostering Achievement Fellowship for where she provided development opportunities and support to former foster youth who were pursuing a post-secondary degree in the Tallahassee area. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010 with a degree in Educational Studies, Becky served her first year with the Fellowship as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. She currently serves on the board of the Leon County 4-H Youth Development Program and as a 4-H club leader. Becky also volunteers with a restorative justice project, helping teens learn Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process. As a firm believer in the value of non-formal and informal education, Becky recently completed her Master's Degree in Agricultural Education at the University of Florida. You can find her most afternoons at the South City iGrow Garden, a local urban agricultural program for youth.


Alexis Simoneau, Membership Marketing Manager, Florida Justice Association


Alexis was born and raised in DeLand, Florida where community pride and civic responsibility ran ripe through her veins as the child of small business owners and community volunteers who took their role in the community to heart. Alexis grew up watching the power her parents and people of all ages and backgrounds had in making their town a better place in which to live - one they were proud of and connected to. Alexis maintained her passion for civic engagement even after she moved to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. Throughout her four years as a Public Relations and International Affairs double-major she was active in engaging college students and the Tallahassee community with sustainability-related issues as a volunteer and later as the Public Relations Coordinator for FSU Sustainable Campus. In her senior year, Alexis worked as a Legislative Intern for a trade association that represented Florida’s nursing homes. In this position, she observed the impact of grassroots lobbying initiatives at the Capitol and the important roles associations play in representing their industries. Her first job out of college was at the Tallahassee Society of Association Executives, in essence, the association for the people who manage associations. In her role as the Marketing & Technology Coordinator, Alexis attended monthly educational roundtables and luncheons where she was able to immerse herself in the world of association management from varying perspectives of industries and professional roles from meeting planners to CEOs. Alexis now works as the Membership Marketing Manager for the Florida Justice Association where she is responsible for promoting the organization’s educational programming as well as recruiting and retaining members. In this position, she is able to combine her interests in civic leadership and professional development with the creativity and planning that goes into managing marketing campaigns. In her spare time, Alexis enjoys volunteering with the Junior League of Tallahassee or the Frenchtown Heritage Farmers’ Market. Her hobbies include anything you can do outside such as camping, hiking, kayaking, and running.


Kristin Tellis, Gubernatorial Fellow, Department of Juvenile Justice


Born in St. Petersburg, Fl., Kristin Tellis is a 2014 graduate of Howard University’s School of Communications. During her time at Howard, Kristin organized the first AAUW/Running Start Elect Her Women Win Training held at a Historically Black College/University: Elect Her-Howard Women Win. The Elect Her initiative acknowledges the necessity to build the pipeline of women running for office in order to diminish the longstanding political leadership gap. Over 80 young women at Howard University have successfully completed the training over the last three years. Many of them have successfully run for office, on and off campus. Currently, Ms. Tellis is a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice where she works on addressing racial and ethnic disparities through community engagement. Ms. Tellis attends Florida State University College of Law and is expected to obtain her J.D. in Spring 2017. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys painting and making her own herbal hair and body products. Ms. Tellis is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She was initiated at Alpha Chapter.

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New Leaders Council is a 501 (c) (3) public charity dedicated to educating a new generation of leaders and to providing those leaders with the tools they need to succeed. NLC does not engage in political or legislative activities of any kind, does not support or oppose any candidate for public office, and serves only as an educational leadership training ground.