Meet the 2017 Tampa Bay Fellows
(back to NLC 2017 Fellows)
Samuel Aguilar, Organizer, FWD.us
Samuel Aguilar was born in Acapulco, Mexico and grew up in southern California before moving to the south. He graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in political science and public administration, and then went on to work as a program manager with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials in Atlanta. He is now an organizer with FWD.us, a bipartisan policy group founded by the tech industry. His professional interests include raising the political voice of Latino and millennial communities and policy analysis. In his free time, Samuel enjoys playing tennis and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Alan Borden, Owner/Head Attorney, Debt Relief Legal Group, LLC
Alan Borden, Esq. is a Consumer Protection Lawyer who advocates on behalf of Consumers in financial trouble. Born and raised in Texas, Alan graduated with a bachelor's degree in Government from the University of Texas and a Juris Doctor from South Texas College of Law. Alan has always been a passionate speaker and honed his trial skills in school through constantly competing in mock trial and moot court on the state and national level. After passing the Florida Bar in 2008, Alan dedicated himself to fighting for Consumer Rights in Florida. A year later one of Alan’s cases became a landmark decision in Bankruptcy law in the Middle District of Florida, In re White, which gives debtors a more solid ground to attack unscrupulous creditors. Alan handles cases ranging from foreclosure defense, creditor harassment, bankruptcy, mortgage modification, identity theft, and debt settlement. He loves being an attorney and helping people navigate their way out of financial hardship. Alan is a fluent Spanish speaker and is available by appointment across the state of Florida.
Mike Brenner, Florida Data Director, America Votes
Mike Brenner is the Florida Data and Targeting Director for America Votes Florida, where he provided oversight of the data and targeting for the massive 2016 general election program as well ongoing efforts to support progressive organizations throughout the state. He’s an experienced political operative with a track record of helping organizations succeed by utilizing data-based strategies. Since becoming involved with President Obama’s historic campaign in 2008, he's worked tirelessly as an advocate for progressive causes through the United States. After serving on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Lee County, Mike continued work to promote the President’s agenda by working to train and equip supporters with the tools necessary to conduct effective grassroots outreach as the State Coordinator in Louisiana and the Deputy State Coordinator in Florida for President Obama’s grassroots advocacy organization, Organizing for Action. In 2014, Mike was recruited by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s massive gubernatorial campaign, where he worked as the campaign’s Training and GOTV Director. While working for Governor Quinn, Mike was responsible for hiring and training the 50+ members of the campaign’s full-time field staff as well as coordinating GOTV operations with the state Democratic Party. Prior to his career in politics, he had a successful career in real estate and marketing as a principle with Brenner Realty Inc. Born in Minnesota, his family moved to Florida in the late 80s, settling in Fort Myers. While there, he graduated magna cum laude from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Honors Program, majoring in Political Science. Mike recently moved to St. Petersburg with his wife Miranda, and their daughter Natalie.
Justin Callahan, Senior System Engineer, Infotect Design Solutions
Justin Callahan is the Senior System Engineer for the technology consulting firm Infotect Design Solutions. Fascinated with technology since the beginning, he has become an active member in the technology community. He continually uses this passion to provide forward-facing solutions with maximum effectiveness to better serve his clients which include numerous non-profits, local government organizations, and small businesses in the greater Tampa Bay Area. Before being employed with Infotect in 2010, Justin worked as the IT Technician for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County which played a key role in his dedication and continued involvement in the non-profit community throughout Tampa Bay. Recently completing the “Modern Advances in Leadership” Certificate Program at the University of Tampa, Justin is focused on expanding the capabilities to help those around him through his core belief that “technology is limitless and so are you”. A resident of Tampa Bay for over 15 years, Justin has had the opportunity to reside in numerous communities and experience the rich diversity of people which he strives daily to assist by becoming a more active and vocal member of the Tampa Bay area both personally and professionally.
Mario Catalino, Cintron Marketing Manager and Entrepreneur CP Productions; Paint and Sip Tampa; and Mario's Premium Coquito
Mario Catalino is a marketer and serial entrepreneur. Although his professional career has focused on the digital marketing world for major international companies, he is no stranger to grass roots organizations and community work. Having developed several companies and social groups focused on serving the needs of the Latino community, he constantly keeps his finger on the pulse of this ever growing community. Originally born in Puerto Rico, he attended high school in Brandon, Florida; graduated from Oral Roberts University with a degree in International Business and Marketing, and later from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Multimedia Design for Marketing.
Tammy Charles, Senior Manager of Corporate Relations, Metropolitan Ministries, Inc.
Tammy Charles is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and speaker with experiences in non-profit and fund development, community relations, strategic analysis, and social enterprise development. In 2012, She graduated top of her business class from the University of Tampa with Magna Cum Laude distinction in business management. She later received her MBA and Nonprofit Leadership Certificate in 2016. Tammy is an emerging leader in the Tampa Bay community and has received numerous accolades including the 2014 President Bill Clinton’s Commitment to Action Award for her work with her start up, Ambrosia Global, LLC whose focus was not only to bring fresh food to communities in Haiti but to also empower microentrepreneurs in the process. In addition, she also received the 2016 Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Up and Comer Award for the Under 30 Category and was a finalist for the Tampa Chamber’s Deanne Dewey Roberts Emerging Leader Award. Her entrepreneurial endeavors have also been featured on the Clinton Global Initiative, 83 Degrees Media, The Hult Prize, the CEO Council, and the Global Health and Food Innovation to name a few. Tammy is currently the Senior Manager of Corporate Relations at Metropolitan Ministries. Through this role, she has been able to impact virtually every area of its mission of caring for the poor and homeless by increasing corporate partnership engagement, financial resources, and human capital to meet programmatic goals. She is currently developing her start up TMC Consulting where she will utilize her strategic gifts and passion for local community and international work in Haiti to empower and equip social entrepreneurs and grass roots community leaders locally and internationally to expand their mission and enhance their operations. In addition to her professional work, Tammy strives to serve her community in various areas of community development, economic empowerment, and social justice. She is an active member of the Tampa Chamber’s Women of Influence Committee where she is the Protégé Mentorship Program Liaison where she helps connect seasoned business professionals and community leaders with young professionals. She is the Chair of the Emerging Leaders of Tampa Bay’s Community Outreach Committee and is currently the Vice Chair of the board of the YWCA Tampa Bay. She is also actively involved in social justice movements such as Reborn Tampa Bay and is the lead social justice writer for a startup magazine called Revived.
Ruan Cox, Jr., Industry Alliance Development Associate, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
Ruan Cox, Ph.D. is a medical research scientist who works in the Innovation Office at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. In an effort to contribute to the cure and prevention of cancer, Ruan fosters important pharmaceutical partnerships that support Moffitt’s innovative cancer research. These partnerships have resulted in an addition $35 million in cancer research dollars and innovative studies that connect research leaders at Moffitt with key decision makers in the pharmaceutical industry. Ruan is a proud alumnus of both the University of Florida, where he earned his Bachelors of Science and the University of South Florida, earning both his Masters and Doctorate in Biomedical Science. He credits his involvement at the University of Florida with instilling in him not only a passion for leadership but also a passion for service and community involvement. While at the University of Florida, Ruan received numerous honors including the University of Florida Greek Man of the Year, Living the Ritual Award, and the Outstanding Male Leader Award. He also started a youth alliance for at-risk African American males in the Gainesville community focused on the pillars of academic enhancement, professional development, and social uplift. At the University of South Florida, Ruan was an active graduate student, publishing 10 original research articles on lung disease while completing his doctorate. His work on lung injury was awarded 3 prestigious fellowships from the Florida Education Fund, American Heart Association and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. More than just the research, Ruan was involved in helping to bring about more of an inter-professional culture for all USF Health students. As a founding board member of USF Heath’s student leadership board, he played a key role in the planning and design of a new shared services annex that provided more meeting space, better food choices, fitness facilities, and an improved social climate for USF students from the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health. His work at USF has been recognized with the Dr. K Award for Leadership and Service as well as the Florida Education Fund’s Russel Ewald Award for Academic Excellence and Outstanding Service. Ruan is committed to serving his community and fostering the young millennial talent in Tampa Bay. He is a founding board member of Tampa Economic Development Corporation’s Stand Up Tampa Millennial Entrepreneurship Initiative. He is also a proud board member of Scientists, Inc., helping to foster interaction between scientists and the citizens of Tampa Bay.
Cornelius Demps, Assistant Attorney General, The Florida Office of the Attorney General
Cornelius Demps is an attorney, entrepreneur, husband, and son. He is a skilled advocate who has utilized his persuasive talents on behalf of the State of Florida in trial and appellate practice. He has also served as guest speaker at St. Petersburg College, where he was invited to address students of the legal studies program. A native Floridian, Cornelius began his advocacy training while attending high school in Fort Pierce, Florida. Cornelius competed in several state and national debate competitions including the Harvard National Invitational Tournament in Boston. He would go on to earn his bachelor’s degree from the Florida State University. As member of the Phi Alpha Delta mock trial team, Cornelius represented the university in several intercollegiate competitions and was awarded numerous best advocate awards. A graduate of Stetson University College of Law, Cornelius earned a certificate from the university’s Concentration in Advocacy program. As part of that program’s curriculum, Cornelius interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. As a member of the university’s world renowned Trial Team, Cornelius competed in national competitions against top law schools such as the University of Florida, Washington University, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Georgetown. Upon graduation, the university bestowed upon him the Victor O. Wehle Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy and he was inducted into the National Order of the Barristers. Cornelius began his career as an Assistant State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida in New Port Richey. As a prosecutor, he conducted numerous trials involving serious felonies. Cornelius also served as the lead prosecutor on a case involving a Pasco Sheriff’s Office deputy charged with video voyeurism. Following a jury trial, the former deputy was found guilty as charged. Having become a proficient trial attorney, Cornelius transitioned to appellate advocacy. He currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General at the Florida Office of the Attorney General in Tampa. He has argued cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the United States District Court for the Middle District, and Second District Court of Appeal.
Eve Epstein, Wage and Hour Compliance Coordinator, City of St. Petersburg
The lack of protective measures against increased bullying incidents in schools sparked Eve Epstein’s early interest in anti-discrimination policies in education and work settings. Her passion for the law and public service led to her career pursuit as a labor and employment law attorney. A native St. Petersburg resident, she returned home in 2015 to create and manage St. Petersburg’s Wage Theft Recovery Program following the City of St. Petersburg's passage of a Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance. In her career she has worked to improve the working conditions of a wide range of employment sectors from coal miners to public sector employees and, more recently, victims of wage theft. She began her practice in Washington, D.C., as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor litigating a backlog of contested health and safety violations initiated by coal companies. Subsequently, she served as an Assistant Counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union – the second largest federal employees union in the country. She represented employees in the EPA, USDA, IRS and FEC in mediations, arbitrations, and in negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements. She also served as the Labor co-facilitator of a USDA Labor-Management Forum, collaborating with union and agency leaders to develop and implement initiatives to improve employees’ working conditions. She moved back to St. Petersburg to implement the City's Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance because she recognized it as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for an innovative approach to address a serious issue affecting the Tampa Bay region. Eve is an avid runner and an active member of Congregation B'nai Israel of St. Petersburg. She graduated cum laude from Smith College and received her J.D. from UC Davis, School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Florida, and she is a Florida Supreme Court certified circuit-civil mediator.
Alexandra Esparza, Managing Director, Pearl Brook Capital Management
Alexandra Esparza is currently a Managing Director and the lead investment analyst at Pearl Brook Capital Management, an emerging Tampa Bay-based hedge fund. She also is working part time to launch a new media tech venture aimed at the millennial Latino audience. She hopes to build a new channel in order to provide differentiated career and leadership related content. Alexandra currently serves as the chairman of the Advisory Board for the Kupona Foundation, a non-profit working to provide quality maternal healthcare in Tanzania while building sustainable healthcare infrastructure. She recently graduated with an Master of Business Administration in Investment Management from the Yale School of Management, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University.
Faithe Estes, International Education Specialist
Faithe Estes is passionate about cross-cultural collaboration, and believes that a diverse community benefits us all. In college she studied in France twice, was the lead Alumni Ambassador at her University, and finished with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, and Anthropology, minoring in Business and French. After college, Faithe moved to South Korea, then Spain, Scotland, and England to teach English as a Foreign Language. Spending nearly eight years overseas, she learned French and Spanish, traveled to 48 additional countries, and earned a Master's Degree in Bilingual and Multicultural Education. After subsequently running a Language School in Madrid, she felt it was time to return to the U.S. and find a city to call home, a city where she could take her education and experience and make a positive impact. Since moving to Tampa, Faithe has met and collaborated with wonderful members of the community, and worked with Moveon.org representing Hillsborough County. She has been a guest speaker at universities, is a published co-author, and has been a mentor to many students and recent graduates who wish to work and study overseas. Faithe hopes to continue on this path, utilizing her experience in immigration, and international education to benefit all members of our community. Her dream is to bring cultural exposure (varying ethnicities, languages, religions, art forms, and customs) to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about them. Thus, hopefully broadening perspectives and creating more inclusive and harmonious communities.
Trenae Gayle, Advocate, Secret's Shouldn't Hurt, Inc.
Trenae Gayle, is an advocate for sex crimes and children in foster care who provides education, awareness, and prevention tools through her foundation “Secret’s Shouldn’t Hurt, Inc.” On a mission to give acknowledgement to a form of abuse that isn't always easy to talk about. With, a far more broad approach then being written and helping individuals throughout her community and state she hopes to guide children who won’t need to recover from their childhood as adults as she did. She’s not only a voice for the voiceless, or a survivor but no longer hides behind a mask. She resides in Pinellas County, with her daughter Ki’Nyla.
Xuan Hurt, Proprietor, Anise
"Xuan “Sing” Hurt and her family came to Tampa from Vietnam as refugees in the early eighties. Her Christian upbringing encouraged her empathy for those less fortunate while the diversity of her schoolmates taught her respect for different cultures and religions. She is grateful for the opportunities that living in America has afforded her. She entered the hospitality industry while she was at the University of Florida on an academic scholarship. Her love of excellent food and creative concepts, coupled with her caring nature, led her to move up the ranks to restaurant management and then, eventually, ownership. Every venture reaffirms her belief in the importance of good work ethics and being present in her community. She and her husband are the proprietors of Anise Global Gastrobar, a trendy fusion restaurant in downtown Tampa. She is involved in a variety on ongoing projects, including North Star Eatery and Bake’n Babes Dessert Shop, two quick serve concepts in the new Hall on Franklin. Sing proudly serves on the board of BeatNB, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for neuroblastoma childhood cancer. She is the Food and Beverage Chair for the 2016 Pride & Passion Gala, hosted by the LGBTQ community, which benefits the Art Museum of Tampa. She is active in numerous organizations such as Tampa Downtown Partnership, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, New Town Connections and District River Arts Neighborhood Association. Her restaurant participates in Gasparilla Music Fest, Tampa Theatre Wine Fest, Downtown Tampa Fourth Fridays, and is a Straz Performing Arts Center Restaurant Partner. Sing enjoys shared meals with friends, quiet nights at home with her husband and dog, research trips to scope out dining trends, and the occasional relaxing tropical vacation. "
Christopher Lipson, Director of State Government Affairs & Advocacy, American Diabetes Association
"Christopher Lipson has worked in Florida's public policy domain for over six years, spanning disciplines from campaigns to working in the Florida Legislature on both the public and private/non-profit sides. As Director of State Government Affairs & Advocacy for the American Diabetes Association, Christopher develops legislative and grassroots strategies in a seven-state region that work to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Christopher is a strong believer that it is the most vulnerable groups in society that need the strongest advocates and has consistently committed himself to lending a voice to these causes. While serving as the Director of Government Affairs and Member Advocacy for Florida's home care industry, Christopher led a coalition responsible for the first increase of a Medicaid Home Health rate in 27 years. As a Senior Legislative Assistant in the Florida Senate, Christopher worked on a range of issues including child welfare, elder affairs, civil rights, and voting rights. Christopher holds a Master of Science degree in Applied American Politics and Policy and a B.S. in Criminology, both from Florida State University. In his free time, Christopher enjoys traveling, maintaining his sports car, and following his favorite sports teams. "
Elizabeth Mack, Communications/Gallery Coordinator, Heart Gallery Pinellas/Pasco
"Elizabeth Mack is the Communications and Gallery Coordinator for Heart Gallery Pinellas/Pasco. She joined the team in January 2017, after dedicating three years to nonprofit organizations in Tampa and St. Paul, MN. Elizabeth is a proud native of Tampa Bay and graduate from Armwood High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism from Florida A&M University. Upon graduating she started her career as a newspaper reporter in Tallahassee, covering business, crime and community news before becoming a columnist and a community figure. She sat on the Board of Directors for the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, also in Tallahassee, which kick started her love for nonprofit work. After four years as a journalist helping to make an impact on her community, she realized she wanted to do something that had a greater and more direct potential for positive change. She found her first opportunity through an AmeriCorps program in Minnesota where she served as a K-3 Literacy Tutor at The Heights Elementary School in St. Paul with Minnesota Reading Corps (a state AmeriCorps program). Once completing her service term, she returned home to Tampa Bay, helping homeless/unaccompanied high school students find money to pay for college and change their futures, and later transitioning to economic development in East Tampa. As a nonprofit Communications professional, she loves sharing the stories of success in her community. "
Jasmine Mattear, District Executive Ceremony, Florida State House of Representatives
Jasmine Mattear is a native of Tallahassee, FL. She recently graduated from the University of South Florida, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in History. While attending USF Jasmine held various leadership positions on campus, her most fond being her term as the Deputy Supervisor of Elections for Student Government. She currently works as the District Executive Secretary for Florida State Representative Sean Shaw, who represents House District 61. She is extremely passionate about helping the Tampa Bay community that she has grown to love and call home. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of Project NOW, which serves as oversight for the H.O.P.E Centers on 22nd Street and 29th Street in Tampa. Jasmine is also a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, where she is the incoming treasurer. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, an organization that prides itself on social action and community involvement which are two things very near and dear to her heart. Jasmine believes that every time you meet someone new it is another opportunity to make a greater impact on the world. She worked on the Aesthetics and Beautification Committee of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership to put on the 9th Annual East Tampa Tree Lighting Ceremony, which gives back hundreds of school supplies to students for their second semester of school and other items to families in need during the holiday season. Jasmine is passionate about uplifting the community, strengthening the education system, and helping people reach their highest potentials.
Ericka McThenia, Sustainability Professional
Ericka Leigh McThenia is a native Floridian and has always been an environmental enthusiast. With her early career working in restaurants, she developed an affinity for the food and agriculture system. The beginnings of her environmental career mostly dealt with food waste and composting. While working in restaurants, Ericka had the opportunity to develop and manage initiatives relating to recycling, composting, food waste minimization, and food security. In December 2015, Ericka graduated with her Masters from the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida. She did her thesis project with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Lima, Peru, where she worked on a project linking food security and school gardens. She created a workshop to educate and equip children with the tools necessary to ensure their food security for the future with the dual objective of creating intersectoral and interinstitutional cooperation between local and national government entities. Since then, Ericka has remained active in the Tampa Bay food community working on various projects with different actors regarding hunger and local food issues. She has a genuine passion for making our community and the planet a better place, and an equal passion about food waste minimization, increasing composting efforts, and ways to make the food system more sustainable. Ericka aspires to work for the government to help change the food system from within. In 2016, Ericka started a small business making bowties out of old clothes. With a BA in Theatre Arts and becoming an entrepreneur, Ericka considers herself a Jane of all Trades. Her array of interests helps her to look at problems and challenges in a more holistic manner and to think outside the box.
Ryan Mitchell, Firefighter/Paramedic, City of Pinellas Park
Ryan Mitchell is a 14-year veteran firefighter paramedic and has served 16 years in the field of emergency medicine. He holds leadership and teaching positions at the fire department, on various specialty teams, and throughout the county. He also works part-time as a medic in Pinellas County’s only trauma center. A USFSP alumnus, Ryan graduated with a Bachelors in Anthropology. His degree work led him around the world with a field school in Northern India and a National Science Foundation research project in Southern Ethiopia. Ryan has also worked on an archaeological research project in Argentine Patagonia and served as a paramedic in a field hospital in Haiti two weeks after the 2010 earthquake. An impassioned civic activist, Ryan has worked on community and social engagement projects since he was a child from working with city planners to redevelop his childhood playground while growing up in Toronto’s China Town to rising as a leading advocate for more public investment into activated urban space during St. Petersburg’s latest pier development project. Using music and creative visuals to engage the public in Pinellas County’s public transit proposal, Ryan has consistently kept his finger on the pulse of progressive issues throughout the Tampa Bay region. Most recently, Ryan, along with a team of fellow peers and professionals, co-founded Eat.Speak.St.Pete -- a local documentary series that utilizes food as a conduit to engage the public in social and issue-based commentary. The first documentary in the series featured civic leaders, as well as city council members, who joined together to share and speak about the issues facing St. Petersburg’s culturally and historically rich Southside. The premier event was sold out and included a public showing of the documentary followed by an hour-long community discussion that is already yielding actionable steps that the broader community can use as tools to become more involved. Ryan is a creative thinker and a go-to person when critical thinking and progressive ideas are needed to provide a solution-based response to local challenges. Whether it’s leading a crew to mitigate life and death circumstances in dynamic environments, or sitting down with city leaders to tackle urban issues, Ryan has dedicated his life to serving his fellow community. Ryan resides in St. Petersburg with his wife, an active outdoor and experiential educator, and their two cats.
Allison Nguyen, Community Engagement Coordinator, Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County
Allison joined Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County’s Office of Health Equity in 2015. As the leader of the agency’s Health in All Policies initiative, she engages with local government agencies and encourages decision makers to consider health impacts when changing and creating policies, plans, and programs. Her primary efforts are focused on policy, systems, and environmental changes across Tampa communities to improve social conditions and reduce health disparities related to hunger, food access, active transportation, and other health needs. She serves on the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees for the Society of Public Health Education. Allison has been engaged in community service since she joined Girl Scouts at a young age, and ultimately earned her Silver and Gold Awards. She continued her volunteerism through local refugee resettlement agencies, teaching English as a Second Language, helping families resettle, and later engaging in youth development programs while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Allison has a bachelor’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University, a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Albany, and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. Her diverse career experiences include healthcare consulting, public health policy, program development, emergency preparedness, public health communication, health education, community health improvement, and children’s environmental health issues. Allison is a Buffalo, New York native and tries to catch the Buffalo Sabres’ games whenever they play in Tampa. In her down time, she enjoys yoga, biking, cooking, baking, reading and traveling with her husband.
Nestor Ortiz, Chief Operations Officer, University Area Community Development Corporation
Nestor Ortiz has been involved in youth and community development for more than 25 years. Serving in leadership roles in primarily informal education institutions, he has remained committed to the holistic impact youth and community programs can have on larger communities. He has long championed for not only adults but for youth to actively advocate for their own engagement in real and systemic community change. Serving as a youth and community development consultant for 12 of those 25 years, Nestor has worked with community agencies all over the US with a focus on the Tampa Bay area, helping them create and develop their own high quality programs and initiatives. Recognizing the greater needs of disenfranchised communities, Nestor began to shift his general focus of youth and community development to a more focused approach in areas that impacted low income communities, individual rights of womyn and the LGBTQ community, immigration and undocumented issues, communities of color, Muslim advocacy, and environmental challenges. Nestor is currently the Chief Operations Officer for the UACDC, a local non-profit community development center focused on housing, arts & education, community safety, health & wellness, family stability, technology workforce, and a host of other community support initiatives. Nestor also serves as the Chair of the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council and is the father of two hilarious and compassionate boys and an avid outdoor adventure enthusiast.
Jessie Schneider, Office Administrator, GPI
Being a Jane of all trades, Jessie Schneider enjoys wrangling chaos into order, encouraging the success of coworkers, testing potential process improvements, coordinating unforgettable special events, and fostering a positive environment in her current position as Office Administrator with GPI, an engineering and construction services firm in downtown Tampa. Hired as an Administrative Assistant in 2013, she was promoted to Office Administrator two years later after showing interest and promise in human resources and management. In 2016, she led an effort to increase employee engagement by re-engineering the performance review process to include SMART goals for the employees’ contributions to the company and for their own personal development. Jessie is an active member of the Tampa Noonshiners club of Toastmasters International serving as her club’s VP of Public Relations. She has also been a member of the American Business Women’s Association since 2010 having campaigned for District I Vice President in 2015 on the platform of recruiting millennials while encouraging the existing baby boomer members to take on the responsibility of mentoring the new recruits. Graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2006, Jessie received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and double minors in Women’s Studies and Sociology; making her the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree. She credits her undergraduate studies in psychology as well as her personal experiences with mental health for inspiring the cause closest to her heart; improving the quality and availability of mental health care for at-risk populations. She is an advocate for mental health awareness through public speaking and a blog where she chronicles the treatment of her own bipolar disorder. Her other areas of activism include LGBTQ rights, women’s equality, and advocating for youths within or at-risk of becoming part of the juvenile justice system. Jessie considers herself a feminist and created the Facebook page “Fourth-Wave Feminists” with the hope of making feminism more accessible to all people. Jessie cites civic leaders Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Wendy Davis, and the fictional character Leslie Knope as a few of her top role models. She hopes to someday contribute more legislative action than activism in her community through a position in public office. Or she may launch a non-profit focused on mental health outreach. She finds singular paths difficult to predict as a Jane of all trades but knows that wherever she ends up she wants to have a positive impact.
Tamara Shamburger, School Board Member, Hillsborough County Schools
Tamara was born and raised in Tampa by her mother and father, along with three other siblings. Tamara is the proud mother of one daughter. Early on Tamara learned the value of hard work, teamwork, and perseverance. As a young mother, education was vital in providing a sustainable and productive life for herself and her daughter. A product of Hillsborough County public schools, Tamara is a proud graduate of Bloomingdale Senior High School. Tamara went on to receive her liberal arts degree from Hillsborough Community College; Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of South Florida; and a well-earned Master of Business Administration (MBA) from St. Leo University. Tamara has worked in the Insurance Industry for the last 19 years and has also worked as a Mortgage Broker in her mother's mortgage brokerage business. Tamara's professionalism, business acumen, as well as her extensive experience in Management, Insurance Litigation, Contracts, Budgets, Leadership, and good old common sense makes her an effective leader in the community. Elected to the Hillsborough County School Board (District 5) in 2016, Tamara hopes to bring the valued perspective of an outsider, laser-focused on improving the quality of public education as well as all aspects of the school system. In her spare time, Tamara is a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay where she enjoys mentoring and spending time with her little sister, a sixth-grader. Tamara also serves on the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee as a Precinct Committewoman, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Hillsborough County Department of Children's Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Bay Area Urban Chamber of Commerce. Tamara is also the proud member of Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa.
Lisa Thelwell, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office
Lisa Thelwell is a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. She is assigned to the Major Crimes Section of the Criminal Division, where she prosecutes a variety of cases including, but not limited to, human and sex trafficking, child pornography and fraudulent acts against the government. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lisa served as a local state prosecutor in Miami-Dade County from 2012 to 2016. A proud double Gator, Lisa graduated cum laude from the University of Florida, Frederic G. Levin College of Law in 2012 and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, Warrington College of Business, with a minor in African American Studies and Leadership in 2008. While in law school, Lisa served as the Managing Editor for the University of Florida Journal of Law & Public Policy and the National Director of Communications for the National Black Law Students Association, for which she received the distinct honor of being named “National Board Member of the Year” for her outstanding service. Lisa is passionate about seeking the truth, serving as a voice for victims and the socially oppressed and ensuring that justice prevails. Her desire is to be a catalyst for change in the criminal justice system and public policy by zealously upholding the laws of this country while maintaining a spirit of honesty and integrity. Since relocating to Tampa in June 2016, Lisa was selected for membership with the Herbert G. Goldburg—Ronald k. Cacciatore Criminal Law American Inn of Courts. She is the immediate past State Representative and Programs Chair for the South Florida Chapter of the National Black Prosecutors Association and a graduate of the Florida Bar’s Wm. Reece Smith, Jr. Leadership Academy. Lisa enjoys spending her time relaxing in the Florida sun, reading and expanding her photography skills.
Maj Vasigh, Attorney, Maj Vasigh Law Firm
Maj Vasigh is a trial attorney based in Ybor City, where he has operated a successful criminal defense practice since founding his law office in 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Florida's Levin College of Law and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Maj began his professional career in 2007, representing the indigent as a Public Defender in Hillsborough County. In the middle of his career he was recruited to the corporate world and served as in-house counsel for an Inc 500 internet marketing corporation. He was soon promoted to VP of Compliance and Government Relations, where he worked with management to reorganize the company’s FTC compliance program and led the company’s first efforts into government relations. In 2013, he started his law practice with the express intent of earning a living while being able to say and do whatever he wanted, politically, without fear of losing his job. Though sometimes he manages to put himself on probation for his own good. While not at work, Maj enjoys playing tennis, cooking, eating, and drinking good Kentucky bourbon. Maj lives in the Ballast Point area of South Tampa with his wife Morgan, who is also a lawyer, and their two dogs, both of whom remain unemployed.