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New Leaders Council

2018 Fellows

Check out our 2018 Fellows!


Christian Bell

Director of Innovation and Internal Learning, Teach For America


Christian Bell is a native Oklahoman who has made Texas her home for the past ten years. She currently works as a Director of Innovation and Internal Learning at Teach For America. In this role, she is part of the team that is responsible for creating and identify insights for the organization by executing on a learning agenda that combines learning cycles, data science, and strategic management of external research. Prior to joining Teach For America's staff, Christian served as an internal evaluator with Austin Independent School District, where she was responsible for evaluating federal, state, and locally-funded programs for nearly five years. Recently, Christian launched Eleven 11 Consulting, where she aims to increase the chances that nonprofits she works with attain the grants and attention they seek through a focus on data collection, data analysis, outcomes, and results.

Christian is a firm believer in the power of education and achieving education equity, a belief that was solidified as a teacher with Houston Independent School District. She had the privilege of teaching first grade and ensuring that her students received the strong foundation that they deserve. Christian's passion for education is not limited to early childhood education. As an Essentials Fellow with 4.0 Schools, she is currently working on creating a mentoring program for Black women who are first generation college students.

In 2014, Christian launched the Austin branch of The Collective, Teach For America's national alumni of color association, which is founded on the belief that alumni of color play a unique role in helping students achieve educational equity.

A first-generation college student, Christian earned her Ph.D. in Educational Policy & Planning from the University of Texas-Austin and graduated from Spelman College (summa cum laude) with a B.A. in psychology.

Kristen Bowe

Business Strategy Consultant, Bazaarvoice


Kristen Bowe is a technology professional working in new media marketing, and business strategy. Originally from the suburbs of New York City, Kristen moved to Austin in 2015 in search of a better lifestyle comparable to city living. A graduate with a BA and Masters in Journalism and Telecommunications from the University of Florida, Kristen is trained and experienced in new media and the changing landscape of technology as it relates to communication strategy. Kristen is extremely passionate about mental health issues, education and racial and gender equality. In her spare time, she is an advocate for addiction and mental health, an avid runner and animal lover.

Sydney Briggs

Research Associate, Child and Family Research Partnership, The University of Austin at Texas


Sydney Briggs is a social policy researcher, and immigration and reproductive justice advocate who is interested in how local government and social service systems can best serve vulnerable and marginalized populations. Currently, Sydney is a Research Associate with the Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin, where she manages research and evaluation projects in the fields of child welfare and adolescent reproductive health. Her current work includes determining best practices for collaboration between Child Protective Services and domestic violence service providers, evaluating sexual education curricula in the community college context, and studying the impact of Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) on the outcomes of children in the custody of the child welfare system.

Sydney volunteers with the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, a Texas abortion fund, and La Línea de Defensa Communitaria, an Austin-based deportation defense hotline. Through her volunteer work, Sydney is learning about grassroots organizing and building networks of solidarity to create a more just and equitable city. Her prior experience includes conducting legal advocacy with victims of domestic violence, providing case management to survivors of human trafficking, and performing Spanish-English interpreting for a clinical social worker and at a community health clinic. Originally from the United Kingdom, Sydney holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelors in Spanish literature from Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Outside of work and activism, Sydney finds joy and connection in various forms of partner dancing, including salsa, west coast swing, two-step, and tango.

Rachel Brownlow Lund

Leadership Coach for Millennial Women, Me2Lead


Rachel Brownlow Lund empowers ambitious millennial women to become well-connected influencers and create incredible lives of impact. A passionate communicator and leadership coach, Rachel helps young women overcome feelings of: compare and despair; and I'm not there yet; to become career-savvy change-makers who work, play and lead in their zone of genius. Over the years, she has helped dozens of millennials establish lucrative career advancement opportunities, win thousands of dollars in earned grant money, and secure key recommendations that moved the needle forward. Her work has been featured internationally at Eleanor Beaton's Million Dollar Message conference, The Creative Disruption Show, and Young Money podcast.

Rachel has written hundreds of articles for publications such as the Austin Business Journal, Houston Business Journal and View magazines. She also oversees Hill Country View Magazine as editor-in-chief. The monthly magazine goes out to nearly 19,000 homes and businesses in Blanco, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, Driftwood and Bee Cave.

Rachel received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009. During her last semester of college, she founded Your Written Word LLC, a ghostwriting company that specializes in helping business owners become thought leaders in their industries through ghostwritten journalism, copywriting and other content creation. Together with her team of interns and contract workers, Rachel has ghostwritten more than a dozen nonfiction books.

In her free time, Rachel enjoys traveling, spending time with friends and family, and volunteering with the Seedling Foundation, a school-based mentorship program that pairs reliable adult mentors with children of incarcerated parents. Rachel has mentored the same child for six years and is proud to serve on the Seedling marketing committee as an advisor and advocate. Additionally, Rachel serves as the Senior Vice President of the Young Women's Alliance and Young Women's Alliance Foundation, where she oversees the annual Foundation Fundraising Campaign; YWAF endowment fund; YWA Connect mentorship program; and the partnership between YWA and its community partner, the Girls Empowerment Network. Rachel is a sustaining member of the women's collective giving group Impact Austin, where she serves yearly on a Grant Review Committee.

In 2014, Rachel graduated from Leadership Austin, where she continues to volunteer regularly; she has also graduated from civic involvement programs CityWorks Academy, Citizen Police Academy and AISD UpClose. She lives in Austin, Texas with her amazing husband and adorably mischievous dog, Hans.

Cassandra Champion

Staff Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project


Cassandra Champion comes to the New Leaders Council with a background in activism and volunteerism. She grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas and moved to Texas to obtain her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. She traveled to the University of Oregon to pursue her J.D. and returned to Texas after graduation. She is currently a Staff Attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, where she focuses on criminal justice reform, racial and economic justice, and voting rights. Within those fields, she litigates, conducts outreach, and places an emphasis on community engagement with grassroots and grasstops groups. Her previous position was as the Veterans Rights Attorney with TCRP in Odessa, Texas, where she advocated for treatment courts. She first delved into social justice advocacy when she joined the ACLU's volunteer legislative liaison team in 2006 to work on police accountability issues. Since then, she has been proud to volunteer with a number of groups toward that same end. She is currently a Legal Observer Coordinator and Trainer with the Austin Lawyers Guild as well as a Senior Advisory Board member and Criminal Justice Advisory Committee with Measure Austin. In her spare time, she snuggles with her 14 year old pup Leela, tries to improve her guitar skills through the Girl Guitar program, and enjoys back yard gatherings with her group of amazing friends.

Lexie Cooper

President, Austin Chapter, National Organization for Women


Lexie Cooper serves as the president of the Austin chapter of the National Organization for Women (Austin NOW). She organizes a variety of events, protests, social hours, and fundraisers for NOW members in the area in support of the advancement of gender equality. Lexie received her BA in English Literature from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. A Houston native, she began her volunteer work after graduation with the Houston chapter of NOW as an abortion clinic escort. Witnessing the behavior of the anti-abortion protesters at the clinic, week after week, Lexie quickly became passionate about reproductive rights and the right for all people to access quality, affordable healthcare without judgment. When she moved to Austin in 2015, she was honored to be asked to lead the Austin chapter of NOW, and has not looked back since. Since then, Lexie has worked in a variety of settings with low-income populations and cares deeply about the well-being of the most vulnerable members of the Central Texas community. She currently works as Community Outreach Coordinator for a local legal aid nonprofit.

Nicole Cummings

Assistant Principal, KIPP Austin Public Schools


Nicole Cummings born in Florida yet raised in Texas earned her B.S.A in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Oklahoma Baptist University. She also holds an M.A in Youth and Family Ministry from John Brown University. As a child in Austin Texas, she learned quickly that success in school was not going to simply be given to her, and that there would be many academic and behavioral odds stacked up against her. Her parents who always saw the best in her consistently looked for ways to help push her forward. While growing up they assured she had the opportunity to throw her energy into dance, acting and maintain membership in many community activities and organizations all of which influenced her decision to become a teacher. Nicole learned about the retention and output disability that impacted her childhood educational journey at the age of 20 via the support of a college professor who recognized the gap and held her feet to the fire. Nicole is currently in her 3rd year as Assistant Principal at KIPP Austin Connections Elementary. Prior to moving into this role, Nicole spent her first 6 and a half years in education as a kindergarten teacher both with KIPP and Austin ISD. While teaching she also held the role of a curriculum course leader, grade level chair, served on the Teacher Career Pathway committee, managed other teachers and held the 3-year position of After School Enrichment Coordinator for a grant-funded program within both school districts. With a passion for youth, education and the developmental stages of the WHOLE CHILD, Nicole serves as the Vice President of the Youth Empowerment Project Incorporated Board of Directors, where she continues to help make a difference in the lives of youth around the country. Nicole is consistently seeking for opportunities where she can engage in rigorous discourse and implementation of educational and community-based practices that involve the entire village of a child. Her life's passion and missions are to create awareness around the child's individual needs, provide resources to families as parents learn how to advocate for their children and to bridge the gap for educators so they are equipped to meet the needs of the whole child beginning early on and focused on social and emotional development.

Shaleiah Fox

Associate Director of External Relations, The University of Texas at Austin


Shaleiah Fox oversees development and external relations at Black Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, a collective that includes a policy institute, an academic department, and a cultural and programming division. Shaleiah has nearly ten years of experience in both program and personnel management in the private and public sectors, and has headed up business development for multi-state operations for a global corporation. Shaleiah holds two Masters Degrees from Florida State University in social work and public administration and policy. While at FSU, Shaleiah's graduate research and volunteer work addressed transitional living programs and the gaps in services for youth who have aged out of the foster care system, believing very simply that these children are ours to care for and protect. In 2012, Shaleiah founded Fresh Chefs Society, a non-profit that aims to empower youth transitioning out of the foster care system through the power of food. She is an advocate and philanthropist, who has worked to turn her personal experience in the foster care system into positivity wherever possible.

Jonathan Hackworth

Solutions Engineer, Tenfold


Jonathan Hackworth is committed to helping companies and non-profits receive the most value out of their business processes and systems. As a Senior Solutions Engineer at Tenfold, he partners with companies to improve their customer experience by designing solutions to aggregate relevant customer data from multiple databases in real-time.

Prior to his current role at Tenfold, he wore many hats as an early employee in the startup, from managing customer implementations and optimizing internal business processes, to administering the Salesforce CRM and serving as sales operations manager. His expertise and commitment to the Salesforce ecosystem allowed him to be invited as a speaker at Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference.

Jonathan has grown to love the startup and technology scene in Austin. However, the lack of representation of founders from diverse backgrounds led to him becoming a co-founder of BLNDED Media, a platform to highlight the voices of underrepresented entrepreneurs in Texas.

Jonathan was born and raised in Dallas, TX. Before moving to Austin, where he currently lives with his wife, Lindsay, Jonathan lived in San Marcos, TX, and Lorman, MS where he attended Texas State University and Alcorn State University, respectively.

Kelsey Hitchingham

Financial Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund


Kelsey Hitchingham has over ten years of experience managing grants and nonprofit finance. Her commitment to progressive ideals started in elementary school, when she began a campaign in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, to raise awareness for the often overlooked earthworm. As early as 16 years old, she pursued her first dream of becoming a chef, working in restaurants until she was inspired to pursue economics by a dynamic college professor in her freshman year of college. Kelsey went on to earn her Bachelor's degree in Economics and French from the University of Texas at Austin. While still in school, Kelsey began working for the affordable housing nonprofit Foundation Communities as a Grants Administrator. After five years with FC, she left to study International Economic Development at Sciences-Po University in Paris, France.

Kelsey campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 as a board member of the Sarasota Young Democrats in Sarasota, Florida; served from 2009 to 2011 on the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas; currently serves on the board of the Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project; and holds a leadership position on the Economic Development Committee of the Austin Young Chamber. In her spare time, Kelsey is a runner, gardener, and avid reader.

Deisy Asusena Jaimes

Executive Director, Texas Senate Democratic Caucus


As Executive Director of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus (SDC), Deisy Asusena Jaimes works with several advocacy groups and associations, local entities, and state elected officials collectively to bring legislative change for all Texans. She cultivated her passion for civic engagement while working in the Texas House of Representatives for Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (Austin). There she learned the importance and need of civic engagement, and the impact state and local government has on our communities. Currently, Deisy also serves as Policy Analyst to Sen. Rodriguez (El Paso), who is the Chairman of the SDC. Deisy has a keen interest for the legislative process and has worked on several issues, her main interest is in: education, immigration, access to health care, and social justice.

Deisy is a Mexican native raised in Austin. She is a graduate from St. Edward's University where she received a bachelor''s in Psychology. Deisy is a proud University Hills (Northeast Austin) resident, there she helped bring a Montessori program to Winn Elementary, which is where she attended, and a member of her neighborhood association. An avid volunteer, Deisy serves in her community as a lector in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a CASA in Travis County, St. Edward's Alumni Board member, Junior League active member, Young Catholic Professionals member, and Con Mi Madre- Corazon Awards fundraising member. On her free time, Deisy likes to hike, read for pleasure, travel, but mostly spending time with her family.

Thomas Just


Thomas Just grew up in Indianapolis, IN. At the age of eighteen, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Thomas was trained as an intelligence analyst and later specialized in cyber warfare. After six years in uniform, Thomas enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and studied philosophy and government. While at UT, he worked with Project Vote Smart and for Congressman Lloyd Doggett. Upon graduation, Thomas immediately began studies at the Seattle University School of Law. Whilst there he clerked for the Washington State Attorney General and served as director of legal services for Seattle Stand Down, which provides an array of services to indigent veterans. Thomas is now completing a degree in computer science at Texas State University so that he can sit for the Patent bar. He plays chess competitively and is working towards achieving the rank and title of a chess master. When Thomas took off his uniform, he retained the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. He believes strongly that progressive veterans have a unique voice and perspective on what it means to work together towards the common good and to create a society without class or caste.

Chris Kaiser

Director of Public Policy / General Counsel Texas Association Against Sexual Assault


Chris Kaiser is the Director of Public Policy and General Counsel for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, where he manages legal and policy matters affecting sexual assault survivors in Texas. Skeptical of anti-violence strategies that have historically focused narrowly on perpetrators' criminal legal outcomes and the experiences of white, middle-class, heteronormative victims, he emphasizes an inclusive, survivor-centered policy analysis. Chris joined TAASA in 2009 as a staff attorney and recent transplant from Kentucky. During his tenure, TAASA's public policy work has broadened to include a dedicated program to support and advocate for incarcerated survivors, improving access to civil legal services for sexual assault survivors, and regular intervention in state and federal lawsuits threatening survivors' interests. He also serves on the public policy committee for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Chris believes that public policy both reflects and informs our cultural values and, therefore, he is committed to a politics that illuminates the many, fluid ways that struggles for racial, gender, and economic justice intertwine. He received a law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Kentucky. His dog Ann Richards was born and raised in Texarkana.

Nikki Metzgar

Communications Officer, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes


Nikki Metzgar is the communications officer at Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, a statewide advocacy organization that fights to protect and expand access to preventative and reproductive health care. In her role, she manages and executes communications campaigns to advance reproductive health and rights for all Texans. Nikki earned a Master's in Public Affairs with a specialization in Health Policy from the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelor of Arts from Rice University in Houston. Her writing was included in the anthology Cornbread Nation 7: The Best of Southern Food Writing. She also volunteers at Austin Bat Cave to help children and teenagers develop their creative and expository writings skills and at the Inside Books Project, which sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas.

Alicia Weigel

Director, Policy and Advocacy, Deeds Not Words


Alicia Weigel is Director of Policy and Advocacy for Deeds Not Words in Austin, Texas. Deeds Not Words equips over 1 million advocates to act on issues that span the feminist agenda, combining both in-person and digital initiatives to support policy change. In her role as head of programming, Alicia has traveled the country to speak on panels and at conferences on issues from sexual assault to equal pay, has lead corporate workshops in gender equity (Google, Facebook, etc.) and has trained hundreds of high school and college students in legislative advocacy. In this role, she has contributed to the passing of various state-level laws and city ordinances against sexual assault and human trafficking.</p>

<p>Prior to joining Wendy Davis's nonprofit, Alicia held various roles in international marketing at grassroots organizations and for-profit businesses in Brazil, Angola, South Africa, and throughout the US. Alicia managed executive conferences in Latin America focused on bringing big data technology to nascent markets at Terrapinn. She directed Apple's affiliate marketing programs throughout the Americas from Ogilvy &amp; Mather's digital agency Neo@Ogilvy. Most recently, Alicia oversaw digital storytelling campaigns for social good clients from Johnson &amp; Johnson&rsquo;s Corporate Citizenship Trust to Amnesty International at Fenton, a social change agency. Having maintained a steady drumbeat of women-centric volunteering throughout, she decided to leverage her skills in bringing social impact goals to scale for gender equity full time.</p>

<p>Alicia currently serves as an advisor for interACT, which employs legal and media strategies to advocate for the human rights of children born with intersex traits like her. In this role, she will deliver a workshop at SXSW (South by SouthWest) to promote intersectional advocacy in the LGBTQIA+ community. She also serves on the investment committee of Spark, a Bay Area-based donor network that supports women-led organizations globally, and has provided media advocacy consulting for Spark grantees on the ground in Subsaharan Africa. Alicia holds a B.A. from Cornell University, where she studied Development Economics and Latin American Studies.

Priscilla Weninger

Director of Talent, IDEA Public Schools


Priscilla was born and raised in Houston, Texas to immigrant parents from Mexico and Peru. During college, Priscilla served as a student leader of Mezcla, the Latina student organization on campus, and interned for U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-23) through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Wellesley College in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science, she obtained a master's degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2011, Priscilla worked full time for State Senator Judith D. Zaffirini analyzing bills and staffing the Senator on the Senate Higher Education Committee (SHEC). Priscilla also interned part-time for Annie's List and supported local Democratic women campaigns through block-walking. Her master's thesis examined race-based affirmative action policies in the U.S. and Brazil and she spent a summer in Brazil learning about their race-based quotas in higher education. Passionate about college access for low-income communities of color, Priscilla moved to Miami, Florida in 2012 to join Teach for America and taught 9th grade English I at Miami Northwestern SHS. After her Teach for America commitment, Priscilla participated in a summer fellowship through Education Pioneers in Washington, D.C. where she interned at OSSE (the Office of the State Superintendent of Education) working on their Race to the Top grant allocation process. That summer, Priscilla realized she wanted to effect change for students through improving human capital strategy within school districts. Since 2014, Priscilla has worked for IDEA Public Schools in Austin, Texas as a talent recruiter and, today, as Director of Talent, setting the human capital strategy vision for the Austin region. Priscilla has coached nearly 20 school principals on how to create exemplary organizational health cultures, hire over 400 teachers, create diverse staffs, and retain their strongest teachers. By 2022, IDEA will expand to 26 schools in the Greater Austin region. Priscilla is thrilled to join the Austin Chapter of New Leaders Council to meet other progressives and put her values to work outside of education.

Nakia Winfield

Mental Health Policy Advocacy Fellow, National Association of Social Workers- Texas Chapter


Nakia Winfield is currently the Mental Health Policy Fellow for NASW-TX. She has worked in both the public-private sector having served 7 years in Apple's human resource department, after which she began her graduate school career where she served as a policy analyst under Texas House Representative Coleman during the 85th session, and where she worked on the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict while interning at the Nobel Women's Initiative. While getting her MSW, Nakia also co-founded and led the DUH campaign urging the University of Houston to divest from the for-profit prison industry.

In her current position, Nakia has advocated for strong social safety nets, police accountability, and an end to the persecution of transfolks and immigrants all at the state level. In Austin, Nakia has served on the Juvenile Curfew Ordinance Stakeholder Taskforce where she was able to help successfully sway Austin Police officers to end the curfew. She is also part of the core leadership for Undoing Racism Austin where she has already helped shape understanding of systemic racism for city leadership so they can become allies in dismantling systemic racism in Austin. Nakia is also a co-founder of the Race Equity Accountability and Leadership (REAL) committee created to provide an anti-racist lens through which social workers view their work and their role in systems here in Texas.

Nakia's passions are justice focused: economic, reproductive, environmental, racial, social, criminal. She loves policy and helping improve the societal foundation on which everyone can thrive. Her fellowship ends in mid-2018 and she is looking for opportunities to influence policy and make positive social change while collaborating and learning from others with similar goals. She looks forward to fully engaging with her other NLC fellows and reaching the high bar that NLC will set in the upcoming year.

Julie Yost

Conference Programmer, SXSW


Julie Yost is a proponent for good design in all its forms, and fascinated by the power of the arts and creativity to drive social change. In four years at SXSW, she's grown the organization's focus on design, cities and social equity through thoughtful curation and creative events. Julie views her work as an opportunity to drive cultural, artistic and informational exchange and create a space for interdisciplinary dialogue around a more equitable future. Countless collaborations have been formed through her programming, including public art installations, impact-driven startups and partnerships advancing a hip hop architecture camp for underserved youth across the country.

Currently, Julie is working on art, design and cities programming for SXSW 2018. She has a BFA in PhotoCommunications from St Edward's University and a MFA in Historic Preservation from SCAD, where her thesis on creative placemaking as a form of cultural preservation won an award. Julie also serves on the advisory board for Austin Design Week and recently advised on the first ever speculative design conference, PRIMER in San Francisco. Finally, she spends a few weeks every year as Director of Guest Services for Austin's wild and wonderful Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in North America. In short, she champions creativity in all its forms and believes it is the key to achieving progressive goals. She also loves dogs, and has two pitbulls who kindly allow Julie to share their home in East Austin.

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