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New Leaders Council


Meet the 2018 Denver Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)

Zina Badri

Deputy State Public Defender, Colorado State Public Defender

Denver_Zina_Badri_-_Zina_Badri.jpgZina Badri is a Deputy State Public Defender with the Colorado State Public Defender and proud new resident of Colorado. After earning her J.D. in May 2016, she served as a Public Service Law Fellow in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California, where she assisted in the representation of indigent clients. She worked in various positions internationally prior to entering law school. As an Iraqi-American, Zina served in a position of personal import with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Iraq Reconstruction after graduating college where she managed the program's gender portfolio. She then moved to Cairo, Egypt to serve as a Resettlement Legal Advisor to refugees seeking resettlement through the UNHCR, and then to the southern coast of Guatemala to test new seed varieties with farmers. Zina earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law. She is a member of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association. In her free time, Zina enjoys doing all things outdoors and checking out comedy/improv shows.


Paul Bindel

Communications Coordinator, Digital Marketing Strategist, Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center

Denver_Paul_Bindel_-_Paul_Bindel.JPGOriginally from New Mexico, Paul spent five years teaching composition before transitioning into marketing and communications. Paul is a cofounder of Queen City Cooperative and the Colorado Cooperative Investment Club, and he volunteers with Warm Cookies of the Revolution and the Colorado Co- op Study Circle. Paul finds joy in bringing people together, and he works to build Denver’s worker-owned businesses and community-owned housing. He loves reading, writing, performing improv, and connecting with people over coffee.


Adrienna Corrales Lujan

Executive Director, Promotora, Sisters of Color United for Education/HEAL Denver

Denver_Adrienna_CorralesLujan_-_Adrienna_Lujan.jpgAdrienna is a Promotora and Executive Director for a holistic and culturally responsive community based wellness organization Sisters of Color United for Education (SOCUE). For over 25 years, she has been involved in community education, awareness and mobilization around culture, health disparities, human rights, food, media justice, violence, HIV/AIDS and art as social justice. Focusing on the intergenerational and historical trauma her work is rooted in epigenetic and culturally responsive modalities to develop effective curricula and interventions centered on intersectionality. With a speciality in trauma-informed care, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders this inspired her to create comprehensive prevention programs for individuals, families and communities. She has created multiple Art in Motion cultural wellness fairs that have provided healthcare, basic needs services, community education, one site HIV screenings, and cultural arts for over 10,000 participants. As the lead trainer and co-founder for SOCUE, Adrienna has developed multiple holistic bilingual curriculums, being used by community health workers in Colorado, Mexico, Nairobi and Guatemala. Current projects include establishing local and national collaboration of small and emerging businesses, individuals and healthcare workers to develop and enhance culturally relevant materials, spaces and distribution networks which foster holistic wellness, racial and health equity through art and social justice. She has created HEAL Denver, providing a safe space in the Santa Fe Arts district, with an innovative approach to provide capacity building and technical assistance for emerging local and national projects and businesses that build equity and inclusion.


RB Fast

Organizational Leadership Coach for Schools & Nonprofits, Bee Line Consulting, LLC

Denver_RB_Fast_-_RB_Fast.jpgRB Fast is an Organizational Leadership Coach for Schools and Nonprofits. Born in Denver, RB Fast has lived in Colorado her entire life. She lived in the small city of Grand Junction for most of her childhood. Just before high school her family relocated to the tiny ranching community of Collbran, where her high school class had only twenty-one graduates. Her background gives her a deep understanding of the issues affecting rural communities. After high school, she moved to Greeley where she studied Psychology at the University of Northern Colorado. She relocated back to Denver in 2000 and has remained since. In 2003 RB completed her Montessori teaching certificate through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI-USA). She worked as a teacher and an administrator in Montessori schools for several years. In 2015, she earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis in Public Policy and Advocacy. RB has put a great effort into advocating for young children and Montessori education. In 2012, after leading an effort to change the law in Colorado to better support Montessori schools, she helped found the Colorado Montessori Association. CMA is an organization that supports schools and teachers through advocacy, networking, and professional development. RB served as Vice-President and Advocacy Chair for four years. She is currently serving on the Council for the Montessori Public Policy Initiative, a national advocacy organization. Now, as the founder of Bee Line Consulting, RB serves as an organizational leadership coach and consultant for schools and nonprofits. She travels the globe facilitating retreats and speaking at events on the topics of leadership, equity, and personal strength. When she isn’t hopping around the world supporting schools and nonprofits, you are likely to find her in her garden or in her kitchen making culinary magic for her family and friends. RB is married to an artist and together they are raising a fierce feminist daughter.


Danielle Felder

Chief Development Officer, Emily Griffith Foundation

Denver_Danielle_Felder_-_Danielle_Felder.jpgDanielle Felder grew up as an Air Force brat who traveled the world with her family. Her father retired in Colorado, after twenty-two years of service. She attended the University of Denver and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business and Finance. She continued on to law school at the University of Colorado in Boulder and was her law school class president. For more than five years, she practiced as a civil litigation attorney at national firms in Denver representing publicly traded corporations, companies, nonprofits, and individuals in a wide-range of legal matters including contracts, personal injury defense, employment issues, residential-mortgage backed securities, and real estate. She recently left private law practice to focus on using her skills to help others. She joined the Emily Griffith Foundation (EGF) as its Chief Development Officer in October 2017. In this role, she provides development and fundraising support for Emily Griffith Technical College (EGTC), the oldest vocational school in the country. For more than a century, EGTC has been dedicated to workforce development for marginalized populations in Denver so that they can find careers (not just jobs) that will help improve their families’ lives. For the past twenty-five years, EGF has provided the necessary resources and financial support to EGTC that cannot be obtained from the school’s regular financial resources. She builds relationships and opportunities for businesses and individuals to further EGTC’s aspiration of giving an education and opportunity to “all who wish to learn.” In her free time, Danielle enjoys playing all types of competitive volleyball, hiking with her husband and their dog, and travelling.


Selam Gebre

Entrepreneur in Residence, Donnell-Kay Foundation

Denver_Selam_Gebre_-_Selam_Gebre.jpgSelam Gebre, an Atlanta native, moved to Denver in 2016. She deeply believes all people should feel empowered to be their own advocates and thrives in spaces that value, among many things, difficult conversations, informed autonomy and truth. Selam currently spends the majority of her time at the Donnell-Kay Foundation working on Blueprint4SummerCO, a free mobile friendly resource that connects families and learners across various lines of access with summer learning opportunities. Blueprint4SummerCO is set to launch in January 2018 and she is thrilled to lead this work. Prior to this, Selam worked on the Academic Product and Operations team at Guild Education, a Denver-Based edtech company. In this space, she worked on innovative course design and enrollment processes within their learning management system. Prior to Guild, Selam taught English to phenomenal high school students in Atlanta as a Teach for America Corps Member. As a teacher, she designed her school’s African American Studies and SAT Prep courses, and spearheaded a community forum tasked to explore ways to align current lived experiences with academic standards. Selam attended Cornell University, where she began to learn the power of her voice. She loves to read and enjoy the presence of her family and friends.


Brandon Hellwig

Denver_Brandon_Hellwig_-_Brandon_Hellwig.jpegA Denver native, Bandon Hellwig taught Special Education and Math in a middle school in North Lawndale on the west side of Chicago and coached the rugby team there to back-to-back state championships. After 4 years in the classroom, he engaged in community organizing and economic development for non-profits in the greater Chicagoland area. Moving back home to Denver allowed him to teach High School Social Studies, Career Readiness, and serve as director of the credit recovery program for his alternative education school in Aurora. Since then he has done fieldwork and consulting for several campaigns and is active in the non- profit education spaces here in the Denver Metro area.


Nicole Hensel

Senior Program Manager of Strategic Literacy Initiatives, Denver Public Schools

DENVER_nicole_hensel_-_NICOLE_HENSEL.JPGNicole Hensel is currently the Senior Program Manager of Strategic Literacy Initiatives at Denver Public Schools, collaborating with district leaders and schools to devise and implement a strategic plan for early literacy achievement across Denver. Nicole recently completed a joint master's degree in Public Policy and Education Leadership at Stanford University, where she conducted a large-scale policy proposal for the California State Board of Education on accountability structures for alternative schools. She is also the co-founder and Program Director for RE-ENVISIONED, a national movement to redefine the purpose of schooling. Through RE-ENVISIONED, Nicole aims to facilitate conversations around schooling that focus on creating flourishing lives and a thriving democratic society. Nicole hails from Tampa, Florida and received her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Julie Kennedy

Clinical Nurse II, Children's Hospital Colorado

DenverIMG_3805_copy_(1)_-_Julie_Kennedy.jpgA native of St. Louis, MO, Julie Kennedy moved to Denver in August of 2016 to combine a passion for healthcare with a love for the outdoors. Julie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in International Studies and minors in Public Health and Spanish. She spent 2 years living and working in Brazil and Malawi where she learned about the world of nonprofits and furthered her desire to find affordable and equitable healthcare solutions. While in Malawi, she managed 5 nurses who opened her eyes to the immense education and advocacy opportunities available in the world of nursing. Julie then returned to the US where she completed a second Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. In August of 2016, Julie accepted a position in the New Graduate Nurse Residency program at Children’s Hospital Colorado on the Hematology/Oncology Unit. Here, Julie is able to use relationship-driven therapy and cutting edge research protocols to provide holistic care to pediatric patients. Julie has a deep passion for the power of connection and believes children, from all places around the world, are some of life’s greatest teachers. International adventures are always on the horizon and Julie hopes to use the skills she is learning in the US to make connections around the world. For now, she spends her free time traveling, in the mountains, and delving into good books.


Rebecca Kisner

Advocate Network Lead, ReSchool Colorado, Donnell-Kay Foundation

Denver_Rebecca_Kisner_-_Rebecca_Kisner.jpgRebecca has been an active contributor in Denver's education sector for six years, with a career that has spanned direct service, policy, and advocacy. She currently works at the Donnell-Kay Foundation on a multi-year initiative called ReSchool Colorado. In this capacity, Rebecca leads a team of advocates implementing a new model of parent engagement that positions families to be the change agents of their learning and lives. Prior to this role, Rebecca served as the founding Director of Community Engagement at Rocky Mountain Prep, a network of public charter schools. During her time at RMP, Rebecca supported over 500 families in navigating the school choice process and building the knowledge and tools to be lifelong advocates for their children’s’ education. Before that, she was an Education Policy Fellow at the Donnell-Kay Foundation, where she wrote a paper titled “The Parent Engagement Continuum in High-Performing Charter Schools" that served as the basis for her strategic vision at RMP. In addition to presenting her work at numerous national conferences, Rebecca participates in several local coalitions for educational equity.

She currently serves as the Secretary on the Board of Directors for The Gathering Place, Denver’s only daytime drop-in center for women, children, and transgender individuals who are experiencing poverty or homelessness. She was also a member of the Impact Denver Class of 2015 through the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Rebecca graduated summa cum laude from the University of Vermont with a degree in social work and Spanish. She approaches her work through the lens of social justice and is passionate about storytelling, politics, civic activism, and building and sustaining community. Rebecca grew up with her two sisters in New England, where she developed a lifelong love of the outdoors. When she’s not working for progressive change, you will find her playing in Colorado’s mountains, reading books at the Tattered Cover, or trying to keep the plants in her garden alive.


Jessica Koerner

Senior Communications Associate, Compassion & Choices

Denver_Jessica_Koerner_-_jessie_koerner.jpegJessica Koerner is a lifelong activist and advocate for social equality and human rights. Currently, she is the Senior Communications Associate for Compassion & Choices’ Access campaign. At C&C, she advocates for expanded access to medical aid in dying in states where the end-of-life option has been authorized, including via digital and traditional medias. Jessie started her post-grad career as the social media manager for the Global Women’s Network in Washington, D.C., working to connect nonprofits working on women’s and girls’ issues in order to increase efficiency. Taking an opportunity to move back to Denver and continue her communications work in the energy sector, she was also able to work on oil and gas policy issues at the state and federal level, including lobbying in support of expanding a Bureau of Land Management permitting and regulatory program that increased oversight on operations. She couldn’t leave her advocate roots, though, and worked extensively on anti-human trafficking efforts in North Dakota from the industry side. Jessie worked on a Colorado State House campaign in 2016 as campaign manager, as well as consulting on communications and outreach for Propositions 107 and 108 that expanded primary votes to unaffiliated voters, and restored a presidential primary in Colorado.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Furman University in political science, and is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha honor society, as well as Delta Gamma fraternity, whose motto of “do good” Jessie has taken to heart. After Furman, she earned her master’s in global health affairs, and international security from the University of Denver. She participated in study abroad programs in Ghana, South Africa, and Costa Rica in undergrad and graduate school, where she researched and wrote about those healthcare systems, specifically how their impact on women. As a member of the Young Professionals Council for the Rose Andom Center, Jessie serves as co-chair of the signature events committee, and helps to expand access to metro-Denver resources for domestic violence victims. Jessie is a craft champ, a competitive equestrian, and wine and cheese aficionado. She doesn’t camp, despite being a Colorado native.


Tony Lucero

Manager of Talent Acquisition, DSST Public Schools

Denver_headshot_close_-_Tony_Lucero.pngTony Lucero is the Talent Acquisition Manager at DSST Public Schools, where he and his team oversee hiring strategy and implementation for a high-achieving charter school network with 13 schools. Nearly all of Tony's career has been in education, beginning as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Greater Philadelphia, where he provided attendance, behavior and academic intervention support for students in a 6th grade classroom in North Philadelphia. In addition, he created a nonviolence and service learning after-school program for students as well as served as a council member for AmeriCorps members. He also worked at an elementary school as the After-School/Summer Coordinator in the Kensington neighborhood before rejoining City Year as an Impact Manager at City Year Denver. There, he lead 35 AmeriCorps members within 5 years to implement City Year's "Whole School, Whole Child" model to achieve attendance, behavior and course performance goals for students in elementary and middle schools in West Denver. As a manager, Tony became inspired to shift his focus toward Human Resources in order to help create more positive and engaging workplace cultures for nonprofits and employees who undertake challenging work. Tony was born and raised in Denver and is currently an MBA candidate at Regis University.


Matthew McAllister

Smart City Project Manager, City and County of Denver

Denver_Matthew_McAllister_-_Matthew_McAllister.jpgMatthew McAllister is the Project Manager for Denver’s Smart City initiative. He leads the City’s work on connected vehicle technology, with a focus on how this technology can improve safety, congestion, and quality of life in Denver neighborhoods.

Previously, Matthew was the Special Assistant and Policy Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Matthew served as the CTO's trusted advisor, executing her vision and priorities through their 24-person team and coordinating their technology policy, digital government, and opportunity initiatives across the administration. He also led the office’s outreach to private sector tech companies gathering commitments to assist refugees ahead of President Obama’s final UN speech; supported two Presidential Medal of Freedom events; and organized the first White House Tech Meetup, bringing together leaders from the civic tech community with leaders from top social service organizations.

Matthew also served in the Office of Innovation at the Peace Corps, leveraging open source tools and technologies to empower Volunteers around the world. He started in the Obama administration in the White House Presidential Personnel Office as an Operations Staff Assistant.

Matthew graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Political Science, and grew up in Louisville, Colorado.


Antonio Mendez

Executive Director of Serve Colorado, State of Colorado

Denver_Antonio_Mendez_-_Antonio_Mendez.jpgAntonio has worked in government and education for almost a decade and has worked in the Hickenlooper administration for the past three years, first as Deputy Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor Joseph Garcia and then Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne. Recently, Antonio was promoted to Executive Director of Serve Colorado- the Governor's Commission on Community Service.

Antonio was the fortunate recipient of a Posse Scholarship and graduated from Colby College with a B.A. in American Studies. After Colby, Antonio dedicated himself to public service. He worked as Teach for America Corps member, a Senior Trainer at the Posse Foundation, a Colorado Legislative Fellow, and an intern in the Obama Administration. In 2014, Antonio graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law with a Juris Doctor and a certificate in International Law.

Antonio and his wife, Caitlin, live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood with Duke, their poodle- schnauzer mix.


Stephanie Olivas

Data and Development Manager, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)

Denver_Stephanie_Olivas_-_Stephanie_Olivas.jpgStephanie is the Data and Development Manager at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) where she is able to combine her love of data and reproductive justice everyday. Prior to joining COLOR, Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO. Through the Public Interest Fellowship Program, Stephanie worked as the Public Affairs intern for the Colorado League of Charter Schools in Denver, CO. Her blossoming passion for social justice also lead her to work and intern for the Children’s Literacy Campaign and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Stephanie is an aspiring renaissance woman who loves learning and has interests not only in the nonprofit sector but also technology, business, and politics. She is a proud Denver native who loves the Colorado outdoors, eating, spending time with her partner, and traveling whenever possible.


Al Sahlstrom


Denver_Al_Sahlstrom_-_Al_Sahlstrom.jpgAl is an attorney and native Westerner who has been involved with politics and community issues for over a decade. Along the way, he has lived in roughly five other states before returning to stay in Colorado. He has worked in environmental advocacy, taught English overseas, and traveled to at least twelve foreign countries.

Since graduating from Harvard Law School, Al has spent the majority of his legal career working in the criminal justice system, where he has worked on cases involving charges ranging from child abuse and domestic violence, to felony assault, sex offenses, and murder. He has conducted over forty trials and has worked on hundreds of cases, many of which he personally tried from their inception, through writing and arguing motions, and through jury trial and appeal, if any. Al has also worked as a pro-bono immigration attorney, and he cares deeply about bringing humanity and attention to detail to a legal system that too often lacks empathy and operates without transparency.

Outside of his legal work, Al has focused most of his community involvement on increasing civic engagement in young people. Among other things, in addition to his work with NLC, he has taught in the Political Science Department at Boston College, and he has worked for New Era Colorado, a nonprofit organization focused on voter registration and education.

When he isn’t in court or working on community issues, Al likes to cook, explore the Mountain West in his Subaru, and volunteer at his local Golden Retriever rescue shelter.


Peter Sargent

Co-Founder, Wild Climate

Denver_Peter_Sargent_-_Peter_Sargent.jpgPeter grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and later moved to a ranch in Wyoming where his family still raises black angus cows. His environmental ethics were forged through agriculture, hunting, and fishing. After studying environmental policy at Johns Hopkins University, he worked as an environmental organizer with groups including Environment America, Green Corps, the Sierra Club, and The Climate Reality Project and has run more than 75 campaigns from the local to international scale. He currently works to empower rural communities to speak out and act on climate change as the Co-Founder of Wild Climate.


Ariel Smith

Advocacy, DSST Public Schools/Transform Education Now

Denver_Ariel_Smith_-_Ariel_Smith.pngAriel is the Executive Director of a new organization in Denver: Transform Education Now, an organization focused on driving school quality through elevated parent voice. Ariel grew up in Burlington, Vermont. The first Presidential campaign she worked on was Howard Dean’s primary race in 2004. She graduated from American University in Washington, DC. She worked for Senator Patrick Leahy on the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and for a public interest firm advocating for mandatory minimum sentencing reform. She realized that she was writing policy for people she knew nothing about so she joined Teach for America and spent the next 5 years teaching 12th grade civics and economics at Denver North High School. As a North community member, Ariel helped petition the city to build a bike path connecting the Quigg Newton Projects to the Denver Bike Path system and started a community supported agriculture program that was sustained and replicated at High Schools throughout Denver. She has spent the last 3 years as an organizer at the city’s largest Charter Management Organization, DSST Public Schools where she advises the network on politics, policy and uplifting community voice.


Kelsey Suemnicht

Founder, The Foreign Policy Project

Denver_Kelsey_Suemnicht_-_Kelsey_Suemnicht.jpgKelsey Suemnicht is a public diplomat and program manager focused on tackling critical issues in global inequality, primarily through engaging youth in the decision- making processes that affect international relations. She is host of the Women in Diplomacy podcast and she founded The Foreign Policy Project to empower more diverse voices in foreign policy. Kelsey was selected as a 2016 grant recipient at NATO’s Office of Women, Peace, and Security for her work fostering diversity in professional development. As a Master of Public Diplomacy scholarship recipient at the Annenberg School for Communications, she served as President on the Executive Board of the USC Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars, leading student engagement and community building. She has been a consultant for the Office of Innovation and Technology at the U.S. State Department, dissecting the capabilities of social media in the overall achievement of foreign policy goals. With an extensive background in youth development and cross-cultural communications, she has served as the marketing and development coordinator for The Leadership Program, editorial researcher at Foreign Policy Magazine, and social media strategist at the World Affairs Council. She is a Global Studies graduate of the University California, Santa Barbara, where she also studied abroad at the University of Bologna Department of Political Science.


Hannah Tall

Regional Recruitment Manager, Central Region, City Year, Inc.

_Hannah_Tall.jpgA proud New Yorker and graduate of Pace University, Hannah has been working in youth development since her youth. Hannah is passionate about “working for” young people as she likes to put it and has made her life's work about helping young people find and share their talents as a service to their communities.This passion has led her to serve teens and young adults via college access, civic engagement, education, leadership development and sports-based youth development work with organizations including, College Summit, Harlem Children’s Zone and STOKED Mentoring. Her commitment to young people has also led her to South Africa to consult on teen sexual health programs, Peru to teach English as a Second Language and Colombia, to launch a service learning partnership between Universidad Militar Nueva Granda and Fundación Pocalana. She is an expert relationship builder and has used her skills and background to develop, run and manage youth development and educational programs in the U.S. and abroad.

In her current role as a Regional Recruitment Manager at City Year, Hannah works to cultivate and grow relationships at the national, regional and institutional levels to attract applicants well-suited to and well-prepared for service with City Year. When she's not working, Hannah can be spotted at a spoken word showcase, farmers market, volunteering or in a bookstore.


Kim Weiss

Associate Director, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK)

Denver_Kim_Weiss_-_Kim_Weiss.jpgKim was born in Jamestown, NY, where she fell in love with the outdoors and believed that everyone should have access and be welcomed in the outdoors. She received her B.S Degree in Athletic Training from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 2002, and M.A in Environmental Education and Conservation from Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ in 2004.
In 2004, Kim Weiss joined the Colorado Division of Wildlife as the Angler Education Coordinator and taught kids all over the state of Colorado how to fish, environmental education lessons, and connected with youth outdoors.

In 2005, Kim teamed up with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) a Denver based non- profit connecting youth and families to nature and creating a pipeline to higher education and careers in the STEM field, where she has devoted countless hours for the last 12 years. As the Associate Director of ELK, she now focusing a lot of her energy, time, and passion on building strategic partnerships, and fundraising, and program development.

When Kim is not with her ELK family, she is busy with two little ones at home and a fabulous husband who supports her crazy dreams and wild ambitions. You can always find her and her family outdoors, or at CU football games.


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