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Amanda is a first generation Indo-Guyanese American woman of color. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Family Social Science, a Master’s of Social Work (MSW), and a Master’s of Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. Her professional career has been rooted in social and racial justice, and has included work related to issues of poverty, housing/homelessness, mental health, domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual assault, and human trafficking. Amanda currently works as an administrative manager at Hennepin County coordinating anti-sex trafficking efforts, and she is also the co-founder and chair of the People of Color Employee Resource Group. Amanda also serves on the board of the Domestic Abuse Project.
Lorena Pinto was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the United States as a child. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Social Work. Lorena has worked in the non-profit sector for over a decade, serving at-risk youth who experience homelessness, sex trafficking, and abuse. She works diligently alongside survivors training the community on the risks and impact of sex trafficking in our community. She has continued this work in Minnesota, as a Program Director for the P.R.I.D.E. Program.
Lorena is passionate about ending gender-based violence and advocating for vulnerable populations, but her ultimate passion lies in the anti-sex trafficking movement. She enjoys a healthy lifestyle, and spending time with friends. She looks forward to working alongside her NLC family and to a memorable year as the NLC Twin Cities Chapter Co-Director.
Fundraising - Dan Nelson
Dan Nelson is a non-profit founder and development professional passionate about education, racial equity, mental health advocacy and cultivating inclusive communities. Most recently, he has worked in several education non-profits that seek to advance educational equity. Dan is currently an independent consultant focusing on growth strategy and development in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Having grown up in the Twin Cities, Dan came to see incredible disparities in his home community while living and working in North Minneapolis. Wanting to address these disparities by building local leadership capacity led him to co-found New Leaders Council—Twin Cities along as a founding board member. As a community activist Dan has worked to support movements to end disparities in education, criminal justice, LGBTQ rights and economic opportunity. He is incredibly passionate about New Leaders Council – Twin Cities, because its fellows and alumni are catalysts for lasting systemic change that advances equity in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Clare Verbeten is currently working to elect Tim Walz as Minnesota’s next governor. As the Deputy Political Director, Clare is tasked with navigating the caucus and convention system - a skill developed while previously serving as the Party Affairs Director for the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party. Clare demonstrated her passion for protecting and expanding the right to vote as a part of the Voter Expansion Department at the Democratic National Committee and Hillary for Minnesota’s 2016 Voter Protection Team. As a former Political Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT) intern for Women Winning, an organization that elects pro-choice female candidates to all levels of public office throughout the state of Minnesota, she worked on Peggy Flanagan’s campaign for State Representative. Clare now serves on Women Winning’s Launch Committee, helping build the next generation of pro-choice women leaders in Minnesota.
Clare was born and raised in Roseville, a suburb right outside the Twin Cities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Law and Society, Cum Laude, from American University in Washington, D.C. Clare was the first person to graduate from American University’s prestigious 3-Year Politics, Policy and Law (PPL) Scholars Program. One of the few young women of color in her field, Clare sees her work through the lense of racial justice and gender equity. Clare plans to run for public office in the near future.
Keith Mensah currently works for the Saint Paul Port Authority as their Development Services Associate. In this role Keith is responsible for overseeing the property management of 21 industrial business parks and grant writing. Through his role, Keith seeks to help the Port Authority eliminate poverty by converting environmentally contaminated land into industrial businesses with well-paying, low-barrier to entry jobs.
Outside of the Port Authority, Keith volunteers with the Aspire Mentoring Program. Aspire is a curriculum-based mentoring program for middle school and high school African-American Males.
Keith obtained his B.A. in Metro Urban Studies from Augsburg College and his Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is Minnesota native who spent most of his upbringing in Maplewood, Minnesota.
Mentorship - Garrison McMurtey
Garrison McMurtrey currently serves as the Outreach Director in the office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. His outreach portfolio includes the areas of Education, Workforce Development, Communities of Color, and Consumer Protection. As an Outreach Director he serves as the liaison between the Senator’s office and the many agencies, nonprofits, and businesses that pertain to his issue areas. Garrison is determined to promote a progressive agenda that connects to communities and motivates them to bring about positive change. He has seen the benefit of community organizing through his campaign work on Gubernatorial and Mayoral races in Mississippi and on President Obama’s 2012 reelection in North Carolina. Garrison also spent time in Washington, DC as a Communications Intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, working in the office of the Democratic Ranking Member for the Committee on Homeland Security.
He is a graduate of Ripon College in Wisconsin, with degrees in Politics and Government and Communication. Currently he is pursuing a Masters of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Garrison is excited to be a part of the 2017 cohort and ready to learn about the different tools/ skills needed to ensure that he can be one of the effective leaders for many communities that yearn for change.
Vivek Nevile is an Information Technology Consultant in the Twin Cities, whose focus has been the utilization of data science to drive strategy decisions. Vivek obtained his Bachelors in Science at the University of Minnesota where he pursued a dual degree in Biochemistry and Finance and a triple minor.
He brings diverse experience within healthcare, energy and the financial sectors. He has consistently volunteered within the community for 18 years and believes strong community engagement can help lead to progressive bipartisan change. His passion is getting community members more engaged and active with the issues plaguing their neighbors.
Dedication in the face of inevitable adversity is a value Vivek uses to guide his volunteer work, personal relationships, organizational involvement and professional career. He is looking forward to invigorating and supporting the movement toward forward-thinking bipartisan impact the Fellows of New Leaders Council want to bring to the Twin Cities.
Kjensmo Walker is a passionate advocate for equitable access for all. She is a leader at the intersections of disability, transportation, policy, accessibility, leadership development, automation, and equity. While in college, Kjensmo received a scholarship to study accessibility of large-scale transit stations during study abroad in Vancouver, Canada. She was awarded a student leadership award upon graduation for her work creating access and challenging the norm in productive ways. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2011.
A strong activist for policy changes affecting people with disabilities at the state level, Kjensmo received an All Star Advocate award from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in 2013. The District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul and Minneapolis (DCC) hired Kjensmo into her dream job when they hired her as a Trusted Advocate. In this pilot project, Kjensmo was a liaison between transit planners and persons with disabilities during a large-scale expansion and redrafting of the local transit routes in response to a new Light Rail line entering service. After successful completion of this project, Kjensmo moved into the office of the DCC where she assisted with writing and production of an Accessibility Survey and Report. This survey and report documents access challenges for pedestrians with various disabilities throughout the Light Rail corridor.
Today Kjensmo advises the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the Metropolitan Council, as Chair of the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee. In this role she works create equity for persons with disabilities throughout the transit system and policy systems that the MPO adheres to.
Brittany Rice has a B.A. in Law and Society from Winona State University and a J.D. from William Mitchell College of law. Brittany Rice is currently a Project Coordinator for the Civil Rights Equity Division at the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, where she coordinates the Urban Scholars program and other equity-related projects. Brittany believes it is her life’s purpose to find ways to improve the lives of others who are disadvantaged by discriminatory systems. Though she is not following a traditional law career path, Brittany believes her legal education has prepared her well for a career in equity work. As a native Minnesotan, Brittany is grateful to be able to do such work in her home state.
Jillian Stockmo currently serves as the Director of Program Continuum & Partnerships at Teach for America – Twin Cities. In her role she coaches corps members as well as developing programming and partnerships across the state to help to put the region on a path towards achieving Teach For America’s mission “One Day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education”. Prior to joining the Teach for America regional staff – she taught 1st and 2nd grade as a corps member at Sojourner Truth Academy in North Minneapolis after completing her undergraduate studies in Religion and Anthropology at Amherst College.
When she’s not working at TFA, Jillian is involved in the community as a Board Member on the Collective – a TFA alumni of color association. Jillian enjoys a great soccer match, trying out new restaurants and spending time with family and friends.
Mitra Jalali Nelson found her footing in the progressive movement as a social studies teacher at an alternative high school in the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans. Mitra was a classroom teacher for three years, moving back home to continue teaching in her home community of Minneapolis before becoming a political organizer on a range of issues, from school funding and school quality to teacher preparation and teacher diversity. She has worked on numerous issue campaigns and school board races in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, including working on the 2012 election cycle with the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers. Mitra also developed and led community organizing trainings for alumni educators of Teach For America and its partner organization, Leadership for Educational Equity. She later served as press assistant and legislative aide on education, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, health care, immigration, and other domestic policy for Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3) in Washington, D.C. A lifelong Minnesotan, Mitra now works for her hometown representative Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5), fielding outreach on immigration, criminal justice, civil rights and civil liberties issues in his district office. She is an alumna of both Camp Wellstone and Front Line Leaders Academy, a progressive leadership development program of YP4. In her spare time, Mitra co-hosts on a podcast on diversity and intersectionality in Marvel comics and media. She is Iranian, Korean, bi, femme, loud, often hungry, and above all, extremely passionate about building power with underrepresented communities as the future of the progressive movement.
Janelle Shoemake holds a Master’s of International Development Practice from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, an LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights Law from St. Thomas University School of Law, and a Bachelors of Art in Global Studies from the University of Minnesota.
Her professional background includes organizing and leading international community development projects, consulting nonprofits and small businesses on process improvement, strategic planning, data collection and analysis, and fundraising. She has traveled to over 25 countries, and is a member of the Global Shapers Minneapolis Hub, an initiative put on by the World Economic Forum. In her free time, Janelle enjoys running, outdoor activities, salsa dancing, and spending time with her family and dog, Blue.
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