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New Leaders Council

2016 Fellows

Meet the 2016 Pittsburgh Fellows

Jenna Baron, Be There Campaign & Be A Middle School Mentor Associate, 
United Way of Allegheny County


Jenna Baron comes to Pittsburgh by way of Wilkes-Barre, PA where she was born and raised. In spring 2013, Jenna graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and certificates in Global Studies and African Studies. Jenna is currently employed by the United Way of Allegheny County, where she works on two initiatives within the department of Children and Youth: the Be There Campaign and Be a Middle School Mentor. After graduating from Pitt in 2013, Jenna was awarded a Fulbright Research Scholarship to Nairobi, Kenya, where she conducted a project documenting the experiences of activists, teachers, students, and volunteers involved in the disability rights movement. After completion of her Fulbright project, she returned to Pittsburgh to serve as a fellow with Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE), where she was placed with the United Way’s Be There Campaign. At the end of her fellowship with PULSE, she stayed on the Campaign, which partners with schools in Allegheny County to address chronic absenteeism - a national crisis affecting school-age youth. Her current role is focused on working with schools in the North Side as a partner to the Buhl Foundation’s One Northside initiative. Outside of her work at the United Way, Jenna volunteers with Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment (PRYSE) Academy. Jenna’s work is guided by her belief that reforming the U.S. public education system is a key approach to combat racism and achieve social justice. Now and as she continues in the nonprofit field, she hopes to become a better and more experienced advocate for minority rights, specifically immigrants and people with disabilities.



Sarah Boal, Executive Director, Friends of Southeast Alaska


Sarah Boal serves as Executive Director of Friends of Southeast Alaska, a nonprofit in the startup phase. FOSEA works with teams of volunteers in small communities in the Alaskan Panhandle to assist local organizations with educational programming and facilities maintenance. Sarah is currently a candidate for a Master’s of Public Administration, majoring in Public and Nonprofit Management at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Sarah is also a member of the current cohort of the Leadership Portfolio Program through the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership at GSPIA. Presently the Medical Mission Trip assistant at Brother’s Brother Foundation, Sarah works in their Medical Mission Trip Program. Prior to attending GSPIA, Sarah spent several years working in Youth Ministry. She has served as Director of Student Ministries for Saegertown United Methodist Church, Minister of Christian Education at Church of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon, PA, and Youth Director at Cochranton Presbyterian Church. Sarah also volunteers time each summer to serve as a Program Director at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center in Lebanon, PA. For nine years Sarah has worked for the Crawford County Fair in Meadville, PA, serving as the “voice of the fair,” dispatcher, and assistant to the Executive Secretary. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Lebanon Valley College. She also has a Bachelor of Science –Business Administration in International Business with a Minor in Marketing – from Slippery Rock University. While at Lebanon Valley, Sarah served as the Editor of the Quittapahilla, the college yearbook, and as President of a campus community service organization.


Richard Burgess


Ricky has recently relocated back to the Pittsburgh area. Previously, Ricky a was participant Rexnord's MBA leadership development program, where he served in marketing, engineering, project management, operations, and product management roles within Rexnord businesses across the country. Ricky graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2012 with both a MBA concentrating in organizational leadership and a MSPPM from Heinz College. While at Tepper, Ricky served as VP of Finance for the Organization Leadership Club and President of the Black Graduate Student Organization. Prior to business school, Ricky worked as a project manager for an engineering consulting firm and earned a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from MIT. Ricky's passion is to provide affordable access to potable water and water treatment for people throughout the United States and across the globe.


Curt Conrad, Chief of Staff, City of Pittsburgh

Curt_Conrad.PNGOriginally from West Virginia, Curt moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 to begin his graduate degree in social work at the University of Pittsburgh. His emphasis on community organizing and social administration led him to get involved with State and City political campaigns, community based organizations, and social service providers. He has worked for several nonprofit organizations both in his home state and in the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of East Liberty and the Hill District on issues related to housing security, neighborhood development, and economic justice. Curt is currently the Chief of Staff to Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor where he works closely with community based organizations on community driven projects, shepherds policy through the legislative process, and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Community Based Organizations (ACCBO) he works to allocate Federal funds to organizations for inclusive economic development. He is also the Membership Director of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County.



James Craig, Associate Attorney, Beier, Beier & Beier


Originally from just outside of Washington, Pennsylvania, James moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 where he attended the University of Pittsburgh and subsequently Pitt Law. James is currently an Associate Attorney at Beier Law in downtown Pittsburgh where he practices real estate and personal injury law. While not practicing law, James has made it a point to support political candidates and policies that he believes in. James began his political career in the fury and excitement of 2008 as a volunteer organizer for the Obama campaign. Subsequently, James was appointed Voter Protection Regional Director for the Obama 2012 campaign and simultaneously served as deputy field director of a congressional campaign in his home district. In 2013 James served as a volunteer organizer and Area Coordinator for the Peduto, Gilman and Gross campaigns. Additionally, in 2013 James was elected President of the Pitt Law Democrats and was thereafter appointed Vice President of the Law School Democrats of America, a branch of the College Democrats of America. James currently serves as an attorney for the Clinton campaign and intends to run for delegate to the Democratic National Convention.



Trevor Cutlip, Inventory and Volunteer Manager, Global Links


Having grown up in rural Acme, PA, Trevor moved to Latrobe, PA to attend Saint Vincent College. Whilst there, he majored in Biology with minor areas of study in Biotechnology and Environmental Studies. Upon graduating, Trevor moved to Pittsburgh where he served a year in the HealthCorps/AmeriCorps program. He served his year at a local non-profit called Global Links where he was the volunteer manager. After his service term ended, Trevor accepted a position at Global Links as their volunteer and inventory manager, where he still works today. Trevor hopes to soon be pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Health, and then a Doctoral degree in Anthropology. He envisions applying the philosophy of Anthropology to the problems that occur in the public health sector each day. After gaining experience in the field, Trevor would like to go on to teach in higher education


Christopher Lin, Clerical Specialist, City of Pittsburgh Department of Personnel


Chris was born and raised in Pittsburgh, on the border of Greenfield and Squirrel Hill. His parents immigrated to the United States from China after his grandfather started a program between UPMC Montefiore and Guangzhou Medical University. Chris attended Pittsburgh public schools, graduating from Clayton, Sterrett, then Allderdice. After graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in political science from the University of Pittsburgh, he obtained a master's degree in public policy from Georgetown University. His thesis examined the relationship between Internet usage and measures of civic engagement such as voter turnout and support for free speech. Chris worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C., analyzing the national security and economic implications of various trade programs for the Department of Commerce, and later worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He also has field experience with multiple Democratic Party campaigns. Chris moved back to Pittsburgh in 2014 and currently works for the city's Department of Personnel and Civil Service. He serves on the board of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County as Social Director and is also on the board of the Greenfield Community Association. He also volunteers with the Allegheny County Emergency Medical Reserve Corps and is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. His primary policy areas of interest are civil liberties, homeland and national security, and macroeconomics. Chris has way too many board games and kitchen gadgets, and the collections keep growing.



Lileth Lopez Benavides, Global Programs Coordinator, Amizade-GSL


I am originally from Colombia. I came to Pittsburgh, PA in 2010 after earning my B.A. in English and French Education. I am a bilingual speaker and hold a TESOL certificate (Teaching English as a Second Language). I hold a Masters of Education in Comparative and International Education Policy (Dec 2014) and two Certificates in LatinAmerican Social and Public Policies and Global Studies. My professional experience is very broad. I have worked on different research projects including a multi-centered project focused on social science journals in Ibero-America funded by FLACSO. In addition to another project that focused on women exploitation by “maquiladoras” in Mexico, which was presented at the PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference in 2013. I have also designed policies related to homelessness, water sanitation and air pollution. My focus of study is very broad including social and public policies, global issues and education. Currently, my interests rely on diversity, inclusion, service learning, international development, languages, education in developing countries, advocacy and non-profit organizations. I was an intern for a non-profit called Amizade - Global Service Learning located at The Global Switchboard (Pittsburgh, PA) for 8 months and recently transition into a job as a Global Program Coordinator. In the meantime I was part of the Fast Track Cohort VI developed by Global Solutions Pittsburgh and Get Involved. In addition, I am on the board of Colombia en Pittsburgh (CEP), a non-profit organization that encourages the inclusion of not only Colombians but also latinos in the area and provides them with a wide list of resources that facilitate an easier transition to living abroad.



Alyssa Lyon, Reimagining Communities Initiative Community Coordinator,
Pittsburg Community Reinvestment Group

Pitt-Lyon.JPGAlyssa P. Lyon is currently a Master of Public Management Candidate (2017) at Heinz College housed at Carnegie Mellon University.  She’s also a Pitt alumna having received a BA in Communications and Africana Studies & certificates of Leadership and African Studies (plus a language) from the University in 2012.  Originally hailing from The Bronx, New York, Alyssa’s undying love for the city of Pittsburgh has influenced and guided her into community and economic development where she focuses her efforts towards community organizing and urban planning.  She believes that neighborhoods function best when they’re are provided with equal resourcing opportunities, contain economically thriving businesses & organizations, and are successful at producing and retaining inhabitants who are prideful of their living spaces & fellow residents. Additionally, she’s worked in Larimer during their comprehensive neighborhood planning stages for which they received a HUD grant for proposed revitalization efforts.  She’s spent time in the Hill District, where she created a historic preservation strategy for the community’s aging assets, such as Playwright August Wilson’s home and the New Granada Theater.  Outside of the professional realm, Alyssa remains active in community-oriented events throughout Pittsburgh.  She’s worked and volunteered with educational youth groups, like the Penn State Extension program, 4-H Community Innovation Training & Youth, where program initiatives highlighted academic success, youth leadership and civic engagement as facets of a progressive and sustainable community.  Alyssa is also a board member & devoted volunteer for the African American Alumni Council at the University of Pittsburgh and member of the Larimer Consensus Group’s One Voice action team.  Alyssa is an enthusiastic learner and worker capable of following directions & absorbing constructive criticism. She’s a great team player & leader with strong communication & organizational skills.  She possesses an exceptional ability to build relationships and is extremely capable of adjusting to strenuous environments. Alyssa understands that every chance she gets is an opportunity for her to gain knowledge & understanding; therefore she commits herself to being Life's greatest student.  


Leah Marmo, Program Specialist with Allegheny County Department of Human Services

Pitt-Marmo.jpgA graduate from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Social Work, Leah has spent her life devoted to understanding large scale social issues in an effort to elicit change and movement. Born and raised in Pittsburgh's coal towns, Leah brings a first hand account of the effects of poverty and community redevelopment to her work of studying homelessness on a county-wide level. As an undergrad, Leah focused her studies on researching homelessness and poverty on an international level, traveling to Poland to work with a team of researchers in a cross-cultural analysis of European and Western social issues. SInce living and working in Pittsburgh, Leah has immersed herself in the rapid changes within Pittsburgh's East End, working both in community development and community grassroots efforts to make Pittsburgh fair and accessible to all. Leah lives in the East End with her soon to be husband Ben and rescue pitbull Sierra Nevada. Leah balances her work life by training for marathons, doing yoga, and enjoying coffee with friends and family.



Hersh Merenstein, Legislative Assistant, City of Pittsburgh  


A native of Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood, Hersh Merenstein is a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman. In May 2015, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Relations and Public Policy and a concentration in Urban Affairs from Michigan State University’s James Madison College of Public Affairs where his honors coursework included Public Affairs Writing, Metropolitan and Regional Planning, Social Policy, Urban Policy and Politics, Environmental Policy and Quantitative Policy Analysis. A self-described policy wonk and politics buff, Hersh cultivated skills in and developed a passion for campaign politics, legislative research, and political communications as a Finance Assistant to United States Senator Debbie Stabenow during her 2012 reelection campaign, a Policy and Federal Grants Intern for United States Senator Carl Levin, and an intern with two well-regarded public affairs and issue management firms in Michigan.

A third-generation graduate of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the son of two small businesses owners in Pittsburgh’s East End, Hersh returned to his native city upon graduation from college to launch his career. He is currently a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman.

He is passionate about ensuring that all of the Pittsburgh’s ninety neighborhoods are included in city’s rapid growth. Accessible transit, walkable business districts, affordable housing, and strong community development programs are integral to creating a vibrant, sustainable city for all. In his spare time, Hersh likes to spend time with family and friends, explore Pittsburgh’s hidden gems, and travel.



Kyshira Moffett, Assistant Director - Career Management, 
University of Pittsburgh - Katz Graduate School of Business


Kyshira S. Moffett, MBA is a career consultant, millennial branding enthusiast and blogger. Kyshira has previous experience as an HR Professional within the financial services industry, and currently works as the Assistant Director of Career Management at the University of Pittsburgh - Katz Graduate School of Business. Her blog, centers on career, branding and lifestyle topics. Kyshira also has expertise in training, facilitation and public speaking. She has hosted workshops for professional organizations such as the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Summit, Carnegie Library & Ellevate Network. Her presentations span a range of topics including; Personal Branding, Career Development and the Power of Social Media. Kyshira is a proud graduate of Hampton University. During her tenure at Hampton, Kyshira garnered six different corporate internships with companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Morgan Stanley, and PNC Financial Services Group. She was also selected from an exclusive pool for an 18-month fellowship with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) where she enhanced her business acumen and participated in seminars with corporate executives. Additionally while at Hampton, Kyshira joined Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. where she honed her leadership skills and learned the value of sisterhood and volunteerism. Currently Kyshira is very active within the Greater Pittsburgh community. She serves as a mentor for high school students within the Pearl Club and serves as the Vice President of Administration for the National Black MBA Association. Most recently, Kyshira was elected President of the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh and serves as a member of the National Urban League Young Professionals Learning and Development committee. In 2014, Kyshira graduated from the Coro Pittsburgh Women in Leadership Program and was named a 2014 Western Pennsylvania Rising Star by Get Involved, Inc. In 2015, she was featured in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who of Black Pittsburgh.



Maria Pisano


Maria is a creative communications and marketing professional with more than 17 years professional experience. She is currently doing free-lance work for non-profit and independent clients including Kidsburgh, SLB Radio, Inc., Cribs for Kids, and author Lillie Leonardi among others. From 2005 – 2015 Maria was employed at WQED Multimedia, the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster and production-home of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than 30 years. As a Marketing Associate for the last eight years she was responsible for coordinating and creating marketing and media campaigns for WQED’s four television channels, Classical WQED-FM 89.3 radio broadcast station and three online streams, local and national television and radio productions, WQED Interactive, and iQ: smartmedia, WQED’s educational initiative. In 2008 she initiated the corporate Twitter® account which she helped to grow to more than 25,000 “followers.” She has coordinated signature community engagement projects including “The Neighborhood of Make-Believe Tour” in 2009 which saw over 4,000 people in attendance over a three-day period to recognize the 40th Anniversary of Mister Rogers Neighborhood on television. In 2011, she developed an innovative advertising strategy for the premiere of Pittsburgh From the Air. Utilizing a sky-writing stunt that went viral, “WQED” became the local “trending topic” for the first time on Twitter®, and the program became WQED’s most successful retail offering with over 20,000 units sold to date. Maria started her career at WQED in 2005 as a Member Services Representative where she provided exceptional customer service to WQED Members, and created solutions that improved departmental operations. Prior to working at WQED, she worked at Mellon Bank (now Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon) from 2000 – 2005 in loan collections while attending Duquesne University in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2004, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in Journalism, and a minor in English. Passionate about her community, Maria has volunteered hundreds of hours to area non-profits and participated in numerous local and national election campaigns. Her passions include economic justice, education and politics. She currently resides in Mount Washington with her grandparents Beverly and Charles and their “dog-son” Gizzmo, and enjoys spending evenings and weekends with her boyfriend Michael and his daughter Katelyn.



Lindsay Powell, Graduate Student, Carnegie Mellon University


Lindsay Powell is a first year graduate student at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University, where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management. As an undergraduate of Wheaton College (MA), she studied Sociology and Political Science. Powell is also a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year teaching English in rural Malaysia. Lindsay is passionate about serving communities. Through her experiences stateside and abroad, Powell has been able to work on policies surrounding issues of poverty and inequality. In Vietnam, Powell researched and interned at a trafficked women's shelter suggesting policy changes to the local government that would ease the re-integration process. She also has experience as a community advocate, working for a human rights organization in South Africa that focused on the needs of townships. Believing deeply in the power of politics, Lindsay has worked for politicians at both the local and federal level in her hometown of New York. Before moving to Pittsburgh, Powell served as a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer in his district office. Moving forward, Lindsay hopes to focus on policy involving women's rights, prison reform and foreign relations.



Mark Ptak, Policy Intern, Office of City Controller Michael Lamb


Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Mark attended the University of Pittsburgh graduating with a B.A. in both Communication and Film Studies in the summer of 2014. While attending, he first became involved in politics as an intern during Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gubernatorial race, and has since continued campaign work on races both in New York and in Pittsburgh, including for City Controller Michael Lamb’s reelection. He is now a policy intern in Controller Lamb’s Office, working primarily on the implementation of the City’s recently-passed paid sick leave ordinance, but also on responsible banking and improvement of the Office’s online and mobile presence. Growing up in a family of Polish immigrants who struggled to make ends meet, Mark’s background has had a profound influence on his commitment to progressive ideals. His goal is to bring together contemporary mobilized causes as one intersectional movement for social, political, economic, and environmental justice. He’s especially drawn to communication and messaging strategies that resonate with those traditionally disengaged or disillusioned with the political process to build a coalition committed to bold and lasting change. In his free time, Mark enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, and exploring the many opportunities Pittsburgh has to offer.



Rose Semple, Assistant Public Defender, County of Washington, Pennsylvania


Rose Semple was born in Southwestern Pennsylvania to parents Theresa, an instructional aide, and Bob, a retired coal miner. She has chosen to make Pittsburgh her home because she loves the area and wishes to remain close to her family. Rose began participating in civil rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign at an early age. She attended college at Penn State University, majoring in Comparative Literature and Journalism, with a minor in Italian. She studied abroad in Rome during her junior year of college. Her passion for public radio led to an on-air internship with WPSU. After college, she spent a year working for local government and traveling in Europe. Rose attended law school at the University of Akron, where she focused her studies on juvenile law and indigent criminal defense. After graduation, Rose moved back to Southwestern Pennsylvania and has been employed as an assistant public defender for over four years. Aside from her trial work, she serves as the defense representative on the specialty courts in Washington County, providing restorative justice to veterans and individuals with substance abuse and mental health concerns. She is passionate about her work and feels privileged to serve as an advocate for the low-income population of Pennsylvania. Rose is certified to teach yoga and enjoys expanding her own practice. On a sunny day, she can be found riding her bicycle around the city or hiking in one of the beautiful parks. Last year she began volunteering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and now has a wonderful time with her “little sister.” Rose enjoys cultural pursuits such as attending musical performances and participating in a book club. She also founded a community drama club named “Eaten Alive Productions,” which recently performed their first pair of one-act plays, which were rather well-received and quite a lot of fun. Rose prides herself on her creative problem solving abilities and a knack for bringing people together. She has confidence that the skills she learns and connections she makes as an NLC fellow will help her to make lasting and positive change in her community.


Mercedes Williams, Program Manager, Hill District Education Council

Mercedes Williams is a native of the Hill District community and has devoted much of her time to community civic engagement. She is an alumni of Point Park University and has received her undergraduate degree in public administration. Much of her professional experience has been working and volunteering for Political figures and non-profit organizations. She has volunteered as assistant campaign coordinator for State Representative Jake Wheatley for two consecutive terms and, interned for the City of Aliquippa under the Mayor Dwan Walker’s administration through the Local Government Academy of Pittsburgh. In addition, she serves on the Lower Hill Development Committee for the Hill District Community Development Corporation. Currently she is the program manager for the Hill District Education Council. In this role, she advocates for equity and quality public schools in the Hill District and oversees the program’s operations. However, in her spare time she enjoys the company of her family, reading, and performs Afro-Cuban folklore dance for Yemaya Pittsburgh. 

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