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New Leaders Council

2017 Fellows

Meet the 2017 NLC Omaha Fellows


Luper Akough, CEO, Akough and Associates LLC

Luper Akough is an entrepreneur to his core. For the past five years, he has owned a franchised agency with Farm Bureau Financial Services. He also recently has become a real estate investor focusing on improving the inner parts of the city.

When not at work, Luper enjoys volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, where he helps new homeowners learn the ins and outs of owning a home and dealing with banks, insurance companies, and contractors. Every day, Luper strives to be a part of the solution to making the world a better place. 

 

 

 

 


 


Rebecca Armstrong Langle, Director of Annual Fund, Nebraska Humane Society

Born and raised in Omaha, Rebecca Armstrong Langle has committed herself to improving the community where she lives, works and plays. While attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an undergrad, Rebecca interned at U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson's office. There, her eyes were opened to the vast inequalities that exist in our city, and she was introduced to some of the passionate people who work to solve these issues. Right out of college, Rebecca served as a staff assistant to Sen. Nelson for two years where she worked on issues that affect all people, from large nonprofit organizations to individuals navigating the federal government. This experience gave her passion to help others.

After getting her undergraduate degree in political science, Rebecca went on to get her master's degree in public administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She honed her skills in public policy analysis and evaluation through several projects, including research on tax increment financing and school busing impacts.  

Upon Sen. Nelson’s retirement in 2012, Rebecca began working at a local nonprofit. In this position, she focused on fundraising and marketing for workforce development and job placement programs. Her work included membership with the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska and acting as a the agency’s legislative policy liaison. More recently, Rebecca started working as the director of the annual fund at the Nebraska Humane Society.

Outside of work, Rebecca is active with the League of Women Voters. After serving as the voter’s guide director on the Omaha League board for three years, Rebecca began serving as the voters service director on the board for the League of Women Voters-Nebraska. There, she oversees efforts to create voter’s guides statewide. Rebecca also serves on the alumni advisory board for UNO’s MPA program.

Rebecca is passionate about education and equality issues. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Ryan, and dog, Delilah.  


 


Jodi Benenson, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jodi Benenson is an assistant professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her research focuses on the intersection between civic engagement, nonprofit organizations, inequality and social policy. Previously, Jodi was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. At Tufts, she worked on several projects in the areas of youth civic engagement, political learning and engagement in higher education, and national service and employment. Prior to returning to graduate school, Jodi worked in the nonprofit sector in the Twin Cities.

Jodi is actively involved with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) and currently serves on the organization’s national Board of Directors. Jodi received a B.S. and M.P.A. from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in social policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

 

 


 


Alexis Bromley, Talent Manager, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce

Alexis Bromley is a native of Omaha and serves as a talent manager for the Greater Omaha Chamber – a champion for a thriving business community. Her focus is placed on attracting, retaining and developing young talent. Alexis is passionate about opportunities to hear the voices of diverse professionals and ways to strengthen their ability to impact our community. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she majored in International Business and was an active member of the Husker Spirit Squad. Her major was inspired by a love of traveling and gathering a broad perspective of the business world.

Alexis serves on the board for ACE Mentor Program of Greater Omaha, a nonprofit that collaborates with Omaha Public Schools to engage high school students in building industry careers through hands-on mentoring. She previously served on the board of Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals, where she helped with marketing and public relation strategies. Alexis lives in midtown Omaha and is a self-proclaimed foodie who loves trying new restaurants (ask her for recommendations!). 


 


Brent Crampton, Marketing Director, Maven Social Group

Brent Crampton has dedicated the past 13 years of his life to using music, art and nightlife as a vehicle to bring people together and promote social progress. He made the decision to become a DJ at the age of 17, and since then has founded a successful 11-year running multicultural dance event named "loom," owned and operated the House of Loom nightclub for 5.5 years, brought his music to various locales around the world, collaborated with Red Bull Music Academy, and has received a number of awards for his work in nightlife and music.  

Brent founded the dance celebration titled, "loom—Weaving the Social Fabric Through Dance" in 2006. loom has established itself as the longest-running dance party in Omaha. Not only did loom create a new dance scene in Omaha, but the momentum of the event and the community loom created in the process forged the path for Brent and partners to open up a venue called House of Loom that operated from 2011-2016. It was there that he was able to give the progressive community a place to mobilize, dance, celebrate and connect.  


 

Nancy De Santiago, Patient Placement Nurse, Nebraska Medicine

Nancy De Santiago decided to pursue her Bachelors of Science in Nursing through the University of Nebraska Medical Center after discovering her passion in serving others. Currently, Nancy serves as a patient placement nurse at Nebraska Medicine Hospital, where she was a recipient of the Extraordinary Nurse Award.

Nancy was raised in Lexington, Neb., but recently moved to Omaha to complete her Masters in Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Prior to relocating to Omaha, Nancy traveled internationally to Costa Rica and Israel through multiple humanitarian and health-focused programs to provide health care to marginalized immigrants and to gain knowledge of the social issues affecting refugees and sex-trafficked victims in Israel. During her MPA program, Nancy was an awardee of the Lopez Fellowship for Professional Development, which allowed her to travel to India to participate in the fight against sex-trafficking and violence against women.

As a graduate student, Nancy was part of the strategic planning committee for the developing nonprofit Benson Theatre in Omaha. This opportunity allowed her, along with her classmates, to facilitate strategic planning sessions with prominent community members, develop a report and formally present the findings. The theatre formally adopted the strategic plan in early 2016. Nancy is committed to her personal growth and sharing all that she learns to uplift others, especially those in underserved populations. Nancy hungers for advocating for human rights and the less privileged. During her spare time, she enjoys traveling, learning about different cultures and challenging herself to new experiences.



Brian Fahey, Judicial Attorney, U.S. District Court

Brian Fahey is an Omaha native and a graduate of Omaha Central High School. He holds a B.A. in music and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and a Juris Doctor, High Distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  

Prior to attending law school, Brian worked as the manager of a non-profit arts organization and as a church choir director. In law school, Brian was named the 2015 Theodore Sorensen Fellow and served as an executive editor of the Nebraska Law Review. He has written on constitutional issues involving the school-to-prison pipeline and on plaintiffs’ remedies under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. His articles have been published in the Nebraska Law Review and the Benefits Law Journal.   

A third-generation graduate of Omaha Public Schools, Brian is committed to ensuring that all children have strong public schools and a quality education available to them. He currently serves on the Central High School Hall of Fame Committee.  

As a musician, Brian believes in the power of classical music to transcend barriers between people and reveal the shared human experience. He sings regularly with the Omaha Chamber Singers and is an active baritone soloist, specializing in baroque and renaissance music. Brian lives with his wife and daughter in the Ak-sar-ben neighborhood. He enjoys reading about Omaha history and is an avid home cook.


 


Wendy Hamilton, Fund Development Director, Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska

Wendy Hamilton is the Fund Development Director at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre from Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and her Master of Fine Arts in theatre management from Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.). After living on the East Coast for several years, Wendy “boomeranged” back to Omaha in 2007 when her mother was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Wendy has since become a disability advocate, particularly for adults. She served for several years as the vice president of the Autism Society of Nebraska. During her time with ASN, Wendy had the opportunity to attend “Autism Day on the Hill” in Washington D.C., where she met with legislators to discuss priority disability policy. Additionally, she served on the Nebraska ABLE Act Team, which worked to successfully pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act in 2014. Her family’s story has been featured in Autism Asperger’s Digest and the book “Different, Not Less” by Dr. Temple Grandin. She has presented and moderated at many state and national autism conferences as well as spoken at TEDxOmaha.

In 2013, the Omaha Jaycees named Wendy a Ten Outstanding Young Omahan recipient, and she is a graduate of Leadership Omaha (Class 38). Wendy serves on the Board of Directors of the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, is the vice chair of the Omaha Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities, and is a committee member for the Mosaic Human Rights Committee, the Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Search Committee, and the Autism Society of America’s Lifespan Planning Committee.

Wendy has been with Girl Scouts since 2012, where it is her honor to support the organization’s mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. She is the mom of a fat cat who doesn’t know he’s fat, and twin sister greyhounds who don’t know they’re dogs. Wendy thinks she is hilarious and is available for mediocre celebrity impressions and sweet dance moves. 


 


Tracy Hightower-Henne, Attorney/Partner, Hightower Reff Law

In 2012, the common goal of helping people with their personal legal needs brought Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower-Henne together with Susan Reff to form Hightower Reff Law. The two women have created one of Omaha's premier family & criminal law firms. Before partnering with Reff, Tracy practiced corporate law for Union Pacific Railroad.

An Omaha native and Burke High school alumna, Tracy received her Juris Doctorate degree and a Master of Laws in Taxation in 2007 from Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich.. A notable legal advocate, Tracy's work through the Nebraska Innocence Project on the high profile case of Juneal Pratt has gained much media attention. Pratt has maintained his innocence since his 1975 conviction in the rapes of two women. Tracy successfully fought, all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, to get Pratt DNA testing to prove his innocence.

Tracy's many professional involvements include serving as president of the Nebraska Innocence Project from 2011 to 2014 and as president of the Nebraska Women's Bar Association for three years. Tracy is an adjunct professor at Creighton University Law School, teaching Wrongful Convictions. As executive director of Nebraska Innocence Project, Tracy is passionate about this area of law. When she isn't working, Tracy enjoys baking, cooking and spending time with her family, including her Great Dane, Maya.


 


Maureen Irish, Development Director, Roncalli Catholic High School

Maureen Irish is an Omaha native with nonprofit experience both locally and abroad. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, Psychology and Women's Studies. The following year Maureen began her service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Armenia. In addition to working as an English teacher, Maureen partnered with community members to implement leadership camps for girls, secured a grant to enhance her school's access to and proficiency with technology and collaborated with local organizations to facilitate programs. 

Maureen is currently the development director at Roncalli Catholic High School, a small college preparatory high school located in Northeast Omaha. She strives to expand the reach of the department through new initiatives and by connecting community members with the mission of the school. 

 


 


Lucas LaRose, Capture Manager, Ho-Chunk Inc.

Lucas LaRose, an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana and a descendant of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, is a capture manager at Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s Federal Services Division. Ho-Chunk, Inc. is the award-winning economic development corporation wholly owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. In his role, Lucas identifies federal government contracting opportunities; gathers relevant intelligence; and develops winning strategies to earn contracts. In turn, the profits from these contracts fund scholarships, provide housing and generate jobs for the tribal members on the Winnebago Indian Reservation.  

Before joining the government contracting industry, Lucas was an associate attorney with the law firm Fredericks Peebles & Morgan, LLP. In his years of private practice, Lucas advised Indian Tribes and Tribally-owned businesses on legal matters pertaining to tribal governance, legislation and economic development.  

In 2013, Lucas earned a law degree with a focus on Federal and Tribal Indian Law at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. In 2010, Lucas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  

Lucas serves as the vice chair of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Indian Law Section and is a member of its Legislative Committee. Throughout his law school and undergraduate career, Lucas also served as an executive of many student associations and organizations. 


 


JoAnna LeFlore, Writer and Communications Consultant, LeFlore Creative

JoAnna LeFlore is a young professional who prides herself in activating her community through the cultivation of creative entrepreneurs and arts-based programming. Inspired by her professional background as an arts advocate, JoAnna promotes extensive artist collaboration and localized program development for the Omaha community.

Her passion for working with artists and entrepreneurs has influenced her development as a freelance writer and public relations professional. She is known for helping her clients excel in special events, brand recognition and development, working with organizations like the Omaha Small Business Network, Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corporation, Stacey Flowers, Inc., as well as more than a dozen creative entrepreneur brands. Previous clients have noted her as a trustworthy member of their team delivering healthy communications strategies in the realm of social media, event planning, copy writing and multimedia development.

With a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Masters Degree in Managerial Communications from Bellevue University, JoAnna has developed a strong network with individuals across industries like cultural community development, entrepreneurial agencies and contemporary arts. She believes that her experiences have led to an affinity for understanding the dynamics of multicultural communications and how to empower those who are hungry for building a better platform for their business and living in their purpose. In her spare time, JoAnna explores her love for traveling and reviewing live music productions, sharing her experiences regularly on her personal blog at joannaleflore.com. 


  


Amanda Ponce, College Success Navigator, Metropolitan Community College

Amanda Ponce is a proud Chicana from Omaha. She is a servant-leader, especially when it comes to her family, students and her community. It is not uncommon to see her behind the scenes making sure everything is running smoothly, putting the needs of others before her own. Amanda is an experienced student advocate, with a proven commitment to uplifting underserved communities.

Amanda received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While at UNL, she became a chapter founder of the Latina-based sorority Lambda Theta Nu Sorority Incorporated. After graduation, Amanda was accepted into the 9-month Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Fellowship in Washington D.C., where she worked with Congresswoman Hilda Solis and the Campaign for Youth Justice. Amanda returned to Nebraska to serve at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Juvenile Services as a juvenile service officer and caseworker. During this time she found a deep passion for working with youth, especially those who have shared similar life experiences.  

The past several years, Amanda has been able to support many first-generation, low-income and underserved students by providing college access. She served as the Assistant Director of Diversity and Community Outreach in the Office of Admissions at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she assisted students and their families. Most recently, she moved into the position of college success navigator at Metropolitan Community College, focusing on the retention of students by providing intrusive academic support to a cohort of students in the Avenue Scholars program.

In addition to breaking down systemic barriers in education, she loves traveling, dancing and digging deeper into her cultural heritage. Amanda’s sense of humor and willingness to trying new things makes it enjoyable to be around her. As a way to give back to those who helped her become the woman she is today, Amanda aspires to help others be the best version of themselves.


 


Danielle Powell, Member Services Representative, Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska

Danielle Powell proudly calls Omaha home after relocating there nine years ago. As a college-motivated transplant, her first engagement with the city began by building relationships and sharing resources with the house-less community.

Today, she organizes and hosts the only recurring event catered to queer women. That event, "REVEL," was created as a direct response to an absence of safe spaces for the lesbian demographic. During business hours, she works alongside recipients and providers of health care insurance. Additionally, she serves as a liaison to the community in various capacities. Her current activism takes shape through organizing and facilitating dialogue and action surrounding race, LGBTQIA+ and women's issues.  

 

 

 


 


Yvonne Sosa, Assistant Public Defender, Douglas County Public Defender's Office

Yvonne Sosa is an attorney at the Douglas County Public Defender’s office, where she has held various positions since 1999, fostering her dedication for indigent defense. As a South Omaha native and graduate of Omaha South High School, class of 2001, Yvonne has dedicated much of her time to improving the lives of those in the South Omaha community.

As a single mother, Yvonne graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, cum laude, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice. While at Creighton Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor with a concentration in Criminal Law and Procedure, Yvonne was president of the Latino Law Students Association. Currently she is admitted to the practice of law in the States of Iowa and Nebraska.

As a member of the Board of Directors at the Latino Center of the Midlands, Yvonne has served as president and is now acting secretary. She is the chair of the Hispanic Lawyers Section of the Nebraska State Bar Association and is active with the Barrister’s Ball Auction Committee. Yvonne also serves on the Scholarship Committee of the Bennett Hornstein Endowment Fund, a scholarship she received as a student. Outside of her professional life, Yvonne is the mother of three daughters, one of whom she adopted after serving as a foster parent.  


 


Dave Sund, Attorney

Dave Sund is a 32 year-old attorney and political professional born and raised in Omaha. After graduating high school from Creighton Prep, he received his degree in political science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2008, and his Juris Doctor from Creighton University in 2016.

Dave has worked on several campaigns in the Omaha area, including Jim Esch's 2008 campaign for Congress, and Jim Suttle's campaign for Mayor. After Suttle's victory, Dave joined the Mayor's Office as a policy analyst, working closely with the Mayor and his staff on legislative, policy and budget priorities. In 2013, he enrolled at Creighton University School of Law and received his degree in 2016. While at Creighton, Dave clerked for Nebraska Appleseed, was admitted to and published in the Creighton Law Review, and became a member of the Law Review's Board of Editors. Dave passed the Nebraska Bar in 2016 and is now a licensed attorney.

Over the past decade, Dave has been deeply involved in progressive politics in Omaha, serving in volunteer capacities on party committees and campaigns, as well as official campaign capacities. He was an active member of the UNO College Democrats, Secretary of the Nebraska Young Democrats from 2007-09, a contributing editor for the local progressive blog New Nebraska Network, and a supporter of dozens of local campaigns including Heath Mello, Gwen Howard, Sara Howard, Jeremy Nordquist, Tony Vargas, and Chuck Hassebrook. 

In his free time, Dave is a big sports fan, a Facebook and Twitter pundit, and an occasional comic book nerd.


 


Korey Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, Douglas County Public Defender's Office

Korey Taylor is an attorney and assistant public defender in Douglas County, Neb., where he practices criminal and parental rights law representing the indigent and others in need of legal assistance. Korey is an experienced legal professional with more than 25 jury trials new to the Omaha area as of August 2015. Prior to joining the office of the Douglas County Public Defender, Korey was an Assistant Public Defender in Orlando, Fla., for five years where he practiced criminal law in misdemeanor and felony divisions. 

Korey relocated to Omaha with his wife, who is tenure-track faculty at Creighton University, his son, who is a high school freshman, and his dog, George, a Cavalier King Charles-Brittany Spaniel mix who the Taylors adopted from an animal humane society. Previously, Korey also worked for Sidley Austin LLP as a Real Estate Associate after his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2008. He is a licensed attorney in Texas, New York, Florida and Nebraska. Prior to attending law school, Korey worked for international health care companies in the accounting and finance fields in Minneapolis, Minn., and Titusville, N.J. Korey is a graduate of Florida A&M University, a historically black college, where he obtained his Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees with a concentration in Finance. While attending law school, Korey also earned a Certificate in Business and Public Policy with an emphasis in Real Estate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Korey, who grew up in Texas, is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, and was initiated into the Beta Nu Chapter of the fraternity while attending Florida A&M. During his educational and professional experiences, Korey has served as treasurer of the Black Law Students Association chapter at his law school, treasurer of his collegiate fraternity chapter and, most recently, was treasurer of the Paul C. Perkins Black Bar Association in Orlando. Korey enjoys playing basketball, working out with his wife, cheering on the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Rockets and traveling when he gets the opportunity. His passion is advocating for others.


 


Julia Tse, Policy Associate, Voices for Children in Nebraska

Julia Tse is a policy associate at Voices for Children in Nebraska, a nonprofit with a 30-year history of being an independent voice and building pathways to opportunity for all children in the state. In her current role, she is responsible for identifying data-driven policies to improve public systems impacting the lives of Nebraska’s children and families. Julia works and coordinates with stakeholders to ensure that the best interests of kids are kept at the forefront in policy decisions and public discourse when it comes to issues of economic stability, health, child welfare and juvenile justice. She is especially passionate about using research, mapping software and data to fight for social justice and race equity. 

Julia first joined Voices for Children through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a national volunteer service program. For a year, she lived with 10 other recent graduates working in social justice nonprofits across Omaha in intentional community. As a proud second-generation immigrant to the United States, Julia is dedicated to building strong, inclusive communities that offer equality of opportunity to all people.

A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, she graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. In her spare time, Julia enjoys cooking, reading the news and training for her next powerlifting competition.


 


Brittany Vovolka, Internal Auditor, Kiewit Corporation

Brittany Vovolka is currently an internal auditor at Kiewit Corporation after spending two years as a senior accountant in the Accounts Payable Department. She enjoys the challenge of evaluating controls in other departments in a company focused on continuous improvement and stewardship. In 2016, Brittany passed the Uniform CPA Exam and became a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the State of Nebraska. In addition to working full-time, she is also pursuing her Masters of Accounting degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Since October 2013, Brittany has been involved with the Omaha Jaycees, joining the board as treasurer in 2016. She has had the opportunity to plan and organize several community-oriented events, including volunteering at the Siena/Francis House and planning the Beer & Bacon Festival, which raises money for local charities. The oldest signature event of the Jaycees is Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (TOYO!), a banquet honoring young professionals making an impact in our community. Brittany has been on the planning committee for this event since 2015. 

Brittany lives in Dundee with her husband, Robin. They met each other at UNO College Democrats in 2007 and have been interested in progressive politics ever since. Brittany earned her BA in Mathematics and BSBA in Accounting at UNO. When she has spare time, she enjoys reading, knitting and walking her 11-year-old poodle mix, Boomer.


 


Amy Wall, Software Consultant, Agape Red Inc.

Amy Wall is a software consultant at Agape Red, an Omaha-based software consulting agency. An Omaha native, Amy attended Central High School before moving to St. Louis, Mo., to pursue a degree at Saint Louis University. She received her BA with a major in Art History and a certificate in Business Administration. Shortly after graduating, Amy began working as the director of internet content for a web-based community platform for artists, professionals, musicians and writers in St. Louis.

For two years prior to returning to Omaha, Amy developed marketing strategy and e-commerce platforms for small businesses as a project manager and content manager for a local media marketing agency. She returned to the Omaha area in January 2015 to attend Omaha Code School, an advanced software engineering immersive program.

Amy has since enjoyed becoming involved in the Omaha tech community, including volunteering at DoSpace with the Omaha chapter of Girls Who Code. Amy strives to bring an interdisciplinary approach to software development that draws upon her experience in marketing, art and technology. She believes that lowering the barrier of entry for training in information technology and working to increase employee diversity in technology related fields will have a profoundly positive impact on the future of the tech industry and the global marketplace as a whole.


 

 
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