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New Leaders Council

Our Board

Meg Mandy, Chapter Director

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Meg Mandy is the Founding Director of New Leaders Council Omaha and has worked on local, state, and federal campaigns across the country. She was part of the team that turned Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District blue in 2008, and then went on to work as the Political Director for the San Diego County Democratic Party, where she helped elect hundreds of Democrats across the state.

Since her return to Nebraska, she has been a senior staff member of a gubernatorial campaign and has managed and consulted on a number of local and municipal campaigns and start-ups. 

In her free time, Meg volunteers in the Omaha community and with NLC nationally, is an advisor for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, and enjoys theater, cooking, learning, and traveling.


Melissa Breazile, Vice Director

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Melissa Breazile is a Nebraska native and has called Omaha home for over a decade. She recently received her Master’s Degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in digital media from Northwest Missouri State University.

Melissa is currently Content Coordinator at the Board of Certification, a non-profit organization that offers credentialing programs for health care providers. Prior to her current position, she held research and communications positions for other Omaha non-profits; served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia; and worked as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Her community involvement includes past membership in Women’s Fund Circles, service on the Friends of Planned Parenthood board, and volunteerism with other organizations and political campaigns. In her free time, Melissa enjoys traveling, reading, and performing, having appeared recently in The Vagina Monologues and as a member of a local spoken word troupe. 


Noelle Obermeyer, Advisory Board

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Noelle Obermeyer is an Assistant Public Defender in Douglas County, Nebraska, where she practices juvenile and criminal law. Prior to working as a Public Defender, Noelle served as an Omaha City Prosecutor.

Before starting her legal career, Noelle cultivated an impressive resume of political experience, including working for Senator Bob Kerrey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. She has had an active role in a number of campaigns, including serving as the Finance Director in the recent win for Congressman Brad Ashford of Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District. She remains active in Democratic political efforts in Nebraska.

Noelle helped establish NLC Omaha because she is dedicated to building a pipeline for progressive leaders in her community. In addition to her involvement with NLC, Noelle is a mentor through Girls, Inc. and is an event chair for a local non-profit, Voices for Children.  

A native of South Sioux City, Nebraska, Noelle is a graduate of Creighton University School of Law. She is passionate about music, non-fiction, and her cat friends, Vincent & Mia.


Joe DiCostanzo, At-Large

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Born and raised in Columbus, Nebraska, the son of a small business owner and a social services worker who cared for the developmentally disabled, Joe was raised on the values of hard work and caring for others. While attending college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he worked for various campaigns and had the privilege to work at Nebraska's Unicameral Legislature. He graduated from UNL with a Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences in 2008 and moved to Omaha to begin a career in teaching.

Joe is currently a resident of Benson, located in the heart of Omaha. He teaches social studies and works on developing family and community partnerships for Benson High School. Over the past nine years at the school, he has worked as a teacher, administrator, and advocate with a wide range of families, businesses, non-profits, and other government agencies to provide a high-quality experience for the students of the school.

In 2012, while working to complete his graduate degree in educational leadership from Doane College, Joe developed the My Empowerment Network for Success (MENS) Program. This program identifies academically average-performing male students who self-reported not having a consistent positive male model in their lives. With a combination of academic strategies, expanded social opportunities, and college and career exploration, the young men in the program have turned around their academic performance and discipline record and created a new hope for their lives. In February of 2015, Joe and the youngsters of the MENS Program were selected by the Harvard Graduate School of Education to present at their annual Alumni of Color Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition to working with students of the community in the classroom and on the fields of competition, DiCostanzo serves on the board of the Benson Neighborhood Association as the Vice President. He is also a board member of the Benson Theatre and sits as a working group member of Operation Youth Success, a collective impact effort that looks for ways to reform the juvenile justice system in Douglas County.


Patrick Leahy, At-LargeLeahy_1.jpg

Patrick Leahy was born and raised in Omaha and is currently a member of St. James Parish. He graduated from Skutt Catholic High School before getting his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science with an Economics minor from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Patrick really enjoys his present position as a Campaign Manager for the Steier Group, a national public relations and development firm based out of Omaha. He has previously worked for U.S. Senator Ben Nelson as the Eastern Nebraska Field Representative. In that position he liaised with many constituent groups looking to affect federal, state, and local government issues.

Patrick was recently re-elected elected to the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board in the Omaha area. In this role, Patrick helps manage an over $80 million dollar public budget to meet the District's mission to reduce flooding, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitats and more. He is currently working on his Master's degree at Creighton University. Patrick also serves as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Outside of his work, continuing education, military and public service, Patrick enjoys playing hockey, basketball and golf and is an avid traveler, both domestically and internationally. He rarely forgoes an opportunity to enjoy comedy clubs, concerts and theater productions.


Mandy Benes, At-Largeheadshot_mandy.jpg

Amanda Benes is currently the Operations Manager for Fremont Machine, Inc. She has been employed with FMI since 2013 and loves working in the family business. She has been a key factor in navigating the company to successfully capitalize on the current resurgence of the manufacturing sector. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Amanda finds herself in a unique position in her profession.

During the previous five years, Amanda has been involved with the local non-profit organization, Ted E. Bear Hollow. She volunteers as a grief facilitator for pre-teens who have been impacted by the death of a family member or loved one. Amanda's own experiences have led her to seek out those who need the support of their community when surviving the loss of a loved one. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys (most of the time) rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs with her husband, Kyle, and their 1-year-old daughter, Adelaide.

In the fall of 2013, they moved to Gifford Park in midtown Omaha where they are able to enjoy all that their tight-knit community has to offer. Amanda attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha where she majored in Gender and Women's Studies.


Tiffany Seibert Joekel, At-Large

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Tiffany Seibert Joekel is Policy Director at OpenSky Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on tax, budget, and education finance policy in Nebraska. OpenSky’s mission is to improve opportunities for every Nebraskan by providing impartial and precise research, analysis, education and leadership.

Prior to joining OpenSky, she served as Director of the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska, bringing together advocates, researchers, funders, and community leaders who advocate for a great start, the Good Life, and a better future for all Nebraskans. Tiffany has also worked as a Legislative Aide for a state senator in the Nebraska Legislature and as a policy coordinator and researcher for a child advocacy organization.

Tiffany has undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Justice and Peace Studies and a master's degree in International Relations from Creighton University. She and her family currently reside in the Minne Lusa neighborhood of Omaha.


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Scott Packer is a native and life-long resident of Omaha. He graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a History minor. Scott went on to attend Creighton University School of Law, where he obtained his law degree, and he is now a licensed attorney.

While in law school, Scott joined the Creighton Law Review, and wrote an article on immigrant rights in Nebraska which was chosen for publication. Scott further developed his interest in immigration law by clerking with the Omaha Immigration Court. His volunteer experience includes time with the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, as well as with the Immigration Attorneys at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska.

 


Brittany Vovolka, Fellows Fundraiser NLC_Headshot_Tiny-2.jpg

Brittany Vovolka is currently an internal auditor at Kiewit Corporation after spending two years as a senior accountant in the Accounts Payable Department. 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. Brittany earned her BA in Mathematics and BSBA in Accounting at UNO in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

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 and is a co-director for the 2017 awards. Brittany was a fellow in the 2017 class of New Leaders Council.

Brittany lives in Dundee with her husband, Robin. When she has spare time, she enjoys reading, knitting, and cuddling her 12-year-old poodle mix, Boomer, and 5-month-old toy poodle puppy, Frankie.


 

Erin McArthur, Curriculum Chair ErinMcArthur_Headshot_edit.jpg

Erin McArthur is the Director of Operations at the Women’s Fund of Omaha, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. To do this, the Women’s Fund identifies critical issues through research, funds innovative solutions through grants and community partners, and influences dynamic change through advocacy with a focus on policy to ensure that every woman and girl has the opportunity and ability to reach her full potential.

Erin is an Omaha native. After moving to Virginia and South Carolina for a few years after high school, she returned to her Midwest roots and has never looked back. Erin has served on the Friends of Planned Parenthood board and is active with the League of Women Voters. She has She earned her Bachelor’s degree in non-profit management and is currently working on a Master in Public Administration.

 


Julia Tse, Curriculum Vice Chairtse_julia_WEB.jpg

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.


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Kim Howe is a partner at CoCreative Labs, providing group facilitation and consulting in collaborative decision-making and authentic stakeholder engagement. Clients include public, private, and non-profit organizations, as well as neighborhood and community groups. She is passionate about walking alongside individuals, organizations, and communities to collaboratively and creatively investigate needs, develop strategy, and activate their unique assets and strengths to take action.

Kim has over 15 years experience in adult education and community development efforts in diverse multilingual, multicultural, and economically varied contexts. She has previously worked as an English teacher and community organizer in immigrant and refugee communities in Chicago, doing small business development with victims of sex trafficking in Romania, and documenting stories of indigenous leaders in central Australia. She also previously worked in non-profit human resources, concentrating on training and development, team building, and employee engagement.

Kim holds a BA in Applied Linguistics and Teaching of English as a Second Language and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Creighton University. She teaches intercultural communication courses and participatory methods for language instructors within UNO’s International Studies Department and previously taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago City Colleges. She currently serves on the board of inCOMMON Community Development. Kim also loves treasure hunts, living room dance parties, and playing dress up, and tries to maneuver those into her work as often as possible.


Dené Oglesby, Capstone Vice ChairOglesby.jpg

Born and raised in Omaha, Dené currently teaches Secondary French at Ralston Public Schools. Her international experiences and advocacy for workplace, labor, and social justice greatly informs her teaching and her passion to make a difference. After studying abroad in Mexico and France, Dené earned her Bachelor's Degree in French and Spanish from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2008. She taught English for two years in Paris at the Université de Marne-la-Vallée and the École Nationale de Ponts et Chaussées. In 2010, she returned to Lincoln to complete her Master's Degree in French Language and Literature, specializing in 19th century literature, Spanish, and translation.

After a short year managing the Lincoln Yoga Center and earning her 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification, Dené returned to Omaha to begin teaching for Ralston Public Schools in 2013. The Nebraska International Languages Association recently recognized Dené as the New World Language Educator of the Year for her commitment and excellence to the profession. She has led three student group tours to France and is an AP French UNO Dual Enrollment Teacher. Though she is in her third year in the district, it is her eighth in education.

Living as an ex-pat in France for more than three years gave Dené insight into a culture with more progressive labor and educational values, which inspires much of her work in her local teacher's association. Dené currently serves on the Ralston Education Association's Negotiations Team to improve working conditions for 250 teachers in the district. She also serves on the Metro Board for the Nebraska State Education Association, collaborating with other teachers in the metro area on promoting teacher and student-friendly legislative policies and programs. Dené has been actively involved in establishing the relationship between the non-profit Inclusive Communities and Ralston. After securing a $9,000 grant from the Ralston Board of Education in January 2014, Dené regularly recruits and chaperones students to the four-day residential camp, IncluCity, to teach youth leadership skills and social justice awareness. Dené also organizes and recruits for other social justice programs and events for staff and students alike while serving as Ralston High School's diversity club sponsor.

Recognized as a community-builder and feminist, Dené has been invited to speak on women's issues and has volunteered with the Lincoln Literacy Council and Planned Parenthood. In her spare time, she enjoys jogging, teaching community yoga classes, and staying up to date with national politics and sustainable development/environment trends.


Tracy Hightower-Henne, Mentorship Co-Chairhightowerhenne_tracy_WEB.jpg

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.


Wendy Hamilton, Mentorship Co-Chair 

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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. 


Sarah Hanify, Selections Chair

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Sarah Hanify is a Medical Social Worker with Children's Physicians - Clinics, where she gets to connect children and families to mental health services and community resources. She previously worked in various areas of the child welfare system, including training and advocacy as well as direct case management.

Sarah is originally from South Dakota, but spent many years living in Iowa. She received bachelor’s degrees in psychology and public relations in 2007 from Drake University, in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduation, Sarah worked for the AmeriCorps VISTA program at Black Hills State University before enrolling the University of Nebraska at Omaha Grace Abbott School of Social Work in 2008. Sarah graduated in 2011 with master’s degrees in social work and in public administration.

Sarah enjoys volunteering, and is a member of a variety of community organizations in addition to the New Leaders Council Board, including Junior League of Omaha, the 1877 Society, the Moving Company, the Friends of Nebraska Children, Sigma Alpha Iota Women’s Music Fraternity Alumni Group, and as an adviser to the Alpha Phi Omega chapter at Creighton University. She feels lucky to have moved to Omaha and enjoys continuing to search for the best patio in town. 


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Lucas LaRose is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana and a descendant of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.  He also is an in-house attorney at Ho-Chunk, Inc., the economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Before joining the Ho-Chunk, Inc. organization, 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. Lucas also serves as a Commissioner on the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. 


Korey Taylor, Selections Vice Chairtaylor_korey_WEB.jpg

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.


Rebecca Armstrong Langle, Communications Co-Chairralangle_headshot.jpg

Born and raised in Omaha, Rebecca Armstrong Langle has committed herself to improving the community where she lives and works. 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. Here 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 annual giving 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 spent two years as the voters service director on the board for the League of Women Voters-Nebraska. Currently, Rebecca is the Vice President for the Greater Omaha League. She 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 their dog, Delilah. 


Amy Wall, Communications Co-Chair wall_amy_WEB.jpg

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.


Ruth Marimo, Recruitment Chair WomensFund_UnretouchedHiRES_Aug2016-9752.JPG

Ruth Marimo is a 35-year-old single mother of two who lives in Papillion, Nebraska. She has authored two books, a memoir titled Outsider: Crossing Borders, Breaking Rules, Gaining pride, which chronicles her immigration journey from her country of origin, Zimbabwe, and the complexities of being a multiple minority, and a work of fiction titled Indelicate Things. Marimo was a TEDx Omaha speaker for 2015 and has a residential and commercial cleaning business. When she is not busy raising her two kids, she speaks and fights for many causes including racial equality, immigration reform, and LGBTQ equality.

Ruth is especially interested in working on changing the mindsets of vulnerable populations through education, talking about the issues that are considered taboo but are cancers to societies -- issues like how African Americans are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic even at a time other vulnerable groups are seeing a significant decrease in infection rates, the importance of comprehensive sex education in schools, the importance of early reading among children of minorities and immigrants.

Through her worldly experiences, Ruth works hard to impart some of the knowledge she has gained with her peers back in Africa and uses the values she learned in Africa to give people here a different perspective. Ruth also enjoys the challenges that come with being a small business owner and being able to give other people an income while providing a much-needed service. Her number one job is that of raising her two children, who are aged 9 and 11, and who excel in both sports and academics. Being a voice for the marginalized is something Ruth is deeply passionate about.


Luper Akough, Recruitment Vice ChairLuper.jpg

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. 

 

 


Erin Bader, Alumni Relations Co-Chair 

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Erin Bader, Permanency Programs Supervisor at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc Erin Bader is a social work professional who plans to dedic

ate her career to strengthening the public child welfare system so that children can grow up in safe and loving environments. Erin is currently the Permanency Programs Supervisor at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. At LFS, Erin oversees the development and implementation of all adoption programs which include private domestic and international adoption as well as adoption from foster care. She manages Nebraska's only Wendy's Wonderful Kids program, a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption whose purpose is to find a forever family for every child waiting in foster care. She is also pursuing licensure as a clinical social worker (LCSW).

Erin is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Human Resources and Family Sciences and the University of California-Los Angeles Masters in Social Welfare program. While at UCLA, Erin participated in the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) Title IV-E Child Welfare Training Program and completed internships with the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center and the Los County Department of Children and Family Services, Older Youth Adoption program. Erin has worked in public child welfare for the last ten years and has a strong passion for advocating for our most vulnerable population abused and neglected children. This passion has led to employment with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

Throughout her work, Erin has developed an interest in wanting to improve the child welfare system for the betterment of the children and families it serves. In addition to her role as an advocate for children and families, Erin is mom to a spunky dog Harrison, a devoted Husker fan, a proud volunteer of Launch Leadership, an alumni advisor to Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and someone who is eager to learn and travel to new places.


Dave Sund, Alumni Relations Co-Chairsund_dave_WEB.jpg

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.


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Jodi Benenson, Community Engagement Co-Chair

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, J

odi 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.


Amanda Ponce, Community Engagement Co-Chair Ponce.jpg

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.


Yvonne Sosa, Operations Chairyvonne.jpg

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.  

 

 
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