American Express Leadership Academy 2.0: Emerging Nonprofit Leaders – 2018 Fellowship Class

American Express Leadership Academy 2.0: Emerging Nonprofit Leaders – 2018 Fellowship Class

Aspen, Colo. (July 30, 2018) - Original release here


Seth Cothrun

Seth Cothrun is the senior director of marketing and development at the Sonoran Institute, a binational conservation organization working throughout the North American West to connect people and communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them. Seth is responsible for the organization’s brand and marketing strategies, as well as leading the suite of development strategies that support the organization’s mission. Prior to joining Sonoran Institute, he spent seven years managing business development and marketing initiatives throughout the Americas in the institutional asset management space, working with some of the largest public and private funds in the world. Prior to the financial industry, he spent several years as a program manager in the US Forest Service throughout the West, in addition to serving nationally on Type 1 Incident Management and Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation teams tasked with managing high complexity wildland fire incidents and post-fire effects. He has also lived and worked in México as photographer. He is a member of Class Nine of the American Express Leadership Academy at ASU Lodestar Center. He holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago in Anthropology & Latin American Studies and a B.A. from the University of Arizona in Anthropology & Latin American History.


Claudine Mensah Awute is the country director for CARE International in Nigeria. She has over twenty years of experience in management, strategy development and implementation, representation, and leading country offices in complex socio-political, humanitarian and security contexts.

Prior to this position, Claudine worked for CARE as country director in Benin/Togo and Mali; she also held various senior program management positions in Togo (covering for Ghana and Benin) and Rwanda. Before joining CARE, Claudine worked in Togo as a researcher in a social consultancy firm, and then as program manager for a grassroots women organization and an international organization on the rights of the child.

Claudine is passionate about gender justice, women empowerment, people development, aid, and development effectiveness. She speaks French, English and a number of African languages.

She holds a Ph.D. in sociology and a B.A. in philosophy and social sciences.


Maritessa Bravo Ares serves as the director of community engagement for California at Beneficial State Foundation, an organization that advocates for and develops socially-responsible banking. The foundation owns Beneficial State Bank, a B Corp and CDFI financial institution. In this role, Maritessa spearheads community relations strategies in multiple markets, drives new initiatives from concept to execution, and develops the next generation of socially-responsible leaders through the flagship fellowship program.

She is attracted to big, ambitious ideas as catalysts for social change and has a strong passion for people, justice and equity. Previously, Maritessa was a program associate at Green For All and a legislative analyst with the California School Boards Association. In her spare time, Maritessa loves to mentor young adults and is committed to public service. Maritessa received her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and remains an active alumna, having served on the board of directors of the California Alumni Association.

Asiaha Butler is a longtime resident of Greater Englewood and is determined to uplift, inspire, and change the perception of her neighborhood, which is often seen as a death trap. Butler has served on various boards and councils in Englewood including: chair of the Education Taskforce of Teamwork Englewood, a community representative on the LSC for Robeson High School, member of the Englewood Community Cultural Planning Council, co-chair of the Englewood Community Action Council, and founding member of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corp. among other roles in the neighborhood. Through her leadership she was able to work with educators, concerned citizens, and parents to develop a comprehensive educational plan for schools in the community, as well as engage residents in plans grounded in community planning and development. Butler received her master’s degree in inner city studies education at Jacob Carruthers Center of Northeastern University Illinois.

In November of 2010, she mobilized residents and co-founded the Resident Association of Greater Englewood also known as R.A.G.E., which she currently serves as president. The mission of R.A.G.E is to mobilize people and resources to force a change in the community. The primary focus areas for R.A.G.E. are education, youth development, economic development and civic empowerment. She is currently the chair of the Englewood Quality of Life Housing and Public Spaces Task Force and recently founded her own housing development company to ensure that housing development in Englewood happens from the bottom up to avoid gentrification or displacement. As a key community strategist and through the use of social media, blogging, and other communication mediums, Butler has become one of the most recognized and powerful voices from the Englewood community.


Chase L. Cantrell is the executive director and founder of Building Community Value, a Detroit-based non-profit dedicated to implementing and facilitating real estate development projects in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. An alumnus of the University of Michigan Law School, Chase specialized in real estate and corporate law and has facilitated corporate and real estate acquisitions, sales, and other complex transactions for clients of all sizes (from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies). Through Building Community Value, and in collaboration with academic and community partners, Chase seeks to be a catalyst for sustainable social and economic development that engages distressed communities in creating impactful, resident-led change but, more specifically, improves livability for all Detroiters.

Maggie Goldstein Cooper is the head of talent and communications at Caliber Schools, a Bay Area public charter school organization whose mission is to achieve educational equity by shifting the experiences, expectations and outcomes for students in historically underserved communities. Maggie has played a pivotal role in growing the Caliber organization from a staff of 40 to 165, and serving over 1,500 students. Maggie has also spearheaded the development of Caliber’s values, graduate pillars and equity statement to bring a refined clarity and vision to the organization. Maggie leads all recruiting and hiring, as well as focusing on organizational strategy, teacher sustainability, partnerships, and communications (annual reports, website, social media, newsletters, and donor communications).

Above all, Maggie’s work is reflective of her belief that high quality teachers are the key levers towards educational equity and to closing the opportunity gap in the United States. Maggie’s work at Caliber addresses a larger issue: the national teacher shortage, and underperforming and inequitable schools—especially for students of color in low socioeconomic communities.


Prior to working at Caliber, Maggie was consulting for several educational organizations such as Open IDEO, Leadership + Design, and KIPP Bay Area Schools. The bulk of Maggie’s early career in education was with KIPP Public Charter Schools in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Maggie joined KIPP through the Capital Teaching Residency (CTR) program and then shifted to lead teaching 5th grade reading. Maggie continued as a middle school reading teacher for 3 years at KIPP DC: AIM Academy after which she moved back to her hometown in the Bay Area. Maggie was on the founding team of KIPP SF: College Prep where she taught 9th grade English Literature and was the leader of her grade level. She led her students to the third highest average score in reading and highest average growth in the KIPP national network on the EXPLORE assessment during the school’s founding year. She was also selected for the 2014-2015 KIPP School Leadership Program (KSLP) and led her school’s Family Association.

Maggie graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in psychology and minor in education policy. Maggie lives in San Francisco with her husband Brandon and daughter Ayla.


Sarah Eagle Heart is a powerful storyteller whose deep perspective on healing trauma is rooted in her life story and experiences as a teen activist raised on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, and an internationally accomplished executive focused on education and advocacy on behalf of Indigenous peoples. She has spent the last decade centered on building momentum around healing and sustainability in the spirit of cultural revitalization—work that has been successful because of her influence and ability to activate key leaders from grassroots to corporate level through capacity building. Her diverse background in tribal, corporate, and non-profit organizations focusing on communications, marketing, program development, and advocacy offers a vantage point that powerfully amplifies impact. Her latest philanthropy and influencer partnership is the VR project “Crow: The Legend” with BaoBab Studios starring John Legend, Oprah Winfrey, Tye Sheridan and Liza Koshy.


Jacqueline Innocent is the vice president of recognition and cause programs at Points of Light. In that role she directs the portfolio of presidential and corporate award and grant programs including the Daily Point of Light Award program, the Points of Light Monument, the President’s Volunteer Service Award program and L’Oréal’s Women of Worth program. Her other roles in the non-profit sector include senior director of community initiatives of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, summer clinic fellow and supervising attorney for the Nonprofit Transactions Clinic of New York University Law School and the director of operations for the Annie E. Casey Foundation-Atlanta Civic Site.

Jacqueline holds a Juris Doctor from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University. Before embarking upon a full time non-profit career, she leveraged her legal and business background as a corporate attorney.

Throughout her career, she has volunteered with nonprofit organizations, including serving as a volunteer prosecutor for the South Carolina Criminal Domestic Violence program and coordinator for the NY Bar Lawyers in the Classroom program. Most recently, she volunteered for the March of Dimes, MedShare and served as chair of the Grant Managers Network Southeast Region. Jacqueline is from New York and currently lives in Mableton, Georgia with her husband and daughter.


Julieta Garibay is the Texas director and co-founder of United We Dream—the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country. In this capacity, Garibay serves as UWD’s chief strategist in Texas and plans and implements UWD’s work, as the organization continues to build power in Texas.

Garibay began organizing in her hometown of Austin, TX in 2005 to help undocumented youth like her get to college, and has since become a fearless defender of her community and advocate for the rights of women. Julieta is the living embodiment of the United We Dream spirit—transforming personal adversity into personal power and hope that has inspired thousands into action.

Julieta has been featured as a leading voice in the immigration movement and has been featured on many of the nation’s top outlets like Univision, CNN, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, NPR, Telemundo, among others.

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Garibay migrated to the U.S. at the age of 12 and lived in Texas for 20 years before moving to Washington, D.C. She co-founded the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) at the University of Texas- Austin, one of the first undocumented youth-led organizations in the nation. She holds a Master of Science degree in public health nursing and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas.


 NAACP Award Winner, Ty Jones is the producing artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH). He is a 2013 recipient of the Council of the City of New York Proclamation Award. His role with CTH since 2003 has included: actor, producer, managing director, development director and board chair. Under Jones’ leadership, the company has developed a template whose core of financial discipline, precision marketing, and exceptional programming, has resulted in CTH’s growth and stability. Mr. Jones initiated Uptown Meets Downtown, a program comprising strategic partnerships with downtown theatres designed to share production costs and build artistic bridges between communities. He also led the inaugural Uptown Shakespeare in the Park, bringing free, outdoor, professional theatre to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park for an extended run.

His Broadway debut was in the role of Lt. Byers in Judgment at Nuremberg. He was also seen in the Tony Award-winning production of Henry IV and Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington. He won an OBIE Award for his portrayal of Archibald in the revival of the critically acclaimed off-Broadway production, The Blacks: A Clown Show. For CTH, Ty received Audelco Nominations for his performances in Macbeth, Trojan Women, Romeo and Juliet, and won Best Actor for his portrayal of Nat Turner in Emancipation: Chronicles of the Nat Turner Rebellion.

Principal film roles include his work in Annie, Tower Heist, The Taking of Pelham123, Redacted, and The International. He has been seen in a number of episodics such as Madam Secretary, Blacklist, Forever, Elementary, Ugly Betty, Fringe, and currently recurs as SAC Jerry Donavan on POWER, the number one show on the Starz cable network.

As a writer, Ty Jones’ play Emancipation: Chronicles of the Nat Turner Rebellion, premiered for the award- winning Classical Theatre of Harlem. Jones first created Emancipation as a screenplay; it was selected as a finalist in the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, was endorsed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, received Honorable Merit from the Writer Digest Screenwriters Association, and won the San Francisco Black Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.

Mr. Jones received his M.F.A. from the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program, where he was the recipient of the Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement Award as an alum, and was named “One of 25 to Watch” in TIME OUT magazine.


Kartika Kurniasari has over a decade of experience in the field of education and training sector, in particular the granting of scholarships to students across Indonesia to move the nation forward in its capacity to meet global challenges and build the capacity of teachers and school leaders through a series of professional development and school development programs.

Kartika graduated from the University of Indonesia with a major in accounting and completed courses in education. Kartika has worked on a various scope of assignments ranging from business and program development, program implementation, strategic planning, institutional partnership development, financial control and internal audit.

Currently, Kartika is serving Rachel House as the chief executive officer, leading the management team, which oversees the implementation of Rachel House’s strategic objectives, and representing Rachel House to internal and external stakeholders. Rachel House is the first pediatric palliative care service in Indonesia for children from the marginalized communities living with cancer or HIV. Rachel House actively provides palliative care training to medical professionals as well as community volunteers, to help ensure that palliative care is available and accessible to everyone living with life-limiting conditions in Indonesia.

Beyond her work at Rachel House, and her family, Kartika is an avid photographer who often does walkabouts Jakarta and vicinity and meet the lesser known faces of Jakarta.


The pursuit of excellence—in academia, within the community, through organizational leadership, and otherwise—is core to the professional identity of Dr. Jonathan Mathis. His work spans both secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, with a focus on college access and success. He was appointed to serve as the Executive Director of The Next Step Public Charter School, of Washington, DC in December 2017. In this role, Dr. Mathis provides vision and leadership for a learning community serving nearly 400 adult-learners, ages 16-24, with a focus on college and career readiness. Prior to this appointment, he served as the inaugural director of the National Honor Societies at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). His efforts impacted nearly 2 million students, advisers, and leaders annually. Dr. Mathis has also served as the director of education and training at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, where he was responsible for the professional learning and leadership preparation for more than 14,000 college admission professionals.

Dr. Mathis has contributed to college access efforts nationally. He completed his PhD in Urban Education Policy at the University of Southern California (USC). While in Los Angeles, he served as the regional director for the Collegiate Identity and Participation Model with Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) Schools in Los Angeles. He also served as an adjunct assistant professor in USC’s Rossier School of Education. Dr. Mathis has also earned a bachelor of science in business administration from American University (DC), and a master of science in administration for educational administration (K-12) from Trinity Washington University (DC).

In 2016, Dr. Mathis was recognized by the American University Alumni Association; he was selected as a 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Week Honoree by the American University (AU) Black Alumni Alliance. This special recognition is awarded to a select group of AU alumni who demonstrate a high commitment to advancing the global black community in one of four ways: assuring quality healthcare, advancing through education, increasing equity in foreign policy, and ensuring justice for all. Dr. Mathis continues his commitment to the field through board service to American University, and national presentations to advance student achievement and educational leadership in both secondary and postsecondary educational environment.


Jason Reed is a strategy executive with Second Harvest Heartland, one of the largest domestic hunger-relief charities in the United States. Second Harvest advances creative, multi-sector solutions to accelerate the pace of ending hunger in our local communities.

At Second Harvest, Jason has guided the launch and growth of several successful new ventures, including an industry-leading health care social enterprise called FoodRx. He also designed and led several large-scale systems change initiatives for Hunger-Free Minnesota, a CEO-led civic alliance, which added millions of new meals for Minnesotans in need.

Before transitioning to the social sector, Jason was a consultant in the New York City offices of McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather, where he was an advisor to global Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits, and the U.S. federal government. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Adelante Healthcare System in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jason holds a master’s degree from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He has been honored as an American Express NGen Fellow by Independent Sector.


Malik Robinson is the executive director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), a not-for-profit cultural arts institution based in Denver, Colorado. As an internationally recognized arts organization, CPRD has served as a leader in preserving the rich heritage of legendary American modern dance choreographers. The organization is also distinguished for its arts-in-education and arts advocacy work. In his role, Malik directs a small administrative staff with an operational budget of $1.3M.

During his tenure with CPRD, Malik was intricately involved in coordinating the Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference hosted by CPRD in 1999, 2009 and 2016. He was responsible for securing award-winning international tours to Israel, Italy and Egypt for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (CPRDE). As the booking manager for CPRDE, Malik successfully secured funding from national foundations for new work creation and tour support. He also booked and managed national tours to an average of 15 cities annually.

As the primary funds developer for CPRD, Malik worked across sectors to develop partnerships that helped sustain and grow the organization. He was the CPRD lead in forming a partnership with the Denver Housing Authority in the acquisition of a $20M grant award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant supported the redevelopment of dilapidated housing that formerly surrounded the organization.

Under his direction, CPRD has evolved into an anchor cultural institution and destination for dance in Denver with more than 25,000 visitors annually. Malik’s dedication to education and the arts led to the creation of the after-school program Aye (Yoruba for “Life”), which serves an average of 125 high-risk youth per year, in northeast Denver. In 2015, Malik led efforts to forge the Bachelor in Dance program in partnership with Metropolitan State University of Denver. The dance major is the first offered by any institution of higher learning in Denver.

Malik serves on several boards and committees, including the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Inclusivity Fund Committee, which develops the criteria for a $9M fund designed to increase cultural equity among Denver’s marginalized communities. He also serves on the board of directors for the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Denver School for the Arts Friends Foundation, and is a Dance/USA trustee. Malik is a Leadership Denver graduate, Livingston Fellow, and Association of Performing Arts Professionals Fellow. Malik earned his B.A. in African Studies from Regis University.

Malik is the son of Tom and Cleo Robinson, and is married to Olga Gonzalez with one son, Nez, and two daughters Ximalma and Xareni.


Farzana Serang brings more than 15 years of experience in leadership development, food system innovation, racial equity advocacy, philanthropy, and community development. She is currently leading the Castanea Fellowship, a new fellowship that will invest in leaders working at the intersections of health, agriculture, environment, and social justice. Most recently, Farzana led the Multicultural Fellowship at The San Francisco Foundation, a program that has cultivated leaders of color in philanthropy for nearly thirty years.

Prior to her time with the Foundation, she was the first executive director of the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED). While there, she deepened CoFED’s impact and infused racial equity as the driving principle of the nonprofit’s work. Prior to CoFED, Farzana cultivated her organizing, management, and public policy skills at PolicyLink, where she managed the Civic Engagement Learning Year, a multimillion-dollar initiative that networked W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantees committed to advancing democracy. Alongside her commitment to equity in her professional service, she is dedicated to fostering food equity in her community, as a board member of Sustainable Economies Law Center and an active member of the Oakland (CA) Food Policy Council.

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