ASU Lodestar Center


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American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center announces Class 14, engaging 33 emerging nonprofit leaders

July 27, 2021 (Phoenix, Ariz.) – The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation's American Express Leadership Academy will launch its 14th program year this fall with 33 of the region's top emerging nonprofit leaders. The program, beginning in September with a hybrid format, provides participants with an empowering leadership development experience and lasting connections with other sector leaders.

Funded in part by a generous contribution from the American Express Foundation, the Academy is a diverse cohort of nonprofit leaders chosen to participate in a nine-month training program that provides them with the knowledge and tools needed to take on leadership roles within the nonprofit community. The program comprises best-practice approaches to leading and managing nonprofits that include renowned knowledge specialists at Arizona State University as well as established nonprofit leaders from organizations that engage with the ASU Lodestar Center.

“Our long-standing partnership with the American Express Foundation is built on a mutual belief in the value of developing nonprofit leaders to improve community well-being,” said Dr. Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center and Saguaro Professor of Civic Enterprise. “The results achieved each year through our Academy are evidence that our leadership development programming delivers on its promise and our communities are better as a result,” Ashcraft added.

This year’s class includes participants from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and nonprofit organizations. Building on the American Express Foundation’s continued investment over the past 13 years, this emerging leader program continues to offer 360-degree feedback assessments and one-on-one executive coaching. These program elements enable the class to leave a lasting and profound impact on the communities in which they serve and volunteer.

This year's cohort includes:

  • Marisa Arellano, Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona
  • Jennifer Billman, Terros Health
  • Ryan Blakeman, Lokahi Teams
  • Ginamarie Brockdorff, Human Services Campus
  • Jean Christofferson, Catholic Charities Community Services
  • Ashley Cooper, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley
  • Rose DeBlas, FosterEd Arizona
  • Sarah Fluke, Arizona Multihousing Association
  • Stephanie Garippa, Maggie's Place
  • David Hagan, Our Family Services
  • Czerina Harvey, Girl Scouts - Arizona Cactus Pine Council Inc
  • Eula Hernandez, YWCA Southern Arizona
  • Colleen Iuliucci, Arizona Community Foundation
  • Amanda Metcalf, Special Olympics Arizona
  • Tiffany Miramontes, Child Crisis Arizona
  • Alicia Moreno, Valley of the Sun United Way
  • Tremikus Muhammad, Phoenix Local Organizing Committee
  • Sharon Newkirk, Native American Connections
  • Austin Pierce, United Food Bank
  • Catherine Pisani, Planned Parenthood Arizona
  • Juliana Rengifo, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona
  • Karina Ruiz De Diaz, Arizona Dream Act Coalition
  • Elyse Salisz, Ballet Arizona
  • Tara Smith, Children's Museum of Phoenix
  • Michelle Streeter, Visit Mesa
  • Kari Taylor, ICAN
  • Lakiesha Townsel, Fresh Start Women's Foundation
  • Mila Valle, UMOM New Day Center
  • Kayla Weber, Arizona Humane Society
  • Jessica Winchester, Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
  • Astria Wong, OCA Greater Phoenix (Org of Chinese Americans)
  • Michaela Wuycheck, Social Venture Partners Arizona
  • Blake Zickafoose, Valley of the Sun YMCA

“Nonprofits have played a key role in our community’s response to the pandemic,” said Cassidy Campana, program manager for the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center. “Investing in the development of nonprofit leaders and building a strong professional network is more important than ever and that’s what the American Express Leadership Academy offers to selected participants.”

Additional thanks to Wells Fargo for their continued support of the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center.

For additional information regarding any of the ASU Lodestar Center’s programs, visit If you have questions, please call 602.496.0500 or email