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New Leaders Council

Our Board

Bronce_Perez_Matos.jpgBronce Perez Matos – Chapter Co-Director  

Bronce is a licensed real estate salesperson with Hunt Real Estate ERA in the capital region. Prior to jumping into the real estate field Bronce ensured that all New Yorkers were protected and well informed from unscrupulous business activities as a Community Relations Specialist and Outreach Educator for the New York State Department of State Consumer Protection Division.

Before moving to the Capital District area, Bronce was Special Assistant to the Secretary of State at the New York State Department of State and Program Coordinator for the Chairwoman of the New York State Athletic Commission.  In this capacity he worked closely with senior government officials providing policy research, data management, intergovernmental and external community relations, civic engagement, staff coordination, outreach, and planning and development for several government initiatives.  Bronce was Co-Creator of Fight for Your Future, which is a new educational initiative program that provides professional and amateur boxers throughout New York State scholarship opportunities so they can pursue a higher education.

Bronce graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Psychology from CUNY Hunter College in New York, NY and his Masters in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Bronce enjoys spending time outdoors, skydiving, hiking, reading, and playing the electric bass.


 mkeegan_(2).pngMeghan E. Keegan – Chapter Co-Director

 Meghan E. Keegan is a lifelong resident of Albany County and a graduate of the State University at Albany where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Political Science in 2001 followed by a Masters in Social Welfare in 2006.  During her undergraduate years, Meghan focused on the arts serving as an intern for the Center for Photography in Woodstock and serving as Vice President of the University at Albany Arts Council. In between her undergraduate and graduate years, Meghan worked as a community activist focusing on social and environmental justice issues within the Albany community.  After finishing her Masters, Meghan began working in pediatric mental health as a program director for a children’s residential program licensed under the New York State (NYS) Office of Mental Health.  Meghan went on to work for the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, providing oversight to the mental hygiene system with a special focus on child advocacy. 

Currently Meghan is an Investigator for the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of Persons with Special Needs where she conducts civil and criminal investigations involving abuse and neglect of children and adults with disabilities residing in licensed residential settings in NYS.  In addition to her professional career, Meghan has also served several terms on the Executive Board of the Albany County Young Democrats both as Director of Finance and President.  She is currently serving her third term as a Committee Person for the Albany County Democratic Committee.  Meghan was also given the Next Generation Progressive award in 2013 by the Capital District Chapter of the Robert F Kennedy Democratic Club for her emerging leadership on progressive issues.  Meghan is a proud union member and currently serves as the Division 232 Leader for the Public Employees Federation.   In her free time, Meghan enjoys playing soccer on several local club teams, having adventures close to home and abroad, and relaxing with her husband Luke and rescue mutt Logan.


Kaciem_Swain.jpgKaciem Swain -- Curriculum Chair

Kaciem Swain is the Founder & CEO of SPARK+THRIVE - an 850 sq ft boutique co-working space and real estate startup located in historic Arbor Hill - a space for entrepreneurship, designed and created by entrepreneurs to foster creativity, cultivate talent and accelerate ideas. SPARK + THRIVE is the first brick and mortar brand to come from the labs at FlagshipUltra, a creative think-tank agency and idea lab producing brands, events, products where Swain serves as the Creative Director for Idea Engineering. FlagshipUltra provides clarity, development and execution for creators at heart. Internally, they're creators first. Swain joins New Leaders Council as a 2016 Fellow looking to align himself with the entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. He's committed to promoting entrepreneurship within the Capital District and will remain a resident of Albany to do so. In his spare time he is a freelance business consultant and coach as "Train With Swain" where he helps creative’s, freelancers, small businesses, big brands & startups start, run & grow or pivot + rebrand.


Jack_Kelly.jpgJack Kelly – Finance and Fundraising Chair

 Jack Kelly currently works with Empire Justice Center as the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS-MAP) Coordinator.  The MAP program, funded by the Office of the Attorney General, works in New York City with partner organizations, and outside of New York City with Empire Justice, to lend money to homeowners in danger of losing their homes due to outstanding debt.  To date, the program has helped over 1000 families.

In the past Jack has worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA and has a background in government and marketing, and media. Jack graduated from Stetson University with a BA in Political Science and American Studies.


 adiaz_pic_(2).jpgAlejandra Diaz – Alumni and Community Relations Chair

Alejandra is the Program Planning Coordinator for the New York State Department of Health’s Center for Health Care Policy and Resource Development.  In this role Alejandra works on program and policy development and operates the Population Health Improvement Program.  Prior to this, Alejandra was an Empire State Fellow in the New York State Governor’s Office, focusing on health care policy regarding emerging models of care.

Before entering New York State government, Alejandra was a Lead Experience Architect at NTT DATA, a global technology innovation company where she led a team in developing qualitative audience research studies and used the resulting insights to inform and design services, system interfaces, business processes, and communication strategies for healthcare clients.

Alejandra has earned a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Science and Medicine from Yale University, and a Business Certificate from the Columbia University School of Continuing Education.


Rosa_Mendez.jpgRosa E. Méndez – Communications Chair

 Rosa serves as the Director of the Office of Environmental Justice at New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) where she advances the Department's environmental justice initiatives. 

Before joining the DEC, Rosa ensured that federal, state, and local public agency decisions affecting New York State’s coastal zone resulted in activities consistent with the State’s coastal policies and program, as a Consistency Review Specialist for the New York State Department of State. To address the need for resiliency measures in the management of energy facilities, Rosa’s role focused on energy projects.

 A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rosa is a graduate of Cornell University and Vermont Law School. She excitedly returned to the upstate region to pursue her career in public service, tackle the Adirondack 46, and connect with the community. Following in the footsteps of her civil rights championing parents Rosa is also involved with voter protection initiatives.


Liska_Wilson.jpgLiska Wilson – Mentorship Chair  

Liska is the middle child and eldest girl of five children.  She was born in Jamaica, but grew up in Albany New York.  Growing up, her parents frequently preached to her and her siblings about the importance of education and making the most of opportunities.  The mindset they instilled in her led her through the public school system to Siena College where she obtained her B.S. in Marketing and Management.  She remembers being taught what most parents teach their children, “go to school and study hard so you can get a good job.”  So that’s what she did, but as a young woman (especially a young black woman), she quickly realized that that was easier said than done. This realization is what continues to drive her.

After graduating Siena, Liska started She’s a Boss, a group for career-minded women who wanted guidance and support as they built their careers.  Through She’s a Boss, Liska and her network of mentors help to inspire, encourage, and guide young women through the process of building a career or business that excites them.  She’s a Boss offers a dynamic mentor program and produces events throughout the year that educate, inspire, and connect women in the Capital Region.  Liska is proud that she is able to inspire and help women do more than just “get a good job.”

By trade, Liska is a marketeer specializing in branding, communications, and content marketing.  She works in the Innovations department of Pioneer Bank and also has freelance clients in various industries.  She is an Advisory Board member for Capital Region Women@Work and often volunteers her time to speak with college students about the importance of networking and strategic career planning.  Her goal in being an NLC Fellow is to get acquainted with and better understand how to learn about and get involved with the local government relative to how it affects career and business development.

In her free time, you can find Liska entertaining her 4-year-old daughter, sharing laughs with her siblings, and traveling the world.

 Giovanna Joseph – Recruitment Chair

Giovanna Joseph is currently serving as an Excelsior Fellow for the CORe Initiative, working in New York State's Executive Chamber. In her role she is responsible for ongoing coordination and administration of Albany local partner participation. She assists in facilitation of monthly local meetings to develop and strengthen community and stakeholder engagement. In her capacity as Albany Liaison, is also a member of the Equity Advisory Agenda for the City of Albany. Part of a nation wide agenda to challenge rising inequality, Equity Advisory members are comprised of residents working in and for the community committed to embracing critical issues, such as affordable housing, public safety and transportation, with a multifaceted approach to create a more equitable Albany. Prior to being placed with CORe she also was an Excelsior Fellow to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, working in the Public Finance and Portfolio Monitoring department.

 She received her BA in Political Science from Russell Sage College. There she was a catalyst for increasing diversity and cultural education. Additionally, during her time with at The Sage Colleges she studied Human Rights Law, International Relations and Tropical Medicine at Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica. Her professional interests include community development, anti-poverty programs, social responsibility, government operations, international relations and diplomacy.


 lford.pngLauren Ford, LMSW -- Selections Chair

Lauren Ford has been the Selections Chair for the Capital District Chapter of the New Leaders Council since August 2015 and has been on the board since completing her NLC fellowship in 2014.  She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and currently serves as a Senior Trainer for the Professional Development Program, Rockefeller College.  Additionally, Lauren supervises graduate social work interns through the University At Albany's Office of Intercultural Student Engagement.  She is an alumnus of the University at Albany where she received a Bachelors of Social Welfare with minors in Sociology and Women’s Studies prior to earning her Masters degree.  Lauren's career has centered upon promoting the well-being of marginalized communities, particularly low-income and LGBTQ communities.  

 As a Senior Trainer with the Professional Development Program, Lauren travels throughout the state of New York delivering comprehensive federal and state policy training regarding public benefit programs on behalf of a contract with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.  Her training topics and areas of expertise include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), supervisory skills, and mental health awareness.  Previously, Lauren worked as the LGBTQ Health Specialist for the Pride Center of the Capital Region, where she managed all health-related programming at the Center, including HIV testing, as well as providing best-practice training to mental health providers working with LGBTQ individuals.  Her academic areas of interest include comprehensive healthcare access for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, sexual and reproductive freedom, resources and support for unaccompanied homeless youth, and affordable health insurance coverage. 

Outside of her work and NLC, Lauren is the co-chair of the Leadership Development Council for the Pride Center of the Capital Region and organizes monthly LGBTQ social events geared toward millennials and those in generations X and Y.  Lauren loves spending time with her "little brother" from the Big Brother's Big Sister's Program, and is an enthusiastic Harry Potter and Marvel Cinematic Universe nerd. 


tkaczmarek.pngTom Kaczmarek – Board Member, Recruitment Committee

 Tom Kaczmarek currently serves as an Excelsior Fellow for the New York State Department of Public Service, working in a number of capacities including agency performance management, budget preparation and policy development.  Tom’s progressive acumen has been fortified through over seven years of diversified experiences in the public, private, nonprofit and political sectors. In the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, he served on campaigns for progressive candidates in races for the Indiana State Senate, the Indiana Governorship, and the U.S. Congress. As a staffer with the Indiana Senate, he assisted the minority caucus of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee. Through private and nonprofit sector experiences, he worked as an analyst, developer and advocate for health care, labor, professional licensure, and public safety policies, to name but a few.

 As the Manager of Government Affairs for a national association, Tom led several successful legislative and regulatory initiatives to protect the public, enhance accessibility measures for persons with disabilities, and expand professional opportunities for members. In his personal life, he is spearheading an initiative for the Appalachian Mountain Club to strengthen under-40 membership. Additionally, Tom earned the Rick Gudal Award from the Indiana State Senate for exemplary dedication to public service, served as Vice President of his graduate program, delivered the student address at his 2014 Convocation, and is an Eagle Scout.

Tom holds a B.A. in Political Science from DePauw University and an M.P.A. from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He is a native of Morristown, New Jersey, and is an avid New York Mets fan. He asks that you hold neither of these latter points against him


 cduncan.jpgCarmen Duncan – Board Member, Curriculum Committee

Carmen Duncan is the CEO and Founder of Mission Accomplished Transition Services, a non-profit missioned to prepare aspiring young professionals for the global economy by providing access to coaching, job training and professional development. Aspiring young professionals ages 13-24 train for success by defining their purpose, taking ownership of their life, gaining a better understanding of their worth and power and incorporating their skill sets into the “folds” of their local communities and societal decisions.  Carmen founded and established Mission Accomplished because she experienced the impact of coaching and mentorship during the challenging time of her adolescent transition into adulthood, when circumstances introduced her to a short life of teenage homelessness.  With the help of the Equinox Independent Living Program and support from a committed case worker, Ms. Duncan was empowered to rise above her circumstances and become a success story.

Carmen obtained an Associates in Liberal Arts at Maria College, Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Sage Colleges of Albany, Masters in Social Welfare (MSW) and the Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership in 2012. Ms Duncan pursued these diplomas to support her vision of operating Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Inc.

Carmen received an appointment by the former Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Gladys Carrion to the statewide Runaway and Homeless Youth Advisory Board.  She is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the SUNY Albany School of Social Welfare and a member of the Albany County Department of Probation Juvenile Community Accountability Board (JCAB), and former Chair of the Sponsorship and Scholarship Committee for the Capital District YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program Advisory Board.


Howard.jpgKate S. Howard – Board Member, Curriculum Committee

Kate Howard’s primary practice focuses on Education Law with an emphasis on special education and the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).  Kate provides guidance and training to school districts on special education matters including, advisory memos and policies regarding DASA; compliance with requirements for the disciplining of students including manifestation requirements; development of student learning objectives for special education teachers; compliance with statutory and regulation changes; privacy issues; bullying and discipline; and Annual Professional Performance Reviews. Kate’s extensive experience includes negotiations, hearings, and trial court experience concerning special education matters, including Section 1983 civil rights claims.  She also possesses significant experience in Family Law, Municipal Law and Not-for-profit Law.

 Prior to joining Honeywell Law Firm, Kate worked at two other Albany firms where she practiced Education Law, Family Law, Municipal Law, and Appellate Law. Prior to that, she worked as an attorney and annual professional performance review (APPR) specialist for Questar III BOCES. Kate began her legal career in New York City working on the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Kate graduated magna cum laude from New York Law School during which she served as a judicial intern for Judge Paul A. Crotty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and an associate editor on law review. She was also a law clerk at the law school's Securities Arbitration Clinic.

 As an extremely active member in the Capital District community, Kate sits on the board of Capital District New Leaders Counsel and the Albany County Department of Social Services Children's Fund, is on the membership committee of the Capital District Women's Bar Association, volunteers at the Legal Project, is a member of the Rensselaer County Panel of Attorneys for Children, and is on the Schenectady County Bar Association's Modest Means Panel.  Kate is also a bilingual attorney, fluent in French.


 Renee_Lewis.jpgRenee Lewis – Board Member, Curriculum Committee

As a Member Specialist at State Employees Federal Credit Union, Renee assist members with basic financial transactions such as answering any banking inquires; on both member account information and SEFCU's products and services.  On a daily basis, Renee strives to establish and deepen relationships with prospective and current SEFCU members.  Prior to working at SEFCU, she received her B.S in Mathematics at the State University at Albany.  During her undergraduate career she participated in the NYS Senate Democratic Conference Internship program, where she conducted research on policies dealing with Minority and Women-Owned Business (MWBE).  Along with her extracurricular activities and a rigorous academic course load she also maintained a position as a customer service representative for both the athletic department and the university bookstore. Renee hopes to advance within her current role at SEFCU to help optimize new products, control costs, reduce risk, and build deeper customer relationships through analysis of consumer and marketing data collected.

Aside from work, Renee volunteers during her spare time.  Recent volunteer efforts include; helping low-income families shop for holiday gifts through CoNSERNS-U non-profit, assisting with Hope Houses annual holiday party, and Equinox Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner.  She hopes to increase her volunteer efforts by engaging in financial literacy programs through SEFCU.

As a Brooklyn native Renee enjoys traveling, doing yoga, and reading.


papineau.jpgHilary Papineau – Board Member, Mentorship Committee

Hilary Papineau is an urban planner with experience working in a variety of research roles in the nonprofit and public sectors.  Hilary grew up in the Adirondacks, and after earning her Master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Albany, moved to New York City where she worked for the New York City Comptroller's Office and volunteered with a variety of advocacy organizations, including the Brooklyn Food Coalition and American Planning Association.  In 2012, Hilary became a NLC Fellow with the New York City chapter.  Having since relocated to the Capital Region in 2014, Hilary now chairs the 2014-15 NLC Capital District chapter's mentorship committee.  She also co-chairs the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society alumnae network, and volunteers with local food groups.  She currently works as a research analyst for New York State where she conducts research on a variety of environmental, economic, and social policy issues.  In her free time, Hilary loves to hike, bike, and run. 


 Jordan_Lesser.jpgJordan Lesser – Board Member, Mentorship Committee

 Jordan Lesser currently works as Legal Counsel for the New York State Assembly, where he has been able to lead in environmental and energy policymaking. As a former National Park Ranger in Arizona and Louisiana, and with a background in water law and natural resources law, he has brought this expertise to the state capitol during an exciting time for development of energy and environmental policy. He has a Juris Doctor from Tulane Law School with an Environmental Law Certificate, and a B.A. in Medieval History from Cornell University. He also serves as Co-Chair of the International Law Committee for the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law, as well as Chair of a Water Law Subcommittee. He is also a member of the City of Albany Sustainability Advisory Committee’s Water Subcommittee where he looks at the city’s water resources in the face of climate change. Additionally, Jordan has lead an expedition to Namibia in September 2016 with an international legal team, to look at legislative reforms to address the serious concerns surrounding wildlife poaching which threatens to eradicate the Black Rhinoceros and gravely damage Africa's elephant population. He also plans to attend the UN COP 22 Marrakesh climate negotiations in November 2016 to focus on international compliance and implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Some of Jordan’s legislative work includes drafting numerous laws about hydraulic fracturing in New York to improve the oil and gas leasing practices, codify local zoning control, and more. He wrote and filed amicus briefs at all three court levels in the landmark Town of Dryden lawsuit, which was favorably decided in 2014 by the New York Court of Appeals to uphold local zoning ordinances over oil and gas drilling. Hydraulic fracturing was banned statewide in summer 2015. He also drafted and negotiated the Aquatic Invasive Species Transport Law which was enacted in 2014, and the New York State Carbon Tax legislation introduced in 2015, among many other initiatives. Jordan was a panelist at the 2015 Tulane Law School Summit on Environmental Law and Policy, in conjunction with his Tulane Environmental Law Journal article published in Summer 2015. He has also been a guest lecturer in environmental policy at State University of New York at Albany. Jordan is an avid traveler and most recently went to Iceland, and to Guatemala to aid impoverished women and children in remote villages. He is a member of the Albany Curling Club and enjoys cooking, canoeing and astronomy.









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