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New Leaders Council

Our Board

Bronce_Perez_Matos.jpg Bronce Perez Matos – Chapter Co-Director

Bronce is from Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Albany, NY where he is serving on the Democratic Committee for the 6th Ward. Bronce’s passion is in empowering vulnerable populations. He is the Special Assistant to the Executive Director of NYS Justice Center where he oversees programs providing assistive technology devices to individuals with disabilities and sits on the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. His previous experience includes working with the Consumer Protection Division of the New York State Department of State ensuring that all New Yorkers were protected and well informed from unscrupulous business activities.

Bronce graduated with his Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from CUNY Hunter College in New York, NY and his Masters in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College. In addition to his work and political pursuits Bronce enjoys spending time outdoors, skydiving, hiking, reading, and playing the electric bass.


 Meghan 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 engaged in community activism 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 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 was awarded the Forever Young and Democrat award in 2016 for her efforts in mentoring young members of the party.  She is currently serving her third term as a Committee Person for the Albany County Democratic Committee.  Meghan was also awarded 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 has managed several successful campaigns for local Democratic races including Leah Golby's 2013 re-election to the Albany Common Council, Alison McLean Lane's 2015 re-election to the Albany County Legislature, and Susan Rizzo's 2017 election for Auditor in the City of Albany.

Meghan is a proud union member and currently serves as the Division 232 Council Leader and Labor Management Chair for the Public Employees Federation.   Meghan has served on the Executive Board for the Capital District Chapter of the New Leaders Council for several years and is currently one of two Co-Chairs.  Meghan also serves on the Advisory Board for several non-profits including Mission Accomplished Transition Services and Mom Starts Here.  She is also a member of the Community Advisory Team for Albany High School.

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 mutts Logan and Ziggy.


Zakhar_Berkovich.jpg Zakhar Berkovich– Finance and Fundraising Chair

Zakhar Berkovich currently serves as Director of Undergraduate Student Services at the University at Albany's Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. In his role, he is responsible for developing and maintaining meaningful undergraduate engagement opportunities. Prior to his appointment at the Rockefeller College, he was the Assistant to the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Staten Island/CUNY where he worked with ten departments and over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Zakhar also served as President of the Board of Directors of the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad and Vice President of the Pride Center of Staten Island. Zakhar double majored in Biology and Judaic Studies at the University at Albany and earned his M.S. in Education Administration from the School of Education at UAlbany as well. Zakhar is proud alum and a zealous Great Dane.



 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.jpg Rosa 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.


Jordan_Lesser.jpg Jordan Lesser – Mentorship Chair

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.


Jason.Chura_Headshot_copy.jpg Jason Chura – Recruitment Chair

Jason Chura currently works for the Public Consulting Group (PCG) as embedded staff in the Medicaid Waiver Management Unit in the NYS Department of Health. Prior to PCG, Jason was a Graduate Student Intern in the AARP New York Legislative Office in Albany, where he played a key role in advocacy efforts and volunteer engagement. In the past, Jason has worked for the Association Development Group (ADG) as an Association Manager and Communication Director for state trade associations. He has also worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a Community Reports Writer following Hurricanes Irene and Lee and as a freelance journalist for Metroland. Jason earned his Master of Public Administration degree from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy – University at Albany with a concentration in Policy Analysis. Jason also graduated from the University at Albany with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in Sociology and a minor in Psychology. Throughout his college career, Jason took every opportunity to align his studies with community needs by providing management consultation and case study work for local non-profits—including the Albany Damien Center and Habitat for Humanity Capital District—and through freelance reporting. In his free time, Jason enjoys reading, writing music, journalism, and fostering shelter animals with his wife and is exploring additional opportunities to serve by becoming more politically active and identifying additional volunteer and advocacy opportunities.


 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. 


 cduncan.jpgCarmen Duncan – Board Member

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.jpg Kate S. Howard – Board Member

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

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.


 Kaciem Swain - Board MemberKaciem_Swain.jpg

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.


 Mayleen_Rivera.jpgMayleen Rivera - Board Member

Mayleen Rivera is a Bronx native passionate about leaving a legacy through her progressive efforts. She is currently serving as a Project Assistant for Policy Research Associates where she provides technical assistance and training to stakeholders interested in improving their wellness initiatives. Prior to her work at Policy Research Associates, she was an Excelsior Service Fellow for the New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative and the CORe Initiative where she was tasked to improve state policies and procedures alongside expert speakers and consultants. In addition to working full time for New York State, she created a non-profit organization named I Am Strong, Inc. As the CEO and Founder of I Am Strong, she mentors incarcerated youth between the ages of 14 to 20 years old in a maximum security facility located in New York once per month. The mentor workshops are opportunities to empower, uplift and inspire incarcerated youth in the hopes of reducing recidivism. I Am Strong seeks to provide personal and professional development to young girls that have faced repeated traumatic experiences. Mayleen envisions her non-profit expanding within the upcoming years to high school students and other vulnerable populations, including young boys. She received her Bachelors of Science in Pre-law from Sage College of Albany and is excited to join this progressive network. Her goals for joining the New Leaders Council Fellowship are to forge meaningful relationships with community leaders, enhance the foundation of her non-profit, and gain the skills needed to become an impactful public leader.


 Tabetha Wilson - Board MemberTabetha_Wilson.jpg

Professional Government Specialist, Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA); Creator of The Radius Show

Tabetha is the proud daughter of immigrant parents. Her experience as a first generation American mirrors many others encompasses holding education as a means for opportunity in esteem, investing in her community and a profound respect diversity and inclusion. An Albany resident since the age of five, feels a personal responsibility to contribute to the long term of her City's socio-political-economic landscape. To contribute this vision she invests time and energy through her work and volunteerism. Currently employed with the NYS Office of TemporaryDisability Assistance, she feels a personal responsibility to support her agency's mission to bring New York families to self-sufficiency, while trying to empower the most vulnerable and needy. Outside of work, she serves as an advocate for her family, friends and community. Much of her time and talents are devoted to volunteer efforts including planning and coordinating community events, such as political literacy forums, black history trivia, and the New York State Black Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus Youth Summit. She serves as an advisory board member for the New Leaders Council - Capital District, and Mom Starts Here, is a New Leaders Council Black Caucus Member and is fundraising and volunteering with Grand Street Community Arts Inc. community center, as well as their community radio station WCAA-LP 107.3. She recently became a mentor with Capital Region Sponsor-A-Scholar and is in her inaugural year as Albany Youth Soccer coach. Outside of those activities she enjoys organic gardening, (she is a vegetarian) and aims to promote this activity in her community. She recently founded and launched a podcast and blog The Radius Show, which fosters self-improvement, community engagement, and competency in social-cultural issues around the world. Her personal mission is to be of service and to lend her talents and resources to create a more equitable, inclusive society.


Katherine_Stephens.jpg Katherine Stephens - Board Member

Katherine is a proud arts administrator and ardent feminist. She works with Proctors, Universal Preservation Hall, and Capital Repertory Theatre as the School Programs Director, connecting students throughout the greater Capital Region to meaningful theatre and careers in the arts. Overseeing partnerships with five area school districts, she is most proud of being the recipient of the Broadway League’s Education and Engagement Grant three years in a row for projects connecting non-traditional community groups to arts programming at Proctors. She connected Gay Straight Alliances at Albany and Schenectady High Schools to the tour of Kinky Boots with gender identity workshops; provided individuals with disabilities served by Wildwood Programs choreography classes connected to the tour of Motown The Musical; and most recently in the fall of 2016, she worked with Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus by bringing painting workshops to the themes of An American in Paris. Katherine is also a vocal advocate for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood and was a 2017 NLC Fellow. She was elected to the Schenectady City School District Board of Education in May 2017 and looks forward to bringing better equity practices, connecting arts education in STEAM, and building stronger community partnerships during her term. Katherine has lived all over the country, and twice in England, due to her father serving in the Air Force for over 30 years. Katherine attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA and graduated with honors and a B.A. in Theatre. She enjoys reading, hiking, cats, performing with various community theaters, traveling, and visiting her family. Katherine lives with her husband Drew in Schenectady, NY and is thrilled to be serving on the board of NLC Capital District.


Desiree_Farley.jpg Desiree Farley - Board Member

Desiree is a self-defined feminist, advocate, political campaign organizer, and fundraiser for social justice causes. She began advocating for women’s reproductive health and LGBTQAI+ rights as an undergraduate student at the University at Albany traveling the country to lobby for progressive legislation while gaining valuable insight into the power that public policy has in shaping everyday lives of the most vulnerable groups. While completing a Master’s degree in Women’s studies focusing specifically on public policy, Desiree worked full time at a non-profit organization to privatize funding for programs and services specific to LGBT people of color communities while also helping to develop an economic stimulus for Albany’s distressed communities. As a 2015 Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) Fellow, Desiree identified, tracked and analyzed relevant research and trends regarding reproductive health care with the purpose of advancing policy initiatives that support the legislative and regulatory agenda of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. As a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow Desiree put into motion her dream of writing Feminist children’s books and working part time providing respite care for trans, gender non-conforming and/or gender fluid children. Desiree is furthering her education at the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, works as a Senior Healthcare Program Specialist at the New York State Department of Health, is on the interview committee for the CWGCS Fellowship program at the School of Rockefeller, and is on the board for Opera Saratoga, a civically engaging opera company.



 Zorana Lavin - Board Member

Zorana Lavin, Project Assistant, New York State Integrated Eligibility System Project, NYS Office of Information Technology Services Zorana works as a Project Assistant for the Integrated Eligibility System, a business transformation project that will guide New Yorkers to access health and human service programs that enhance their well-being and self-sufficiency. While serving at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, as a Legal Assistant and Budget Analyst, she made strong contributions to the start-up of the new agency by crossing various program and administrative areas. Zorana’s work spanned setting internal procedures for legal counsels, translating business needs to technological enhancements needed to the case management system, assessing   staffing needs based on agency’s workload, financial and procurement management. Before crossing the ocean, Zorana studied law at the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Zorana has lived in the United States for the past eight years. During that time, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany. Zorana was awarded the prestigious Stanley M. Schoenfeld Scholarship by the NYS Government Finance Officers' Association, and Thelma Pelych Award by the NYS Society of Municipal Finance Officers. In her free time, Zorana enjoys her role of a Big Sister, and tutors young students at the Boys and Girls Club of Albany. Zorana is excited to learn about new ways of helping her community through the NLC.


papineau.jpg Hilary Papineau – Board Member

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. 











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