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New Leaders Council

2015 Fellows


Kyron Banks, Mayoral Aide, City of Philadelphia

Kyron Banks, 23 years old and originally from New Jersey, received his Bachelors Degree in Political Science from The Pennsylvania State University. Kyron entered into his current role as Mayoral Aide in July 2013 as the youngest member of Mayor Michael Nutter's administration after successfully completing multiple government internships while in college. Over the last 18 months as Mayoral Aide, Kyron has expanded his role from handling correspondence and tracking gifts to making a difference through projects that he is passionate about. KyronÕs top 3 accomplishments include organizing a Youth Against Gun Violence Forum with students from two Philadelphia Charter schools and key stakeholders in Philadelphia, Project Manager for the first ever Forbes Under 30 Summit and served as the Social Media Director for the Office of the Chief Integrity Officer.

Prior to joining the Nutter administration, Kyron secured three government internships. First, he interned with Pennsylvania State Senator David G. Argall, primarily focused on constituent services and the legislative process. Afterwards, he was accepted to the Pennsylvania Legislative Fellowship program. He was placed with the PA Democratic Whip State Representative Michael Hanna ; KyronÕs final projected consisted of drafting, presenting and defending a bill on Early Voting in Pennsylvania. His final internship was with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania as a government relations intern where he focused and assisted with research on local issues affecting Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Kyron is a supporting member and involved with Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) as a member of YIP's advocacy committee. Kyron is also a 2015 New Leaders Council Fellow. He also enjoys all things millennials, participating on twitterchats and going to conferences and summits on millennial engagement and youth advocacy and policy.


Michelle Baxter, Marketing & Communications Specialist, National Liberty Museum

Michelle N. Baxter, Marketing & Communications Specialist, National Liberty Museum Originally hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Michelle has traveled across and outside the U.S. thanks to her theatre degree, which she received from William Carey University. After working for renowned international companies such as Royal Caribbean International and Cirque du Soleil, Michelle eventually found herself in Western Massachusetts, working for FoodPlay Productions - a small but very important children's theatre company. It was during her time there that she fully realized the power of arts and culture and the importance of arts education.

Having spent years in the artistic side of theatre, Michelle found she had much to learn about the business side of running a successful arts organization and came to Philadelphia in September 2012 as a student in Drexel University's Arts Administration Graduate Program. Michelle has found her time at Drexel and in Philadelphia to be some of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences of her professional career.

A fellowship with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance offered Michelle the chance to build upon her passion for arts and culture while also teaching her the importance of creating and sustaining a strong sector through effective advocacy. In her current position at the National Liberty Museum, Michelle works to help raise awareness about the Museum's dynamic and unique education programs, which teach visitors and students about the crucial intersection of civics and character education. She is thrilled to bring her experiences to NLC and knows her time with the Institute will be another rewarding and important milestone in both her career and personal life.

          Meghan Blickman, Organizing Director, Enroll America

Meghan Blickman, a native of Silver Spring, MD discovered her passion for community organizing while working with Promise Arizona on a voter engagement campaign in response to the anti-immigrant law, SB1070. She fiercely believes in the collective power of people and story telling to effect change in communities. Organizing has taken her from AZ to Birmingham, Alabama, to work further on immigration reform, to Washington, DC, and finally to Bucks County, PA for President Obama's 2012 campaign.

Meghan is currently the PA Organizing Director for Enroll America, where she runs the statewide field program to connect Pennsylvania's 1 million uninsured to the options made available by the Affordable Care Act. She was recently named to PoliticsPA's 2014 Rising Stars: 30 Under 30 list. An alumnus of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Meghan spends her free time helping plan her class' 5 year reunion, seeing theatre, reading, and exploring Philadelphia.

          Rachael Eisenberg, Law Clerk, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania- Honorable Michael Erdos

Rachael Eisenberg currently works as a law clerk for the Honorable Michael Erdos of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division. Rachael also serves as a coordinator for the MENTOR Program, an initiative of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania that seeks to reduce criminal recidivism by providing mentoring to individuals involved in the criminal justice system and returning to the Philadelphia community. Rachael received her law degree from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2014 and received her Bachelor of Arts in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University in 2009.

Prior to law school Rachael worked as a MacArthur Foundation Models for Change Project Assistant with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia- Juvenile Unit. During law school, she was a Staff Writer for the Temple Law Review, authoring an article on the sentencing of juvenile offenders in adult criminal court. Rachael was also the Director of the School Discipline Advocacy Service, a law student- run organization that provides representation for Philadelphia elementary, middle and high school students in transfer and expulsion proceedings.

In addition, Rachael served for five years as a board member, Grants Committee Chair and Vice-President of the Spruce Foundation- an all-volunteer foundation that redefines philanthropy and cultivates the next generation of philanthropists through community giving and grant-making in support of Philadelphia's youth. Rachael is a Philadelphia native and is working to find new and innovative ways to give back to her hometown community.

          Judy Esber, Organizer, UNITED HERE!

Judy Esber is a Los Angeles native who moved to Philadelphia six and a half years ago to work as an organizer for UNITE HERE!, a union with more than 4,000 members in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. While she misses her family and the sunshine in LA, she has fallen in love with the endless potential for positive change and the vision to build a worker movement in Philadelphia.

Her work with UNITE HERE! includes organizing food service workers at the stadiums and serving as the chief negotiator for the most recent contracts at Lincoln Financial Field and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and orchestrating divestment campaigns with college students at five major universities across the country. Beginning in January 2014, she joined a team of organizers focused on the Philadelphia International Airport; since early 2014, this team has successfully organized workers from two different airport food service companies to join the union. She was recognized by New Leaders Council - Philadelphia as a progressive leader in 2014 for her work with the hunger strike that helped restore contracts for education support professionals throughout the city.

Judy recently biked from San Diego to Los Angeles over a three day period as part of an effort fighting for sustainable funding of education in Africa. When she is not organizing or biking, she is being a typical Californian: meditating, doing yoga, and eating cheeseburgers.


       Michelle Feldman, Executive Director, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

Michelle currently serves as Executive Director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB), a nonprofit organization dedicated to community building through community greening. A proud affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, KPB is focused on litter abatement, waste reduction, and recycling education and promotion.

Prior to her time at Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, Michelle served as Commercial Corridor Manager and Communications Director for the Frankford Community Development Corporation, where she primarily worked to assist small businesses along the Frankford Avenue commercial corridor as well as attract new ones to the area.

Before entering the world of community and economic development in Philadelphia, Michelle spent the 2008 and 2010 election cycles working for two top tier political consulting specializing in media.

In her free time, she also serves as Outreach Chair for Young Involved Philadelphia, dedicated to building relationships and civic engagement to empower and connect young Philadelphians. A Philadelphia native, Michelle holds a B.A. in Political Science from Brandeis University, and a Masters in Public Policy from Drexel.

          Jon Geeting, Engagement Editor, PlanPhilly

Jon Geeting is the Engagement Editor at Plan Philly. Since 2010, he has covered city and state politics, land use, transportation, and economic policy at publications such as Next City, Keystone Politics, This Old City, Philadelphia Magazine, and City Paper. 

He grew up in Bethlehem, PA and moved to Philadelphia in the fall of 2013 after an 11-year detour to New York City.

Since arriving a year ago, he won an election for Democratic committeeman in his neighborhood, joined the Bella Vista Neighbors Association board, became chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus, helped found the urbanist 5th Square PAC, and co-founded Primary Colors - a national advocacy platform targeting Democrats whose voting records are more conservative than their districts.

         Bridget Gibbons , Business Analyst , Solutions for Progress

Bridget is a business analyst at Solutions for Progress, a public policy and technology company that designs software products that seek to improve access to public benefits by facilitating outreach and enrollment. In her role, she is involved in the development process, designing questions and logic that make benefits screenings and applications as comprehensive and efficient as possible for the user.

Bridget is passionate about community development by promoting, reviving and improving systems of different scales, and doing so through innovative avenues. Before her time at Solutions for Progress, she engaged in this work as a paralegal in the public housing unit at Community Legal Services, through her involvement as an advocate at LIFT Philadelphia--a community resource center in West Philadelphia--and as a Tech Tutor for the Mayor's Commission on Literacy.

Additionally, she is currently part of the Innovation Advisory Committee for the Philadelphia School District Office of School Improvement and Innovation. Bridget is a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and after receiving a BA in Political Science from nearby Haverford College, she was excited to take up residence in Philadelphia.

Bridget enjoys getting to know the city via ""cafe tourism"" throughout Philly's neighborhoods, spending time with the wonderful people in her life, and trying to spell words backwards with increasing speed.


Gideon Gradman , Director- Business Development , Braskem American, Inc.

Gideon currently serves as Director of Business Development for Braskem America, the U.S. subsidiary of Braskem, a worldwide maker of polymers and petrochemicals based in Brazil with U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. In that role, he is focused on advancing Brakem’s North America growth strategy by leading the development of new businesses and new assets in energy and petrochemicals.  Prior to his work at Braskem, he served as Vice President of Corporate Development for Ze-gen, a renewable energy company, where he led business development, government relations and regulatory affairs.  He also served as Director of Strategy & Business Development for GreatPoint Energy, as Senior Associate and Energy Industry Advisor at Charles River Associates, a leading economic consulting firm specializing in the Energy industry, and as a consultant and contract negotiator with Deloitte.

In 2006, Gideon was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to serve as a Public Member on the Energy Facility Siting Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 2006-2007. The Energy Facilities Siting Board is the state-wide authority charged with licensing the construction of major energy infrastructure in Massachusetts, including large power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas pipelines and natural gas storage facilities.

Outside the office, Gideon is involved in his community and enjoys an interest in history, culture and the outdoors. He is the co-founder and President of the Azorean Jewish Heritage Foundation, a non-profit focused on preserving and restoring the presence of the Jewish community in the Azores region of Portugal and which is now funding the restoration of the Ponta Delgada Synagogue, one of the oldest in Portugal.  He is also an active member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, serves on the Board of Directors of the Gold Standard Foundation, and is an avid hiker. 

Gideon Gradman holds an MBA and a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago as well as a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Applied Science from Washington University in St. Louis.

Chris, Kuncio, Teacher, Mastery Charter School

Chris Kuncio was born and raised in Center City Philadelphia. Before there was Mo'ne Davis, Chris Kuncio was the local legend of Taney baseball. He attended the prestigious magnet school, J.R. Masterman from 5th grade until his graduation in 2006. Afterwards, he attended the University of Pittsburgh where he majored in US History and Political Science and helped Lesean "Shady" McCoy pass Astronomy 101. 

Chris's plan was to be come a US History teacher in the ailing Philadelphia School District where he would single-handedly solve the multitude of problems that the district experienced. Then reality hit: he didn't even have a teaching degree. So he went to Saint Joseph's University to get a Masters in Secondary Social Studies. In the meantime, he began working as a tour guide in the city where he could utilize his extensive knowledge of politics and history, as well as his never-ending passion for the city and his award-winning charm. It was during this time that he began to develop his own tour company, the Philly Official Guide, as well as his own tours which focus on in-depth analysis and sarcasm related to Philadelphia as a revolutionary city and Benjamin Franklin as The Original Most Interesting Man in the World. 

After graduating with a Masters Degree in 2014, he got a job as a high school English and Social Studies teacher in the Mastery Charter School Network. He still gives his tours on the weekend. Chris plans on helping to create new entertaining and educational outlets for students and adults alike through his tours, lectures, and swagger. It is his belief that Philadelphia is about to go through a renaissance and he wants to be a part of the resurgence.



          Julie Malavé, PHLDiversity Coordinator, Philadelphia Convention and Visitor Bureau

Julie Malavé graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a minor in French. At Temple University she served as the President of Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, the umbrella organization for the university’s Hispanic and Latino groups. She then served as an ambassador and youth spoke person in the most recent United States presidential campaign. 

Before transitioning into her current position as Coordinator at PHLDiversity, the Multicultural Affairs Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, she interned at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs. She is an active member of the Milton Hershey School Alumni Association, a member of a Philadelphia Youth Council and the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Mentoring Network. She has also worked for several years as a certified Zumba Instructor and Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant. Julie has earned awards such as the Spartan Peace Prize at Milton Hershey School. She is also engaged in public speaking through motivational speeches and guest speaker opportunities.

          Jordan Poole, DJ, Media Artist, Event Curator

Jordan Alexander Poole was born in Trenton, New Jersey on January 13th, 1986. He is the first child to his then 18 year old mother and 21 year old father, neither of whom had college degrees or very much money. His inner city experience growing up as a child exposed him to various cultures, igniting in him a strong curiosity and imagination.

Jordan began playing sports at a very young age and additionally learned to play the violin, and later the clarinet. Throughout middle school and high school, he maintained an extremely busy schedule filled with music, sports, various student organizations, as well as extracurricular activities outside of school. It was in high school that he developed an interest for video and editing, which would then take him to Temple University to complete his BA in Film & Media.

During college, Jordan expanded on his love for music and culture by DJing house parties and quickly found his way into bars and clubs. It wasn't until after studying abroad in Rome his junior year and DJing at notorious clubs that he would return to fully pursue a professional DJ career. Now nearly 7 years after completing undergrad at Temple University, Jordan Poole has established himself as one of the premier DJs within the country. He's held residencies at some of the top venues in New York, Philly, and Atlantic City as well as being featured on VH1's Master of The Mix and competing in other high level competitions. Equally important as his skills and creativity within the profession, Jordan has built a reputable brand (DJ Royale) through unique marketing, strong communication, and his never ending entrepreneurial spirit. He believes that DJing has afforded him a greater perspective on society, from rich to poor and black to white.

Jordan has always maintained a large social network & encompassed leadership qualities from a young age and now truly wishes to use them for social good.

          Shelia Quintana, Community Organizer, Fight For Driver's Licenses

Sheila Quintana is a community organizer and an undocumented student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Anthropology, Cognitive Science and English.

Sheila is a core organizer with Migrant Power Movement (formerly DreamActivist Pennsylvania), an undocumented-led grassroots group that aims to build a just migrant rights movement through education, advocacy and direct action. Based in Philadelphia, MPM leads and participates in campaigns at the local, state, and national levels. Sheila also organizes undocumented immigrant communities across Pennsylvania with the Fight for Driver’s Licenses to pass HB1648, a bill that would grant driver’s licenses to people who live in the state without a social security number. She is a legal intern at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Sheila was born in Guerrero, Mexico and grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Outside of community organizing and course work, Sheila loves to spend time with friends and family, read contemporary literature, and watch Latin American film. 

          Michael Rugnetta, Chief Operations Manager, RegDesk, Inc.

Michael is a newly minted JD and member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bars.  He specializes in health and biotechnology law, and published numerous policy documents in bioethics and science policy while working at the Center for American Progress. He also has experience interning as a Public Policy Fellow at the Massachusetts State Senate.  His goal is to put these skills to use in either the public or private sector as an attorney or policy-maker.  Michael's experience in public speaking, improvisational comedy, and theater also makes him eager to work in speechwriting and communications.

Michael has been clerking for the past year in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, but took a brief hiatus to work as COO of the healthcare startup RegDesk, which was a member of DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014, a startup accelerator program run by DreamIt Ventures.

          Davis Shaver, Technology Strategist, Digital First Media

Davis is a media technologist. Currently, he works as a software engineer for Fusion, an ABC-Univision joint venture.

Previous to that, he had been a technology strategist for Digital First Media's Project Thunderdome, where he played a role in the early stages of (now

Davis graduated from Penn State, where he created the student news website

In his free time, Davis runs, swims, and reads.

         Lindsay So, Research & Policy Associate, City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy

Lindsay Tucker So is the Research & Policy Associate for the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE). She is responsible for policy and research initiatives and publications that support and promote arts, culture and the creative industries as essential components of Philadelphia's economic and social fabric, and manages additional projects developed by Creative Philadelphia or the Mayor's Office including the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate programs and CultureBlocks, the City's, a free online mapping tool that visualizes the city's cultural assets and activity alongside local geographic, social, economic, and demographic data. Prior to Creative Philadelphia, Lindsay was the Manager of Fiscal Sponsorship of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, where she helped develop Philadelphia's first Comprehensive Fiscal Sponsorship program for the cultural community.

Lindsay has a strong interest in the development of sector-wide organizational effectiveness and integrating arts and culture into the city's landscape. She is a member of the American for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council and a 2015-2017 co-chair, and holds BA in Art History from New York University and an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University.

A native Philadelphian, Lindsay and her husband reside in South Philadelphia.

          Tomas Varela, Health Professions Advisor, Rowan University

Tomas C. Varela Jr., currently holds the position of Health Professions Advisor at Rowan University.  His primary role is to educate and prepare students to become academically competitive to enter professional school.  Prior to Rowan, He has worked in similar advising roles at University of Massachusetts – Boston and George Washington University School of Medicine.  While excelling in his work, he furthered his education by completing a Masters of Public Health degree from The George Washington University.  He began his academic journey at Temple University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Public Health. 

Outside of academia, Tomas has maintained a commitment to the community through his professional affiliations.  He serves as secretary of the Temple University Black Alumni Alliance board and Membership Co-chair of NExT Philadelphia, an affinity group of the Urban League of Philadelphia. 

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he is the eldest of three children raised by Cape Verdean immigrants. As a first-generation college graduate, the opportunity to work with students who share similar experiences and challenges has been a great motivating factor.  Seeing that he is someone who benefitted from opportunities presented to him, he hopes to inspire other students to maximize their potential and push towards “Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor”.   

          Morgan Vierling, Deputy Campaign Manager, Citizens for Kenyatta Johnson

Morgan Vierling originally hails from Maryland, where he graduated with honors from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He worked in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly for members of the Democratic Caucus before moving to Philadelphia. Morgan has worked in electoral politics in and out of the city, including as a field organizer for President Obama in Montgomery County, and as field director for Brian Gralnick’s state senate campaign. He has also been proud to work for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC as the southeast Pennsylvania field coordinator. 

Morgan enjoys living in South Philly, and hopes to use his experience working in government and electoral politics to help empower local communities. When not fighting the good fight, Morgan indulges in creative writing and karaoke.

          Julie Wertheimer, Deputy Director of Public Safety, City of Philadelphia

Julie Wertheimer is the Deputy Director of Public Safety for the City of Philadelphia. She is currently charged with financial and programmatic oversight of initiatives linked to the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments, Prison System, Office of Emergency Management, and the Mayor's Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders, as well as policy development and grant management.

Prior, Wertheimer served as Pennsylvania Finance Director for Senator Arlen Specter's 2010 re-election campaign, Assistant Budget Director for the City of Philadelphia, and Deputy Finance Director for Mayor Michael Nutter's 2007 mayoral campaign.

Julie is native to the Philadelphia area. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Diplomatic History and her Masters degree in Government Administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. Julie is one of LEADERSHIP Philadelphia's Connectors and Keepers and a member of PhillyCORE Leaders.

Additionally, she serves on boards and committees of several non-profits, including as Vice President for Governance of the Spruce Foundation, and with Emily's Entourage, and Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy. She is also an avid Phillies fan and frequent patron of many of Center City's best restaurants.

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