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22 Jan


State of the Union 2014

January 22, 2014 | By |

01 Dec



December 1, 2013 | By |

Rebecca Thompson

Congratulations to our December 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month,  Rebecca Thompson!

Rebecca  is the Senior Director of Engagement at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which mobilizes the caring power of Detroit and the region to improve communities and individual lives in measurable and lasting ways. In this role she oversees the organizations community engagement and public Policy and advocacy efforts.

She is also a 2014 candidate for State Representative in Michigan’s 1st District which encompasses Northeast Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods, and Grosse Pointe Shores. A native Detroiter, Rebecca recently relocated back to the city from Washington, DC to contribute to the city’s revitalization. Since returning home, she has been active in numerous organizations including the NAACP, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the 13th District Young Democrats, and the Michigan Democratic Party where she serves on the State Executive Committee.

Prior to joining the United Way, Rebecca served as the Director of Young People For (YP4), a strategic long-term leadership development initiative that works to identify, engage, and empower the newest generation of progressive leaders to create lasting change in their communities. She also served as Program Manager for the District of Columbia Youth Advisory Council in the Executive Office of the Mayor and as the Legislative Director for the United States Student Association (USSA). Rebecca has provided trainings to change agents nationwide and has been featured on C-SPAN, in the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

Rebecca has undergone extensive leadership training including the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, the White House Project, the Center for Progressive Leadership, and the Michigan Political Leadership Program, among others.  She also serves as a national trainer for ElectHer, which trains college women to run for student government and elected office. She is a graduate of Northern Michigan University and lives in Detroit.


INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Rebecca Thompson

What inspired you pursue a career in Public Service?

At 19 years old I was inspired to pursue a career in public service by our then Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. I had never seen someone so young (he was elected mayor at 31) making such a difference in Detroit. I decided after college that I was going to move to Washington, DC to learn everything I could about politics so that one day I could return home to help improve my community.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

The key for me has been prioritizing self care. Now that I’m working full time and running for elected office my days can be extremely long. I’ve found it especially helpful to schedule everything, including time for myself (even if it’s something as simple as getting my nails done). Lastly, I also give myself permission to be human. I won’t make every meeting or event but that’s okay.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing elected office?

One of the biggest mistakes I see young people making is starting their campaigns too late. Though I officially started mine one year before election day, I actually started more than 10 years ago. I have been very strategic over the years building relationships, working on campaigns, etc. The most important resource to a campaign is time because you can’t get it back. If you’re interested in running for office don’t wait. Even if the election isn’t until 2016 start today.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the political realm, especially young African American women?

First I’d say remember to be kind to yourself. From our weight, to our hair, to our resumes and degrees we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and to measure up to other peoples standards. The second is to not wait your turn. When I initially announced that I was running I heard from both men and women that I needed to reconsider running, run for a different office, or even wait 4 years! I doubt that people would have said that if I were a man. If you don’t believe in yourself you can’t expect other people to.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

Honestly, the best experience of my career so far has been making the decision to run for office. It sounds cliche, but I’ve learned more about myself in the last few months than I have in 30 years. Leadership is indeed lonely and it’s been beyond humbling to see who’s really in my corner and to test what I’m really made of. Regardless of the results of the election, I’m really proud of myself for finding the courage to do such an important thing for our community.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I’m working hard to become the next State Representative from Michigan’s 1st District. The election is August 5th, 2014 so sign up on our website for updates at!

Lastly, give me three words that sum you up?

Authentic, go getter (I know that’s two words), and blessed

What is your Twitter handle? What email address can people use to reach you?

Twitter: @Rebecca4rep Email:

01 Nov


IL:: Janaye Ingram

November 1, 2013 | By |


Congratulations to our November 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month,  Janaye Ingram!

Janaye Ingram is the Acting National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, she focuses on various issues including education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare among others. Janaye has been with the organization for two years, previously serving as the Washington, DC Bureau Chief, during which she led the organization’s efforts around the 2012 Voter Engagement Tour, coalition work on issues like Stand Your Ground, planning of the 2012 and 2013 conventions and most recently planning the “National Action to Realize the Dream Rally and March” in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Through her work with NAN, she has become a recognized voice on politics and activism with a weekly blog on Loop21 (, a weekly segment on the syndicated radio show, “Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton” as well as appearances and features in other media including MSNBC, TVOne’s “Washington Watch with Roland Martin”, The Huffington Post and Prior to joining NAN, she held various positions with nonprofits in New York and New Jersey focused on fundraising and development, marketing, communications and government relations for several nonprofits.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University and a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from The New School University. Her strong leadership skills and commitment to diversity have landed her in the exclusive fellowships of National Urban Fellows America’s Leaders of Change and Give1 Project. While not working on NAN issues, Ms. Ingram serves as a National Board Member for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (, an Editorial Board Member for emPower Online Magazine ( and a mentor for Brown Girls Lead. Her commitment to giving back led to the founding of Ambassadors of Hope, a scholarship and volunteer involvement campaign that benefits various national and international nonprofit organizations.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Janaye Ingram

As an advocate and public servant, what inspires you? 

I’m inspired by changemakers.  Heraclitus once said that the only constant is change.  But unfortunately, not all things change when they should or without some assistance.  I am constantly inspired by people who saw their way to create change even when the odds and the obstacles were stacked against them.  And it’s not just in the famous names we know, but there are people every day who defy the odds, who change people’s minds, their perceptions and beliefs.  When someone can do that, it’s truly inspiring.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

I wish that I could say that I have this figured out, but in honesty, I don’t.  I think for me, I try to balance all of the things in my life, but there never truly is balance. I try not to allow anything to drop completely and so the scales are constantly moving to adjust to what the priorities are.  Even then, I don’t always get it right; there are going to be emails that might take too long to get answered, there may be board meetings that I have to miss or maybe a weekend with the girls is off the table.  But, when I think that my plate has gotten too full, I allow myself to make the hard decision when to let something go and don’t guilt myself for not being able to juggle it all.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a new  venture?

I think a lot of young professionals want “it” now.  We are hungry and persistent and we have big thoughts and ambitions,  but our desire to not allow things to develop at a pace also can set us up for failure.  It takes time to build a strong foundation.  So whatever the “it” is – be it a new job, an affinity group, a program, a social organization – we sometimes see the potential in what the venture could be but don’t always think through the process of getting there.  We start it with the possibilities in mind and it can be discouraging to have to deal with the setbacks or to not see a venture turn out the way that you saw it in your head.  We have to remember that anything that is going to last needs a strong foundation that is built over time.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to diversify their skill sets and become involved with issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, especially people of color?

My advice would be to just do it.  You don’t need qualifications to get involved.  If you are interested in education, volunteer your evening at an afterschool program working with students.  If you are interested in criminal justice, find a criminal justice program and set up an informational meeting with the Executive Director.  Read up on technology issues or healthcare policy and find places where you can apply your skills.  We live in an age when the information that we need to become educated on various subjects is right at our fingertips and there is always a community organization, church or person who is in need of assistance.  Networking with other like-minded individuals helps and there are sites where you can find people who share similar interests like  We are the ones that often stand in our own way setting up mental roadblocks as to why we can’t get involved in something.  If you are willing to commit the time to an issue, find an organization, group or church that is doing the work and help out.  And if there isn’t an organization, group or church doing the work, start one.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

The best experience of my career was planning the 50th Anniversary March on Washington.  It was truly an honor to work on something that both commemorated such an historic event, but also served to lift up the issues that are still plaguing our society today.  The planning process wasn’t easy and there were many sleepless nights and moments where I felt like I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But through it all there were people there lighting the way by offering a helping hand or sending a thoughtful note and it made all the difference.  Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial that day and seeing the throngs of people who traveled from near and far to both commemorate and challenge the status quo made the experience rewarding.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I’ve recently been appointed as the Acting Executive Director so maybe people should look out for the removal of the “acting” part of the title.  I’m also looking forward to doing more social justice work internationally. But I’ve learned through the years that life can be unexpected.  What I thought I’d be doing 5 years ago is not what I’m doing now.  So I am okay just going with what God has planned and allowing myself to be used in a way that can help my community. 

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Janaye Ingram?

Inquisitive, determined, altruistic

How can people connect with you on Twitter?

You can follow me at @Janaye_Ingram.

01 Oct


IL:: Stanley Chang

October 1, 2013 | By |


Congratulations to our October 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month,  Stanley Chang!

Stanley is a lifelong resident of City Council District 4 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He graduated at the top of his high school class and earned scholarships to attend Harvard College, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in government. After working a year at SonyBMG Music Entertainment in New York, he continued his education at Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude. Most recently, he practiced law at Cades Schutte in downtown Honolulu, specializing in real estate law.

As a Councilmember, he chairs the Public Works and Sustainability Committee of the City Council, which oversees roads, sewers, our water supply, waste disposal, and other basic infrastructure needs of the city. He is also vice chair of the Transportation Committee, which oversees the rail project, buses, and other aspects of our transportation system. He remains an active member in the community and is equally as passionate about community service.

You can connect with Stanley on Twitter or Facebook.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Stanley Chang

What inspired you to pursue a career as an attorney now working as a Councilmember?

I’ve always wanted to serve the public.  About 90% of my high school class went to college on the mainland, and most still haven’t come back.  We have to ensure that every future generation has good opportunities to succeed in Hawaii and in the US, or where will be in 10, 20, 50 years?  My father came to the US as a student in the 1950s with nothing, a refugee from civil war and chaos back in China.  When he got to Hawaii, he worked as a beach boy on Waikiki Beach.  But back in the 1960s, Hawaii was the boomtown of the Pacific, and the state bird was the construction crane.  Eventually he became a professor at the University of Hawaii, and was able to buy a house and put my brother and me through school.  Today, my brother has moved to the mainland and bought a house that’s bigger, newer, and nicer than ours here–for 1/5 the price. I want to help ensure that Hawaii remains a place where young people will always have a chance to succeed.  As a local boy, the future of Hawaii is so important to me.

Elected officials have enormous, direct power to make a positive difference in the world.  In just two years on the City Council, I initiated a record $777 million road repaving program to bring all our roads up to good condition by 2016, fought for experienced, competent leadership for the construction of our $5.5 billion rail transit project, and am currently working on a new initiative to dramatically reduce homelessness in Hawaii.  I don’t know another role where we could have so dramatically and tangibly improved our community in such a short time.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

Be picky.  The most effective people pick a few things and do them really well, rather than do many halfheartedly.  You need to choose your top priorities–professional and social, but don’t forget about your own leisure–and organize your life around them, rather than reacting to other people’s requests for your time.  Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) dictate your life.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing careers in your politics and government?

My heart just breaks every time I see an old friend spending 16 hours a day working at a job that does not inspire them at all.  We are the most privileged people in the history of the world, with an outstanding education, a good upbringing in the wealthiest country in the world, a support network of amazing friends and family, the opportunity to do literally whatever job we choose–and yet so many of us feel so chained by our jobs.  We have no excuse not to do what we truly want.  Think about it this way.  When you’re looking back on your life, what would you regret not doing?  Filmmaking, elementary school teaching, starting your own business?  Whatever it is, plunge in now.  Life is too short to have regrets.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the political realm, especially young Asian American men?

Do it!  There are so many myths about running for office: it’s only for people with long resumes, or you need to “sell out” to raise money, or you need to do lots of public speaking.  First, people want change and fresh ideas, the values that you’ll be running for as a young person.  Fundraising is far less important than hard work.  I wouldn’t have won the election without walking the district for a year and a half, knocking on 19,000 doors.  In a district of 100,000 people or less, there’s no secret shortcut.  If you knock on more doors than your opponent, you will be in a great position.  And I could probably count on one hand the number of times I had to speak to a crowd of strangers during the entire campaign.  For the most part, you’re speaking one on one with your neighbors.

The reason I’m so passionate about this is that if you look at the world of elected officials today, young people are probably the single most underrepresented group, yet we are the ones with the most pressing issues: we can’t afford to buy homes and start adult lives, we can’t find jobs that pay enough for us to repay our student loans, many of us aren’t even allowed to live in this country.  Yet issues for young people are seldom at the top of the agenda for elected officials today.  That’s why we young people have to step up to the plate ourselves.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

I’ve been thrilled that we’ve been able to make such positive changes in the community, but I’d have to say that the single most rewarding part of public office is encouraging, inspiring, and training rising young elected officials.  For example, Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing started his public service career working in my office at the beginning of my term.  I urged him to run for the House in his home district of South Maui against a well known incumbent.  He walked his district like a machine, and he overwhelmingly defeated the incumbent to become the youngest member of the Hawaii State Legislature this year.  We worked with another young Teach for America teacher who helped a lot on my election, Takashi Ohno, take on a 10-year State House incumbent in Nuuanu who’d turned back challenger after challenger.  Like Kaniela, Takashi resoundingly won his race, unseating the incumbent.  Recently I’ve met some excellent potential candidates from California.  There are so many great young future stars out there, and I am just so inspired every time I get the chance to talk with one of them.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

Today we’re on the campaign trail for Congress in the first district of Hawaii.  I’m committed to public service for the rest of my life, and where that takes me, who knows.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Stanley Chang?

Focus, loyalty, perseverance.

What is your Twitter and Facebook Handle? What email address can people use to reach you?

Twitter: @stanleypchang
Email: stanley at

01 Aug


IL:: Donald Sherman

August 1, 2013 | By |


Congratulations to our August 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month,  Donald Sherman!

Donald K. Sherman is counsel on the Democratic staff of the House Oversight Committee in Washington, DC, and author of the unique careers blog “Somebody Does That?!”  His work on Capitol Hill primarily focuses on the committee’s oversight investigations, and the hearings that arise from them. Prior to joining Ranking Member Cummings’ staff, Donald was an investigative counsel for the House Ethics Committee. Donald graduated cum laude from Georgetown University with a degree in American Studies and earned his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center.

In addition to his day job, Donald mentors high school and college students, and serves as Board Chair of the Patrick Healy Fellowship, a mentoring program for student leaders at Georgetown University, as well as DC Lawyers for Youth, a juvenile justice policy and advocacy organization.  Donald’s writing has appeared in the award-nominated book Family Affair, College Xpress, On Being a Black Lawyer, the Georgetown University Journal on Gender and the Law.  He has also participated in numerous career panels hosted by youth organizations such as the Patrick Healy Fellowship and the DC-based mentoring program, Capital Partners for Education.

You can find Donald on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or subscribe to his blog “Somebody Does That?!” online.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Donald Sherman

What inspired you to pursue a career as an attorney working in the public policy realm?

I don’t think I ever seriously considered doing anything else.  When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher, Ms. Divack would always have us try new things and weird projects.  So naturally we gave her a hard time.  One of those projects was a mock Supreme Court argument through the Constitution Works program.  That one experience changed my life.  I became really excited about the law and decided that’s the field I wanted to pursue when I grew up.  At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate all of the different things lawyers can do, but I liked that it held the possibility of creating precedent, making history.

I didn’t know a lot of lawyers growing up, but the ones I knew of – the Barbara Jordans and Julian Bonds of the world – they were involved in social justice.  That’s how they impacted history, arguing before the Supreme Court, and pushing for the expansion of civil rights policy. So I just thought that’s what lawyers do.  Since graduating from law school, I’ve learned to use the law in order to affect how government functions in my time with the Oversight Committee. I’ve also been able to use my legal expertise to address the issues most important to me, such as juvenile justice reform through DC Lawyers for Youth and DC voting rights with DC Vote.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

I actually find it easier to manage my time when I have more commitments. It forces me to really value my time, and plan for the busy periods. Before I launched my unique careers blog, Somebody Does That?!, I spent a year gathering stories and writing profiles so that I could continue posting as work got more and more hectic. That said, sometimes you just have to find ways to prioritize. Work generally comes first, but there are also times when you have to draw a line in the sand to protect life events that are significant to your family and close friends. Last year I was best man in my best friend’s wedding, and I wasn’t going to miss that for the world.  So I made sure that I had everything settled at work so that I could have the necessary time off to be there for my friend.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing elected office or even navigating their career on Capitol Hill?

They can spend too much time networking and not enough time building relationships.  To be sure, both are important, but I think a lot of people on the Hill confuse the former with the latter.  Networking can definitely lead to building stronger relationships, but it doesn’t happen overnight.  I pass along a lot of people’s resumes, but I only advocate on behalf of people that I know from experience to be diligent workers and highly thoughtful individuals.

You can network at all kinds of events that happen on the Hill. Relationship building, by contrast, occurs over the course of long nights spent working on legislation or an investigation. It comes from having a shared experience of victory or defeat.  It comes from sharing interests or personal anecdotes, and having meaningful conversations with people.  Sometimes that is difficult to do given everyone’s time commitments, but it’s absolutely necessary to finding success on the Hill and most other career paths.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the political realm, especially young African American men?

Be nice to everyone. Do favors for people when you can, especially when it costs you little or nothing.  I recently wrote about this in my blog, but not only can nice guys finish first, it may be essential to your professional development.  Beyond the basic social good involved in helping others, you never know when someone will be in a position to help you down the road.  The staff assistant that you lend a hand might also be the same person who drives a Committee Chairman to and from work every day.  Back in my days as a law firm lawyer, the support staff often prioritized my requests ahead of the lawyers who didn’t speak to them in the morning.

Likewise, the Members of Congress that really thrive are the ones that have the best relationship with their peers. Obviously hard work and excellence will take you far, but that’s only enough to get you in the game.  Success requires a lot of help, and a lot of luck.  If you cultivate goodwill with your peers, good luck is more likely to follow.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

Working for the Oversight Committee has been a great opportunity to expand my skill set as a lawyer.  Some of my favorite moments have been had working late with my colleagues on an investigation or celebrating a hearing that has gone well.  Still, I think the best experiences go back to the reason why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place – history.  On a daily basis, I get to work on issues that will become a significant part of our collective memory. Hopefully my work on behalf of the Committee brings to light facts that will help shape that memory.

Sometimes, as in the contempt vote for Attorney General Eric Holder – the first time a sitting cabinet member has been held in contempt of Congress – it’s not the desired outcome.  However, despite the result, the investigation was not only a significant professional milestone, but also afforded me an experience that I can share with my colleagues for the rest of my life.  I will always remember sitting on the House floor as the vote was happening, watching Members of the Congressional Black Caucus lead a walkout, and witnessing history that day.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

Lots.  For the time being, I plan to continue doing what I’m doing, Congressional investigations, writing, and volunteering in my spare time.  It has been an incredibly rewarding experience meeting with people across the country and writing about their fascinating career paths, so I am working on turning “Somebody Does That?!” into a larger book project.  I would also love to work in the Administration or possibly hold public office, so I will be exploring those paths as well in the coming years. The key is to stay busy and stay working.

Lastly, give me three words that sum you up?

Enthusiastic, Motivated, and Contemplative.

What is your Twitter handle? What email address can people use to reach you?

Twitter: @somebodydotcom


01 Jul


IL::Kat Calvin

July 1, 2013 | By |

IL - Kat Calvin


Congratulations to our July 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month,  Kat Calvin!

Kat Calvin is a lawyer, writer and entrepreneur. She is the CEO and Founder of Blerdology, Michelle in Training, DC Young Entrepreneurs and LilyPad Consulting. With a focus on women, entrepreneurs and the black community, Kat’s work ranges from creating events for the black tech community around the country to educating high school girls in professional and life skills to training and consulting women and entrepreneurs in personal and business development for early stage ventures. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Michigan Law School, Kat is one of the 2013 The Grio’s 100, a Business Insider Top 30 Women Under 30 in Tech, and one of BET’s Blacks on the Brink of Greatness. She frequently speaks on entrepreneurship, innovation, and STEM. With a resume spanning four continents and numerous states, she lives in DC where she attends as many happy hours as possible and dreams about living out her days in a starship.


INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Kat Calvin


You are a serial social entrepreneur, what inspires you?

Goodness, what doesn’t inspire me? My grandmother and mother. My ancestors, on the worst days I remember that they survived and thrived in circumstances far worse than I’ll ever face. DC: Living in such a beautiful city reminds me everyday of how lucky I am. With a little more intelligence, strategy, and dedication, we really can build a strong economic base for the black community. My belief in that future, and in the very, very small part I may be able to play in it, keeps me going.


What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

They’re all the same! Ha. JK. No, but really, they are. I love what I do and my whole life is about my work because my work is about everything I’m passionate about. So combining prof, phil and social isn’t hard. Everything I do is all three.


What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a new business venture?

Both moving too fast and not moving fast enough. Take your time to plan, grow slowly, and be sure of what you’re doing. But, at the same time, DON’T WAIT. Figure out your passions and jump!!


What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to diversify their skill sets and become marketable in the tech space, especially people of color?

There are a lot of great ways to get started. There are tons of free and inexpensive ways to learn tech skills and coding on Skillshare, Skillcrush, Codecademy and more. Also, volunteer. Learn a skill for free by finding a local non-profit that needs help and join a committee! And, of course, check out Blerdology for info on how to get started. =)


What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

Working with my girls in Michelle in Training is EVERYTHING. I used to teach first grade and the feeling of walking away from a group of kids and knowing that they can read a new word because of you, or that they understand a new concept, or that they have earned a sense of self-respect and history is worth every bit of hard work. I love my girls.


What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

An ulcer probably. =P Haha, no. All I want to do is spend every day working harder to build up the black community, women and entrepreneurs. And hopefully I’ll make a very small living doing so. Enough for books and my Netflix subscription. As for things coming up, MiT is starting our second class of girls this fall! Blerdology is about to go on a summer tour around the country showcasing the amazing things happening with blacks in STEM. LilyPad is starting LilyPad University, a part-time incubator for women entrepreneurs. And one day I will take a vacation.


Lastly, give me three words to sum up Kat Calvin?

Joie de vivre.



03 Jun


IL::Jaime Harrison

June 3, 2013 | By |



Congratulations to our June  2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Mr. Jaime Harrison.


Jaime Harrison draws on his mastery of the legislative process to help his clients at the Podesta Group maneuver complex congressional alignments related to transportation and infrastructure issues, among others. In addition to his work on behalf of clients on Capitol Hill, Jaime provides strategic and political guidance to clients based in or doing work in South Carolina. As the former director of floor operations and counsel for former House Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), he was responsible for the successful navigation and passage of key legislation and served as a senior political and legislative adviser. Accumulating a wealth of experience and a deep bench of relationships, Jaime worked closely with the House and Senate leadership.


Previously, Jaime served as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus.  Jaime has also appeared as a political strategist on CNN, MSNBC and ATN’s “American Dream.”


A teacher at heart, Jaime once taught world geography at his high school alma mater in Orangeburg, South Carolina. A first-generation college graduate, Jaime earned a bachelor’s from Yale University and Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center.


INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Jaime Harrison


What inspired you pursue a career in (politics, policy making and government relations)?

My life inspiration has always been to improve the lives and provide a voice for “the least of these” within our society.

Specifically, why did you decide to pursue elected office?

I decided to run for Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party because I wanted to improve the lives of all South Carolinians.  I believe I will be able to provide the leadership the Democratic Party needs to build local and state party infrastructure, grow its presence in the electorate, and win elections in 2014. Every South Carolinian deserves the opportunity to experience the American Dream;  rebuilding the Democratic Party in SC takes us one step closer to that reality.


What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

The most important thing in my life is my family.  When there is harmony with my family, then all other parts of my life tend to fall into place.  It is important to strike a balance between work and outside commitments, but that balance must include substantial time for yourself and your loved ones. This is a lesson in which I remind myself constantly.


What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing careers in your politics and government?

Ambition and drive are great, but patience is as equally important.  Knowing when to step-back, listen, and learn is an important skill for any young professional, but is essential for those interested in politics.  We can learn so much from those who have come before us.


What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel, especially young men/women of color interested in becoming a young elected official of color)?

One of my favorite quotes is by David Frost, “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”  My career advice is fairly simple and straightforward— follow your passions.  If you figure out the one or two things in your life that you love to do, then do them.  It is easy to get caught up in the competition of life and attempt to mimic the career paths of others, rather it is important to simply listen to the song in your heart and chart your own path.


What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

Serving as the Floor Director for the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives was a life changing experience.  It was an exhilarating and rewarding job.  Everyone—the Speaker of the House, White House staff, and Members of Congress–looks to the Floor Director for the answer to one question: Do we have the 218 votes needed to pass a specific bill?  This question is at the center of all legislative floor action.   My most gratifying experience as Floor Director was working on the Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes legislation. We worked to take the bill from an almost certain defeat to finding the 218 votes needed for passage.


What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

My focus is to rebuild the SC Democratic Party by investing in county party infrastructure and recruiting talented candidates. Ultimately, my goal is for the Democratic Party to win the Governorship (amongst other offices) in 2014 and begin to put SC back on the right track.  Once the 2014 election cycle is completed, I will begin to make preparation for SC’s role as the first southern state in the 2016 Presidential Primary calendar.


Lastly, give me three words to sum up Jaime Harrison?

Compassionate; Loyal; Driven


What is your Twitter Handle? What email address can people use to reach you?

@harrisonjaime and @harrison4SC   Email-

02 May


IL::Carolina Espinal

May 2, 2013 | By |


Congratulations to our May 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Ms. Carolina Espinal.

Carolina Espinal is an Associate at Brunswick Group and focuses in public affairs and corporate social responsibility. She is a skilled professional who brings both political and advocacy experience to the table and specializes in stakeholder engagement and strategic partnership development with constituency groups.

Prior to joining Brunswick, she served as a Government Relations Associate at Hispanic Strategy Group and built strategic partnerships between corporate entities, national nonprofit organizations and Members of Congress on key national issues. In her work, Carolina facilitated coalition-building and advised on program development and fundraising efforts for leading advocacy organizations such as the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Children’s Defense Fund.

She has worked as a political operative for numerous campaigns including the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, Governor Mark Warner’s Senate campaign and serves as an elected member of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Carolina has a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Carolina Espinal

 What inspired you pursue a career in Government relations, political strategy, and communications?

I’ve had an interest in government, politics and advocacy for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of immigrants who migrated from countries that were plagued by civil conflict, these were at the core of many family conversations, and, in many ways, became part of my DNA. As a child, my mother equipped my siblings and I to be advocates for many of our family members who arrived in the U.S. as political refugees. Unable to afford formal counsel, we would accompany countless aunts and uncles to agencies and offices to help them get settled in and do everything from requesting legal status to registering their children for school. This first-hand experience, on top of that of my own mother’s migration and naturalization, exposed me to policies and processes that have deeply influenced my career in politics, advocacy and ultimately, communications.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?

Balancing professional and personal commitments is a constant work in progress. Having spent a significant portion of my time working with political campaigns and civil rights organizations, it was difficult to compartmentalize my time in order to maximize my productivity, energy and happiness. Today, I balance my time with help. I’ve set specific professional goals and am thankful for the mentorship I am offered to achieve them . I outline family priorities and have a close-knit clan that keeps me balanced and honest. Lastly,I maximize my contributions to philanthropic, social and other efforts by inviting others to get involved in the projects and causes I am most passionate about.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing careers in policy and government relations?

One of the biggest mistakes young professionals make is limiting themselves. Building authentic relationships is critical for a career, whether you are in the public or private sector, so the quality of these relationships can be equally – or more – important than the quantity.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the Washington, DC, especially young women of color/Latinas?

The best advice I could share with young professionals, especially young women of color, is to just be ‘YOU’. This means, take the time to know yourself, where you come from, where you aspire to go, who you can lean on and who can lean on you. It goes without saying that we represent a gender, a culture, and a family, so carrying ourselves with esteem and respect will set a standard for those we come across in our professional and personal environments. It’s also important that we network extensively,  up until the point we think we’ve met everyone in DC. Then, we must do it all over again, and  make sure that we’ve built substantive relationships along the way. Finally, remember to acknowledge – privately and publicly – those people who have helped you grow along the way, and, more importantly, return that favor by mentoring and guiding someone else.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

Every job has a unique and rewarding experience that doesn’t quite compare to any of the previous ones. I’m grateful for many career highlights, including being a political operative in Virginia when Barack Obama was first elected President; leading the NAACP’s national Civic Engagement Division; working for the first Latino elected official in my hometown. As an Associate with Brunswick Group, a global strategic communications firm, I have to say I’m that my most rewarding experience in my current position is my work with clients across industries to build national partnerships with nonprofit organizations, The White House, and government agencies. During the past three years, I have been able to be a part of the strategic thinking and hands on execution of public-private partnerships that aim to address issues related to health and wellness, access to technology, and diversity among others.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

My current position continues to be a rewarding labor of love where I feel I’m still learning the art of being an advisor. In the not-so-distant future, I hope that this experience will empower me to breathe life into insights that will contribute to the way we solve for the challenges facing Hispanic/Latino communities and impacting us all.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Carolina?




What’s your twitter handle? What email should people use to reach you?

Twitter: @CaritozWay


01 Apr


IL: Ebonie Johnson Cooper

April 1, 2013 | By |


Congratulations to our April 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Ms. Ebonie Johnson Cooper.

After seven years of providing marketing and communication management to corporations and private sector institutions, Ebonie currently uses her experiences  and passion for giving to  serve as a millennial thought leader focused on social responsibility leadership and philanthropy, a community engagement consultant and a freelance writer.

Ebonie is the founder and president of social responsibility and career enrichment firm, Friends of Ebonie. Specifically targeting young black professionals and philanthropists in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas, Friends of Ebonie raises social awareness, develops educational resources and facilitates events related to strengthening and defining young philanthropy. As a freelance writer, Ebonie muses on life, relationships, religion and giving. Her articles have been most notably featured on In her philanthropic leadership, Ebonie is a vice president for the Junior Board of New York Cares, Inc. and is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (North Manhattan Alumnae Chapter), Black Benefactors Giving Circle, the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), Black Women for Black Girls(NYC), the Alvin Ailey Young Patrons Circle, and the 1869 Society of the Corcoran Gallery.

Ebonie holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and is currently pursuing her masters in public relations and corporate communication at New York University.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Ebonie Johnson Cooper

What inspired you pursue a career in (your field/Industry)?

I think it’s in my DNA. My parents were both social workers. I grew up in a home watching them go above and beyond for kids they didn’t know just to save their lives. My alma mater, N.C. A&T, taught me the importance of civic leadership and gave me my basis for business and marketing. I also learned from my early career mentors, who are now family friends, the importance and value of board governance. As I look back on my life, each chapter has prepared me for where I am in my career now.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

Ha. While I still don’t do it often enough, the key is taking time for me. Whether it’s sleeping an extra 30-minutes, taking five to paint my nails, or simply taking a walk to nowhere in particular. I have to remember to take care of myself so I can take care of others well.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing careers in your field/industry?

Ouch. I’d like to attribute this to my millennial cronies but every generation has its coming of age moments, right? Lol. One of the biggest mistakes young professionals make is thinking we know everything. We burst onto the work scene equipped with a fancy college degree and no one can tell us anything. Particularly as creatives, we think we’re always right. Wrong. Every profession has its disciplines and business practices, as newbies it is our time to watch, listen and learn.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel, especially young men/women of color?

Do less talking and more listening. I have learned throughout my career, we often give our input at the least opportune times. If no one else is talking, you probably shouldn’t be either. We happen to be a very emotionally driven people; but it’s business it’s not personal. In an interview I did with GenX thought-leader, Dr.Curtis Odom, he advised in order to win the game, we should learn from those at the top who look least like you. It was great advice. We often build comfort zones instead of professional networks. The more we seek to understand than be understood, we can gain better perspective to get what we want.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

There are two experiences I find most rewarding. The first was early in my career when I led the launch of BET Networks in the UK. It was the largest project I’d ever managed. With a budget of $100,000, the GM told me I could do what I thought best- and I did. From production management to the launch event, I planned it all. The launch event received more than one million impressions, Alicia Keys headlined the on-air campaign and I walked away with a skill set I have been able to use throughout my career.

The second is still happening. I’m in a season of career growth right now. Having industry leaders and audiences notice my work is very rewarding. I never imagined this is where I would be. The days where I receive an email or a phone call about a new client, gratitude for my work or a request to be featured, it reassures me I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

Oprah?! Yes? *smile* I’m on a mission to raise awareness around black millennial civic engagement. There is a void in the giving world that needs to be filled and I’m doing it day by day. As a marketing communications consultant, my goal is to continue to help my clients reach new, diverse, millennial donors through effective strategies and messaging. As a millennial thought-leader, I will be doing more public speaking and freelance writing about millennials and giving. I plan to have a column on a major online platform and I have an e-book I’m finalizing that will be a guide to board leadership for young professionals. And of course, Friends of Ebonie isn’t going anywhere. We’re in our 2.0 phase for sure. We continue to be the platform for black millennials and young black professionals to gain insight into philanthropy, learn about giving and engage with like-minded individuals. June 13-15 in NYC we will be hosting the first ever African American Millennial Summit on Giving and Civic Leadership, entitled: Changing The Face of Philanthropy. The opportunity for us to equip our generation with the tools they need to be successful as leaders in the community is just awesome! We have such a dynamic line of speakers and supporting organizations, I can’t wait to see how impactful it will be. So yeah, I can’t imagine adding anything else to my plate but as I have learned much of what has happened thus far in my career, isn’t planned at all.

Lastly, what three words sum you up?

Spunky, Sassy and Classy

What is your Twitter Handle? What email address can people use to reach you?

@EJCThatsMe |

04 Mar


IL::Leslie Hale

March 4, 2013 | By |

Leslie HaleMeet our IMPACT Leader of the Month, Ms. Leslie Hale. Ms. Hale is a seasoned real estate investment and finance executive, whose career spans nearly 20 years and involves more than $20 BN in transactions.

Ms. Hale has served as Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Real Estate for RLJ Development, LLC, since 2007. The firm was a privately-held real estate investment firm with more than $2BN of institutional capital under management. RLJ Development became RLJ Lodging Trust (RLJ), a publicly traded company, in May 2011. Ms. Hale is responsible for all financial matters across RLJ. As CFO, she is intricately involved in the company’s investment decision-making, daily operations and long-term strategic planning. In addition to her CFO responsibilities, Ms. Hale oversees the execution of all asset and corporate level transactions.

She joined RLJ in 2005, as its Director of Real Estate and Finance, with responsibility for obtaining financing for all assets and managing the execution process for each financing and real estate transaction. Ms. Hale was promoted to Vice President in 2006 and her responsibilities were expanded to include all treasury functions. In this role, she successfully created and oversaw the portfolio management arm of RLJ. Prior to her tenure at RLJ, she held several positions within General Electric Capital Corp. (GE), including as a Vice President in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group of GE Commercial Finance, and as an Associate Director in the GE Real Estate – Strategic Capital Group. Before GE, Ms. Hale was an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co., advising clients across industries on mergers, acquisitions, and corporate finance matters. Prior to attending business school, Ms. Hale worked for GE Real Estate in both the Large Transactions Group and the European Mergers & Acquisitions Group.

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