We are pleased to announce Class IX of the Miami Fellows, The Miami Foundation’s 14-month signature leadership program for individuals 5 to 15 years into their professional career. From nonprofit directors to journalists and urban planners, the 17 new Fellows are inspired by Greater Miami’s potential and have demonstrated a commitment to improve quality of life for everyone in our community.
Up2Us Sports – Regional Director
Michelle Abbs is the Regional Director of Up2Us Sports, a national nonprofit focused on using sports as a tool to solve some of the most pressing challenges for youth in underserved communities. She began her career as a 5th grade teacher in Liberty City and Overtown through the Teach for America program. After working with students for 4 years, she transitioned to leading teachers. She stays involved in educational initiatives by partnering with the Council for Educational Change and the Chapman Partnership.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit – Law Clerk/Attorney
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit – Law Clerk/Attorney
Wendi Adelson is a law clerk to the Honorable Adalberto Jordan on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Formerly a law professor specializing in humanitarian immigration, Wendi is a corps member of One Billion Rising Miami, where she joins efforts to combat sex trafficking in her city. With her help, the organization is working to create curricula for the Miami-Dade school system to help educate children.
Florida International University – Assistant Professor
Natalie Castellanos is an assistant professor at FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in the Department of Health, Humanities, and Society. She is also the lead attorney for the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP Legal Team, which provides legal services and advocacy for some of Miami-Dade’s most underserved households. Natalie is a passionate advocate of the medical-legal partnership model, which integrates lawyers and law students onto health care teams with the purpose of using legal advocacy to help improve community health and well-being.
WLRN – Reporter/Producer
Nadege Green is an award-winning journalist for WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. Nadege uses the power of storytelling to give voices to communities that aren’t always heard. A graduate of Barry University, Nadege covers social justice issues, the local transgender community and dance. She recently featured a group of elementary school kids in Liberty City protesting for the right to play outside safely. Since the story aired, a national mentoring organization set up a program for the young activists. School kids in Brooklyn also heard the piece and are writing letters to the Liberty City students.
City of Doral – Parks and Recreation Director
Barbara Hernandez currently serves as the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Doral Parks and Recreation Department. She began to work for the department in 2005. Barbara also serves as a Commissioner for the Hialeah Housing Authority Board of Directors. A former employee of the City of Hialeah Parks and Recreation Department, Barbara has been a public servant for 13 years, dedicating herself to improving the community’s quality of life.
Liebler Gonzalez Portuondo – Partner
Andrew Kemp-Gerstel is a Partner and trial attorney at Liebler, Gonzalez & Portuondo, focusing his practice on the representation of financial institutions, insurers, and transportation network companies. Andrew is a graduate of the University of Miami and Vanderbilt Law School, a co-founder of Bully Free-0-5, a board member of DIBIA Dream and the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association and a co-chair of the National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division’s Clemency Project 2014 efforts.
Children of Inmates, Inc. – Deputy Director, Program Development and Policy
Sam Ludington is Deputy Director of Children of Inmates, a Miami-based nonprofit providing care coordination and family reunification services for children impacted by parental incarceration. Sam is an active member of Holy Cross Lutheran, serving on the Board of Elders and Governing Board Vice President. He is a graduate of Northwestern University in Economics and completed a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences from Barry University. He is Haitian-American, returning every December to coordinate a Christmas Party for children in Carrefour.
DIBIA Athletic Development & DIBIA Dream – CEO & Founder
Brandon Okpalobi a native of New Orleans, is the Founder and CEO of DIBIA Athletic Development, a Miami based company that provides elite sports training for athletes. The initiative of which he is most proud is DIBIA DREAM, which he launched in 2014. DIBIA Dream is a nonprofit organization that fosters life skills development through sports and recreational education for underserved youth. To date, DREAM has awarded more than 20 college scholarships to high school students. “DIBIA Dream helps youth win at life!”
Miami Dade College – Instructor
Ryan W. Pontier is a professor in Miami Dade College’s School of Education in the K-12 and Early Childhood departments. He earned his Ph.D. in bilingualism, biliteracy, and bilingual education from the University of Miami and currently serves on the boards for the South Florida Association for the Education of Young Children and Miami-Dade Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Bilingual Education Association. He is also the expert in bilingualism for the United Way Center for Excellence.
Oak Tree Investments – General Manager
Rafael Saldaña is a lifelong entrepreneur with businesses in Real Estate Development and Industrial Manufacturing. An alum of Miami Dade College and Columbia University, he is a Guardian with the Guardian Ad Litem Program, has served on the GMCC Education Committee, served on the selection committee for Miami Dade County’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, and worked for the Children’s Movement of Florida.
Miami Waterkeeper – Executive Director and Waterkeeper
Rachel Silverstein joined Miami Waterkeeper as Executive Director & Waterkeeper in June 2014. Prior to joining MWK, Rachel was a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow and Professional Staff for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard in Washington, DC. Rachel received a Ph.D. in the Department of Marine Biology and Fisheries from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science in 2012.
United States Attorney’s Office – Assistant US Attorney
Vanessa Snyder is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Economic Crimes Division, where she prosecutes white collar crime. Previously, she handled violent crime cases as a member of the Violence Reduction Partnership. Vanessa also serves on the Board for the Federal Bar Association, as a Chairperson for the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and as the President of Habitat for Humanity Young Professionals. A triple Florida Gator, Vanessa also served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, earning a degree from the University of Oxford.
Jesse Trice Community Health Center – Pediatric Dentist/Chair of Pediatric Dentistry
Wayne Stephens is a board-certified pediatric dentist at Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Liberty City. His passion for providing access to quality healthcare for under-served children led him to establish the first pediatric dental specialty practice in a South Florida community health center. In line with this mission, he collaborates with civic organizations to bring dental services to those unable to pay. Wayne earned DDS and MBA degrees from Columbia University and his BA degree from Williams College.
New World Symphony – Director of New Media and Distance Learning
Justin Trieger is the Director of New Media and Distance Education at the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, and Co-Founder of Buskerfest Miami, an organization dedicated to improving civic life through public street performance. He is also an accomplished composer, engineer and performer. As a resident of Miami-Dade County for the past nine years, Justin has been a constant advocate for performing artists and has actively supported broader community efforts as a member of Emerge Miami.
Urban Impact Lab – Co-Founder
Marta Viciedo is a Founding Partner at Urban Impact Lab, which introduces and prototypes ideas and innovations that make cities better. Marta and her team design strategies to address urban issues, implement place-based programs, build creative public space interventions, and create innovative pathways for community engagement. Marta is also a transportation advocate, currently developing and launching a transportation focused 501(c)3 and formerly chairing Transit Action Committee. Marta holds a Masters Degree in Urban & Regional Planning from FAU.
Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. – Community Lawyer
Evian White is an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. A Miami native, Evian graduated from Florida International University, and later from the University of Miami School of Law. Evian has worked at Legal Services of Greater Miami since law school. As a community lawyer, she empowers her clients to be leaders in the face of adversity. In the community, Evian volunteers with Junior League Miami and will be the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Dade County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section in the upcoming year.