We are pleased to announce Class XI of the Miami Fellows, The Miami Foundation’s 15-month signature leadership program for individuals 5 to 15 years into their professional career. From nonprofit directors to attorneys and community visionaries, the 16 new Fellows are inspired by Greater Miami’s potential and have demonstrated a commitment to improve quality of life for everyone in our community.
Downtown Development Authority – Attorney, Governmental Affairs and Advocacy
At the Miami Downtown Development Authority, Elena Bondarenko, Esq. handles government relations, land use and zoning law issues, as well as various legislative/policy initiatives, ensuring holistic growth of Downtown. She works with elected officials and decision makers at all levels of government to further interests of the DDA district in the areas of development, environmental law, resiliency, homelessness, education, and urban planning. In addition, she advises the executive staff on matters of procurement, ethics, grants, contract and local government law.
National YoungArts Foundation – Artistic Programs Manager
Joseph Cloud is passionate about storytelling. His story runs deep in his Cherokee roots as well as in his chosen home, Miami. He is a founding member of Mangrove Creative Collective, where he develops innovative theatrical experiences to tell Miami’s diverse narrative. Additionally, he nurtures the next generation of artists as the Artistic Programs Manager at the National YoungArts Foundation. He amplifies his love of theatre by stage-managing and production consulting throughout South Florida.
Miami Angels – Managing Director
Rebecca Danta is the Managing Director of Miami Angels, the largest and most active angel network in Florida, which funds seed technology companies with early traction across various industries. Rebecca is a Miami native and is passionate about investing into markets and teams that are often overlooked in traditional venture capital, as well as identifying and preparing more females to invest in the asset class. She serves on the board of Refresh Miami and is a Young American Leaders Program 2019 alumna.
Beacon College Prep – Co-founder and Head of Schools
Patrick is the co-founder and school leader at Beacon College Prep Elementary and Beacon College Prep Middle School in Opa-locka. Education and the empowerment of historically oppressed communities is what drives his work and commitment to Miami-Dade. He is passionate about working with students, teachers and families to facilitate enduring academic and personal growth; growth which is anchored by an approach that honors every student’s individuality and addresses their needs holistically.
The Smile Trust – Executive Director
Valencia “Vee” Gunder, a Miami native, also known as the “Modern Day Fannie Lou”, the Founder of The Smile Trust. Valencia educates residents about climate change and climate gentrification. In 2017, Valencia created the Community Emergency Operations Center to respond to underserved communities servicing 23,000 residents in Miami Dade after Hurricane Irma. Losing her goddaughter Jada to gun violence, Valencia decided to combat the issue, by doing research to create a rapid response toolkit to decrease gun and police violence.
Federal Public Defender’s Office – Assistant Federal Public Defender
Julie Holt is an Assistant Federal Public Defender. She previously worked as a state public defender in both the Miami Dade Public Defender’s Office and the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York. She received her BA in Economics from Columbia University and her JD from Yale Law School. Prior to law school, Julie danced with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She is focusing her fellowship on combating poverty in Miami’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
P.S. 305 – Executive Director
Mina Hosseini is the Executive Director of P.S. 305, an organization providing families with tools to advocate for high-quality public schools. A Miami native and graduate of Florida International University, Mina began her career in accounting with Deloitte Tax before joining P.S. 305. Mina is committed to cultivating leadership in the pursuit of equity and excellence in education for all children. She also enjoys volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem where she serves as a voice for children in foster care.
Corporate Responsibility Management
Elisa Juárez works with companies to help them invest a share of company profits back into communities. She strives to build resilient and thriving communities through social impact investing, strategic partnerships, and community engagement. She is on the national board of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and volunteers with the World Happiness Summit and The Global Center for Climate Resilience. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, an MBA from the IAE in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a corporate social responsibility certificate through Harvard Business School.
City of Miami Beach – Chief of Community Planning and Sustainability
Rogelio Madan is the Chief of Community Planning and Sustainability for the City of Miami Beach Planning Department. Throughout his career, he has worked on establishing plans to sustainably revitalize local neighborhoods. As a Miami native, he is passionate about ensuring that the region is resilient to environmental challenges and provides for a great quality of life. Rogelio earned his graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning from FAU and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Related Urban Development Group – Assistant Project Manager
Over the last decade, Aaron McKinney has remained committed to serving his community through various administrative positions in community-based organizations; leadership roles in local volunteer organizations; and legislative work in both the Florida Senate and the Miami-Dade County Commission, focused on issues related to housing and community development. Today, Aaron is continuing his work related to affordable housing and community development as an assistant project manager with Related Urban on the Liberty Square Revitalization project in Liberty City.
Carnival Corporation – Director, Strategic Sourcing, Innovation and Technology
Rosie Nwakanma is a Global Strategic Sourcing Director in Technology and Innovation for Carnival Corporation. She is responsible for managing IT purchases and leading the development and implementation of sourcing strategies. She is passionate about making a difference in the life of each person she touches and continues to be a catalyst for change in education, technology and parking; addressing needs such as access to quality education, leveraging technology to promote growth and improving infrastructure to support Miami’s evolution.
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau – Senior Manager, Program Development
Pam Payano is the Senior Manager of Program Development at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she ensures there is a heritage footprint across GMCVB initiatives. Her primary mission of supporting multicultural communities ties into her passion for advocacy and enhancing community relations, while bringing cultural awareness to the gentrification occurring within our heritage neighborhoods. By keeping an emphasis on the diverse history that Miami was founded on, she hopes to close the gap between development and gentrification.
KIPP Miami – Director of Development
Ruth Ramirez, MBA, is a child welfare advocate forging paths to resources for abused and neglected children. By sharing her personal story as a child who lived in foster care, Ruth elevates the voice of the “foster child” to create policy change and empower Miami’s most vulnerable. Ruth serves as Trustee of Our Kids of Miami-Dade & Monroe and is a Founding Member of Fostering Panther Pride at FIU. In 2015, Ruth received FIU’s “Worlds Ahead Graduate” commendation for her community service and educational achievements.
Ole Distribution, LLC – Legal Director
Jane Marie Russell serves as in-house counsel for Ole Distribution, LLC, an international multi-media company that distributes U.S. Pay TV and digital channels throughout Latin America. A Miami native, she is committed to making Greater Miami a better place to live, work, and thrive, especially in the areas of childhood literacy and environmental resilience. Jane Marie earned her BA from the University of Notre Dame, MA in Asian Studies from Florida International University, and JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The Children’s Movement of Florida – Chief of Staff
Madeleine K. Thakur is chief of staff at The Children’s Movement of Florida, where she oversees operations and statewide policy efforts, and current chair of Florida’s Early Learning Consortium. She firmly believes our community will be transformed when we invest in stimulating early education, health care access for all children, and support for parents and caregivers. Every child is born with potential, and we all benefit when they have the right opportunities to maximize it—starting at birth.
Opa-locka Community Development Corporation – Chief Operating Officer
Nikisha Williams, a Miami-native, currently serves as Chief Operating Officer of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that’s working to transform Opa-locka and surrounding northwest Miami-Dade communities through education, employment, health, art, and affordable housing. She is most interested in addressing the generational cycle of poverty and persistent low household incomes in northwest Miami-Dade through education, particularly early learning literacy and alternative education models, such as workforce development training.