Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Recommend us on Google+ Watch us on YouTube Join us on LinkedIn NLC on Reddit
New Leaders Council

2018 Fellows

Meet Our 2018 Fellows

Ashley Baker

Development Manager, Every Kid Outreach


Ashley Baker currently serves as the Development Manager for Every Kid Outreach, a nonprofit organization that has been helping students in the Eatonville, FL and surrounding communities, to reach their brightest futures, for over 26 years. Born in Palm Beach Gardens, FL and adopted by her loving family at one month old, Ashley grew up in Lake Worth, FL. At a young age her passion for giving back was sparked. Ashley feels that she has been afforded many opportunities and should pay it forward by helping others. In high school she developed an idea for a nonprofit organization that would provide housing, education, and childcare for pregnant and parenting teens and their children.

Ashley then went on to begin college at Florida Atlantic University as a social work major, before transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. There, she earned her B.S in Public Administration, minoring in Nonprofit Management and earning her designation as a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP). While at UCF, Ashley was involved with and held leadership roles in the African American Student Union, Organization for Public Administration, Association for Fundraising Professionals - Collegiate Chapter, and became a Brother of Alpha Kappa Psi, Professional Business Fraternity. It was also here that she learned that the organization she envisioned already existed in Orlando. Ashley was fortunate to be awarded an internship at BETA Center, a grassroots organization serving pregnant and parenting teens and the Central Florida community for more than 40 years. Ashley returned to the organization two years later where the position of Development Coordinator was created for her. After two years in this role, the organization merged to become part of UCP of Central Florida. Here she took on the role as the Development and Special Events Coordinator, before leaving to join the team at Every Kid Outreach.

In addition to her professional work in the nonprofit sector, Ashley also enjoys volunteering. She has actively been involved with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) and currently serves as the Vice President of the Central Florida Urban League Young Professionals, an auxiliary of the Central Florida Urban League. In addition to helping others, Ashley also enjoys photography, and in her free time loves to relax or travel to explore new destinations, both near and far.

Jenay Byrd

Director of Operations, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando


Jenay Byrd is a passionate, results driven young professional working as the Director of Operations at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando. With a degree from the University of Central Florida in Public Administration and dual minors in Nonprofit Management and Entrepreneurship, she began her career with all of the tools necessary to be successful. Jenay’s dedication and drive for results has landed her many opportunities and promotions early on in her career. Starting as an entry level associate, she quickly climbed the ranks and landed a position on the executive leadership team within two years.

Although work sometimes keeps her busy, Jenay also makes time to volunteer with local organizations, such as Nathaniel’s Hope and her church, Summit. In her free time Jenay enjoys traveling and takes the opportunity to do so whenever she can. Traveling is not only a get away, but also an opportunity to learn about other cultures and gain insight and ideas on how to better connect with people of all backgrounds. She continues to grow professionally and personally as she expands her community involvement in an effort to affect change and increase equality throughout her community. Though her greatest passion and vision is a world where everyone is on a level playing field, she is most focused on fighting for racial equality and women’s rights. Professionally, Jenay has goals to earn certifications in Human Resources as well as Project Management to increase her skills and ability within her organization.

Gregory Eisenberg

Founder, Commission on Local Debates


Gregory Eisenberg was born and raised in Voorhees, NJ, moving to Orlando, FL in 2009 to study at the University of Central Florida for a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. While pursuing his degree, Gregory worked at Walt Disney World as a trainer and lifeguard, while also hosting community events.

Since graduating, he has focused his career on property management, specifically tax credit and student housing, before continuing on to overall marketing strategy. Gregory has served as a Regional Marketing Director for Asset Campus Housing, where he oversaw budgets, operations, and the management of over $250MM in assets. Before moving onto an opportunity in marketing management and starting a nonprofit organization, the Commission on Local Debates.

In 2016, Gregory was a candidate to represent the 5th district in Orange County, FL on the Board of County Commissioners. His ""Eyes Toward Our Future"" campaign aimed to tackle some of the district’s most pressing issues; infrastructure, transportation and homelessness. Not only was he one of the most fiscally efficient candidates on the ballot, one of his plans—clean water accessibility—has since been pursued by the current administration.

Gregory’s professional experience has shown that the latest in technology can be leveraged to reduce expenditures significantly while delivering increased results and communication. He is currently serving on the Community Advisory Committee for MetroPlan Orlando and the Board of Directors for the Arbor School of Central Florida and Lighthouse of Central Florida.

For the past eight years, Gregory Eisenberg has lived, worked, and campaigned in Central Florida, sharing in the hardships that we have all faced. He believes that his generation has a new, forward-looking perspective that can help us all to grow as a community.

Brendan Guess

Constituent Advocate, United States Senate, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson


Brendan D. Guess was born and raised in Florida and has lived in the state his entire life. He graduated Wellington Community High School in 2006. After high school, Brendan moved to Orlando where he continued his education at Valencia State College earning an associate’s degree in Political Science. Brendan transferred to the University of Central Florida (UCF) earning his bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2011 and his master’s in Public Administration in 2017. While pursuing his MPA at UCF, Brendan was a member of the UCF Student Chapter of the International City, County Management Association.

Brendan is currently employed with the Office of United States Senator Bill Nelson as a Constituent Advocate. In his current role, Brendan advocates on the behalf of Floridians who become stuck in the bureaucratic red tape of government. His concentrations and responsibilities include social security, medicare, insurance, transportation and justice issues. 
Prior to his employment with the United States Senate, Brendan served as the Office Manager/Intern and Volunteer Coordinator for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s 2012 successful re-election campaign. In this role, he coordinated volunteers and interns statewide to accomplish campaign goals and objectives. Making Central Florida his home, Brendan is an active member of St. Stephen Catholic Community in Winter Springs. He helped organize a co-ed softball team to build fellowship and reach out to the faith community. In his spare time, Brendan enjoys spending time with his wife, Ashley, and his two children Noah and Colette. Brendan’s ultimate goal in life is to help build a better community and America for his children.

Charles Knighton II

Associate Director - Capital Markets, Marcus and Millichap Capital Corp


Charles L Knighton II, MSRE joined the Orlando, FL office of Marcus & Millichap Capital Corporation (MMCC) in October 2015 as an Associate Director of Capital Markets. Mr. Knighton is responsible for securing commercial debt financing for an array of commercial real estate assets including: multifamily, office and industrial, retail, senior housing and hospitality. He is well connected with national, regional and local funding sources including, but not limited to, agency lenders (E.g. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac), commercial banks, CMBS lenders, life insurance companies, private and public funds and hard money lenders.

Mr. Knighton spent the last 10 years in real estate field in some form or another. Prior to joining MMCC, Mr. Knighton served on the Due Diligence team at National Retail Properties, Inc. where he was responsible for the underwriting and due diligence of approximately $500MM in developer construction debt financing and single tenant retail acquisitions during his tenure. He was also a Commercial Default Servicing Analyst with Rialto Capital Management and the Managing Director at Innovative Property Ventures, LLC.

Mr. Knighton graduated from the University of Florida, with a Master’s degree in Real Estate Finance (MSRE) and received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Florida. He is an active member of Free & Accepted Masons of Florida and a Board Member of the UF Central Florida Bergstrom Council.

Wesley Lewis

Associate Director of Undergraduate Research, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Wes Lewis is the Associate Director of Undergraduate Research for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Wes earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Northwest Missouri State University and master’s degree in student affairs administration from Michigan State University.

He has a passion for education, leadership, and helping students make the most out of their educational opportunities. Within his current role, Wes assists students in finding research opportunities, resources, and avenues to communicate their findings. Prior, he worked in Student Activities overseeing the student newspaper, radio station, leadership programming, and community engagement. Additionally, Wes is very involved within the University community beyond his primary role by serving as a faculty advisor for a sorority, member of the university honor board, Title IX advisor, work environment quality council, and teaches a freshman college success course.

Beyond being an educator, he has a passion for community engagement with a focus on voter’s rights and education. Thus, Wes is an active member of the Volusia County League of Women Voters. Furthermore, he seeks to help get progressive leaders elected within the local community by being an active member of the Volusia County Young Democrats. Within his spare time, Wes enjoys spending time with his wife Sarah. They enjoy cooking, reading, and exploring Florida.

Rebecca McLean

Project Assistant/ Student, The University of Central Florida


Rebecca McLean was born and raised in Michigan, but has lived in Orlando since 2010. She is currently obtaining a degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Central Florida. Her passions relate to environmental sustainability as well as enhancing educational experiences for students within higher education.

As a researcher, Rebecca has studied topics pertaining to sustainability, pollution mitigation, and alternative energy by using waste water as feedstock for algae to create biofuel. Through this work, Rebecca has received funding from NASA, NSF, EPA, &USDA, been recognized with several awards, and co-authored two publications. Her emerging areas of interest relate to the intersection of environmental science/ engineering and policy, sustainable infrastructure in developing countries, and environmental resource management. Rebecca also works for the Division of Teaching and Learning at UCF. Through this role, she is helping to implement an initiative to expand High Impact Educational Practices (research, capstone projects, internships, study abroad etc.) for all undergraduate students attending UCF by the year 2020. This initiative will ensure that all students participate in enriching and engaging experiences while obtaining their undergraduate degree. Furthermore, Rebecca is helping to create the framework and bylaws for a new research-education nonprofit, the Florida Undergraduate Research Consortium, which will help grow and expand opportunities for student researchers across the state of Florida. Rebecca is also a second-year member of the UCF Student Undergraduate Research Council, and is engaged in local environmental movement. She hopes to combine her passion for research and the environment with her desire to help implement sustainable policies across all levels of government.

Rebecca is delighted to be a new member of NLC, and hopes to use this opportunity to prepare her for work in the government or nonprofit sphere, and for a successful venture into graduate school next year!

Andrea Otero

Community Outreach & Communications, Orange County Clerk of Courts


Andrea Otero is currently Community Outreach and Communications Specialist to Orange County Clerk of Courts, Tiffany Moore Russell. Her determination has always been to work in public service. Before working for the Orange County Clerk of Courts, she worked in public relations and government affairs for the political consulting firm In Touch Strategies, Inc. She had the honor of working for the reelection campaigns of Mayor Buddy Dyer and President Obama in 2012 and interned in the United States Congress.

She immigrated to Orlando, Florida from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Central Florida and her Master of Arts in International Relations from American Public University. Andrea is currently pursuing her PhD in Public Policy and Administration with a concentration in Policy Analysis from Walden University.

Andrea is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, League of Women Voters of Orange County, American Society for Public Administration, and American Political Science Association. She also serves on the Harbor House of Central Florida Young Professionals Board and the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando Social Media Committee.

Sahil Patel

Entrepreneur, Mentor, & Student


Born and raised in Jersey City, NJ, Sahil Vijay Patel is a 2015 Inc 5000 winner, eCommerce entrepreneur and community leader currently attending the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, FL. The oldest of two boys to Vijay and Priti Patel, both immigrants from India coming to New Jersey in the early 80’s - Sahil faced his share of racial discrimination as a child. From being physically assaulted by the infamous “Dotbusters,” gang of Jersey City, NJ to fighting on behalf of other immigrant children in the neighborhood, Sahil is a natural born fighter for what is right.

Without any savings, life insurance, or financial assistance, Sahil took on the role of head of household when his father passed away in 2006. Sahil withdrew from Kean University (returning in 2012 to finish his B.A in English) and began supporting his mother, Priti and younger brother, Nitesh.

Now over a decade later, Nitesh is a Neurosurgeon, married to Rima, a Gynecologic Surgeon, their mother Priti, is retired and Sahil is married to his high school sweetheart, Snehal.

In 2015, after growing his business to over $10 million in annual revenue from an initial investment of only $500, Sahil decided to close his eCommerce company, Vijay Holdings, LLC. Earlier that year, Vijay Holdings, LLC won the Inc Magazine INC 5000 award, placing 366 of the top 5000 fastest growing companies in the world. Sahil wanting more - decided to chase his true passion – fighting for others. With his wife, Snehal by his side, both Sahil and Snehal decided to go back to school. Snehal is obtaining her Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing in Lake Mary, FL at ECPI University and Sahil will finish his Juris Doctorate in early 2019. Sahil is a fighter, his history proves his ability to overcome difficult tasks and soon with a Juris Doctorate under his belt, the sky's the limit.

Sahil is a member of Mt Zion Lodge No. 135 F&AM in Metuchen, NJ and his hobbies include cooking, working out and spending time with his family.

Carmen Rasnick

Project Manager/Financial Analyst VelocityRED


Carmen Rasnick is Manager/Financial Analyst for VelocityRED (a commercial real estate development company in Orlando) currently working on Creative Village and Florida Hospital Health Village. In 2013, Carmen received her B.A. in Urban Planning and Economics from Rollins College with honors.

Carmen’s passion to serve her community began in high school, where she was nationally recognized for her community service when she received the President’s Service Award from President Bush. While attending Rollins College, Carmen earned the Fiat Lux Outstanding Senior Award, Dean’s Leadership Award, Exemplary Service Award, and the Distinguished Student Award for her major. Carmen was also selected to serve as the Chair for the Academic Honor Council, Community Service/Events Chair for the Student Government Association, and the student body representative for the Hamilton Holt School on the Student Success Committee. Additionally, she was invited to serve as a student representative for Rollins College at the 2010 Leadership Orlando/My Region Conference. In 2011, she received an internship with the City of Orlando’s Planning Department where she worked with the Deputy Director of Economic Development on projects including SunRail and the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. The experiences and interactions with the city’s government and citizens inspired her to serve as a steward to her community by committing to responsible growth and development. She returned to Rollins College to earn her MBA degree with a concentration in Finance which included a master’s level concentration in Real Estate at Florida State University as part of her MBA program. During her MBA program, she was selected to participate in a field study in Cuba that focused on economic development, her lifelong passion. This trip provided an international perspective on economic development, and taught her how to apply diverse and innovative ideas in our local community.

Prior to graduation in 2016, Carmen served as a consultant to the City of Orlando on their capital budgeting process, and was awarded the Professional MBA Leadership Award. As a part of the Master Development team for Creative Village, Carmen is deeply invested in improving the Central Florida community. She has been selected to serve on several boards and committees such as: Congress for the New Urbanism, East Central Florida Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee, Next City Vanguard Conference Committee, The Collective, and The Florida Chamber 2030 Project. Carmen is an OCPS ADDitions Mentor for a young boy in the Pine Hills neighborhood.

Taylor Robinson



Taylor is a hard-working young professional who aspires to become a prominent figure in the progression of racial and social equality. She moved to Orlando in 2010 to begin her studies at the University of Central Florida, and in 2014 she received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology.

After graduating college, Taylor wanted to pursue her dreams as an entrepreneur and small business owner. Therefore, in 2016, she decided to leave her job and plunge into the real estate sector. Being a realtor has helped Taylor develop profound problem solving, marketing, time management, and leadership skills. Taylor is also involved with the Boys & Girls Club and Big Brother Big Sister, she is very passionate about preserving the future of the next generation. She has a keen interest in campaigning for equal education and opportunity for the youth as well as advocating for social and racial equality. Taylor is determined to gain knowledge, spread that knowledge, and become a leader in her community and her NLC chapter.

Nicole Sims

Assistant Principal, Orange County Public Schools


Nicole E. Sims is a native of Orlando whose parents instilled in her at an early age the importance of getting a good education, serving the community, and giving her very best to every endeavor she undertakes. For over 15 years, she has been committed to ensuring that every child she comes in contact with receives a high quality education in preparation for a successful future.

Nicole is a graduate of the Great Jones High School, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida A&M University, followed by a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. Even in her youth, Nicole realized that God’s Purpose for putting her on this earth was to educate, empower, inspire, and to protect children. From her volunteer job at age 11 volunteering to organize Story Time and Montsho Books, to being a Camp Counselor for the City of Orlando as a teen, a Substitute Teacher during college, a Reading Teacher, Dean and now an Assistant Principal in Orange County Public Schools, Nicole has remained committed to fulfilling her God-Given Purpose each and every day.

Nicole is also committed to serving the community that helped to develop her into the young women she is today. She is a member of the Hope Church, as well as a member of the Orlando Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where she works with Youth Programs. She is also the Director for the Central Region of the Florida Assistant Principals Association. Nicole is excited to be a part of the 2018 Class of New Leaders Council Fellows.

Landon St. Gordon

Campaign Marketing Manager, MDW Communications

PHOTOLandon St. Gordon, a Central Florida native, is progressive multimedia professional with a passion for reaching people through digital platforms. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Marketing and Mass Communications). Then attending Rollins Crummer School of Business, where he obtained his M.B.A. with a focus in Management and Marketing. Landon is an experienced graphic designer, is well-versed in social media, and is constantly expanding his skill set in digital marketing mediums.

Currently, Landon works as a Campaign Marketing Manager with the award-winning firm, MDW Communications, where he has been a part of many successful campaigns throughout the country. In addition to his campaign work, Landon also works with multiple non-profits in Central Florida, including Central Florida Community Arts, a massive multi-faceted arts organization that’s mission is to make the arts accessible and affordable to all.

In the past, Landon has worked in the Business Services department of UCF, where he was responsible for maintaining and enhancing the brand image of the University by reviewing for approval all retail uses of trademarks and trade dresses by third-party vendors. In addition, Landon was responsible for all artistic print and digital collateral for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, where he produced a “Les Miserables” flash mob, which gained national attention after appearing on Good Morning, America.

Outside of his work, Landon has served on the UCF Student Conduct Committee, the Crummer Leadership Advisory Board, and graduated from Leadership Winter Park, Class XXVII. He has multiple pieces of artwork published in the art-compilation book “Presenting Shakespeare” and designed and constructed layout of the 2015 Gay Games Orlando bid book with the Orlando Metropolitan Business Association, which includes signatures from prominent figures including President Barack Obama.

Mark Webster

Manager - Exemptions and Tax Roll Administration, Orange County Property Appraiser


Mark Webster’s professional career began in consumer lending in the banking industry. In 2010, he participated in a study aboard program in China. He spent time in both Beijing and Shanghai studying Global Business and Economics. In 2011, Mark participated in the US State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service Program, assisting US Embassy missions around the world with special projects.

Mark began his public-sector career 10 years ago at the Orange County Property Appraiser’s office as a Tax Roll Specialist. After nearly 6 years of outstanding performance, Mark Webster was promoted to Manager of Customer Service in spring of 2013. Mark graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s in Public Administration in 2014 and earned an MBA from his alma mater in 2016. Mark as Manager of Customer Service collaborated with his staff to achieve a 99.6% customer satisfaction rating while serving over 230,000 customers over 4 years. Mark was promoted to Manager of Exemptions and Tax Roll Administration in April 2017. He manages a staff of 13 Specialists who audit nearly 500,000 Exemption applications and post 250,000 deeds each year. Mark’s responsibilities are at the highest level at the Orange County Property Appraiser’s office, including assisting with analysis and quality assurance of the annual Orange County, FL tax roll, the fourth largest tax roll in Florida.

In his spare time, Mark enjoys reading, diving, traveling and personal home improvement projects.

Atlanta - Augusta - Austin - Boston - Broward - Capital District NY - Chicago - Cincinnati - Cleveland - Connecticut - Dallas - Denver - Des Moines
Detroit - Houston - Kentucky - Los Angeles - Louisiana - Madison - Maine - Maryland - Miami - Montana - Nashville - New Hampshre - New Jersey - New York City
North Carolina - Oakland - Omaha - Orlando - Palm Beach - Philadelphia - Pittsburgh - Rhode Island - Sacramento - San Antonio - San Francisco - Silicon Valley