By understanding and respecting the communities in which we operate, the LINK Strategic Partners team creates and applies the right tools and strategies to translate challenges into opportunities for hyperlocal success.
Our Core Team
National Outreach And Public Speaking
M.B.A., The George Washington University, with concentrations in strategic management and corporate social responsibility
Michael Akin is a community builder and changemaker who has consistently and successfully tackled challenges by committing to the idea that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. He has done so while building authentic relationships and connections locally and around the world that help people, organizations, and institutions thrive. Michael and his team have created an entire industry based around authentic “hyperlocal” engagement, and proven the market viability of a firm that does only community-serving work, generating meaningful social impact in a way that is profitable and sustainable.
Michael serves as the President of LINK Strategic Partners, a strategic communications, stakeholder engagement, and social impact consulting firm proudly based in Washington, D.C. In 8 years, LINK has expanded from a small local shop to a national firm with hundreds of local, regional, national, and international clients. Our world-class and diverse team of professionals ranges from 17 to 92 years of age and lead our offices in D.C., Phoenix, St. Louis, Maine, New York, and Manchester, England. LINK’s mission-driven work includes thousands of hours of pro bono work provided to community partners.
LINK was listed on Inc. magazine’s 2019 Inc. 5000 list as one of the most successful and fastest growing companies in America, named Large PR Firm of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter, celebrated as 2019 Best Place to Work by the Washington Business Journal, rated a 2019 Top Places to Work in PR by PR News, and recognized as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s 2019 Small Business of the Year. Most recently, in 2020, Michael oversaw LINK’s certification as one of Fatherly’s Best Places to Work for New Dads.
Michael’s community activities include serving as chairman emeritus of the Greater Washington Urban League board of directors. He also serves on the boards of Greater Washington Board of Trade, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), Destination DC, Cultural Tourism DC, Think Local First DC, and the American Experience Foundation. Michael is a Leadership Council member for Raise DC, and serves as a Founding Member of the Washington Business Journal Leadership Trust and as a member of Community Council for WAMU 88.5 FM, Washington’s NPR station. Michael previously served as Board President for St. Mary’s Court, a non-profit independent living facility in Washington, DC for seniors or individuals with accessibility needs.
Michael is a featured presenter on the intersection between effective strategic communications and community engagement at major national and international conferences like those hosted by the International Town and Gown Association, the United Kingdom Town and Gown Association, the National School Public Relations Association, the Aspen Institute and the National Urban League conference where he is invited back year after year to lead sessions and facilitate thoughtful dialogue. Michael was selected in 2020 to moderate a panel titled “Equity (Must Be) More Than A Buzzword” at SXSW EDU.
Michael received a 2006 GW Award—George Washington University’s highest honor—for advancing GW’s mission in the Washington community with competence, integrity, and good will. In 2011, the Greater Washington Urban League recognized Michael with the Chairman’s Award for his work in advancing the League’s mission, and the DC City Council adopted a formal resolution named “Michael Akin Day in the District of Columbia” to acknowledge his contributions to positive and collaborative community action. Michael was honored as Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the DC Chamber of Commerce in 2015, and in 2017 he received the prestigious Laura Lisner Award from the Lisner Louise Dixon Hurt Home for his work and advocacy on behalf of DC’s senior citizens. In 2018, the Washington Business Journal named him a 40 Under 40 honoree, and Michael received a Communitas Award for his pro-bono and service efforts.
Prior to founding LINK, Michael was vice president of the community and government relations practice at Reingold Inc., a national communications firm headquartered in Alexandria, VA, where he played a leading role in national campaigns to combat homelessness and prevent suicide among veteran populations. Previously, Michael served as The George Washington University’s assistant vice president of government, international, and community relations. His aggressive community relations work helped make GW a national model for building community partnerships and overcoming classic “town/gown” friction. Prior to that, Michael was a community organizer working on behalf of vulnerable seniors in DC’s Shaw neighborhood.
Michael has an MBA from The George Washington University, where he also graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political communications. He lives with his incredible wife and 2-year-old son in Washington, DC.
Chief Operating Officer & Senior Strategist
Writing And Editorial Guidance
M.P.A., The George Washington University, with concentration in managing state and local governments
B.A., The George Washington University, with concentrations in political communication and history
Corey Barenbrugge specializes in writing and message development for public relations and community engagement campaigns. At LINK Strategic Partners, he serves as chief writer/editor, leading project teams in the planning and content development of all written products. Corey works with our project teams to define target audiences, key messages, and communication channels, and is a key contributor to setting communication strategy for our clients. His writing and research skills are amplified by his experience working on community engagement efforts and his expertise in local government. Corey is based in St. Louis, where he leads our growing Midwest presence.
Corey served as a key strategist for facilities planning projects with Arlington Public Schools in Virginia and North Shore School District in Highland Park, Illinois, developing messages and collateral and advising administrators on engaging stakeholders in community-based planning processes. Corey frequently works with our clients to provide comprehensive editorial services for marketing collateral, strategic plans, annual reports, presentations, communications strategies, and more.
Prior to joining LINK, Corey served as special assistant to the general counsel at the George Washington University, where he coordinated workflow and the review process for documents that required the general counsel's consideration and direction. Corey also served as a Presidential Fellow at the GW Office of Government and Community Relations, managing media relations and writing projects involving DC officials and community organizations.
Editorial Manager & Digital Strategist
Digital Marketing Campaigns
Social Media Strategy
The George Washington University, B.A., Russian Language and Literature
Molly Barker specializes in digital and social media strategy, strategic communications, research, writing and editing, and stakeholder engagement. With an impeccable eye for detail, she is responsible for writing, editing, and advising on our clients’ deliverables.
Molly leads LINK’s work to connect our clients with their highly-targeted, and often hard-to-reach audiences, on digital and social media platforms. Her approach to digital initiatives is both innovative and nimble, ensuring our clients are maximizing their budgets and reach. She has led award-winning campaigns on a number of platforms such as Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram.
Before joining LINK, Molly enjoyed a decade-long tenure at The George Washington University (GW), where she supported the university’s senior leadership through her expertise in strategic communications and project management. During her time at GW, her work was vital in helping to successfully close the university’s one billion-dollar ($1,000,000,000) capital campaign: Making History: The Campaign for GW. While at GW, Molly earned a reputation for her ability to cultivate critical relationships with stakeholders and constituent groups across the university community, and beyond, with leaders in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors.
She was also responsible for drafting and editing countless speeches, talking points, and memoranda for the GW university president, and other university senior leaders for events such as panel discussions, conferences, op-eds, and media interviews.
Molly resides in Maine with her (awesome) husband and (adventurous) daughter. In her free time, you will most likely find Molly outdoors (even in the winter!) enjoying all that her great state has to offer.
Sports And Event Marketing
University of Maryland
Charlie Brotman serves as senior advisor to LINK Strategic Partners’ project teams and clients. Charlie is a Washington “institution” joining LINK after a nearly seven-decade career as a sports publicist, broadcaster, and public relations guru. A native Washingtonian, Charlie provides direct support and expert guidance to the firm's expanding hyperlocal work in DC and around the country.
Charlie was the Voice of the Washington Senators Baseball Club from 1956 to 1971, when the team moved to Texas, and he returned for Opening Day 2005 as the Voice of the Washington Nationals. For 46 years, Charlie was the voice of the Washington tennis tournament, now known as the Citi Open, until his retirement from this role in 2014. As a sports PR professional, Charlie counted Sugar Ray Leonard and numerous other personalities and organizations among his clients and friends.
His work expands far beyond sports: in 1949 President Truman needed a broadcaster for the first-ever televised presidential parade, and then-broadcast student Charlie stepped up. In 1956, President Eisenhower was so impressed by Charlie's work with the Senators that he invited him back to announce the 1957 parade. The White House has invited him back for every parade since, including President Barack Obama's in 2009 and 2013. In 2017, Charlie took his talents to NBC Washington, where he provided commentary on inaugural history during the station's parade coverage. In all, Charlie has announced a remarkable 15 inaugural parades with 10 different presidents.
Charlie started his own firm in 1969, growing the business into a PR powerhouse in his "spare time." Over the course of his career, Charlie has built strong working relationships and friendships with presidents, entertainers, athletes, and numerous Washington business and political leaders, all while establishing a true rapport with the everyday people who make this city what it is.
He has been inducted into 11 different Halls of Fame during his more than 50 years in public relations and announcing, including the Washington Hall of Fame, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Jock's Hall of Fame, the Public Relations Society of America Hall of Fame, the Advertising Club of Washington Hall of Fame, and the Greater Washington Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame. His most recent induction took place at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts for the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation Hall of Fame.
Joseph (Jae) Early
Arizona State University
Joseph “Jae” Early is excited to join LINK as an Associate. He is a student at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School where he is studying journalism with an emphasis in public relations. Passionate about creating change within a community, Jae’s skills in public relations, community outreach, research, and social media allow him a great foundation in forging change.
Jae’s interest in public relations and politics began as he attended a summer camp at the Cronkite School to explore different fields in communications. Since starting at Arizona State, Jae has taken an active role on campus and in the community.
At ASU, Jae is a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) where he can be found building his network and learning more about the communications field. Jae plans to work for a political communications firm after graduation.
Jae’s dedication in scouting allowed him to become an Eagle Scout. This has had a substantial impact on his understanding of community service and giving back to the community. “Do a good turn daily” is the scout’s motto and is something he lives by every day. Jae has led a community service project that successfully donated thousands of dollars in hygiene products to homeless youth in the Phoenix area. He continues his community service by volunteering with local and campus organizations.
On the campaign front, Jae has worked as an intern focusing on communication, voter engagement, and research. His experience has been formed by working on a U.S. Senate campaign and a local county-wide race in Arizona.
Jae enjoys traveling and experiencing different cultures; he is always planning a trip. In Jae’s free time, he can be found reading an inspirational book, adding to his vinyl collection, or seeking a new adventure.
Lakina is a Pivot Fellow at Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business, currently pursuing a certificate in Business and Entrepreneurship. She has a voracious thirst for knowledge, and believes LINK is the perfect atmosphere in which to learn and grow.
Lakina’s most recent work experience includes internships at the DC Superior Court - Office of the Auditor-Master, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Lakina’s passion around criminal justice reform, growing sustainable businesses, and empowering inner-city neighborhoods literally keeps her awake at night. For Lakina, becoming a LINK Associate means gaining the skills, accessing the resources, and building the networks needed to make a mark in the lives of others that cannot be erased.
Within the last two years, Lakina has obtained two Microsoft Office certifications (in MS Word and MS PowerPoint), a Paralegal certificate from the Paralegal Institute of Washington, and two certifications for the hospitality industry, all while raising two children as a single parent and domestic violence survivor.
When she finally takes time to ‘exhale,’ Lakina can be found binge-watching movies, or strolling the halls of DC’s many museums with her two little ones in tow.
St. John’s College High School
Manhattan College, with concentrations in communications and business management
Molly Flores has been part of team LINK since 2013, first working as an intern then transitioning to a Project Manager upon her graduation from Manhattan College. She graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Management.
Over the years, Molly has sharpened her strategic communications and stakeholder engagement skills by working on various projects ranging from community outreach to media relations.
As a former Division I athlete, Molly is passionate about sports. Her career started at just 13 years old, when she volunteered for the Citi Open Tennis Tournament’s Media Center. Since then, she has worked for almost a decade in the industry, helping to lead various LINK projects such as the Citi Open, Hawaii Open, and Enchant Christmas. She currently is a co-lead on LINK’s Sports and Hospitality practice alongside her colleague, Caroline Potolicchio. Other clients Molly has worked with include Team Impact, After-School All-Stars, Farmers Restaurant Group, Tonic Restaurant at Quigley’s, and Cultural Tourism DC.
Molly is a native of Chevy Chase, MD. When she isn’t working at LINK, Molly likes to spend time with family and friends, read, and give back to the community. She currently serves as a lacrosse clinic coach for MadLax.
B.A., Miami University, Oxford, Ohio with a concentration in Strategic Communications and Global and Intercultural Studies
Julian Flores has worked in numerous fields developing skills in human relations, complex problem solving, and public relations. Growing up in the DC area, Julian has volunteered with local organizations such as S.H.A.R.E., St. Anne’s Center for Children, Youth and Families, and National Children’s Hospital.
Julian majored in Strategic Communications and Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University. While at Miami University, Julian was part of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. As a member, Julian spent time assisting in coordinating their annual philanthropy event Drop the Puck, which helped raise funds as well as awareness for cancer.
Prior to his full-time employment at LINK, Julian was an Associate with LINK and helped grow the Sports and Hospitality practice within the firm, focusing on corporate sales for Enchant Christmas as well as sponsorship relations for the Hawaii Open. He looks forward to the continued growth of the Sports and Hospitality Practice.
B.S., State University of New York at Brockpor, double majoring in Psychology and Health Science
Michelle Hansen is LINK’s Business Manager, ensuring the firm receives operations support, which enhances our mission-driven focus.
With more than a decade of direct business and team management expertise, Michelle plays a critical role in the firm. In addition to handling external client functions such as accounting and invoicing, Michelle leads the firm’s print brokering and collateral development practice.
Prior to joining LINK, she was the Director of Operations at a national marketing and printing firm. In this role, she managed day-to-day operations, as well as accounting and human resources.
Michelle graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree, double majoring in Psychology and Health Science at the State University of New York at Brockport. She resides in Northern New York with her husband and two children. In her free time, Michelle enjoys exploring and hiking local and state parks with her family.
URBAN ALLIANCE INTERN
DeNae Harris is thrilled to join LINK Strategic Partners for the 2019- 2020 Urban Alliance Associate class.
Currently, DeNae attends Cesar Chavez PCS High School Parkside Campus and plans to major in cybersecurity in college . She first became interested in cybersecurity when she got hands-on experience while working at the Office of The Comptroller Of Currency (OCC). While working for OCC, DeNae was excited to meet Mayor Bowser and visit the offices of the FBI. She looks forward to applying the skills she gained in that position throughout her time at LINK.
As a native Washingtonian, DeNae loves that DC offers many unique opportunities to its residents. DeNae enjoys learning about the different perspectives people bring to DC and meeting new people. During her free time, Denae enjoys trying new recipes and vlogging.
Writing & Operations Coordinator
Writing and Editing
M.A., Washington University in St. Louis, concentration in film and media studies
B.A., University of San Francisco, concentration in English
Matt Helfrich specializes in writing and editing for streamlined communications and messaging. At LINK Strategic Partners, he serves as writing and operations coordinator, collaborating with project teams in the planning, drafting, and revising of all written communications. He also serves as a Project Manager in the sectors of public health, education, and small local business growth. His organizational and managerial skills are amplified by his experience working in urban education, non-profits, and moving image media. Matt is based in Manchester, England, where he also leads recruitment and retention for the firm.
Prior to his tenure at LINK, Matt joined Teach For America, working as a secondary English Instructor in the inner-city of St. Louis. He was recruited to help found the 10th branch of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, opening that campus in Chicago’s Englewood community in the fall of 2010. During his tenure at Johnson, he taught reading strategies, civics, and drama. He served as Chair of the Fine Arts Department, as well as a four-year mentor to a group of at-risk males, stewarding them to high school graduation and matriculation at universities across the United States.
Most recently, Matt finished his master’s degree in film and media studies at Washington University in St. Louis. During his graduate studies, he instructed courses on the history of film and other electronic media. He also worked in community engagement and visitor services for the St. Louis Art Museum. Matt’s work in the fields of education and non-profits have provided him the background and preparation to serve LINK’s broad array of clients in their strategic communications and engagement needs.
Jevin D. Hodge
National Engagement Coordinator
ENERGY And Motivation
National Outreach And Public Speaking
M.P.S., The George Washington University, with concentration in political management, expected May 2019
B.A., The George Washington University, with concentration in public policy
Jevin D. Hodge is a proud advocate for our communities and has been involved in policy advising and campaign management at the municipal, state, and federal levels. He is proud to bring his public policy and engagement experience to LINK Strategic Partners, where he provides essential support for the firm’s stakeholder engagement and public relations clients. Jevin is based in Phoenix, where he leads our growing presence in the South and on the West Coast.
An Arizona native, Jevin is adept at working with community leaders and elected officials, primarily focusing on how to increase civic engagement among young Americans. He currently serves as the Executive Vice Director of The Manifesto Project, an Arizona-based non-profit working to answer the question: How does Arizona retain and develop its young professionals?
Jevin is also a Millennial Inspirational Speaker, noted as “America’s Leading Young Agent for Change” and author of L.Y.F.E. – Living Young Free and Extravagant. He has traveled the nation speaking to millennials, community leaders, and organizations on how to mobilize, attract, educate, and retain young talent.
Project Manager & Assistant to the President
Community Relations and Services
Social Justice and Policy Making
Higher Education and Student Life
B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, Created Major in Social Justice and Policy Making. Minor concentration in Legal Studies and Communications | University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Jamal Holtz is a project manager and assistant to the President at LINK Strategic Partners. He is a Native Washingtonian, growing up in Ward 8 of Washington, DC. Jamal is a graduate from the University of Rochester where he designed his own major, a combination of Social Justice and Policy Making.
Jamal has a wide breadth of experience working with community leaders, non-profits, elected leaders, and government officials. At LINK, Jamal helps lead the firm’s DC portfolio. Jamal has experience working on national and local political and issue-based campaigns.
Jamal has extensive local government experience from working at numerous District agencies, such as in the DC Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services as Community Outreach Assistant, as well as a stint as a Program Assistant at the DC Department of Employment Services. In the Mayor’s Office, Jamal handled constituent services, identified issues facing District residents, and connected residents to agencies, offices, and other officials to create resolutions for communal issues. These issues varied from street lights malfunctioning, potholes, unemployment, community needs, and many others. Additional work experience includes working on numerous political campaigns as a Field Director, Campaign Manager, and Organizer.
In his civic work, Jamal currently serves on the Mayor's Board of Commission on Juvenile Justice, where he advises the Mayor and legislature on juvenile issues, provides active consultation to the government and private agencies, and assists in monitoring all juvenile detention and correction facilities and community-based programs to ensure compliance fits the needs of youth. In addition, serving as a volunteer and advocate for 51 for 51—a national engagement and D.C. Statehood campaign that works with local youth in the District, to push the needle across the nation to talk about DC Statehood.
During Jamal’s academic career, he served as President for the Student Association Government, being the first black student president in over two decades. As president, Jamal achieved many initiatives that focused on expanding access, building equity, creating inclusive communities, and strengthening community presence. Jamal plans to continue pursuing his passion for community and public service.
B.S.B.A, Xavier University with concentrations in Business Analytics and Information Systems
Joshua House is excited to be a part of the LINK Strategic Partners team as an Associate. He graduated from Xavier University majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems, while minoring in International Business and Art History.
Joshua is passionate about being a catalyst for social impact since volunteering for three years with the Amigos de las Americas organization in the Dominican Republic and across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Throughout his four years at Xavier University, he was a campaign manager for every winning Executive Student Government Association Candidate, including the first all-minority executive student government association ticket in the university’s history. Furthermore, Joshua pursued social impact as a Student Government Association Senator, managing nearly $1 million in funds for various clubs, organizations, and student orchestrated activities on campus. Additionally, he implemented three projects that aided in the progression of campus life regarding increased awareness around sexual assault, racial biases, and systemic disparities in education.
Through avid internship experience at companies and firms such as Dun & Bradstreet and Ernst & Young as a Government Public Sector Performance Improvement Practice and Government Solutions intern, Joshua developed keen awareness and insight into the pragmatic intersectionality of emerging technologies, government policies, and social impact. He assisted with a strategy and communications plan to aid the implementation of data transparency initiative across multiple U.S. government agencies, while analyzing client data to construct and modify data visualization dashboards.
Fluent in Spanish, Joshua has immersive experience in community organizing, small business development and gender-based advocacy in the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Mexico. As a native Washingtonian, he is a proud graduate from St. John’s College High School in Ward 4.
Professional Education Design and Development
Risk Assessment and Management
M.P.A., New York University, focus on health policy and planning
B.A. Marymount Manhattan College, major in psychology
Carole believes in life-long learning and sees education as a powerful instrument for positive change. This belief has led her to faculty and staff appointments at universities on two coasts.
Prior to joining LINK, Carole designed, developed and deployed strategic education for health care professionals in non-profit and for-profit settings including professional associations, academic institutions, health systems, and medical professional liability carriers.
A highlight of her work is “Pain Management in the Crosshairs,” a round table with four pain management physicians addressing concerns with and strategies for treating people in pain.
Just for fun, Carole captained a team of friends and colleagues and completed seven Stairclimbs to the Top of the 75-story US Bank Building to benefit the Ketchum YMCA in downtown Los Angeles.
Managing Director & Chief Strategist
Branding and Storytelling
M.P.A., The George Washington University, with concentration in urban sustainability
B.A., The George Washington University, with concentrations in political science and geography
As Managing Director and Chief Strategist for LINK Strategic Partners, Josh guides teams and clients to advance sustainability and social impact. Named "Large PR Firm of the Year" in 2018 by the Public Relations Society of America (National Capital Chapter), LINK champions strategic communications and engagement initiatives across the country that empower individuals to have a voice in the future of their communities.
Prior to joining LINK, Josh worked to build strategic partnerships in various roles at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), most recently leading USGBC’s sponsorship team. Josh also managed the Green Apple partnership and the Community Green program, flagship initiatives of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC.
Josh previously held a joint-faculty staff appointment at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), where he launched the university-wide sustainability initiative and served as UDC’s first instructor of Urban Sustainability. Josh also worked as a green building and sustainability consultant for the Cadmus Group and as a Presidential Administrative Fellow at The George Washington University (GW), where he served as the GW Office of Sustainability's first staff member.
Josh is a member of the board of directors of Climate Ride, a nonprofit established to change lives through sports and drive philanthropic impact for the sustainability movement. Since 2008, Climate Ride has granted more than $5.3 million to climate and active transportation groups around the country.
Josh is the creator of Wilted Green, a Cards Against Humanity-style card game for cynical environmentalists, launched through a successful kickstarter campaign. Learn more at wiltedgreen.com.
As an amateur endurance athlete, Josh has completed more than 6,000 miles of bicycle touring, including a 4,300-mile solo and self-supported trek from Washington, DC to Portland, OR. Josh has also completed ultramarathons at the 50-kilometer, 50-mile, and 100-mile distance.
Gabriel (Gabo) Lemos
B.A., Guilford College, with concentration in printmaking with a focus in etching
Gabriel (Gabo) Lemos specializes in graphic communication and visual conceptualization. As senior designer and creative strategist at LINK Strategic Partners, he works closely with clients and project teams to craft creative visual solutions for a variety of communications challenges. With a keen eye for aesthetics and an ability to make unique connections, Gabo molds ideas and messages into clean, engaging and innovative designs.
Gabo leads development of design materials for many LINK clients. Recent projects include revamping the award-winning Sustainable DC design for the DC Department of the Environment, and developing major reports for DC Department of Motor Vehicles and the DC Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Gabo couples creativity with practicality to achieve effective results that resonate with clients' target audiences.
Gabo brings experience with an array of media to his graphic design work. His background in Studio Art, including printmaking and urban art, has molded his look and process, and he works diligently to remain up-to-date with the latest trends across the field to ensure his work is always fresh and innovative.
H.D. Woodson High School
George Mason University, concentration in information technology
Tray McGhaney is a senior at George Mason University and joins LINK as an associate for the fifth year in a row. Previously, Tray also served as an Urban Alliance intern during his senior year in high school. Tray is a very determined and goal-oriented individual. He is pursuing a degree in Information Technology with concentrations in Web Development and Multimedia.
Tray is very proud to be one of the first in his family to graduate from college. His desire to be a first-generation college graduate motivates him to never lose sight of finishing his degree and making his family proud. By obtaining his degree, he plans to not only use his learned skills in the workforce, but to also work on freelance projects helping those with web development and multimedia needs.
Besides his academic studies, Tray’s other passion is martial arts. He has spent approximately eight years practicing martial arts, and is currently a second-degree black belt in Isshinryu Karate, along with studying other styles such as Kung Fu, mixed martial arts, and jiu-jitsu. He has participated in several tournaments over the years, and he’s spent a lot of time teaching both children and adults in his community not only how to defend themselves, but to gain a sense of self-control and to prepare them both physically and mentally to meet their daily challenges in healthy ways.
At LINK, Tray assists project teams with research needs, project management, video editing and website support, and staffing meetings throughout the District. His experiences working with the team and attending events throughout the city have given him a first-hand look at many of the most important issues and challenges facing our home. Tray’s work has included contributions to the Citi Open Tennis Tournament, College Success Foundation, SXSW Conference, LINK’s communications work with Urban Alliance, and others.
Senior Project Manager
B.A., Wake Forest University, with concentrations in Sociology and French studies
An experienced community relations professional, Molly Mitzner is passionate about connecting people, businesses, and government within the communities where they live and work. Molly’s expertise includes community outreach strategy and coordination, community meeting design and implementation, and event activation and logistics.
At LINK, Molly specializes in community initiatives related to construction, design, and development projects, working with her clients to engage with their stakeholders. Molly has led projects with Montgomery College, Spin, Independent Sector, and local government agencies. She spearheads LINK’s pro bono engagements and manages internal volunteer initiatives.
Prior to joining LINK, Molly was the community affairs specialist for CSX Transportation in Washington, DC. In this role, she created and implemented public relations strategies for a local infrastructure project, acting as a liaison between the community members and the project team. Molly also coordinated charitable giving strategies, budgeting, and the execution of company and foundation philanthropic donations, and led employee engagement initiatives, including company-wide service days and employee volunteerism programs.
Previously, Molly was an Americorps Member with City Year Washington, DC serving as a tutor and mentor in a first grade classroom at Kimball Elementary School in the Fort Dupont community of Ward 7. She currently serves as an auxiliary board member with After School All-Stars in Washington, DC.
Molly graduated from Wake Forest University magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in Sociology and French Studies, with a minor in Mathematics. A DC resident, Molly is originally from Towson, MD, and currently resides in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
URBAN ALLIANCE INTERN
Fatia Olagunju joins LINK through the Urban Alliance program. Fatia recently graduated from Cesar Chavez Parkside High School, where she was in the top 10% of her class. As an ambassador for National Honor Society for High School Scholars, she has had many opportunities to participate in a variety of internships. In the fall of 2020, she will be attending the University of Maryland: Eastern Shore, where she plans to major in Political Science and Gender Studies and with a minor in Psychology. Her hobbies include writing, reading, and watching Law and Order SVU. Fatia also has her own business called Tia’s Beauty Supplies, which she will continue to pursue through and after college.
Richard Palma is an advocate for marginalized individuals. As a native Washingtonian, Richard himself has experienced both the benefits and repercussions of living in such a rapidly changing city, and has recently spoken publicly on issues such as income inequality, wealth distribution, gentrification, and environmental erosion.
He began his advocacy work at the age of 15 when working to establish the first sexual health and awareness campaign in DC public schools through Mary’s Center. Since then, he has worked in environmental advocacy with the Rock Creek Conservancy, working to preserve the Rock Creek watershed and leading several social outreach events to clean up detrimental areas of the park and spread awareness about environmental erosion. As an ally to civil rights and liberties, Richard has worked with the American Civil Liberties Union on several campaigns to preserve freedom of speech, gun rights, detainee rights, and other constitutional liberties.
He’s also taken a course in Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Museum and has advocated for spreading awareness of the atrocities of the Holocaust and preserving the memory of its victims.
In search of new professional opportunities, Richard came to LINK through the Sex Is… campaign with DC Health, where he collaborated with LINK project managers to build the campaign and spread awareness on safe sexual health practices. He is now a part of the LINK team working on a variety of community engagement projects.
He is currently a Political Science major at Montgomery College, and plans to use his experience to bring change to underrepresented communities across the nation.
Vice President, Communications & Events
Media Relations And Strategy
M.A., The Johns Hopkins University, with concentration in communications and public and media relations
B.S., University of North Florida, with concentration in communications and broadcast media
Since the 8th grade, Sheena Pegarido knew she wanted to be a journalist. She's worked in just about all forms of media — she was the anchor and executive producer of her high school’s live daily TV announcements, wrote for her college newspaper, hosted a local public affairs TV show, worked as an editorial assistant at a magazine, interned at a radio news service covering the 2008 presidential election and Capitol Hill, and finally, became a producer and assignment editor for a local TV news station in her hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.
Sheena soon realized that her true passion is in making the news and she parlayed her growing work as a journalist into a career in media relations. In fact, she gets so excited when LINK’s clients make the news in a positive light that she rings the office media gong on her desk!
As LINK’s media director, Sheena leverages her experience in the industry and her academic background to provide both practical structure and creative strategy to LINK’s client projects. For the past four years, she has served as the media director for the Citi Open Tennis Tournament in Washington, DC, placing stories in various media outlets all over the world. She has a deep understanding of the 24-hour news cycle, reporter priorities and needs, and how to get messages across on video, audio, and through the written word.
As project manager, Sheena leads a growing portfolio of LINK projects, from community engagement initiatives for school districts in the Washington area, to various campaigns with different government agencies, associations, and non-profits dedicated to education, health, planning, and sustainability. She firmly believes that open communication and transparency with community stakeholders promotes trust and accountability, which in turn, fosters buy-in and advocacy.
Outside of work, Sheena’s passions include food (both cooking and eating), musical theater, modern calligraphy, and her Jacksonville Jaguars.
Operations & Executive Support Manager
M.T.A., The George Washington University, concentration in sports management
B.A., Colgate University, concentrations in psychology and education
Caroline Potolicchio is thrilled to be a part of the LINK Strategic Partners team as Operations and Executive Support Manager. She holds a Master’s of Tourism Administration degree with concentration in Sports Management from The George Washington University.
Caroline has developed a strong passion for social impact, specifically through her work in the autism community at Colgate University. She served as the creative strategist for the Colgate Women’s Ice Hockey team’s Annual Autism Awareness Weekend, engaging the local community and businesses to support Autism Speaks. Caroline has taken her passion for social impact in sports and her background in tourism and hospitality and applied it to her work, forging a new practice at LINK.
As a co-lead for the Tourism & Hospitality practice area at LINK, Caroline leverages her client services internship experience with Monumental Sports and Entertainment and her communications internship with Riddell Sports and Colgate University to build authentic relationships with LINK’s clients. Some of the clients that Caroline has worked with while at LINK include Team IMPACT, The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), Washington DC’s Citi Open Tennis Tournament, After-School All-Stars, and the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home. Most recently, Caroline served as a project manager and coordinator for DC ProStart, working with DC Public Schools and RAMW to relaunch a nationwide, two-year high school culinary and management program in DCPS. During the past 3 years at LINK, Caroline has paved her way as a key member of the operations team, coordinating logistics firmwide, and ensuring that the President, the Executive Team, and the entire firm have the tools they need to excel each day.
As a native of Bethesda, Maryland and a former Division I ice hockey player at Colgate University, Caroline is an avid fan of the Washington Capitals. In her free time, she is a volunteer ice hockey coach for the Chevy Chase Club.
Research & Writing
Rebecca’s experience in community building stems from her years in leadership at YMCA Camp Huckins, her role at the Georgetown Alumni House, and as a member of Students of Georgetown Inc. These experiences have allowed Rebecca to gain an understanding of how critically important it is to establish and maintain positive community relations. She is thrilled to join the LINK Strategic Partners team as an associate. Rebecca is a current junior at Georgetown University, double majoring in Government and Theology with a concentration in Religion, Politics, and the Common Good. Her belief in the common good drew her to LINK, a place she believes truly works towards this goal for society.
Rebecca’s focus on government and theology stem from her involvement with the Ignatian Solidarity Network. It was this group that lit the fire inside of her to work for social justice. She has focused her studies on criminal justice reform and recently has become very interested in educational reform as well. Her research has spanned topics such as alternative therapy options for prisoners and exploring religious teaching on death penalty practices around the world.
At Georgetown, Rebecca worked at the Alumni House as a student caller before beginning her barista career at the entirely student-run organization The Students of Georgetown Inc. These experiences, paired with her years of experience as a camp counselor and leadership mentor, have instilled in her the importance of strong community relations. Rebecca brings her passion for community building and her determination to fight for the common good to the LINK team.
In her free time Rebecca enjoys spending time outside, crafting espresso drinks, and experimenting with watercolors. Though she lives in New Jersey, any time Rebecca is home she spends as much time as possible in New York City, where she went to high school.
Born and raised in New York City, David Reyna is ecstatic to be joining the LINK Strategic Partners team as an Associate this summer. Over the past six years, David has gathered crucial life lessons and skills from the many places he’s been fortunate enough to work at, including in the service, education, and culinary industries. Previous to LINK, David built a solid customer service foundation, working up the ladder from mere weekend volunteer to shift lead by the end of high school. As a Leasing Associate at Corigin Management, David learned the value of attention-to-detail and cutting-edge thinking in a competitive housing market. David is confident that these skills will position him for success at LINK.
As a Government major, David’s specialization in international politics ensures he understands the value of exceptional public relations, as well as the mutual benefits of fostering genuine client relationships. In the upcoming year, David will take courses related to US politics, in addition to building out his political theory framework.
A proud Coach’s Award-winning wrestler, David appreciates the struggle towards one’s goals and being an inspiration to all he collaborates with. When not in class, David enjoys spending time with his close friends, adjusting to his new role as Anime Club President, and pursuing his Creative Writing Minor, where he hopes to further refine and mature his childhood passion. While creative writing has always been a part of his life, David’s time at Georgetown University has allowed him to push the boundaries and comfortability of fiction over his past two semesters of study. At LINK, David hopes to use this lifelong passion to create highly engaging social media posts, as well as brainstorming creative written solutions for community engagement this summer.
Career Ready Internship
Jean-Pierre Roberts, a hard-working, focused, and determined youth advocate and peer educator, currently attends Woodrow Wilson High School as a rising junior and hopes to study law or business management in the future. Working as the Vice President of 2022 in his school’s student government association and with the Young Women’s Project has cultivated Jean-Pierre’s interests in community outreach and societal unity.
In his free time, Jean-Pierre spends time looking for opportunities to learn. He has invested time into studying criminal behavior at UDC as well as entrepreneurship in the food and beverage industry at Cornell. When he is not spending time studying, he enjoys interacting and playing video games with his friends.
Through LINK, Jean-Pierre hopes to hone and improve on his professional writing skills, communication skills, and gain more efficient ways to reach a broad community and ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
Urban Alliance Intern
Zamiya Sabour is currently a sophomore at Howard University, majoring in International Business with a double concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship. She recently graduated from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, from the Academy of Finance where she took business courses, such as entrepreneurship, financial planning, banking and credit, and accounting. She loves to travel, learn other languages, and immerse herself in different cultures.
During the summer of 2018, she traveled to Indiana University in Bloomington where she completed a two-week business program called Business is Global. Over the course of these two weeks, she was able to learn a lot about businesses and how they function, from finances to marketing, and operations and organization. She also had the opportunity to study Arabic, Chinese, and Turkish. She was even able to create a business plan for a fictional business which correlated with the practical information she learned in the classroom!
While in college, she wishes to volunteer abroad and help grow businesses in other countries. Her future plans also include becoming an entrepreneur, as she wants to manufacture and sell shoes as well as being a TV host for an international television show. She wishes to continue her journey around the world while completing her bucket list and visiting her dream vacation, Aruba.
She enjoys doing community work and has logged more than 300 community service hours. Some examples of her community service include marketing communications for a non-profit organization called BRIDGES DC. She’s helped with Books and Breakfast event support, STEM and entrepreneurship trainings, and helping motivate young Muslim women through empowerment and entrepreneurial activities. When she has free time, she creates designs for her business, connects with international manufacturers around the world to bring the designs to life, and spends time with family. She also loves sports and attending sporting events with family and friends.
Sierra Salser is an advocate for social justice and equity. As a Washington transplant from Texas, Sierra embraces the duality of perspectives between the deep South and East Coast on topics of how representation and inclusion should manifest themselves on platforms of business, government, and public health.
Sierra recently finished her Bachelor of Political Science at Austin College of Sherman, Texas. Along the way, she immersed herself in many different fields, ranging from nonprofit grant writing, public relations, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Her advocacy for equity and inclusion has opened up opportunities to speak about her passion as a TED speaker and has influenced her writing in the published article, “Black Women Entrepreneurs: Experience, Adversity and Advice,” which features the inspiring experiences of local black businesswomen here in DC. Sierra strongly believes that representation matters, and thus, uses her professional opportunities to uplift her ethnic and cultural community in an attempt to increase fair representation of marginalized peoples, especially women of color.
With the hope of building a fulfilling and multifaceted career, Sierra is excited to join LINK and amplify her knowledge and skills in communication and community engagement.
Event Coordination and Promotion
B.A. in Public Relations and Strategic Communications from American University
Sarah Schwartz is a recent American University graduate with interests and experience in strategic planning, strategic communications, event planning, promotion and management, public relations, and social media. Sarah brings to LINK a background in working with multiple different community-based non-profits, technical theatre and audio production, as well as time as a consultant’s personal assistant.
Prior to coming to LINK, Sarah worked as the Director of Social Media and Public Relations at Dupont Underground, where she also learned skills in event coordination and management. After her time with Dupont Underground, Sarah volunteered as a communications assistant to the Executive Director at Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets and worked as a personal assistant to Rob Halligan of Halligan Projects.
Sarah loves all things creative, with a specific interest in live events and live art, as well as community-based non-profit organizations. She also has a soft spot for the Washington National Cathedral, where she worked part-time in the gift shop during her time at American University.
George Washington University
Kelly is a senior at the George Washington University majoring in Political Science with minors in Economics and Classics. She is excited to join the LINK team as an Associate and learn more about applying creative solutions to help non-profits and other organizations further their goals and serve the community.
This past summer Kelly has been able to learn about the non-profit world through an internship with Inter-Faith Works’ Center for New Americans where she worked with the Matching Grant Program. In this position, she assisted in creating a cultural orientation class series for new refugees as well as learned more about the role resettlement agencies play in helping refugees to become self-sufficient.
At GW, Kelly has participated in an Alternative Spring Break to New Orleans where she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Green Project. She also is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and plays basketball on the club team.
Kelly loves to travel and had the opportunity to spend her Junior year abroad at the University of Oxford where she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, learned how to row, and enjoyed traveling throughout parts of Eastern Europe. She also spent the previous summer abroad studying Persian in Tajikistan with a Critical Language Scholarship from the US Department of State.
After graduating, Kelly hopes to spend a year living and working in either the Middle East or Central Asia in order to learn more about either region and have an opportunity to hone her Persian skills. Following this, she plans to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in Area Studies. With this degree she hopes to apply the skills she gains working with LINK in either a position in government or a non-profit organization to tackle political and humanitarian challenges facing the Persian world.
Gender & Sexuality
Jokes & Compassion
M.A., Communication Management, The George Washington University
B.A., Journalism, Shaanxi Normal University, China
Vivien Song is a health communication enthusiast who aspires to promote healthier behaviors and environments, such as adherence to vaccination, protected sexual conduct, domestic non-violence, and freedom of gender expression. She is a master’s candidate at George Washington University. She comes from China and considers intercultural shocks as exciting challenges. Vivien’s academic studies have a special focus on health and sexuality communications. She conducted a pilot survey study of how different graphics influence people’s motivations to get tested for HIV, designed a health communication campaign to persuade people to get vaccinated with HPV vaccines, and is writing her Master’s thesis in Sexual Communication. She also performed Chinese translation for the DC Department of Health on a full scope of projects including addressing the opioid crisis, rodent control, maternal and prenatal health, and COVID-19 in DC.
Her childhood experience of being a survivor of an attempted sexual assault has made her a fighter, which is part of why she cares deeply about how power dynamics play out in a wide range of violent traumas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered to be a curriculum intern at the Leon Foundation of Excellence, where she teamed up with amazing individuals from all over the nation and the globe to design and evaluate curriculums to heal intergenerational traumas of underserved high school students. The cohort met daily through July and August 2020 and generously offered compassion and encouragement to one another. This experience helped her through the pandemic in a new country and made her aware that this can be a feasible mechanism to mitigate traumas. When Vivien is not working or studying, she enjoys online streaming, connecting with her family in China, doing HIIT physical training, reading and thinking about complex social issues while stir frying, and offering help to those in need.
BA from SUNY Albany with a major in communications and minor in business
Andrew Symon is excited to join LINK Strategic Partners as an Associate. After graduating from SUNY Albany in 2018, he moved to Washington, DC to begin a career in communications.
Andrew began his career working as a Communications Intern at Reingold Inc., a leading communications firm in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In this role, he received diverse and valuable industry experience ranging from client management, business development, and internal communications. He earned a reputation for volunteering on different projects and taking the initiative when people needed support.
Following his internship, Andrew worked temporarily as a Business Development Assistant at a globally recognized law firm. This experience improved his project management skills, problem solving skills, and effective interpersonal communication among other specialists in his department.
Andrew received his BA from SUNY Albany with a major in communications and minor in business. His coursework, which included public relations, advertising, Radio & Public Imagination, and interpersonal communication, helped lay the foundation for his interest in pursuing a career in communications. While attending the university, Andrew enjoyed exploring many different activities the city had to offer, which included visiting a nature preserve, going to several concerts, and attending open mic nights at a local coffee shop.
Andrew resides in Washington, DC. In his free time, he makes music, goes to the gym, and discovers new places to eat.
Poet Taylor has over a dozen years of experience as a producer, radio personality, and youth advocate in large and small markets in the Mid-Atlantic region. This experience provides her with the unique ability to connect with community members of all races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations as a community outreach specialist at LINK Strategic Partners. Additionally, her extensive background as a producer and on-air talent is a real asset in developing and leveraging media partnerships for our project engagements.
Poet has led and played pivotal roles for LINK's work with the DC Child and Family Services Agency. She worked directly with CBS Radio in not only assisting with crafting on-air messaging and advertisements, but also as the “voice” of the campaign. Poet also carries out an informal spokesperson role at foster care information sessions for prospective foster parents, where she shares her story about being raised through the foster care system and how impactful her foster mother was on her life.
Poet is a die-hard Baltimore Ravens fan—so much so that even when she moved for a time to Florida she carried her Purple & Black Fridays pride with her. She credits her decision to continue this tradition in Dolphins country as one of the keys to ingredients in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII win.
Ihamna Cubillos Valencia
B.A., Lee University, with concentrations in Spanish Translation and Graphic Design
Ihamna Cubillos Valencia is a bilingual graphic designer and photographer originally from Cali, Colombia, where she spent the first nine years of her life. The one thing she misses most about Colombia is having bakeries at every corner in her neighborhood.
She moved to the United States in 2001 and has been living here ever since. Ihamna graduated from Lee University in 2014 with a BA in Spanish (for the purposes of translation) and Art, with an emphasis in Computer Design. She originally became interested in Design after taking an intro to Photoshop course in college, which led to her developing a great passion for graphic design and photography.
Ihamna brings experience in the areas of graphic design, photography, and translation. Her favorite design style is minimalism and abstract art. She has worked with different types of companies in the past, such as sports teams, non-profits, and small businesses. As a graphic designer at LINK Strategic Partners, Ihamna helps with brand development and visual conceptualization.
Ihamna is a big animal lover, especially elderly dogs and fluffy alpacas. She also loves playing music.
Victoria Wilcher, a new Associate at LINK Strategic Partners, is currently a senior at Lee University and is studying Communications in Advertising. Her interest in communications started in high school when she got accepted into the Communication and Television Production program at C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge, Virginia. It was here that Victoria learned the basics of broadcasting and content creation. She developed a love for video editing and studio production. Since then, she attended college and her love for communications deepened. Diving headfirst into all aspects of communications, such as advertising, event management, and public relations, Victoria discovered that the study of communications is not only about creating content and social media, but also about the meaning and interpretation behind our words and actions that establish real human connections.
Victoria is very involved in and around her campus community. She has participated in over 80 hours of community service and enjoys giving back and reaching out in any way she can. She has volunteered at nursing homes, homeless shelters, and free school supply drives for inner city youth. She is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, and in her free time enjoys painting and spending quality time with friends and family.
Although Victoria attends a university in Tennessee, she has lived in parts of Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia throughout her life. She had the opportunity to travel all throughout the east coast with a traveling choral ensemble at her university. Despite visiting so many wonderful places, Victoria continues to find herself identifying the DMV area as her home. She is thrilled to be a part of this team because she now has the opportunity to devote her time and efforts into this community through LINK.