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 the last 10 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 94 years of age and lead our offices in D.C., Phoenix, St. Louis, New York, and Manchester, England. Over 65% of Team LINK identify as women, and nearly 70% are people of color, reflecting LINK’s foundational commitment to be “in and of” the communities we serve. LINK’s mission-driven work includes thousands of hours of pro bono work provided to community partners.
LINK was recently named to Inc. magazine’s exclusive 2021 Best In Business List of “Companies That Have Gone Above & Beyond to Make A Positive Impact in the World” and awarded Mentoring Program of the Year at the prestigious PR News Diversity Awards. LINK was featured on Inc. magazine’s 2019 and 2020 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 a Best Place to Work by the Washington Business Journal, rated a Top Place to Work in PR by PR News, and recognized as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Small Business of the Year. 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, and Chairman of the American Experience Foundation. He also serves on the boards of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, The International Town Gown Association, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), Destination DC, Cultural Tourism DC, and Think Local First DC. Michael serves as a Leadership Council member for Raise DC, a Founding Member of the Washington Business Journal Leadership Trust, and as a member of the Community Council for WAMU 88.5 FM (Washington’s NPR station) and the Dean’s Council at George Washington University School of Business. 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 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 recently launched the LINK Changemakers Series, which features global changemakers for deep and action-oriented discussions on the issues of the day. These virtual panels regularly attract thousands of views from around the world.
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 naming “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. In 2019, Michael was selected by the Washington DC Economic Partnership to serve as a WeDC Ambassador to represent the city at professional conferences nationally. Most recently, in 2021 Michael was deeply honored to be presented with the Ally Award at the PR News Diversity Awards.
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 3-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.
Ernest Boykin, III
Criminal Justice Reform
Howard University, School of Communications with Concentration in Journalism
Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business with Concentrations in Business and Entrepreneurship
Ernest is a Washingtonian and proud Associate on the LINK Strategic Partners team. LINK’s dedication to social impact projects drew Ernest to join the team with the support of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business’ Pivot Program. Before studying at Georgetown, Ernest majored in communications and journalism at Howard University.
His early career passion was to be an entrepreneur and that led him to create a personal assistant and concierge business, which focused on providing time saving solutions for busy professionals in the DC Metropolitan Area. Recently, Ernest was recognized as a community leader due to his continued social and criminal justice reform advocacy work. Currently focusing on the technology gap in overlooked communities, sentencing reform, and reducing recidivism, he is proud to bring his expertise to LINK in order to help make positive changes to his beloved city. In addition to working with youth in order to deter them from violence and incarceration, Ernest is a motivational speaker on the subject of resilience and overcoming lifechanging obstacles. Ernest is also an author, having written articles for the Washington Informer, as well as FAMM and Medium. His work has also been featured on several online news sites and a variety of blogs. When he isn’t spending time as a devoted father, he is an avid golfer, serial entrepreneur, and fan of all Washington DC sports.
B.S. Business Administration
Harry Bridgers is a recent graduate of Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA. He majored in business administration at the Sigmund Weis School of Business, along with competing on the football team as a defensive back. His combined experience in education and communications has driven his interests and passions towards public affairs and project management.
During his years in college, he gained communications and messaging experience through social media content creation and messaging for the student government association. His other communications skills include cloud hosting, website creation and management, press release writing, and story pitching.
Harry is a native Washingtonian. Growing up and spending his adolescent years in Ward 7 influenced his network of engaging with various youth football organizations and non-profit groups that help the community positively impact residents’ lives and promote unity within areas east of the Anacostia River. Before joining LINK, he worked with the Friendship Public Charter School Office of Extended Learning designing and implementing activities for meaningful parent involvement in student learning and assisting with reporting data through the use of district information technology systems. He is beyond grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the amazing and passionate team at LINK in making a positive social impact for underserved communities.
In his free time, Harry likes to weightlift, coaches little league football, and trades in the stock market. He has a passion for technology, retail clothing, and software start-ups as he embodies the entrepreneurial essence of figures like Steve Jobs and Kanye West.
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.
B.A in Marketing and Information Systems at The University of Maryland, College Park campus
Robert Burke is extremely excited to join the LINK team as an Associate. He recently graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park campus, majoring in Marketing and Information Systems.
Robert has always had a strong desire to help those in need, especially children, get access to educational services. Through his experience as an Eagle Scout, he created his own school supply drive for elementary school students in Washington DC. Working alongside A Wider Circle, this was the first time he created and managed a successful charitable event, whetting his appetite to lead more such events.
Robert also is passionate about equity and equality for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities within the United States. He further cultivated that passion through his work with the Nonprofit Village as a Digital Marketing Consultant. Robert worked with many nonprofit organizations, as well as helped a group called the Montgomery County Black Collective (MCBC), a group pushing for equity and equal rights within his community. Robert designed and maintained a website for MCBC and implemented a lasting marketing strategy for the Nonprofit Village. Before this position, Robert worked at EJournalPress, a small peer review software company, as a project manager. At EJournalPress he further developed his information systems knowledge and general business writing skills. Robert hopes to take his information systems skills and passion for social work and marry the two together in his future work!
However, Robert is not all serious! His hobbies include playing video games, watching movies, attending music concerts, skiing, and trying new foods!
Research & Writing
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with concentrations in public relations and social and economic justice.
Kennedy Chester is a recent graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in journalism, with a concentration in public relations, through the Hussman School of Journalism and Media and a minor in social and economic justice. Her combined passion for both communications and social advocacy is what drew her to LINK originally.
During her years studying in Chapel Hill, she became invested in community work in the Triangle area. She served as a Helping Youth by Proving Enrichment (HYPE) tutor mentoring children at underserved community centers in the city and worked as a public relations intern for a nonprofit in Durham, NC named Rebound, Alternatives for Youth. Through these experiences, she gained skills in community engagement, research, content creation, and strategic communications. She learned that many community-based challenges can be remedied through successful communications practices, and today Kennedy is committed to applying her experiences to make tangible changes in her community.
Prior to joining LINK, she worked with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team on a campaign for her senior capstone, and as a freelance contractor for small businesses. She is excited to contribute to the amazing and passionate team at LINK Strategic Partners in making social impact for underserved communities.
In her free time, Kennedy likes to cook, read, hang out with her cat, play video games, and spend time outside. She's a small-town North Carolina native who loves her Southern roots, and even though she plans on moving to DC soon, she'll always be a southerner at heart!
Dexter L. Coburn II
URBAN ALLIANCE INTERN
Dexter L Coburn ll is a high school senior at Washington Leadership Academy, where he is a proud member of the National Honors Society.
Dexter previously worked as a graphic designer for Black Data Process Associates in DC. Dexter coded websites for HTML, edited stop-motion clips in multimedia, trained in script acting and memorization, and provided assistance with video recording. At LINK, Dexter will continue to refine and build out his graphic design, coding, and multimedia skills.
His hobbies include chess, reading, and acting, and his goal is to become a professional actor in films. For 15 years, he has been performing in plays including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Black History Play, Fences, and 21 Chump Street. Dexter is also an avid chess player, competing in Maryland tournaments and a member of the Maryland Chess Association. He is also a chess tutor for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Dexter’s favorite books include Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts and Sula by Toni Morrison.
Dexter is also an avid traveler, as he grew up in a military family. He was born in Fort Walton Beach, FL and also had the chance to live in Japan for 4 years, as well as Hawaii.
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.
Senior Project Manager
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.F.A, Howard University with a concentration in Graphic Design
Madison Greene is a senior graphic major perfecting her craft at Howard University. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, she was a late bloomer in the world of design but has always had a passion for the arts.
Throughout her journey at Howard, she has been able to work with great institutions, such as The Phillips Collection, where she has been able to realize her true calling for making the fine arts accessible to all communities and uplifting small businesses. She also had the opportunity to work with 4 Housing, a non-profit organization created to help find housing for those who face unfair housing restrictions, where she nurtured her calling with a group of great designers. In the future, Madison wants to use her skills and experience to enrich the schools in her community and others like them about the fine arts. Madison believes every student should know that there are amazing opportunities in the arts and that they can have a successful future in this field.
At LINK, Madison wants to be able to continue fostering her creativity, while also reaching out to other creatives and helping them reach their highest potential. In her spare time, Madison enjoys dabbling in other creative arts, like practicing her skills on the trumpet and fine tuning her pencil drawings.
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.
UK Branch Manager
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.
Writer & Editor
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 graduate from George Mason University and joins LINK as a full-time team member. Tray started at LINK as an Urban Alliance intern during his senior year in high school and worked as an Associate throughout college at LINK. Tray is a very determined and goal-oriented individual. He received his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology with a concentration in Web Development and Multimedia.
Tray brings experience in many different areas of programming and multimedia, helping create several forms of media materials for different projects, along with supporting web development projects. His recent projects include creating a commercial video for the DC Department of Health’s Sex Is … campaign’s podcast series, and creating advertising videos for the trails of Rock Creek Conservancy.
Tray is very proud to be one of the first in his family to graduate from college. He is excited to apply what he learned in the classroom to his projects at LINK, while also working on freelance web and multimedia projects. Besides his academic passions, 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 has spent ample 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 both physically and mentally to meet their daily challenges in healthy ways.
Director of Community Engagement
Strategic Planning and Communications
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.
Naila Parker Sanchez
B.F.A., Towson University Art & Design with a concentration in Graphic Design
B.S. Mass Communications with a concentration in Advertising
Naila Parker Sanchez is a current senior at Towson University studying Art & Design with a concentration in Graphic Design and Mass Communications with a concentration in Advertising. Her passion for culture, design, and social impact allows her to bring energy and creativity to LINK Strategic Partners. Naila believes that design is the liaison between language and visuals. Through many years of experience as an artist and a student, her skills allow her to add value and quality to her work.
In 2019 Naila studied abroad in Costa Rica where she cultivated a passion for all things humanity and art. While in Costa Rica she painted murals with a team of students where her mural design was selected out of many. Throughout her experience studying abroad she gained a greater understanding of the world and a deeper connection to her communities. Naila is bi-lingual in English and Spanish and has also traveled to Mexico and Peru. Throughout her travel she has developed a wide variety of skills in communication and team work.
At Towson University, Naila was part of LKT, a co-ed film study fraternity, where she learned the ropes of creating films, working with studio lighting and teamwork. She has also freelanced with artists and businesses in DC, Baltimore, and New York, learning client communications and branding. Her skills and expertise allow her to face the challenges at LINK Strategic Partners by providing a unique approach to solutions, all while incorporating energy, passion, and cultural awareness.
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.
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.
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.
M.B.A, Liberty University
M.A. Management and Leadership, Liberty University
Josh Schlotterbeck comes to LINK Strategic Partners with a decade of experience in Program Management, Product Design, and Creative Services Management. As a US Army Veteran and recipient of an M.B.A. from Liberty University, Josh is passionate about discovering the nexus between customer needs, solution capabilities, and the emotional pain points that drive innovation. He loves to immerse himself in solution design to craft compelling stories, thought-provoking campaigns, and one-on-one conversations to redefine what is possible.
Josh began his life in community engagement as a volunteer Youth Pastor in Columbus, GA while serving in the military. Creating safer and more engaging communities through authentic relationships has been a cornerstone of Josh’s personal and professional development. Serving in various capacities, Josh’s volunteer services include non-profit leadership.
Josh is an avid outdoorsman who is pursuing his bucket list with vigor. Hiking more than 50 miles over a seven-day period in Colorado, he conquered two 14,000 peaks (only 56 14’ers to go!). He enjoys sharing hobbies with his five children and considers his greatest role in life to be fatherhood.
Criminal Justice Reform
George Mason University, with concentrations in Criminology and Intelligence Studies
Jack Steuble is currently enrolled at George Mason University as a Criminology major with a minor in Intelligence Studies. His passion for judicial reform, juvenile delinquency, and general interest in social impact translates well into LINK’s community-driven approach.
A NOVA native, his extensive background in Boy Scouts began his lifelong involvement in community service and outreach programs, whether it be through food drives or trail improvements. These years of service eventually culminated in becoming an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow. His passion for giving back to the community extended into his high school life as a member of the National Honor Society. Through these experiences, he developed a wide variety of skills in communication, leadership, project management, organization, and planning.
In addition to scouting, Jack has a lengthy background in fencing, both as a competitor and a coach. Qualifying for and competing in the men’s epee category of the Junior Olympics twice, his passion for the sport drove him to begin instructing it beginning from the age of 14 through summer camps and after-school programs. Years of teaching both youths and adults have furthered honed his communication and leadership skills and working from a young age has been a significant factor in his healthy work ethic. He is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be part of something more significant at LINK and work towards creating a community that everyone involved can be proud of.
In his free time, Jack enjoys going to the gym, cinema, and television, spending time with his cat, and hiking. He’s also passionate about sneakers, thrift shopping, video games, and animal and environmental conservation.
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.
Natalia Vargas Calancha
Fine Arts A.A -Northern Virginia Community College-Annandale
Natalia Vargas Calancha is a visual artist, focused primarily on photography and videography. Natalia has recently obtained her Associates in Fine Arts from Northern Virginia Community College. Through LINK, Natalia hopes to be more involved in the community she grew up in, and give back. She is excited to learn more about DC and learn about the many communities the city proudly serves.
Natalia was first exposed to photography when she took an introductory class in high school, and it was there that she realized how art, especially photography, could help someone express their oldest memories and most complicated feelings. Her style ranges from active, complex imagery, incorporating double exposures and dynamism, to authentic documentary-style shots. Her main goal is to authentically capture an environment and the people within it. She has utilized her craft to promote and create content for local punk bands in the Northern Virginia Area. Natalia’s artistic influence is inspired by the music she listens to and by the diversity and exciting environment of the city. As well as photography, she has expanded her skill set in the last three years by joining her church’s production team and training with the LIVE videographers. Volunteering with Fairfax Church’s production team helped her acquire new skills in videography and familiarized her with video equipment.
Natalia immigrated to the Northern Virginia area from Bolivia in 2001. She is still connected with her culture, and loves to combine her cultural roots with the American culture that her family has adopted since arriving to the country. When Natalia has free time you’ll find her sparring at the local Krav Maga gym, trying out a new coffee shop or Boba tea shop, and playing with her pup, Otis. She also loves listening to music and is constantly varying her exposure to new sounds, from reggeaton singles to the latest alternative rock EP.