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 7 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 team of professionals ranges from 17 to 91 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 recently 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 and 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.
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 presents regularly at several major national and international conferences and this year will be leading a panel session with experts at SXSW EDU 2020 entitled “Equity: (Must Be) More than a Buzzword.”
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.
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 1-year-old son in Washington, DC.
Chief Operating Officer and 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.
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.
Miami University in Oxford, Ohio
Julian Flores has worked in numerous fields developing skills in human relations, complex problem solving, and public relations. Julian has volunteered with local organizations like S.H.A.R.E., St. Anne’s Infant and Maternity Home, and National Children’s Hospital.
Julian participated in indoor lacrosse during summer 2016 and played with Team USA for the U-19 Team in the 2016 World Championships for indoor lacrosse. Julian began his college career at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio this past fall. During his freshman year, he participated in the Men’s Club Lacrosse Team and the Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity.
His fraternity raised money for cancer foundations through numerous events during the year, including an increasingly successful event named Drop the Puck on Cancer. This coming fall, Julian will begin his major studies in Political Science and Communications. During his senior year in high school, Julian led the school community religiously and socially as student body president and as a peer minister. Julian also played four years of varsity lacrosse.
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 and 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.
University of Rochester
Jamal Holtz, born and raised in Ward 8 of Washington, DC, attended high school at Friendship Collegiate Academy. Jamal is currently a POSSE scholar at the University of Rochester where he serves as the Vice President for the Student Government Association.
Jamal has a passion for serving his community. When he was 16, he joined the Marion Barry Youth Leadership Institute where he served as the DC Youth City Administrator, and was one of the youth who fought to have the age limits on the Summer Youth Employment Program expanded and to obtain transit subsidies for youth commuting to and from work.
His prior work experience includes working in the Mayor's Office of Community Relations & Services, serving as Community Outreach Assistant and Intern Coordinator. 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 being out, potholes, unemployment, community needs, and many others. Jamal attended community meetings, coordinated summer interns, and staffed events—ensuring the mayor was well-equipped with information and resources at events. Additional work experience includes work on numerous political campaigns as a Field Director, Campaign Manager, and a stint as Program Assistant at the DC Department of Employment Services.
Jamal serves on the Mayor's Board of Commission on Juvenile Justice, and currently works for LINK Strategic Partners as an Associate, gaining skills in strategic communications and stakeholder engagement.
United States Air Force
Phelps ACE High School (NE Washington, DC)
Chauncey Johnson began his career at LINK Strategic Partners as an Urban Alliance intern with positivity, charisma, and the thirst for knowledge. As a native Washingtonian, Chauncey has engaged with a fast-paced working environment since the age of 13, beginning as a Youth Leader at the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute, where he found the passion to serve his community in a radical way.
Chauncey graduated from Phelps Senior High School and currently attends Alabama State University as a rising junior, studying Communications and Political Science. His extracurricular activities at ASU include Phi Beta Sigma , a community service fraternity that believes in “Culture for Service, Service for Humanity.”
Chauncey plans to utilize the mission of his fraternity during his time with LINK Strategic Partners to serve every client he has the pleasure of working with. This motto also speaks to how he approaches community engagement work. In his spare time, Chauncey enjoys playing chess, conversing with people, and relaxing!
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 and 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 recently finished his sophomore year at George Mason University and has joined the LINK Strategic Partners team as an associate for the third year in a row. Previously, Tray also served as an Urban Alliance intern with LINK during his senior year in high school.
Tray’s determination to be successful helps him achieve set goals and maintain a laser-sharp focus on his main priorities. Tray will continue as a junior at George Mason University, pursuing a degree in information technology with concentrations in web development and multimedia.
At LINK Strategic Partners, Tray assists project teams with research needs, helping to develop client deliverables, 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 the District. Tray’s work has included contributions to the Citi Open Tennis Tournament, College Success Foundation, LINK’s communications work with Urban Alliance, and other clients.
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.
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.
DCPS Career Ready Intern
Bryanna Portillo is excited to join the LINK Strategic Partners team as an American Experience Foundation Intern during Summer 2019! She is eager to gain hands-on experience that will allow her to hone her communication and teamwork skills. She is eager to leverage her time at LINK to attain her professional goals.
A rising Junior at Woodrow Wilson High School, Bryanna is a member of the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (AOHT), where she gains knowledge about all aspects in hospitality and tourism, the importance of customer service, and improves hard and soft skills. She is passionate both about academics and competitive sports; she is looking forward to taking Honors Physics and AP Calculus in the upcoming year and is also a member of her school’s lacrosse team.
Of Bryanna’s many goals, one that she cares deeply about is making positive change within her community. This summer, she plans to organize a small group of friends to clean up a local beach as a means of challenging climate change.
After high school, she wants to travel to New York to attend college and eventually settle there. While she hasn’t yet decided upon a field of study, she anticipates settling on a college major before graduating from high school.
In her free time, you will most likely find Bryanna expressing her creativity or cuddling with her cat and dog, Willy and Winnie.
Operations and 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.
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.
George Washington University
Mason Sell is currently getting his Master’s in Political Management and certificate in Global Public Relations from George Washington University. In the Spring of 2019, he graduated with a Bachelor’s in International Affairs from Kennesaw State University and spent six months at La Universidad de Carlos Tercero in Madrid. Mason is excited to join the LINK team to learn how to effectively implement communications strategies and offer solutions for people who are trying to make a positive change in the world.
While in Georgia, Mason grew professionally from working a wide variety of jobs, from coaching kids’ swimming to aiding two Georgia State Senate committees. His most impactful experience, however, has been in campaigning. Mason has worked on several campaigns, and in 2019, had the privilege of serving as Field Director for a pivotal Georgia State House campaign. He played an integral role developing field and engagement strategies that led to winning the election.
Beyond working, Mason has a multitude of passions and interests. He swam for the Kennesaw State club swim team, is an avid fan of Atlanta sports, has a passion for traveling, and loves to explore new places whenever he can. He’s not afraid of trying new things as he spent a lot of time in Madrid and across Europe trying new foods and drinks, canyoning in Cuenca, and immersing himself in local cultures whenever possible.
Mason is expecting to graduate from George Washington University in Spring 2021, but his current plan is to keep an open mind and to not preemptively shut any doors before they open. Ideally, he wants to work in consulting or in public affairs for a cause that he can support. Beyond that, he’d like to live in Madrid again and wants to travel whenever possible, be it for work or pleasure.
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.
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.
M.P.S., The George Washington University, Political Management with a concentration in global advocacy
B.A., The George Washington University, International Affairs and Women’s Studies
Katie Wynne has experience as a project manager and event organizer in political direct mail consulting, higher education, and local government. She brings her passion for civic engagement and diversity and inclusion to all of her work. New to LINK Strategic Partners, Katie is excited to help bridge the gap between citizens and the institutions that serve them.
Before joining LINK and leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, she managed the creative and quality control processes for 450+ unique design jobs, including political direct mail, voter mobilization canvassing materials, volunteer engagement materials, and policy one-pagers.
Prior to that, as a graduate student recruiter at The George Washington University, she oversaw a multi-media recruitment and enrollment communications plan and also strengthened feeder program relationships by organizing regular recruitment events. As a Presidential Fellow and graduate student, she launched a cross-departmental grassroots engagement grant competition for students and developed branding and communications for a new initiative to increase cross-disciplinary research and programming.
Before moving to Washington D.C., Katie was actively involved with her local board of education as an elected student trustee. As a trustee, she amplified the voice of all students by establishing a student advisory council and making sure every secondary student could vote in the student trustee election.
Originally from northern California, Katie enjoys living in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. When not working or giving treats to her cat, Grits, she loves cooking and reading social justice speculative fiction anthologies.