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
URBAN ALLIANCE INTERN
Blessing Ajayi is excited to join LINK Strategic Partners as their Urban Alliance intern for the 2018-19 school year. As a native Washingtonian, Blessing admires DC’s fast-paced environment. To Blessing, it strikes a perfect balance between being a marvel of a big city and having the quaintness of a small town.
Currently, Blessing attends McKinley Technology High School, and is concentrating on STEM with a focus in Digital Media. Through studying digital media, Blessing has become proficient in the Adobe Creative Cloud and learned the importance of design. She looks forward to implementing these skills during her tenure at LINK.
Blessing loves to travel and hopes to have opportunities to explore this passion in the near future. Blessing aspires to gain acceptance into the Global Citizen year program and travel abroad before attending University. However, she is also looking forward to the growth and maturity resulting from her college experience.
Blessing enjoys reading and spending time with her dog Bella in her free time.
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 is president of LINK Strategic Partners, a national strategic communications and stakeholder engagement consulting firm proudly based in Washington, D.C., with team members in Phoenix, St. Louis, New York, Maine and Paris, France. In 2018, The Public Relations Society of America (National Capital Chapter) named LINK “Large PR Firm of the Year.” 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 has led his team to champion engagement initiatives across the country — all of which have empowered community members with the opportunity to have a voice in their futures. In just seven years, Team LINK has expanded from a small local shop with only a few clients and five employees to a national firm with nearly 300 local, regional, and national clients (including over 60 pro bono clients) served by a world-class team of professionals.
Michael has earned a reputation nationally as a thought leader for his ability to identify and apply the unique blend of community engagement and strategic communications. He is a featured presenter 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, and the National Urban League conference. He is often invited back year after year to lead sessions and facilitate thoughtful dialogue.
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 Destination DC, Cultural Tourism DC, Think Local First DC, and the American Experience Foundation, and serves as co-chair of the American Experience Foundation board, a Leadership Council member for Raise DC, and on the International Advisory Council for Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership.
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.
Mr. Akin received a 2006 GW Award — the 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.
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 beautiful and talented wife Wendi and their 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 writing and editing, digital and social media strategy, strategic communications, research, and stakeholder engagement. With an impeccable eye for detail, she is responsible for writing and editing our client’s deliverables. She also leads LINK’s work to connect our clients with their 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. Molly has led award-winning campaigns on a number of platforms such as Google, YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, she has extensive, prior experience in higher education and fundraising, and has worked as a behind-the-scenes guru on many major events.
Before joining LINK, Molly enjoyed a decade-long tenure at the George Washington University, where she supported the university’s senior leadership through her expertise in communications and project management. During her time at GW, her work was vital in helping to successfully close the university’s $1 billion 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. Additionally, she was responsible for drafting and editing countless speeches, talking points, and memoranda for the university president for events such as panel discussions, conferences, and media interviews.
Molly resides in Maine with her husband and 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.
Natalie Bishop is an Intern Associate for the Spring of 2019. She first heard about LINK after meeting multiple team members by chance in Upstate New York during the summer of 2018. After learning more about LINK in the ensuing months, she became even more passionate about joining the team..
In Spring of 2018, Natalie graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) cum laude with a bachelor of arts in Environmental Studies and Media & Society. She realized her passion for sustainability in high school when she was irked by how many plastic water bottles were being thrown away at school. To mitigate the excessive waste and encourage the use of reusable water bottles, she helped implement water bottle filling stations throughout her campus.
Through her Media & Society major, she hopes to spread greater awareness of sustainability initiatives through marketing efforts. At HWS, Natalie was heavily involved in the sustainability department. First starting as a volunteer, Natalie grew from volunteer Ecological Representative (Eco-Rep) to full-time Ecological Coordinator going into her senior year. She continued this position throughout the year, leading the program of nine paid student leaders and 40+ volunteers on initiatives from informational day-lessons to week-long events.
Prior to joining LINK, Natalie completed a three-month internship in NYC working as a Public Relations Intern at Bullfrog and Baum, a PR and communications firm specializing in the hospitality industry. Among the multitude of responsibilities, attending client events and restaurant openings were some of the vital aspects of her position. At the events, she represented Bullfrog and Baum and her clients by being a liaison between the community members and project team.
When she isn’t working at LINK, you will most likely find Natalie skiing on the slopes or singing at an open mic night. Natalie has been skiing since she was 4 years old and was a captain of the regionally and nationally competitive alpine ski team at HWS. She was also a member of her all-female acapella group in college, Three Miles Lost, with one video focused on social justice going viral and being re-tweeted by Lady Gaga. Family and friends are the most important to Natalie so she is excited to share her new adventures with them as she also makes new friends in DC. A new resident to DC, Natalie currently resides in Columbia Heights and is originally from outside of Boston, MA. She enjoys the paced-paced life of a city and is thrilled to make DC her new home.
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.
Devan Fishburne is a marketing student who never stops looking for opportunities to learn and grow, two things he thinks will serve him well at LINK. Devan has previously had experience working in marketing and public relations in Northern Virginia and is excited to use that experience while serving as an associate at LINK.
Devan is a very involved student. As he is enters his senior year at George Mason University, he serves on five executive boards for student organizations ranging from Mason Student Government to George Mason’s Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Through his organizational leadership on campus, he hopes to not only grow professionally, but make impactful changes within the George Mason community.
Outside of work Devan is an avid tennis fan and player. He can often be found looking at travel blogs as inspiration for his next adventure or trying to find a new show to binge watch over the weekend.
St. John’s College High School
Manhattan College, with concentrations in communications and business management
Molly Flores is very excited to join the LINK Strategic Partners team as a Project Manager, having interned with LINK for the last four years while working to complete her degree. She recently graduated from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Management. Molly is delighted to be full-time member of the LINK team.
During her past experiences at LINK, Molly sharpened her strategic communications and stakeholder engagement skills by working on various projects ranging from community outreach to media relations.
This is her eighth year working at the Citi Open, between her time working for LINK and her previous volunteer experience.
While in school, Molly applied her knowledge of community engagement and media relations when she served as the Vice President of Commuters for Student Government during her senior year. She also improved her social media tactics and analytics when she was Social Media Coordinator for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.). Along with playing Division I lacrosse, Molly believes all these experiences really shaped her leadership, management, and communication skills that she is excited to bring to LINK (along with a big smile).
When she isn’t working at LINK, Molly likes to spend time with family and friends, read, and give back to the community. She has served different organizations in the DC area such as SHARE, Cup of Joe, and St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home. In New York, she volunteered with several organizations with her college, and received the Ms. Jasper award for being recognized as a leader in athletics, in the classroom, and in the community.
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.
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
Sorcha Harrison-Ramirez joins LINK Strategic Partners as the firm’s Urban Alliance intern. She is a senior at E.L. Haynes High School, where she serves as editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper. Sorcha is also a dedicated volunteer who has logged more than 300 community service hours; she truly understands how giving one’s time and energy can carve out a deeply positive impact on the community.
This summer Sorcha interned at the World Bank Group Library, where she gained experience in library science, organization of collections, and various research processes that librarians use.
In the fall of 2018, Sorcha will be a freshman in college, majoring in International Studies, with a minor in Journalism. In the future, she hopes to travel the world helping people in developing countries.
In her free time, Sorcha explores her passion for dance, and was previously a dancer at The Dance Institute of Washington.
Writing and Operations Coordinator
Writing And Editing
M.A., Washington University, concentration in film and media studies
B.A., University of San Francisco, concentration in English
Matt Helfrich specializes in writing and research for streamlined communications and messaging. At LINK Strategic Partners, he serves as writing and research coordinator, collaborating with project teams in the planning, drafting, and revising of all written communications. His writing and research skills are amplified by his experience working in urban education, non-profits, and moving image media. Matt is based in St. Louis, where he is part of our growing Midwest office.
Prior to joining LINK, Matt first worked as an animal advocate at the Humane Society of Missouri. Next, he 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, Johnson College Prep, 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. In addition, he directed multiple student drama productions and coached football and boxing.
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.
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.
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!
Sophomore, Washington University
Josh LaFianza believes the best way to make a difference is by making decisions with people instead of for them—a belief that he transforms into practice here daily at LINK. He is excited to support the LINK team to make a difference in the company and the communities we serve.
Josh prides himself on his ability to understand the needs of the larger community and how to tailor a message to meet these expectations. His background in communications and community outreach has been further developed during his time at Washington University in St. Louis. During his time at Wash U., he has pursued leadership positions on the executive boards of both the International Relations Council and Phi Delta Phi, the pre-law fraternity, and he has honed his abilities to build connections with a variety of individuals and groups. Josh is working to further develop such network building skills through his work here at LINK.
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
Sophomore, 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 digital marketing across a multitude of platforms.
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 co-chair of City Year Alumni Board 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.
Jazmine Newman is very excited to join the LINK Strategic Partners team as an Associate. In December of 2018, she graduated from Towson University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. From a young age, Jazmine had a “take charge” attitude about her. She always took the lead, while still allowing others to contribute and shine.
When she entered high school, she had an itching desire to help others. She would volunteer at local churches or shelters during the holidays. While in high school, Jazmine was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, volleyball, and running track.
During her 2nd year of college, she realized that her passion was really Communication Studies, where she found her niche. She realized that she was much happier as a critical thinker, and wanted to work on making this life passion align with a future career. She wanted to help people achieve their goals and visions in any capacity, and this led her to event planning and coordinating.
In January of 2018, she shadowed an events agency, Linder Global Events, and had the opportunity to see what the myriad everyday tasks are for a successful planning and events firm. During those initial days of shadowing, her passions were affirmed. She knew that she was meant for event planning and coordinating.
During the summer of 2018, she interned with the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment. In the office, she worked with 202Creates, which is a supportive and collaborative agency that helps promote the community of creatives and builds an interdisciplinary community by connecting creative District residents with each other through events and networking activities from all 8 wards.
Her professional interests are community outreach, event coordinating, and media marketing. Outside of work, she loves to eat new and different foods, take walks in nature , and read a good book.
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.
MEDIA DIRECTOR | PROJECT MANAGER
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 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 special assistance to the President. She holds a Master 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. 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, as well as developing creative strategies to drive attendance. She also served as the marketing and promotions intern for the Colgate Athletic Department at large.
Caroline leverages her client services internship experience with Monumental Sports and Entertainment and her communications internship with Riddell Sports to build authentic relationships with LINK’s clients. During her time with Riddell, Caroline compiled comprehensive media reports and facilitated communications with reporters regarding their key product initiatives. Her background in media outreach, client relations, and corporate communications, alongside her administrative skills, help drive forward LINK’s public relations and engagement work across the country.
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.
Urban Alliance Intern
Zamiya Sabour is currently a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School. She recently graduated from the Academy of Finance where she took business courses, such as entrepreneurship, financial planning, banking and credit, and accounting. In the Fall of 2019, she will be a freshman in college, majoring in International Business. She loves to travel, learn other languages, and immerse herself in different cultures.
This past summer 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 to 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!
After 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.
She enjoys doing community work, and has logged more than 200 community service hours. Some examples of her community service include Books and Breakfast event support, STEM and entrepreneurship trainings, and helping motivate young Muslim women through empowerment and entrepreneural activites. When she has free time, she creates designs for the 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.
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
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.
Thomas Van Melkebeek
As the first international associate at LINK, Thomas Van Melkebeek is a proud pioneer. With a great interest in writing, event management, and digital marketing, he finds working with LINK ideal. He is very excited to expand upon his passion for working with nonprofits and with local communities
Because Thomas is born and raised in Belgium, he sees certain projects and marketing techniques from a different perspective, which allows him to contribute LINK with new approaches and ideas. In addition to nurturing his creative side, he has willingness to go above and beyond and takes a hands-on approach to all of his work. Additionally, he values collaboration and takes a personal approach with partners and his teammates.
Thomas knows that networking is key to new opportunities. That is why he worked as a volunteer for several events, such as the Scale-up Forum, which provides an outlet for venture capital partners, CEOs, and innovation managers from Belgium and abroad with the opportunity to strengthen their visibility and accessibility.
In his free time, Thomas is interested in traveling and visiting art expositions and theaters. In addition, he likes to give back to the community by volunteering with organizations serving refugees and working to overcome food insecurity, as well as fundraising events for causes he supports.
Thomas will graduate from UCLL with a bachelor's degree in marketing communication in 2019.
SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES COORDINATOR
Thomas Wheet has a passion for social equity and sustainable design. With a background in policy, place-making, and urban development, Thomas believes that community involvement is paramount to solving the most pressing social challenges.
At the University of Virginia, Thomas explored his interests through his studies in Government and Global Sustainability. As a native Washingtonian, Thomas has witnessed the complexities of urban renewal first-hand. At LINK, Thomas uses his expertise to strategically spark dialogue about sustainable initiatives across the country with the communities they impact.
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.