We’re thrilled to announce our 4th Lead LA Cohort!
Co-Founder & Executive Director, LA Election Project
Noah Berkowitz is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the LA Election Project, a grassroots political group. Its mission is to get more people involved in the political process by taking the actions that win elections. In this capacity, he oversees LAEP’s board and its strategy on communications, partnerships, campaigns and recruitment. He is the Chair of the Jewish Federation’s New Leaders Project (NLP). Noah is an alumnus of leadership programs including NLP, the ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute and 30 Years After Public Service fellowship. In his free time, he is an ice cream connoisseur, a devoted guitar player, and an amateur photographer. Noah holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Administration from USC. As a member of the Coro cohort, he is excited to continue his leadership journey and learn from the diversity of experience and perspective within the cohort.
Director of Finance, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
Chris M.I. Dacanay is the Director of Finance at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Chris assists the CFAO with direction and leadership to LAHSA, currently overseeing the Authority’s ~$800M budget and the divisions of Budget and Financial Planning and Accounting, and Finance and Grants Management. Chris was previously asked to serve as Acting CFAO after only being at LAHSA for 6 months. Prior to joining LAHSA, Chris served as the Chief Business Officer for the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) and for one year as the Executive Director of Fiscal Services and two years as the IUSD Fiscal Director. She also spent two years as Senior Controller at Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Chris earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor’s degree in Analytical Methods and Research from the University of California, Irvine. Chris has dedicated her career to public service and joined Coro Lead LA to enhance networks to improve homelessness in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.
Vice President of Family Engagement, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Dr. Wendolly Escobar serves as the Vice President of Family Engagement at the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. With over a decade of experience in the education non-profit sector, Wendolly believes that creating spaces for families to grow in power is a key to catalyzing student success. As a VP, Wendolly oversees the work of building the capacity of staff to engage and empower families across the Partnership’s network of 19 schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Wendolly recently graduated as a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, publishing a dissertation that explored the way that public-private partnerships can be used to fund family engagement in publicly funded educational programs. Wendolly joined Coro Lead LA to further develop the knowledge and skills that will help her effect change in Los Angeles, now and for generations to come.
Assistant Director, UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy; Founder/Principal, Bridges Intergroup Relations Consulting
Maia Ferdman is the founder and principal of Bridges Intergroup Relations Consulting, which supports organizations and communities to build vibrant spaces of belonging – spaces where we celebrate our complex identities, explore our differences productively, and build resilient relationships between groups. Through this work Maia has developed numerous interfaith programs, trained government and nonprofit groups in cultural competency, and facilitated conversations across differences about policing, homelessness, Israel-Palestine, and more. Maia is also the Assistant Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, a center dedicated to elevating the role of historical analysis in policymaking. She supports the center’s research and programming and produces the bi-weekly podcast Then & Now. She received her B.A. in Global Studies and M.A. in Latin American Studies from UCLA. Maia is thrilled to explore new approaches to LA’s greatest challenges and opportunities alongside a diverse and dedicated cohort of multi-sector leaders.
Community Engagement Director, HIAS, Western Region
Joe Goldman is the Community Engagement Director for the Western Region at HIAS, the world’s oldest – and only Jewish – international humanitarian agency serving refugees and asylum seekers of all backgrounds. Before joining HIAS, Joe worked at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, where he advocated to expand access to the social safety net for vulnerable communities nationwide. He spent seven years in the heart of the Bay Area’s tumultuous local political scene, managing civic engagement at a local nonprofit agency, a public affairs firm, and on a supervisorial campaign. Joe holds a BA in Political Communication and Master’s of Political Management from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He joined Coro to deepen his understanding of the challenges and solutions facing his beloved native Los Angeles.
Director of Access & Engagement, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
Brittnee Hill is the Director of Access and Engagement with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) – a joint powers authority and the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County. Brittnee has 10 years’ experience implementing, leading, and evaluating interventions that address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles County ranging from supportive services to Permanent Supportive Housing, and Outreach. As LAHSA’s Director of Access & Engagement, she oversees the planning and implementation of City and County Homeless Initiative Strategies. Throughout her professional career, Brittnee has lent herself to initiatives that serve underrepresented communities and has volunteered with local nonprofits committed to equity, changing systems, and reducing poverty. Brittnee holds a Bachelor of Art in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside, and a Master of Arts in Public Health from California State University, Long Beach. Originally from Northern California, Brittnee has made Los Angeles her home and is committed to solving one of Los Angeles’ biggest issues and being a voice for the underserved.
Director of Operations, Chrysalis, Works
As a Director of Operations at Chrysalis, Kendra Jones is responsible for overseeing the division of their employment social enterprise offering transitional jobs in street maintenance. This program is contracted to provide supplemental trash removal and litter abatement with Business Improvement Districts throughout Los Angeles County. First joining the Chrysalis team in 2017 as an Employment Specialist, she has had the opportunity to serve clients in a variety of capacities. In this current role, she works to apply her knowledge of supportive services and programming to the operational demands of Chrysalis Works. Previously, Kendra held a career in retail management while also volunteering her time with organizations focused on supportive services in housing and employment. Kendra continues to follow her passion in serving the community – with hopes of learning new strategies that address key barriers to success for under-served populations through participation in the Coro Lead LA program.
West Valley Area Representative, City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office
Vahid Khorsand is a proud resident of the San Fernando Valley, where he has lived since the age of four when his family arrived from Iran. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine, and for fourteen years, he worked with his brother as a partner of a boutique investment research firm based in Woodland Hills that garnered number one performance ratings on multiple occasions. He’s been a board member of several San Fernando Valley nonprofits since 2008 and is the founding chair of the Inspirational Women of the San Fernando Valley sponsored by the United Chambers of Commerce. He has also been recognized by the San Fernando Valley Business Journal as a 40 under 40, and named to the Valley 200 since 2017. He was an appointed member of the Los Angeles Citywide Planning Commission from September 2017 to December 2020. When not working or volunteering, Vahid is an avid reader and exercise enthusiast. He’s also known, to the amusement but mostly annoyance of friends and family, to sing and quote songs that have a remote association with current events.
Pacific Southwest Manager / Strategic Partnerships & Events Manager, OneTable
Dani Kohanzadeh works on the Field and Partnerships teams at OneTable, a national non-profit with the mission of helping young adults build authentic community around the Shabbat dinner table. She founded OneTable’s Los Angeles hub in 2017 and has since worked at the cross-section of community growth, strategic brand partnerships, development, and education at OneTable, as the Pacific Southwest Field Manager and Strategic Partnerships & Events Manager. After graduating from the dual-degree program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2016, with a B.A. in Philosophy, a B.A. Jewish Ethics and a Concentration in Gender Studies, Dani returned home to Los Angeles to spend time with loved ones, stage at restaurants around the city, study architecture, and design, teach kids’ cooking classes and spend her summers on leadership at her childhood sleep-away summer camp. Dani is excited to participate in Lead LA to dive deeper into her role as a community leader who helps cultivate a sense of empowerment, personal authenticity, and belonging amongst its members. She’s excited to see how these skills carry her into the next step in her career.
Senior Regional Program Coordinator, City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office
Elizabeth Lopez is a Senior Regional Program Coordinator at the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD). Elizabeth designs and advances youth justice, youth development, and community violence reduction efforts within the City of Los Angeles. Most recently, Elizabeth led the development and launch of the City’s first youth diversion program in partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and community-based organizations, as well as the implementation of the City’s only juvenile reentry program in partnership with LA County Probation. Elizabeth has successfully collaborated with and maintained partnerships with contracted CBOs, law enforcement agencies, research and evaluation partners, as well as community stakeholders, to advance equitable youth justice policies. A first-generation college graduate of Scripps College and the University of Southern California, Elizabeth is a daughter of Mexican immigrants. While developing and creating connections between youth, families, communities with public and private partners, Elizabeth strives to raise capital in the communities she supports, ensuring healthy and safe environments in which youth, adults, and families can thrive. Through this program, she hopes to connect with leaders to address innovative and inclusive approaches to challenge what steers young people to become system involved in order to develop solutions to uplift all communities.
Government Affairs Principal; COMPSTAT for Justice Program, Center for Policing Equity
Marcus McKinney joined the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) in December of 2019 and brought with him his reputation as a valiant fighter for social justice and almost two decades of experience leading on critical issues in government, non-profit, and union organizations. McKinney is the Government Affairs Principal for the COMPSTAT for Justice (C4J) program, which was developed in 2020 to reimagine public safety by guiding law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve to collaboratively improve equity in policing. Prior to CPE, McKinney worked in the California State Legislature as lead consultant on public safety budget issues for two Assembly Speakers and then for the Assembly Budget Chair. He also worked for grassroots, faith-based, and social justice organizations that have played an instrumental role in the passage of landmark legislation to curb racial profiling (AB 953 RIPA by Weber) and implement fair chance hiring practices (AB 1008 McCarty). He is a full-time, single dad to his 5-year-old daughter, and a self-proclaimed fantasy football guru.
Field Deputy, City of Los Angeles, Councilmember Buscaino (CD15)
As a Field Deputy, Caitlin serves the diverse communities of Harbor City and Harbor Gateway by acting as a liaison between the communities, the Council office, and the various City departments to meet the needs of the community. Her day-to-day tasks include constituent services, overseeing projects and community improvements, and attending community meetings on behalf of Councilman Buscaino. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Communications. Caitlin enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her daughter. Caitlin hopes to gain from this program and apply it to her current role, and any future roles she steps into. This program will give her the professional experience of a lifetime, and will only make her a better employee and person.
Executive Director, Multicultural Learning Center
Gayle Nadler is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Multicultural Learning Center (MLC), a dual-immersion K-8 public charter school providing a global education program to a diverse community of learners in English and Spanish since 2001. For 20 years Gayle has led MLC in a variety of capacities including program development, fiscal and legal oversight, community partnerships, stakeholder engagement, and organizational culture. Under Gayle’s leadership, MLC received the 2018 Education for a Global Economy Award from the California Department of Education – a distinction that aligns with Gayle’s core beliefs in the role public education plays in preparing scholars to significantly impact their communities and the world with their diverse perspectives, multi-lingual abilities, and commitment to social justice. Gayle serves as a leader in the Los Angeles Charter School Community, serving on various boards and committees in support of the movement and in service to the students of Los Angeles.
Vice Chair, West LA Community Coalition
Rebecca Pynoos is a civically engaged professional with over ten years of experience in government leadership, nonprofit management, and creative communications. Her interdisciplinary background includes community programming, social work, gerontology, urban planning, arts, and architectural preservation. With a commitment to innovative and impactful programs, policies, and solutions, she aims to foster vibrant, sustainable, and interconnected communities. Rebecca currently serves as Vice Chair for the West Los Angeles Community Coalition. From 2012-2019, she helped lead the inaugural Cultural Heritage Commission for the City of Beverly Hills with terms as Chair and Vice Chair. She will return in 2022 as an Architectural Commissioner. Rebecca is also an enthusiastic member of the Metro Arts Docent Council. Rebecca holds a BA from Brandeis University and an MSW from USC, where she focused on community planning, organizing, and administration, with a particular interest in issues of aging and housing. She is thrilled to connect with other civic-minded members of the Coro’s Lead LA program and work to collaboratively address the region’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
Senior Civil Engineer, City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works-StreetsLA
Sunil Rajpal has over 24 years of leadership and management experience in program, project and grant management, and policy, budget, and resource development. Currently, he is working as the Program Manager at StreetsLA, supervising 41 professional staff, and is responsible for the safe and sustainable delivery of $196M Metro, Local, State, and Federal grant-funded, capital improvement projects. He is also a City of Santa Clarita Member of the Board, for Open Space Preservation District and Financial Accountability & Audit Panel; where he is responsible for overseeing City financial resources and ongoing efforts to acquire, preserve and protect open spaces, trails, and parks. He has a Bachelor’s, Master and professional license in Civil Engineering, Certified in Envision, and California Building Plans Examiner, and was also the President of the Southern California–Institute of Transportation Engineers. He is proficient in seven languages and by participating in the Coro Lead Program, he will join the Coro Leaders in promoting collaborative social changes by helping children with disabilities and senior communities.
Andy Riemer is a Consultant at SidePorch, an organization that develops strategies and partnerships to scale measurable impact and take on humanity’s biggest challenges and opportunities. This work furthers Andy’s career of driving impact through the principles of equity and inclusion with a particular focus on breaking down structures of patriarchy and white supremacy. Andy has worked with non-profits, foundations, and corporations to measure impact, create strategic growth, developmental health, and diversity initiatives. While completing his Ed.M from Harvard, he was an Equity and Inclusion Fellow and founded a mental health start-up. Coro’s Lead LA program will enable Andy to dive deeper into the public sector to drive emergent change. After earning a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown, Andy played professional soccer in Germany. Andy lives with his wife, Sam Bissonnette in northeast Los Angeles where he enjoys hiking and having good coffee.
Operations Supervisor, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
Martin is the Operations Supervisor for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. He guides property owners, businesses, and pop-ups through the permitting process in order to activate public space and private property within the Downtown Santa Monica Property-based Business Assessment District. After joining the City of Santa Monica’s economic recovery task force in 2020, Martin has been overseeing the permitting and distribution of the DTSM tactical parklet kits, which allow businesses to set up outdoor dining in the public right of way. Martin holds a Master of Architecture with an emphasis in Urban Policy from Woodbury University, as well as a Bachelor’s in Studio Arts from Loyola Marymount University. Aside from his academic degrees, Martin is also a LEED Green Associate and a licensed real estate agent. A Santa Monica native, Martin joined Lead LA to engage with local leaders and find solutions to the challenging problems that affect his hometown.
Program Manager, The Phoenix LA
Andy Short grew up just outside Boston and sadly did not inherit the wicked Boston accents of his parents. He has spent his career working on innovative solutions for addiction recovery. Currently, he is the Program Manager of The Phoenix LA – a nonprofit that creates a sober active community free for people in recovery. As a gay man in recovery from addiction Andy understands how personal narrative and mission can combine to create change in relationships and community. This is the defining theme of his work and career. He is a 2019 recipient of Wayside Youth Coalition’s Community Spirit Award and the winner of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s 2019 Excellence Award in the Young Professional category. Andy currently lives in West Hollywood with his coffee maker and bicycles.
Managing Consultant, Guidehouse, State & Local Government Practice
Kristy Throndson is a Managing Consultant at Guidehouse, a global consulting firm providing management, strategy, and technology consulting services to the public and private sectors. As a member of Guidehouse’s State and Local Government Practice, Kristy helps governments design and implement strategies to enhance the quality of life, achieve economic prosperity, and build vibrant communities. Kristy is passionate about inclusive, creative policymaking and has experience working in a broad range of policy areas, including transportation, economic development, housing, and disaster recovery. Kristy holds a BS in International Politics from Georgetown University and acts as a mentor for young women in Los Angeles with the EmpowHer Institute. Through participation in Lead LA, Kristy hopes to better understand the complex challenges facing the Los Angeles region and build the skills and relationships needed to create sustainable change.
Program Consultant, World Health Organization
Valerie Varela is a consultant at the World Health Organization providing support on the development of the Quality Assurance Panels that standardizes publications. Her background is in monitoring, evaluation, and research methodology, and program and grant management. She has held roles within the federal government and with international organizations, including the Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, United Nations, and the Gavi Alliance. She holds a Master of Social Work specializing in Policy and Program Evaluation of Community and Social Systems from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Global & International Studies. Valerie joined Coro Lead LA to refine her leadership skills and as a great way to integrate back into Los Angeles and expand her network after coming back after 14 years.
Ariel Lew Ai Le Whitson
Director of Education and Community, TreePeople
Ariel Lew Ai Le Whitson, Director of Education and Community at TreePeople, leads and manages TreePeople’s environmental education and community organizing departments. The environmental education team engages thousands of teachers and youth across LA County to conduct environmental service-learning projects, and connects youth through hands-on, science-based activities to their local urban forest. The community organizing team supports thousands of community members across LA and Riverside County, with a focus on environmentally and economically stressed communities who have faced historical environmental injustice, in actively participating in initiatives focused on climate change solutions, reforestation, water security, fire resilience, urban soils and planting a healthy urban tree canopy. She has extensive experience in managing programmatic and legislative initiatives, fundraising, and marketing campaigns. Previous to TreePeople she worked with the statewide California Environmental Literacy Initiative at the nonprofit organization Ten Strands. She led the advocacy team at Ten Strands, and within two years managed successful campaigns that resulted in $4,000,000 in state funding for environmental literacy and the passage of CA State Senate Bill 720, a bill that integrated environmental literacy into education code. She also serves on the Board of Literacy for Environmental Justice.