We’re thrilled to announce our first Lead LA cohort!
Achal Singh Achrol MD
Director, Neurosurgery Clinical Trials Program; Director, Neurovascular Surgery; Chief, Glioma Surgery Program
John Wayne Cancer Institute & Pacific Neuroscience Institute, Providence Health System
Achal Singh Achrol MD is Director of the Neurosurgery Clinical Trials Program at John Wayne Cancer Institute and Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Previously, he was a neurosurgeon-scientist at Stanford University where he specialized in minimally-invasive “keyhole” neurosurgery for brain tumors and vascular malformations. In 2017-2018, he was the leading neurosurgeon worldwide in several international clinical trials, including stem cell transplant for stroke and traumatic brain injury, and intratumoral delivery of bioengineered anti-cancer therapy for brain tumors. He received numerous awards for his research including the prestigious Mahaley Award for best brain tumor research from the Congress of Neurosurgeons and National Brain Tumor Society, and Academy Award for best neuroscience research from the American Academy of Neurosurgery. Achal joins Coro Lead LA to learn more about local mechanisms to support new nonprofit organizations and initiatives focused on accelerating medical innovation and research in our community.
Amy Amsterdam is a community organizer who has worked across the nonprofit, government, tech, and economic development sectors for over 20 years. She created the Los Angeles Mayor’s Council on Innovation and Industry (LAMCII) under Mayor Villaraigosa and founded InnovateLA to promote Los Angeles County’s propulsive technology sector. More recently, Amy co-founded the Western Organizing Workshop to teach the power of story in community organizing. She is currently working at ManifestWorks, an immersive workforce development and job placement organization dedicated to helping those impacted by incarceration, homelessness and the foster care system. She earned her management degree from CalArts, which she credits for giving her the ability to think outside the box to help solve problems. Amy is passionate about helping Los Angeles thrive. She is looking forward to building new skills and relationships in furtherance of that goal.
VP, Outreach & Communications
Better World Group
Ruben Aronin is Vice President of the Better World Group (BWG), a nationally-recognized boutique consulting firm that specializes in coalition building and management, public policy and advocacy and strategic communications. He has more than two decades of experience in creating, managing and executing highly effective policy, strategic communications and marketing initiatives for nonprofit organizations, foundations, government agencies and companies. He manages BWG’s clean transportation campaigns, oversees communications and marketing strategies for BWG’s clients and leads a robust coalition of state business associations to advance clean energy and climate policies. He serves on the Advisory Board of KCET and volunteers as a mentor for the John Adams Middle School Robotics team. He has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Ruben joined Coro Lead LA to develop new strategies and partners to help advance environmental policies and strategies that are instrumental to making the LA region vibrant and sustainable.
Angela Babcock serves as Vice President of Stratiscope, managing the Community Intelligence Officer Program and staff. An Idaho transplant, Angela believes in the small town civic engagement ideals experienced in her youth and applies these values to work she does in the neighborhoods of the city she now calls home. She has worked for two Los Angeles Mayors and two Los Angeles City Council members as a policy advisor, community representative and business development specialist. Through her work, she became a “Queen of Hollywood,” noted for her expertise in getting things done in the community of Tinseltown. Angela serves on the Hollywood Police Activities League and the Hollywood Fringe Festival boards of directors. She is known for her ability to bring people together to move communities and organizations forward. Angela joined Coro Lead LA to further develop these skills and to move LA forward.
Director of Public Partnerships
LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program
Laura Beebe is the Director of Public Partnerships at LA’s BEST, an afterschool enrichment program serving 25,000 elementary school students from neighborhoods with the fewest resources and greatest needs. Laura works with the organization’s public partners – including the Mayor’s Office, City Council and the LAUSD Board and Superintendent – and on advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels. At LA’s BEST and throughout her career, she has worked to promote equity in education and increase opportunities for all children to succeed in school and in life. She is a proud alumna of Pomona College and the Capital Fellows Program, where she served as an Executive Fellow for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. She joined Coro Lead LA to develop leadership skills and collaborate with others to create a better Los Angeles – for current residents and future generations.
Director, Public Programs & Authorizer Relations
KIPP LA Schools
Lynnzi Brianza is the Director of Public Programs and Authorizer Relations at KIPP LA Schools, a nonprofit organization that operates free, open-enrollment, public charter schools focused on preparing students in under-resourced communities in Los Angeles for success in school, college, and life. Lynnzi is the primary contact with local district authorizers and works with them on the charter submission and oversight process. Additionally, her team supports school leadership with meeting federal, state and local programmatic compliance requirements, including the new Local Control and Accountability Plans for CA. Throughout her career in the nonprofit sector, she has held various roles working with students and educational programs ranging from K through higher ed. She is a graduate of Whittier College, and has a Masters of Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach. Lynnzi is interested in the intersection of power and poverty and joined Lead LA to partner with leaders across Los Angeles to eliminate social injustices.
Assistant Dean for Program Relations, Admissions, and Program Services
Pepperdine School of Public Policy
Carson Bruno, a Santa Monica resident, is the Assistant Dean for Admission and Program Relations at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, where he oversees the student life cycle, including recruitment and admissions, student and career services, and alumni relations. Carson also is the School’s ambassador to the greater academic, political, and policy world. As an adjunct lecturer at the School of Public Policy, Carson teaches courses in the State & Local Policy specialization track. Previously, Carson was a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, studying California public policies, and a public finance investment-banking analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities. He is currently a board member for Crete Academy, a LAUSD charter school, serving South Los Angeles students. Carson is excited to use the skills and knowledge gained from Lead LA to help build an economically vibrant Greater Los Angeles for any who want to call this region home.
Director, Organizational Data & Analytics
Citizens of the World Charter Schools
Jonathan Chan is the Director of Organizational Data and Analytics at Citizens of the World Charter Schools, which is an intentionally diverse network of charter schools. He supports school leaders in using data to inform decision-making and to facilitate continuous learning and improvement. Jonathan’s career has focused on strengthening school system leaders ability to create conditions for success to raise student outcomes. Previously, he served as Vice President of Data Strategy at ExED and oversaw the organization’s data management and data reporting services for over 90 charter schools in Southern California. Prior to Los Angeles, Jonathan provided strategic consulting to public school districts at the District Management Council in Boston, MA. He is a graduate of Tufts University. Jonathan believes partnerships between organizations across different sectors are critical in enacting lasting change. Lead LA offers an opportunity to share and build partnerships to help meet the challenges facing Los Angeles.
Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships
Elizabeth Cohen (“Lizzie”) is Associate Director for the Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships, a joint venture between Los Angeles County and philanthropy that works to help partners in both sectors achieve their shared goal of improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Lizzie leads the Center’s transition-age youth and youth diversion work, as well as the Center’s faith-based recruitment efforts, working with partners to identify, build, and advance joint initiatives to better serve youth throughout the County. Lizzie has both private sector and political experience, formerly serving in the Office of Scheduling and Advance for President Barack Obama and working at Facing History and Ourselves, a major educational nonprofit organization. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Bates College. Lizzie is dedicated to issues of social justice and equality, and excited to further study how these issues impact citizens throughout Los Angeles with her Lead LA cohort.
Otha Cole is a program manager at Community Partners where he uses his experience in nonprofit development, program management, and leadership development to provide technical assistance and learning opportunities for emerging nonprofit organizations. His experience in the nonprofit sector includes managing education programs for at-risk youth, fundraising for a housing and homelessness policy organization, and serving on the board of directors for the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. He serves on the steering committee of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy Los Angeles and is an adjunct instructor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College where he teaches community planning and nonprofit management. Otha is interested in land use and asset development for marginalized communities. He received a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University specializing in community development, and a B.A. in political science from University of California, Santa Barbara. Otha enjoys writing, playing guitar, traveling, and sports.
Audrey Handelman is a senior associate at Gensler. She is an experienced architect, designer, and leader on projects ranging from retail to hospitality to performing arts. Her strengths lie in being an inclusive leader, maintaining strong client and colleague relationships, and creating dynamic and relevant designs that are conscious of their impact on many scales – from the end user to the community to the environment. She is a California licensed architect and LEED BD+C accredited. She is passionate about mentorship and community engagement and is currently leading a far-reaching initiative to address LA’s homelessness crisis. She also volunteers her time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster youth. Through Coro, Audrey is excited to advance her contribution and involvement in the LA homeless and foster youth communities.
Samara Hutman is the Director of Remember Us, an organization dedicated to Holocaust memory and the individual dignity of each child who was one of 1.5 million victims. In 2011, Samara co-created, with Los Angeles artists, parents and teachers, the Righteous Conversations Project, an award-winning program that connects Holocaust survivors and teens to create new media on themes and issues of our time. The RC Project, with school, non-profit & faith group partners, explores stories that help to create a path toward compassion and ethical action. Samara studied at NYU Film School and graduated from Barnard College. She has led organizations during key periods of growth, creative expansion and transition including Remember Us & Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Samara joined Coro to continue to develop her skills, grow her capacity as a servant leader and contribute to the work and pressing needs of the day.
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Civic Innovation Lab
Kat Karimi is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Civic Innovation Lab, a multidisciplinary program that brings expert citizens, the design and tech communities, and local government together to design and build technology for the public good. Over the past decade, she has designed and executed open innovation challenges for Fortune 500 companies and local and federal government agencies, managed a portfolio of companies at a venture accelerator for women-led businesses, and advised early-stage startups on strategy, business models, and fundraising. Kat holds a BS from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She joined the Coro Lead LA program to develop new ways to make government more effective and our public lives more just, equitable, and inclusive.
Founder & Owner
Alia Kate is the owner of Kantara, a fair-trade design business that specializes in Moroccan rugs. Since 2008, Alia has worked directly with the same weaving cooperatives in rural Morocco and is committed to fostering economic development of the women artisans through ethical trade. Alia has cultivated a career that revolves around social innovation, international development, and experiential education. Some of her past experience includes managing the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership at CMC, launching the Social Innovation Program at Sequoyah High School, and most recently, working as Director of Advancement at CGU. In each of these capacities, Alia has engaged thought leaders in different sectors throughout LA. By joining Coro, Alia hopes to learn more about the issues that she’s passionate about — community and economic development, voter engagement, urban design — and find opportunities to apply her diverse skills to affect positive change in LA.
Elissa K. Konove
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink)
Elissa K. Konove is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Southern California’s commuter rail operator. Elissa assists the CEO with direction and leadership to Metrolink, currently overseeing the Authority’s Contracts, Procurement and Materials Management, Human Resources and Administrative Services, and Safety and Security departments, and previously overseeing the Finance and Information Technology departments. Prior to joining Metrolink, Elissa served for seven years as the Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and for two years as the FHWA Budget Director. She also spent five years at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she oversaw the formulation and execution of U.S. DOT agency budgets and coordinated surface transportation bill reauthorization and appropriation activities. She serves as a director at large for WTS-LA and advisor to the Mentorship Committee. Elissa earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, Davis. Elissa has dedicated her career to public service and joined Coro Lead LA to enhance networks to improve transportation in Southern California.
Manager, Capacity Building
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)
Alison Korte is the Manager of Capacity Building at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and has undertaken the responsibility of supporting homeless service providers in developing their operational infrastructure through coordinated training and technical assistance. Entering the social services field in Chicago, Illinois, in 2010, Alison has over eight years’ experience as a direct service provider and a public administrator. She has worked with refugees from a variety of countries, including Eritrea, Somalia, Moldova, and Iraq, and has provided housing services to veterans, and other individuals, families, and youth experiencing homelessness. Her civic interest focuses on housing and homelessness. Alison hopes to be challenged on her ideals through the Coro Lead LA program and gain a new perspective on civic issues from the perspective of other industry leaders. Alison has a BS in Anthropology and a Master of Social Work degree, both from Loyola University Chicago.
Founder & Executive Director
David Levitus is the Founder & Executive Director of LA Forward, which activates a rising generation of Angelenos to create a fair, flourishing Los Angeles. Through grassroots organizing, digital mobilization, and civic media, LA Forward connects people with opportunities to team up with groups representing disadvantaged communities in order to change the policies and systems that limit our collective potential. David is particularly engaged with planning/land use issues related to housing affordability, equitable transit-oriented development, street vending, and climate change. He earned his Ph.D. in History at USC focusing on patterns of metropolitan development and political power. He’s on the board of LA Voice Action, previously served on the West LA Neighborhood Council, and was honored to participate in the Ashoka Emerging Social Innovator program. What’s most exciting to him about Coro’s Lead LA is the opportunity to build relationships and learn from people across the nonprofit, business, and government sectors.
Janine Lim is the Account Payables Manager at Community Partners, a nonprofit solutions partners focusing on accelerating ideas into action to advance the public good. Janine oversees payables for over 150 fiscally sponsored projects in the LA area. She previously held the same role at the ECCLA, managing grant funds for USC’s Good Neighbors campaign. She serves on the board of Pieter Performance Space, a nurturing space for all dancing bodies. She co-produces the literary event Drunken Masters for Writ Large Press, connecting emerging and established writers. She received a B.A. in Economics from the University California, Santa Cruz. Janine is a mother, writer, visual artist, dancer, and long-time practitioner of the martial arts. She is a champion of the arts and believes in the transformative power of movement. She joined Lead LA to discover how her unique background can be woven into the fabric of a better Los Angeles.
Director of Programing
The Actors’ Gang Prison Project
Jeremie Loncka is Director of Prison Programing for The Actors’ Gang Theatre. He’s spent the last eight years teaching and developing theatrical techniques intended to unlock human potential and foster selfesteem, empathy, and non-violent expression for system-impacted individuals. Currently he oversees programing in twelve California state prisons, two reentry centers, and one juvenile facility. With his direction, this year the Actors’ Gang will launch California’s first arts based Correctional Officers’ Program. Jeremie has had the privilege of touring plays around the country as a Company Member of The Actors’ Gang. He’s a graduate of Chapman University and a proud Eagle Scout. Jeremie’s excited to use the leadership skills honed through Coro to launch the Actors’ Gang Advocacy Program – building a larger platform for the voices of alumni students who have formerly been systems impacted.
Chief Operating Officer
Corey Matthews is a nonprofit executive with more than a decade of experience designing, evaluating and leading community-based programs in a variety of social policy arenas. He currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Community Coalition – a permanent community-based institution in South Los Angeles – where he participates on the executive team to advance internal leadership development and strategic planning processes. Throughout his professional career, Corey has facilitated initiatives to serve underrepresented communities and has worked in think tanks, local government and nonprofits committed to changing systems and reducing poverty. He holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Urban Education from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. A native of South (Central) Los Angeles, Corey joins Coro Lead LA to deepen his capacity to solve some of society’s most urgent issues.
Interim Executive Director, Designmatters
ArtCenter College of Design
Jennifer May is the Interim Executive Director of Designmatters, the social innovation department at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA, where she oversees a dynamic portfolio of external partnerships, curricular and extracurricular projects and an active slate of special initiatives and publications. Jennifer also serves as an adviser for Transdisciplinary Studios, working directly with department chairs, faculty and partners to create educational experiences for students. Jennifer is the Managing Editor of LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation , an award-winning publication on new practices in social innovation, and Editor of the open-source LEAP Dialogues: The Educator’s Guide . Jennifer earned her B.A. from Emerson College and her M.B.A. from USC Marshall School of Business, where she was a Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab Society and Business Fellow and a Forté Fellow. She joined Coro Lead LA to explore how cross-sector partnerships can create change in Southern California.
Director, Activist Engagement & Development
ACLU of Southern California
Elvia Meza is the Director of Activist Engagement and Development at the ACLU of Southern California, a non-profit organization that works to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for everyone in the United States. Throughout her time at the ACLU she has worked on a range of policy and education campaigns, from making higher education accessible to all students to changing hearts and minds on marriage equality. In her current role, she is leading a team charged with building a base of volunteers who will then take the lead to fight back against attacks on civil rights and liberties. Elvia grew up in South Los Angeles and is a graduate from California State University, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
Carole Neal is a senior member of the Verizon Marketing organization. Her responsibilities include developing the social media, online marketing, and branding strategy for a multi-biillion dollar product portfolio, and working with the Product teams to launch new services. She is actively involved within the community through the Verizon Foundation, and has served as a volunteer in leadership roles with City of Hope, Green Dot Public Schools, UCLA, and Girl Scouts. Carole has an undergraduate degree in Business and French from Hood College in Frederick, MD, an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management, a certificate in Digital Marketing from Cornell University SC Johnson Graduate School of Management, and holds her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Carole is passionate about working with high school and college students, and joined Coro Lead LA to take a more active role in L.A.’s conversation about educational access and equity.
Academic Affairs Director
Farah Noor is the Academic Affairs Director at i.am College Track, an organization that empowers students from under-served communities to graduate from college. Farah’s role is to ensure high academic achievement of all College Track students by leading a staff of ten people who execute high quality academic programming that supports over 250 high schools. Throughout her career in the non-profit sector, she has held various roles working in under-served high schools, middle schools and elementary schools in Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles. Further, Farah co-developed a volunteer program that matches mentors who guide current and recently graduated high school students relocating from Afghanistan through the college application process. Farah is a graduate of UC Riverside and earned a B.A in Public Policy. Farah is an advocate for education equity and is excited to join Lead LA to find innovative solutions on the public issues that face her hometown of Los Angeles.
Annenberg Foundation | AnnenbergTech
Dakota Ortiz is Program Lead at AnnenbergTech, the Annenberg Foundation’s initiative to engage the hearts and minds of LA’s tech and creative ecosystem to be a part of the force for good. He wants to help make LA a better place to live and work for all Angelenos. Locally raised, UCLA educated, socially activated. Dakota is looking forward to facing his weaknesses as a leader, collaborating with incredible peers, and digging deep into challenges facing Los Angeles in hopes to make it a more fair and rewarding city for all people.
California State University, Northridge
Jennie Quiñónez-Skinner is a member of the library faculty and Reference Coordinator at California State University, Northridge. Jennie has over ten years of experience in academic libraries helping students, faculty, and community understand the world of information. She is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, and University of California, Los Angeles. Jennie lives in Glendale, California and is an active member of her community. She is a board member for the Glendale Latino Association, a group of dedicated business leaders and professionals, that raise scholarship funds for talented students in the city. She is a member of Glendale Community College District’s Independent Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee. Jennie joined Coro Lead LA to become the type of leader who can bring together voices of residents and create a sense of engagement in their community.
Associate Program Director
The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health
Rosario Rico serves as the Associate Program Director for The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, a non-profit organization that supports and advances Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)’s Wellness Initiatives. Ms. Rico oversees program staff and provides guidance on program development for the school-based health centers. As an LAUSD graduate from South Los Angeles, she provides a unique perspective on the needs of LAUSD students and families. Ms. Rico has been working in school-based health centers since she was 16 serving in different capacities, ranging from a peer counselor to managing a Wellness Center and its programs. Passionate about adolescent health and her community, Ms. Rico has dedicated her personal life and professional career to closing the health disparities gap, especially in her native hometown of South Los Angeles. Ms. Rico is a community advocate to the core and hopes to utilize skills learned from Coro Lead LA to impact local policy.
Group Account Director
Vanessa Schnaidt is the Group Account Director at Cause Communications, the first nonprofit to focus exclusively on communications effectiveness in the social sector. Vanessa oversees projects within the organization’s consulting practice, and leads the ongoing development of the organization’s capacity building tools and training programs. Vanessa has been helping causes leverage strategic communications to achieve their missions for 15 years, serving in leadership roles at a variety of national nonprofits, grantmaking public charities, foundations, and agencies. She also serves on the national Board of Directors at the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Vanessa graduated summa cum laude from Scripps College with degrees in Gender & Women’s Studies and Art, and earned a Masters of Professional Studies in Arts & Cultural Management from Pratt Institute. Vanessa believes that solving our communities’ most intractable problems will require unexpected partnerships, and she is excited to collaborate across sectors through Coro Lead LA.
Heath C. Seltzer
Heath C. Seltzer is a Financial Advisor , Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® , Executive Financial Services Director , and Family Wealth Director at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. He has dedicated his career to providing personal financial & retirement planning advice to families, business owners, and organizations, enabling each client to achieve financial success on their terms. Heath is a graduate of the University of Southern California, and is involved in 3 mentorship programs with his alma mater. He is also a mentor and “big brother” to a son in a single mother household. Heath joined Lead LA to further develop and enhance the impact he has on his local community.
Deputy Director, Partner Strategy
The Broad Center
Rachael Shrout is the Deputy Director, Partner Strategy for The Broad Center. In this role, she explores how the Center can support partner school systems in new ways. With more than a decade with the organization, she brings a wealth of experience as deputy director. Rachael has done everything from leading engagement strategy for TBC’s network members to producing recruitment videos to leading a research and analysis project with school districts. Rachael is a graduate of Occidental College with a B.A. in Psychology. She was a founding member of the KIPP LA Associates Board which she served on for three years and a tutor with Minds Matter LA. While Rachael supports education leaders across the country, she joined Coro Lead LA to engage more deeply in Los Angeles and to understand how to leverage cross-sector knowledge to make an impact.
Founder & CEO
Swipe Out Hunger
Rachel Sumekh is the Founder & CEO of Swipe Out Hunger, the leading nonprofit in addressing hunger amongst college students. Her work has been recognized by The Obama White House, The New York Times and landed her on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Swipe Out Hunger began in 2010 with a few friends at UCLA. Since, it has grown to 48 universities, serving 1.5 million meals. The innovative approach allows students to donate their unused meal plan funds to food insecure peers. Earlier this year, Swipe authored and passed a trailblazing $7.5 million piece of California legislation to address student hunger. Rachel enjoys advising early-stage entrepreneurs, engaging in LA civic life and jogging Echo Park Lake. Rachel serves on the boards of L.A. Kitchen and IKAR. She is a proud graduate of UCLA and credits her upbringing as the child of Iranian Jewish immigrants for her intersectional perspective.
Director, External Affairs
Jon Switalski is the Director of External Affairs at River LA, a non-profit organization that champions and integrates design and infrastructure for river-oriented policy and sustainable public spaces. Jon implements innovative models for community engagement and manages two large public planning and open space development contracts. He also develops, nurtures and maintains all external relationships that aim to ensure momentum for river transformation. Jon served as an elected official for ten years in the Michigan House of Representatives. While there, he focused on renewable energy, job retraining and urban planning policy until term limits provided an opportunity for him to make an impact in California. Jon has dedicated his career to civic engagement and is passionate about the ways in which civic action helps to shape our communities. Through developing deeper insight and skills, Jon hopes to enhance his ability to provide greater solutions to Los Angeles’s larger societal problems.