LFC Leaders Fellowship Class of 2022
Co-Founder and President of EPIC Disability Advocacy
Amanda Steele (she, her, hers)
Amanda Steele was born and raised in Arizona, having a child at the young age of 17. Amanda’s son Jordan was diagnosed with autism and Intellectual and Developmental Disability at the age of three. Amanda took a path that complemented both her personal life and her career. In 2015 she became a Speech Language Pathology Assistant after graduating from Northern Arizona University with a B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences. In May 2021, Amanda led a team of advocates through the grassroots movement #FundAzSPED to demand more funding for early intervention and special education services as the state of Arizona had a historic budget surplus. The FundAzSPED movement ignited interest in creating a nonprofit organization to educate, advocate, and create connections to empower the disability community. As a result, Amanda is a Co/Founder and President of EPIC Disability Advocacy, an organization whose vision is to empower the community to create societal change where everyone can reach their full potential. She has spent time in the nonprofit sector, developing over 20 sustainable in-person and virtual programs between 2019-2021. She is a 2019 graduate of AZ Partners in Leadership program, through which she and other participants successfully advocated for the passage of Dignified Changes, law that requires new or renovated public restrooms in government buildings to have at least one adult size changing station. In March 2021 Amanda completed the Leading For Change Candidate Training program. She received the 2019/20 Parent of the Year Award from the Council for Exceptional Children and the 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award through Girl Scouts of America. Amanda is an advocate for the disability community, igniting changes both locally and statewide.
LEAP Coordinator, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley
Ariel Baber (she, her, hers)
I have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Barrett the Honors College at Arizona State University. I also recently obtained my Masters of Public Health from Southern New Hampshire University. I spent five years working as a mathematics tutor and one year managing a learning center that specializes in math education for ages 8 to 18. It was during this time that I learned to appreciate the importance of education and the impact it can have on empowering a child. Currently, I work as the LEAP Coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley. In this position, I oversee the LEAP summer program and associated after-school programs to ensure quality targeted programming and to meet Academic Success priority outcomes. This includes accountability for partner management, metrics evaluation, and benchmarking of program effectiveness in the area of academic development. Some major public health issues that I am passionate about include positive youth development, education, physical and mental health/wellness, social determinants of health, and substance abuse. I was awarded the Collaboration Core Value award from Public Allies Arizona.
Blake Alan Lindgren, Jr.
Vice President, JM Search
Blake Lindgren (he, him, his)
Blake Lindgren is a Vice President at JM Search and a member of the Firm’s Industrial Technology Practice. He specializes in working with public, private, and PE-backed companies to uncover their talent needs and serves as an advisor helping businesses plan and execute search and talent strategies to place key executives. Prior to JM Search, Blake was with N2Growth, where he led a team of consultants in delivering complex retained executive search assignments across a wide range of industries. Prior to N2Growth, Blake served as a strategy consultant at L.E.K. Consulting, a global management consulting firm. At L.E.K., Blake worked with clients on the development and execution of business strategy, M&A and transaction support, and post-merger integration. Earlier in his career, Blake was an active duty officer in the United States Air Force. A Distinguished Graduate from ROTC, he rose to the rank of Captain and held a variety of leadership positions, including serving as an executive officer and flight commander. Blake earned a B.S. in Applied Economics and Management, magna cum laude, from Cornell University. He earned his MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Blake serves as Treasurer and board member at No One Left Behind. He is a Precinct Committeeman in his community, Commissioner on the City of Phoenix Military Veterans Commission, State Chairman for the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, and Big Brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is passionate about public service and serves on the New Politics Alumni Executive Council, an organization that seeks to help veterans and national service alumni continue their service through politics.
Regional Organizing Lead, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Arizona
Blake Lister (he, him, his)
While I care greatly about a number of progressive causes, the one I most care about is economic equality. This passion stems from the story of my life and my childhood. When I was ten years old, my father passed away from a stress-related heart attack due to fear of losing his job as a result of The Great Recession. It was then that I realized not just how fragile life is, but how important politics is as well, and that one should do their best to have a positive impact on their community while they are alive. I want to fight for middle class families that are struggling more and more. I believe this most comes from talking about jobs and taxes, but also hits virtually every political issue in one way or another. So far throughout my career, I’ve have been humbled to have gained experience by working for great, progressive causes. In 2016, I served as a Field Organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party, where I first began to learn how to organize by managing 5 precincts in Legislative District 20. I then worked as the Campaign Manager for Chris Gilfillan for State House in 2018, where I gathered more organizing and campaign experience, as well as help narrow the voter gap between Democrats and Republicans in Legislative District 20 down to less than 2 points. This was followed up by my completing an 8-week Organizing Corps 2020 program where the DNC helped train and prepare me to work for the 2020 Election. In that election, I worked as a Field Manager for the DCCC on behalf of Dr. Hiral Tiperneni in AZ-CD6, where we nearly flipped a historically red district and moved the needle towards the Democrats by six points. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from ASU in political science and currently work as the Regional Organizing Lead for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Arizona.
Director of Outreach, Tomorrow We Vote
Finance Director, Maricopa County Democratic Party
Briana Valencia (she, her, hers)
I am currently in school, pursuing a degree in political science with aspirations to become an attorney. I’m very interested in focusing on government law. I also currently work for Tomorrow We Vote, a nonprofit organization, as the director of outreach and The Maricopa County Democratic Party as the finance director. I started working in politics in 2018 and worked for the coordinated campaign in Arizona and fell in love with the work I did in my very own community.
Executive Director, Just Communities Arizona (JCA)
Caroline Issacs (she, her, hers)
Caroline Isaacs is the Executive Director of Just Communities Arizona (JCA). Caroline has two decades of experience advocating for just and effective criminal justice policy in Arizona and is a leading voice in the movement to end mass incarceration.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the College of Wooster and a Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University. She has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and sentencing, the poor performance of private prison companies in Arizona, and conditions in correctional facilities. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Salon.com, Dan Rather Reports, In These Times, The Hill, The Nation, Al Jazeera America, The Huffington Post, and numerous state and local media outlets.
Caroline was previously the Program Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Arizona office for 20 years before transitioning the program to become an independent non-profit. Prior to her employment with AFSC, she worked as a case manager with homeless young adults at Open-Inn, Inc. Caroline also taught for several years on an adjunct basis at ASU School of Social Work, Tucson Component, and served as a Field Liaison for students in internship placements.
Public Information Officer and Marketing Communications Specialist II, City of Mesa
Cassie Robles (she, her, hers)
As an Arizona native, Cassie Robles grew up moving around our diverse state and spent her early adult years going to college as her husband served in the U.S. Army. Through three deployments and while moving around the country, they started their young family before putting roots down in Phoenix. She began working full-time for grass-roots organizations including Cancer Support Community Arizona, Gabriel's Angels, and The Singletons. With nearly ten years of experience in program development, volunteer management, event planning, and fundraising, she went back to school full-time. She finished her bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on digital media design and a certificate in public administration management from Arizona State University in 2015. Over the years, she saw first-hand many stories of impact that were going untold in the non-profit sector. With an emphasis on digital media storytelling, she found a way to use her experience in the community and her education in photography, design, and writing as an entrepreneur to build awareness and support for non-profits and small businesses. With changes in funding in 2020, she went back to work full-time as the Public Relations Specialist for Higley Unified School District. She recently transitioned into a role with the City of Mesa Transportation Department as the Public Information Officer and Marketing Communications Specialist II. Through her education and work in digital media marketing, her interest in privacy issues, media algorithms and civic discourse began to grow as the political climate continued to become more divisive. She is advocating for change in these areas with bi-partisan efforts like Represent Us. She plans to use this program to help create change that will protect children and individuals from predatory marketing tactics that ultimately shape our behaviors and communities.
Special Projects Coordinator, Maricopa County Department of Public Health
Christine Samuel (she, her, hers)
Christine Samuel is a native of Utica, New York where she continues to be actively engaged in her community. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health and Certificate in Health Policy from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a double minor in bioethics and sociology from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. Christine currently works for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health as a Special Projects Coordinator. Christine is passionate about advocacy, policy development, and education centered around sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, and health inequities and disparities within the Black population.
Executive Director, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona
Claire Louge (she, her, hers)
Claire Louge is the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families and protecting children through collaboration, education, and advocacy. Originally from upstate New York, Claire obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Cornell University, her Masters of Education in Human Relations from Northern Arizona University, and has a certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from the ASU Lodestar Center. Claire is also certified by the National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds to teach the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework, a Certified Trauma Support Specialist through the Arizona Trauma Institute, and an authorized Stewards of Children® facilitator. She also co-developed Flourishing Families, a curriculum designed to help professionals teach families to build protective factors in their own lives. She is a graduate of Class 11 of the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center. Claire regularly and enthusiastically offers workshops and keynote addresses at conferences throughout Arizona. In her volunteer time, Claire organizes theatrical role play adventure events for teens in partnership with youth-serving organizations. Claire was named one of Prescott Living Magazine’s 40 Under 40 in 2018, and received the Prescott Young Professional Visionary Award in 2013. She served as President of the Friends of the Del E. Webb Family Enrichment Center from 2015 – 2017.
Program Manager, The Hopi Foundation’s Hopi Leadership Program
Cliff E. Kaye (he, him, his) Cliff is Hopi and Iswungwa (Coyote Clan) from the Village of Mùnqapi. After attaining a Bachelor of Science in American Indian Studies (AIS) with a minor in Nonprofit Administration from Arizona State University (ASU), he was admitted as a member of the first cohort for ASU's inaugural American Indian Studies Master of Science (MS) program. He acquired his AIS MS Tribal Leadership and Governance degree in 2016. Cliff is currently employed as a Program Manager for The Hopi Foundation’s Hopi Leadership Program. Cliff enjoys engaging in work that advances the success of tribal communities and strives to contribute in efforts that positively benefit the Hopi people.
Student, University of Arizona
Cody Newcomb (he, him, his)
Cody was born in Oxford, Connecticut, but has lived in Chandler, Arizona for 25 years. Cody is a student in his final year at the University of Arizona Online where he is working on a general studies degree with a focus on economy and industry. Cody is also a person with disability who is a strong advocate for himself and his community. His experiences navigating through Arizona’s Medicaid system taught Cody the need for critical thinking and advocacy. Given Cody’s experiences he is a vital asset to the continued fight for disability rights. As a general studies student, Cody has exposure to a broad base of topics including accounting, public and private sector ethics, sustainability, and economics. Cody is a precinct committeeperson for Arizona Legislative District 17’s Democratic club where he works with the communications, data and field operations, community outreach, and fundraising teams. Cody continually looks to improve his activism and advocacy. He recently graduated the LFC Candidate Training program.
Training and Youth Program Manager, Arizona Serve of Prescott College
Elaine MacPherson (she, her, hers)
Elaine joins this cohort of fellows to leverage her passion for volunteerism, youth development, and housing policy toward a more impactful career in policy advocacy. Elaine attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she studied Sociology and History, with an emphasis on poverty policy. While in Santa Barbara, the visible housing crisis is what first galvanized Elaine to volunteer in and later study housing work, ultimately writing a senior thesis on the first federal law to address American homelessness: the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Later that year, she briefly worked with the National Homelessness Law Center to support their communications and development team. After working for several years as a server and bartender to make a dent in her student loans, Elaine joined AmeriCorps VISTA in 2016, moving to Tucson to work with Compass Affordable Housing as a program developer and community gardener. Her year of service built on her skills in community collaboration, which led her to then join Our Family Services as a Case Manager to run a homeless prevention program. In this role she helped launch the coordinated entry system for homeless prevention services county-wide. Elaine has continued this work as a volunteer, and now professionally in her new role as the Continuum of Care Project Coordinator for the Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness. When not working or volunteering, Elaine loves to watch movies, binge television and read on the couch with her dog Niles.