Jennifer (Jen) is an attorney at Blank Rome, LLP (formerly Dickstein Shapiro, LLP) focusing her practice on nonprofit governance, political law, government investigations, government affairs, and global security. Ms. Carrier regularly advises nonprofit organizations -- including charitable organizations, labor-management committees, and political committees -- regarding formation, corporate governance, obtaining and maintaining tax-exempt status, political activity, strategic planning and communications, crisis management, and ongoing legal compliance. For approximately six years until 2016, Carrier was a Vice President of a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Doing Small Miracles for Others, affiliated with Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Prior to receiving her law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 2008, Ms. Carrier worked for three years in the press office of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, ultimately as his Press Secretary. A Midwesterner, Ms. Carrier graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Criminal Justice. Ms. Carrier has three children under the age of 6, so has forgotten if she has had any hobbies.
John Zakrajsek is dedicated to public service with over 18 years of budget and financial management experience in federal, state, and local governments that spans across the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Currently, Mr. Zakrajsek is a senior official at the U.S. Department of State where he has a broad range of responsibilities, including the formulation, presentation, and execution of resources. As an executive leader, he focuses on unifying organizations to a strategic vision, and coalescing resources to effectively execute programs and activities to meet goals and objectives. He received a master’s degree in public administration from DeVry University, and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from The Ohio State University. Mr. Zakrajsek has been a resident in the District of Columbia since 2004, and makes his home in the Takoma Park area with his wife and three children..
Suzanne Ehlers is President & CEO of PAI, and has worked for the last 20 years to promote women's health, rights and empowerment across the globe. Ms. Ehlers serves as a board member for Ibis Reproductive Health and the US Global Leadership Coalition; is an Environmental Leadership Liaison for Rachel's Network; and has previously sat on the Board of Directors of the Global Health Council, the Janelia Family Foundation, The Biodiversity Project, and the Asia Pacific Alliance. She believes deeply in board governance and service, and during her time as CEO at PAI has re-fashioned and re-built PAI's board to be a team of highly engaged and effective ambassadors, advocates and "askers" for the organization.
Ms. Ehlers is a frequent speaker on issues of women’s health and rights and has been profiled by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, National Journal and Grist. She is also a seasoned and enthusiastic fundraiser; a DC resident passionate about the District's potential.
Ms. Ehlers served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic (CAR) following her graduation from Cornell University with a degree in Government. Ms. Ehlers speaks French and Sango (language of the CAR) and is an avid traveler and baker. She has resided in Washington, DC, since 1996, and makes her home in Columbia Heights with her husband and two daughters.
Najia Lupson is an outcomes-oriented Consultant & Coach focused on serving education organizations. She has spent the last 5+ years working in the urban education sector after spending 10+ years in the corporate sector working in brand strategy, marketing & communications. She brings a marketing lens to her talent & recruitment work and is passionate about helping her clients not only create strong talent programs but also effectively communicate their “why” internally and externally.
Prior to becoming an independent consultant, as the Managing Director of Talent & Recruitment at East Harlem Tutorial Project (EHTP), she managed three teams that led talent & recruitment initiatives across the central office, schools, and after-school programs. Prior to EHTP, Najia lead performance management and talent analytics work at Uncommon Schools as the Founding Director of Performance Management. In 2013, she was accepted into The Broad Residency, a highly selective 2-year professional development program aimed at developing leaders in urban education. In 2010, as a Senior Brand Strategist at Microsoft, she was awarded Microsoft’s highest honor, The Platinum Club Award, for supporting her team’s expansion into emerging markets. While at Microsoft she partnered with DIVOG, a Ghana based NGO, to create and launch Project Empower in Ghana, an after-school program aimed at enabling high school students to launch community based social enterprises.
Najia holds a B.S. from the University of Maryland, College Park, a Master in International Affairs from Columbia University, an M.B.A. from the NYU Stern School of Business and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, Brian and son, Makai.
April D. Martin
April D. Martin is the Executive Director of REAL School Gardens in the Mid-Atlantic region. As the Executive Director she manages the regional team, works closely on regional philanthropy, build school district partnerships, and coordinates with the national and regional board.
April attended the Notre Dame of Maryland University, an all women’s liberal arts school in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her BA in International Business and worked in the financial industry after graduation. Shortly after completing her undergraduate degree she received her Masters from Johns Hopkins University.
Throughout her professional career, April has worked to expand her knowledge of education and best practices through the various organizations she has had the opportunity to serve. From designing and implementing innovative curriculum for youth with Harvard University’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Studies, to managing an evidence-based pregnancy prevention program with The Children’s Aid Society of New York, she has dedicated her career to helping students and families.
April has worked closely with government agencies, foundations, schools, and partner organizations on the integration of environmental education programs. She is a fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and part-time runner. She has a passion for outdoor education and sustainable food production. Besides enjoying running and biking around DC, she also enjoys college football (War Eagle) and good southern food.
Victoria Ortega is currently an Associate Attorney in Blank Rome's Litigation Department. She devotes a significant amount of her time representing pro bono clients from Central America in connection with their asylum applications. She is a member of the Ayuda Advisory Council. Ayuda is a nonprofit serving the legal, mental health, and social services needs of the immigrant community. During law school, she served as an IRC family mentor for families who had recently arrived from their home countries to the Baltimore area.
She has been a D.C. resident for nine (9) years. Before attending law school at the University of Maryland, Victoria worked in higher education administration, focusing her work on improving low-income, first-generation, or minority student access to higher ed. She completed an M.A. in Higher Education Administration at the University of Maryland, focusing her studies and thesis on undocumented student access to postsecondary institutions.
In her free time, she travels, runs (Chicago Marathon 2017), and eats way too many meals out in D.C. restaurants.
In 2014, Douglas Tyson was named the Region 1 Assistant Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools, where he currently supports 40 schools and supervises the principals. Mr. Tyson is an experienced educator with an extensive background in educational management and leadership.
Mr. Tyson was an award-winning teacher of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) chemistry and mathematics at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, DC. Mr. Tyson also coached the Science Bowl teams and the "It's Academic" teams during his time at Benjamin Banneker. The 2001 “It’s Academic” Team were national champions and were recognized by the Wall Street Journal. After leaving Benjamin Banneker, Mr. Tyson led the Thurgood Marshall Charter School in Washington, DC, where he oversaw dramatic increases in math and English test scores.
Mr. Tyson is the past president of Phi Delta Kappa, a member of the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee, and has given numerous presentations and interviews on mathematics and science instruction, teaching, and supporting African American students. He has served as an advisor and consultant to the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institutional Review Board at Georgetown University Medical Center, and the National Science Foundation. Mr. Tyson has been named a Washingtonian of the Year by the Washingtonian Magazine.
Mr. Tyson did his undergraduate preparation at Dartmouth College and his graduate work at Yale University and George Washington University.