Home Do Good Institute Programs Student Fellowships Tiaa Nonprofit Leadership Fellows Program Meet The Fellows

Meet The Fellows

Cohort One (2017 - 2019)

Xan Avendaño

Xan is a Montgomery County native and American University graduate. After completing his bachelor’s degree in International Studies in 2014, he moved across the country to serve as a committee clerk in the Hawaii State Senate. While at the Hawaii State Legislature, he assisted the Senate Committee on Human Services and convened various community working groups that brainstormed solutions to the Aloha State’s most pressing problems in education, elderly affairs, and housing. Fluent in English and Spanish, Xan has a passion for bilingual education and has taught at schools including Washington D.C.-based Spanish immersion preschool CommuniKids, and most recently, the Highlands School El Encinar located in Madrid, Spain. Xan has experience volunteering and fundraising for nonprofits including InteRed, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Link Community Development International. 

This summer, Xan will intern at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation where he will have the opportunity to explore the field of philanthropy within a dynamic setting at one of the largest private foundations in the region. 

Zebradedra Hunter

Zebradedrais thrilled to be part of the TIAA Nonprofit Leadership Fellows Program. She is interested in STEM education, human capital investment and social inequality and disparities. Zebbie, as she is commonly called, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the Baltimore City Public Schools District Office and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Educational Outreach. As an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, she worked on sustainability and capacity building for the Baltimore City Public Schools VEX and VEX IQ robotics programs. Prior to her year of service, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Loyola University Maryland, while minoring in the Natural Sciences and Italian Studies. 

This summer, Zebbie will serve as a Corporate Social Responsibility intern at Gannett Foundation, a division of Gannett, a Fortune 500 global digital media company.  

Jackson Leas

Jackson graduated from University of Maryland in 2013 with a double degree in Spanish and Music Performance and completed the two-year Language House Program. Since graduating, he has volunteered and worked with socially conscious businesses and nonprofits, including the MD Food Co-op, GLUT Food Co-op, Eco-City Farms, and Your Chef’s Table. His experience with these organizations has fueled his interest in philanthropy, the local food system, and environmental and social activism. Jackson is also a private music teacher and performer. While working with the traditional jazz band Capital Focus, he was lucky enough to travel to the Caribbean and Canada as well as accompany actor Kevin Spacey as he sang at two separate events. 

This summer, Jackson will serve as a Climate Campaign Intern at Green America and work on two major campaigns: Hang Up on Fossil Fuels (urging major telecom companies to make commitments to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2025) and Skip the Slip (striving to protect 9.5 million trees a year by replacing paper receipts with digital options, as well as urging companies still using paper receipts to only use non-toxic thermal paper). 

Chris Markomanolakis

Chris  is a Maryland native who, as a Peace Corps volunteer, lived in Tanzania for several years before returning to complete his Master of Public Management degree at the School of Public Policy. His time in Africa opened his eyes to the vastness of human potential. He believes the world is what we make it. Chris’s dream is to work in international relief to help those displaced by war or natural disasters receive the assistance they need as quickly as possible. He believes the world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and with the University of Maryland and the Do Good Institute, he knows he will have all the experience he'll need to face these challenges with confidence. 

This summer, Chris will be working abroad in Northern Uganda as a Peace Fellow with The Advocacy Project and their partner organization, Gulu Disabled Persons Union.  

Ayesha Tahir

Ayesha was born and raised in Pakistan. She graduated with a degree in Accounting and Finance from Lahore University of Management Sciences. Ayesha is passionate about leveraging social enterprises to solve gender policy issues around the globe. She is the co-founder of Safe Spaces, a social startup in Lahore aspiring to make academic, work, and public spaces inclusive by taking community driven action against street harassment faced by women. She has also spent time working with women in urban slums of Delhi as part of the International Social Innovation Challenge, India. Her social startup idea ‘Sashakta’, a training model that delivers life-skills based educational workshops to women in low paying contractual jobs, received the first prize at the International Social Innovation Challenge, India. In addition to working with Safe Spaces, she has worked as a Research Associate at a World Bank funded initiative, Punjab Education Sector Reform Program. 

This summer, Ayesha will be interning with the World Bank on a project that leverages data to influence decision-making on education policy on Punjab, Pakistan.

Cohort Two (2018-2020)

Colleen Cooke

Colleen grew up outside of Baltimore and has lived in College Park since 2012. She graduated from University of Maryland in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science & Policy and worked for two years at different nonprofits and higher education institutions. Wanting to make a bigger difference and “do good better” she started a Master of Public Policy degree, which she plans to finish in May 2019. Through her graduate course work and participation in the Philanthropy Fellows program (which matches nonprofit leadership students in paid internships with member organizations of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers), Colleen has become passionate about shaping the nonprofit landscape and helping organizations achieve their greatest impact. Post-graduation she hopes to work in fundraising, philanthropy, or corporate social responsibility.

Laura Griffin

Laura has spent the last seven years working to build more welcoming communities for refugees and other forced migrants in America. In her role as a program manager at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), she worked to strengthen the organizational capacity of a national network of refugee resettlement agencies to more effectively leverage volunteer and community support. During her time at LIRS she’s advocated for immigration detention policy reform, implemented federal grants, and led a collaborative research project on refugee integration with Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab. Laura is an alum of Lutheran Volunteers Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA. She graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Philosophy. While she mostly grew up in Massachusetts she considers Baltimore City home.  

Andrew Knutson

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Andrew graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a degree in history and anthropology. After graduating, he moved Washington, D.C. to volunteer as an AmeriCorps member with City Year. In this capacity, he provided academic, social and emotional support to at-risk youth in hopes that they would achieve their full potential both inside the classroom and out. Andrew transitioned to work as a program associate and grant accountant with Meridian International Center, a U.S. Department of State partner that develops and implements international exchange programs for emerging leaders from every professional sector. Andrew aspires to manage his own nonprofit and support under-served communities.

Elizabeth Middleton

Elizabeth is a 2014 graduate of Franklin & Marshall College (F&M), where she first discovered her passion for education while volunteer-teaching science in the School District of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After graduating from F&M, she served two years with the AmeriCorps program College Advising Corps, where she provided college access counseling to high school students in rural Pennsylvania. For the past two years, Elizabeth has worked as a College Success Advisor with The SEED Foundation, where she supports students from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland in not only enrolling in college, but also in staying enrolled and completing their degrees. Elizabeth is passionate about community development and educational equity.

Sylvia Sedrak

Sylvia was born in Alexandria, Egypt and raised in central Wisconsin. Shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in International Studies, she served for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA, advocating for parent involvement at school and youth development. After VISTA, Sylvia worked to empower women and young professionals through community leadership development programs in Colorado. Most recently, Sylvia served as an educator and trainer with Peace Corps Ethiopia and spent a year working and practicing her Arabic skills in Nablus, Palestine. Sylvia believes we all share the responsibility to work towards social justice. She is driven to create change for women, refugees, and immigrants.