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20 Leaders Selected for 2023 Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship

Colorful squares in orange, navy, blue and red with the words: " Introducing the Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards 2023 Fellows"
Nonprofit Leadership Center

Every time Tina James walked into a room, she found herself silently counting the number of individuals who looked like her. Even though that number has increased over the years, she continued to see a lack of representation at the C-suite and senior leadership levels of organizations. 

"I know there are individuals like me who are qualified to be in leadership positions in the community. I found myself constantly asking why they weren't there. Finally, I decided to stop asking why and start being part of the solution."
Photo of Tina James, a Black woman wearing a yellow top and hoop earrings standing in front of a tree
Tina James​
Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, Florida Blue

Tina James, the senior manager of corporate social responsibility at Florida Blue, is one of 20 outstanding professionals of color selected to participate in the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s 2023 Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship.

Strengthening Community Starts One Person at a Time

Imagine if every nonprofit board represented the community it serves, weaving diverse experiences and perspectives together to solve problems more creatively and meet needs more effectively. That’s exactly what the Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship was designed to achieve. Launched in 2021 by the Nonprofit Leadership Center to address ongoing research that shows too many nonprofits lack any professionals of color on their boards, this transformational program strengthens the board governance knowledge and skills of professionals of color while equipping nonprofit organizations to be genuinely ready to welcome these new members onto their boards.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the 20 fellows selected for the 2023 program. After a competitive application process, these professionals of color will participate in intensive and engaging training to learn how to serve as effective nonprofit board members. They will receive mentorship between sessions by other professionals of color who are experienced board members.

Meet the 2023 Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellows: Image features 19 faces (one chose not to be included) alongside the NLC logo

Meet the 2023 Fellows

Amber Okoye, Founder & President, Rubicon International, LLC

“I am passionate about giving back to my community. This program is an opportunity to immerse myself in comprehensive board governance training, allowing me to be more impactful while doing so in a nonprofit board setting.”

Ayana Lucas, Treasurer, National Coalition of 100 Black Women              

“I am a change agent who is passionate about bringing resources to individuals by removing barriers that are in their path. Serving on a nonprofit board is a vehicle for me to help strengthen programs to meet community needs.”

Candi Hagler, Chief Strategy Officer, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties           

“Armed with the experience and knowledge gained through this program, I hope to maximize my impact in the nonprofit sector by earning the opportunity to strategize from a board seat. I hope to contribute a unique perspective as I learn with other fellows. I believe board service would give me the added experience and confidence as a woman of color to make a deeper impact in my community.”

Christopher Warren, Senior Director of Work Based Learning, Propel Center  

“As nonprofits reach out to me about serving on their boards, I’d like to learn to be as effective as possible. Professionals of color have an additional layer of pressure as we represent not only ourselves, but our entire community.

“Responsibility + Accountability + Consistency = Community Impact”

Daphne Miles, School-to-Work Coordinator, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay   

“Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Rumi

“I define my community as wherever my feet touch the earth.” D. Miles

“If I want to see change and transformation in my community, I must start with myself. By increasing my knowledge and understanding of nonprofit organizations, I’ll position myself to serve my community in a new capacity of learning that leads to board service.”

Elicia Hinson, Marketing Associate, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County          

“I’m at the point in my professional journey where I understand the fundamentals of the nonprofit sector and have seen the inner workings of communities coming together to shape outcomes. Yet, I’m also at the beginning stages of falling into traditional patterns of industry thinking and developing my own blind spots. Through this program, I hope to equip myself with the knowledge of what makes an effective board member and how to utilize this position to create real solutions to real problems.”

Emily Naranjo, Senior Manager, Value Based Programs, Florida Blue

“As a woman professional of color who grew up with a single mother in a low-income household, I am excited to be a part of this initiative to promote inclusivity on nonprofit boards. Tampa Bay has been my home for almost a decade, and I’m invested in seeing its growth and improvement for everyone who lives here. My hope through nonprofit service is to be a voice and advocate for individuals from diverse backgrounds and lower socioeconomic situations. I’m looking forward to gaining the knowledge and skills from the Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship to help be a part of the change in the Tampa Bay community.”

Hanif Andrews, Vice President Commercial Associate III, Bank of America

“The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and the overall wellbeing of my community is what calls me to engage in nonprofit board service. The knowledge that my contributions, however small, can contribute to positive change and create a ripple effect of impact is both humbling and inspiring. It is through nonprofit board service that I can channel my passion, skills and resources toward creating a more equitable and compassionate society for all.”

Jerrica Peets, LEAP Program Manager and FAAME Project Manager, LEAP Tampa Bay  

“As a Black woman in higher education and mental health consultancy, I’ve experienced first-hand the need for greater racial and gender diversity in leadership roles. With a strong focus on mental health literacy and holistic practices, I aim to advance diversity and inclusion on nonprofit boards, countering phenomena like the glass ceiling and cliff often faced by Black women leaders. I’m committed to leveraging board service to transform nonprofits from charitable entities into impactful institutions.”

Michael Wardlow, Community Outreach & Employment Manager, AARP Foundation SCSEP Program

“I was born and raised in Tampa Bay. My parents are retired from Hillsborough County Public Schools after 40 years of service. We didn’t live in the safest neighborhood when I was growing up, but that didn’t stop my parents from earning the respect of the people in our community. Throughout my 24-year professional career, all within the Tampa Bay community, my goal has been to see how I could have a positive and long-lasting impact on this community that my parents and I love. I look forward to using my experience in this program to do what I do best: serve others. My parents have laid the foundation of being a servant leader within the community, and now it is my job to expand upon that and take it further.”

Mickia Freeman, Director of Donor Relations and Events, The Bautista Project, Inc.      

“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.’ I’m a lifelong learner, and through this program I hope to gain more confidence in serving on a board to learn what I don’t yet know. What calls me to strengthen my community meaningfully through nonprofit board service is the deep-rooted belief in the power of community and the desire to impact the lives of others where I live. I recognize the systemic injustices and disparities faced and seek to address them through collaboration, learning, sharing and strategic decision-making.”

Nichelle Bowes, Vice President of Student Affairs and Services, Relay Graduate School of Education

“I have used the guiding principle outlined in Luke 12:48 to govern my life: To whom much is given much is required. I have served on two nonprofit boards but have never had the opportunity to master board governance. Before serving again, I would like to understand how to choose a board that functions optimally and understand the roles and responsibilities of the board. It is my duty to use the skills and talents I have to give back. I want to be a part of the solution and not sit idly by as a spectator while gentrification, racial injustice, inflation and biased laws gut our communities.”

Shunae Norton, Senior Manager, New Product Development Solutions, Florida Blue   

It’s important to ensure there is linkage between nonprofits and the communities they serve. When I look at the board composition of organizations, I rarely see people of color and have often wondered why. For those who are on boards, I’ve always been curious to know what made them attractive enough to be asked to sit on the board. This fellowship will help me better understand board roles and responsibilities and further develop the leadership skills needed to set the strategic direction of an organization. My goal is to give voice to those community needs and ensure those elements are included in the development of the organization’s strategic imperatives.”

Sofia Anthony, Senior Vice President of Operations, National Diversity Council

“I have heard countless business leaders of color share the challenges they have faced when trying to enter a boardroom. Their race or ethnicity have unjustly served as roadblocks in their careers due to the inequitable systems that continue to impact our society today. Although some businesses have tried to make intentional efforts to advance equity and inclusion, most boardrooms still exclude underrepresented identities within our local communities.

“I am participating in this fellowship to help make future boardrooms more diverse, equitable and inclusive. I have dedicated my career to promoting DEI and feel an immense desire and responsibility to continue moving the needle forward in all spaces, including boards.”

Tayesha Hiner, Vice President, J.P. Morgan Chase                

“I’m participating in this fellowship as a way to help my community on a larger scale. I am motivated to see the greatness we have in Black and Brown communities. If we won’t save ourselves then no one will. In order to get anyone to care about something, we must first show that we do!”

Terry Nealy, United States Air Force Retired

“Professionals of color can offer unique perspectives on how an organization might expand its brand, services or offerings to diverse constituencies. A diverse leadership team and board of directors can provide salient advice and guidance to help the organization maximize its impact on the community. This fellowship will provide the essential training I need to be a more effective community leader.”

Tina James, Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Florida Blue

We all know that nonprofits play a key role in creating more equitable and thriving communities. Nonprofits and the communities they serve are a small microcosm of our society, and it’s important for those who serve on boards reflect the community. Through the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship, I’m interested in learning all aspects of what is needed to effectively govern a board and ensure I have the necessary skills to propel organizations forward. Knowing that I can impact our community through service is important and meaningful for me.”

Toney Burden, Assistant Vice President Financial Center Manager, Fifth Third Bank     

“I am motivated to be part of this fellowship to assist in making a change in racial equality. I hope to gain knowledge on assisting and helping others not to be judged by the way they look and by what they can provide. I also believe nonprofit organizations provide vital services to the most vulnerable members of our community. My calling to nonprofit board service is in wanting to work with organizations to enhance the services they provide to continue to improve our community.”

Urmila Wadnerkar, Marketing Manager, Channel Education, Transitions Optical

“I want to serve my community through nonprofit board service because nonprofits provided my career with a strong foundation, and I would like to pay that forward to others. Nonprofits serve a vital role in the community, enriching experiences, addressing needs, and solving the problems of its inhabitants. Organizations should reflect the communities they serve in mission, brand and representation. I plan to contribute to these goals through nonprofit board service while continuing to build my professional and leadership skills.”

Vanessa Maternowski, Senior Vice President, Small Business Market Manager, Bank of America         

“Giving back to my community makes me feel part of something bigger than myself. The opportunity to be part of the fellowship will develop a skillset where I am empowered to make a positive impact in my community. Serving on a nonprofit board puts you at the center of where collaboration and effort meet positive change. I believe we already have a phenomenal community like no other in the country. Our community continues to elevate resources, innovative technology, but more importantly, we stay connected. Leveraging my internal network, I would like to bring new perspectives that challenge the impossible.”

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