April 2, 2024


LEAD 2024 Fellows Spotlight!

By: AF Editors

The LEAD fellowship is setting the stage for young leaders to establish their presence within our democracy! Through skills and philosophical leadership development, this impactful opportunity is equipping young professionals to lead from principle and usher more human flourishing into the world. Read more about our 2024 class! 

Interested in taking advantage of this exceptional opportunity? Learn more and sign up for updates on our LEAD webpage.

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Ben Behlke currently holds the position of Land and  Liberty Field Director for the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. In this capacity, he passionately advocates for reliable, clean, and affordable energy sources in the state of Wisconsin. Drawing on his prior experience, Ben had the opportunity to intern with Renew Wisconsin, an organization that shared a similar mission. 

Graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, he holds a dual major in Sustainable Renewable Energy Systems and Political Science. His involvement at the university was extensive, including serving as student body president from 2019 to 2021. Ben continued to contribute by taking on the role of director of legislative affairs until graduating in December 2022. Beyond his professional commitments, he also plays a crucial role in fostering connections and contributing to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville community as a member of the alumni board and serves as the advisor for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Republican Party, showcasing his dedication to both his alma mater and political engagement.

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Spencer Bone currently serves as the Ambassador and Strategic Partnerships Manager for The Herzog Foundation. Prior to this role, he gained experience in working on down-ballot campaigns and building coalitions to advance the conservative cause. He was recently named a State Policy Network Generation Liberty Fellow.

Spencer is from Jefferson City, Missouri, and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. He’s an avid soccer player and enjoys reading in his free time!

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Celtin Clardie is currently serving as the Chief of Staff at the Daily Caller, where he plays a role in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization. With his keen strategic insight and deep love for supporting others, he ensures the smooth functioning of one of the most prominent news outlets in Washington, D.C.

Originally hailing from the heart of the nation in the Midwest, he now lives in the nation’s capital, with his loving wife and soon-to-be first child! His journey into the realm of conservative activism began at the Leadership Institute, where he spent five formative years honing his skills and climbing the ranks. Starting as a Field Representative, Celtin’s dedication and hard work propelled him to the position of Deputy National Field Director. In this capacity, he had the privilege of training and empowering hundreds of activists nationwide, equipping them with the tools necessary to excel in the world of politics. 

Beyond his professional endeavors, Celtin finds joy and fulfillment in various pursuits. An avid reader with a thirst for knowledge, he enjoys immersing himself in literature in his spare time. Committed to giving back to his community, Celtin and his wife volunteer with their local church, actively contributing to causes they hold dear. Celtin also has a passion for travel, relishing the opportunity to explore new destinations and cultures. Yet, amidst his adventures, he always finds enjoyment in the rich history and vibrant atmosphere of our nation’s beautiful capital city, embracing the countless opportunities for discovery that Washington DC has to offer.

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Alex Cordell  is the Director of Training at Atlas Network. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics, economics, and law (PPEL) and international relations from the University of Arizona. In her role at Atlas Network, she leads the Atlas Network Academy team to design and deliver dynamic, online & in-person programs in strategic planning, marketing & communications, fundraising, and leadership development for a network of over 550 independent think tanks in 100+ countries. Alex enjoys working with the network of leaders from around the world to develop their skills and be more impactful in the work they are doing. In her free time, she loves practicing yoga, playing with her dog Rose, and traveling to new places.

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Ben Dennehy is the Communications Director with the American Consumer Institute where he works with the broader team to advance communication initiatives for the Institute. Prior to coming to ACI, Ben worked at Young Voices within their external communications team and completed the Koch Associate Program. Ben has also worked within policy administration at the Australian Embassy to Washington, D.C., and brings a unique perspective to the ACI team, witnessing firsthand the impact government policy can have on individuals, families, and businesses across the globe.

Completing a Bachelors in Political Science from the Australian National University, Ben has applied his professional and academic experience to make an impact to policy formation and execution in the US.

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Mariah Hardy-Spence is the Salesforce Marketing Operations Manager for Papé Group. In her current role, she oversees the implementation and operations of marketing automation software. She is experienced in managing change, solving operational issues, and implementing technology for global organizations.

Mariah has been recognized by Salesforce’s Marketing Champions program for her expertise and contributions to the SaaS ecosystem. She holds six tech certifications spanning from AI to declarative development, and she recently spoke at Dreamforce, the world’s largest enterprise tech event.

Prior to her technology roles, Mariah managed a multi-million dollar warehouse and delivery operation for Anheuser-Busch across a 58,000 sq. mile territory in Oregon. Her team was one of four locations in North America to achieve excellence-level results. The Oregon operation served as a global example of process optimization and lean principles for the company.  Mariah enjoys solving complex issues using small steps which are well-measured. Her ability to overcome challenges and find solutions rather than problems is represented by her success in multiple industries.

Mariah holds a bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College. She currently resides in Washington State with her husband.

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Hannah Henriksen is the President of Respect America. She came into the liberty world by accident back in 2020, but now couldn’t imagine herself doing anything else. She has her pre-med Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Kinesiology from Texas Tech University and Master of Business Administration in Management from William Jessup University. When not working, you can find her running with her two dogs, lifting weights, reading, or hanging out with her partner, Bradley.

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Harriet Hobart is currently serving as American Conservative Coalitions (ACC’s) Western Regional Director. She works with branches in her region to help them facilitate growth and development, as well as event planning and coordination. Her main goal is for everyone to enjoy every step of the branch development process, from leaders to activists.

Hattie was born and raised in the Midwest, but growing up, she spent as much time as possible in the mountains. She believes that conservation provides a path to keep natural spaces enjoyable and accessible for generations, but to do that, everyone needs to be a part of the conversation. 

Hattie’s background is in politics; she was part of two different Congressional campaigns as part of a field team and then as a finance director. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas and majored in Environmental Studies with minors in English and Political Science. After finishing her academic and political careers in Kansas, she earned a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in June of 2022. Outside work, Hattie loves to hike, ski, paddleboard, and spend time with her friends and family.

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Peyton Hornberger is the marketing director at Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), driving projects for YAL’s various programs and keeping trains running on time. Previously, Peyton served as the communications director and northeast regional director for YAL after graduating from Truman State University in 2021. She majored in Political Science & International Relations and led the YAL chapter on her campus. 

Peyton currently resides in Austin, TX, after narrowly escaping the tyrannical state of Illinois. She is involved in her local art community and is currently working on illustrating a children’s book and a series of paintings for art exhibitions.

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Shakira Jackson who is currently with Mental Health on Purpose, is an alumna of the University of Pittsburgh and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. Further advancing her education, she pursued a Master of Arts in Government at Georgetown University and is currently a Law Student at Liberty University. Jackson’s academic journey reflects her commitment to understanding complex societal structures and legal frameworks. 

In her professional capacity, Jackson has orchestrated intensive research workshops aimed at empowering low-income families and individuals grappling with mental health and substance use disorders. Her initiatives focus on providing a comprehensive support system through professional development resources, scholarships, and other essential tools, fostering an environment conducive to recovery and growth. 

Beyond her academic and professional pursuits, Jackson is deeply involved in community service, especially in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Her primary mission is to synergize environmental and mental health coalitions, striving for collaborative progress in these critical areas. As a Policy Analyst, Jackson dedicates her time to influencing policy decisions. She actively engages in testifying, lobbying, and interacting with state and local legislators, with a focus on addressing and resolving social justice issues. Jackson’s extensive campaign work and research endeavors have shaped her into a highly motivated individual. 

Her relentless work ethic, coupled with her fervent desire for community organization, fuels her vision of a world where the well-being of the earth and its inhabitants is significantly enhanced. Her multidimensional approach, blending education, activism, and professional commitment, positions her as a dynamic force in her field.

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Hunter Jones serves as the Program Director for the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy (ICAE), overseeing communications, programming, and administrative functions essential to the organization’s day-to-day operations and overall mission to deliver clean, renewable energy to the Hoosier State. Before joining ICAE, Hunter served in several different roles for the Office of U.S. Senator Mike Braun, first joining the Senator’s Indianapolis team in 2020, and then the Washington, D.C. team shortly thereafter. In 2021, Hunter transitioned onto the Senator’s legislative team, advising on issues and policy relevant to education, labor, finance, and aging Americans. Hunter is a proud Hoosier and a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, having recently moved back to his hometown in Hamilton County in 2023.

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Filipp Krasovsky is a software engineer working in the private equity space at P10 Holdings, but he spends a large portion of his free time mentoring those hoping to find a career in STEM at institutions like Uber, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. Filipp is a KAP alumnus and a Generation Liberty Fellow. He worked as an associate for the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI, before transitioning to the private sector and receiving his Master’s in Data Science. Filipp is also one of the lead engineers behind Waku Waku, a social media community for those passionate about animation.

Outside of the workplace, Filipp periodically volunteers his time as a debate coach at UCLA, his alma mater, and several children’s public speaking programs in the Southern California area to help young minds become acquainted with the benefits of a free society and the pitfalls of excessive government. 

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Claryce Lee is the founder and president of Heart Beat Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sharing the healing power of music with isolated individuals.  As a classically trained pianist, she has over a decade of experience performing and educating underserved and isolated groups in inner-city schools, senior homes, and hospitals.  Also a credentialed teacher, she has previously taught music at Birch Wathen Lenox School in New York and had an established piano studio in the Upper East Side in Manhattan.  She holds an undergraduate degree in piano performance and music education from UCLA (B.A.), and a Masters in teaching for K-6 from USC (M.A.).

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Mary Catherine McElhone is a recovering, self-proclaimed campaign cowgirl with a lifelong enthusiasm for all things political. With a resume as long and as varied as most campaign operatives, she has spent over a decade working to elect conservative leadership to all levels of government. A jack of all trades, Mary Catherine has experience in campaign management, event planning, coalition building, and communications (read her opinion pieces in the Washington Times). Her current role is in local government. Recently appointed chair of the Women’s Mentorship Committee for the Young Republican National Federation, Mary Catherine is passionate about increasing young women’s participation in the Republican Party. With a personality as large as her double first name, she does not hesitate to correct those who call her Mary. An Enneagram Seven to the core, she is often described as everyone’s new best friend and wears that moniker proudly. Born, raised, and educated in Missouri, Mary Catherine and her beloved golden retriever Murphy now split time between St. Louis and Atlanta. 

You can connect with her here: @themarycatherine.

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Braden Odom is the Director of Special Projects for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In this role, he oversees various projects, such as developing and managing various grant programs, the preparation of departmental budget presentations before Senate hearings, and other administrative work. Although his work is less hands-on in helping Tennesseans with disabilities, Braden takes great pride in the difference he and his team make in Tennessee’s most vulnerable population. He graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in data analytics. He is originally from Anderson, Indiana, but now lives with his wife (and soon-to-be daughter) in Hermitage, Tennessee. Braden enjoys cheering on the Purdue Boilermakers in his free time and learning new data skills such as SQL, Tableau, or Python.

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Addison Patrick is a community strategic manager, the former AF-DC Hub Director, and the former AF-Jacksonville Chapter Leader. She is an AF Writing Fellow and Heritage Foundation Young Leaders Academy Fellow. Before her work with America’s Future, Addison was involved with the Libertarian Party of Florida and served as Vice Chair and Chair of the Duval County affiliate. Addison graduated from Christopher Newport University (CNU) with a degree in Communication Studies. She is currently a board member-at-large of the CNU DC/Metro Alumni chapter of the CNU Alumni Society. Addison enjoys meeting new people from all backgrounds and hearing their stories and ideas. Addison is an aspiring writer, speaker, and non-profit founder. Her motto is to “live a life you don’t need a vacation from.”

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Autumn Perkey is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland specializing in International Relations and American politics. Her research focuses on the intersection between political psychology, American Foreign policy, public opinion, and conflict processes. Her dissertation is focused on how identity and emotions impact perceptions of violence towards foreign civilians during military interventions abroad and the effects of superordinate identity on wartime public opinion more broadly. Before attending the University of Maryland, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University. She has worked as a research assistant for the Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, and the RAND Corporation. In the future, she is interested in work that bridges the gap between policy and academia. 

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Houston Reese is the Director of the Janus Project at the California Policy Center. In this role, he oversees CPC’s digital marketing campaigns, coordinates CPC’s development team, and co-directs CPC’s internship program. He has been with CPC since 2022 in various roles.

Houston graduated from Biola University with a degree in political science and a minor in biblical and theological studies in 2022. While at Biola, he served as a Senator in Biola’s student government and ran on the Cross Country and Track teams. Houston recently completed State Policy Network’s Generation Liberty Fellowship and is a member of the Orange County Young Republicans and America’s Future. 

An Orange County native, he is a diehard Chargers fan. He enjoys running, spending time with his family, and volunteering at his church in his free time.

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Kayla Ventura is a full-time content creator and strategist who works directly with clients to increase their visibility and sales. Kayla brings 10 years of experience in the communications sector, serving political, corporate, and nonprofit clients. Prior to working on her own, Kayla most recently served as the digital communications manager at the Conservative Energy Network. There she created, produced, and hosted the Conservative Energy Podcast. Kayla is confident her creativity and unique voice will help your product shine. When she’s not creating content, Kayla enjoys time outside, visiting the theme parks, and crafting. Kayla and her partner, Adam, live outside of the Orlando area with their dog, Roman.

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Chris West serves as a food and faith coordinator for a major environmental nonprofit and leads the Raleigh Chapter of America’s Future.  

After graduating from Campbell University, Chris lived alongside refugees in a missional housing project called Welcome House and completed a policy fellowship with The James G Martin Center. He then went on to coordinate the PPE program at UNC-Chapel Hill until the onset of COVID-19, when he left to pursue graduate education in religion and nonprofit leadership.  

Chris completed the Faith-Based Nonprofit Leader program at Wake Forest and earned his Masters from Duke Divinity School. During this degree, he also served as a BJC Religious Liberty Fellow and Theology Fellow with Creation Justice Ministries and was part of the Berean Cohort with the Center For Reconciliation. 

He currently serves as a board member of We Plant it Forward, on the Fair Housing Hearing Board for the city of Raleigh,  as the founder/CEO of Box The Good, and as the Donor Outreach Manager of Parable Media. For the past few years, Chris has been active in organizing and mobilizing faith communities across North Carolina to address issues such as environmental justice, housing, and incarceration reform.

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Amile Wilson is the lead strategist and executive producer at Hapax Creativea media production and strategy firm with offices in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Los Angeles. He is a member of the Director’s Guild of America, Stage Directors, and Choreographer’s Society and has served on the board of numerous arts, culture, and policy nonprofits at both state and national levels. He is married to Kathryn Gurtler, and they have two children, Charlotte (3) and Dorothy (6mo).

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Kate Zickel has been a broadcast media and digital marketing professional for over 15 years. Kate started her film and radio career in Seattle, producing KVI’s morning talk show with Kirby Wilbur before moving to Washington, DC, where she worked in documentary filmmaking, news radio, and digital communication strategies. Kate launched Lighthouse Digital Results in 2019 to help private sector businesses and news and political communication organizations identify and develop their strategies to realize their online growth goals from conception to execution. In just a few short years, dozens of news and political platforms and small businesses have increased their social media management footprint with Digital Lighthouse Results. Kate is a recipient of the RIAS journalism fellowship, for which her work has received Telly, Pollie, and MarCom awards. When she’s not running Lighthouse Digital Results, advising companies, and developing strategy, Kate spends her time outdoors rock climbing, hiking, riding horses, and giving back to her breast cancer survivorship Community.

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Nico Zviovich is an Atlanta-based interdisciplinary communicator whose passions for persuasion and politics have led him to work in public affairs and advertising. He has organized communications strategies for clients ranging from his home state of Georgia to clients in Latin America and the Middle East. He currently works at Iron Light, where he works to empower mission-driven brands that are changing the world. He is also working to build community and bolster social entrepreneurs throughout the Southeast in his role as Hub Director for America’s Future. When not working, you can often find him in a hammock enjoying a good book or by the grill.