November 16, 2023

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows!

By: AF Editors

Our Writing Fellowship is one of our longest-running programs, dedicated to training and developing young writers, helping them hone their voice and learn the ins and outs of effective writing, pitching, and communicating.

Interested in joining our next Writing Fellows cohort? Sign up here to be notified when the applications open!

First off, our D.C.-based Fellows!


Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 1


Susana Macias is a Mexican professional with a B.A. in International Relations from Universidad Anahuac and an M.A. in Public Policy specializing in Development and Governance from Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of York. With over ten years of experience, she has worked for the Mexican Government and international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the World Bank. Currently, she serves as the Health Policy Program Manager at the Cato Institute.



Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 2 Alec Mena serves as State Government Affairs Associate for Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a private, non-partisan, non-profit advocacy organization, where he tracks activities in the state legislatures, shedding light on costly public spending and regulation across the fifty states. He also serves as the organization’s liaison with state-based think tanks and advocacy groups.

Originally from Southern California, Alec graduated with high honors from Hillsdale College in 2019, where he studied political economy and philosophy, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at George Mason University.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 3


Matthew Putnam is originally from Sarasota, Florida and attended Florida State University where he received a degree in History and International Affairs. He has lived in Washington, D.C. since 2020, working for two years with a small tech startup. For nearly two years, Matthew has worked at the National Taxpayers Union. With NTU, Matthew focuses on donor relations and external affairs and writes blog posts on a variety of topics. He also bartends on the weekends at the D.C. institution Red Derby. In his free time, Matthew plays soccer, alto saxophone, and studies German and Russian.


Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 4Carla Rafael is a Georgia Southern University graduate who studied Political Science and Modern Languages. Currently, Carla is a Senior Staff Assistant on the Committee on Energy and Commerce Majority. Before starting her career at E&C, Carla was a public policy intern at the Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp, and an intern for Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter. Her interests include AI, data privacy, trade, and commerce policy issues. Carla currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 5



Johnny Rubin is a Communications Advisor/Speechwriter for the House Ways and Means Committee majority, where he primarily writes remarks and statements for Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO). Previously, he worked at the House Budget Committee and then-Rep. Ted Budd’s (R-NC) campaign. As a North Carolina native, he is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. He currently lives in Arlington, VA.



Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 6Trevor Schakohl is a Communications Specialist for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit civil rights group that protects constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State. He previously worked as a Daily Caller News Foundation reporter covering crime and legal issues and a Daily Caller fact checker. Trevor grew up in Seattle and interned in the House of Representatives, at The Laura Ingraham Show and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation before graduating from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Communication in 2019. In his spare time, he enjoys reading about history, biking and watching baseball.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 7Nate Scherer is a Policy Analyst with the American Consumer Institute where he researches and writes about issues concerning consumer welfare. He previously served as a Policy Analyst at the Reason Foundation and has also worked for several other political nonprofits including the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Leadership Institute. More recently, he worked as an educator for Fairfax County Public Schools and performed research during the summers for Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab. He possesses a Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education, Social Studies, and Bachelor of Arts in Politics. He currently resides in Arlington, VA.


Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 8Daniel Thayer is a legislative staffer in Senator Rand Paul’s office, covering his defense, foreign policy, veterans affairs, and intelligence. He is a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, and has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for over four years. When Daniel started in D.C., he worked in the Department of Energy, supporting the federal nuclear cleanup mission before transitioning to a full-time national security and foreign affairs staffer in Senator Paul’s office. For the past two years, in this capacity, he’s been supporting Senator Paul’s legislative priorities on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the National Defense Authorization Act. Today, he seeks to continue building a career as a national security professional. When he’s not working in Congress, you’ll find Daniel exploring D.C. and other cities along the East Coast.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 9Kristen Ziccarelli grew up in Germany, Slovenia, Boston, Chicago, and Virginia, and serves as a Production Assistant and Policy Analyst in the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at AFPI. In this role, she focuses on the humanitarian angle of the current Southern border crisis, advocating for an America First approach to border security and national security.  

She has previously held roles at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany. In D.C., Kristen gives tours at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and helps lead the D.C. Young Catholic Professionals. She attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for her Master’s in International Business and received Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Finance at Christopher Newport University.

Now meet our virtual Fellows!

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 10Zack Abnet is a young Texan working in grassroots leadership and advocacy in the conservative environmental movement. He is a lover of the outdoors who enjoys the Texas hill country, kayaking and hiking along the greenbelt when time allows. Zack was born in the east African nation of Ethiopia, which he immigrated from at the age of seven. This unique background and upbringing has informed much of the politics and culture Zack would like to write and comment on. From a young age, Zack has shown a natural interest in politics and the process for solving complex issues. Starting out with engagement with his high school debate team and student government, Zack moved onto local politics. No matter the issue or the time, Zack values intellectual consistency and has an openness to challenge his beliefs. 

Outside of politics, Zack is a proud and constantly disappointed fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Like many, Zack loves to travel and has the mission of seeing all seven continents before the age of 30. Zack enjoys writing about topics relating to tech, politics, foreign policy, and human nature in his free time.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 11Emma Balzer works for the Indiana State Senate Majority Caucus as a Senior Press Secretary. Since 2021, she has served as press secretary for six state senators, including the chairs of the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Health and Provider Services.

In addition to her role as senior press secretary, Emma also works as the deputy director for intern recruitment at the Senate. A former intern herself, Emma is passionate about helping others become involved in government and helping guide them on their path to public service. Emma was born and raised in Indiana. She attended the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville where she received bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 12Taylor Brown graduated in 2018 with her B.A in Political Science/Public Service from UC Riverside where she also was nominated as the NCAA Woman of the Year for her accomplishments as a student-athlete. She previously completed the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs before joining the public sector and currently serves as a Legislative Aide in the California State Senate.

In her spare time, Taylor practices gymnastics, travels around the state with her friends and family, and writes news releases for the Sacramento Taxpayers Association where she hones her writing skills in support of fiscal responsibility by elected public officials. Some of her public policy interests include: Education, Taxation and Revenue, Agriculture, and Public Health.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 13Matt Cookson currently works in the defense industry in a supply chain role. Outside of work, Matt has a passion for public policy and politics. Prior to the Writing Fellowship, Matt worked several stints at The Heritage Foundation, including with their Young Leaders Program. He also worked at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Furthermore, Matt participated in the Founders’ Foreign Policy Fellowship with the Common Sense Society, completed the Academy with the Heritage Foundation, and participated in a seminar with the Leadership Institute.

Matt has published articles for the Idaho Freedom Foundation and China Source, a platform dedicated to broadening awareness of issues facing the church in mainland China. Outside of work, Matt enjoys reading, spending time at church, and studying foreign languages. He can speak Chinese, German, Spanish, and is currently learning Norwegian.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 14Brittany Ellison is the Georgia Director of Grassroots for Leadership Institute. She has a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication from Liberty University. Brittany began her political career on gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle’s campaign in 2017. She then went to work for State Representative John Carson and helped with the passing of the prominent Hands-Free Law. After the 2018 session, Brittany worked as a campaign communication specialist for the Attorneys General of Georgia and Alabama. After the successful wins, Brittany began her lobbying career with a government affairs firm and later went to lobby for nonprofits. Just in the 2021 session, Brittany successfully lobbied for the passing and signing of over a dozen bills.

In the fall of 2021, Brittany started her own firm, Peach State Approach, to serve Georgians through campaign services and government relations.. She has been named one of James Magazine’s Top Rising Star Lobbyists two years in a row and is a graduate of the historic Georgia Conservative Policy Leadership Institute and Republican Leaders for Georgia. Brittany serves on the boards of Cobb Young Republicans, Cobb County Republican Women, and Center for Family Resources Young Professionals.  This included pro-life legislation, a homeschool sports bill, and two crucial anti-human-trafficking bills. Through that she consulted on state-wide and local races and worked with the NRTL state affiliate, Georgia Life Alliance.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 15

Kellyn Harrison is an Indiana State Senate press secretary who manages press relations for six state senators, including the Senate majority floor leader and chairs of the Senate committees on agriculture, education, utilities, and commerce and technology. There, she writes to a general audience on behalf of her caseload on topics ranging from K-12 education to fiscal policy to land drainage. 

Born and raised a Hoosier, Kellyn holds a master’s degree in emerging media, design and development, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism news from Ball State University. Before working full-time with the Senate, she was an Indiana State Senate press secretary intern, Hoosier State Press Association Pulliam intern, and the editor-in-chief of her university’s digital media magazine, earning notable accolades from the Indiana State Senate Majority Caucus and Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 16

Debbie Jennings is a public policy professional with experience in Congress, state government, and policy events. She has experience in tax and spending policy from her time working as a Legislative Aide in the U.S. Senate. Debbie received her master’s degree in 2021 from the University of Pittsburgh where she studied International Political Economics, focusing on free trade and international finance. Her work has been published in the Pitt Policy Journal.

Prior to grad school, she lived in Chongqing, China teaching English for one year. She is currently living in Pennsylvania and in her spare time enjoys reading, watching films, and helping with her family’s farm.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 17

Jordan Levitz is an emerging political professional with public sector experience. He has worked as an intern for Vote Smart on high-level projects for the national director. He was a Summer 2023 Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Academy, where he met key personalities in the conservative movement and discussed critical policy topics.

Jordan was selected as the youngest Burke to Buckley Fellow of the National Review Institute’s Miami Chapter, where conservatism’s  philosophy was explored with prominent thought leaders and academics. Additionally, Jordan interned with the boutique political consulting firm, the Lennon Group. During his tenure, he was the firm’s sole representative to two political campaigns simultaneously.

Outside of the political arena, Jordan has interned with Pebble Tossers, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to youth volunteerism and leadership development. Jordan holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 18

Marcos Lopez serves as the Outreach & Coalitions Director for Nevada Policy Research Institute, which includes government affairs and Hispanic outreach. For over a decade, Marcos has fought to advance free-market principles, limited government, and secure individual rights through electioneering, lobbying, and grassroots mobilization at all levels of government across nine states and Washington D.C.

Originally from Miami, Marcos moved to Nevada in 2015 and has lived in Reno and Las Vegas, where he currently resides. His main areas of focus include economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and school choice.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 19

J. Thomas Perdue is a policy analyst at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation in Atlanta. His role with GPPF includes both research and communications, and spans several areas of state-level public policy including education, housing, healthcare, and occupational licensing. He has worked at the Foundation since June 2022.

J. Thomas previously worked as a graduate intern for The Archway Partnership at The University of Georgia, where he conducted policy research and community outreach for rural Georgia. He also interned for The Weekly Standard magazine in Washington, D.C., and served as an editor of The Arch Conservative, a student magazine at the University of Georgia, for four years.

A native of Thomaston, Georgia, J. Thomas is a graduate of the University of Georgia, earning a journalism degree from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019 and a Master’s in Public Administration and Policy from UGA in 2022.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 20

Nathanael Phipps currently serves as the Communications & Social Media Associate for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia. His role is to take dense policy matters and communicate them in ways that are accessible for the average person. Nate believes that free market economics and entrepreneurship can help people raise their standard of living and overall life satisfaction.

His writing interests include foreign policy, Israeli politics, foster care, and free market economics. Nate is originally from upstate New York, but currently lives in Arlington, VA. He endeavors to do more reading than he watches TV. He is currently learning Hebrew and enjoys listening to podcasts on a variety of subjects.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 21

Selene Rodriguez is the Policy Director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Secure and Sovereign Frontier campaign, which strives to keep our nation safe and free. Selene’s work and expertise is focused on policies that secure the southern border and restore the rule of law as we fix and improve legal immigration to the United States. In this role, she conducts research on public policy issues; assists the Foundation in academic publication; educates lawmakers and members of the public on Foundation research; and provides formal testimony to local, state, and federal entities.

Prior to this position, Rodriguez served in the Marine Corps as an Intelligence Specialist and completed an internship at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Born and raised in Del Rio, Texas, Rodriguez graduated from Texas State University with a B.A. in political science and is currently a graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in Political Science.

Congratulations to our Fall 2023 Writing Fellows! 22

Liam Siegler is a Program Ambassador for the Herzog Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to catalyzing Christian K-12 education throughout the United States. As an Ambassador, Liam networks across the country to promote Herzog’s resources to school administrators, educators, and other non-profits. He is also a contributor for The Lion, Herzog’s in house publication dedicated to education news.

Liam is a recent graduate from Gordon College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. During his time in school, he was the  founder/Editor-in-Chief of the Gordon Review, President of the Gordon College Republicans Club, and Vice-President of the Gordon College Life Coalition. He has also interned for USA Today Opinion and Massachusetts Family Institute. 

Liam’s work can be found in National Review, The Federalist, and The College Fix.