About US

New Leaders Council (NLC) is the hub for progressive millennial training and thought leadership. NLC’s Austin chapter is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to to recruit, train and promote the next generation of progressive leaders in our city.

Started in 2016, the NLC Austin chapter has trained more than 60 progressives through the Institute Program, a six-month flagship training program hosted once a year. These leaders are rising entrepreneurs, community advocates, and nonprofit leaders, working to make Austin a truly progressive city.


2020 Board members

Kelsey Hitchingham


Kelsey Hitchingham is a 2018 NLC Austin alum and is now serving in her second year as Austin chapter co-director. She has worked with nonprofits for 15 years, and in early 2019 founded The Hitchingham Group, a consulting company that empowers growing nonprofits with the tools to thrive in their communities. Kelsey is passionate about community and civic engagement, and she credits NLC with opening doors to the opportunities and people she had been searching for, but never quite found, until her first day of Institute on a cold January morning in 2018.


Briona jenkins

Out Youth, Development Coordinator

Recently given the title, “The love child of Oprah, Beyonce, and Michelle Obama” , Briona Jenkins is a public speaker, activist for the LGBTQIA+, female, and people of color communities, and has years of experience using her platform to evoke change.

Originally from Connecticut, Bri attended Albertus Magnus College, a small Liberal Arts college rich in the Dominican Tradition, which is where she completed her undergrad as a Sociology major with a concentration in Social Work.

From 2012 until now Bri has been working at nonprofit organizations where she has been able to work with a wide variety of individuals including adults and children with development disabilities, single adults and families experiencing homelessness, and now working in development at an organization that serves LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults.

When not at work Bri is very involved in the Austin community. She recently completed New Leaders Council six-month institute and signed on to be the Co-Director of the Austin Chapter’s Board. She has served on the boards of Keep Austin Fed and Austin Black Pride. You can also find her on panels all around town or guest hosting on podcasts. Bri is also the co-host of a podcast called Queer For It.


Sarah miller-fellows

Alumni Chair

Sarah Miller-Fellows is the 2020 Program Year Alumni Chair for New Leaders Council Austin. She is Program Evaluator (nb - I’m likely to have a new title next week. Will update.) at Girls Empowerment Network. She completed her PhD in Medical Anthropology and her MPH at Case Western Reserve University. She is passionate about bridging the worlds of academic research and policy advocacy to advance gender and racial equity. In her free time, she enjoys listening to political and history podcasts, hiking around Austin, gardening, playing board games with friends, and sharing her love of nature with her two children.



Community Engagement Chair

Hello, my name is Allie Roberts. Currently, I am a Case Manager in a Rapid Re-housing program for Veterans experiencing homelessness. Before this I worked in the domestic violence movement. I earned a Bachelor's degree in Government at The University of Texas at Austin. For fun I like to follow politics, volunteer, and play sand volleyball.


Katelynn Essig

Communications Co-Chair

Katelynn Essig is a third year co-communications chair and a 2017 alumni from NLC Montana. She is originally from Springfield, IL and moved here by way of Oregon and Montana. She is currently the Sustainability Manager at Foundation Communities and is the great defender of green and healthy property management and environmental education for residents and staff at FC. Katelynn loves to swim, dance and eat delicious food.


Melanie Dyer

Communications Co-Chair

Melanie Dyer is a native Californian who transplanted to Austin, TX 5 years ago. She is a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern who is passionate about making mental health services accessible to everyone, and making therapy less scary. She is the host of the podcast ...But, Have You Considered Therapy? In her spare time she enjoys reading, practicing Krav Maga, cooking, and spending time with her partner, friends, and family.


Tara Pohlmeyer

Curriculum Co-Chair

Tara is a 2019 graduate of New Leaders Council - Austin, and excited to join the NLC-Austin board as a Curriculum Co-Chair.

Tara is the Communications Manager at Progress Texas, a progressive, non-profit, media organization. In this role, she focuses on media relations, content creation, and social media management. She is passionate about empowering women, supporting reproductive rights and access, and ensuring that Texas progressives have a voice.


Megan Sappenfield

Fundraising Co-Chair

Originally from Greensboro, NC, Megan Sappenfield is thrilled to call Austin home and to begin her term as NLC Austin's Fundraising + Finance co-chair. Megan's passion for social justice work began in high school when she attended a leadership development institute for teenagers called ANYTOWN. Since then, she has dedicated her life and work to creating a more equitable world for all.

Megan studied Public Relations at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Media and Journalism, with a concentration in sociology. From there, she moved to Beijing, China, for 3.5 years. While in Beijing, Megan did development and communications for a United Nations Observer Organization before returning to North Carolina to serve as Program Director for the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad. Megan now works as the Donor Relations Manager for Foundation Communities, contributing to an annual portfolio of over $2 million in individual giving and cultivating partnerships with local and national organizations. In her spare time, she serves as a Table Host for The Dinner Party (www.thedinnerparty.org), spends time with her adorable pup Scout, and tries to find friends willing to watch UNC basketball with her (go Heels!).

Shaleiah Fox

Fundraising Co-Chair

Shaleiah Fox oversees development and external relations at Black Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, a collective that includes a policy institute, an academic department, two art galleries, and a cultural and programming division. Increasing representation of marginalized groups in development and in higher education is a priority for Shaleiah and to that end, she takes part in multiple diversity and inclusion committees across campus and co-chairs the Recruiting and Hiring Subcommittee within the university’s development office. She brings nearly a decade of experience in fundraising and business development that spans both private, public, and non-profit sectors. Shaleiah holds two Masters Degrees from Florida State University (FSU) in social work and public administration and policy. While at FSU, Shaleiah’s graduate research and community work addressed transitional living programs and the gaps in services for youth who have aged out of the foster care system, believing very simply that these children are ours to care for and protect. In 2012, Shaleiah founded Fresh Chefs Society, a non-profit that aims to empower youth transitioning out of the foster care system through the power of food. She is a proud mother of two, an advocate and philanthropist, devoted to building a better community for all through education and female empowerment.


Nicole Cummings

Recruitment Co-Chair

E. Nicole Cummings holds a B.S.A in Elementary Ed & ECE, an M.A in Youth & Family Ministry and currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Learning and Organizational Change through Baylor University’s EdD Program. Nicole’s life passion has become the focus of the “WHOLE CHILD” beginning at birth, due to her own educational journey. Additionally, Nicole leverages the discovery of a learning difference in her adulthood as well as the 10+ years she spent as a kindergarten teacher and administrator in Austin ISD and KIPP Austin Public Schools, to help guide her practices and vision for the success of students, parents (guardians) & educators. Nicole is currently the Pre-K Language Tutor Manager at United Way for Greater Austin where she supports building the language of Pre-K4 students throughout the city of Austin by pairing and coaching college-aged males of color within Pre- K classrooms. She also supports various organizations and individuals who seek to develop children and their parents through partnerships, the implementation of restorative practice and parent advocacy. Her goal is to give parents and educators the tools and resources needed to advocate for children through the pathway of a partnership and collaboration.


Ekua assabill

Recruitment Co-Chair

The adage “to whom much is given, much is expected and required,” is not merely a mantra, but a way of life for Ekua Assabill. Ekua is an attorney licensed in the State of Texas for the past 11 years. She has spent 9 of those years serving the citizens of the State of Texas as a prosecutor in East and Central Texas. In doing so, she has had experience prosecuting in both rural communities and urban cities. She has a passion for a seeking justice on behalf of those who are overlooked by society. Currently, she is employed as an Assistant Attorney General with the Criminal Prosecution Division of the Office of the Attorney General. In that role, she travels Statewide assisting smaller jurisdictions with child abuse and domestic violence prosecutions.

When she is not traveling Statewide on behalf of the State of Texas, Ekua is active with her local Junior League Chapter – Junior League of Austin, where she is a member of the Transfer Class. This position provides her with an opportunity to directly impact the lives of children in the Austin-Area. Ekua is a 2004 graduate of Spelman College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English. She went on to the Paul M. Hebert Law Center – Louisiana State University, where she earned her Juris Doctor and a Bachelors of Civil Law in 2007. She has been licensed with the Texas Bar since 2007.