The Presidential Leadership Scholars program serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world. As we reflect on the drastic change this year brought to all of our lives, we are proud to highlight some of the Scholars who continued to pave the way and lead in these uncertain times. Their accomplishments this year are a testament to their ability to affect lasting, positive change.
Meet a few of the scholars who made a difference this year.
Daniel Anello, Class of 2015: Advocating for Chicago’s students and their families
As the CEO of Kids First Chicago, Daniel Anello is working to improve public education on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Since 2015, he has supported parent-led and data-informed change to create a new system of school options for families and created better ways to measure progress for the students of Chicago.
This year, Daniel has continued to raise awareness for students’ most pressing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic through his work to close the digital equity gap for families across the region. Many students were required to participate in remote learning programs this year, and the need for expanded internet access was critical. In June, Daniel and Kids First Chicago joined partner organizations and the City of Chicago to launch Chicago Connected, a program that provides no-cost, high-speed internet service to Chicago Public School students in their households.
Lisa Atherton, Class of 2017: Combating the nationwide shortages of Personal Protective Equipment
At the helm of one of largest defense contractors in the country is Presidential Leadership Scholar Lisa Atherton. As the president and CEO of Textron Systems, she works to provide innovative solutions to the defense, aerospace, and general aviation markets. Under Lisa’s leadership, Textron Systems has been supporting COVID-19 response efforts across the country. To combat the nationwide shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, the company has donated masks and other essential supplies to frontline workers.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Textron Systems employees have volunteered to help the Johns Hopkins Health System make face shields, PPE packs, and more for their hospitals across the United States.
Byron Sanders, Class of 2017: Closing the opportunity gap with high-quality education programs
Byron Sanders was inspired during PLS to leave his job in finance and devote his time to helping close the opportunity gap for youth in communities throughout Dallas, Texas. In his current role as president and CEO of Big Thought, he works with partner organizations to equip children in marginalized communities with the skills and tools they need through in-school, after-school, and community-partnership experiences.
His work has been recognized across the state and the country. This year, Byron was featured on the Dallas 500 – a list of the most influential leaders and top executives in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Renée DiResta, Class of 2017: Raising awareness about the spread of misinformation online
Renée DiResta is a leading expert on the effects of misinformation. She works with policymakers to devise responses to the spread of harmful narratives across social networks. Renée regularly writes and speaks about the role that tech platforms and algorithms play in the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
This year, Renée has helped raise awareness about the harmful narratives surrounding topics like the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Pritesh Ghandi, Class of 2018: On the frontlines of COVID-19 care and prevention
On the frontlines of the country’s response to COVID-19 are our doctors and essential workers. Dr. Pritesh Ghandi remained steadfast in his commitment to care for the East Austin community. Throughout his career, he’s focused on community-based, poverty-reduction initiatives, and social determinants of health – all areas that were underscored by the impact of the pandemic.
The care and compassion that he displays as a doctor carried over in his run for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas’ 10th Congressional District.
Vivian Greentree, Class of 2019: Leadership with an eye towards inclusion
Vivian Greentree is a Navy veteran and the current senior vice president and head of Global Corporate Citizenship at Fiserv, a financial technology company. She leads the diversity and inclusion efforts at the company, working closely its veterans, women, Black, Latino, and LGBTQ members. When the COVID-19 threatened the security of small businesses, with a disproportionate impact on minority- and black-owned businesses, Vivian and the Fiserv team mobilized to provide grants to those at risk. She also ensured that Fiserv’s employees felt supported by soliciting their feedback and encouraging constant communication between associates.
Nona Jones, Class of 2016: Supporting faith leaders during a time of great uncertainty
As Facebook’s Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships, Nona Jones helps faith leaders around the world leverage technology to grow their communities online. As many churches began virtual service because of enforced social distancing, Nona helped to launch the Faith on Facebook Resource Hub, a toolkit for faith leaders to connect with their communities during the pandemic.
This year, Nona began the “Faith and Prejudice” initiative, an effort to confront and eliminate racism in churches and throughout their communities. She organized this movement shortly after the killing of George Floyd to help heal the racial divide in the country.
Russ Kavalhuna, Class of 2016: Sending Michigan’s essential workers to college
Thanks to the work of Russ Kavalhuna, Eastern Michigan University, and Henry Ford College, many of Michigan’s essential workers who worked during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown are eligible for a tuition-free path to a degree. The “Future for Frontliners” program offers scholarships to essential workers without an associate or bachelor’s degree to earn one at no cost. As the president of Henry Ford College, Russ works closely with students and staff to build better futures through strong academic and workforce training programs.
Roya Mahboob, Class of 2019: Empowering women to design solutions for challenges posed by COVID-19
Throughout her career, Roya Mahboob has worked to build digital literacy for women and children in developing countries, and to bridge the gap between education and job markets by offering practical skills for women, increasing women’s technological literacy, and providing employment and educational opportunities for girls and children.
This year, Roya organized a series of projects that brought together a group of five girls from Afghanistan, aged 14 to 17, who designed and built emergency ventilators.
Daron Roberts, Class of 2015: On the importance of activism and empathy
As a former NFL coach and founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, Daron Roberts is a leading voice in sports and advocacy. He used his expertise this year to raise awareness about the response to social injustice movements across sports organizations, the effects of COVID-19 on the future of sports, and the importance of activism. Daron’s book, A Kid’s Book About Empathy, is featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things holiday list.
Kristin Judge, Class of 2017: Giving a voice to the victims of cybercrime
Kristin Judge works to support consumers and small businesses affected by cybercrime in her role at the Cybercrime Support Network. As the founder and CEO, she works with federal, state, and local law enforcement, victim service organizations, and the private sector to create a national referral source for these victims. As a leading voice in the space, Kristin’s insights on the rise of cybercrime this year were shared at an event hosted by the World Economic Forum.
Marta Michelle Colon, Class of 2017: Combating the opioid epidemic
Marta Michelle Colon’s nonprofit, Be Gutsy, is a program designed to educate the Latinx community about the dangers of misusing opioids. Her team establishes tools to mitigate opioid misuse through local partnerships, mentorship opportunities, and healthcare programs. Marta was selected as a 2020 L’Oréal Women of Worth, an award honoring women who are leading non-profit organizations that are making a difference in their communities.
Sam Newman, Class of 2018: Increasing access to fresh food
Sam Newman and the Little Red Box Grocery team are providing access to affordable fresh food and pantry items for all residents of Galveston, TX. The store opened this year and offers shoppers the opportunity to order groceries online and pick them up curbside – an important feature that so many have relied on during the pandemic. Sam’s goal is to eradicate food deserts and increase access to fresh, healthy foods.