Independent Sector Announces 2020 Cohort of American Express NGen Fellows

(WASHINGTON, June 16, 2020) – Independent Sector is honored to announce the 2020 cohort of the American Express NGen Fellows program, part of the American Express Leadership Academy.

Twelve outstanding charitable sector leaders age 40 and under are selected each year to participate in a fellowship that will allow them to expand their access to networks, knowledge, and resources to advance the impact of their work. This selective fellowship program continues to build the next generation of charitable leaders as part of Independent Sector’s NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now initiative.

Moving into its 11th year, the fellowship program curriculum continues to focus on driving results in six core areas: self-awareness, results-based decision making, systems change, racial equity, adaptive leadership, and network development. Similar to past years, Independent Sector received an immense response to the submission period which was open to any emerging changemaker across the country and across sectors.

“Young people continue to show us through individual and collective action that there is still power in using voice to make systems change, we are proud to announce this new cohort of exceptional emerging changemakers,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “We know that through this fellowship these leaders will strengthen their resilience and networks to lead our sector in navigating a public health and economic crisis all in the backdrop of addressing our country’s systemic inequities.”

The 2020 NGen Fellows are:

  • Christine Balarezo, Program Associate, Collective Liberty (Denton, Texas)
  • Monita Bell, Interim Co-Director and Managing Editor, Teaching Tolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center (Opelika, Alabama)
  • Janelle Choi, Program Officer, Marguerite Casey Foundation (Seattle, Washington)
  • Roque Diaz, Director of School Partnerships, MacPhail Center for Music, (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Esther Gross, Senior Research Analyst, Child Trends (Bethesda, Maryland)
  • Olivia Jefferson, Director Equity and Holistic Grantmaking, Greater Twin Cities United Way (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Juvaria Khan, Founder, The Appellate Project (Washington, DC)
  • Eric Lopez, Director of Corporate Accountability, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (Washington, DC)
  • Selina Pagán, Economic Development and Marketing Coordinator, Metro West Community Development Organization (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Danielle B. Powell, Director, Leadership 18 (Alexandria, Virginia)
  • Meghan Shea, Founder & Director, Persistent Productions (Rockport, Massachusetts)
  • Lillian Singh, Vice President, Programs and Racial Wealth Equity, Prosperity Now (Washington, DC)

“As local communities face unprecedented challenges, the need to continue cultivating and advancing emerging social purpose leaders who can help create innovative solutions has never been greater,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation. “The NGen Fellows program provides hands-on training to help participants develop results-driven strategies, hone their leadership skills, and encourage collaboration with all stakeholders.”

The Fellows will convene in a completely virtual format for the first time to protect the health and safety of participants. They will be immersed in sessions on topics including adaptive leadership, systems change and racial equity. These sessions will range from two-hour pop ups to several-day deep dives.

This year the program will also pilot an online course extension, which will engage up to 50 leaders who presented strong applications. This unique remote peer learning opportunity is being produced in partnership with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

Learn more about the Fellows at


Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations working to ensure all people in the United States thrive. Learn more at

About American Express’ Leadership Initiatives

One of American Express’ three philanthropic platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 125,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefitted from American Express leadership programs, including the American Express Leadership Academy among others.

Founded in 2008 in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, the American Express Leadership Academy builds the personal, business and leadership skills of emerging nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs through multi-day, in-person trainings. The initiative has grown to a global program, training world-class leaders in the areas of education, the arts, social services, health, the environment, and more. For leadership journey stories and additional resources, visit

Contact: Independent Sector: Kristina Gawrgy Campbell,; 202-467-6144

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Leadership Development, Race, Equity, and Inclusion