Independent Sector Announces 2021 Cohort of American Express NGen Fellows

Twelve social sector leaders to enhance skills to strengthen communities nationwide

(WASHINGTON, June 7, 2021) – Independent Sector, a national membership organization bringing together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs working to strengthen civil society, announced today the 2021 nonprofit and philanthropic cohort of the American Express NGen Fellows program, part of the American Express Leadership Academy, offering a transformative opportunity for changemakers, age 40 and under, to strengthen their leadership capacity, hone their change-making skills, and build connections with some of the social sector’s most influential leaders.

The American Express NGen Fellows program, now in its 12th year, continues to focus on driving results for participants in six core areas: self-awareness, racial equity, adaptive leadership, results-based decision making, systems change, and network development. Similar to past years, Independent Sector received an extraordinary response during the submission period, which was open to any emerging changemaker across the country and social sector, including nonprofits, philanthropies, and other mission driven organizations.

“Ensuring that everyone in the U.S. thrives is a collective effort. The American Express NGen Fellows program is an important part of this goal because it provides emerging leaders with invaluable community-building skills to address systemic inequities,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “These leaders reflect the nation’s diversity. They’re making sure the social sector and our communities are healthy and equitable for years to come.”

Twelve outstanding charitable and community-building leaders age 40 and under are selected each year to participate in a fellowship designed to expand their access to networks, knowledge, and resources to advance their work in support of communities nationwide. This highly competitive fellowship program continues to strengthen the next generation of charitable and community-building leaders, as part of Independent Sector’s NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now initiative.

“Our communities depend on emerging social sector leaders who have been working at the forefront of society’s most pressing challenges which have only been exacerbated by the global pandemic,” said Richard Brown, Vice President of Philanthropy at American Express. “We’re proud to continue supporting the American Express NGen Fellows program because it provides leaders with the tools, networking and learning opportunities they need to build lasting change and inspire their peers and communities.”

The 2021 American Express NGen Fellows are:

  • Jazmín Chávez, Associate Vice President of Public Affairs, Hispanics in Philanthropy (Denver, Colorado)
  • Dion Dawson, Founder and Executive Director, Dion’s Chicago Dream (Chicago, Illinois)
  • M. Michelle Derosier, Chief Program Officer, (New York City, New York)
  • Tasha R. Fridia, Assistant Director, Tribal Youth Resource Center (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
  • Kahina Haynes, Executive Director, The Dance Institute of Washington (Washington, DC)
  • Gabriel Maldonado, Chief Executive Officer, TruEvolution (Riverside, California)
  • Melaak Rashid, Development Director, Smart Development (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Erica Reid, National Director of Programs, Friends of the Children (Charlotte, North Carolina)
  • Sundiata Salaam, Chief People Officer, Freedom Preparatory Academy (Bartlett, Tennessee)
  • Yadira Sanchez, Co-Executive Director, Poder Latinx (Seattle, Washington)
  • Jimmy Simpson, Jr., Manager of Partnerships, The Center for Effective Philanthropy, YouthTruth (Oakland, California)
  • Nellie Tsai, Social Innovation Officer, Michigan Nonprofit Association (Detroit, Michigan)

Similar to 2020, Fellows will convene in a virtual format to ensure their health and safety as travel conditions continue to change. 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, which are part of Upswell, to several day-long, deep-dive convenings.

This year, there will be a continuation of a program extension that will engage up to 40 leaders who presented strong applications through monthly cohort meetings and completion of online coursework from The Self-Aware Leader. This tailored virtual learning experience is produced in partnership with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, an Independent Sector member.

Learn more about the Fellows at


Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs 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 Leaders. For more than a decade, the company has devoted resources to creating and funding programs that strengthen leaders within nonprofit and social purpose organizations working to solve the world’s biggest challenges, with a specific focus on leaders who are people of color and from underrepresented groups. From 2007 to 2020, American Express has supported the training of more than 150,000 social purpose leaders from more than 100 countries.

Founded in 2008, the American Express Leadership Academy builds the personal, business and leadership skills of emerging nonprofit and social purpose leaders through multi-day 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. From 2008 to 2020, American Express hosted more than 160 Leadership Academy programs around the world, training more than 5,400 nonprofit and social purpose leaders.

For more information on the American Express Leadership Academy, please visit LeaderStories.

Contact: Independent Sector: Bradley Wong,; 202-467-6122

Contact: American Express: Sarah Abebe,

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Leadership Development
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion