Toward the Future: Updates From Our 2021 American Express NGen Fellows

Independent Sector’s 2021 cohort of the American Express NGen Fellows program is wrapping up its Fellowship this December. Part of the American Express Leadership Academy, this group of 12 charitable and community-building leaders age 40 and under was selected following an extraordinary response to the call for nominations and a rigorous review process.

Coincidentally, cohort members began their Fellowships in the program’s 12th year, and during that time, they expanded their access to networks, knowledge, and resources which will enhance their work to build stronger and healthier communities nationwide.

Photo courtesy of Dion’s Chicago Dream

Like last year, to ensure their health and safety, cohort members convened virtually, immersing themselves in a range of sessions focused on adaptive leadership, racial equity, systems change, results-based practices, with learning rooted in building self-awareness and a network of peers. There were a variety of session formats, including two-hour Pop-Ups, as part of Upswell, powered by Independent Sector, and day-long, deep-dive discussions.

As the 2021 American Express NGen Fellows close out the year, we checked in with some of the Fellowship cohort members to catch up on the latest:

Dion Dawson, Founder and Executive Director of Dion’s Chicago Dream, says as a lead in the food justice space, his goal is always to feed as many people, consistently, as possible, as well as making progress throughout the sector while doing that. Dion is an award-winning military journalist, philanthropic trailblazer, and humble son of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and Dion’s Chicago Dream focuses on food insecurity and inequality in the city.

Dion says his organization is focused on changing the access and quality aspects of the food insecurity fight. After a year of providing 50,000 pounds of new fruits and vegetables as an organization, he and friends of the nonprofit want to double that in 2022.

Photo courtesy of iCouldBe

M. Michelle Derosier, as Chief Program Officer for iCouldBe, shapes and leads the strategic vision and direction of programming for the organization, an innovative virtual mentoring nonprofit. She is driven to use technology to ensure that youth of color with limited resources have access to opportunities for success and the support system to leverage them. Michelle is slated to lead iCouldBe in 2025 as the first BIPOC Executive Director in the organization’s 25-year history.

She hosts the Road to Lead podcast, which covers succession planning in the nonprofit and social sectors. The podcast is a safe space for candid, vulnerable, meaningful conversations with diverse changemakers about how they transitioned to formalized leadership roles.

Gabriel Maldonado
, Founder and CEO of TruEvolution, spoke and introduced President Joe Biden in December during a program where the president commemorated World AIDS Day and launched his national HIV/AIDS strategy. TruEvolution, a community health and social justice organization, fights for health equity and racial justice to advance the quality of life and human dignity of LGBTQ+ people.

Photo courtesy of TruEvolution

Gabriel has led the organization’s efforts for the last 11 years to now include comprehensive HIV prevention and care services, a mental health clinic, an emergency supportive housing program, and now leads the organization’s housing development project. He also is a former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS under President Barack Obama.

Erica Reid, National Director of Programs for Friends of the Children, is at the forefront of the organization’s 2Gen efforts. Youth and families are resilient in the face of systemic and institutional barriers – systems that are inequitable, unfair and working against them at every turn. Those systems, and the resulting trauma they create, negatively affect both youth and their caregivers. That’s why, Friends of the Children is adopting a two-generation approach, led by Erica.

Erica Reid

According to Erica, for nearly 30 years, Friends of the Children has furthered generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors for more than 12 years, no matter what. With their two-generation approach, she says they’re leveraging their proven model to impact generational change for both youth and caregivers.

Learn about other Fellows from our 2021 cohort and their work to make communities stronger, healthier, and more equitable:

As part of the American Express NGen Fellows program, the nonprofit organization of each Fellow is an Independent Sector member, if it was not one already. Learn about other Independent Sector members and becoming a member.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: ChangeWorks, Civil Society, Community, Dignity, Education, Equity, IS Member, Leadership Development, Purpose, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Voice
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion