Meet Our Conference Staff
At LeadAmerica, we're passionate about changing life trajectories. We believe that mentorship along with college and career readiness skills are essential to a student's future success - the key to what they will do with their lives and how well they do it. Exploring team building, networking, communication, conflict negotiation and developing a sense of personal ownership of their futures can make important differences in the lives of teenagers - in their academic and personal performance, in their acceptance to the college of their choice and in the level of their focus, passion and purpose.
Each year, hundreds of talented and highly-motivated individuals compete for a limited number of openings and the opportunity to join LeadAmerica for a once-in a lifetime personal and professional development experience and to be a part of something larger than themselves. Although they come from all over the United States and abroad, and represent broadly diverse backgrounds, they all have one thing in common – a belief that, together, we can make a difference in the lives of young people as we help them to “explore their future paths while discovering what inspires them the most.”
LeadAmerica staff members include working professionals as well as college upper classmen and graduate level students from some of the most prestigious and top ranked colleges and universities in the United States. In past years, our staff members have come from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, University of Chicago, the Ohio State University and many other institutions of distinction. Most have academic and/or work experience in the conference field of study and have peer counseling, tutorial or leadership experience. These young men and women help to deliver the LeadAmerica experience to our students. They serve as mentors and role models. They are a large part of LeadAmerica’s vision “to inspire and empower all young people to achieve their full potential and instill in them a sense of purpose, integrity, self-confidence and personal responsibility.”We invite you to meet a few of LeadAmerica’s Conference Staff…
Name: Megan Johnson
School: Auburn University
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Spanish
My time spent working as an Office Coordinator with LeadAmerica has provided me with unforgettable memories and lifelong friendships. Working in the site office provided me the opportunity to work with the logistics aspect of LeadAmerica, but it also provided me with opportunities to interact with the students in a different way than the Team Leaders. I was able to see how these students changed over the 10 day conference into confident, mature leaders. They inspired me not only with their passion for leadership, but also with their drive to become the best leaders they could be. LeadAmerica cultivates growth, empowerment and confidence in each student that participates in the program. My summer spent working with LeadAmerica was one of the most rewarding experience of my life.
Name: Todd Sautters
School: The Ohio State University
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in History, 2008
Graduate Degree: Masters in Education, Integrated Social Studies, 2009
Working as a Team Leader with LeadAmerica has been influential in my development as an educator. I am a high school teacher in Baltimore, MD where I teach US History, Economics and African American History. Along with teaching, I am also an Advisor to my school's Student Council. My first summer in 2007 taught many of the skills I use every day of my life. From organizational skills to public speaking, LeadAmerica inspired me as a college student to pursue a career in education in order to influence the lives of young leaders every day of my life. My experiences in 2007 were so important to me that I decided to return to LeadAmerica during the summer of 2010 after completing my first year as a teacher. Having the chance to impact the lives of so many young students' lives was something I could not turn down, so returning was a no-brainer!
Name: Christopher Pierno
School: The Catholic University of America
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Politics, May 2011
I am currently finishing up my last year in college at CUA and working hard to make sure I get the most out of it! I started with LeadAmerica in the summer of 2008 as an Office Coordinator for the Washington Summer Scholars program in Washington, DC. In 2009 I became a Team leader for the National Security and Intelligence and Global Leadership Summit conferences. In 2010, I had the opportunity to serve as a Team Leader again, this time for the National Leadership Summit. Working for LeadAmerica has introduced me to so many different people and experiences that I will never forget. However, the students are what keep me coming back. In ten days, you truly do have the opportunity to change lives and push students to be more than they are, to learn to leap forward instead of falling back. Nothing compares to being a Team Leader!
Name: Reuven Fridmar
School: Marquette University
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Marketing & Entrepreneurship, December 2010
Working as a Team Leader in the Global Business & Entrepreneurship conference in 2008 has been one of the most beneficial opportunities I have capitalized on during my college career. The LeadAmerica experience has left me with lasting memories and life long friendships, but most importantly I enjoyed impacting the lives of the future leaders of our nation. I was so impressed by the students and the way LeadAmerica has enhanced their learning, that in 2010 I served as Team Leader in both Global Business & Entrepreneurship and Media & Journalism conferences. This is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have while in college. The impact the Team Leaders have on the students is amazing. I have no doubt that the students who complete the LeadAmerica program will achieve extraordinary things in their lives.
Name: Philip Kersey
School: West Virginia University - Institute of Technology
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Electrical Engineering, 2009
Graduate Degree: Masters in Electrical Engineering in Progress at Virginia Tech
I received my bachelor's degree from West Virginia Tech and now I am attending Virginia Tech for my master's degree in electrical engineering focusing in power systems.
My experiences with LeadAmerica as a Team Leader have been indescribable. Each session I am amazed at how much I learn as an individual. I have been able to travel across the United States and stay at the most prestigious universities in America, which is a priceless experience. The students that I have had the pleasure of meeting at LeadAmerica are the most talented, intelligent, and self motivated young people in the world. Every year after finishing a session, I feel inspired enough that I can accomplish anything in the world. If the students become half as inspired as I do, then they are having a great experience. There is nothing in the world that can motivate and inspire a person like LeadAmerica. LeadAmerica is not a job, but a way of life.
Name: Lawrence Hilton
School: Furman University
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Music, May 2006
Graduate Degree: Masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education Administration, May 2008
Law Degree: Salmon P. Chase College of Law, J.D. expected May 2011
LeadAmerica was a life changing experience for me. In my five years with LeadAmerica, I have served as a Team Leader, Head Team Leader and Program Director. When I first started working at LeadAmerica I had no idea what I was getting into. But I can honestly say that the time I spent as a member of the LeadAmerica team has been the most rewarding time of my life thus far. It still amazes me that in 6-10 days, students can have an experience that literally changes their outlook on life. I know the change is real because I still hear from students who attended the conferences. They repeatedly tell me how much the experience meant to them and how their lives were changed. And as much as LeadAmerica meant to the students, it means even more to me. Over the 5 years that I spent with LeadAmerica, I grew so much as a person. I learned what it meant to be a leader, a team player, and a friend.
Name: Avery Avrakotos
School: Smith College & The State University of New York at Oswego
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Sociology with an honors concentration in Culture, Health, and Medicine
Since I started working with LeadAmerica in 2008, I have served as a Team Leader, Office Manager, and Site Director. In each and every position the one constant was student enthusiasm. From discussions on current topics in their fields to interactive program simulations, students are excited by the diverse events that are scheduled for them. The excitement and enthusiasm that is generated by our daily conference activities makes it easy to engage students and help them foster a deeper understanding of their field of interest and how they can become exemplary leaders.
As Site Director, I often talk with parents before and after a conference. One of my favorite experiences is when a parent comes to shake my hand at the end of a conference and shares with me that they can already see a change in their student. However, I rarely have an opportunity to reveal to these parents the manner in which their student has also shaped our staff. Working daily with a small group of students, our staff is constantly affected by the diverse perspectives, challenges, and goals of each student growth. It is this growth that allows our staff to continually grow and learn how to work most effectively with future student groups.
Name: Ammar Ahmad
School: Texas Tech University & Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Mechanical Engineering – 2008
Graduate Degree: Masters in Industrial Engineering (2009 – Present)
I worked with LeadAmerica as an Office Manager in summer 2010. It was a very unique learning experience, unlike any other I have had till now. A day into the LeadAmerica staff role, and you know its going to be one demanding journey, but you also get a sense of motivation when you realize that you are a part of a wonderful cause; a cause that aims to help high school students realize their potential as future leaders. The biggest challenge for me as a LeadAmerica staff member was to be able to inspire the students, to be a mentor and a role model. Being able to do that was not easy, but it was gratifying mentally, since I got a very joyful feeling as I watched students transform so much over a period of just ten days. And I doubt that there is anything more pleasing than knowing that you have had a positive impact on someone’s life.
Name: James Ulstad
School: University of Iowa
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Degree: Masters in Mechanical Engineering
In 2006, by a recommendation from a close friend, I joined the Lead America staff as a Team Leader for the 'Engineering, Science, & Robotics Program' due to my studies in engineering. The experience is unlike any other and the skills learned are useful in everyday life. Working with high school students who are incredibly talented and have a desire to succeed, inspired me in my own studies. Every session, I watched the transformation of my students starting as individuals from around the world to close friends working as a team. I honestly believe that the leadership skills gained through this experience are useful everyday and they have had an impact in my own life in academics and beyond."
Name: Katie Conyers
School: Furman University & University of South Carolina.
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Spanish and Political Science in 2010.
Graduate Degree: Masters in International Studies (2010-present)
In the summer of 2008, I began working with LeadAmerica as an Office Coordinator. I returned for a second summer as an Office Coordinator in 2009, then in 2010 split time between Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University as an Office Manager. Even as an operations staff member, I have been thoroughly impressed by the students and staff at LeadAmerica. From my days working with LeadAmerica, I have come to appreciate the behind-the-scenes work that facilitates a great academic experience for students. Working with LeadAmerica’s talented, driven academics teams over the years has been particularly rewarding, as I am continually inspired by their dedication to the program.
Name: Luciana Lang
School: University of Pittsburgh & University of Texas at Dallas
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Psychology and Biological Sciences
Graduate Degree: Masters in Science Education
Sometimes the impetus for change is a single encounter, experience, conversation, etc. When I ask any student about their LeadAmerica experience, I often hear differing accounts of a particular highlight whether it was a speaker, lecture, Team Leader, site visit, or the new friends they made during the conference. However, all of these and more are the shared experiences of any conference occurring within the context of leadership. Students often leave a conference realizing that their collective experience has brought about a new way of thinking and fresh perspective on leadership and catalyze an inward change which can subsequently mobilize change in their respective communities.
As an educator I have nominated my own students for LeadAmerica conferences and enjoy witnessing remarkable transformation in their character, confidence and clarity of intended career choice. Since 2006, I have worked with LeadAmerica's Medicine & Healthcare conferences as Program Director and never hesitate to admit that I too have experienced transformation and growth both professionally and personally. Years after attending a conference I am still in awe when a student reflects on their LeadAmerica experience and how much the program has impacted them.
Name: Cara Stuckel
School: University of Missouri
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Science
LeadAmerica transforms lives. At 16, I ventured from Missouri self-conscious and timid, afraid to really put myself out there. Those six days changed my life. I came back confident, enabled and with a passion for leadership; everyone around me could tell I had changed for the better. I am eternally indebted to the conference for the new sense of self it provided me and the skills I learned in the process. I am now serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer for Community Based Environmental Education and Women's Development in the Kingdom of Morocco.
I began working for LeadAmerica because I experienced first-hand the impact the conference had and wanted to be a part of showing students how they too could become their best-selves, that they could escape the stereotypes of their own schools and feel the confidence to reach for the stars. Every session I see timid students step-up and take leadership roles, I see school stereotypes broken and I see every student get the chance to be who they really are. I am inspired by the students I have the privilege to spend the conference days with. They are truly one-of-a-kind.
LeadAmerica is about more than leadership and academics; it’s about setting up students for success and giving them the confidence to pursue their goals and dreams despite the obstacles. I feel privileged to be a part of that.
The faculty of LeadAmerica conferences are university and graduate school professors, practicing professionals and subject-matter experts from each field of study. They are carefully selected to ensure that our students receive the highest quality educational experience. Their role is to bring the core curriculum to life and stimulate thinking and discussion. Our faculty are involved in all aspects of the Conference experience, giving students a chance to spend time with them outside the classroom.
Our Team Leaders inspire our students and serve as positive role models. They are assigned to groups of 12-18 students and facilitate simulations, discussions and other practical experiences.
Team Leaders are college and graduate level students and adult professionals. Most have academic and/or work experience in the field of study. Many are pursuing degrees in education and have peer counseling, tutorial and leadership experience.
Team Leaders and staff serve as Resident Advisors. They live in the dorms and are available to our students at any time, day or night.
In addition to their own experience, Team Leaders and all LeadAmerica staff participate in approximately 40 hours of challenging LeadAmerica training as well as a significant amount of online training and preparation..
Program and Operations Directors
The Program Director oversees day-to-day delivery of the entire program curriculum and field experiences, learning effectiveness, and ensures that every Conference runs smoothly.
The Operations Director is responsible for student safety and security as well as facilities, dining and transportation, and is always available to students.
Other operations staff members are always on site and work with our faculty, Team Leaders and students to ensure support of highly-successful programs.