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Meet the 2014-2016 Empire State Fellows

Ana Almanzar

Ana AlmanzarAna J. Almanzar joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Northeast Program Manager of Civic Engagement at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund where she helped to expand the organization's citizenship application assistance, voter engagement, and voter protection programs. During her tenure at NALEO, Ana managed and organized citizenship application assistance workshops in which countless attorneys and volunteers assisted thousands of lawful permanent residents to become naturalized U.S. citizens.  As a result, Ana helped thousands of Americans to become active participants in the civil and political process.  Prior to joining NALEO, Ana served as a special events planner for the Staff Activities Unit at the United Nations where she assisted U.N. staff with their transition to New York City. Ana holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from SUNY Delhi, a second Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Magna Cum Laude) from Columbia University, and a Master's of International Affairs, Political and Economic Development and Immigration Policy Reform from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Ana was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Placement: Executive Chamber


Angel Audiffred

Angel AuddifredAngel Audiffred comes to the Empire State Fellows Program with experience in advertising, media and government. While working in advertising, Angel worked as an account supervisor and directed the production of various campaigns, while managing relations with the client.  Working at a national cable network, Angel managed day-to-day studio operations and communications and community outreach for the station. Angel also served at the New York City Council, where he worked as a Chief of Staff for two council members and press officer for the Majority Leader and Speaker of the Council. Angel resides in Queens, New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Marketing from F.I.T., SUNY and a graduate degree in Strategic Communications at Columbia University. Placement: New York State Department of Labor

Joshua Beams

Joshua BeamsJoshua J. Beams comes to the Empire State Fellows program from a role as a U.S. Army Human Resources Officer. Joshua was deployed to southern Afghanistan in 2011-2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During his deployment Joshua was the brigade liaison officer for the 4th Squadron 4th Cavalry Regiment. His duties included planning and presenting battalion level humanitarian and combat operations, he was responsible for ensuring all tools necessary to be successful in the mission were available to the Soldiers on the front lines. Joshua received his Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in Mass Communications and his Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Placement: New York State Homes and Community Renewal

Kendré Henderson Keys

Kendré Henderson KeysKendré Henderson Keys joins the Empire State Fellows Program after a career as an Assistant District Attorney for the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in Fort Worth, Texas. As a criminal prosecutor, Kendré gained extensive trial experience in felony and misdemeanor trials, post-verdict appellate brief writing, and grand jury investigations and presentations. Kendré also worked in the Family Violence Division of the office. Kendré also volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and as a policy advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Kendré received her Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of Texas in Austin and her law degree from The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Placement: Executive Chamber

Jonathan Lang

Jonathan LangJonathan joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Director of Governmental Projects and Community Development for the Empire State Pride Agenda where he was responsible for overseeing all of the Pride Agenda’s advocacy activities with the Executive Chamber and New York State agencies. Jonathan was also responsible for the oversight of Pride Agenda activities related to the NYS LGBT Health and Human Services Network, and for the maintenance and expansion of the Network’s public funding streams from New York State government. In recognition of his work on this issue, Jonathan was awarded the “LGBT POC Advocate Award” and the “Avant-Garde Transformational Leadership Award” by In Our Own Voices, an Albany-based organization that provides services for LGBT people of color in the Capital Region and was recognized by City & State in their “Rising Stars 40 Under 40” issue. Jonathan has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Denison University in Granville, OH, and currently resides in Albany, NY.  Placement: New York State Department of Health

Katie Neer

Katie NeerKatie Neer is a recent graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, where she spent her last semester in Washington D.C. in the Student Honors Program, working for the Trial Unit in the Enforcement Division of the SEC. Throughout law school, Katie gained litigation experience as a law clerk in a Syracuse law firm, and expanded upon her legislative background working with a telecommunication corporation’s New York City government relations team. Prior to law school, Katie was the Legislative Representative at a top Albany-based lobbying and public affairs firm for three years. She worked with a wide variety of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to trade associations, strategically advocating and representing their interests to policy makers in New York State Government.  While a registered lobbyist, Katie attended Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and received her Master’s in Public Administration, magna cum laude. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, magna cum laude, from the State University at Albany, where she was a Captain and goalie on the Division I Women’s Varsity Lacrosse team. Katie also completed the 2008 NYS Assembly Internship Program. Placement: Executive Chamber

Lilian V. Pascone

Lilian V. PasconeLilian V. Pascone comes to the Empire State Fellows Program from a role as Legislative and Budget Director for New York City Council Member Mark Weprin. In that role, she managed the budget of the Queens Delegation, enacted legislation strengthening pedestrian safety, and advised the Council Member on land use projects throughout the city. While at the Council, Lilian worked with the Council Member to expand services to children and families affected by autism and designed the creation of a new initiative for Neighborhood NORCs. Before joining the Council Member’s office, Lilian worked as a legal fellow for the Democracy Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Lilian graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and passed the bar exam in New York and New Jersey. She studied Chinese Language, Literature, and Film at Swarthmore College and speaks Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese. Lilian was born in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and was raised in Homecrest, Brooklyn. Placement: New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales


Esteban (Steve) Ramos

Esteban RamosEsteban Ramos joins the Empire State Fellows from a position as the Executive Director of Fresh Youth Initiatives (FYI), a not-for-profit youth development organization in New York City providing young people ages 9-18 with the support, encouragement, and skills they need to become productive, confident, and caring young adults. He started at FYI in an apprenticeship, working his way to the top of the organization, becoming its “home grown” Executive Director, impacting the lives of thousands of individuals and young people that have walked through its door. He is a member of the Latino Social Work Task Force, the Advisory Committee for Lehman College’s Social Work Department, and the Wurzweiler Community Partnership Committee for Yeshiva University, as well as an honorary member of the Fuerza Latina Alumni Group. Esteban obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Lehman College, a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Yeshiva University, and successfully completed Columbia Business School’s Institute for Not-For-Profit Management-Executive Level Program. Placement: New York State Office of Children and Family Services


Shelly Weizman

Shelly WeizmanShelly Weizman joins the Empire State Fellows Program from a position of Senior Staff Attorney with MFY Legal Services, Inc.'s Disability and Aging Rights Project, where she led efforts to expand and enforce the rights of people with psychiatric and physical disabilities living in institutional settings in New York City.  In that role, Shelly pioneered a law reform strategy centered on strategic relationship-building with clients, families, people in government, mental health providers, residential care providers, and advocacy groups. While at MFY, Shelly utilized a holistic set of tools on behalf of her clients, including civil rights litigation, community organizing and education, legislative and regulatory reform, coalition-building, direct client representation, and training. Shelly has given lectures on disability rights at the New York City Bar Association and Columbia University Schools of Law and Social Work.  Prior to law school, Shelly worked as an outreach coordinator at Cornerstone Recovery, a community-based organization in Houston, Texas that provides services and supports to adolescents in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  Shelly received her law degree with a concentration in Health Law and Policy from Seton Hall University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts with honors from the University of Houston. Placement: New York State Office of Mental Health

The Empire State Fellows Program is one of the three parts of Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative, which is designed to renew the connection between the public and private sectors and prepare a new generation of leaders to serve in state government.  The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly-talented recent graduates to serve throughout the state government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government. Information regarding the Empire State Fellows Program is available at