Fellow Friday: Meet the 2022-23 Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellows

Photo collage of the 2022 Public Service Fellows

Launched in 2016, the Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship immerses talented, emerging leaders from across the country in the work of Cleveland’s public sector, providing them an opportunity to develop their skills, enhance their networks, and jumpstart a career in public service. With the goals of attracting and retaining emerging talent in Cleveland and fostering a commitment to public service, partnerships with local organizations have aligned with national recruitment efforts to build a seventh cohort of 18 fellows (the largest to date). The Public Service Fellows started July 14.

Group photo of the 2023 cohort of Public Service Fellows

The 2022-23 Public Service Fellows gather for a group photo in Downtown Cleveland.

We are pleased to announce the 2022-23 Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellows:

Brianna Beck, Cleveland Metropolitan School District – Talent

Brianna is a 2022 graduate of Louisiana State University, where she studied English literature and Spanish. During her undergraduate career, she worked with Power Pump Girls, Inc. as a content writer and self-published a collection of personal poetry, “Wayward Nomad,” last year. Brianna will work as a fellow in the Talent Division for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 

Gretchen Blackwell, City of Cleveland – Community Development

Gretchen is a 2021 graduate of Miami University, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in history and Italian studies, and a minor in political science. Throughout college, she completed three internships in government at both the local and federal levels. After graduation, she spent a year living in France in order to study the language and culture. As a fellow, Gretchen will be working with the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development. In her role, she will be responsible for data visualization to better inform policy makers and the public about the department’s projects and goals

Thao Dinh, Cleveland Metropolitan School District – IT

Thao graduated from Denison University with bachelor’s degrees in education and economics in May 2022. Born and raised in Vietnam until college, Thao is thrilled to be part of the cohort, where she can bring in her perspectives as an international fellow and learn from future colleagues with different backgrounds and experiences. Thao will work with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as a fellow within the IT Division – Learning Technology and Training Services. To enhance the K-12 public education experience in Cleveland, some of her responsibilities in this role include assisting with the development and rollout of educational programs for schools, collaborating to implement the IT Internship Program and the district’s IT Learning portal, and helping design and deliver the Technology Festival.

Okiemute Eyemaro, Cleveland Metropolitan School District – Talent

Okiemute Eyemaro, a New Orleans native, is a recent graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in international studies and anthropology while obtaining a master’s in nonprofit organizations. During Okiemute’s undergraduate career they were an advocate for the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities with goals of diversifying both higher education and corporate America. As a fellow, Okiemute will support Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Talent Division in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts.

Abby Henry, City of Cleveland – Strategy

Abby Henry, originally from Toledo, graduated from Denison University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She spent her first year after undergrad as a Colet Fellow in London, England, where she taught American politics to British high school students and served as a college counselor for British students seeking a U.S. college education. As a Public Service Fellow, Abby will join the Office of Strategy in City Hall, contributing to programs and processes that advance the Bibb administration’s top priorities.

Cheikh Higgs “CJ,” Cleveland Metropolitan School District – Community Engagement

Cheikh is a 2021 graduate of Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in English and a concentration in Africana studies. He recently finished his year after graduating serving as an Americorps member with City Year Cleveland. As a fellow, he will be working with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in the community engagement division. He is excited to continue building relationships within Cleveland neighborhoods and working to advance educational equity within the city.

Kevin Jones, City of Cleveland – Capital Projects

Kevin Jones is a 2022 Case Western Reserve University graduate earning his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in conflict resolution and peace studies. As a fellow, Kevin will be working in the Capital Projects Department at Cleveland City Hall under the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects and the Acting Commissioner of Real Estate for the City of Cleveland. He will contribute to restorative change in this role through the planning, designing and preservation of Cleveland’s parks, facilities and infrastructure in order to provide residents with more equitable greenspace and neighborhood revitalization through the Capital Improvement Plan. As a Cleveland native, Kevin is passionate about giving back by producing direct restorative change for the city he calls home.

Alyssa Kapasi, Cleveland Metropolitan School District – Finance

Alyssa is a 2022 graduate of Oberlin College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology, education studies, and law & society. She will be working to support the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in their finance department. She will be supporting the implementation of the district’s pandemic relief grants and other program strategies. She is excited for the opportunity to be of service to the Cleveland community.

Michele King, City of Cleveland – Planning

Michele King is a 2021 graduate of Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a certificate in sustainable development. She is currently an urban affairs graduate student at the Levin College seeking an M.A. in environmental studies. She will be serving as a fellow in Cleveland City Hall’s Planning Department assisting with research for the city’s new master plan.

Hannah Macias, City of Cleveland Department of Law – Police Reform

Hannah is a recent graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology and cognitive science with a minor in ethics. As a fellow, Hannah will be working under the chief ethics officer for Cleveland City Hall, assisting with police reform initiatives for the city of Cleveland and furthering the implementation of the city charter section 115.

Abigail McFarren, Cleveland Metropolitan School District – Organizational Learning

McFarren graduated this past spring (’22) from the College of Wooster with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a history minor. Originally from Canton, Ohio, she will be working in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Department of Organizational Learning. She will be assisting the department in building their career development programming for the district’s non-teaching staff.

Ibukunoluwa Ode-Martins, Cleveland City Council

Ibukun is a 2022 graduate of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, where she obtained her master’s degrees in social work and nonprofit organizations. She also graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Ibukun will be a Research and Policy Fellow with Cleveland City Council, where she will be researching pertinent legislation and policy issues, providing briefings and reports to council committees, and planning and observing committee hearings.

Brett Parsons, City of Cleveland – Building & Housing

Brett Parsons grew up in Cleveland and is returning after graduating from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in history. She is excited to be working as a fellow in the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing. Through this fellowship, she will be aiding in implementing the Lead Safe Cleveland Initiative and working to help the department implement a proactive and systemic approach to code enforcement. 

Sian Payne, Cleveland City Council

Sian is originally from England, U.K., but has spent the past five years in Cleveland. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Urban Studies program at Cleveland State University, having also acquired a B.A. double major in political science and international relations in 2020. During her college career, Sian was a member of the women’s tennis team at Cleveland State and served as a refugee and resettlement intern for US Together. As a fellow, Sian will join the Policy and Research team at Cleveland City Council to assist with legislative activities that affect both Cleveland and Ohio.

Skylar Stewart, City of Cleveland – Department of Law: Housing and Code Enforcement

Skyler is a 2022 graduate of Walsh University earning two bachelor’s degrees in government and foreign affairs and criminal justice. As a fellow, Skyler will be working with the City of Cleveland in the Department of Law: Housing and Code Enforcement by aiding on important projects that will impact quality of life issues and improve the health and well-being of the city’s residents and its neighborhoods. She is excited for this opportunity to connect, build relationships and learn more about the community!

Peighton Taylor, City of Cleveland – Chief of Integrated Development Office

Peighton is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in international economics and African American and African Studies. She is excited to return to her hometown as a fellow under Mayor Bibb and the City of Cleveland. She will serve as a fellow to the Chief of Integrated Development and will assist the CID in more fully integrating the work of the departments of planning, community development, economic development, and building & housing.

Carter Van Fossen, City of Cleveland – Finance

Carter graduated from Case Western Reserve University here in Cleveland, Ohio, in May of 2022 with a B.A. in political science. During his undergraduate tenure, he also pursued secondary fields of study in business management and public policy. This year, as part of the Cleveland Foundation’s 2022-23 cohort, Carter will be working for the City of Cleveland’s Finance Department, where he will provide key research and public policy support in order to help tackle some of the city’s most pressing fiscal challenges of the upcoming years.

Kaniece Williams, City of Cleveland – Youth & Family Services

Kaniece is an Ohio native and a graduate of CUNY-Bernard M. Baruch college with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in theater. She relocated to Cleveland from New York City to serve with City Year Cleveland, a year-long AmeriCorps program. Upon completing her first year, she served a second year as a team leader with the same program. As a fellow, Kaniece will be working with the Education and Youth & Family Success branch in the City of Cleveland’s Mayor Office. She looks forward to continuing her work providing resources to Cleveland’s youth