Meet the Instructors for Fall 2023
Founder and CEO
Classes: Foundations of Your Campaign
A Primer on NYC/NYS Government
Rachelle received her Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City in 2017. Prior to that, Ms. Suissa completed a Master of Arts degree in Political Science – American Government at Brooklyn College in 2010. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History and Women’s and Gender Studies from Pace University in New York City in 2008. She also currently sits on the Junior Advisory Board for the Leopold Schepp Scholarship Foundation Event Planning Committee. Rachelle founded Dare to Run, a nonprofit that trains women how to run for public office, in June of 2017.
Ms. Suissa founded Dare to Run, a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to train women how to run for public office in New York City. Dare to Run was the byproduct of her PDR for the Nonprofit Management Program at the Business School. She wrote a business plan for Dare to Run, had it incorporated shortly after graduating in 2017. Dare to Run will be launching the first cohort of the Women’s Leadership Training Program in 2019. Prior to founding Dare to Run, Ms. Suissa served on the Board of the Brooklyn-Queens Chapter National Organization, both as President (2006-2013) and as Vice President (2005-2007). Ms. Suissa has also volunteered with organizations including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the Young Women’s Leadership Network. Her current responsibilities include managing the day to day fundraising operations for START Treatment and Recovery centers, including social media campaigns, events, the 50th anniversary gala, and the grant writing process. In addition, Ms. Suissa oversees the activities of the board of Dare to Run, the recruitment of volunteer instructors for the training program, recruitment of participants to complete the training program, as well as monthly events, board meetings and social media campaigns.
Prior to her work with Dare to Run, Ms. Suissa was a professor at Brooklyn College in the political science department for the College NOW and STAR Programs. She devised her own team-based curriculum and taught Introduction to American Government and Introduction to Comparative Politics for 3 years. Simultaneously, she worked as the Program Manager for the Quality of Life Innovations Program for an educational nonprofit called Working in Support of Education in Midtown. The purpose of this program was for high school students to be able to build their research skills by writing a paper on a quality of life issue in their community. Ms. Suissa’s experience cuts across all sectors, including nonprofit, educational and government. She has worked for the Henry Street Settlement, ROADS Charter High School, and the NYC Department of Human Resources Administration.
Ms. Suissa currently resides in South Brooklyn where she has lived for the past 31 years.
Class: Planning and Budgeting a Political Campaign
Lucia Gómez is the Political Director of the NYC Central Labor Council - AFL-CIO. In different government, non-profit, and labor union capacities, her life’s work has been around empowering workers and their communities to take action through grassroots organizing, leadership development, and civic engagement.
Lucia has extensive knowledge of voting and enfranchisement laws, as well as extensive experience in election administration, electoral campaigns, geographic information systems, decennial census, and community organizing. For the last two decades, she has been involved in Census and redistricting processes in multiple states.
Ms. Gómez has a BA from Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She serves on the Boards of the NYS Immigrant Action Fund, Make the Road Action, Align, Latina Civic Action & Latina Civic Fund.
Class: Dress to Lead: A Primer for Women Candidates
“Dress to manifest” is her mantra. Tania Sterl is a personal stylist, fashion expert, speaker and published co-author. As Founder of Sterl on Style, Tania Sterl loves to showcase an individual’s uniqueness with style to elevate their value, vibrancy, and visibility. Back in the day, Tania worked as a fashion designer and model. Her designs were worn by TV personalities and featured in magazines like In Style and Essence magazines. Now, Tania styles emerging and established entrepreneurs, executives, speakers, authors, thought leaders, and female founders for their TED X Talks, media interviews, photoshoots, and more. Tania works mostly with women over 40 to align their image with their current lifestyle, personal desires and professional goals, so they can “dress to manifest” their best life.
Class: How to Get on the Ballot in Your State
Samantha Johnson is a community organizer, a 20 year Fort Greene NYCHA resident, and an extraordinary force for justice in her neighborhood and beyond. Her background in theater and her attendance at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy helped Ms. Johnson find her voice early on, and she has consistently used that voice to uplift and embolden her community.
Currently as the Community Liaison for Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, she manages community relations within Nycha, community advocacy and partnerships with the district.
Samantha is the former Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Independence of the Disabled, she advocated for more transparency and access to resources for individuals with disabilities. She also connected people with disabilities who were to be released with local jails with social and economic resources to enable them to maintain self-determined well-being.
Prior to this, she served as the Director of Community Integration at the Ingersoll Community Center, creating intentional events and spaces for community members to gather, grow, and heal together.
Ms. Johnson’s commitment to building a more just and equitable world has not only shown itself in her professional career, but also in her expansive history of volunteer community organizing.
Following the police killing of Mike Brown in 2014, she organized against state-sanctioned violence and led national campaigns for black, brown, and queer liberation that activly centered the visions of directly impacted people. She also helped build up the Close Rikers and No New Jails movements, which have created deeper conversations around abolition and community investment as a means to public safety. She serves as a member of Community Board 2 and regularly engages in voter education and political education in the district.
As 2020 proved to be an exceptionally challenging year, and those challenges fell disproportionately on people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people, Ms. Johnson responded with redoubled efforts to defend and empower her community. She worked to call attention to the NYPD abuses of power in the MTA and the expansion of over 1000 cops during the COVID-19 curfew on Bronx Bloody Thursday. She was also part of a Black-lead mutual aid group that assisted with feeding around 400-600 people a day, as well as providing support services to people arrested during the pandemic.
Presently Samantha is a leader within the Farragut Fort Greene Coalition, focused on the fight for reclaiming community space against private development. Co-chair for Jack Arts , committee member of youth development education and cultural affairs for community board 2, and the Executive Leader of outreach for Institutional International Ministries.
Class: Fundamentals of Grassroots Organizing
Tannya Benavides is a ﬁrst-generation Mexican American and the daughter of working class immigrants. A product of South Texas public schools, Tannya earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Texas State University with minors in English and History. Tannya also holds a Masters in Education with a concentration in Education Policy from Johns Hopkins University. In Spring 2020, Tannya moved back home to Laredo, where she joined the No Border Wall Coalition
to help in the ﬁght and defeat the U.S./Mexico border wall. Their efforts culminated with the cancellation of federal contracts worth over $1 billion and 71 miles of wall in October 2021.
Tannya previously co-founded and led the grassroots coalition Organizing For Equity NY. As a classroom teacher and lead organizer in New York, Tannya helped attain policy wins at the NYC Department of Education including an expansion of the universal 3K program. She also worked to drop the length of out-of-school suspensions from 180 school days down to 20 days, and advocated for the addition of community schools to high-need districts. At the start of her career,
Tannya served in Teach For America, where she taught third grade bilingual education in Houston. She also became a community organizer with the Organizing Network for Education (ONE) Houston, ﬁghting against exclusionary discipline, where she contributed to a policy win that
effectively canceled a multi-million dollar contract with the third-party afﬁliate private prison company, Camelot Schools of Texas. Prior to joining Local Progress, Tannya spent her time working the Texas state legislature as Advocacy Director at Commission Shift, ﬁghting for sound environmental reforms to move the Railroad Commission of Texas to be more responsive to the people of Texas.
Class: Public Speaking for Women Candidates
Grace Alvarez is an innovative event coordinator, strategic communicator, and activist. She currently works as an Event Production Coordinator on the Public Programming team at The Paley Center for Media, where she brings her skills and experience to a variety of captivating programs. As a cohort leader at Dare to Run, she empowers aspiring women with the skills they need to run for public office.
Grace is a vibrant editor and performer on the Masala Bhangra team, and she has partnered with UN organizations Girl Up and UNICEF to fundraise and support legislation on Capitol Hill impacting women and girls around the world, showcasing her passion for world music and commitment to making a difference.
Grace's impactful journey includes previous roles as an Event Coordinator at The Robin Hood Foundation, The American Council of Learned Societies, and Hunger Free America, where she served as a Communications & Development Coordinator during her AmeriCorps VISTA service.
Grace holds a B.A. in Communications (International and Intercultural) from Baruch College, reflecting her commitment to cross-cultural understanding in driving positive change and amplifying underrepresented voices.
Class: Branding and Messaging for Women Candidates
With an extensive background in campaign strategy and management, Joe Agovino has demonstrated his ability to develop comprehensive campaign plans that effectively connect with voters and mobilize grassroots support. His strategic thinking and leadership have played key roles in the successes of numerous statewide campaigns in New York, including NYS Senators John Brooks, Jen Metzger, John Mannion, and Rachel May; as well as various other campaigns ranging from Congressional to more localized counties and towns.
As Communications Director for NYS Senator John Brooks, Joe skillfully managed the senator's public image while effectively communicating his policies and initiatives to his constituents as well as residents of New York State as a whole. His expertise in strategic communication and media relations has allowed him to navigate the complexities of both political and policy outreach in order to establish and maintain strong and effective engagement with the public.
Having earned two Master's Degrees in Public Administration and Political Science from The Maxwell School at Syracuse University, Joe also has extensive experience as a policy analyst, working for several elected officials and public organizations in this capacity.
Joe currently resides on Long Island where he works as a senior administrator and public information officer for Suffolk County Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services, as well as an associate communications specialist in the County Executive’s office. He continues to consult on organizational management and strategic communications and has a stack of books in a “To-Be-Read” pile taller than he is - that he swears he will get through someday.
Classes: Coalition Building/Field Operations and Voter Opposition
Abigail Martin has dedicated her career to politics and social work, demonstrating a strong commitment to creating positive change in her community and helping women get elected. Currently serving as a Consultant for The New Majority NYC since April 2022, Abigail plays a pivotal role in building political power for women and building a bench of future women leaders.
In June 2022, Abigail was elected as the District Leader of the 81st Assembly District of NYS. Her victory, secured with a substantial lead over her competitors, established her as a liaison between the community and the Democratic Party. As a District Leader, Abigail influences the executive leadership of the Bronx County Democratic Party Organization and plays a crucial role in the placement of poll workers into the Board of Elections. In September 2022, Abigail co-founded the Unity Democratic Club, a political club focused on increasing voter turnout and recruiting Democratic candidates in the northwest Bronx.
Abigail's commitment to political engagement extends beyond her leadership roles. As a dedicated campaign volunteer, she has actively supported various candidates running for office at all levels of government. Her grassroots candidacy for NYC Council in District 11 in 2021 demonstrated her passion for a more affordable, just, and equitable New York City. Abigail built a diverse coalition of community organizations and leaders, developed a comprehensive policy platform, and skillfully managed a dedicated campaign team.
Class: Traditional Media in Political Campaigns
Josephine is a passionate health care advocate with nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience. She has worked with youth, train-the-trainer women infant and children programs, and on tobacco control/addiction work in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan. Prior to working in the nonprofit field, she utilized her marketing skills in various positions in corporate America such as The Economist and several large New York City advertising agencies.
Josephine actively participates in community service activities and is a member of several policy and leadership committees. Josephine holds a Masters degree in Human Services Leadership from St. Joseph's University. She enjoys taking on new challenges and learning sports, including bocce, and currently resides in Brooklyn with her family.
Class: Public Policy and Advocacy 101
Jordan is a Senior Director at LSG, bringing over a decade of experience driving public affairs outcomes at the intersection of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. Jordan began his career serving New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, overseeing the mayor’s daily appearances, and advising on day-to-day operations and crisis management. Following the mayor’s time in office, Jordan supported his reassumption of leadership of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, later serving as Chief of Staff for Bloomberg News’ coverage of the 2016 election season. Immediately prior to LSG, Jordan served as the founding Head of Public and Government Affairs for Rhino, a venture-backed real estate technology company. Jordan is based in New York City