Our Team – Leadersup


LeadersUp is currently working in 3 markets to create innovation hubs where we collect insights to influence systems change and impact across the nation.

Executive & Operations


Jeffery T.D. Wallace is a Next Gen social entrepreneur uniquely equipped to fulfill the dual roles of visionary and architect to find a sustainable solution to any social issue. He is president and CEO of LeadersUp, a nonprofit that bridges the gap between the untapped potential of young people and the business challenge of finding and keeping the best talent.

With Wallace, LeadersUp has established best practices by facilitating employer-led solutions that are demand-driven and human-centered to tackle high youth unemployment in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He gets in front of the issues that fuel educational and economic inequities, and unites people around shared goals to achieve disruptive and transformative change. He is also a fellow of the Presidio Institute and is a Metropolitan Non-Resident Fellow of the Brookings Institution.


Suzanne Soto is a systematizing organizational management professional with more than 21 years of extensive experience in the entertainment, retail, recruiting, government, and nonprofit industries. She has expertise in scheduling, event planning, board management, vendor management, fund development, as well as expense and budget management, and serves as special assistant to the president of LeadersUp. In this capacity, Suzanne also handles office operations and facilities management.

Prior to LeadersUp, Suzanne was an entrepreneur in high-fashion retail, a production assistant for Robert Townsend’s production company, an executive recruiter for Top Performers, and a held a number of positions at the Los Angeles Urban League. Suzanne attended California College of the Arts in Oakland, CA, where she earned a bachelor's degree in general fine art. Her foremost passion is reading and spurring others to read on a regular basis, something she’s tried to promote during her years in nonprofit organizations. She is a rare native of Los Angeles and currently resides in South Pasadena, CA, with her son Zachary.


Helen Han serves as the National Director, Operations and Fund Development, at LeadersUp, where she is part of the core leadership team that formulates, develops and implements operational systems and sustainable strategies that take the organization to its next level of success. She is a seasoned and effective organizational development expert with a proven track record of delivering extraordinary results that bring about long-term growth at every organization that she serves.

Prior to LeadersUp, Helen served more than a decade in nonprofit executive roles that include president & CEO of the LA Junior Chamber of Commerce, president & CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and CEO of the NAWBO-Los Angeles Chapter. Previously, Helen served as a leader of an interdisciplinary service, research and training team at the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management where she ran executive education programs for business and nonprofit leaders. Throughout her professional life, Helen has been dedicated to finding ways to forge the connection between the economic, social, and political spheres of influence to create a better future for the next generation. Helen is a first-generation immigrant from South Korea and a product of the Los Angeles public school system. She received her degree in business management with concentrations in organizational development and marketing from California State University, Northridge.


Andrew Vidales is a dedicated and passionate community development professional with expertise in labor relations, community service, and program management. As Director of Operations & Organizational Effectiveness for LeadersUp, he works closely with the Director of Impact in interdepartmental project management of three key departments: Impact, Communications, and Programs. He also provides management of project plans and production schedule.

Prior to LeadersUp, Andrew worked as a consultant on a $6.2 billion construction project for the Los Angeles Community College District. He graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a bachelor’s degree in media and cultural studies and anthropology, where his research focused on the effects of mass media in economically disadvantaged markets. Currently, Andrew is pursuing a master’s degree in leadership and organizational studies from Azusa Pacific University. A native of Los Angeles, Andrew is extremely interested in public policy and community economic development and hopes that the experiences he has in community service, workforce development and outreach continue to fuel his passion for serving at-risk individuals in underserved communities.


John Roberson, III is a nonprofit management and policy professional with half a decade of experience in leading and designing communication, branding and digital media strategies for nonprofits, elected officials, philanthropic initiatives and celebrity clients. He has expertise in communication design, brand management, social media growth and analysis, information architecture, collective impact design, and serves as the Director of Innovation for the LeadersUp organization. In this capacity, he manages the communication and digital infrastructure that amplifies, promotes, standardizes, tracks, and measures engagement, influence, and performance of target audiences across all LeadersUp markets. He also works across teams to develop organizational position on key issues within LeadersUp advocacy portfolio and provides direction into sustained stakeholder engagement.

Talent Solutions


Joanna Martinez is an intuitive leader and a youth professional developer at heart, with expertise in trauma-responsive pedagogy and nonprofit leadership. Joanna, a first-generation college graduate and daughter of a Mexican immigrant mother, obtained her bachelor's degree in sociology and African American studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Organizational Leadership at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education. As the Talent Solutions Manager - Bay Area, for the LeadersUp organization, she works closely with the Talent Solutions Director - Bay Area and National Director of Talent Solutions in managing the development of engaging programming and training to opportunity youth (youth ages 18–24 who are not working and not in school) across the greater San Francisco/Bay Area to connect them to career pathways with various employer partners. Joanna also champions employer engagement, supporting a community of practice model for employer feedback, talent intermediation, and pilot design functions with the National Director of Impact. She also facilitates strategic partnerships with government, private and non-government systems and providers, and maintains key relationships.

Prior to joining the LeadersUp team, Joanna served as program manager for Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency’s (BOSS) Career Training and Employment Center (CTEC). In her time at BOSS, Joanna oversaw three major workforce development county and city contracts focusing on formerly incarcerated adults and high-risk young adults; designed and facilitated work readiness trainings for 600 individuals annually; introduced and operationalized the Sanctuary Model rooted in Trauma-Responsive Care; trained her team on leveraging available technology to improve tracking/reporting methodology and build team efficiency; brokered relationships with various businesses to fulfill hiring needs; created CBO partnerships to enhance programming and leverage shared resources; and built a secondary education model (Career Pathways) intentionally embedded within the programmatic structure of CTEC in partnership with adult-serving educational institutions and the Peralta Community College District. Joanna is passionate about leveraging education as a means for liberation and advancement in communities of color. She plans to obtain her doctorate degree and continue her private practice in educational consultation in the Bay Area to facilitate the development of healthy and wealthy communities by enhancing educational practices both in the classroom and in people-serving institutions at large.

KC Jaquez

Katherine Casado-Jaquez is a passionate human services nonprofit professional with expertise in youth development, community outreach, and strategic planning. With experience in program design and youth advocacy, she serves as the Talent Solutions Manager - Los Angeles at the LeadersUp organization. In this capacity, she recruits and connects young adults to career pathways, develops strong partnerships with youth-serving organizations, and empowers young people to nurture their leadership, maximize their potential, and create community impact. She also provides administrative and volunteer outreach support. Katherine received her bachelor of arts in sociology and women’s studies from the State University of New York – Purchase College, where her research focused on the complexities and beauty within the lived experiences of women of color.

Before migrating to Los Angeles from the South Bronx, Katherine was dedicated to creating safe spaces and providing a continuum of care for LGBTQ youth and young women experiencing homelessness and healing from trauma. A native of New York City, Katherine is committed to social justice and public service, and aims to open the doors of access and opportunity for those in greatest need. She hopes that the experiences she has in connecting young adults to employment opportunities and building a network of community partners continue to fuel her passion for urban youth empowerment, community economic development, and the liberation of marginalized and underserved communities.


Denny Esquivel is a dedicated and passionate individual with expertise in youth development, curriculum development, and facilitating. He serves as the Senior Talent Solutions Specialist in the Chicago team for the LeadersUp organization and works closely with the director of Talent Solutions — Chicago in managing the maker and building key partnerships. Denny leads facilitation of labs for employers seeking to hire young adults, presentations to community partners, and assists in the development of the Winning in the Workplace curriculum.

Prior to LeadersUp, Denny worked at After School Matters where he managed dozens of programs for high school youth and the instructors of those programs. After Denny graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor's in business management, he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a master of education in education policy, organization, and leadership. A native of Chicago, Denny is extremely interested in social justice and education and hopes that the experiences he has in youth development and workforce development continue to fuel his passion of advocating for and mentoring young people.


Katie Ho is a dedicated and hard worker with expertise in youth workforce development, school-based therapy, and building community resources for children and families. She serves as the Talent Solutions Specialist for the LeadersUp organization. In this capacity, she works closely with the director of Talent Solutions in enhancing the user experience and engagement of our young adult participants and partner organizations. She also provides research for job development trainings and assists with career readiness trainings.

Prior to LeadersUp, Katie graduated from California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) with a master's degree in social work, where her research focused on community mental health and clinical therapy. Prior to attending CSUEB, Katie graduated from University of California, Berkeley where she earned a bachelor's degree in international development studies (the study of global poverty). A native Canton, Ohio, and planted in the Bay Area for more than 15 years, Katie is extremely interested in social justice and developing youth leadership, and hopes that the experiences she has in social work and workforce development will continue to fuel her passion for expanding opportunities for underserved youth.


Emmanuel Kashimbiri is a Talent Solutions Specialist for the Los Angeles region. His work at LeadersUp entails working closely with young adult job seekers to provide advice around career and professional development, and creating curricula to help them succeed. A proud native of South Los Angeles, Emmanuel has worked as a semi-professional photographer, in analog camera reconstruction, retail, and more. His diverse set of work experience contributes greatly to his work in guiding young adults with their career in a relatable way.

In his spare time, he creates living history through his photography, by “capturing the moments we forget.” Emmanuel loves to travel and has visited four continents, 12 countries, and 18 states. His passion for reading has led to his aspiration of becoming a librarian specializing in photographic archival storage, blending his interests into a career for the ages. Emmanuel is also a seven-year member of Toastmasters International, where he continues to cultivate his public speaking and leadership skills.


Erica Mosley is a passionate and driven young professional with expertise in persuasive writing and working with young adults. She serves as a Talent Solutions Specialist for the LeadersUp organization and works closely with the Talent Solutions team in managing the complex demands of job-seeking young people. She does this by providing quality professional development support and guidance to aspiring young professionals.

Prior to LeadersUp, Erica graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s in rhetoric and writing studies where she focused on strengthening her writing skills across a multitude of genres. Additionally, Erica worked as a writing tutor helping writers from different backgrounds develop their skills and find their unique voices. A native of Los Angeles, Erica is very interested in community advocacy and obtaining her JD. She hopes that the experience she gains working with LeadersUp combined with her future achievements will fuel her passion for empowering young people to pursue their desired career pathways.

innovation & impact


Roderick Wheeler is a researcher and social innovator with expertise in criminal justice, education, youth and workforce development, philanthropy, and investing in social enterprises.

He serves as National Director of Insights and Impact for the LeadersUp organization and works closely with the Director of Impact in managing program evaluation, measuring social impact, return on investment, and providing technical assistance to external stakeholders. He also supports communications by contributing to writing articles and publications and provides social policy advice to the president & CEO.

Prior to LeadersUp, Roderick served in various national and local philanthropic roles including community health manager for IU Health, community impact director for Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), and senior program director for Strada Education Network. As a result of serving in the U.S. Army, Roderick earned a master’s in business administration with a concentration in human resource leadership from Franklin University. Prior to public service, Roderick graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s in sociology and African American studies and went on to earn a master’s in public affairs with a concentration in urban studies and nonprofit management.

A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Roderick is passionate about social innovation and investing in strategies that empower people, disrupt flawed social systems that stifle opportunity, and achieve social impact, especially within poor communities of color.


Martha Sandoval is an experienced nonprofit professional with more than 15 years of work in administration, case management, and workforce development. She has worked with parents, formerly incarcerated individuals, and youth in career development. As the Executive Assistant – Impact for LeadersUp, Martha manages daily administrative needs and ensures grants are managed properly and in a timely manner.

Prior to LeadersUp, Martha worked the LA Urban League for 12 years where she was responsible for assisting and implementing workforce development programs in collaboration with multiple teams. In her free time, Martha loves to spend time with her daughter and considers herself to be a fervent reader.


Kalina Flores has expertise in campaign development and event design. She serves as the Event Strategist for the LeadersUp organization and works closely with the CEO, National Director of Development and Operations, and Leadership Team in managing the design, marketing strategy, and logistics of the Future at Work Summit and other related company events.

Prior to LeadersUp, Kalina has worked as a program consultant for corporate campaigns, nonprofit organizations, and education organizations, all of which stemmed from her years working in education where she focused on curriculum, assessments, and program design. Kalina graduated from UCLA with a BA in sociology and minor in urban and regional studies, and later earned her master’s education from Mount Saint Mary’s University. Her educational background trained her to assess programs and curate research-based strategies that will meet desired objectives and organizational goals. A native of Compton, California, Kalina is extremely interested in social justice and entrepreneurship and hopes that the experiences she has in event management and program consulting continue to fuel her passion for building support systems that allow underserved populations to develop and reach their goals.

communications & creative

Zhen Xie

Zhen Xie is a creative communicator dedicated to creating visually engaging content. He is a well-versed illustrator with a background in studio arts. In his role as Design Specialist for LeadersUp, Zhen is responsible for designing and creating the visual experience for young adult audiences as they explore and advance in their career. Zhen is passionate about pushing the boundaries of visual design and hopes to add motion graphics to his repertoire.

Prior to his move to California, Zhen had worked at several nonprofits in New York that were committed to the expansion of the arts. Zhen is a proud alum of Fashion Institute of Technology where he earned his BFA.