Mel Barnard

Pronouns: they/them

Mel believes in facing the multi-faceted challenges of our time by connecting resources with the people who need them. They previously interned at two policy think tanks in DC and learned a lot from fast-paced, hard-working Development Directors. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, they helped write resources for partner fundraising staff and make donor reports easily understood.

Mel earned their BA in Psychology at George Mason University with a minor in Philosophy and Law. At university, where they presented an undergraduate thesis to a committee of experts as part of an Honors Psychology program and were awarded as an Outstanding Senior. They previously volunteered writing newsletters for EcoRing, a green travel nonprofit based in California. At Elevate, they have worked with a number of clients across the nonprofit sector, from homelessness to refugee services to education.

Outside of work, Mel enjoys playing board games (anything besides Monopoly) with their partner, and cuddling with their two cats, Raini and Zuzu. They also spend time making lots of art!

Bentley joined the Elevate team excited to help others realize their visions. Prior to joining Elevate, Bentley interned with the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, as well as worked helping with administration for arts and culture funding in Philadelphia. They are particularly passionate about science, technology, the rapidly developing nature of online interaction, and the issues of intersectionality and access facing these areas.

Bentley holds a Master of Science in Applied Sociology, alongside a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Texas at Dallas, where they also earned a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Technology. Having landed back in Maryland, they also hope to engage in progressivism in the DC area.

In Bentley’s free time, they are on a personal journey to find the perfect pepperoni pizza and the perfect soundtrack to accompany it. While not engaged in that, they also enjoy browsing Atlas Obscura and pondering the existence of ghosts.

Kyle came to Elevate with a passion for working with refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. Prior to joining the Elevate team, he interned at the US House of Representatives with Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s DC office where he conducted policy research and drafted written materials ranging from press releases to speeches. Kyle spent a summer interning with a refugee resettlement agency, focusing on their economic development programs. He helped to teach financial literacy and business development courses, as well as advising clients through the process of buying an asset for their family such as a house or car.

Kyle has been very active within the refugee community in his hometown of Albuquerque. One of his proudest accomplishments was creating and implementing a youth group for refugee students while he was working on his degree. He earned a BA in International Studies and Economics from the University of New Mexico, and spent a year studying economics and international business at Université Paris Dauphine in Paris, France.

In his free time, Kyle enjoys climbing and bouldering with friends, or running along one of the many trails in the foothills of the Sandia mountains. As a lifelong resident of the Southwest, he looks forward to seeing how DC and the East Coast lifestyle compares.

Pronouns: they/them

Vega has particular interests in arts accessibility, providing resources to BIPOC and TGNC folks, and addressing the climate crisis. Previously they supported a DC-based dance nonprofit’s mission of enriching the field of dance through a role with grants and individual giving responsibilities. Vega also interned with the Library of Congress and completed administrative tasks for the Asian Reading Room and the Office of Strategic Initiatives’ Digital Resource Management and Planning Office. 

Vega is a captain, choreographer, and dancer for Culture Shock DC, a local nonprofit that uplifts Hip Hop cultures, and cultivates self-worth, dignity, and respect for all people. Vega holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, with a minor in International Studies, from Towson University. They also studied abroad at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, with a criminal justice focus. Vega is also a xenophile, and in addition to speaking French fluently, they are an enthusiastic novice of Spanish, Tagalog, Swedish, Korean, and German.

In their spare time, Vega enjoys being humbled by their houseplants, binging Pose on Netflix, trying new craft brews, and dancing like no one’s watching.

Jane came to Elevate with experience teaching and volunteering both stateside and abroad. Before joining the Elevate team, Jane worked as an English teacher in Spain creating dynamic bilingual lesson plans and tracking student progress as well as being a panel leader for onboarding orientation. Working so closely with Spanish students gave her a nuanced understanding of bilingual education at the primary school level.

Jane graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and a minor in Spanish. Notable achievements include coauthoring a published report on cybersecurity, being the property manager of her sorority that housed over 80 tenants, and accidentally taking Norwegian and Spanish back to back for one quarter.

In her free time Jane enjoys volunteering with adults and children with disabilities. If you call her on the weekend she is probably on the other line with her mother. If you call her again, she is likely watching the West Wing, cooking something from memory with questionable results, or making a PowerPoint about her favorite Muppet.

Mariele came to Elevate with a lifelong passion for the arts and social justice. Prior to joining the Elevate team, they apprenticed at various theaters around the country to learn the craft of dramaturgy. At their most recent position as a literary fellow with the American Shakespeare Center, they honed their research and writing skills while supporting a nascent new play development program. Through dramaturgy, Mariele has sought to advocate for voices and stories that need to be heard. They are thrilled to continue advocating for those voices through the world of grant writing.

Mariele is a current member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. They earned their BA in Dramatic Arts and English from Centre College, where they graduated cum laude.

A recent transplant to the DC area, Mariele enjoys finding a good cup of tea, going to the theater, and stumbling upon atmospheric places to write poetry.

Lauren comes to Elevate with a strong background in global public health and sport for development. Prior to joining the Elevate team, Lauren spent a year in Northern Togo as a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Integrate Health, an international nonprofit focused on community based maternal and child health care. She worked on grant reporting and communications in addition to working on their Monitoring and Evaluation Team, where she focused on database management and quality improvement.

Lauren earned a BA in International Affairs from The George Washington University, where she earned All-Conference honors as a D1 NCAA cross-country and track student athlete. Throughout her four years at GW, she volunteered on the leadership team of The Grassroot Project, a local nonprofit focused on teaching health education to underserved youth in DC through a dynamic facilitation model. She continues to volunteer with them as they work to expand the scope of their curriculum development throughout DC middle schools.

When she is not prospecting and meeting grant deadlines, Lauren can be found bouldering at her local rock climbing gym, road biking along the Potomac, and attending concerts in her neighborhood on U Street.

Dani has a lifelong passion for serving nonprofits. Before joining the team at Elevate, she worked in public libraries and volunteered her free time serving meals to her community’s homeless population and manning a crisis line for survivors of domestic violence. She also worked with a team of interns in Kathmandu, Nepal to raise funds for primary students at risk of losing access to schooling. Prior to her internship, she independently launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to support refugees in Greece.

Dani earned her Master of Public Administration from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, where she volunteered with the university’s Open Learning Initiative for refugees pursuing higher education. She has a Bachelor of Library and Information Science from the University of Nebraska.

When she’s not working and volunteering, Dani loves to read, crochet, and travel the world. New to the DC area, she can be found exploring the city, scoping out the best coffee shops, and sidling up to complete strangers to ask if she can please pet their dogs. Her Australian Shepherd, Bandit, is the love of her life.

Pronouns: she/her

Lara joined the Elevate team with an interest in conflict resolution and mediation. Prior to Elevate, she worked with a national nonprofit with over 800 high school programs to educate students in insurance and the importance of financial literacy. While a student, Lara interned at the National Center of State Courts, where she worked on justice sector reform projects in Tunisia, Moldova, and Bangladesh. As an intern, she helped draft a grants management manual to guide the Center’s subcontractors in host countries.

Lara engages with Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA USA) as a volunteer at events around Washington, DC and on social media. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Peacebuilding from American University, where she also earned her BA in International Studies.

Outside of Elevate, Lara can be seen tasting the cuisine at local restaurants, studying French, and reading up on the latest innovations in skincare.

Sierra has a longstanding passion for social justice, indigenous ways of knowing, and serving her communities through the art of writing and storytelling. She holds her BA in Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communications (Applied Linguistics) from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she graduated cum laude from the Honors College.

At Elevate, Sierra uses her strengths in editing, research, and project administration to organize and uplift the causes of her clients – an ever-growing array of local and national organizations working in the arenas of racial equity, women’s empowerment, education, housing, international food/water security, and youth development.

Prior to joining Elevate, Sierra worked as a Youth Development Project Coordinator in Gambrills, Maryland. In this role, she served Native Boys & Girls Clubs across Turtle Island, providing clients with technical assistance, culturally relevant adaptations to federal grant programs, newsletter publications and best practice resources. She traveled frequently, visiting Clubs within the Menominee Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and state of Oklahoma.

Most notably during 2017, she attended a Child Protection Symposium in Bismarck, North Dakota to identify current tools and technologies that support AMBER Alert systems in Indian Country. That same year she and her colleagues collaborated with the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Native Services Unit and National Congress of American Indians to develop a behavioral health curriculum for youth enrolled in the T.R.A.I.L. to Diabetes Prevention Program.

Outside of Elevate, you will find Sierra exploring new places with her fiancé, Gabriel, tending to her indoor garden, and reading up on politics, wellness, and spirituality.