The Young Professionals Council (YPC) is a group of dedicated allies who are committed to supporting the mission and programs of the LA Promise Fund. The group’s purpose is to engage a broad network of young professionals in the work of LA Promise Fund, to help raise awareness of all programs to new audiences, and to support fundraising efforts. Council members come from a variety of different career backgrounds and industries, but are united by their commitment to generating resources and opportunities for traditionally marginalized youth in LA County.
The Young Professional Council Members
Diana Becnel is a Global Business Manager for Microsoft focusing on empowering teams to deliver high quality innovative technical solutions to customers. Diana was born and raised in Los Angeles and was brought up through the LAUSD school district. She attended Boston University where she received her Bachelors of Science in Business with a concentration in Management Information Systems. Joining Microsoft right out of college, over the last seven years Diana has been a transformative and passionate technology professional. She has experience in consulting, project management and business strategy planning. She is passionate about diversity in tech and currently leads the Microsoft Services Business Applications Women’s Community and serves on the SoCal Blacks at Microsoft board. She is involved with DigiGirlz, Black Girls Code, and the American Cancer Society to help give back to her community. In her free time Diana enjoys a good book, dancing on a bike in spin class, traveling, and cooking new recipes.
Charlie Benell is a Wealth Advisor at Morgan Stanley in Los Angeles, California. As a Los Angeles native, he has worked with multiple local non-profits, and has developed a passion for growing children’s education. Prior to Morgan Stanley, Charlie was an M&A consultant at KPMG where he advised both private and public companies, in the energy and technology industries, on corporate mergers and acquisitions. He received his undergraduate degree in finance from Texas A&M University in 2016, and his M.S. in Finance from the USC Marshall School of Business in 2017. Charlie is also actively involved with Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles.
Melony Bethala is a feminist and researcher, and in her free time, a critic of contemporary poetry. As a Senior Research Analyst for Newmark Knight Frank, she serves as the lead researcher for an industry intelligence team that looks at workforce trends and how technology will change the future of business. Before moving to Los Angeles for this role, Bethala completed my PhD at the University of York in the UK, where she compared women’s rights and writing from Ireland and India. She also holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin and a B.A. in English from Emory University. “Working on my doctoral project made me realize the incredible struggles that women, and people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status, face in achieving equality in this world. I want to dedicate my career to supporting women’s human rights abroad, and that starts by making a positive impact in my local community. I love teaching and continue to value education though I no longer work in academia. I welcome the opportunity to support students and their families here in LA.”
Mike Butler is a native of Brooklyn, New York. It’s there he discovered his passion for the arts, in particular, dance. While still in high school, he created performance groups that traveled throughout the Southeast, where he was well-known and recognized for his prodigious artistic talent in dance. After graduation, Mike continued to focus on dance while pursuing an education in Psychology and Business. Mike’s entrepreneurial mindset led him to start his own dance instruction non-profit called DOIT JAX, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida; a marketing consultancy called IMAGEacg here in LA; and currently, he serves as Chief of Staff at Jogg where he gets to coalesce his passion for art, media, and business in one.
Kathleen Hetrick is a sustainability consultant and mechanical engineer, with a passion for social equity through education. Hetrick grew up in a military family that moved across the United States every two years, and she feels strongly about the devoted public school teachers and programs that empowered her to become an engineer. “The life-changing opportunity I had should be available to all students in Los Angeles, and I’d like to devote my career to equipping historically marginalized students for the professional opportunities available in a new green deal economy. Beyond the realm of professional careers, I’d also like to help students build the personal resiliency needed to take on the challenges brought on by the 21st century, and help them realize their own potential to direct the City of Los Angeles for more sustainable, equitable outcomes.”
Bryant Lee is a Real Estate Associate at Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Bryant was born in New York City and raised in the Los Angeles area, where he attended the University of Southern California and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. After graduating, Bryant worked in a variety of different roles—including as an intern at a local non-profit organization, seasonal tax associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, manager at a local small business and Lyft driver—after which he eventually found his way to The George Washington University Law School. During law school, Bryant was an honors intern with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, judicial extern to the Honorable Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and judicial extern to the Honorable Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. These experiences have given Bryant an insight into the legal and financial services industries, as well as a passion to help bridge gaps towards broader equity. In his free time, Bryant also enjoys his work as a self-professed renown pizza critic and connoisseur.
An East Coast native, Samantha Scott relocated to Southern California almost four years ago – moving quickly into the world of Hollywood and entertainment. Looking for a way to integrate her social impact interest and blend her media and non-profit background, landing at Participant Media allowed for an ideal mix. As Human Resources Manager, Samantha was able to lead recruitment efforts, corporate volunteerism, internship programs, and a number of other elements for Participant Media and SoulPancake. Samantha has most recently joined the HR team for NBCUniversal’s Operations & Technology division where she will focus on labor and employee relations, compensation, performance management, and reporting/analytics.
Lucas Smolic graduated from Emerson College in 2007, after successfully running numerous non-profit organizations in Boston for under-served youth and is still a proud member of the Big-Brothers-of-Mass-Bay 15 years on-going. In Los Angeles for over 10 years, Smolic has had the pleasure to volunteer through his work with PATH, GirlsCodeLA, AfterSchoolAllstars, and other programs that make the future brighter for everyone. Most recently, he was the VP of Engineering at AwesomenessTV, where he helped create movies and TV that promoted inclusion, diversity, and STEAM topics. When he’s not working, you’ll find him in the garden, painting brightly colored landscapes, or hiking to the top of mountains
Karla Torres serves as the Community Development Specialist for the Microsoft LA region, where she deploys STEM resources to local schools and nonprofits. She has enjoyed a dynamic career in social services agencies and local government– both working to support traditionally marginalized populations. While in grad school she helped develop a nonprofit named Bridget, which helps local teen girls build digital workforce development skills while connecting them to mentors in local corporations. Karla was born and raised in Anaheim, CA, received her M.S. in Social Entrepreneurship from USC and her B.S. in Health Education from Cal State Long Beach. She is a current HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality) fellow and a Clinton Foundation Global Initiative University alum. Karla enjoys building community, traveling, and laughing uncontrollably.
Tiffany Wong is a software developer and consultant with an unconventional background. Before graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Rhetoric, Wong lead the campus’ premiere competitive hip-hop dance team and co-founded the first college chapter of CoachArt, an arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. After graduating, Wong worked at an early-stage startup where she learned the enabling power of building software to solve problems and soon made a career out of it. Wong currently works at a renowned product development consultancy called Carbon Five, where she helps startups and enterprise companies alike build meaningful products with effective processes and volunteers with organizations such as Women Who Code and Girl Develop It in her free time.
Alex Zaman is a Director within Citigroup’s Municipal Securities Division, where he works with state and local governments to finance infrastructure projects. He received his degree in Political Economy and City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Zaman is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).
For questions or comments, contact Mia Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (213) 745-4928