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Meet our Cohort Graduates

Read on to learn more about each of our DAP graduates. 

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Cohort 1

Alicia Norman Headshot

Alicia Norman, MPA, ECI (she/her) Host Site: Experience Columbus

Prior to joining The Diversity Apprenticeship Program with Experience Columbus, Alicia earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburg and her Master’s in Public Administration from Villanova University. She then returned to Columbus, Ohio and began working in the financial services sector. Although hospitality is new to her, she has always had a passion for event planning and was excited to learn and grow in a new industry. When Alicia is not working, she enjoys hanging out with her family, her husband Arthur and their dog, Boston.

Brendon Hopper

Brendon Hopper (he/him) Host Sites: Cameron Mitchell, Jordan Hospitality, Experience Columbus

Raised in the King Lincoln District, Brendon attended Pilgrim Elementary School, Champion Middle School, and graduated from East High School. Currently, he is enrolled at the local community college (Columbus State Community College). Brendon will graduate this coming fall (2022) with plans to pursue his Bachelor of Psychology upon completion of his Associates of Arts & Sciences in Psychology. He has two sons, Josiah and Jaxson. Aside from his academic endeavors, being a father is the most significant role to Brendon as Man. He loves raising and watching his kids grow and develop. Prior to joining the DAP Apprenticeship at Experience Columbus, Brendon worked as an office manager and sales at Geico (GFR).

Efua Amissah Aggrey

Efua Amissah Aggrey, ECI (she/her) Host Site: Columbus Regional Airport Authority

Efua Amissah-Aggrey is a 1st generation Ghanaian American immigrant whose passion for knowledge has been her driving force in her professional career. Prior to joining the Experience Columbus apprenticeship, she held a position as the Community Outreach Director for a non-profit organization and before that was heavily immersed in the IT field. She is thrilled to be a part of the apprenticeship program and hopes to hone in on her leadership skills, as well as be a voice for equity and diversity in the tourism industry. Her other passions include fashion, reading, photography and running her small business. She is currently completing her apprenticeship assignment at the Columbus Regional Airport Authority as a Customer Experience Program Coordinator.

Henry Lachika headshot

Henry Lachika (he/him) Host Sites: Hilton Columbus Downtown, Greater Columbus Convention Center

Henry moved to the United States from Tanzania in 2015. Henry earned his Associates degree in Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts and plans to further his education in Tourism and Event Management at Columbus State, with future hopes of getting his BA at Ohio State. Prior to coming to the US, he held several positions in hotels which include work in Sales & Banqueting Coordinator to Sales Executive. In his free time, Henry loves the local food and fine arts scene and currently works part-time at a group home that supports young men in the community.

Maya Gordon

Maya Gordon (she/her) Host Sites: Concord Hospitality, Hyatt Regency Columbus

Maya Gordon is a Columbus, Ohio native. Before joining the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, Maya worked with OhioHealth. Maya earned her Associate’s degree at Ohio Dominican University and Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago. After relocating from Chicago, Maya interned at CAPA in their education department and taught African Dance classes at multiple Columbus recreation centers and school programs. Maya has produced and co-managed numerous dance conferences virtually and in-person in Washington DC. She loves to travel as often as possible and hopes to continue creating experiences and spreading her love for the arts and travel industry. She is ecstatic about the opportunity Experience Columbus provided and is excited to strive in the tourism industry.

Cohort 2

Karis Hall Headshot

Karis Hall (she/her) Host Site: Hilton Columbus at Easton

Karis earned her Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration with a concentration on Operations Management at The Ohio State University. She also obtained a minor in Hospitality Management, which led her to find her passion in hotels through internships. Ultimately, Karis would like to become a hotelier but as of now she is enjoying learning firsthand what it takes to create the ultimate guest experience while maintaining a sustainable business. When Karis is not focused on professional development, she is spending time with family and friends or traveling to explore something new.

Kristina Kimbro Headshot

Kristina Kimbro (she/her) Host Sites: COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Kristina has always had a passion for meeting and interacting with new people of all ages. Before joining the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, Kristina was a Special Education teacher for kindergarten and first grade students at KIPP Columbus Primary School. Prior to working for KIPP, Kristina was a youth counselor for Carnival Cruise Line, where she enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life and helping to provide the best vacation for families and their young children. Kristina graduated from North Caroline A&T State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and Family Studies. In her free time, Kristina can be found spending time with her parents and her amazing 1-year-old daughter, taking cruises, and having picnics in the park on beautiful days.

Narada Myers Headshot

Narada Myers (he/him) Host Site: Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (Budd Dairy)

Narada is well versed and an adaptable individual. Before joining the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, Narada began his professional journey in marketing and company branding. From Digital Marketing to Public Relations, he is branching out and developing the knowledge necessary to be successful in all aspects of Marketing. Prior to pursuing his love for marketing, he worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry for over 10 years. With that experience, he loves interacting and connecting with others. Moving forward he wants to combine all his experience and knowledge to help others grow and succeed.

Nashwa Bawuah Headshot

Nashwa Bawuah, ECI (she/her) Host Sites: Levy Restaurants, Greater Columbus Convention Center

Nashwa is a creative person with a passion for trying new things and experiences. She has attained her cosmetology licenses in 2015 but wanted to explore the arts. She is currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University for Graphic Design. While she is not at work or working on homework you can find her at home watching tv, listening to music, or being out in nature.

Sy'meria Mekonnen Headshot

Sy'meria Mekonnen (she/her) Host Site: Sonesta Columbus Downtown

Prior to being a part of the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, Sy’meria was attending Columbus State Community College pursuing a degree in Hospitality Management. While attending, she realized this was a career path that would be extremely rewarding and promising, but she also noticed the lack of people of color. That is when she stumbled upon the Diversity Apprenticeship Program and knew she had to jump at the opportunity to help diversify the industry. In her free time, Sy’meria likes to try new restaurants, travel and spend time with her family.

Cohort 3

Ashley Donaldson Headshot

Ashley Donaldson (she/her) Host Site: National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Ashley Donaldson is a Columbus native with a passion for arts & culture. As a licensed Realtor®, she prides herself on being a neighborhood expert and enjoys learning the history of Ohio. Her goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the tourism industry and what draws people into the area. In her free time, she enjoys participating in events and exploring attractions in Southwest & Central Ohio with her kids.

Atheer Shalash headshot

Atheer Shalash (she/her) Host Site: Columbus Blue Jackets

Atheer is a Columbus native as well as a second-generation Palestinian immigrant with a passion for working in the community. Atheer has been involved in her community for years where she served as a Client Relations Coordinator at a local food pantry as well as participated in student organizations highlighting social justice and human rights causes throughout her college career. Before joining the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, she also worked as a social media & Marketing Manager at Ohio State. Atheer received a bachelor's degree in Public Affairs, Leadership and Management from The Ohio State University in May 2022. In her free time, Atheer enjoys traveling, exploring new coffee shops, and watching sports with family and friends. Atheer is completing her apprenticeship in the Sales department at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jordan Harris Headshot

Jordan Harris (she/they) Host Site: The Hyatt Regency Columbus

Before working with Experience Columbus, Jordan was a Caretaker and Production Assistant at Replenish Yoga Spa Co-op, a local black women owned business. She is a creative born and raised here in Columbus, where she is involved in the dance and poet community. She is heavily involved in the arts community; being a member of Black Women Rise Poetry Collective, overseen by Barbara Fant, a freelance artist performing with other local artists such as CandiceFlows, and is also the Executive Assistant for The Wedding Duo Photography as well as ByDinaMichele Photography. Jordan has been dancing for the last 19 years, performing and extensively training with various companies here in the city such as Thiossane West African Dance Institute. Aside from being a creative and part time dance instructor, she briefly studied at The Ohio State University studying Arts Management with a minor in Dance.

Montelle Curry headshot

Montelle Curry (he/him) Host Site: Levy Restaurants

Like many others, the pandemic left Montelle confused about his future. After spending a year attending college, feeling isolated from the world and only taking virtual classes, he decided to put a pause on his education to rethink his goals and purpose in life. During this time, he discovered that he had a passion for creating a safe space for all types of people to come together to express themselves through food, music, and film. Through his program he hopes to learn various aspects of the hospitality and tourism industry. His long-term goal is to open, “Telly’s spot,” a space where diverse people can come together and create art. In his free time, Montelle likes cooking, baking, and exploring different restaurants.

Natalie Cadle headshot

Natalia Cadle (she/her) Host site: Sonesta Columbus Downtown

Prior to the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, Natalia was a stay-at-home mom and freelance designer while pursuing her Digital Design and Graphics AAS degree at Columbus State Community College. Additionally, she obtained her User Experience Nanodegree/Certification through Udacity. Her goal is to hone and diversify her technical and critical thinking skills to pursue a user-experience role with a financial product company. She is currently completing her apprenticeship with Sonesta Columbus Downtown. When Natalia is not working, she enjoys precious family time with her two children, photography meetups, and volunteering at art events in the city. She also loves collaborating with other creatives on group projects to help build up their portfolios.

Raymont (Ray) McKinley headshot

Raymont (Ray) McKinley (he/him) Host Site: The Greater Columbus Convention Center

Ray was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Before the Diversity Apprenticeship Program with experience Columbus, Raymont was a branch manager in the automotive buying industry. He has 10 plus years of experience in management from multiple industries. His motivation for success comes from his loving wife and kids and supporting parents. Raymont has made it his goal to live life to the fullest and be a positive example for his community. When he is not hard at work, he enjoys watching Ohio state football and enjoying time with his family.

Te'Wana Smiley Headshot

Te'Wana Smiley (she/her) Host Site: Hilton at Easton

Te’Wana is a passionate and energetic person who enjoys hearing people’s stories and taking on new challenges. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with a focus on Hospitality and Event Management. Her goal is to use her growing knowledge and love of people to create unique, creative, and memorable events in the future that will cater to all ages and backgrounds. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and trying different restaurants around the city.

Cohort 4

Deshawn Rode headshot

Deshawn Rode, ECI (he/him) Host Site: Experience Columbus, Greater Columbus Sports Commission

Deshawn is currently enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University, receiving a BA in Communication along with a minor Business. He is an analytical individual with previous experiences with nonprofits, marketing and event planning. On campus Deshawn is the Co-President Internal of the Campus Programming Board, Chair of Communication Student Board and member of the Ultimate Frisbee club sport. In his free time Deshawn enjoys listening to music, working out and exploring new cities.

Donnell Brockington Headshot

Donnell Brockington, ECI (he/him) Host Site: The Junto

Donnell is originally from Tiffin, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio University in 2023 and moved to Columbus to start his career. He has always been interested in a role that aligns with his values, so he believes hospitality will be a great fit. In addition to hospitality he is super committed to initiatives that support DEI and giving back to the community. When he is not working he loves to take his two pit bull mix dogs to the park, spend time with family or friends, and travel whenever he gets the chance.