Leadership Development that Creates Ecosystem Change: Nexus Community Partners Announces the 8th Cohort of their Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)

They are advocates, facilitators, program officers, executive directors, and pastors. They come from nonprofits, work in government, and are graduate students. They are dynamic, innovative, and entrepreneurial. Above all, they want a seat at the table and like other years, they will push for racially equitable policies at local, regional, and state levels. From Woodbury to Hopkins, from St. Paul to Brooklyn Center, they represent a wide swath of geography and demographics, talent, and life experiences. “They” are our amazing 8th cohort of Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) fellows in the Twin Cities and Nexus is pleased to announce the 2020-2021 cohort today.

For more than 15 years, Nexus Community Partners has been dedicated to building more engaged and powerful communities of color. Through the work of BCLI, Nexus has continued to build sustainable and replicable models for community engagement and community orientated leadership development that strengthens communities.

The BCLI is a seven-month leadership program that identifies, trains, and supports placement of dynamic leaders of color and underrepresented communities onto publicly appointed boards and commissions in the Twin Cities. It is adapted from a model created by Urban Habitat in Oakland, California. BCLI fellows help advance a racial and economic equity agenda across several sectors and issue areas. For the first time, two of our Nexus colleagues will be joining the cohort! The cohort kicks off the week of October 5th.

The eighth BCLI cohort members are:

  • Alexandra Siclait, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Angela Cuellar, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Angela Williams, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Carl Johnson, nominated by State Representative Jay Xiong
  • Clara Jung, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • D’Andre Gordon, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Jewelean Jackson, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Jose Huape, nominated by BCLI alumni
  • Mala Thao, nominated by The St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation
  • Nkuli Shongwe, staff, Nexus Community Partners
  • Octavia Smith, staff, Nexus Community Partners
  • Samantha Sencer-Mura, nominated by New Leaders Council – Twin Cities
  • Shawn Sorrell, nominated by the City of Woodbury
  • Stephanie Lewis, nominated by Social Impact Strategies
  • Steven Nelson, nominated by Ramsey County Department of Human Services
  • Tsua Xiong, nominated by BCLI alumni

The BCLI continues to build momentum within local governing bodies by creating opportunities for community members to become active decision makers. The incoming BCLI fellows join a network of 84 alumni, 44 of which have been successfully appointed on a board or commission or hold a high-level policy position, and all of whom are building and pushing racial, social and economic equity in the community. Alumni of the Twin Cities program include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar; MN House Representative Hodan Hassan; Metropolitan Council Representative for the 8th District Abdirahman Muse; Bush Fellows Roxxanne O’Brien and Carmeann Foster; Lower Phalen Creek executive director Maggie Lorenz; Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Minneapolis Ron Harris; Legislative Aide to St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen HwaJeong Kim; and local entrepreneur and former Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory Board member Jamez Staples. Biographies of each fellow can be found here.

For more information about the BCLI, the launch or ways to become involved, please contact the program director, Ms. Terri Thao at or program manager Mr. Chai Lee at