How to Become a Thought Leader


When Neil Giuliano ran for Mayor of Tempe in 1993, he didn’t think he would actually win. But he did win, and became the youngest person ever to hold the office. On June 22, 2016, Mr. Giuliano, who now serves as President and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, shared his personal journey of becoming a thought leader in our sector, and tips and advice for attendees to take on their own journeys.

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Natalie Morgan 2016 YNPN LINK Presenter

Natalie_Morgan_Headshot.jpegNatalie Morgan is an educational justice advocate working with underserved communities and marginalized populations for greater educational and economic access. She currently serves as an Academic Adviser at South Ridge High School where she is responsible for leading college and career initiatives as well as providing intervention support for youth and families. She has seven years of experience creating and implementing college-prep youth programs.

Before coming to Phoenix, Natalie worked as a college counselor with United Friends of the Children to support foster youth believing in and achieving college success. There she worked with 7-12th grade students to overcome housing instability and bridge the gaps in education, family and social settings. Natalie found her passion for social justice centered youth work through service with Public Allies Los Angeles, an AmeriCorps program.  During her terms of service she worked to create a college-prep case management program through the City of Los Angeles YouthSource Center in Watts, fondly known as YO! Watts.

Natalie is originally from Mexico City, but grew up in the Central Valley of California. She later moved to attend college at the University of California, San Diego. She continues to build her own path and finds great joy in helping others build theirs. 

Tristan Gandolfi 2016 YNPN LINK Presenter

Tristan_Gandolfi_Headshot.jpgTristan Gandolfi has BIG plans for the world. Hailing from the great state of Illinois, she graduated from Arizona State University with not one, but two degrees in Fine Arts and Communication. After grabbing her diploma, she packed her flip-flops and headed to Englewood, Chicago to teach 4th grade. While developing curriculum and earning a master's degree, she flexed her comedy muscles at Second City.

Infusing creativity into her classroom she became obsessed with laughter and learning. Taking a big-girl job, Tristan returned to Arizona to help develop a local start-up. She became very passionate about branding, marketing, and community. After three years she left to pursue an idea. What if we taught literacy through interactive game-play? She founded Humor Writes, a non-profit with the mission of creating collaborative classrooms and confident young authors.

Richie Ressel 2016 YNPN LINK Presenter

Richie_Ressel_Headshot.jpgRichie Ressel moved to the Valley six years ago when he decided to get his Master's in Education at Arizona State University and become a teacher through the Teach For America program. Richie worked in the Glendale Elementary School District for six years as a teacher, instructional coach, and coordinator for the New Teacher Induction program. Richie and his cofounder started HEROES For Students in 2013 when they received grants from ASU and were accepted into the SEED SPOT program to develop their idea. Richie is excited to continue his work in education as he takes the leap to begin working full time as the Executive Director of HEROES For Students.

Katie Thorson 2016 YNPN LINK Presenter

Katie_Thorson_Headshot.jpgNew Pathways for Youth is a transformative mentoring nonprofit that matches youth ages 9 to 17 experiencing poverty, homelessness and disruptive home lives with well-trained adult mentors. The matches attend life-skill development workshops and are supported by Program Coordinators who ensure a transformative experience for all involved in the relationship. It has been serving the Valley since 1989 and has transformed over 5,500 youth’s lives.

I ensure that mentors are supported through the screening and onboarding process and also help to match them appropriately in a match that will succeed – love it because I pretty much get to talk to people all day.

I was born in MN, moved to AZ because of the sunshine, and love doing other people’s nails/hair/make up. My favorite foods are avocados, peanut butter and sweet potatoes (not all together, separately).