Alumni Spotlight: Nikki Walker, Executive Director of the East Nashville Hope Exchange

Alumni Spotlight: Nikki Walker, Executive Director of the East Nashville Hope Exchange

Nikki Walker photoNikki Walker is a graduate of YLC’s Nashville Class 77 and currently serves as the Executive Director for East Nashville Hope Exchange (ENHE), an organization focused on strengthening children’s literacy through the exchange of knowledge and support among families and the Nashville community to affirm the right to read for all. YLC recently caught up with Nikki to learn more about her work and how she’s using her professional passion to make a difference in the East Nashville area.

Please tell us a little about your work with the East Nashville Hope Exchange. How did you get involved with the organization and how does the mission align with your own personal values?

In my role as Executive Director for East Nashville Hope Exchange, I am responsible for the planning, management, and direction of the organization’s operations and programs. ENHE provides programming designed to close the educational “achievement gap” between children from poorer and more affluent families. This gap has increased due to learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth literacy rates in the U.S. are at the lowest level in thirty years and are even worse among low-income families and especially for black and brown students.

I started working with ENHE in 2017 as a summer volunteer coordinator and, after transitioning to a new role with a different company, continued to stay engaged with the organization as a program volunteer before joining the Board. The work that I’m able to do through ENHE fuels me each day to ensure that all children have access to a good education, and I will continue advocating until access is no longer a barrier.

How did your YLC training prepare you to effectively serve as a leader in the nonprofit community?  Are there elements of the program that have been particularly useful for you in your current role?

YLC provided me with a better perspective of how nonprofit boards work, and how the collective impact of the work affects the organization’s goals and outcomes. Before going through the program, I didn’t truly understand how all of that came together. Now in my current role, the most useful things learned were centered around board responsibilities, understanding the financials, and fundraising. I have learned that these are the most important things to know when leading and driving success for the organization. Gaining knowledge from YLC’s experts in these areas, really prepared me for what I am doing now.

What advice would you share with others looking to elevate their community impact by serving on a nonprofit board or becoming an executive leader for a nonprofit organization?

I would tell them to make sure that the work of the organization aligns with your passion. Truly take the time to learn about the organization, ask meaningful questions, and, if you can, go see the work in action. That will really help you decide whether that is in fact the area in which you want to serve. For those looking to become nonprofit executive leaders, it’s important to invest your time in learning the operational structure of the organization you desire to lead.

For more information on East Nashville Hope Exchange, please visit or reach out to Nikki directly at

Summer Alumni Spotlight

“Through YLC, I gained friendships, wisdom, and confidence to enter into the non-profit space with a foundational knowledge of how nonprofit boards actually work. It was great to have a new instructor provide training on a variety of content each week. I believe that anyone interested in serving a higher purpose and giving back in a meaningful way should check out the YLC program. Serving on a nonprofit board can seem overwhelming, but with training from YLC, I gained a lot of clarity on just what to expect and how to be great as I begin my new journey as a nonprofit board member.”

Shane Lantigua
Financial Advisor
Northwestern Mutual


Lantigua Shane
Lantigua Shane

“I loved engaging with my cohort members! YLC’s training program provides an incredible opportunity to get to know other young professionals who are just as serious about their career and giving back as I am. It was so refreshing to connect with other business professionals and identify opportunities to support each other. Since completing the program only a few months ago, I’ve already had the opportunity to do business with two members of my cohort! Through the YLC program, I gained useful soft and hard skills that I continue to use in the workplace and in other professional settings.”

Bradley Montesi
Owner / Content Producer
Unsportsmanlike Content

Lux QueenieYLC helped me gain a newfound energy that I didn’t realize I was missing. The passion from each instructor solidified just why I joined YLC in the first place – to give back to the communities around me and to better support those in need. I learned how to leverage my current skills and relationships to help support the community and nonprofit organizations that are working to make them better.

The internship placement portion of the program has also been very beneficial for me. As a YLC board intern, I am able to engage with other board members to listen and learn how they make decisions that ultimately impact the organization overall. Another benefit from participating in YLC is learning about other non-profits that I didn’t know existed! I am so grateful for the relationships I have built with my fellow cohort members and for my newfound energy to help make an impact in my community.

Queenie Lux
Manager, Clinical Informatics Operations

HCA Healthcare

Joslyn McGaughy

“I moved to the Nashville area in early 2020 and, due to the pandemic, was not able to fully connect with other professionals or with my new community, as I had hoped.  YLC provided me with the opportunity to learn more about Nashville and meet other young professionals who share a vested interest in serving the community.  I had no idea what to truly expect from YLC, but every session was amazing and helped prepare me to successfully serve on a nonprofit board.  YLC provided me with a skill set and knowledge of the nonprofit sector that I otherwise would not have been afforded while also building connections so that I can have a seat at the leadership table. I was also able to develop a strong knowledge base and build a foundation to better support the nonprofit organization I am working to establish. YLC is truly life and career changing. I would encourage anyone trying to gain a greater sense of purpose through non-profit work, to consider YLC.

Joslyn McGaughy
Owner / Area Developer
i9 Sports Nashville North


I enjoyed YLC’s “MBA-style” learning environment where a group of professionals from various backgrounds come together to learn how to collaborate and give back to the community. Not only did I gain valuable knowledge and experience to support my desire to serve as a board leader in the nonprofit community, I also made connections with the other members of my cohort and learned more about the wonderful work happening at local organizations. YLC is the perfect segue for young professionals trying to find their way into the Nashville nonprofit leadership space. The long-term benefits of YLC begin in the classroom and continue with your ability to give back and make an impact for the community.

Ben Maslyn, CFA
Investment Manager
Truist Wealth


Lantigua Shane
chris smith

I enjoyed meeting and networking with all of my YLC cohort members. It was inspiring to see so many remarkable people who are looking to have a positive impact within the greater Nashville area. The instructors were engaging and insightful. They are also bonafide stars within the community who made the material come to life with interactive activities and real-life examples.

Besides a greater understanding of how nonprofit boards function and the overall impact these organizations have had on Middle Tennessee, I gained a sense of community. It became abundantly clear that the YLC network of alumni and friends is vast. From many of the instructors being alumni to the hundreds of fellow participants in the spring cohorts, the amount of reach that YLC has within our community is astounding. As a new graduate, I am beyond humbled to be a small part of this network of leaders.

Chris Smith
Sr. Manager, Marketing Analytics


YLC Hosts Annual Appreciation Luncheon

YLC Hosts Annual Appreciation Luncheon

On Tuesday, June 21, Young Leaders Council hosted its annual Appreciation Luncheon to celebrate and show gratitude for the local nonprofit community. The Nashville nonprofit community has played a vital role in helping YLC provide valuable training and board internship experiences for program graduates over the years. The Appreciation Luncheon was generously sponsored by AllianceBernstein and provides a unique opportunity for nonprofit leaders to connect and network with colleagues.

CEO of Thistle Farms, Hal Cato (Nashville Class 17) shared his experience as both a YLC alumnus and longstanding leader in the Nashville nonprofit community. Recent program graduates, Jennifer Vandercook (Junior League 2021) and Nikki Walker (Nashville Class 77) also shared remarks highlighting the value of YLC’s partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in providing an immersive and hands-on experience for program participants.

More than 145 program graduates were placed as YLC board interns with local nonprofit organizations in 2021, providing a valuable opportunity to immediately put their newly acquired skills and knowledge to use while making a lasting impact on the organizations they support. YLC is truly grateful for the support shown by the Middle Tennessee nonprofit community and truly thankful for partners like AllianceBernstein that help sustain our efforts to build meaningful connections and advance our mission.

Spotlight on Spring 2022 Graduates

Spotlight on Spring 2022 Graduates

Mallory Yoder – Nashville Class 78
Lead Manager, Business Engagement Strategies
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

I loved the opportunity to meet new people in different industries through the YLC program. I also enjoyed learning more about the nonprofit organizations that are helping make a difference in the communities we call home! 

YLC taught me the important leadership role board members serve for nonprofit organizations – and more importantly how board members can lead with passion and servant hearts to selflessly support organizations and communities. The program is so engaging and inspiring, and everything I learned through YLC can also be applied in your professional capacity.

Jackson Zeitlin – Belmont-Massey / Nashville Class 78
Affiliate Broker
Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty

Through the YLC program, I gained a foundational knowledge of how I can apply my skills and expertise to organizations in a way that will truly benefit them and support their mission. I now feel that I can provide professional value and leadership support beyond the basics of volunteering

I also really enjoyed interacting with such a broad spectrum of young professionals who were interested in giving back to the Nashville nonprofit community. As a community that affords us so many opportunities, it was a great reminder that there are plenty of people that desire to go the extra mile for the causes they care about. Everything I learned in the YLC program has value that extends into other facets of my life.

Brittainy Hall – Nashville Class 78
Senior Consultant
Kotter Inc.

There were many aspects of the YLC program that I enjoyed, but the one thing that stood out the most was the opportunity to engage and learn from a diverse group of thought leaders. Every week I left feeling inspired and more knowledgeable than I did before I started the session. There aren’t many leadership development programs where you have the opportunity to learn from such a unique group of subject matter experts and community leaders.

I also gained a new level of confidence and a growing network of support through YLC. I started the program knowing virtually nothing about what it meant or what it took to be an impactful nonprofit board member. Over the years, I have continuously searched for a way to give back to the community that also helped me develop professionally, and YLC helped me achieve that goal. The wisdom, knowledge, and relationships that I have been able to cultivate during my YLC journey have been unmatched. I am super grateful that I took my dear friend’s advice and applied. This experience, I believe, has changed the trajectory of my career and life for the better. 

Joseph Underwood Nashville Class 78
Senior Supply Chain Analyst
Tractor Supply Company

The time spent learning and hearing from the other participants of the cohort was easily the most enjoyable part of the program. Listening to the ideas that they have and understanding their backgrounds on how they came to think or feel that way gave me new perspectives on a variety of topics. I would encourage anyone going through the program to come in with an open mind and the desire to learn not just from the great teachers, but also from your fellow cohort members.

I think the investment in training for the program is indispensable. Our cohort was able to learn from industry and non-profit leaders with years of experience. The ability to hear from them and leverage their experience as well as collaborate with my classmates about their own experiences gave me a wealth of knowledge about the nonprofit space and the responsibility that their board members carry. I would recommend this program to anyone who is wanting to not only learn and develop but more importantly wanting to give back to their communities now and moving forward. You are able to build relationships with the other members of the cohort, spend time learning from so many industry titans, and make a difference in the community you live in. The commitment of time and resources will pay off exponentially.

Young Leaders Council Announces Spring 2022 Participants

Young Leaders Council Announces Spring 2022 Participants

More than 90 young professionals participate in YLC’s spring Nashville Class 78, Junior League of Nashville, and Belmont-Massey Cohorts 


Young Leaders Council (YLC),  the premier organization for training nonprofit board members in Middle Tennessee, is proud to announce the spring participants in the Nashville Class 78, Junior League of Nashville, and Jack C. Massey College of Business at Belmont University Cohorts, three of five cohorts hosted this year.  YLC will also facilitate board leadership training in the fall through the Nashville and Williamson County Cohorts. Ninety-one young professionals from diverse professional and ethnic backgrounds are represented in the program this spring, which kicked-off officially on March 9 with a celebratory opening session hosted at the new Asurion Gulch Hub location. The opening sessional also featured an inspirational keynote address from Derek Young, YLC alumnus and president/CEO of Young Motivation Group. 

YLC’s mission is to train diverse, committed individuals to effectively participate on the boards of nonprofit organizations and make a difference in the community by replenishing the Nashville volunteer leadership base. Each year, YLC hosts five cohorts for a series of 11 interactive training sessions specifically designed to address fundamental board skills and prepare participants to be successful nonprofit board leaders. Training is facilitated by industry experts and reflects on success indicators deemed crucial for today’s nonprofit leadership. Once training concludes, participants connect with a nonprofit organization where they complete a yearlong internship as a nonvoting member of the board.

“It’s truly inspiring to see such passion and commitment from young professionals seeking to lean into the work of our nonprofit partners and help address the challenges faced within our community,” said Kim James, Young Leaders Council executive director. “YLC’s goal is to help our program participants develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective nonprofit board leaders and to do that in a fun and engaging way.” Since 1985, more than 3,000 students have participated in the YLC program, providing highly skilled community servants to support hundreds of nonprofit partners in the Nashville and surrounding area.


To view a full listing of the 2022 spring participants, please click on links to the respective cohorts below: