YDA Association of Charted Unit Presidents Chair
Jovan C. Richards is an Entertainment, Political, and Hospitality Professional. He specializes in government relations, communications, political consulting, non-profit advocacy and volunteerism, and the art of mixology.
Jovan currently serves as the Media & Government Relations Manager for the NYS Society of CPAs; the President for the NYS Young Democrats; the Executive Director for the Westchester County Democratic Committee; the Vice President of Operation Prom National Network; and the Chair of the Association of Chartered Unit Presidents (ACUP) for the Young Democrats of America.
Before becoming active in politics, Jovan spent a majority of his time dedicated to the arts. He has performed all over the world, including in the United Kingdom.
Jovan also has an extensive career in the radio, film, and television industries. He has worked in front of and behind the camera for commercials, films, and sitcoms. Jovan has hosted numerous radio talk shows and podcasts throughout the New York Metro area.
Jovan has worked with or been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the New York Post, City & State New York, Spectrum News, Broadway World, the Journal News (LoHud.com), News 12 Westchester, News 12 Long Island, Fios 1 News Hudson Valley, Patch.com, WVOX-AM, WVIP-FM, Westchester Radio, Westchester Talk Radio, and Public Access Channels throughout the Hudson Valley.
Outside of Jovan’s work in politics and the arts, Jovan is a Mixology Expert and a training Sommelier. He has had the honor of working with spirit brands such as Bulliet Bourbon, Tres Agaves Tequila, Goslings Rum, Shipwreck Rum, and White Girl Rosé. He has also designed cocktail menus for places like Yankee Stadium, the Prudential Center, and Hilton Hotels.
Jovan studied Film and Video at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York.
Executive Vice President
Destiny Hallenbeck is passionate upstate Democrat committed to uplifting young voices in Democratic politics in New York State. In 2021, she was elected to the Town Council in the Town of Chatham as one of the youngest elected officials in the state. Professionally, she has the worked in event planning, outreach, and constituent services in both the New York State Senate and the House of Representatives.
She is the former President of the College Democrats of New York where she led the state federation through the 2019 and 2020 election cycles.
Broome County Young Democrats President
Christina currently serves as Treasurer for the New York State Young Democrats and President of Broome County Young Democrats. She first jumped into local politics as Deputy of Operations with Tarik Abdelazim for City of Binghamton Mayor in 2017. She has since managed, advised, and volunteered on multiple campaigns per election cycle.
Professionally, Christina is Senior Manager of Engagement and Partnerships with Full Frame Initiative, a national non-profit focused on shifting the systems in the United States toward a country where everyone has a fair shot at wellbeing. In this role, she does a whole host of project management, event planning, and executive level administration in support of strategic goals. She previously worked in local government in county planning and county executive admin with a focus on housing and community advocacy.
Christina holds a Master of Public Administration from Binghamton University. She enjoys traveling, BTS, and books of all flavors.
Stephanie Campanha Wheaton
National Committee Member
YDA DNC Representative
Stephanie Campanha Wheaton is a first-generation American, raised in New Jersey and Pennsylvania but very much a New Yorker. Her middle name means “campaign” in Portuguese and she got her start rallying for candidates in her parent’s home country of Brasil and eventually went on to study political science at Boston University. She has served on the board of her home chapter of the Brooklyn Young Democrats and as National Committee Representative and Meetings Director for the New York State Young Democrats. She also served as Meetings Director for YDA from 2019-2021 and acted as the Chair of the Convention Planning Committee for the Cincinnati Convention.
She is dedicated to public service and has worked in government for the majority of her career – mostly for Attorney General Letitia James. She also worked as the Senior National Surrogate Scheduler on the Bernie 2020 Presidential campaign – the first national campaign to unionize their staff. She is currently a member of SSEU 371 and works in the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. She is deeply dedicated to progressive politics and ensuring a lasting legacy for YDA because she knows that we must leave this organization better for those who come next.
She resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, a paramedic for the Fire Department of New York, and her two cats, River and Rio.
National Committee Member
Naishaly Vélez Galán
Capital Region Vice President
Naishaly Vélez Galán is currently the Capital Region Vice President for NYSYD. They recently graduated the University at Albany with Bachelors of Arts in Theater and Sociology.
Central Vice President
Colton was born and raised in Central New York. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and his Master of Public Policy from American University. He’s also currently working toward his Master of Science for Teachers in Childhood Education from SUNY Plattsburgh.
Colton has been involved in politics and policy since middle school when he advocated for greater funding for public schools. Since then, Colton has worked with lawmakers in Washington, DC to support the interests of Central New York and New York State as a whole. He also worked in climate education and advocacy with the Climate Reality Project, where he supported programs that empowered local leaders across the globe to help implement climate friendly projects and policies in their own communities. Colton is passionate about making space for young people in the rooms where decisions are made, advocating for greater youth involvement in local committees and supporting the election of young leaders to local, state, and federal offices.
If you can’t find Colton knocking doors, you’ll find him passionately teaching his elementary students or traveling the world.
Downstate Region Vice President
Brian is a member of the Queens County Young Democrats, and was previously a member of the Broome County Young Democrats.
Brian previously served as the NYSYD Secretary and Central Region VP and as President of the Binghamton University College Democrats. His passions include healthcare access, education, and LGBTQ issues.
Hudson Valley Region Vice President
Zak Constantine was raised in Orange County and is a proud graduate of Goshen Central High School, where he was the President of the State Championship winning Mock Trial Team, a member of the Varsity Cross Country Team, and the Student Representative to the Board of Education. Currently, he is finishing his studies in Public Policy and Management at SUNY Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs. Throughout his schooling, Zak has lived and worked full time in Orange County–focusing on community development and activism.
Zak is the President of the Young Democrats of Orange County and a Vice-Chair of the Orange County Democratic Committee. Previously Zak served as Community Outreach Coordinator to NYS Senator Jen Metzger, where he oversaw her office’s robust events and awards programs while specializing in connecting constituents, organizations, and community leaders with their representative in Albany. He served as her Deputy Campaign Manager for her 2020 re-election campaign, and he has also managed several county-wide and local campaigns throughout the Hudson Valley. Currently, Zak serves as a strategic advisor to candidates and organizations that seek to uplift and empower the working families of New York State. His true passion is helping his fellow young leaders find a passion for public service. Keeping with his commitment to our next generation of leaders, Zak served as a Project Manager for the Leadership Orange Class of 2021’s class project, where they developed the Larkin Family Young Professionals Program. He currently serves on their advisory committee.
In his free time, Zak is an avid hiker, runner, cyclist, and coffee enthusiast who frequently enjoys exploring new corners of the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. You can follow his travels on Instagram @zakconstantine; or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Southern Tier Region Vice President
Reed ‘RC’ Cleland is a lifelong Upstater, with roots in the Village of Homer since 2005. He was first exposed to politics as a junior in high school, when the Homer American Legion Post 465 nominated him as a delegate to New York Boys’ State 2017. As a senior, he gained early hands-on experience in local government after interning for then-Clerk of the Legislature, Eric Mulvihill, and working in the office of then-Mayor of the City of Cortland, Brian Tobin. After graduating from Homer Central Schools in 2018, Reed earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, where he received summa cum laude with Honors Distinction.
Since graduating from Colgate in 2022, Reed is happy to have returned to Cortland County, a region he envisions as his lifelong home. He works as a full-time Substitute Teacher for Homer Central Schools, and he is the Club Advisor to Homer High School’s Shakespearean & Thespian Society, where he directs two theatrical productions per year. He is a Co-Chair of the Cortland County Youth Board, works as an academic tutor for CNY Tutoring, and volunteers with the Cortland County Democratic Committee and the Cortland County League of Women Voters. In moments of spare time, he can be found performing with the Center Players or enjoying long walks around the village with Gia and Phoebe.
Northern Region Vice President
Herkimer County Young Democrats President
Robert Drumm is a member of the Herkimer County Young Democrats. He is an election expert and advocate for Democratic issues in rural communities.
Western Vice President
Kathleen, who also goes by Kat, started her journey in politics in 2017, working on a Judicial re-election Campaign for Buffalo City Court Judge Betty Calvo-Torres, the first Latina to serve on the Buffalo City Court bench appointed by Mayor Byron W. Brown. During her time in politics, Kathleen has worked on numerous political campaigns in Western New York at the Federal, State, and Local level. As a political staffer, she has worked for New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. She is now a Senior Associate at Bolton St. Johns LLC.
Kathleen was raised in Syosset, NY, and is a graduate of the University at Buffalo. She is the WNY VP of the New York State Young Democrats and serves on the Eleanor’s Legacy Innovation Council.
Council of Presidents Chair
Nassau County Young Democrats President
The son of Union grocery workers, John was always politically minded. However, he didn’t start his political journey until the latter years of college when he realized it was more productive to act instead of just be angry. After graduating from SUNY Albany, he moved back home to Long Island and found his political voice. Since 2015 he has been a veteran of campaigns on Long Island and has been Nassau Young Dems President since 2021. He has used his passion for organizing to grow the chapter and have NCYD be at the forefront of campaign support in the county.
He currently lives in Farmingdale with his fiancé and their beloved beagle. When he is not organizing he is passionate about sports and craft beer.
Jacob (Jake) Tyson is an attorney with experience in complex litigation and government investigations, as well as pro bono experience in access to healthcare and prisoner and immigrant rights. He has previously served boards in drafting or reviewing policies and procedures and overseeing internal misconduct procedures.
Jake is particularly passionate about access to housing, criminal justice reform, and promoting a balanced, diverse, and equitable judiciary at every level. He is also a member of the American Constitution Society and a graduate of both the University of Rochester and The George Washington University Law School.
In his free time, you can find Jake exploring a local park with his best friend: his dog, Ashland.