WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 20, 2023) The Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR), a professional society for female communicators in the greater capital area, named its 2023 class of Emerging Leaders Awards (ELAs). The six winners were selected from a diverse and impressive slate of rising stars, ages 25-35, who have excelled in public relations and related fields, and given back to the industry by contributing their skills and talents to innovative initiatives and projects. 

“We continue to celebrate the remarkable achievements of young women who are boldly challenging the status quo and fearlessly breaking down barriers in the rapidly changing landscape of public relations and communications,” said Zorie Valchev, President, WWPR and Elynsey Price, President, WWPR. “Congratulations to the finalists and the honorees who were selected from a record number of nominations. We look forward to following their careers and supporting them along the way.”

The 2023 WWPR Emerging Leaders Awards Winners are:

Corporate: Jordun Lawrence, Manager, Impact Communications at PayPal

Jordun is a key convener and collaborator who spearheads communications efforts that humanize the PayPal brand and highlight PayPal’s mission to improve financial health and expand economic opportunity. She brings over 10 years of experience to her role, having worked across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. She previously served as Communications and Strategic Engagement Director for the Public Religion Research Institute. She has also served as Deputy Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senior Manager of Communications for the National Urban League Washington Bureau, Deputy Press Secretary for Hillary for America, and on Capitol Hill. 

Trade Association: Elleni Almandrez, Director, Advocacy and Communications at Children’s Hospital Association 

Elleni Almandrez is the Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Children’s Hospital Association. At CHA Elleni leads the external relations department where she manages a team of advocacy, communications and social media strategists. She brings a track record of media relations, public policy and crisis communications, grassroots advocacy and strategic communications planning. Elleni joined CHA after previously working as an Assistant Director of Communications for a materials and supply chain trade association where she led advocacy campaigns on recycling and sustainability. Her prior experience includes Fenton, a social change agency, time at Weiss Public Affairs and as a Finance PAC Consultant for Direct Consulting Group.

Non-Profit: Kelsey N. Nelson, Director of Communications at National Foster Youth Institute

Kelsey N. Nelson serves as the Director of Communications for the National Foster Youth Institute where she leads all communications for the youth development nonprofit. Kelsey is also the founder, president and CEO of KryptiaNN LLC, a media and communications consulting firm. She is an award-winning media personality, analyst and communications and marketing specialist. The DMV area native has an extensive background in PR, communications, journalism, marketing, and creating/facilitating high-powered community partnerships. She also works as a capstone advisor and an adjunct professor and serves on the board of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame. She is also a Regional Advisory Board Member for the Tickets for Kids nonprofit. 

Medium and Large Agency: Jalisa Washington-Price, Managing Director at Subject Matter + Kivvit

Jalisa Washington Price serves as a Managing Director at Subject Matter + Kivvit, where she leads several of the firm’s strategic communications and paid media accounts, advising clients on strategy to optimize communication tactics and how to use creative assets to meet key audiences. She is a public affairs expert and decorated campaign strategist. She was born and raised in rural South Carolina where she gained her passion for organizing and strategic communication by working to turn out voters among students and rural voters. She kicked off her career in politics at Hillary for America as Regional Political Director where she helped develop South Carolina’s winning presidential primary strategy, as well as Ohio where she led the team in developing a political strategy for the 2016 presidential election. 

Boutique Agency: Falen Petros, Account Supervisor, Public Health at CURA Strategies

Falen Petros is skilled at health promotion, education and community engagement. She has a passion for health literacy as a means to advance health equity. At CURA Strategies, as a Director and Account Supervisor, Falen provides day-to-day project management and communications support for the City of Rockford’s Community-wide Health Literacy Initiative to fight COVID-19 and improve health literacy among racial and ethnic minority and vulnerable communities. This work continues to underscore the importance of trusted local voices in health messaging. Prior to joining CURA Strategies, Falen supported hundreds of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies across the country which in turn support children, families and child care providers in receiving and providing high quality child care. 

Government: Alaina Gertz, Lead Public Affairs Specialist at the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC.

Alaina serves as the Lead Public Information Officer in the Office of Communications for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC. Within this position, Alaina takes proactive measures to publicize the activities and programs of the police department, while also overseeing media coordination for major city events, such as the Something in the Water Festival and Presidential Inaugurations. Alaina’s contributions were particularly significant as one of the key managers of developing media messaging and communications surrounding the unprecedented and distressing attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. She is also an active member of the National Information Officers Association.

A distinguished panel of judges selected the winners based on their record of excellence and accomplishments in their careers thus far, as well as their leadership qualities and ethical standards. 

The 2023 judges included:

  • Tina Anthony, Curley Company
  • Susan Apgood, 4media Group; WWPR Advisory Board Member
  • Sukhi Sahni, Wells Fargo; WWPR Advisory Board Member
  • Hillarie Turner, SpireCommunications; WWPR Advisory Board Member
  • Danielle Veira, Minerva’s Legacy Consulting Group, LLC; WWPR Advisory Board Member
  • Jacqueline Wilson, Stratacomm; WWPR Past President
  • Anne Woodbury, CURA Strategies; 2022 WWPR Woman of the Year Finalist

The ELA winners were announced at a special awards reception at LiUNA’s Rooftop in Black Lives Matter Plaza on Thursday, June 15. Devi Thomas, a non-profit go-to-market leader at Microsoft Philanthropies, gave the keynote address. Attendees also supported WWPR’s pro bono client, New Endeavours for Women (NEW). The complete list of 2023 WWPR Emerging Leaders Awards finalists can be found here: Washington Women in Public Relations Announces 2023 Emerging Leaders Finalists


Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) is a member-based professional society cultivating and inspiring female communicators to reach their full potential in the DC market and beyond. The organization is committed to providing leadership opportunities, professional development, mentorship, and industry networking. Visit us at wwpr.org connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @WWPR  and on Instagram @WWPRDC.

Colleen Gallagher and Charmaine Riley
WWPR Emerging Leaders Awards Co-Chairs