We spoke with Jessica Berman, Vice President of Special Projects & Corporate Social Responsibility for the NHL, ran down the top plays in sports philanthropy, and brought you new MVPs in this month's edition.
Vice President | Special Projects & Corporate Social Responsibility
NIcole Hawkins communications
Nicole Hawkins founded Nicole Hawkins Communications (NHC) in October of 2004. Based in Washington DC, Nicole is passionate about helping sports, entertainment and non-profit clients achieve their public relations and strategic philanthropic goals. Since its inception, NHC has worked with clients including the Atlantic 10 Conference, retired NFL player Leigh Bodden, the State Farm Bayou Classic, the Pro Athlete and Business Network, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, AARP, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and Panera Bread Community Giving.
Prior to branching out on her own with NHC, Nicole was the Director of Public Relations for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA). While there, she worked closely with players, coaches and staff members. She was responsible for pitching and facilitating media interviews and traveling with the team to ensure all media relations requirements were met. Nicole was the first African American woman to hold the position of Public Relations Director for an NBA franchise.
Throughout her career in the sports industry, Nicole came to realize how many athletes are doing great things for their communities. Yet traditional media does not tell most of these stories. This led Nicole to create Admirable Athlete, a multi-media platform that will be a source of positive and uplifting sports-related news. Admirable Athlete will officially launch this fall.
Nicole serves on the board for the DC Chapter of Women in Sports and Events. She is a member of ColorComm, an organization designed to unite diverse women in the communications industry and the Association of Women in Sports Media, an organization that supports the advancement of women working in various aspects of sports media. Nicole recently completed the George Washington University Sports Philanthropy Executive Certificate Program, the first and only program of its kind for professionals in the sports philanthropy field. She’s a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park.
A two-time state tennis champion at Xavier College Preparatory, Jackie went on to play at the University of Arizona on a full scholarship. But she will be the first to tell you that being a playmaker isn’t only about life on the court—it’s also what you do off the court as well!
Jackie recognizes sports as teaching essential life lessons. These include understanding the power of healthy competition, the importance of teamwork, the ability to win and lose with grace, and the determination to never give up. Jackie applies these lessons to every aspect of her life; after a successful 20+ year career in sales and marketing, she felt drawn to return to her sports roots and pay it forward helping young athletes learn how to realize their dreams of playing at the next level as well as coaching athletes of all ages on how to live a life on purpose.
She is passionate about supporting athlete success in three key areas: navigating the collegiate recruiting process for high school student athletes, sports life coaching and sports philanthropy. It is integral to Jackie’s philosophy that young athletes embrace the many facets that sports offer, which deliver lifelong value.
Jackie recently joined the Boys Hope Girls Hope Arizona Board of Directors. She has created the BHGH Athletic Ambassador for Hope program, connecting local athletes with BHGH in a meaningful and sustainable way that will benefit both athlete and organization.
Coordinator | Professional Athletes FOundation
Leslie Isler is approaching her second year as the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) Coordinator with the NFL Players Association. The PAF was created in 1990 to assist former NFL players transition successfully from their football careers. The foundation provides resources and programs to empower former players mentally and financially. Leslie started this position shortly after her 6 months internship with the NFLPA’s former players department in 2013. Leslie is a graduate of Towson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration concentrated in Marketing. While at Towson, she immerse herself in numerous philanthropic organizations which led her to receive the “2013 Outstanding Community Service Award”.
A native of the Washington metropolitan area, Leslie completed the GW Sports Philanthropy certificate program in 2014. Prior to joining the NFLPA, Leslie worked for the Washington Redskins, Tiger Woods Foundation, Living Social, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. In her spare time, Leslieworks for the Washington Capitals assisting the public relations department on game days.
community affairs manager
Courtney Kaplan is currently the Community Affairs Manager for the Detroit Tigers. In this role, Courtney is the designated MLB Community Affairs representative, manages all community and memorabilia programs, and is responsible for pregame activities for the department. She also coordinates all special community events and volunteer opportunities for the Players, Tigers Wives and Front Office Staff.
Courtney previously worked for the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and also for Justin Verlander’s Wins for Warriors Foundation. Both of these opportunities in the sports industry came as a result of receiving an executive certificate in Sports Philanthropy from George Washington University’s School of Business. Courtney graduated with her Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2013 and earned a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Business from Kalamazoo College in 2011.