CEF Staff

Sarah Abernathy

Sarah Abernathy

Executive Director

Sarah Abernathy joined ACG Advocacy in 2016 and serves primarily as Executive Director of CEF. She has close to 30 years of experience working on education and budget issues in both Congress and in the Administration, including at the Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

For the previous 18 years Ms. Abernathy worked on the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee, most recently serving as Senior Policy Coordinator focusing on budget issues relating to education, social services, and job training as well as environmental issues. She helped lead and manage the staff to develop goals and policy, including budget legislation. As the education staffer, she was responsible for collaborating with a range of stakeholders including the Administration, the advocacy community, the Congressional Budget Office, and Members to Congress to create and analyze budget options and craft strategies for their successful adoption. She developed special expertise in student financial aid policy, appropriations analysis, and budget process. Before her stint with the Budget Committee she spent 6 years as a legislative assistant for two Democratic House members.

From 1994-1998 Ms. Abernathy worked at the U.S. Department of Education in the Planning and Evaluation Service where she focused on rehabilitation services and adult and vocational education issues. She also wrote a report on improving low-performing schools and staffed the Under Secretary’s waiver request board. During that time, she was detailed to the Office of Management and Budget’s education branch where she supervised policy and budgets for special education and vocational rehabilitation. She was also detailed to the Health and Human Services’ regional office in San Francisco where she worked on child care and Head Start programs.

Ms. Abernathy graduated from Williams College and also earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Sheryl Cohen

Sheryl Cohen

Senior Advisor

Sheryl V. Cohen joined the ACG Advocacy in 2008. She is a veteran Senate staffer with nearly two decades of management, strategic planning, political, communications and fundraising experience. She has an extensive and diverse universe of contacts with members of the Senate and House and their staffs, as well as throughout the field of politics and campaigns.

Ms. Cohen served as Chief of Staff to United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd from 1999 to 2008, with the exception of the time she spent from January 2007-January 2008 managing his presidential campaign effort. During her tenure as Chief of Staff, her responsibilities included the Senator’s Chairmanship of the Committee on Banking with its broad jurisdiction over financial institutions, as well as his involvement in education, health, and other important issues before the Senate. She managed a staff of seventy-five and was responsible for the development and strategic execution of all policy, communications, and office management. She oversaw a budget of nearly six million dollars, all hiring and staff management, and the integration of competing Washington, Connecticut, and political responsibilities.

As Campaign Manager of the Dodd for President Campaign, she recruited a staff of over one hundred and thirty, built strategic ground operations in multiple states, created and managed departments in research, communications, policy, technology, political, field, fundraising and administration. The campaign raised nearly sixteen million dollars from a diverse national network ranging from leadership in the fields of business, finance and technology to extensive grassroots on-line support.

From 1995 – 1999 Ms. Cohen served as Senator Dodd’s Political Director during his tenure as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1995-1996) and as the Finance Director for his 1998 six million dollar reelection campaign.

Ms. Cohen also served as the Finance Director for Senator Joe Lieberman’s successful 1994 Senate campaign and prior to that was his liaison on women’s and children’s issues and grassroots organizing in the state of Connecticut.

She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and attended the Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service.

Olisa Obioha

Olisa Obioha

Senior Associate

Olisa Obioha joined the ACG Advocacy team in July of 2020 and currently serves as an Associate and Congressional Tri-Caucus Liaison. He focuses primarily on ACG’s Nonprofit and Appropriations practice, but remains highly involved in issues related to education, telecommunications, environment, and intellectual property. Mr. Obioha also serves as a Senior Associate for Committee for Education Funding (CEF), the oldest and largest coalition of education associations in existence.

Olisa served two stints as summer intern in 2017 and 2018 at ACG Advocacy joining the staff as an Research Associate in July 2020. During his time as an intern Olisa attended and reported on congressional hearings, prepared and assisted with one-pagers, and analyzed social media engagement. Olisa also focused on education reform, health care, and real estate.  Prior to joining ACG Advocacy, Olisa has been involved with many service organizations such as Special Olympics and One Love. Olisa has continued to work with One Love as an Escalation Workshop facilitator bringing awareness to relationship violence on college campuses during his time at Providence College.

Hailing from Centreville, Virginia, Mr. Obioha graduated from Providence College in the spring of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a concentration in Sociology and International Relations. During his tenure at Providence College, Mr. Obioha was involved with the Board of Programmers, WDOM 91.3 FM, and The Humanities Forum.



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CEF Events

CEF Gala – September 13, 2023
Reception and awards banquet at National Press Club Ballroom

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CEF Budget Book

Access CEF’s analyses of the President’s budget request from 2011 to the present.