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President Obama Welcomes NIIC 2012

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the attendees of NIIC 2012.

2012 Program Booklet

Download the official 2012 Conference booklet here!

2012 Hosts

 CASA de Maryland is the state’s foremost Latino and immigrant organization and a national leader in supporting immigrant families and ensuring that all individuals have the core supports necessary for full participation in society. Read more.


 The National Partnership for New Americans (the Partnership) advances the integration and active citizenship of immigrants to achieve a vibrant, just and welcoming democracy for all. Read more.


NIIC press release

Click here to read and download the NIIC press release in English. For Spanish, please click here.


Connect with NIIC 2012

Plenary Speakers

Governor Martin O’Malley

As Governor Martin O’Malley begins his second term, Maryland businesses are creating jobs again, Maryland students are achieving record success in the classroom, and the men and women of Maryland law enforcement are making Maryland’s streets and neighborhoods safer for our families. The Governor’s job creation initiatives have helped establish and maintain Maryland’s place as a global leader in biotechnology, clean energy, cyber security, information technology, aerospace, trade, and advanced manufacturing. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland’s public school system has been ranked #1 in America for four years in a row, Maryland elementary and middle school students have achieved their highest scores ever on state tests, and Maryland high school students achieved the highest passage rate in America on Advanced Placement exams. Governor O’Malley and his wife Katie O’Malley, a District Court judge, have two daughters, Grace and Tara, and two sons, William and Jack. They are members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.


Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, Maryland’s 4th Congressional District

Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards of Fort Washington represents Maryland’s 4th Congressional District comprising portions of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.  She was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 110th Congress in June 2008, and began her first full-term in the 111th Congress in 2009. Rep. Edwards has enjoyed a diverse career as a nonprofit public interest advocate and in the private sector on NASA’s Spacelab project. Rep. Edwards was the co-founder and executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence where she led the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Just prior to serving in Congress, she was the executive director of the Arca Foundation in Washington, DC.


Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown
Maryland Lieutenant Governor Brown leads the O’Malley Brown Administration’s work to improve health care throughout Maryland, having helped expand health coverage to over 341,000 Marylanders, half of whom are children. He has launched the innovative Health Enterprise Zones program to eliminate disparities in health outcomes among Maryland’s racial groups and geographic areas. Anthony successfully led efforts to prepare Maryland for the arrival of 60,000 military base realignment and closure process-related jobs and has worked hard to improve benefits and services for Maryland’s veterans. Anthony has also made it a priority to create Maryland jobs and save taxpayer dollars by increasing private investment in public infrastructure projects. A Colonel in the United States Army Reserves, Anthony is the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to have served a tour of duty in Iraq. Anthony is the proud father of Rebecca, Jonathan, and stepson Anthony Walker. He and his wife Karmen reside in Prince George’s County.


Benjamin Jealous, President and CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NIIC 2012 Co-Chair)

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the President and CEO of the NAACP, and the youngest person to lead the century-old organization. Jealous began his career as a community organizer in Harlem in 1991 with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. A Rhodes Scholar, he is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University, the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation and served as the founding director of Amnesty International's US Human Rights Program. As President of the NAACP, he has opened national programs on education, health, and environmental justice. He has also greatly increased the organization's membership and capacity to work on issues related to the economy and to register and mobilize voters.


Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett
From his roots in the hardscrabble poverty of then-segregated Louisiana, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett was elected in 2006. Mr. Leggett was elected the first African American County Executive in the County’s history, winning more than 67 percent of the ballots cast in a three-way race.  As County Executive, Leggett has focused on making sure that every part of an ever-more-diverse Montgomery County has a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Prior to his election as County Executive, Mr. Leggett served four terms as an At-Large Member of the Montgomery County Council (1986 - 2002). He also served as the Council's President three times (1991, 1998, 1999) and as its Vice-President three times (1990, 1997 and 2002). From December 2002 to 2004, Mr. Leggett chaired the Maryland Democratic Party.  


Lawrence Benito, Chief Executive Officer, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)

The child of immigrants from the Philipines, Lawrence Benito serves as the Chief Executive Officer / Executive Director of Illinois’ leading immigrant rights coalition.  Prior to his current position, he led ICIRR’s senior management team as deputy director, overseeing the program and political operations.  He also served as the agency’s in-house lobbyist.  During his tenure at ICIRR, he has organized in the north and northwest suburbs of Illinois, and directed ICIRR’s State-funded programs.  Lawrence is also the executive director of Illinois Immigrant Action - ICIRR’s 501c4 sister organization, which engages in more targeted issue advocacy work. Currently, he is a Commissioner with the Serve Illinois Commission, and the board President of the Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago. He earned a BA in Economics from Marquette University, and Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University of Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @llbenito.


Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change

Born in Bangalore, India, Mr. Bhargava is one of the most respected progressive voices and a leading advocate for poor and minority communities. He is regularly called on to present the perspective of the grassroots at progressive gatherings, political roundtables, news television shows and print articles. Most recently, Mr. Bhargava was a guest on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal where he discussed the unemployment rate, foreclosures, the deficit and the overall economic state. He has a regular column published in the Huffington Post.


Sheldon Caplis, Regional Director of Community Relations, North America Community Development, Citi (NIIC 2012 Co-Chair)

Sheldon Caplis is the Regional Director of Community Relations for the South Atlantic Region of Citi. He is responsible for all Community Relation activities including grants and contributions for Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia. Caplis has a strong background in fundraising, particularly within educational institutions. Before joining Citi, Caplis served as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and also held several positions at the University of Baltimore. Caplis is also a trustee of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and Vice Chair of the National Capital Region board of College Summit, which helps steer young people toward college.


Michael Crawford, Director of Online Programs, Freedom to Marry

Michael Crawford is Director of Online Programs at Freedom to Marry where he manages the organization’s websites, email program, online fundraising, and social media presence. He has a wide range of experience in political advocacy, new media, and grassroots organizing. He was a leading strategist for the successful campaign to win freedom to marry in Washington, D.C. with a focus on public education, community outreach, and communications strategy. He was co-founder and co-chair of D.C. for Marriage, a grassroots group that engaged in thousands of conversations with District residents about gay people and marriage with a particular focus on building support in the African-American community.


Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

Robert Espinoza is the Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), the country's largest organization focused on improving the lives of LGBT older people. In this capacity, he guides SAGE's national advocacy program, which includes a federal program based in Washington, DC, as well as 24 SAGE affiliates across 17 states. He also guides SAGE's strategic communications, which has earned widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including the 2010 GLAAD Media Award in Advertising for Outstanding Social Marketing, and two awards of distinction in 2012 from the International Academy of the Visual Arts.



Michael Fix, Senior Vice President, Migration Policy Institute

Michael Fix is Senior Vice President and Director of Studies at the Migration Policy Institute, as well as Co-Director of MPI's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. His work focuses on immigrant integration, citizenship policy, immigrant children and families, the education of immigrant students, the effect of welfare reform on immigrants, and the impact of immigrants on the US labor force. Mr. Fix, who is an attorney, previously was at the Urban Institute, where he directed the Immigration Studies Program (1998-2004). His research there focused on immigrants and integration, regulatory reform, federalism, race, and the measurement of discrimination. Mr. Fix is a Research Fellow with IZA in Bonn, Germany. He served on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Redesign of US Naturalization Tests. In 2005, Mr. Fix was a New Millennium Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Columbia University's School of Social Work.

Stephen Fotopulos, Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

Stephen was named the second Executive Director of TIRRC in 2008, and previously served as Policy Director after joining the organization in 2004. He holds a Master’s in public administration from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, having completed his thesis work studying the impact of US public policy on English acquisition among immigrants. After graduate school, he served for five years as a logistics officer in the United States Navy, living and working in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Stephen sits on several boards and advisory committees dealing with immigration and integration, including the Mayor's New Americans Advisory Council (Chair) in Nashville, the Mayor’s Leadership Council on Children and Youth, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission (Disability & Language Barriers Subcommittee), the DC-based Rights Working Group (Chair), the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (Executive Committee), and the National Partnership for New Americans (Executive Committee).


Ana Garcia-Ashley, Executive Director, Gamaliel

Born in the Dominican Republic in 1958, Garcia-Ashley was just four years old when she began canvassing in a rural village as part of a public safety campaign headed by her grandmother, a neighborhood activist. Following the assassination of dictator Rafael Trujillo, Garcia-Ashley and her family fled the political violence in the Dominican Republic. They settled in New York City. Garcia-Ashley began organizing in 1981 after graduating from the University of Colorado in Denver. She joined Gamaliel in 1992 as the Lead Organizer of MICAH in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she led one of the most successful campaigns in Gamaliel’s history: winning a $500 million commitment from local banks to invest in affordable housing. As a result, 7,000 low-income families in Milwaukee were able to buy homes. Garcia-Ashley also founded Gamaliel’s statewide Wisconsin affiliate, WISDOM.


Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice & Co-director, Caring Across Generations

Sarita Gupta is the Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ), an organization that works in coalition with community, faith, and student organizations to build a broader global movement for economic and social justice. Sarita previously served as JwJ’s national field director from 2004-2007, overseeing the national field program and leading on strategic programs such as health care justice, organizing and collective bargaining rights campaigns, and immigrant workers’ rights. Prior to joining the national JwJ staff in 2002 as a regional field organizer, Sarita served as the Executive Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice (JwJ) for four years, where she helped build the coalition to more than 70 member organizations and unions. Sarita began organizing as a student on campus at Mount Holyoke College. She was elected president of the U.S. Student Association (USSA), the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots legislative student organization, in 1996.


Morna Ha, Executive Director, NAKASEC
From 2004 to 2007, Morna served as NAKASEC’s Program Associate and then as the National Organizing Coordinator executing campaigns and developing community leadership around the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. Most recently, she was the 2010-2011 Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Legislative Fellow in the Office of Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32).  She also has broad-based experience in local city government, most notably with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, as well as with local communities in the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, Louisiana.  Ms. Ha received a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Bachelors Degree from Dartmouth College.  She is originally from Queens, New York.


Chung-Wa Hong, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)

Chung-Wha Hong is Executive Director of the NYIC, an umbrella advocacy organization made up of approximately 200 groups throughout the state that work with immigrant and refugee communities.  As the coordinating body for organizations that serve one of the largest and most diverse newcomer populations in the United States, the NYIC has become a leading advocate for immigrant communities on the local, state, and national levels.  The NYIC’s membership includes grassroots community organizations, not-for-profit health and human services organizations, religious and academic institutions, labor unions, and legal, social, and economic justice organizations. Prior to coming to the NYIC in 2001, Ms. Hong worked at the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Committee of Interns and Residents and Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English Literature.


Joshua Hoyt, Co-Chair of the National Partnership for New Americans and Chief Strategy Executive, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)

Joshua Hoyt is the Co-Chair of the National Partnership for New Americans and ICIRR’s Chief Strategy Executive. Previously, he served as the director of ICIRR for almost ten years. During this time the Coalition grew from a $1.8 million dollar a year budget to a $7.9 million budget, and increased from 9 to 40 full and part-time employees. The Coalition has helped to make Illinois one of the most immigrant friendly states in the U.S. and is considered one of the most effective immigrant organizations in the U.S. Josh has worked a total of 33 years as an organizer for social justice in Chicago, Baltimore, and in the countries of Spain, Peru, and Panama. Josh speaks frequently about immigration to national media and has testified before Congress. Josh was educated at the University of Illinois and the Universidad Central de Barcelona, Spain, and received his Master's Degree from the University of Chicago. Josh is a son of the American Revolution on his grandfather’s side and of the Irish Potato Famine on his grandmother’s side. Follow him on twitter at @joshicirr.


Janaye Ingram, D.C. Bureau Chief of National Action Network

Janaye Ingram is the DC Bureau Chief of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton and National Executive Director, Tamika D. Mallory. Her work in this capacity has led to a weekly blog with Loop21 (, a weekly segment on the syndicated radio show, “Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton” as well as appearances and features in other media including TVOne's "Washington Watch with Roland Martin", The Huffington Post,, and While not working on NAN issues, Ms. Ingram serves as a board member for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network ( Her commitment to giving back led to the founding of Ambassadors of Hope, a scholarship and volunteer involvement campaign that benefits various national and international nonprofit organizations.

Randel K. Johnson, Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (NIIC 2012 Co-Chair)

As Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Randel K. Johnson is primarily responsible for labor, immigration, and employee benefits issues pending before Congress and the federal agencies. Johnson determines the Chamber’s position and sets strategy on a wide variety of issues such as civil rights and comprehensive immigration reform, including visa and border policy. Johnson regularly testifies before Congress and is widely quoted in the media on employment and immigration issues as a recognized expert in these fields. Johnson serves on the board of directors of the National Immigration Forum and the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services agency. Previously, he was a member of the Department of Homeland Security Data Management Improvement Act Task Force on border entry and exit issues, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Immigration Task Force and the Carnegie U.S.-Mexico Migration Study Group.


Francisco López, Executive Director, CAUSA 

Francisco López is a Salvadoran-American that came to the United States in 1985 as a refugee from the war in El Salvador. Francisco is the Executive Director of CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant Rights Organization. In 2008 he was the Field Director with Voz Hispana Vote Project in Oregon. He earned his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of El Salvador. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of the SHARE Foundation, The Western States Center and many other international, national and statewide boards.  He has 33 years of experience in community organizing, leadership development, and social service program design in the Unites States and Latin America. Mr. Lopez speaks frequently on issues of immigration, demographic change, economic inequality, and community empowerment at universities, conferences and many other public events. Mr. Lopez is a recipient of the 2011 Oregon Immigrant Achievement Award presented by American Immigrant Lawyers Association, among other awards.


Eva Millona, Executive Director, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and Co-Chair of the National Partnership for New Americans 

Eva A. Millona is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the state’s largest organization representing the foreign born. She assumed the position in 2008 after nearly a decade at MIRA, and she is now one of New England’s most highly quoted immigration experts.  In her native Albania, Ms. Millona practiced civil and criminal law, serving as a judge in Tirana’s District Court from 1989 - 1992. She is also the co-chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants, serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and is co-chair of the National Partnership for New Americans, comprised of 12 immigrant rights state coalitions. Working with the Partnership, she hosted and co-chaired the nation’s largest immigrant integration conference in 2010. A graduate of Clark University and of Tirana University School of Law, Ms. Millona is the recipient of over a dozen major awards, including the prestigious 2009 US Citizenship and immigration Service's Outstanding American by Choice Award, and 2010 Wainwright Bank Social Justice Award.  


Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director, Voces de la Frontera

The daughter of German and Mexican immigrants, Christine Neumann-Ortiz is the founding Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera.  Ms. Neumann-Ortiz is recognized as a national leader in immigration reform, serving on the board of a national coalition of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and featured in national interviews on NPR, Democracy Now!, CNN, and a contributor to Huffington Post.  She serves on the board of the Wisconsin Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (WNIRR), Wisconsin Citizen Action (WCA), and the National Partnership for News Americans (NPNA). Voces is also part of the Interfaith Worker Justice workers' center network and is affiliated with international networks National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM). Ms. Neumann-Ortiz earned her Masters Degree in US/ Chicano History at the University of Texas- Austin and her Bachelor of Art degree in English at the University of Wisconsin- Madison.  


Beatriz Otero, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, District of Columbia

A native of Bolivia, Beatriz “BB” Otero was Appointed Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services by District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray in February 2011. BB oversees ten health and human services city agencies responsible for the delivery of services to the district’s residents. Her office supports the Mayor in coordinating a comprehensive system of benefits, goods and services across multiple agencies to ensure that children, youth, and adults, with and without disabilities, can lead healthy, meaningful and productive lives. BB is a long-time resident of the District of Columbia and a highly recognized policy maker, community leader and activist. She is the recipient of numerous awards including Leadership Washington’s Betty Whaley Leadership Award, the Association of Hispanic Employees Leadership Award, the Hispanic Bar Association’s Hugh Johnson Memorial Award for Social Justice, the DC Action for Children’s Public Service Award and was named Washingtonian of the Year in 2000.

Dr. Henry Pacheco, Director of Medicine and Public Health, National Hispanic Council on Aging

Dr. Henry Pacheco has a longstanding history with the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) that spans nearly a decade. Currently, he is the Director of Medicine and Public Health at the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). In this capacity, Dr. Pacheco administers NHCOA’s health program component, which includes HIV/AIDS, Immunizations, Alzheimer’s and other health promotion, disease prevention and access to health programs related to Latino seniors and their families. Dr. Pacheco also serves as a liaison to federal agencies, foundations, and other national and regional organizations and agencies. Previously, Dr. Pacheco served as NHCOA’s Medical Adviser and provided clinical expertise and support to HealthHIV’s National Center for HIV Care in Minority Communities AIDS Education and Training Center program.


Antonia Pena, Domestic Worker Organizer, CASA de Maryland

Antonia came to the U.S. from Colombia as a domestic worker 12 years ago.  She worked long hours as a live-in nanny for employers that were constantly verbally abusive and disrespectful.  One day, she was approached by two female CASA de Maryland members who provided her with fliers and information about the Committee of Women Seeking Justice.  She eagerly joined and became a leader within the committee. Over the past eight years, she has acted on behalf of countless domestic workers who faced mistreatment in the workplace, many like herself who came to the U.S. on special visas for domestic workers who labor for diplomats.  Thanks to the training and mentoring she received as a community leader, she was successful in obtaining a full-time position when one became available at CASA in January 2012.  She is a valuable asset to CASA's organizing team and brings charisma, dedication and a deeply personal commitment to her work.  


Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Co-Director, Caring Across Generations

Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), has been organizing immigrant women workers since 1996. In 2000 she co-founded Domestic Workers United, the New York based organization that spearheaded the successful passage of the state’s historic Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. In 2007, DWU helped organize the first national domestic workers convening, out of which the NDWA was formed. Ai-jen serves on the Board of Directors of Momsrising, National Jobs with Justice, Working America, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Among Ai-jen’s numerous accolades are the Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision Award, the Independent Sector American Express NGen Leadership Award, Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women list, and the Time 100 list.


William Robertson, Chief Executive Officer, Adventist HealthCare
NIIC 2012 Co-Chair

William Robertson is President and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, a faith-based, not-for-profit organization in Rockville, Maryland that provides wellness, disease management and health care services to the community. Before joining Adventist HealthCare in 2000, Robertson served for four years as CEO of Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas and as Executive Vice President and CFO of Huguley Memorial Medical Center in Texas from 1988-1996. Robertson is involved with a wide range of community organizations, including the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board, the Governor’s P-20 Leadership Council of Maryland, and Maryland Hospital Association’s (MHA) Executive Committee, among others. He was also a Leadership Montgomery Outstanding Leader of the Year honoree in 2010.


Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC)

Maria del Rosario Rodriguez, founding Executive Director, directs FLIC’s immigrant-led, statewide network that educates, organizes and advocates for the fair treatment of all people, including immigrants. For the past 20 years she has worked to defend the basic human rights of low income and migrant peoples at home and abroad. She was active in the anti-apartheid and Central America solidarity movements as a leader in the Progressive Student Union and the Student Coalition Against Apartheid & Racism. She served as Deputy Director of the Human Services Coalition where a wide variety of groups including the Union of the Uninsured, which she helped found, benefited from Maria's skilled facilitation, community-based participatory research, training and technical assistance. She has served on several Boards and most recently was asked to join the New World Foundation Board in NY. She earned an undergraduate degree in Linguistics with a minor in history from Georgetown University and is the mother of Dante.

Julien Ross, Executive Director, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC)

Mr. Ross’ background represents a combination of Mayflower pilgrims with Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Julien joined the CIRC as its first full-time Director in 2006. Julien also serves on the Executive Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a national alliance of state coalitions working for just and humane federal immigration reform. During Julien's tenure, CIRC has fought vigorously for citizenship for the undocumented, to protect civil liberties and human rights of immigrant workers and families, and for a full integration of immigrants into community life in the U.S. CIRC has emerged as a reliable and factual source on immigration for policymakers, educators and the media. In 2008, CIRC membership elected its first statewide governing body with equal representation from throughout Colorado, achieving a unified statewide voice to make Colorado a more immigrant friendly state.


Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)

Since becoming CHIRLA's Executive Director in 1999, Angelica Salas has spearheaded several ambitious campaigns locally, state-wide, and nationally. Angelica helped win in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students and established day laborer job centers that have served as a model for the rest of the nation. She also led efforts to allow all California drivers to obtain a driver license and is a leading spokesperson on federal immigration policy as an active member of FIRM and RIFA. Angelica comes by her understanding of the immigrant experience firsthand. As a five year old, she came to the U.S. from Mexico to rejoin her parents who had come to the U.S. to find work and better provide for their family. One of Angelica’s greatest accomplishments at CHIRLA has been the transformation of a coalition of social service providers into an organization that empowers immigrants to engage in advocacy on their own behalf.


Fatima Shama, Commissioner, New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Fatima A. Shama as Commissioner of the NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs in August, 2009. Commissioner Shama had previously served as Senior Education Policy Advisor at the Mayor's Office. Prior to joining the Bloomberg Administration in 2006, Ms. Shama served for four years as Executive Director of the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition. Ms. Shama earned a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University and a Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College's School of Public Affairs Executive Program.


Charles L. Short, Special Assistant to the County Executive, Montgomery County Maryland

Charles L. Short has more than 35 years of experience leading and administering local public and private human service agencies. He currently serves as Special Assistant to Montgomery County Md. County Executive Ike Leggett, responsible for health, human services, housing, immigration and other policy areas for a diverse community of nearly one million people. He previously served as Secretary for Justice and Service for Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. where he advised the Cardinal on social issues and developed and oversaw the largest private non-profit human services agency in the Washington region.


Steven A. Silverman, Director of Economic Development, Montgomery County Maryland

Steven A. Silverman was appointed by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett as Director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development in April 2009.  Just prior to his appointment, Silverman served as Director for Aging, Healthcare and Special Projects in the Office of Maryland Attorney General.  Silverman received a B.A. from the American University (School of Government and Politics) and a J.D. from George Washington School of Law.  He served as a co-chair of the Silver Spring Redevelopment Steering Committee (1998) which was instrumental in the revitalization of Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. Silverman lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife Sheila and three children, Sage, Kaden and Lane. His son Jordy attends the University of Maryland.


Rich Stolz, Executive Director, OneAmerica

Rich Stolz was born in Seoul, South Korea. His parents met in Korea, when his father, an American citizen, worked there in the construction field. Rich’s family moved to the United States when he was three, and his Korean mother became a naturalized American citizen. Over the last fifteen years, Rich has worked at the Center for Community Change, a national organization based in Washington, D.C.  During that time, he focused on the intersection of policy, politics and organizing across a broad spectrum of issues impacting low-income and minority communities, including jobs and income support policy, immigration policy, infrastructure investment and environmental justice. Rich first cut his teeth in organizing while a student at Stanford University in California to create ethnic studies programs that would resource investment in research and instruction on Asian American, Chicano, African American and Native American Studies. Follow him on Twitter @rstolz11.

Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement, The White House

Michael Strautmanis is the Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. In this role, Michael is responsible for coordinating communication and engagement strategies. In addition, he serves as a senior advisor to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Formerly, Michael was the Chief of Staff to the Senior Advisor for the offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to his time with the President, Michael practiced complex litigation and employment law in Chicago at Sidley Austin. He then joined the Clinton Administration as Chief of Staff to the General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development. After his time at USAID, Michael moved to the Hill where he worked for then-Congressman Rod Blagojevich as his Legislative Director. Michael received a B.S. from the University of Illinois, and a J.D. from the University Of Illinois College Of Law.


Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, CASA de Maryland (NIIC 2012 Co-Chair)

Gustavo Torres is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the immigrant rights movement in the United States.  Originally a union leader from Colombia, Mr. Torres came to the U.S. to escape political persecution.  He joined CASA’s staff as a community organizer, and has served as CASA’s Executive Director since 1994.  Under his leadership, CASA has grown from a three staff program to a nationally awarded multi-service immigrant advocacy and support agency with a $7 million budget.  Mr. Torres leads statewide advocacy for immigrant rights and has served on the transition teams for Governor Martin O’Malley, the County Executives of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and more. CASA is a co-founder of several national organizations and Mr. Torres served as a founding co-chair of the Partnership.  Among his many recognitions are the Ford Foundation’s prestigious "Leadership for a Changing World, feature biographical articles in the Washington Post, Washingtonian, and more, and numerous state and congressional citations.


Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice

Thomas E. Perez, nominated by President Obama to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, was sworn in on October 8, 2009. Since then, Mr. Perez has worked to restore and transform the Division, in the spirit of its traditional role as the “conscience of the nation,” to further fulfill the promise of our nation’s most treasured laws – advancing equal opportunity, leveling the playing field, and protecting the rights of all. Mr. Perez has spent his entire career in public service. Prior to his nomination, he served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – an agency that safeguards critical consumer and worker protections – and was a principal architect of a sweeping reform package to address his state’s foreclosure crisis. In 2002, he became the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council, serving with distinction until 2006.


Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education

Brenda Dann-Messier was nominated by President Obama as assistant secretary for vocational and adult education on July 14, 2009. On Oct. 5, 2009, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and began her official duties on Oct. 13, 2009. As the first assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) who is also an adult educator, Dann-Messier leads the Department's efforts in adult education and career and technical education, as well as efforts supporting community colleges and correctional education. OVAE's vision is for all youths and adults to have multiple opportunities to obtain lifelong education and training in order to achieve rewarding careers and family lives, participate in their communities, and attain their personal goals. OVAE is devoted to equipping youths and adults with the literacy, numeracy, language and technical skills and the training necessary for success in the 21st-century global economy, by expanding capacity, improving quality, and increasing accountability through innovation and collaboration.


Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Alejandro Mayorkas is the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  As the Director of USCIS, Mayorkas leads the agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security charged with operating the largest immigration system in the world.  Mayorkas is responsible for a workforce of more than 18,000 people located in approximately 230 offices throughout the world, and he oversees a budget of approximately $3 billion. Immediately prior to becoming the Director of USCIS, Mayorkas was a partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.  He advised boards of directors and executives, led internal investigations, and litigated bet-the-company matters covering a wide array of industries.  He served as a member of O’Melveny & Myers’ worldwide governing Policy Committee and as Chair of the firm’s Values Awards Committee and the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee.  In 2008, the National Law Journal named Mayorkas one of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”


Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Director, Center for Popular Democracy

Nisha Agarwal is the co-founder and a Deputy Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a high-impact national organization that promotes equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with the most innovative community-based organizations and progressive unions in the country. Agarwal oversees CPD’s immigrant & civil rights policy campaigns, including coordinated state & local legislative efforts related to immigration enforcement, policing, health disparities and language access. Agarwal comes to CPD from her position as the Director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, where she served as the primary drafter of the NYC Language Access in Pharmacies Act, the first law of its kind in the country, and New York’s Statewide Language Access policy. Agarwal received her BA, summa cum laude, from Harvard College and received a British Marshall Scholarship for study at the University of Oxford. Agarwal received her JD from Harvard Law School in 2006.


Raquiba LaBrie, Director of the Equality and Opportunity Fund, Open Society Foundations

Raquiba LaBrie is the director of the Equality and Opportunity Fund at the Open Society Foundations. In this role, LaBrie directs grantmaking focused on ensuring justice and equality, prohibiting arbitrary and discriminatory government action, and lifting barriers that prevent people from participating fully in economic, social, and political life. Recently, LaBrie spearheaded an Open Society Foundations initiative to respond to the subprime lending crisis. LaBrie was previously the program director of U.S. Programs’ Sentencing & Incarceration Alternatives Project, which sought to reduce the scale of incarceration in the U.S. by: eliminating race and class disparities in sentencing and incarceration; promoting alternatives to incarceration; and limiting prison growth and prison privatization. LaBrie also directed the Soros Justice Fellowships and served as program officer for U.S. Programs’ Access to Justice program, which focused on strengthening the federally funded civil legal aid field.


Damian Thorman, National Program Director, James L. Knight Foundation

Damian Thorman joined Knight Foundation in 2007 as National Program director. The National Program supports innovative ideas and leadership with the potential to drive transformative change nationally and in Knight’s resident communities. He helps develop new grant opportunities at a national level that target systemic change within the framework of informed, engaged communities. Thorman most recently served as assistant prosecuting attorney of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office in Kansas City, Mo. He founded and ran the Thorman Strategy Group, a consulting practice that assisted foundations, nonprofits and for-profit organizations from 2002 to 2005. He served as adjunct political science professor at Avila College in Kansas City, Mo. Thorman was the director of public affairs and policy at the Ewing Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City from 1994 to 2002. His previous work in Washington, D.C. included serving as assistant director of the American Academy of Pediatrics and as a staff member of the House Education and Labor Committee


Valarie Long , Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

In January 2012, Valarie Long was elected Executive Vice President of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) by the union's International Executive Board (IEB). Prior to being elected Executive Vice President of SEIU, Long served as a leader at two SEIU locals and as an International Vice President. Valarie leads the union's Property Services division, representing more than 400,000 janitors, security guards and maintenance workers across the United States and Canada. In her role, Long is the primary architect of the union's strategic vision to help thousands of property services workers unite their strength to improve their jobs and their communities. A 28 year veteran of the labor movement, Long has a long-standing commitment to lifting the lives of low-wage service workers, especially in communities of color.


Judith Browne Dianis, Co-Director, Advancement Project

Judith Browne Dianis has an extensive background in civil rights litigation, which includes fighting to protect the rights of displaced Hurricane Katrina survivors. She was instrumental in securing a victory in Kirk v. City of New Orleans, which barred the city from bulldozing homes without first giving home owners opportunity to challenge the demolition. Through litigation, public speaking, and field work, Browne Dianis staunchly advocates justice and equity for displaced New Orleans residents. She also served as co-counsel in NAACP v. Katherine Harris, et al., representing the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and black Floridians in a lawsuit to remedy voting rights violations related to the November 7, 2000 election.


Jayesh Rathod, Assistant Professor of Law, American University

Jayesh Rathod is an Assistant Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. His areas of expertise and scholarly interests include immigrants’ rights, labor and employment, occupational safety and health, and the intersection of law and organizing. Prior to joining the faculty, he was a Staff Attorney at CASA of Maryland, representing low-wage immigrant workers on employment law and immigration matters, and participating in worker education, organizing, and advocacy efforts. He also practiced in the litigation section at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering LLP, and was law clerk to the Honorable Louis F. Oberdorfer, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Over the course of his career, he has worked with numerous non-governmental organizations to advance the civil and human rights of communities in the United States and abroad.


Margie McHugh, Co-Director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center for Immigrant Integration Policy

Margie McHugh is Co-Director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. The Center provides in-depth research, policy analysis, technical assistance, training, leadership development, and information resource services on a broad range of immigrant integration issues. Key areas that are the focus of the Center’s current work include Pre-K—12 education; English literacy and workplace skills development; and the involvement of state and local governments in efforts to regulate the settlement of immigrants in their communities, including the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Prior to joining MPI, Ms. McHugh served for 15 years as Executive Director of The New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization for over 150 groups in New York that uses research, policy development, and community mobilization efforts to achieve landmark integration policy and program initiatives.


Ian Palmquist, Director of Regional and Program Support, Equality Federation

Ian Palmquist, Director of Regional and Program Support, is an experienced advocate and non-profit manager with a passion for social justice. Last year he completed nearly twelve years working at Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and was the group’s Executive Director from 2006 to 2011. He previously served as Co-Director, and as Assistant Director before that. Under his leadership, the group expanded its outreach across the state, strengthened its political clout in the legislature, doubled its expenditures to elect pro-LGBT candidates, and built strategic relationships with non-LGBT allies through coalition work. In 2009, Ian lead the organization's successful campaign to pass the School Violence Prevention Act, the first LGBT-inclusive law in state history and the first statute to include protections for the transgender community in the South.


Sean Lund, Messaging Strategist, The Movement Advancement Project

Sean directs MAP’s work in LGBT movement messaging and communications. Prior to joining MAP, Sean served for 11 years with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), where he directed the organization’s messaging program and research initiatives, created resources for journalists and community members (including the GLAAD Media Reference Guide), and oversaw movement capacity-building work in the areas of message development and communications strategy.



Robert A. Annibale, Global Director of Microfinance, Citigroup

As Citigroup's Global Director of Microfinance, Bob Annibale is leading figure in the world of micro-credit, a means of advancing financial assistance to, and encouraging economic development among the world's poorest communities. Born and brought up in New York, he gained a degree in History and Political Science from Vassar College followed by a Masters in African History from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He joined Citibank in 1982 and has held a number of senior treasury, risk and corporate positions, living and working in Athens, Bahrain, Nairobi, London and New York. As the organization's in-house micro-credit expert, he represents Citigroup on the Microfinance Network - a global association of microfinance institutions - as well as the Board of the Microfinance Information Exchange and the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds. He also represents the company on a number of community and regeneration boards in London. 


George Escobar, Director of Health and Human Services, CASA de Maryland

George has more than 10 years of experience in the services field, having held a number of positions in both the private and public sectors.  Prior to joining CASA in 2011, he served as Deputy Director in the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) where he worked closely with the OLA Director in setting policies and ensuring equal access to District services for its Latino community.  He has significant experiencing in managing service delivery for Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals, creating and managing agency budgets, fundraising, and program evaluation.  He held high-level positions at the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and the Latino Economic Development Corporation, and holds a Certificate in Public Management from George Washington University.


Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice, Center for Community Change

Kica Matos is Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change. Prior to joining CCC, she was Head of the Reconciliation and Human Rights Program at Atlantic Philanthropies, overseeing grantmaking in the areas of Racial Justice, Immigrant Rights, Civil Liberties and Death Penalty abolition.  She also served as Deputy Mayor in the city of New Haven, where she implemented the groundbreaking Elm City Resident Card, an ID card for all residents irrespective of their immigration status. Matos was previously the Executive Director of JUNTA, New Haven’s oldest Latino community-based organization.  She also worked on death penalty and criminal justice issues, as an assistant federal defender representing death row inmates, and as an advocate and organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Amnesty International. She has a B.A. from Victoria University of Wellington, an M.A. from the New School and a J.D. from Cornell Law School.


Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Deepa is the Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national, non-profit organization in the Washington DC area. Deepa has guided SAALT’s direction on policy advocacy, programs and partnerships since 2004. An attorney by training, Ms. Iyer has previously worked at Asian American legal organizations as well as the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she litigated immigration-related unfair employment practices and addressed the post September 11th backlash facing South Asian, Muslim, Sikh and Arab American communities. Regarded as an expert on the impact of September 11th on immigrants and minority communities, Deepa is the Executive Producer of a documentary on hate crimes, has written extensively on the post 9/11 backlash, and taught classes at Columbia University, Hunter College and the University of Maryland. Deepa is the Chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and a member of the Board of Directors of the Applied Research Center.  


Dr. Manuel Pastor, Co-Director of the USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration

Dr. Manuel Pastor is Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California where he also serves as Director of USC's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and co-Director of USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). Founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pastor holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has received fellowships from the Danforth, Guggenheim, and Kellogg foundations and grants from the Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Wellness Foundation, and many others. In recent years, his research has focused on the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities in the U.S., resulting in articles published in Economic Development Quarterly, Review of Regional Studies, and other publications.


Monica Trasandes, Director of Spanish Language Media, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

Monica Trasandes is the Director of Spanish-Language Media at GLAAD. She was born in Montevideo, Uruguay and grew up in San Diego. She has a B.A. in International Relations from U.C. Santa Barbara and an MFA from Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a reporter and as a magazine editor. At GLAAD, she has media trained dozens of community members and leaders, and has herself done more than 30 interviews on local news casts as well as nationally aired shows like Noticiero Telemundo and Al Rojo Vivo. She works every day with journalism professionals, serving as a resource and also pitching and placing LGBT stories and spokespeople.



Maria Bolaños, Freedom from Fear Award Recipient
On Christmas Eve 2009, Maria Bolaños Hernandez had a heated, violent argument with the father of her two-year-old daughter and she called the police for help. Rather than assisting her, the Prince George’s County, Maryland police officer who responded to her call for help chose to later charge her with illegally selling a $10 phone card to a neighbor – an unsubstantiated allegation that Bolaños denies and the police dropped. Due to the Secure Communities program, Bolaños’ arrest started a spiral of deportation efforts that continue today but converted the hardworking mom into a national activist against the program. Unwilling to accept her deportation as a fait accompli, Bolaños decided to speak out against “Secure Communities,” the dangers of I.C.E. access programs to local communities and their detrimental effects on people’s access to protection and justice. Her story was profiled in The Washington Post and the Univision program “Primer Impacto,” among others. She has led protests and picket lines to draw attention to Secure Communities’ devastating impact including how it is destroying families in her neighborhood. On November 2010, she traveled to Washington with activists from CASA de Maryland and directly confronted David Venturella, a high level I.C.E. official and the Director of Secure Communities. In dramatic fashion, she told her story and demanded that her deportation be terminated. Maria continues to face deportation.  Meanwhile, as a single mother, she raises her daughter Melisa in suburban Maryland.


Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos and Carlos Roa of the Trail of DREAMs, Freedom from Fear Award Recipients

When progress toward immigration reform stalled in 2009, four young people from Miami, FL, two of whom (Juan and Felipe) are openly gay, decided that it was time to take dramatic action. They would walk 1500 miles to Washington DC to dramatize the barriers facing undocumented students and their family. Along the way, they would share their stories with “regular people” throughout the Southeast and give and receive encouragement from thousands of other immigrants struggling for a future.

Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos, and Carlos Roa began walking 15-20 miles a day with little more than faith and determination. They pushed their bodies to the extreme and faced the threat of detention and deportation every day. Yet, they were also met by the love and generosity of grassroots supporters—faith leaders, farm workers, immigrant families, and fellow students— who walked by their sides and gave them three meals a day and a place to lay their heads at night.
By the time they reached Washington, the Trail of DREAMs walkers had gained 60,000 online and text followers, been covered widely by English and Spanish press, and had sparked solidarity marches around the country. The four-month odyssey was instrumental in moving the President to speak out on behalf of the DREAM Act, and to the House of Representatives passing of the DREAM Act in December 2010.

Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos, and Carlos Roa faced intense fears and hardships on the Trail but, with each step, gained the courage to move forward despite them. Today, the four Trail of DREAMs walkers continue to inspire people around the country through their leadership and humanity.

Breakout Session Speakers

Sonia Mora, Director of the Suburban MD Welcome Back Center, Montgomery County, MD, Department of Health & Human Services
 Sonia Mora is the Manager of the Latino Health Initiative and Director of the Suburban Maryland Welcome Back Center at the Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Health and Human Services. For twenty years, Sonia has been a leader working with immigrant communities on numerous cutting-edge issues in the areas of workforce development; community engagement and empowerment; access to health services; health promotion; data collection analysis, and reporting; and policy development. Sonia has successfully provided services in several areas related to health disparities and has provided technical consultation to community-based organizations in the

development, implementation, and evaluation of culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and services. She has also served as technical consultant to numerous national and international organizations in the development, adaptation, and translation of education materials for Spanish-speaking audiences. In 2011, under Sonia’s leadership the Welcome Back Center was a recipient of the prestigious immigrant integration E Pluribus Unum award of the Migration Policy Institute.


Claudia Green,  Executive Director of English for New Bostonians (ENB)

Claudia Green is Executive Director of English for New Bostonians (ENB), a city-wide public-private-community collaborative dedicated to increasing access to high-quality English language learning opportunities for adult immigrants in Boston. She oversees ENB’s grantmaking and technical assistance to local programs and public awareness efforts, and is directly responsible for fundraising, budget management, and work with ENB’s board of directors. Claudia also leads the unique statewide English Works Campaign, in partnership with the MA Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, promoting public and private investment in opportunities for immigrant workers, businesses and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Claudia’s background is in workforce development and community economic development. She has conducted evaluations and best practice analyses of workforce programs for youth, and for incumbent and dislocated limited English proficient workers. She also served as Director of the Center for Community Economic Development/UMass Boston, and in workforce development posts at the community and municipal levels. Claudia holds a Masters’ in City Planning from MIT.


Gerald Lenoir, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Gerald Lenoir is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration founded in Oakland in 2006 to support fair and just immigration reform and to bring African Americans together with immigrant communities to fight for social and economic justice.   He is a founding steering committee member of the Black Immigration Network and a board member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

For 35 years, Gerald Lenoir has been a leader in progressive social movements.  He is co-founder of the Priority Africa Network in Oakland, the former Executive Director of the Black Coalition on AIDS in San Francisco and co-founder/former board chair of the HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County.  He was a long time leader in the racial justice and antiapartheid movements in the United States.  He has served as a strategic planning consultant for social justice, immigrant rights, HIV/AIDS and health-related organizations.


Catherine Han Montoya, Director of Field Immigration and Capacity Building Initiatives, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Ms. Montoya leads the field outreach for the Immigration Reform Project and other public education campaigns at both organizations.  The Immigration Reform Project’s field outreach seeks to build leadership and multi-ethnic coalitions to effectively move the country toward comprehensive immigration reform while at the same time create a multi-issue civil and human rights agenda for the future. The public education campaigns of both The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund focus on building multi-faceted coalitions that can proactively impact an issue for the betterment of low-income communities and communities of color.  These initiatives leverage Ms. Montoya’s expertise in grassroots organizing, advocacy, communications, and organizational development to build proactive civil and human rights coalitions across the country that have the tools they need  to make progressive change in their communities.  

Prior to her work at The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund, Ms. Montoya managed the Emerging Latino Communities Initiative at the National Council of La Raza.


Aida Cardenas, Executive Director, Building Skills Partnership

As Executive Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP), Aida Cardenas leads a unique training collaboration between the janitors’ union (SEIU-USWW), responsible businesses, and the community to advance the skills and opportunities of low-wage building service workers across California.  A daughter of Mexican immigrant service workers, Aida graduated from UCLA and has over 16 years experience coordinating and directing educational, leadership, and organizing initiatives with janitors and other low-wage service workers.  As an organizer and eventually the Southern California staff Director for SEIU-USWW, Aida led organizing campaigns and contract negotiations. Her leadership was crucial in bringing together representatives from several organizations, including industry employers and building owners, to expand a statewide training collaborative and create the new statewide non-profit, Building Skills Partnership. Aida was appointed to the Workforce Investment Boards of both the City and County of Los Angeles, and she is also part of the Council for Immigrant Integration.


Claire E. Sylvan, Founding Executive Director, Internationals Network for Public Schools

Claire is the founding Executive Director of Internationals Network for Public Schools. Internationals Network tripled the number of affiliated International High Schools since its founding in 2004. Internationals sustains a dynamic collaborative network that supports schools’ continued success in providing recent immigrant English language learners (ELLs) with high quality public education and pathways to college and full participation in democratic society.  In 2008, Internationals, in collaboration with LIU, established NYC’s first urban teacher residency program, I-START.  Claire has worked with immigrants for more than 30 years in diverse roles and settings: in the community, teacher education and public secondary education and has served on City and State Commissions and Task Forces on immigrants and English language learners. Claire piloted the groundbreaking Early College Program at International High School at LaGuardia and has authored various publications on innovative language development practices.


Margarita Vega, Northern California Director, Building Skills Partnership

As Northern California Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP), Margarita Vega leads training and programs in San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. She promotes BSP’s unique collaboration between the janitors’ union (SEIU-USWW), responsible businesses, and the community to advance the skills and opportunities of low-wage building service workers. Originally from Colombia, Margarita has over a decade working on social justice, international development and government projects in Latin America and served as Deputy Director of Social Development for the City of Bogotá’s Municipal Planning Department. Margarita earned a Masters degree in Public and Non-for-profit Management from New York University (NYU). As a beneficiary herself of job search and immigrant integration training, Margarita displays a tireless commitment to helping other immigrants in the United States. Margarita sits on the NOVA's Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for Silicon Valley and serves on several advisory committees including the Palo Alto Adult School, and the Labor Occupational Health Project at UC Berkeley.


Heather Ritchie, MCAEL’s Director of Programs and Services

Heather Ritchie is MCAEL’s Director of Programs and Services.  An international education specialist and ESOL teacher, Heather has taught ESOL, locally and abroad, to students of all ages from around the world. Her work and research has focused on adult education with a specific focus on literacy and practical ways to work with nonprofits in a collaborative manner in order to help organizations offer programming that will support building agency in the learners. Heather conducts instructor training workshops on student-centered learning as well as staff development trainings on best practices for nonprofit management. She is also an Adjunct Professor at American University in the International Training and Education Program. She has held positions as Director of Evening Programs for an ESL school (Maryland), Activities Coordinator for ESL students (Virginia), ESL trainer for new teachers (Prague) and ESL/EFL teacher (DC metro area/Czech Republic). She has taught a variety of skills/subjects including conversation, writing, pronunciation, American History, TOEFL, and for the Cambridge Tests (KEY/PET).   Previous to Heather’s work in ESOL education, she worked in a variety of program management, communications and business development positions. Heather has two degrees from Virginia Tech, one in Communications and the other in Theatre Arts, and a Master’s Degree from American University in International Training and Education.


ANSON GREEN, training solutions, Alamo Colleges

Anson Green directs training solutions at the Alamo Colleges including the I-BEST strategic initiative and Welcome Back Center for internationally trained health workers. He is a member of the Workforce Solutions Alamo Board of Directors. Anson has notable accomplishments in adult literacy, assessment, welfare to work, learning disabilities assessment, developmental education, and business training.  He has taught a variety of literacy and higher education classes, conducted nationally-recognized literacy research, developed state policy, conducted teacher training institutes, and managed a wide variety of workforce development projects.

In 2000, Anson was fortunate to be a chosen as a fellow at the National Institute for Literacy where he completed a research project on the barriers to literacy and employment for low-income women based on research conducted, in part, with his Welfare-to-Workstudents at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas.

Prior to his work the Alamo Colleges, Mr. Green led state workforce literacy initiatives and state policy development at the Texas Workforce Commission.  Anson has held teaching posts at St. Philip’s College, San Antonio College, Northwest Vista College, Northside ISD, Florida State University, and Texas Lutheran University. In 1998, Anson was voted Teacher of the Year by the Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education and Most Valued Partner in 2007 by the Northeast Texas Workforce Development Board. Anson’s publications include The Limited English Proficiency Guide for Workforce Professionals (Texas Workforce Commission, 2007); and Ready for Work! An Employment Curriculum for Women (Grassroots Press, 2001).

Erin Howard, Latino Outreach and Services Program Facilitator for Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Director of the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance

Erin Howard is the Latino Outreach and Services Program Facilitator for Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Director of the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance. Erin has been an advocate for the DREAM Act since 2003 and has worked hard to maintain Kentucky’s current in-state tuition policy allowing undocumented youth who graduate from KY high school’s access to higher education. Along with college advisee, Alexis Meza, Erin co-created the Kentucky Dream Coalition (KDC).  In 2010, Erin was elected by United We Dream member affiliates to the Board of Directors.  Erin’s leadership within the UWD Board has centered on development and programmatic work specifically to create and improve educational access to college for undocumented youth.  Along with fellow UWD leaders, Erin created the Dream Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP), a strategically aligned collaborative striving to (1) insure that a high number of youth/families are educated about and able to benefit from deferred action and (2) create pathways to higher education completion for undocumented youth.


ROBIN MCKINNEY, Director and Co-Founder of the Maryland CASH Campaign

Robin McKinney is Director and Co-Founder of the Maryland CASH Campaign, a nonprofit that promotes financial security for working families.  The Maryland CASH Campaign’s statewide network of partners annually prepares over 18,000 free tax returns for low-income Marylanders, bringing in $30 million in tax refunds, and provides free financial education classes through the Maryland CASH Academy, an on-line resource for classes statewide.  For the past 11 years, Robin has worked in the field of asset building, engaging in fundraising, advocacy, and program and coalition management, including for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  She has a BA in Social Work from Elizabethtown College and a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she is currently an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work.  Robin is a board member of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition and the Rural Maryland Foundation.


Beth Harper, Associate Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment ManagementNorthern Virginia Community College

Dr. Elizabeth P. (Beth) Harper is Associate Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management at Northern Virginia Community College with responsibility for the college records office, financial aid, international student services, disability support services, military outreach and support services, virtual advising, and student behavior and mental health issues. She also teaches graduate courses in educational leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia.

 Before coming to NOVA in 2006, Dr. Harper worked for more than 25 years in a variety of civilian and military education settings in the United States and abroad as an administrator, counselor, and teacher. Her research interests include broadening access and equity for underserved populations, issues in immigrant education, and the evolution of higher education opportunities for women. She holds a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in adult and occupational education from Kansas State University, an M.A. in school psychology from the University of North Carolina, and a B.A. in psychology from Hollins College.


Diana Robinson, Campaign and Education Coordinator of the Food Chain Workers Alliance

Diana Robinson is the Campaign and Education Coordinator of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. Diana previously worked for Alliance member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, which represents over 23,000 grocery store workers in New York.  At Local 1500, Diana played dual roles as a worker organizer and the Food Policy Coordinator of the Building Blocks Project for Good Food, Good Jobs, and Good Health. She was a leader of the union’s 2011 campaign to organize Target workers in Long Island.  Diana graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.

Dr. Westy A. Egmont, Immigrant Integration Lab of the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College

Egmont heads the Immigrant Integration Lab of the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College. His teaching includes courses on integration, comparative social policy and immigrant and refugee policy issues. The lab focuses on the intersection of social policy and human services.

A native of New York, Egmont has been the Dean of Students at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, served various church organizations including being the President of the Association of Regional Religious Broadcasters during his 11 seasons producing and hosting a weekly television show on WBZ on current issues. A social activist, Egmont incorporated Covenant Housing, developed the Greater Boston Food Bank, and served for a decade as the Executive Director of the International Institute of Boston, the largest immigrant and refugee service agency in New England. A frequent speaker, he has lectured at over 22 colleges and universities and in a variety of conferences. Egmont lead an initiative that created Dreams of Freedom, a permanent exhibit on the history of immigration through Massachusetts.

Dr. Egmont co-chairs the Massachusetts Governor’s Advisory Council on Immigrants and Refugees and has been appointed by five governors as an advisor. He served as the co-chair of the 2010 National Immigrant Integration Conference.


Patricia E. Loera, Esq. Senior Program Officer, Education Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Patricia Loera currently serves as a senior program officer for Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where her responsibilities include making grants aimed at dramatically increasing the number of minority youth who graduate from high school ready for college.  Patricia focuses on human capital management to ensure low-income and minority students have consistent access to effective teachers.   

Throughout her 16 year career, Patricia has built a strong record as an advocate for civil rights and educational opportunities.   She was the legislative director for the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) where she led advocacy efforts to improve services for English language learners and immigrant students.  As a legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in Washington, DC, she worked to improve access to higher education for Hispanic students.  She also served as an assistant attorney general with the Washington State Office of the Attorney General representing the Department of Social and Health Services in child abuse and neglect cases.

Patricia was raised in the Yakima Valley in eastern Washington and is part of a large immigrant family who believed that education was the only way to create a better future.  She learned English as a second language in elementary school and was the first in her family to graduate from college at Central Washington University.  Patricia also earned a law degree from the University of Washington School of Law and is licensed to practice law in Washington state.


Sean C. Abajian, lead organizer and digital strategist for the SaveAdultEd Campaign

Sean C. Abajian is a veteran adult education teacher of 11 years, and Teacher of the Year award winner (2012 UTLA Platinum Apple).  He’s a lead organizer and digital strategist for the SaveAdultEd Campaign, winner of a 2012 NCL Literacy Leadership Award. For several years he’s worked with community based organizations as a technology partner and organizer in advocacy campaigns for education and immigration issues.  He’s published articles on education and technology in academic, peer-reviewed journals in Europe, North America and Asia.  A paper he co-wrote on Mobile Learning won a "Best Paper Award" at the mLearn 2011 conference in Beijing.  He’s an alumnus of TIMAC, the Technology Integration Mentor Academy of OTAN in Sacramento.  Currently, he’s enrolled as a graduate student in California State University Northridge's Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program. He’s also co-owner of A&AC LLC, a small technology and consulting company, and created Hooper41, a digital learning laboratory for adult students in South Los Angeles.  Additionally he’s a weekly radio commentator on AM 690's Spanish language education issues program, "Nuestra Gente".  Sean is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles.


Dr. Johan E. Uvin, Senior Policy Advisor to Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann-Messier in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)

Dr. Johan E. Uvin joined the Department of Education in December 2009 as the Senior Policy Advisor to Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann-Messier in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE).  In June 2011, Dr. Uvin was appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Strategic Initiatives within OVAE.

Prior to his appointment, he led the Rhode Island state office that oversees adult education, career and technical education, and GED testing.  Uvin holds a Doctorate in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy and a Master’s in International Education from Harvard University. He also holds a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. In recent years, he was acknowledged by the hospitality and long term care industries in Rhode Island for his contributions to creating career pathways for low skilled adults in these sectors.

Dr. Johan E. Uvin joined the Department of Education in December 2009 as the Senior Policy Advisor to Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann-Messier in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE).  In June 2011, Dr. Uvin was appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Strategic Initiatives within OVAE.


Jeanne Batalova, Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute

Jeanne Batalova is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. Her areas of expertise include the impacts of immigrants on society and labor markets; social and economic mobility of first- and second-generation youth and young adults; and the policies and practices regulating immigration and integration of highly skilled workers and foreign students in the United States and other countries.

Dr. Batalova co-authored Up for Grabs: The Gains and Prospects of First- and Second-Generation Young Adults; DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries; Uneven Progress: The Employment Pathways of Skilled Immigrants in the United States; Immigration: Data Matters; and Measures of Change: The Demography and Literacy of Adolescent English Learners, among other publications.

She earned her PhD in sociology from the University of California-Irvine; an MBA from Roosevelt University; and bachelor of the arts in economics from the Academy of Economic Studies, Chisinau, Moldova.


Tom Wahlrab,  former Executive Director of the City of Dayton (Ohio) Human Relations Council

Mr. Wahlrab is one of the principal facilitators of the community conversation that resulted in the Welcome Dayton Plan. He has thirty years working in government and private sector environments involving affirmative action, contract compliance, civil rights, mediation, and conflict management, community building and workplace team systems development. Tom received his BA from Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio and a MS Ed. from the University of Dayton. Mr. Wahlrab is a Fellow and Board member of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation (ISCT), a Board member of Welcoming America, a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) and a founding member and first chairperson of the Ohio Community Mediation Association.



Drew Westen, Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University

Drew Westen, Ph.D. is a clinical, personality, and political psychologist and neuroscientist, and Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University.   He is also the founder of Westen Strategies, a strategic messaging firm.  He formerly taught at the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Westen is the author of three books and over 200 articles, including The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, which has influenced campaigns and elections around the world.  He frequently comments on political and psychological issues on radio, television, and in print, including appearances on Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Hardball, Good Morning America, the Charlie Rose Show on PBS, and in opinion pieces in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times,, and the Huffington Post.  He has recently become an online columnist for the New York Times and writes for the Times’ Sunday Review.  Dr. Westen has advised a range of candidates and organizations, from presidential campaigns to major nonprofit organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to the Democratic Caucuses of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 


Hamutal Bernstein, Program Officer in the Immigration and Integration

Hamutal Bernstein is a Program Officer in the Immigration and Integration team based in GMF’s Washington, DC office.  She is the project lead on the Transatlantic Trends: Immigration (TTI) survey.

Dr. Bernstein received a BA in international relations at Brown University and a PhD in comparative politics at Georgetown University. She was the recipient of a Zeit Foundation Settling into Motion PhD grant to support her dissertation work examining local-level immigrant integration policymaking in the U.S. and Europe.  At the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown, she worked on a number of projects concerning U.S. immigration policy, work force trends, international migration management, and migration and development. She has also worked as a consultant for the United Nations Population Fund and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


Jennifer Brennan, Director, IMPRINT

Jennifer serves as Director of the five-nonprofit consortium IMPRINT, whose purpose is to identify and promote best practices in the integration of immigrant professionals on a national scale. Its ultimate goal is to foster initiatives that can lead to a multiplier effect on people served and placed - professionals such as physicians and scientists experiencing unemployment or working in low-skill jobs. Jennifer is also Influence & Impact Manager at Upwardly Global, where she works to assess barriers and best practices in this same field, including guiding creation of multi-state web-based licensing guides for 10 popular licensed careers. She has held diverse positions in the fields of refugee resettlement, consulting, teaching and translating, and holds an M.B.A. from the University of Quebec in Montreal and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. Jennifer experienced immigration firsthand over nearly a decade of residence in the Dominican Republic and other countries.


Izzy Patoka, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Community Initiatives

Izzy Patoka is the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and is also the Director of the Governor’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office.   Prior to being appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley, Mr. Patoka worked for the Governor when he was the Mayor of Baltimore as his Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods. 

Before joining the administration of Martin O’Malley, Mr. Patoka served as Deputy Director for the Baltimore County Department of Planning.  Prior to that he was with the Baltimore City Department of Planning as the Division Manager of Capital Improvement Programming.  He is nationally certified as a planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

As Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Community Initiatives, Mr. Patoka coordinates community and volunteer activities statewide and advises the Governor on policies to enhance and improve community programs. He also oversees the work of the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism, Volunteer Maryland, staff of the Governor’s ethnic and cultural commissions and community affairs services within the Executive Branch of Maryland government. Mr. Patoka also serves as liaison to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.   In addition, Mr. Patoka is the Director of the Governor’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office in which he serves as Governor O’Malley’s direct liaison in working with the state’s 157 incorporated cities and towns, the 23 counties and the leadership organizations that work with these jurisdictions.

During his tenure as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, the Office was nationally recognized as the 2005 recipient of the National Association of Counties’ (NACO) Multicultural Diversity Award for extraordinary outreach to ethnic communities.  This prestigious award is cosponsored by the Women Officials in NACo (WON), the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), and the National Association of Hispanic County Officials (NAHCO).


Jocelyn Skolni, Center Director of El Sol

Jocelyn Skolnik is originally from Guatemala and moved to Jupiter, Florida to complete her undergraduate studies at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College. In 2004, she worked for the Ford Foundation’s grant “Latino Immigrants in South Florida” and conducted surveys that helped assess the needs of Latino immigrants in Jupiter. In 2006, she worked for the Soros Foundation grant and INCEDES (Central American Institute of Development and Social Studies) analyzing the impact of immigration on women in Quiche, Guatemala. Jocelyn’s Honors Thesis “What Remittances Can’t Buy: The Social Costs of Migration and Transnational Gossip on Women in Jacaltenango, Guatemala” analyzes the impact immigration has on gender relations in Jacaltenango, Jupiter’s Sister City.  Jocelyn now serves as Center Director of El Sol, a day laborer center, where she is responsible for directing the center’s services and for implementing its mission.


Margarita Vega , Northern California Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP)

Margarita Vega serves as Northern California Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP), where she leads training and programs in San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. She promotes BSP’s unique collaboration between the janitors’ union (SEIU-USWW), responsible businesses, and the community to advance the skills and opportunities of low-wage building service workers. Originally from Colombia, Margarita has over a decade working on social justice, international development and government projects in Latin America and served as Deputy Director of Social Development for the City of Bogotá’s Municipal Planning Department. Margarita earned a Masters degree in Public and Non-for-profit Management from New York University (NYU). As a beneficiary herself of job search and immigrant integration training, Margarita displays a tireless commitment to helping other immigrants in the United States. Margarita sits on the NOVA's Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for Silicon Valley and serves on several advisory committees including the Palo Alto Adult School, and the Labor Occupational Health Project at UC Berkeley.


Susan Downs-Karkos, Lead Consultant, Welcoming America

Susan Downs-Karkos, is the Lead Consultant for the Receiving Communities Initiative at Welcoming America, where she works with organizations and communities in engaging mainstream Americans in immigrant integration efforts and in promoting a positive community climate for newcomers and established residents.  Prior to her work with Welcoming America, she served as Director of Integration Strategies at the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, with a focus on integration pathways including health, education, language, workforce and community building. Prior to joining the Spring Institute, she served for more than a decade at The Colorado Trust, a grantmaking foundation.  As a senior program officer, Downs-Karkos designed an managed the Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative, a $18 million effort that strengthened immigrant-serving organizations and engaged immigrants and members of receiving communities in local immigrant integration efforts. Downs-Karkos is a former national board co-chair of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and is a member of the selection committee for the Migration Policy Institute’s E Pluribus Unum prize.  She is the author of the Receiving Communities Toolkit and has spoken widely about the importance of immigrant integration and strategies for promoting it.  She holds a BA in psychology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.   


Laura Garcia, Director of the Uniting America Integration Initiative at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights 

Laura is responsible for designing and developing this immigrant-focused initiative into a three tiered campaign focusing on Citizenship, Volunteerism and Youth Civic Leadership.  Prior to her work at ICIRR, Laura worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement where she managed the Matching Grant program, a national refugee resettlement program foundational to the resettlement community.  Prior to ORR, Laura worked for World Relief Corporation where she coordinated national refugee resettlement programs.


Raul Gonzalez , Legislative Director at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)

Raul is the Legislative Director at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). In this capacity, he works with Congress, the White House, advocacy groups, and NCLR’s affiliated community-based organizations to improve life opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Prior to joining NCLR in 1998, he was a legislative assistant in the office of U.S. Representative Major R. Owens, for whom he worked on legislation to increase the academic achievement and attainment of poor children. As a teacher in the New York City public schools, Raul taught writing, algebra, and special education. This allowed him to learn firsthand about the needs of economically disadvantaged students. He is a graduate of the City College of New York, with degrees in English and Psychology.


Keh Moo, Organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

My name is Keh Moo and I am Karen (Karen is one of the ethnic groups in Burma). I was born in the Thailand-Burma border refugee camp, which is the largest camp on the Thai-Burma border.  My parents are originally from Burma and because of the war, they fled to Thailand. I lived in the refugee camp for 20 years, and completed my high school education there.  Living in a refugee camp has many limitations, including the lack of income, and the inability to travel, work, or study outside the camp.  I decided to apply for resettlement in early 2007, with the hope of continuing my education and establishing my career.  I am currently employed as an Organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.


Dushaw Hockett, Executive Director of SPACEs

Dushaw Hockett is Executive Director of SPACEs -- Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity.  SPACEs works with social justice leaders to create gathering spaces that promote and support three Rs -- Relationship management, Rejuvenation and Reflection.  He is the former Director of Special Initiatives at Center for Community Change (CCC).  For the past 12 years he has held leadership positions in numerous CCC-supported projects and campaigns.  As Director of the Public Housing Residents National Organizing Campaign, Dushaw helped build a network of tenant organizations and partners in 39 states.  As a senior organizer with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), he organized the 2000-person March for Children and Families and co-authored Crossing Borders, a training curriculum and strategy guide designed to address real and perceived tensions between African Americans and Spanish-speaking immigrants.   In 2007, Dushaw did a six-month, full-time semi-sabbatical with a Maryland affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).  There, he helped expand the organization’s membership base by recruiting its first independent living center.  Prior to joining the staff of CCC, Dushaw was a housing organizer in New York City where he built and was the founding board chair of a coalition of tenants and advocates.  He also worked on the campaign to elect the first Puerto Rican woman – Representative Nydia Velazquez -- to the U.S. Congress and spent six years on her congressional staff.   Dushaw is the author or co-author of three research reports – A Hope Unseen, Not Part of the Plan and the Black Door of Social Change.  He is a former board member of Community Voices Heard, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Neighborhood Coalition.


Dr. Héctor R. Cordero-Guzmán, Professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College

Dr. Héctor R. Cordero-Guzmán received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from The University of Chicago is a Professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College and in the Ph.D. Programs in Sociology and in Urban Education of the City University of New York. Prior to joining The School of Public Affairs at CUNY, Dr. Cordero-Guzman was a Program Officer in the Economic Development and the Quality Employment Units of the Asset Building and Community Development Program at The Ford Foundation. Over his career, Dr. Cordero-Guzman has collaborated and worked as a consultant to many government, research, and non-profit groups including ACCION-New York; the Community Service Society of New York (CSS); the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ); St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction; El Barrio Popular Education Program; the Association for Research of Non Profit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), and El Museo Del Barrio.


John Miyasato, founder and managing principal of Crossroads

John is the founder and managing principal of Crossroads. He has over 20 years of experience on campaigns and with operational and strategic planning. John is also highly knowledgeable in budget and financial operations, having overseen budgets ranging from $50,000 to $4.4 million. His work has taken him to over 26 states. At Crossroads, John has worked with a broad array of clients from around the country including Presidential races, high profile U.S. Senate races, campaigns for city council, national issue advocacy organizations, and local ballot initiatives.

Some of John’s recent major clients have included the Dan Inouye for Senate campaign, Bob Menendez for Senate campaign, the Ami Bera for Congress campaign, the Julia Brownley for Congress campaign, and the re-election campaign of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. John’s clients also include non-profits such as Progressive Majority and the New American Leaders Project.


Hassan Jaber, Executive Director, ACCESS

Hassan Jaber, Executive Director of ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) helped transform ACCESS from a storefront organization into the country’s largest Arab American organization.  He has developed various social and legal programs, administered immigration and advocacy services.  He played a role in the advancement ACCESS’ mental and community health, employment services, and youth and education departments.  Mr. Jaber’s commitment has grown ACCESS into an organization that provides over 100 different programs, serving tens of thousands people a year and overseeing three national projects including the Arab American National Museum.  

Born in Lebanon, Mr. Jaber immigrated to the United States in 1977.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA, from Wayne State University).  He is a 2001 Leadership Detroit graduate, and Social Enterprise Training, Harvard Business School 2009.  

Mr. Jaber’s board memberships and affiliations include: the Henry Ford Health System, Board of Trustees; Arab American Institute, National Leadership Board; the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which he co-founded in 1992; State of Michigan Commissioner, Quality Community Care Council; US-Arab Economic Forum, Steering Committee; the University of Michigan –Dearborn, Citizens Advisory Committee; Wayne State University, President Community Advisory Board and the Community Retention Oversight Advisory Group; Independent Sector,  National Conference Program Committee (2008) and National Conference Host Committee (2009); and Ford Foundation, Innovation Workshop on Engaging Unheard Voices in Foreign Policy Steering Committee.


Amne Darwish Talab, director of social services at ACCESS

Amne Darwish Talab is the director of social services at ACCESS’ East Dearborn office, which encompasses social services, immigration, emergency services, translation services, legal services, and services for the aging. She has been with ACCESS since 1979 in various positions and since 1988 in her current position.

Amne is very involved in the Arab American community and other communities. She is a great advocate of the community and believes that change can happen. Serving the community for more than 25 years, she believes that agencies should be available for clients that depend on them, but that the final objective should be to help clients help themselves. Amne has been involved with three major waves of refugees to the Detroit area. She was instrumental in establishing a Department of Human Services/ACCESS co-location at ACCESS’ One Stop Human Services Center, and the Halal Meals on Wheels Program for Seniors. She has been an appointed state commissioner for services to the aging since 2009.

She completed her bachelor’s degree at Wayne State University with a major in business administration and a minor in psychology. She is also a graduate of Leadership Detroit and has completed the Multicultural Immersion Program at New Detroit.


Dr. Khulood Al Nuaimi

Dr. Khulood Al Nuaimi is an accomplished  Anesthetist  from Baghdad who fled Iraq as a refugee and has resettled in High Point, North Carolina.  Nuaimi graduated from the University of Baghdad Medical College ranked second in her class and third in the nation.  She was senior Anesthetist in Jordan and head of the department in Baghdad, yet has struggled to find  any level of employment in the U.S.  As a leader in her community, Nuaimi continues to assist her fellow refugees integrate and succeed in rebuilding their lives while continuing to rebuild her medical career.  


Fabio Lomelino, LIRS, Project Director for Community Conversations

A part of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service team since October of 2010, Fabio has recently taken leadership of a new collaborative project, Community Conversations. CoCo, as it is affectionately called, aims to inspire and empower local communities to convene their full diversity for strategic conversations. With a skills set that includes both communications and group facilitation, Fabio blends those skills with an educational background in philosophy to do what he likes to call “mental landscaping.” Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Fabio attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD and previously worked for PBS affiliate WNET in Washington D.C. Research interests include the role social capital plays in creating inclusion for newcomers, story-based strategies for community action, and the use of collaborative social technologies to empower newcomers. 


Allison R. Kokkoros, Chief Academic Officer of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

Allison R. Kokkoros, Chief Academic Officer of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, has worked in the field of education for over 18 years. She is proud to serve the Carlos Rosario School, an accredited and award-winning national model in adult education that has been transforming lives in the community for more than 40 years. The School serves a diverse student body with students who come from over 72 different countries and speak over 37 different languages.  

As Chief Academic Officer, Allison is responsible for oversight of matters such as curriculum, accountability, and expansion.  In her previous role as principal of the School she oversaw the comprehensive educational programs and support services provided to over 2,500 adult students each year.  

Allison has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Nonprofit Management from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English with an Education Certification from Eastern Mennonite University. She has been honored with various awards for her leadership including receiving the DC STARS Tribute Most Outstanding Adult Principal award in 2011 and the DC Learns Mike Fox Literacy Leader award in 2005.

She holds positions on various boards including the D.C. Public Charter School Association and the Carlos Rosario Educational Foundation. Ms. Kokkoros is a proud wife and parent and a resident of Washington, D.C.

Chhandasi Pandya, Policy Analyst and Program Coordinator with the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

Her research and technical assistance work focuses on intergovernmental coordination of immigrant integration policy and the role of language access in facilitating integration.

Prior to joining MPI, she worked as a Senior Analyst at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). Ms. Pandya holds a master’s of international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She completed her undergraduate work in journalism and economics at the University of Maryland at College Park.


Angela Stuesse, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida

Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida.  As an activist anthropologist, she has extensive engaged research experience on questions of immigrant rights, racial justice, and bridge-building across difference.  From 2010 to 2012 she led a collaborative project that analyzed programs and materials developed across the United States for strengthening relationships between immigrant and African American communities.  This work, guided by an advisory committee of popular educators and organizers, resulted in the creation of Intergroup Resources, an online resource center that is being launched at NIIC 2012.  Stuesse has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and she received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her forthcoming book, Globalization “Southern Style,” tells the story of new Latino immigrants working and organizing alongside African Americans in Mississippi's chicken processing plants.  While in Mississippi (2002-2006), she was a co-founding collaborator of the worker center MPOWER and developed its pilot program for cross-racial relationship building.


Moira Fratantuono, RYP Volunteer Specialist

Moira Fratantuono is the RYP Volunteer Specialist and she has worked with the RYP since 2008. She received her MA in Community Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art and has experience in community organizing, is TEFL certified, spent a year teaching English in Vietnam and has facilitated mural projects in Nicaragua and Honduras.   


Nell Eckersley, director of New York State Education Department’s Regional Adult Education Network for New York City

Nell Eckersley works at the Literacy Assistance Center (LAC) in New York City where she is the director of New York State Education Department’s Regional Adult Education Network for New York City. She is also on the steering committee of the New York City Coalition For Adult Literacy (NYCCAL) which is an advocacy organization focusing on funding and policy issues in adult education.  She began her career in adult education as an ESOL teacher and then program director for an ESL program in Brooklyn, New York in 1998.   In 2005 Nell was a fellow of the Coro New York New American Leaders Fellowship Program and she received her master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in 2006 with a focus on funding around the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative.


Ejim Dike, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network

Ms. Dike has worked on social policy issues for over fifteen years and in the domestic human rights arena for the past ten years. Her human rights work focuses on addressing poverty and discrimination using a human rights framework. Previously, she was Director of the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center. Under her leadership, the Human Rights Project launched an annual report card on the human rights record of New York City Council members; coordinated a shadow report on racial discrimination with 30 local groups for submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); organized a New York City visit by the UN Special Expert on Racism; and developed a toolkit on and coordinated participation for social justice activists in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. She has been cited in articles appearing in Harper’s Magazine (by Naomi Klein), The Daily News, Gotham Gazette, and City Limits. Ejim has contributed to articles published by the Center for American Progress and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. She has co-chaired the CERD Taskforce, a joint project of the US Human Rights Network and the Human Rights at Home Campaign. Ms. Dike worked for several years on programs aimed at increasing access to employment in low-income neighborhoods. She received her undergraduate degree from Berea College and a Masters of Urban Planning from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.


Kevin Douglas, MSW, Advocacy Strategies in Immigrant Adult Education

Kevin Douglas joined United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) in 2011 as a Policy Analyst, with a focus on employment and skill building programs for youth, young adults and immigrants. He coordinates UNH's role in a number of city-wide coalitions including the Campaign for Summer Jobs (CSJ), NYC Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL) and the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Workforce (CTW). A membership organization rooted in the history and values of the settlement house movement, UNH supports its members through policy development, advocacy and capacity-building activities.



Uma S. Ahluwalia, Director, Department of Health and Human Services

Uma S. Ahluwalia is currently the Director of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Department of Health and Human Services.  With nearly 1,600 employees, the department is one of the largest agencies in Montgomery County and includes Aging and Disability Services; Behavioral Health and Crisis Services; Children, Youth and Family Services; Public Health Services and Special Needs Housing. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget for the department is more than $252 million.  The Department’s budget has decreased over the past four years as the County has reacted to the local and national economic conditions.  Caseloads for the Department in the past four years have risen dramatically as more families and individuals struggle through the tough economy.   Ahluwalia holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Delhi in India and a Specialist Post-Masters in Health Services Administration from George Washington University.  Over an 18-year career in human services, she has progressively moved from case-carrying social work to executive leadership at the state and local levels.


Emeobong E. Martin, Center on Health Disparities at Adventist HealthCare, Project BEAT IT!

Emeobong E. Martin is public health professional with over nine years of experience in public health research and writing in academic, government, and local community-based settings.  In 2009, Ms. Martin earned her master’s in public health in behavioral science and health education from Saint Louis University.  With a passion for improving health equity, Ms. Martin spent two years (2007 to 2009) planning and evaluating health programs for chronic and infectious diseases which targeted vulnerable populations in St. Louis, Missouri.  Prior to this, Ms. Martin dedicated eighteen months as a full-time community health worker assisting diverse and underserved persons in obtaining public health services, including health care, food, and shelter.  

Currently, Ms. Martin works within her passion of addressing health disparities as a project manager at the Center on Health Disparities at Adventist HealthCare.   In this role, she manages the activities of the Center’s Project BEAT IT! (Becoming Empowered Africans through Improved Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes, Hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS).   As the daughter of West African immigrants, this project is especially close to her heart as she has learned the importance of identifying and addressing the unique health and social needs of African immigrants.  Ms. Martin also leads cultural competency assessments for healthcare organizations and directs marketing and communication efforts as the chief editor of the organization’s monthly e-newsletter.  


Janet Martinez, Development and Operations director for the Centro Binacional Para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño Inc.

CBDIO's mission is to implement programs that encourage civic participation, economic, social, and cultural development of indigenous communities. She received her bachelor’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, with a thesis on indigenous migrants in the court system. Her organizing experience is ranged; she has performed grassroots organizing in South Los Angeles for the A-G campaign, worked with institutions like the Santa Barbara Housing Authority, consulted organizations as a grant writer, and has also worked on the retention and recruitment of under-represented students at UC Berkeley. Aside from her direct activism approach, she has published articles on issues facing indigenous migrant communities including; new approaches to gendered leadership, and the challenges youths in the community face. She has been a volunteer for the CBDIO for the past ten years, and has recently joined the staff as an employee. She will be working the person in charge of coordinating the development of the curriculum and handling the logistics of the workshops as an director of operations.


John Segota, Associate Executive Director for Public Policy & Professional Relations

John Segota, Associate Executive Director for Public Policy & Professional Relations, has been with TESOL International Association since 1996. John has a BA in Political Science with a concentration in International Studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, a graduate certificate in Project Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management, and has earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives.


Sonia Mora, Manager of the Latino Health Initiative and Director of the Suburban Maryland Welcome Back Center at the Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Health and Human Services

For the past twenty years, Sonia has been a leader working with immigrant communities on numerous cutting-edge issues in the areas of workforce development; community engagement and empowerment; access to health services; health promotion; data collection analysis, and reporting; and policy development. Sonia has successfully provided services in several areas related to health disparities and has provided technical consultation to community-based organizations in the development, implementation, and evaluation of culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and services. She has also served as technical consultant to numerous national and international organizations in the development, adaptation, and translation of education materials for Spanish-speaking audiences. In 2011, under Sonia’s leadership the Welcome Back Center was a recipient of the prestigious immigrant integration E Pluribus Unum award of the Migration Policy Institute.


Linda Easley Stroman, CAAB’s Director, Financial Education

Over the last four years, she provides instruction and one-on-one financial coaching to groups and individuals on money management and credit education. Linda has overseen CAAB’s financial education seminars, workshops and outreach partnerships. She is also instrumental in developing CAAB’s Annual Financial Fitness and Motivation Fair and other events. She has also developed train-the-trainer and financial coaching workshops for volunteers and customers of CAAB. Linda is very passionate about helping individuals and couples become self-aware and self-sufficient with their personal finances. Under her guidance, CAAB has translated their signature Money Management 101 curriculum into Spanish to better serve Latino-serving organizations in the Washington metropolitan area. She has taught classes at CAAB, other non-profit organizations, for-profit groups in the area of personal financial management.

Before joining CAAB, Linda worked for The Training Source, Inc. where she provided life, professional, financial, and technical training to Maryland and DC residents and organizations. She has continued to develop her abilities as an educator and trainer by completing a certification course in Financial Counseling and recently completing workshops on transformational coaching administered by Leadership That Works. Ms. Stroman holds a B.S. in Business Administration / Management.


Darcy Tromanhauser, Director of the Immigrant Integration & Civic Participation Program at Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest

Darcy has worked with immigrant communities in the Great Plains region for more than ten years. She serves on the national board of Welcoming America and the Receiving Communities Initiative advisory board. Prior to Appleseed, she worked with Catholic Charities in Des Moines, Iowa, to help launch a new Latino Community Outreach Program. She has also worked in Guatemala, Peru, and El Salvador. Darcy earned her Masters in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs and her bachelors’ degree from Harvard College. She and her husband live with their red-headed six-year old, two dogs, and three goats.


Kathleen O’Donovan-ICIRR Uniting America AmeriCorp Fellow

Kathleen is a Uniting America AmeriCorp Fellow with experience in engaging non-traditional communities in volunteerism and immigrant integration. She is a first generation Irish-American whose passion is to work with people to find new ways to better their communities.  She graduated in 2011 from Kalamazoo College with her B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology and Spanish. Her time spent studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador has strongly influenced her passion for integration work.


Patience Lehrman, National Director of Project SHINE

Patience Lehrman is the National Director of Project SHINE, an E Pluribus Unum award prize winner for Exceptional Immigrant Integration, headquartered at the Intergenerational Center at Temple University. Over the past decade, Mrs. Lehrman has developed and led a wide-range of initiatives with local and national organizations serving youths, low-income adults and immigrants/refugees. She is a first generation immigrant from Cameroon, West-Africa.

A leader in community service, workforce development and immigrant integration, Mrs. Lehrman was recently designated by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her efforts in promoting immigrant integration. She is a strong advocate for immigrant/refugee rights and has testified before Philadelphia City Council and the Pennsylvania State Legislature against anti-immigration legislation. She frequently presents at conferences sponsored by national organizations such as the National Partnership for New Americans, American Society on Aging, Generations United, and AARP. She has also given presentations at universities and community organizations across the country, and was recently selected as the U.S. representative to speak at a global conference in Hamburg, Germany about the benefits of promoting immigrant integration through multi-sector collaboration. She holds a dual Masters degree in Education and Organizational Development, and an Executive MBA from the Fox School of Business, Temple University.


Mitiku Ashebir, Director of the Division of Refugee Assistance and Placement Coordinator for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services 

Mitiku has served as a Lead Person for the ORR Integration Work Group for five years.  As a refugee from Ethiopia in the Sudan, he worked as a Curriculum Consultant and Instructor for the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in the Cultural Orientation (CO) program for refugees destined to the United States, while teaching part-time at the University of Khartoum. Mitiku came to the United States through the US refugee program where he worked for the New York City Refugee Employment Project as a Vocational Counselor for five years, after which he became a Position Auditor in the Personnel Office of the City of New York. After returning to refugee work in various positions ranging from Senior Program Specialist to Assistant Director for Resettlement Development and Support with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), he was appointed Vice President for Programs at the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) before joining ORR, where he has served for ten years. Mitiku holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.


Martin Ford, Associate Director of the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees at the Department of Human Resources 

Martin Ford is the Associate Director of the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees at the Department of Human Resources, where he manages refugee resettlement services. Prior to coming to MORA in 1992, Ford was the Executive Director of the Maryland Ethnic Heritage Commission. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer and a Fulbright Scholar in Liberia, West Africa. There his research focused on the emergence of ethnic tensions leading to that country’s civil war. Ford currently pursues interests in cross-cultural relations and immigration trends and immigrant policy in the US, and has served on a variety of boards concerned with immigrant and refugee integration. These include the Maryland State Department of Education’s English Language Learners Advisory Committee, the Task Force on the Preservation of Heritage Language Skills in Maryland, and the advisory board of Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services.  He has written for such publications as Immigration Daily and National Humanities Magazine, as well as the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. Ford lives in Laurel.


Cheryl Hamilton, RefugePoint

Cheryl Hamilton manages communications for the Cambridge, Massachusetts based international humanitarian organization RefugePoint, which finds lasting solutions for the world’s most vulnerable refugees. Cheryl began her career in the refugee field managing the unexpected migration of 2,500 Somali refugees to her hometown in Maine – an event that garnered national attention in 2002. Later, she traveled across the country delivering trainings on refugee employment on behalf of RefugeeWorks, a program of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Baltimore, Maryland. Eventually she returned to her home state to work for the Center for Preventing Hate before accepting a position with RefugePoint in September 2011. A Clark University graduate, she is also a writer and performer who travels nationally with her one-woman show Checked Floors based on the Somali resettlement to Lewiston, Maine.


Sanja Bebic, Director of Refugee and Immigrant Integration programs at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) 

Sanja Bebic is the Director of Refugee and Immigrant Integration programs at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). She has more than 15 years’ experience in delivery, design, training, and management of overseas and domestic orientation programs working to provide refugees and other newcomers with the information, skills, and attitudes they will need to adjust to life in the United States. Ms. Bebic manages all program activities at the Center, including the development and dissemination of publications and videos on orientation, new groups, and refugee adjustment and integration; the design and delivery of capacity-building trainings and presentations; facilitation of overseas-domestic exchange programs; collaboration with partners throughout the resettlement and integration fields; and all facets of orientation technical assistance. Ms. Bebic’s previous experience includes design and delivery of overseas orientation, design and delivery of staff trainings in domestic orientation, curriculum development, training program management, translations management, and case management. She has held positions with the International Catholic Migration Commission, the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, among others. Ms. Bebic holds an M.A. in International Training and Education from American University.


Checago Bright, District of Columbia Government Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA)

Checago was born in Monrovia, Liberia, where he spent his childhood and most of his adult life before living for several years in exile at the Buduburam camp in Ghana. In 2003, Checago resettled to the United States. Upon his arrival, his quest for higher learning was very intense; he immediately enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received a dual degree (B.S.W.) in Social Work and International Studies (B.A.) with a minor in Political Science and concentration in Global Affairs and International development. Shortly thereafter, he obtained his Master of Science in International Social Work with concentration in policy and global affairs from Columbia University in New York where he graduated with the honor of magnum cum laude. Bright also volunteered for eight years with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in North Carolina by helping refugees integrate into the United States. He then relocated to Washington, DC where he has been instrumental in helping advocate on behalf of refugees worldwide. Bright has headed refugee delegations for the past three years on World Refugee Day. He has also lobbied to Congress and the White House for greater protection of refugees overseas and enhancement of services to refugees who are already in the United States. Bright currently works with the District of Columbia Government Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) as a Coordinator. He works with underprivileged youth and families, representing them in the court of law, advocating for their needs, and fostering self-sufficiency. In 2010, Bright founded the Checago Bright Foundation Inc. to aid communities that lack access to basic necessities such as safe drinking water, sanitation, and education programs.


Rev. Thon Moses Chol, LIRS, Board of Directors

The Rev. Thon Moses Chol, MSW, was born in Duk Padiet, Sudan. Having fled Sudan as a child, he taught preschoolers and worked as a counselor for Jesuit Refugee Service and Lutheran World Federation in a Kenyan refugee camp. He was resettled in the United States in 2000 by Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service (LIRS) and thrived in a foster home in Michigan. Chol earned his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication in 2006 and master’s degre in social work from Western Michigan University in 2008. Chol is currently an educational resource specialist for the government of Washington, D.C., and a youth advisory member to D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, which named him youth leader of the year in 2010. In 2008 he was an intern for U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. He has served as the Executive Director of the Sudanese Community of West Michigan and the director for development, planning, and social services of Bor Community—USA in 2010. During the 2010-2011 South Sudan out-of-country referendum, Chol helped identify eligible South Sudanese voters. An advocate for refugees in America, Chol has testified before the U.S. Congress, spoken at the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s National Consultations, and served as a delegate to UNHCR’s Refugee Congress. LIRS honored him in 2011 with the Spirit of Welcome Award, and he was recently elected to the LIRS board of directors. Chol is also a minister at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia.


Ahlam Mahmood

Ahlam Mahmood holds a degree in Business Administration from the university of Baghdad.  Shortly after the start of the war in 2003, she became determined to do all she could to help her fellow Iraqis as they struggled with its consequences.  She reached out to agencies such as International Relief, Red Crescent, Women for Women and Christian Peacemaker Team; became a humanitarian worker with the Iraqi Assistance Center; and served as a member of the Baghdad City Council.  After being kidnapped by a militia because of her connections with the Americans, she fled with her family and resettled in Syria. There she became a humanitarian worker for UNHCR and UNICEF and started a small school.  She worked as a fixer/translator for many journalists and organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch when they visited Damascus to report on the Iraqi refugee crisis.  She was resettled in Chicago in the fall of 2008, and seeing the difficulties Iraqi refugees face in adjusting to life here, almost immediately took steps to form an agency to help the Iraqi refugees.


Ahlam Jbara, Interim Executive Director at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) 

Ahlam Jbara was born in Palestine and immigrated with her family to Chicago in 1974.   Ahlam is currently the Interim Executive Director at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) a 20 year old community organization that brings together the Illinois Muslim community; the CIOGC is a federation of 64 Mosques, full time accredited schools, social and advocacy organizations.  Before joining CIOGC, Ahlam was the Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP) Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. From 2003 – 2006 Ahlam was the Family Empowerment Program Director at the Arab American Action Network. Ahlam has worked for over 15 years on creating and administering programs that help women and children become self sufficient and independent; programs that will make change in the lives of women and children and that will empower them to use their voice and find their inner power. Ahlam sits on several other boards and committees to serve the community and especially women and children. 


Amy Marchildon, Director of Services for New Americans at Lutheran Social Services

Amy Marchildon has 17 years experience in the field of refugee resettlement.  She started her career as a volunteer in Syracuse, NY and then moved to Texas where she continued refugee work and eventually became the resettlement director.  A brief, multi-partner operation at Ft. Dix,NJ afforded Amy the opportunity to do refugee processing where she gained much insight into the plight of displaced peoples.  She now resides in New Hampshire and is the Director of Services for New Americans at Lutheran Social Services.  In 2006, Amy was one of five people chosen by the US State Dept. to go on a Cultural Orientation exchange in West Africa.  In 2009, she traveled toIndia and Bangladesh to study the protracted situations of Burmese refugees in both urban and refugee camp settings.  Amy has served on advisory committees to the national resettlement agencies and is a member of several local coalitions engaged in integration work for refugees and immigrants.


Jen Smyers, Associate Director for Immigration and Refugee Policy with Church World Service (CWS)

Jen Smyers serves as the Associate Director for Immigration and Refugee Policy with Church World Service, and has been with CWS for more than five years. In this position, Ms.Smyers meets with national policy makers to advocate for increased assistance for refugees overseas, improved services for refugees resettled in the United States, and humane immigration reforms. A graduate of American University with a B.A. in Law and Society, B.A. in Public Communication, and Masters in Public Policy, Ms. Smyers has worked with Border Action Network in Tucson, Arizona and the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.


Joshua Snowden,  Project Coordinator of The Fusion Project

Joshua Snowden was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Post college, Joshua worked as an English teacher in rural Japan and eventually returned to Nebraska to obtain a teaching certificate in Spanish and English as a Second Language. After living and teaching in Spain for three years he once again returned to Nebraska where he accepted a job at the Asian Community and Cultural Center because of his interest in adult education, immigration and non-profit organizations. After two years at the Asian Community and Cultural Center, he became project coordinator of The Fusion Project. The Fusion Project is a federally funded community initiative housed at the Asian Community and Cultural Center which began in 2006. With a mission to “collaborate to empower our new American populations to achieve success and self sufficiency and to promote equitable access to services.” The Fusion Project envisions a Lincoln in that celebrates and values its diversity and views refugees as a major asset to all of our community.


Baltimore City Community College's Refugee Youth Project (RYP)

Baltimore City Community College's Refugee Youth Project (RYP) creates a safe environment for refugee children to improve their literacy skills, enhance their knowledge of American culture, engage in enriching extracurricular activities, and grow to be confident, caring children. Since 2003, RYP has provided innovative after-school programming for more than 650 refugee youth from over 17 countries. In addition to providing extra homework and volunteer mentors, RYP utilizes community art to promote creative self-expression, build self esteem, and address challenges related to social integration.


Kursten Pickup, Baltimore City Community College's Refugee Youth Project (RYP)

Kursten Pickup has worked with BCCC’s RYP since 2007. She has taught in public schools, mentored youth, and coordinated after-school programs for over 11 years, 6 of which focused on immigrant and refugee populations. In 2008, she obtained a Master’s in Community Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where her studies focused on using art as a tool to create social and cultural change.